My gang has a showdown at the Mars Bar saloon: Zoe Heller in America

I'VE JUST got off the phone with a friend who has been telling me his summer holiday plans. He and his girlfriend and a bunch of their friends are going to spend two weeks in a big villa on the Costa del Sol. I imagine riotous water fights and a lot of throwing each other in the swimming-pool. I imagine evening strolls into the town centre for paella suppers and I imagine (this bit is drawn from the Bacardi advert) much racing along jetties at night, dressed in flappy white clothes.

I would love to go on holiday in a gang, but I haven't run with a crowd - a distinct pack of chums I could call my own - since I was 16. (And at that age, summer holidays were spent sitting around in each other's smoky bedrooms, listening to the Jam, praying that our mothers would not rush in and embarrass our Cockney poses by screaming fruitily about the washing-up.) In adult life, for reasons I don't really comprehend, my social proclivity has been towards discrete, one-on-one friendships. These are delightful in all sorts of ways, but they don't lend themselves to the sort of industrious 'fun' that gangs enjoy. Throwing each other into swimming-pools, for instance, rapidly becomes rather a sad exercise when there's just the two of you.

In such matters, it is always advisable to accept one's limitations. I am not a gang kind of person, and I shouldn't fight it. The other week I had my friend Jim visiting from England and, fearing that he would be bored spending the entire week in my company alone, I arranged to spend an evening with two other friends of mine, Kevin and Martin. (All names have been changed.) If this went well, I figured we could try another night out with another two or three pals. And if that was successful too - well, hey, perhaps we'd get ourselves a real social group going. Oh, hubris. Oh, vile ambition.

The evening in question started off with me and Jim and Kevin in a SoHo bar. This was pleasant enough, although Kevin, who is an artist, turned up wearing weird wrap-around glasses, a pair of paint-spattered Birkenstocks and an over-sized suit jacket with nothing but his pink chest underneath. Everybody in the bar stared at us, and Jim looked deeply embarrassed. When I said something mild about the stir Kevin was causing, Kevin said I was being bourgeois, and Jim, rather treacherously, agreed. (This, by the way, is one of the unpleasant effects of bringing incompatible types together: the easiest way for them to avoid punching each other out is to train their mutual hostility on you.)

Anyway, we drank a couple of margaritas and then set off for a restaurant on West Broadway, where we were joined by Martin. Shortly after he arrived, Kevin told me that he thought Martin seemed like a real nerd.

Martin didn't seem too enamoured of Kevin, either. Kevin has a line in lecherous observations about women - supposedly sanctioned by the fact that he's an artist - and Martin has a tendency to be rather prim on matters of sexual politics. So when Kevin started up with his standard spiel on the 'horniness' of the female form - 'God: women's hips - they're great, aren't they?' - Martin's mouth pursed and he kept catching my eye accusingly, as if to say, 'This man is your friend?'

We all drank vodka-and-tonics rather fast. Kevin, having temporarily exhausted his hammed-up enthusiasm for les girls, proceeded to provoke a long and rather tedious debate about conceptual art (Jim and I representing the Philistines, Martin and Kevin horrified by our crassness but uneasy about finding themselves allies). When the food came, we ordered wine and then more wine, and by the time we got to the pudding (Martin incensing Jim by helping himself, uninvited, to Jim's tiramisu) we were all pretty drunk.

We had now got through a couple of hours without anyone being explicitly rude to anyone else. It was the moment to get out while the going was good. But there comes a time in an evening when the momentum cannot be stopped, however wise it would be to stop it. Drink, or drugs, or some animal instinct for trouble, drives the hapless revellers inexorably on. We decided to go over to the east side to visit a grubby little hostelry - one of Martin's favourite hang-outs - called the Mars Bar.

As soon as we arrived there, Jim and Kevin went all sullen and swaggery, as men are inclined to do when they find themselves in unfamiliar situations. Luckily, however, there was a jukebox and two very pretty young women in baby-doll frocks bouncing about to the Pogues. Kevin, of course, was unstoppable in his appreciation - he kept shimmying over to them and trying to get into a cosy jig a trois. But even Jim and Martin - by now quite sodden with alcohol - gave themselves over to staring at the women with solemn, slack-jawed lust.

For a short while, things were fine. Kevin was finally repulsed by the two bouncing lovelies, and settled for whirling me around to Guns 'N' Roses instead. And then, while I was in one of the fetid lavatories, Kevin and Jim got into a fight. I have not been able to fathom the cause of their initial disagreement, despite having subsequently interrogated both men. All I know is that when I emerged from the loo, I found the two of them rubbing noses with one another, clenching their fists and performing that odd, pre-fight dialogue - 'Yeah?' 'Yeah?' 'You starting?' 'Yeah?' - while Martin gazed on, looking for the first time that night properly entertained.

Just then, Jim, my guest, the man I had promised a great night out on the town, turned and saw me. He wore a look of inexpressible weariness. His eyes were strained and dilated, not just with anticipation of his impending battle but with the long evening of effort to get on with my friends.

The next night, at his request and with my happy consent, we stayed in and watched The Philadelphia Story - alone.-

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick