All Back to Mine
The Face, July 1995
No more Mr All Back To Mine. It's always the same. You think it's gonna feel like your birthday party, but by the time you get back to yours there's somehow only ever two people you actually know, and ten loser, druggie scumbags sizing up your gaff and drinking all your liquor. And because you're in a flat full of strangers, your home doesn't feel like home any more.
The other night, while informing one of my guests that alas, no, I didn't have any Alcan foil, but would he and his friends, however, care for some tea to go with my last bottle of Famous Grouse, I was suddenly away of the browbeaten expression on my face: it was the hangdog, fucked-over expression of a Salford publican when the local gang have forced a lock-in on him. Happy days.
As these low-life wasters refuse to take the hint that you'd like to retire now and would they like hackney-carriages summoned, your conscience hand syou a Polaroid of the room. Up till now you've been thinking that if a picture were taken of the scene in your front room it could be entitles something like "The Great Artist As Truly Comprehensive Soul Able To Mix With All Walks of Life". But the pictue you see is "The Lost, Wasted Years of Bullshit, Druggy Conversations. Soul In Ruins. Cushions Fucked Up. Freefall."
Clearing up the next day you're struck by the impersonality of the litter. It's different when you've had your own, proper friends round. When tidying up after your friends, your flat becomes a scrapbook. You think, "Here is the cassette box Martine was holding when she came up with that excellent joke about Brett Anderson. Here is the ice-cream Sid spilled before coming up with the phrase "I've totally chocolated my strides". Here are the splinters of the wine glass I was absent-mindedly chewing while my ex-girlfriend phoned her boyfriend."
But the morning after the all back to mine... well, this could be the floor of the Electric Ballroom after an Angelic Upstarts gig. And looking at all the many empty bottle sof wine and spirits (dark butt-ends dissolving in the last stale dregs), you remember how carefully you chose the wine because it was intended for when the woman you love next came by. You remember that that crate of Kronenbourg was what you were storing up for when your friends came round to watch the Umbro Cup.
What I'm trying to say is that the most depressing thing about an all back to mine isn't that all your liqour has gone down the gannet gullets of ungrateful, tedious strangers. No, the most depressing thing is to do with what those empties symbolise. It's this: your future has been drained of all the intimate, cosy or celebratory occasions in which those bottles were to be a part.
What were you thinking? Why did you behave like a kind of loved-up Travid Bickle: "All the animals come out at night, whore, dopers, junkies, sick, the scum, the filth. Hey everyone! All back to mine!" What made you say "all back to mine?" Think back. The lights came on and you felt like your flat was a bully waiting to give you a hard time if you went home alone. Better to face that bully with some friends or whoever. It turns out, contrary to your plans, that it's whoever.
Next morning, of course, you feel just as empty. The only difference you realise - as you notice a hi-fi shaded patch of slightly lighter wallpaper - is that now the flat feels strangely empty too. Two smaller patches of new-looking wallpaper form an outline the size of speakers, and on the floor, under those lighter shades of wall, is a neat dust-free square.
There is of course another, more shameful reason that prompts the cry of "All back to mine." You think some women might come back too - I mean, itís the law of averages, innit? Maybe the same women who found you unappealing or completely invisible in the club will see you in a new light back at yours just as soon as they see that clip-framed Secondary School Watermanship certificate 1975. ("One width of the pool, then one in pyjamas, plus being able to tread water for 200 seconds, girls.")
But no, for some reason the all back to mine is as oestregen-free as Supergrass. There may be a girl necking with her boyfriend, or that other denizen of these occasions... the absolutely terrifying loony woman. (She has a full pint-glass in her handbag. She has vomit in her teeth. She wants to phone her brother.) But mainly the chilly air hangs grim with testosterone.
And oh what bollocks is spoken! One of my guests (of the "I thought he came with you?" "No, I thought he came with you" variety) took 40 minutes to tell us the plot of a Stephen King story. Forty minutes of this: "And then... the man... or was it the woman? Anyway...they go into this house... No, they donít, they leave this house, oh no, thatís not them thatís someone else." At every interruption from bored, tired, broken listeners he would a) say "but itís got a brilliant ending, right, a brilliant ending," and b) double the volume of his voice. As dawn broke, he finally said: "Here it is, right, this is the brilliant ending right, this is brilliant right... Oh what was it now?...No, itís gone... Sorry."
They leave. You turn in. You wake up in a skip that once was a home. Oh well, you may have been bored but at least you werenít lonely, you think. Then you notice a Watermanship-certificate-shaped patch of wallpaper thatís a shade lighter than the rest of the wall.