Sometimes, after a particularly tough couple of weeks, the only solution is to don a terrifyingly short dress and some correspondingly high heels and go for a swank night out; boys may of course substitute their own favoured items of party clothing here, or go with mine - we're all friends here after all. This course of action does naturally bring its own potential pitfalls, particularly during the coldest February in the history of the world (I've made that up, but it HAS been parky), when one's natural reaction is to reach for the fleecy pyjamas and the comfort of the sofa rather than the handkerchief-sized dress and the bright lights of Manchester. Still, we all made it, and here are just some of the important things I learned last night:
1. In any party of girls, you can play a reasonably accurate game of guess-the-age-of-each-girl based on the denier of their tights. The older the girl, the thicker the hosiery, preferably combined with an M & S footglove shoe (nope, I'd never heard of it either, but I want it) to ensure maximum comfort when walking from bar to bar. Any girl wearing trousers is simply afraid to reveal her age through her legwear and should be put somewhere mid-range.
2. A dish of moules frites in All Bar One, no matter how nice, will NOT fill you up for an evening's wineage, even when supplemented by the largest banana trifle (yes - as good as it sounds) ever seen by man or beast. Sure, at the time it seems plenty, but trust me - come eleven o'clock you'll be on the verge of grateful tears when your friend finally voices what you've all been secretly thinking: "Ooh - I could just eat a plate of chips right now." Sadly, the nice man in Grinch thinks, quite rightly, that it's too late for chips, and just brings Prosecco instead.
3. I'm not sure if this is a regular occurrence, but at around 9pm sweet music emanates from the bottom of Market Street, where a cheery band of musicians appear to be playing ABBA mash-ups (we spotted Fernando in there but weren't completely sure about the other components - blame the moules for not lining my stomach properly and thereby affecting my normally razor-sharp judgement). We dance appreciatively for a while, and briefly consider starting a jazz hands flash mob; indeed, a few intrepid souls do get on board with this before we lose interest and move on.
4. A most interesting and innovative game can be played in a bar with just one simple, everyday prop - a lemon. I'm new to the game, but the rules appear to involve going up to someone of the opposite sex and giving them a lemon, which they must then give to somebody else in order to keep the fun and hilarity on a constant loop. I'm sure there are further subtleties of which I am unaware, but I can note that a/ the lemon man will be cross when you show little interest in his wares, and b/ will become even more irate when one of you eventually takes it and then immediately fobs it off on one of his own friends. "NO," he wails, genuinely distraught at our lack of Lemon Game skill, "you have to give it to someone I don't know!" Lemon man then becomes sulky and takes his fruit away, no doubt muttering that he'll never get his Olympic lemon-passing team together at this rate.
5. The lemon shenanigans take place at Socio Rehab, the Northern Quarter's seductively dingy den of cocktail heaven. We do not stay long here - despite securing prime seats - due to our poor performance and subsequent disgrace in the lemon game (and because there were an actual million trillion people crammed in there), but we do stay long enough to confirm that the drinks are still knockout (on every level): I had the Papaya Vanilla Daiquiri (rum shaken with lime, papaya juice, vanilla infused sugar and fresh pineapple) and am fairly sure that if I'd had even just one more I too would have been propagating citrus-based party activities.
6. And finally, when you're in the taxi home before midnight, texting your other half to put the kettle on, you KNOW even without looking down that you are, without doubt, one of the high denier ladies.