Thomas Howarth’s Uni Confessions – I Nearly Lost My Life In A Bar Brawl Aboard A Houseboat



My 21st birthday. Ahh. Two of my friends hauled me along to one of the city’s edgy boat bars, floating havens for anchors and wankers alike. This particular vessel, The Sound and Fury, was a decommissioned narrow boat, and as such required all patrons to shuffle and crouch. The rooftop dancefloor bore space for only three dancers at a time and the third dancer, the spare, would invariably jump drunkenly into the river out of loneliness.

My friends, Aphanisis Jones and Skelter Hewett, zipped to the bar. As I sat waiting for them to return – Aphanisis with his glass of ice and Skelter with her trademark bottle of peanuts – I noticed a classmate, Hockton Wanes, filming a documentary for his ‘Postmodern literary technique in social media updates’ dissertation. He was busy with a closeup on someone’s phone when I tapped him on the shoulder.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ he spat, cradling his camera. The whites of his eyes were textured with coke. ‘This is delicate equipment.’

Before I could explain my actions – I’d wanted to ask where he’d bought the Robin Hood hat he was wearing – he lunged at me, shaking hands with my throat.

At first I thought it was a joke, a playful student jape, but I found myself becoming suddenly aware of all the tubes and vessels in my neck. The big one in the middle started to feel tender and purple, and a bubble burst inside. With his free left hand, Hockton unwound a length of film from his camera and began tying my neck like a tubular Christmas present. He’d gone psychotic, and was starting to chew my nose. Fed up of its body’s lame pacifism, my leg lashed out and the attached foot struck Hockton’s groin like lightning. He tumbled backwards and I pulled away the tangle of film.

Our ruckus had caused an unsteady tilt to the place, and water was welcoming itself in through some of the portholes. I saw Aphanisis urging Skelter towards the exit. Somebody pranged the jukebox with their elbow and ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ sprang into play.

Hockton’s camera rolled across the floor’s list towards the invading river, but I grabbed its strap before splashdown. I shoved all the loose film back in, and instinctively hit the record button. Hockton was wild, punching out windows and eating bits of broken glass. The boat’s tilt endowed me with some pretty cool angles. A swan was sucked into the boat on a current, and I captured its plight on film. Hockton grabbed the bird and wore it by its neck like a scarf. He lunged at me again, but I stepped aside and he vanished through a window.

Having escaped the flooding bar, I stood on the harbour and filmed as the boat slid down into the alcoholic black ink. Hockton, buoyed by the dead swan, floundered helplessly. I got a good zoom-in on that. The dancefloor’s decorative statue, a twenty foot fibreglass Russell Brand, buckled at its base and teetered over the drowning git. I leapt down into a small rowing boat and caught a fantastic shot as the effigy smacked Hockton into the depths.

The next morning I handed in the recording for myself and nabbed a First.

Thomas Howarth 

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