There is always one night during conference when I end up in the local "village", usually accompanied by a collection of members and activists, most of whom have never before set foot in a gay bar. For 2013, it was last night, and my drinking buddies were Craig Mackinlay and Jon Botten.
Events follow an almost pre-determined path. An Indian meal with lots of "I really need an early night" followed by "let's have one for the road" and from then on it's a slow motion car crash.
As Craig, Jon and I bounced around Manchester's Canal Street, the pints of beer soon turned to Jack Daniels, then into large ones and finally (and stupidly, as two men in their late 40's really should know better) into Jurgemeister Bombs. Jon Botten, demonstrating wisdom beyond his years, decided early on that he couldn't possibly keep up (or didn't want or need to do so) and switched to lemonade. He is far more sensible than I am.
Just before 2am I needed to pee, and somehow negotiated a steep staircase to the basement facilities. I had just settled into the act when I was aware of someone standing beside me, and paying slightly too much attention. In that excruciating macho way, I tried to hide what I was holding, whilst simultaneously trying not to make it obvious in case it looked like I had something to hide. Then he spoke. Unfortunately, above the disco thump of Kylie Minogue's Better the Devil You Know I could not hear the question. "I cannot hear a word you are saying", I shouted. He repeated his question, this time I heard it. "How many have applied?" The sheer awfulness suddenly struck me; I was out with friends, up to my nipples in Jack Daniels and standing at a urinal in the grotty and dimly lit basement of a Manchester bar at 2am, and I was being lobbied by a PPC. I shouted a reply "between 10 - 15" whilst staring resolutely ahead. "I'm Xxxxxxxxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxxxxx" he said, offering to shake hands. Given what I had seen the same hand holding a few seconds earlier, I declined.