The final ritual of the weekend deserves respect.
(Photo via Bruno Bayley)
Seshes normally come in two forms, a kind of clean same-drink, same-buzz, all-night long power-thru, or something more depraved, more disgusting, something that takes you to the very precipice of human behaviour – the very edge of the abyss – then slowly, as the light rises and the curtains glow yellow against it, tugs you back to an awful, groaning reality again.
A clean sesh can sometimes make you feel worse the next day – you, with a bloated beer hangover; you, with that sore nose and throat – while the ones that make you transform for a few hours into an animal, a bear stacked inside a horse spliced with a lion, eight hours past sunrise, then fitful sweating sleep in your clothes before rising at 4PM; sometimes, weirdly, they make you feel more alive afterwards, the same jolt of energy you have in the second before you tip out of an aeroplane, before you bungee on a fraying chord. Adrenaline cleans your body out like a flush. Let us assume you’ve just had one of those ones.
Seshes always end in one place, and that is the residential home of yourself, or a close friend, or – occasionally – you waking up, lost and confused in Barnet, in a very dreadful-feeling grey front room of a perfect stranger. They always involve a sofa, with the cushions all pressed down on it, and a stain. They always seem to involve a bed that might have been perfectly clean before the sesh started but is now sagging, messy and stinks. Even if nobody in the immediate Sesh Party smokes, the Sesh House will smell of smoke. But they all end here, in the grimy comfort of home.
I recently had two back-to-back seshes, the rare and unicorn-like double-sesh, a Friday night sesh that took me from Friday 4PM to Saturday 7AM (sesh highlight: ordering a 3AM pizza from the only place still serving on Just-Eat, which I then was only capable of eating a single slice of, due to the rigours of the sesh), and then a secondary sesh – completely separate – that took me from Saturday 2PM to Sunday 4AM (sesh highlight: I did half a pill and got so, so into sitting down it was unreal. I literally felt like I had invented the concept of sitting down). As you can imagine, I was very tired after this double-header and quite fundamentally wanted to die. I’d also spent all of the leftover money I’d ever earned up to this point in my life. My bones were tired, my muscles were tired. The skin and sinew above and below my eyes were tired. My eyes themselves were tired. Nostrils bad, throat bad. Swathes of my face were blotchy and red. Needed a shower so drastically I thought the police might come over soon and force me at baton-point to have one. Head was pulsing in that sort of ringing, shell-struck, leftover way you get sometimes when you’ve stayed up until 4AM playing bangers on the Bluetooth speaker. I was a wreck, yes, but I would survive it.
But the house, the house. The house looked like a bomb made of Stella cans had hit and then destroyed it. The house smelled like someone’s shop-soiled stock of over-dated corned beef. The house itself – the bones of the house, the bricks and the creaking bows – creaked and groaned and felt hungover more than I ever could.
The solution to the dual problems of my head being in bits and the house being a mess was for me to slowly and methodically tidy the house up, and this is what I am preaching in this letter of recommendation to you. The Post-Sesh Tidy Up (P.S.T.U.) is actually the final ritual of the sesh itself: banishing the sesh demons back into the ether they came down from, flushing out stale air, welcoming in bright light. The P.T.S.U. isn’t just about cleaning your carpets, and cushions, and that bit of remaining work surface visible in the kitchen: it’s about cleansing your mind, your karmic balance, your soul.
The detritus of the sesh:
– Cans in all stages: larval (a can, entirely drained and lightly crushed), pupal (a can with about 300ml of flat warm beer still weighing heavy in it) and fly (the rare gem: a full, entirely unopened can, discarded accidentally among a wash of other, flatter tins) (this can is returned carefully to the fridge).
– An ashtray or a creaking external door, just peeking open, a doorstep littered with white-yellow butts.
– A stone-cold pizza box, sagging in the middle w/ the lid ajar, Turinesque grease markings bruising its surfaces in a blush.
– Single squares of stained and folded kitchen roll.
– The grey-white plastic four-ring from the centre of a pack of cans.
– A blue flimsy bag from a corner shop. A black flimsy bag from a corner shop.
– The top plastic slice from a fresh pack of cigarettes.
– Tiny baggies or crumpled squares of clingfilm or unfolded Lotto tickets.
– One million lighters, not a single one of them functional.
– The lid – but not the foil clasp, or the bottle – from an off-brand corner shop milkshake. A half-eaten Cadbury’s Fudge bar. A large unopened share-sized bag of Wotsits, marked up to retail promotionally for £1. There is always a box of Mr. Kipling Bakewell Tarts, opened as inelegantly as it is possible to be opened, and with the thin red tray of it sagging out, plastic-wrap slashed to the naval and a single empty void where one tart has been eaten. Nobody remembers buying the tarts, or from where. Nobody seemed to eat one and there is no foil evidence as such. But something happened, among the lines and the pints and Mr Brightside. Somebody bought Mr Kipling here, and left as mysteriously as they came.
I like to start picking up the cans because it acts as a stock-take of the night before you, when you started on the quite nice continental lager, then moved on to the less nuanced continental lager, and then someone bought back two cans of actually very genuinely rough shit, and then at 4AM, with the shops all closed, you all moved on to whatever spirits were left in the house – a Drambuie, a Midori – a bottle of which still sits heavy in the centre of the floor like a monolith. The first few times you try to tidy up after a sesh you will make the rookie mistake of bringing the thin green recycling bag into the front room, to pick up the cans and put them in from there, which logically makes sense in terms of economy of effort, but more often results in you accidentally throwing a can of really quite full lager into a bag which promptly leaks, and now you’ve made more mess than there ever was before. No: you take the cans, as many as you can carry at a time, to the sink, where you discard leftovers and give particularly sticky-looking cans a rinse. There is a trick you can do where you can insert the fat pad-like tips of your fingers into the thin lips of each can, holding four delicately in one hand. Try it next time.
I like to snip the four-ring inserts that litter the living room carpet so that they will not ever flush down into the sea and get caught around the neck of a fish. You, too, should try to do this.
Next is the pizza boxes, which you need to stack neatly by the door to take out to the big bin. Do not actually take them outside to the big bin, because there’s always some victim of the sesh – you were all present, at the sesh, you all ingested more or less the same drink and drugs, but there’s always someone who feels the hangover ten or 15 magnitudes more, who lies on the sofa in their boxers underneath a thin blanket, groaning and not helping – and this person will tell you, "No," and, "Do not throw that pizza out," and, the final lie, "I’m still going to eat it." Again, if you are like me, you will have insisted a portion of chicken wings were added to the pizza order last night, which – when they showed up – looked all weird and brown and were promptly not eaten, and I need to advise you not to ever actually eat those. Wrap them in two bags so the foxes can’t get at them and discard them in the big bin out the front.
Do you not feel better with each incremental step?
At some point last night, someone started making cups of tea using tablespoons instead of teaspoons, piling the leftover bags on a used plate that still had some leftover rice on it, and you need to scrape all that into the compost bin. Somehow the towel you have hanging up in the bathroom on which guests can dry their hands ended up fully in the bath and lays there now, coiled and soaking. A single tin of beer sits on the cistern of the toilet. At what point in the night did you all stop being human and tip over into becoming animals? There’s a table in the kitchen where someone bought a bag of beers and ripped a single tin out of the four-pack before even getting the beers out of the bag first. That person was you. Remember that? That was weird. Have you ever been so thirsty in your life as you were six hours ago?
You want to run a hoover over the front room, but there are some people very quietly watching Sunday Brunch in there, so let’s leave that for now.
Slowly, the sun is rising on your soul. The best bit is here, now, at the end, where the mountain of washing up you have assembled finally gets done. (It makes no sense that this much crockery got used, seeing as nobody ate and people basically only drank out of cans, but still plates need wiping, a particularly horrible mug needs rinsing of cigarette ash, a chopping board needs a very thorough wash down, someone always seems to have made a knife sticky with instant coffee or gravy granules, a peculiar sesh impulse).
In our twenties, our bodies crave and need the occasional sesh, the exit valve on escalating internal pressure. Sometimes, you don’t need to just get drunk, you need to get so drunk it is a sin. You get so fucked up you unmoor yourself from some of the heavier anchors of your personality, and put your arms in the air, and let go. A good sesh is intrinsic to the health of the soul, but it’s impossible to have one without leaving a mark. Plunge your hands into the warm soapy water and scrub. Soon you will baptise yourself (take a really, really, really long shower) then take the sacrament (go down the road for a fry up w/ hash browns), then put on the sacred robes (big hoodie that’s so soft you don’t dare wash it) and give thanks (sit on the sofa for ages and ages watching two full football games in a row before it becomes an acceptable enough time to order Domino’s).
This is all part of the ritual of the sesh – pre-drinks, that early buzz, full drunkenness, shouting in an Uber, then the post-buzz, the shit-talking, the agonising tiredness, the second wind, the sunlight, blackout, death – that always ends with the P.S.T.U. Tidying up is as much a part of the sesh as a 45-minute round trip to a cashpoint ahead of the second pick-up of the night is. This is your Sunday service. Treat it with the holy respect it deserves.