Under the counter with Lindsay Calder

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The Independent Online
I have been subjected to a long weekend's tyranny of fun. For the past few years, my inimitable friend, Jimmy-the-Pipes, has lured huge numbers of innocent people to his homeland - Northern Ireland - using as his bait, the highly civilised and comfortable Dufferin Arms Coaching Inn in Killyleagh, a sleepy village on the shore of Strangford Lough in County Down. But for us guests, sleep was never on the agenda.

Our despotic host's thirtieth birthday party was the raison d'etre for the first trip, which became known as "a festival of fornication" when our host's outraged father discovered evidence of bed-hopping which can only be described as Olympic standard - even members of the band were roped in. To go with the sex, there was violence: a cad and bounder (white polo neck, perma-tan, Lotus Elan and no shame) received a black eye from a crazed woman in a lace-up bustier, attempting to defend her friend's questionable virtue. Bedtime clashed horribly with breakfast, followed by 9am compulsory trips to a whisky distillery and the Giant's Causeway, which, for a coachload of people suffering from giant hangovers, black eyes and carpet burns, was not the best idea.

So, with this recipe for disaster in mind, the "Killyleagh Ball" saw its third and final year. The party posse met at Gatwick armed with Nurofen, dark glasses and walking boots, knowing that on their return they would be a shadow of their former selves. With our arrival on the Emerald Isle the tyranny began. Our days were mapped out: horse riding (experts only), a strength-sapping walk up the mountains of Mourne (bring appropriate equipment), tug of war, field games and round-the-clock stout-drinking (experts only).

But this year it seemed that Genghis Pipes had gone soft as well as grey - we managed a fairly bloodless coup, forcing him to cancel the coach trip, and return the video of Sniper, which he had hired to make us watch en route, and instead he allowed a peaceful (bagpipes excepted) afternoon cruise amongst the seals on Strangford Lough. Further evidence of his weakening will was his unprecedented failure to demand, at the end of the last night: "It's my birthday, somebody's got to sleep with me". This may have been something to do with a dog lifting its leg on his bagpipes, which I fear has wilted his pride, not to mention his drones.

It was probably best to end on that note - we just haven't got what it takes any more. Even the annual solo rendition of Barnacle Bill the Sailor by the girl of suspect virtue failed to rouse our spirits (although it could make the British Lions' touring squad blush). All bar one packet of Justin Casey's "Midnight Cowboy" condoms remained unopened, as the erstwhile festival of fornication was reduced to one duet on the floor of the residents' lounge. This did instigate a three-in-the-bed scenario, but only because someone was too embarrassed to walk past the duo to get to his own room.

It has taken me a week to recover from my hangovers and there's only so much you can expect from Optrex eye masks. My husband has even contracted a form of stout-poisoning, which is a most anti-social affliction. What I need is a relaxing weekend. It must be possible.

At your peak? Justin Casey Condoms, from a selection, Justin Casey Vending, call 018206 24079 for details; drought Guinness, pounds 1.25 a tin, Oddbins, and no sleep.

Over the hill? Nurofen Plus, box of 12, pounds 1.99; Optrex eye masks, box of 6, pounds 3.99 from branches of Boots, and a big sleep in one of the four posters at the Dufferin Arms Coaching Inn, Killyleagh, County Down, N Ireland (01396 828229).

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