petite anglaise

May 22, 2008


Filed under: good time girl, knot tying — petiteanglaiseparis @ 1:13 pm

The non-hen night started off well enough.

I caught the Eurostar with my non-bridesmaid Meg. (Admittedly with only seconds to spare. If ever you make a date with Meg, it pays to factor in a degree of tardiness.) We sipped champagne and picked at our Eurostar lunch as we sped towards London under flinty skies. Every few minutes I put down my copy of Heat magazine, with a sigh, to field yet another text message from one of the attendees, wondering how on earth people ever made plans before the age of the mobile phone.

Our plan for the day included a lightning visit to TopShop, an afternoon rendez-vous at The Champion pub in Bayswater, a possible picnic in Kensington Gardens (which was looking increasingly unlikely as London approached and the clouds showed no sign of clearing) and, finally, an evening meet at The Walmer Castle, Notting Hill, for a Thai meal.

My friends had been warned that as this was a non-hen night, strippers, L-plates, chicken costumes, weird headgear, matching T-shirts or other horrorshow props were strictly prohibited. Several male friends had also been invited in an attempt to mitigate excesses of girliness. The only bacherlotte party tradition I did uphold was the Boy’s absence. He was safely on the other side of the English Channel, no doubt playing poker.

3pm saw me sitting on a balding Chaise Longue in The Champion, a pint of cider in my hand, surrounded by half a dozen of my closest friends. The picnic plan had been ditched, and we’d ordered a few snacks to mop up the alcohol instead. I was taking things slowly. All was well in my world.

Then my best friend from university, dismayed at the dismally slow progress I was making with my pint, returned from the bar to remedy the situation, carrying two shots (1 vodka, 1 Sambuca). At approximately the same time, Meg bought a bottle of wine for some random Dutch boys who had been quietly propping up the bar and asked them to do a little dance for me, in return. She then produced a handful of fluorescent mini feather boas, a hideous pink plastic necklace and a hair clip (with pink bow attached) and began to advance towards me.

I raised the first of the two shot glasses to my mouth. And the next five hours – from approximately 5pm until 10pm – are blank.

I’m told I ripped university friend’s top – and have seen photographic evidence to support this claim – but can summon up no memory of the occurrence whatsoever. I’m told I tipped over the back of the chaise longue, landing on the floor with my legs in the air. Again, this feels true, but I have only a vague recollection of the feeling of smooth, cold tiles against my back – there is no visual memory at all.

And yet the photographs and videos I’ve seen show me looking tipsy but functional: sitting, standing, walking, talking, laughing (and drinking). It’s as though the lights were on, but there was no one home. My body switched onto autopilot, ceased to record anything, and partied on without me.

I ‘came to’ in the Thai restaurant and the rest of the night, which ended around 3 am, I recollect with perfect clarity.

On the Eurostar home, Meg obligingly filled in my memory gaps, prompting several ‘Oh no, please say I didn’t’s and a multitude of groans. The only advantage of not remembering was that it was virtually impossible to feel ashamed of my behaviour. What happens in the black hole, stays in the black hole, and frankly it might as well all have happened to someone else.

‘Your mission at the wedding, should you choose to accept it,’ I said when she had finished, ‘is to ensure my glass is never filled.’


  1. I find those sorts of ‘alcohol induced black holes’ very scary. Suffered one myself at a friends wedding. Woke up in the morning with all my clothes neatly folded, shoes put together, I’d removed my makeup – to this day (3 years later) I have absolutely no recollection past 10pm. Strangely, I don’t drink too much now… Best wishes for your wedding. First comment, have lurked for years, I enjoy your blog (and enjoyed your book) very much.

    Comment by Tuesday — May 22, 2008 @ 1:31 pm

  2. You cannot be held accountable for that which you don’t remember!

    Comment by metro mama — May 22, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

  3. Well, hopefully this is just once in a lifetime…Have started to read your blog recently and had great fun…I am just wondering..Ehm, what is your astro sign? I could care less about your age but I could not find your date!:)
    Anyway, here is another language univ. student, neurotic about her future…Competitive A but so unsure of thank you, it was comforting reading you, looking forward to reading your book.

    Comment by linous — May 22, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  4. I’ll bet you were dancing like this

    when you were in the black hole. ;-)

    Comment by Steve... — May 22, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  5. American asks… What’s an L-plate?

    Comment by srah — May 22, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  6. seeing the evidence at hand, i think you are making the wise decision, petite.

    Comment by franko — May 22, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  7. I suspect foul play on the part of the Dancing Dutch Boys… everything was clearly fine until that point. ;)

    Comment by Hails — May 22, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

  8. A friend of mine just brought the original UK version of the book from across the pond to me. I can’t wait to read it on my train ride to New Orleans. It will bring back memories of the TGV, except Amtrack is much slower.

    Comment by Halcyon — May 22, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  9. An L-plate is a little red L that learner drivers have to display on their cars.

    Comment by Lisa — May 22, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  10. @5 an ‘L’ plate is a learner driver plate, a white square with a red ‘L’ which one attaches to the front and back of one’s car when one is driving with an instructor/hasn’t passed one’s driving test. For reasons best known to someone it has been appropriated by brides-to-be (or their organisers) at hen parties and is often worn around the neck or pinned to an item of clothing.

    Comment by Rachel — May 22, 2008 @ 3:16 pm

  11. Oh, had one of those once, and what was scarier was that I apparently DROVE MY CAR while I was in the blankness… for over 30 miles. Didn’t hit anything or anyone, thank God, but I have no recollection of the drive home until I was within a mile of my house. Not one of my better days.

    A second time, I strongly suspect someone had actually slipped something in my drink at a party. The first cocktail I’d mixed myself, but the second was handed to me by a friend of the host (a colleague) and after that all I remember is being violently ill for HOURS afterward and acting like a raging maniac (which despite reports to the contrary is not my natural personality). Maybe Hails is right… Dutch boys slipped you a bad drink perhaps?

    Comment by The Bold Soul — May 22, 2008 @ 3:16 pm

  12. Hey – at least your body had a good time, even your brain doesn’t remember it!

    Good luck with all the wedding preparation!

    Comment by Ness — May 22, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  13. Sounds like a win-win situation: some hilarious anecdotes for your friends, and no guilt for you!

    Comment by Marjolein — May 22, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  14. For lo these past two or three years, my guilty pleasure has been this blog. Now that I am on my way to one of the few parts of the globe with no Internet access–save via satellite, and quite dear–I shall miss sharing these glimpses. Bonne chance!

    Comment by Greg — May 22, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

  15. Sounds like Las Vegas may be more your kind of town.

    “Liquor in the Front – Poker in the Back”!

    Comment by SW France — May 22, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

  16. Yay….that’s what hen nights are all about!

    Comment by Lucy Diamond — May 22, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  17. Ahhh, alcho-amnesia. (Cham-nesia if you’re classy.) How nice that you felt no shame on regaining consciousness… in the absence of actual memories, I tend to catastrophise and imagine the very worst of my black Sambuca holes. The hot hell of hangover shame!

    Comment by Stez — May 22, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

  18. Ah, it’s good to have these sorts of nights every once in a while.

    This L-plate thing is fascinating. Here in the U.S. it’s tradition to just Woo! a lot and wear a ridiculous outfit.

    Comment by The Window Seat — May 22, 2008 @ 5:10 pm

  19. not to throw a wet blanket on the revelry, but blackouts are a scary symptom. I would encourage you to think carefully about your drinking adn maybe to talk to someone. Casual social drinkers don’t black out. Black outs happen because your body has built up tolerance to alcohol over time and your body can tolerate more alcohol than your brain can. The fact that you were in a functioning blackout is even more worrisome. If your brain is passed out, your body should be too. .

    I’m concerned. I love your blog, but alcohol features fairly prominently in many of your adventures. Just think about it. The defition of someone with a drinking problem is someone who cannot control his drinking after the first drink–it’s not about frequency–a person can have a drinking problem and rarely drink, if he cannot control his consumption once yhe takes the first drink.

    Comment by meme — May 22, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

  20. sorry for all the typos. I am trying to work and write at the same time, not a good combination. I am a grateful sober alcoholic who is so happy someone finally voiced his concern to me. I functioned very well at a demanding job, I was very prominent in my community, but I was a closet drinker. Never drank in public, never drank on the job, never missed a day of work. But once I took the first drink, I drank until I was drunk. I could not stop.
    I’m sober a while now and very grateful.

    Comment by meme — May 22, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

  21. @meme – Maybe I’m in denial here, but I really think the high tolerance argument just doesn’t fit my situation. My typical weekly consumption (on my one night out) equals a couple of beers and a glass of wine with a meal.

    On this occasion I’d made a single pint of cider last an hour, and then I had those two shots (which may have been doubles, I have no idea).

    I think of myself more as an alcohol lightweight, who should steer clear of neat spirits (good, because I detest them!) Which is a problem, but not the same problem you describe.

    The upside to all this is that I started drinking water from 10pm and felt fine the next day…

    Comment by petite — May 22, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  22. I had a similar experience at my non-bachelorette party. The big plus from my experience was that my future sister-in-law, who apparently thought I was quite stodgy, got to see me in party mode and liked me much better for it. She was only 21 at the time and had only seen me in family gatherings. I never thought getting wasted would produce anything positive, but this was a rare exception. I’m glad you had fun! Good luck with the rest of your wedding plans.

    Comment by Leslie — May 22, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

  23. I suppose that having those photos posted could only help with more publicity for your book!

    Comment by Lost in France — May 22, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  24. Eh… alcoholic oblivion! It can happen. But on cider? Tsk…

    Comment by Ariel — May 22, 2008 @ 7:05 pm

  25. Should have read all the comments first! Is it at all possible that someone spiked your drink at any stage? And no, I am not suggesting it may be someone you know, just that this could have happened. It did to me once in Zurich, and the result was similar to what you describe and even featured lengthy telephone conversations I had no recollection of, and verbose voicemails I never knew I’d left. Most bizarre.

    Comment by Ariel — May 22, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  26. The blackout happened to me at freshers night at Uni – I mixed my drinks, it was self induced – but what could have been a very embarrassing, cringe-inducing evening simply became something people recounted to me. It was as if it all happened to someone else in a parallel universe. I won’t go into details, but it was all very very awful. I haven’t mixed my drinks since – stuck rigidly to ‘never mix the grape and the grain’.

    Comment by georgiethewondercat — May 22, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  27. Hahahahahahahahaha. Is all I’m saying :)

    Comment by rhino75 — May 22, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  28. The only time this sort of blank-out happened to me was back in high school but indeed, I have been told I did things I didn’t even know I was capable of doing (like cartwheels!) – imagine the power of what we tell ourselves we cannot do – when we quiet that voice with alcohol, we actually can. Wish there was a way we could do that without the hang-over!

    Comment by Tamara ModernGear TV — May 22, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

  29. Well at least you upheld one time-old hen tradition!

    Comment by Marianne — May 22, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  30. I’d say the amnesia is definitely PTSD from the feather boa and hair clip :shudder:

    Comment by mrs. bee — May 22, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

  31. Cool, I respect that Petite. I’m not one of those people who thinks that anyone who drinks has a problem. Most people, in fact, do not. I just put it out there for thought and because I do not want to see anyone get hurt or hurt someone else because of their drinking.

    Comment by meme — May 22, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

  32. Sounds like a lovely night lol I’ve had a few–yeah right!–like that in my time. The next morning payoff was not rousing to say the least.

    Comment by Beau — May 23, 2008 @ 12:49 am

  33. Ohhhh blimey ohhh riley I had 3 hen do’s

    1 – An impromptu one as I was working on the Holyhead – Dun Loagahire car ferry at the time [SeaLink UK] we didnt sail at night only one sailing a day at the time so from 8pm we were off duty or on fire watch [lol]. It was mixed obviously as it was a mixed crew.

    2 – Was with all the girlie friends from off the ship when fully off duty n if my ole memory serves me correctly was mixed !!!

    3 – Was on a night out together which turned out to be a joint hen/stag do with all our friends so I think its safe to say we had a good send off.

    This was in early 80’s when money was no object the pay was extremely good the drink was cheap n overly plentiful….Sad to say I wonder where the eighties went pre kids was mostly a blur * blushing * ..Maybe because we partied hard, but worked equally hard 24 hrs on duty n 48 off [on shore at home]I cringe at how much went down the loo with naff all to show for it… Halcyon days.

    As it happens these days we rarely drink my MS n heart problems see to that do I regret my black hole drunken stupors NOOOOOO no cuz it was all pre kids n was part of Merchant Navy culture n I wouldnt change those days for the world. No regrets at all.

    However after saying that my father in law is an alcoholic n Ive seen first hand what drink does long term. A good 80% of people himself n I worked with have died of drink related disease or cancer.

    I hope you had a blimmin good time tho n all the best not long now * smiles cant wait for the pics *

    Sooz xx

    Comment by Soozyuk — May 23, 2008 @ 1:46 am

  34. “The upside to all this is that I started drinking water from 10pm and felt fine the next day…”

    Sure as hell beats praying to the porcelain goddess…..or, having the little man inside your head hammering away……

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — May 23, 2008 @ 3:51 am

  35. I just had my hens night and it was awesome. I requested no tacky penis straws etc (one reason being I can’t drunk with them because every time I go to take a drink I giggle like a school girl)
    My bridesmaids did however dress me as a bumble bee. (My nickname being Bee)
    I had the black out….cept my friends have shown me the pics so I got to relive it all. I can’t even look at a photo of me on the night with a drink in my hand without feeling sick.
    And I made a spectacle of myself ‘pollinating’ some trees and bushes. Alcohol poisoning – delightful. I am usually a cadbury’s kid but when there are people around determined to see you have a ‘good’ time….it is hard to say no after the second champagne cocktail!

    Comment by Bianca — May 23, 2008 @ 7:30 am

  36. I’m loving the PTSD explanation…

    Comment by petite — May 23, 2008 @ 8:33 am

  37. Love the new banner! I nearly didn’t spot it, because I’m so used to seeing that picture down the side bar!

    Comment by Lotus Flower — May 23, 2008 @ 8:52 am

  38. You can’t be held accountable for anything that happens on your hen night, even if it is a non-hen night and cameras and camera-phones should be banned!

    I hope the wedding plans are all coming together at this stage!


    Comment by Rois — May 23, 2008 @ 10:22 am

  39. Very funny, so it wasn’t that different from a “normal” english hen night then!
    nice try though ;)

    Comment by Bugs — May 23, 2008 @ 10:34 am

  40. I like the new banner too – of course I spotted it straight away because my brain tends to work like that (it’s a curse).

    I often wonder if there is a link between having children and losing the ability to drink lots ?

    Comment by Jonathan — May 23, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  41. I am trying to work and write at the same time, not a good combination. I am a grateful sober alcoholic who is so happy someone finally voiced his concern to me.

    Comment by Gebäudeversicherung — May 23, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  42. That sounds like a GREAT hen night. Maybe the cider/vodka/sambuca combo causes black outs?! I assume that the water consumed after 10 pm also meant that you weren’t hung over the next day? All in all a perfect result!

    @40 – I definitely think that having children ruins one’s capacity for drinking. I was legendary for holding my drink until my daughter was born. Now I call it a night after 2 glasses of wine. I think my liver is quite pleased about the change.

    Comment by Hazy — May 23, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  43. I’m so glad you can see the funny side and make the most of not having to feel guilty. My memories of too much alcohol involve feeling dreadfully ill and wishing to die as the room swirled round my aching head and i felt too dizzy to throw up with any accuracy. Chapeau for being able to enjoy the Thai meal on the same evening!!!

    Comment by sablonneuse — May 23, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

  44. My brother always used to say (when he was about 3), “I didn’t see myself do it mummy”. He still rolls out his old mantra after nights like that!

    Comment by Amanda — May 23, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  45. Yes, but in your case PTSD means “Post Traumatic Serial Drinking”….. ;-)

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — May 23, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  46. I am just so glad that you are human. Enjoy!

    Comment by Roberta — May 24, 2008 @ 5:34 am

  47. Hi There,
    Just looked up your blog, after finishing your book…happy to hear about the impending matrimony!
    Best of Luck

    Comment by issy — May 24, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  48. Sounds like your non-bridesmaid filled her role perfectly!

    Comment by girlwiththemask — May 24, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  49. Le programme se déroule comme il se doit même lorsque c’est à l’insu de ton plein gré…
    Ce mariage s’annonce bien !

    Comment by marie-hélène — May 24, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

  50. Please tell me this wasn’t the eve of the wedding?

    Comment by Pat — May 25, 2008 @ 11:10 am

  51. Re# 19: I salute Meme for having the courage to say what she does – not necessarily for Petite’s benefit, but for women in general.

    Comment by Pat — May 25, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  52. Hmmmm. Meg has added your name to the definition of a slag (obviously in jest) and has promised to post pics of your night out. I can hardly wait for the pics of your blank period. Must’ve been a top night.

    Comment by BundyGil — May 25, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  53. I’m re-thinking the seriousness of my blog reading this. Love your writing. First time I’ve stopped by. I grew up in France and smiled when I read your description of your daughter’s shrugging and pouting yet still loving beans. Lovely to find your blog. x

    Comment by Captain Cat — May 26, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  54. Sounds like a lovely night loll I’ve had a few–yeah right!–like that in my time. The next morning payoff was not rousing to say the least.

    Comment by Gebäudeversicherung — May 26, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

  55. Pictures, we want pictures :) Glad you had such a great time!

    Comment by Kat — May 26, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

  56. Wow what a night, I do hope there will be some photos of this great night out..Just looked at meg’s blog, photos to follow, so will add her to my favourites….I really hope you had a good time, and that all goes really well with the wedding, I am looking forward to reading and seeing photos!! Take care and good luck to you both x0x0

    Comment by anne — May 26, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

  57. Petite

    Glad you had a great time – sounds like a brilliantly normal hen night to me. Petite, you shouldn’t feel like you have to justify yourself to Meme.

    Meme – get over yourself and chill out.

    I know who I’d rather go out for a drink with!

    Comment by Normal Person — May 26, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

  58. For lo these past two or three years, my guilty pleasure has been this blog. Now that I am on my way to one of the few parts of the globe with no Internet access–save via satellite, and quite dear–I shall miss sharing these glimpses. Bonn chance!

    Comment by rentencheck — May 27, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  59. @ meme : I hate you for being so right! So do you not drink at all nowadays? eager to find out if this is the next step….;-(

    @ Normal Person: yeah me too. And someone who thinks blacking out during drinking sessions is ok (and “normal”) is probably not the one… I don’t know about Petite (I do realise she is not a heavy drinker), but I know blackouts do freak me out.

    Mind you, I think Petite is quite safe, it was her hen night and she had plenty of friends around to look after her. Also, she lives in France, and I don’t believe the alcohol led debauchery that seems to have hit the UK has reached France yet…not that I have seen.

    Comment by Imaginary Friend — May 27, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

  60. Argghhhh…. I have a day of reading ahead of me!!! As I just finished your book but had never heard of the blog I just saw it in a bookshop and thought it was worth a try, then I came on here to see where it had all started and read that you are getting married – now I am majorly confused…I need to read up!!!

    Comment by Kelly — May 28, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  61. imaginary friend

    imo, nobody has an alcohol problem unless THEY say they do, or a judge (or a sig other) makes that assessment for them.

    non-alcoholics adjust their drinking based on experience. some even quit.

    alcoholics have no choice. one drink is too many and five are not enough. almost always.

    Petite appears to drink, even way too much sometimes, by choice.

    with all her newly-found success, she can now afford a chauffeur on ‘girls’ nite out’ (sometimes known as ‘girls gone wild,’ but PA wouldn’t know for sure).

    Comment by wistfullysober — June 1, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  62. Hey there wistfullysober

    For clarification, I didn’t mean meme was right that Petite had a problem (who knows what really goes on in Petite’s life), but about their views on alcohol consumptions, sorry should have made that clear.

    The key question for me is how do you know when the “by choice” has turned into “no choice” and how do you prevent this?

    Comment by Imaginary Friend — June 5, 2008 @ 7:44 am

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