From this vantage point you can see the whole city. Beneath you a hilly maze of steeples, forked-roads and aerials, amassed under the rising blue sky. The dark, heaving room that thudded around you an hour ago has now become a peppered dot on the landscape, and "the night" is nothing but a ringing in your ears and the smell of cigarettes on your finger tips. Somebody brandishes a lighter and the cold morning air is full of clouds again. Your journey home has taken ten times longer than it needed to, alongside accidental scenic routes, skips across roofs, and tightrope-tip-toes along crippled brick walls. Eventually, you slump backwards on the soft mountain of a local park, click open one last tinny, and rest on a bed of freshly mown grass.
This scene might be somewhere you've been specifically—or it may just be a rough estimation—but I'm pretty sure that if you've enjoyed a great night out, a great house-party, a great after-party, then you'll have also enjoyed a great walk home. It might sound like a strange part of the night to pick up on independently, but as the days get longer and the nights shorter the journey home is given the opportunity to become as central and winding as the night itself. No longer restricted to running straight for cabs through rain, or shuddering at frosted bus stops, the great walk home is able to reclaim its throne as one of summer's most under-celebrated pursuits.
It's the best opportunity you'll ever have to really know your city. Now I live in London I feel the opportunities to properly enjoy a walk home after a night out are few and far between, with most people scattered across such a radius there's no discernible direction in which to head. The last great walk (part-way) home I had was from an after-party that followed a daytime festival in East. Ending up in Stratford we found ourselves listlessly prowling through the Olympic park. Dwarfed by the twisted, red tower—a sort of sinister Tory version of the Millennium Dome—myself, and five friends occupied that strange clandestine point, where the rush of the night before is still present and the breaking light tricks you into thinking you could do this forever. For a second you believe that maybe the whole world will carry on sleeping and it will just be you and your mates forever. It was that morning, close to a year after first moving to the capital, that I was finally able to call it home.
Back in my hometown walking home after a massive piss up was a basically a reflex. In those spare hours between the nightclubs' close and the first yawns of the real world, the streets are empty corridors. Across the three miles to our houses we'd pass industrial docks, polished town centre water-features, estate agents, milk-floats, and our old school gates. We'd lob street-signs, kick chicken bones and cardboard boxes, climb fences and baffle early-rising dog-walkers. Even now, when enough of my friends are together for a night out, we always seem to make a point of walking home. Even though it's unspoken, and often pretty inconvenient, I think we all secretly long to end up sat on a bench with a blue bag of tins, rolling smokes and stretching our legs. This is, of course, painting these scenes with a retrospective romance they don't always possess at the time. I'm not forgetting the times friends have puked behind phone boxes, argued with shopkeepers or one notable occasion fallen asleep in a stranger's front garden. Yet even the worst episodes have a surreal sort of magic to them. Incidents cloaked in silence and gentle sun.
Let's be clear: nobody ever really wants to walk home. It's normally a process that is stumbled into unknowingly—everyone piles out of the club in one long intoxicated line, and before you know it you're halfway back and there's no point paying out for a taxi. Not that people won't try. The walk home is not for the faint of heart. It will take you longer than it would to complete a marathon, include countless stops at petrol stations and indefinite piss-breaks behind maple trees. Anyone who isn't prepared for the slog needs to be weeded out early on and convinced onto a bus or the last train home. The walk home is a safe space for meandering chatter, nude runs through car-parks and cross-legged silences on bowling lawns.
And if you are prepared for that—prepared for the excruciating length of the whole thing—the rewards are plentiful. Friendships, for all they are forged in nightclubs, need breathing space outside of the pounding 4/4 of a kick-drum, or the blood-vessel bursting one-up-manship of super-charged after party chats. Sometimes you need the open-air church of a sleeping city. You need time spent sitting in the terraces of an abandoned football ground or stood oscillating on the black rubber seat of a playground swing, shooting the actual shit, to really know someone.
It's also the chance to air lingering effects of substances; to tire yourself out so effectively your pillow is actually, y'know, welcome when you finally reach it.
So, this summer, delete Uber and whichever other app is offering you a discount code on taxis. Ignore the last train, the 24 hour tubes, or the constantly rolling night buses. These are the months where nights out stop being short bursts in sweaty rooms and instead become leisurely, three-day long exercises in bank-holiday stamina. And before you know it, it'll all be gone. The nights will go back to puddles and pissy urinals and over-priced cars. The smell of pollen and suncream will be replaced with damp and deodorant, and you'll wish you were anywhere but the steamy chamber of a double decker bus.
When you leave the club head straight for whichever shop is still open. Stock up, and hit the road. In the first light of morning, your night has just begun.