Ffion, your hen night had nothing on this...
Friday 19 December 1997
Ffion Jenkins and my friend Frog have never met, but this weekend they might - sipping cocktails on the veranda of the Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, Rajasthan. They have married in the same week and are honeymooning at the same hotel. The most significant thing that the two newlyweds share, however, is their ability to beat the bucks at their own game. For when it came to celebrating their pre-nuptials, Ffion and Frog quite simply outstagged the stags.
William Hague brought down the curtain on his bachelor days with a hike up Ben Nevis, by all accounts an outing as tame as it sounds. "It was all very civilised. We got up at dawn and headed for the hills," says the best man, Nick Levy. Afterwards, they had what he described as "cosy chats". MP Alan Duncan, the tory leader's political secretary and one of his six stags, says the day was "on the right side of decorum... under control rather than out of control." The Scotsman described it as "a case of men behaving sadly".
Meanwhile Ffion, 29, was making more bawdy arrangements. Her hen night was reportedly "a relatively raucous affair" with fellow members of the SWS (Social, Welsh, Sexy) Club. They went out on the town for dinner and on to a screening of The Full Monty.
Likewise Phillipa Shakerley, known to her friends as Frog - or Ffrog, if you like - went one step further in the laddishness stakes. She went to the dogs, in the nicest possible way. Last Saturday, at 6.45pm prompt, Dave the minibus driver drew up at Frog's front door. She went out to greet him, only to be told: "I've come to pick up a party of blokes to take them down to the dogs." A kerfuffle of legs, boots and cleavages later, he realised his mistake. Twenty-one nubile, shrieking women climbed aboard, their feather boas streaking behind them.
A trip to a health farm would have been too wholesome; a genteel night- in discussing Janet Reger underwear just not enough fun. "We wanted to be blokes for the night," says Frog, 27. "Lager, scampi and chips, wolf whistles and betting slips was my idea of a night out. The stags sat in a restaurant eating beef entrecote and drinking bellinis. The hens' evening took place down at the Wimbledon dogs."
There was a surprise in store for Frog, too. When we arrived at the stadium, she was handed a programme and instructed to turn to the 10th race. There it was: "The Phillipa Shakerley Hen Night Stakes (The Frog Race). Trophy presented by Phillipa Shakerley." (For pounds 150 anyone can sponsor a race.) Armed with greasy dinners, plastic pints of lager and packets of fags, we nested down for the night. Come the 10th race, we flew down to the pits for a punt on the big one. The fact that every other racegoer was on tenterhooks for the 12th, the Thoroughbred Investments Oaks Final, one of the high-points of the greyhound season, was lost on us.
"Oh, here come the Phillipas," remarked one bookie, as we descended on the pits for the Frog Race. "Awe, bleedin' hell. It's the Spice Girls," said another. Moments later, Frog was chalking up the odds and fielding a barrage of proposals from punters. Her moment of glory came when she climbed on to her Astroturf platform to present the glass bowl to the winning owners.
Frog and Ffion are part of a trend, it seems. As men get tamer, women are gamer. Madame JoJos, the transvestite club in Soho, has recently been overun with hens. "We've had so many down here recently that we're really not encouraging it," says a spokeswoman. "We don't want the club full of girls."
Rachel Loos, deputy editor of Company, says her readers celebrate their marital rite of passage riotously, sometimes with trips to Amsterdam, Ibiza and Dublin. "The attitude is `Have as good a time as you can'. No one worries about decorum. It's about giving the bride the send-off of her life."
Les Barnes, who drives luxury limousines, finds women "far worse" pre- nuptial passengers than men. "Eight girls get into one limo and, before you know it, they're mooning out of the back window and standing up out of the sunroof without anything on above their waists," he says.
Dave, our minibus driver, doesn't know how lightly he got off. And James, the token cock in Frog's hen party, had a narrow escape, too. The bride- to-be had wanted to top off her night with a quick circuit round the track: all 21 girls in hot pursuit of the one man. Fortunately, the manager refused. It might have been one fence too far.
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