NOBODY could possibly say there's any comparison to be drawn between me and Ebenezer Scrooge, except that I once had a business partner called Jacob Marley who's now dead as a doornail. (No, not really.) But I was recently visited by the ghost of Christmas Past, in the form of a telephone call from my friend Steve, in which he suggested that we spend Christmas Eve getting sozzled in a variety of pubs.

Now Steve does not have children - which is just as well, what with one thing and another - and he has never quite taken on board the fact that I do have them. His catchphrase, when I remind him of this fact after he's proposed some new scheme for a piss-up, is "Can't you get a babysitter?", as though they came on tap, as opposed to being booked at great expense two months in advance.

I informed Steve that my Christmas Eve will be a family-centred occasion until 8.30-ish, and thereafter it will be me-centred. (A few beers by the fire, couple of cigars, a Len Deighton book). But his call did trigger nostalgic recollections of my teenage years in York, when Christmas Eve was the biggest booze-up of the year.

Aged around 16, I would watch Christmas Eve Top Of The Pops while screaming at my sister to switch off her bloody hairdryer. Then I'd read the Christmas bumper issue of the NME in the bath before cycling, on a bike without lights, to the only pub in York civilised enough to have the Stones songs "Respectable", "Beast Of Burden" and "Faraway Eyes" on the jukebox. There, Steve, and my other mate, Neil, who was the same age as me but six-and- a-half foot tall and bearded (well, sort of), would buy us rum and blacks until our own eyes became pretty faraway.

Next we'd go to Midnight Mass at some convenient church - purely for the free wine, I'm ashamed to say - and then try and charm the bouncers at various nightclubs. "Sorry," they'd say, whilst staring contemptuously at our knackered combat jackets, and letting a stream of young female beauties through the door, "club's full".

At about 1am, the three of us would give up and cycle home on our bikes without lights, every so often leaping off and pushing them along the pavement if a police car seemed to be approaching.

But the fun wasn't quite over, because we'd earmarked one house on our return journey for a little game. It had a horseshoe-shaped drive which, at its apex, came close to the front windows of the house. The idea was to cycle very rapidly in and out of the garden using this driveway. Usually we got away with it, but one Christmas Eve Neil's chain came off as he was making his getaway. I'll always remember him fumblingly trying to replace it as the furious householder berated him: "I know who you are, you little sod, I'll be seeing your dad about this!"

On Christmas Day morning, of course, we'd be sick.

Good times...