Whether he knows it or not, David Attenborough has been an integral part of the clubbing scene for decades. Since his groundbreaking Life series launched with Life on Earth in 1979, his dulcet, avuncular tones have provided the backdrop to generations of hangovers and comedowns.
A few weeks ago, following in that grand tradition, I found myself wrapped in a duvet, recovering from my latest foray into the world of poor life decisions. In the background, Attenborough led me through rainforests and savannahs - from the roof of Africa to expansive lakes lurking deep under the Kalahari desert. I sat, sipping on Fanta, trying not to move my head too much to appease my nauseousness, scrolling through Facebook. Rising through the cacophony of selfies and self promotion, a shining beacon of hope presented itself.
‘David Attenborough’s Jungle Boogie’.
The words punched through my hangover and I realised what I had to do. For years, I’d been a passive recipient of Attenborough’s explorations and discoveries. I’d curled up on my sofa whilst he traversed the savannah. Clutched at a toilet bowl as he’d descended into volcanos. Huddled in bed whilst he’d explored the blue planet.
I decided it was time for me to get out there, into the wilds, and do some exploring of my own - what better place to start, what better homage to the great man himself, than to begin my adventure at an Attenborough themed party.
I enlisted the help of my friend Lilian and we set about preparing for our great quest. Though this mainly consisted of a set of hurried hungover texts on the evening of said quest arranging pre drinks. Having sunk the pre-arranged bottle of gin, we saddled (ubered) up and ventured off on our great expedition (three miles from my flat) to reach our exotic destination (Bethnal Green).
Nestled in a back street just off Cambridge Heath Road, Oval Space isn’t the natural choice for an expedition I will grant you, but I banked on it containing one species that has, for many years now, remained a total mystery to me - heterosexuals.
As we climbed the stairs and ventured into the venue, we were presented with a gaggle of lads, one of whom was adorned with a banana costume and I knew we’d hit the jackpot.
Since flying the heterosexual coup some 10 years ago, I’ve looked on in fascination at heterosexual culture. The mating rituals. The social structures. The aggression. Ed Sheeran. And this was the night that finally, I’d get some answers.
Above hundreds of revellers hung jungle vines. On stage next to a giant 'Jungle Boogie sign', a life sized David Attenborough cardboard cut out stood defiant in the face of debauchery, casting his knowing eyes over the proceedings.
We moved through the crowd and reached the watering hole (bar).
It was here that we got our first glimpse of heterosexual social structures in action.
Banana boy had found his way in and was standing next to a man wearing a monkey onesie. All around us, tropical patterned hype shirts swayed and sauntered, fighting for a space. Fairy lights adorned the necks of many, casting ghoulish shadows over their faces as they leered out of the darkness shouting their orders at bemused bar staff.
Predominantly, it was the larger, bolshier men - most decked out in some form of culturally appropriate or problematic costume - that pushed their way to the front. Often acting in isolation they’d throw their form through the crowd, landing a coveted spot at the bar before wasting it by ordering a Fosters. By contrast, the women stuck together, working as a team, fighting off the advances of undesirables, defending their space and moving as a unit to achieve their alcoholic aim.
At one point, one of the larger males approached a group of women, attempting to charm and ruse his way past them, usurping their hard won spot. Alas, the superior intelligence of the females thwarted him, his efforts being met with a heady concoction of indifference and disdain.
Back out in the pit, something else was afoot.
I’ve been out and about on the queer scene in London for much longer than I’d care to admit. In my younger years, I lost hours and hours of my life to dark rooms and even darker misadventures. I thought I’d tried it all. Done it all. Seen it all. There is, however, very little that compares to the carnage of that dance floor.
Weaving in amongst the flailing arms and gyrating hips that I’m assuming were a nod in the direction of dancing, we spotted our first heterosexual encounter.
I want to say that it was beautiful. That it was complex. That there were minutes of tension as the pair circled each other, eyes fixed on one another before one of them eventually leaned in, and they kissed. What it actually was was a woman in a David Attenborough mask being fingered by a guy in a safari hat. At least I’m assuming that’s what he was doing. Whatever was going on down there, he certainly wasn’t shaking her hand. As she turned to face him - clearly in the throws of passionate elixir, she stuck her tongue through a gap in the mask aiming for his mouth. It was at that point I decided I’d learned all I could from that encounter, and so we moved on, further into the belly of the beast.
Deep inside, fornication was the name of the game. A shirtless man in a flamingo costume was copping off with a woman in a leopard print leotard. A woman holding a headless giraffe was making out with a guy in a tiger mask. Disembodied David Attenborough faces attached to sticks bounced above the crowd. In the midst of it all stood banana boy, having it large as his friends dropped in and out of their loose circle. As a blow up kangaroo started doing the rounds, it felt time to leave the acid trip nightmare of the inter-species orgy and head to higher ground.
Outside, in the smoking area, we stumbled upon some fellow travellers. Sally and Liv were stood, clasping clipboards and binoculars (handcrafted from toilet rolls and a hot glue gun), observing. Upon each clipboard was a list of animals - ‘actual real life animals’ as they would later tell me - with ticks next to each one. Their safari, it would seem, had been a great success, and so I approached them to see if they had any handy tips or tricks I could employ.
“I will say” starts Sally “when we approached people, they did not like it. We had to do it from a distance. They (straight people) were very defensive. They’d say “I’m not a fluffy backed tit”, and we’d have to be like - you are though mate”.
As banana boy reappeared, I turned their advice over in my head. Maybe we’d been going about this all wrong. Maybe, instead of being in the throng, we should hold back. Observe from a distance so as not to spook the fragile and delicate heterosexual ecosystem unfurling itself in front of us.
We headed back indoors and the heard had thinned somewhat, leaving only wasters and the wasted.
We perched on a bench, and observed the final, sometimes desperate attempts of men to find a mate. One older guy, decked out in an Indiana Jones hat and wrap around sunglasses circled a group of young women. He’d place his hat on different women’s heads, attempting to use this as an in to woo them with what I can only assume were somewhat lacklustre and tired chat up lines. Instead this tactic led to him chasing his hat across the room several times as the women left his seedy orbit.
With security finally clocking on to his overbearing creepiness and wrestled him from the club, we decided it might be time to sound the retreat.
Holed up in a chicken shop around the corner, we devoured our poultry prize and chatted about the night. A guy walked past and asked us whether he could be the best man at our wedding and I filled with an ice cold dread.
Had I, perhaps, spent too long observing? Dived head first into the Kool-Aid and been indoctrinated. Converted? Had I flown too close to the sun and been scorched with the scars of heterosexuality? As my bride to be tried to fit a whole portion of chips into her mouth at once, I spotted banana boy stumbling around in the street - like a straight spectre, hanging over me, I wondered whether, soon, that might be my fate. Whether, some time in the not too distant future, I’d find myself in a suit and a cumberband, twirling my new bride around the dance floor of a gazebo with Ed Sheeran’s "Perfect" blaring out from the hired PA system.
I began to spiral, and panic. Hastily replanning my life of parties and penis. Reshaping my future to include concerns about catchment areas and estate cars. Just as I turned to Lilian to ask her how we were going to afford to send our kids to university, my phone buzzed. I looked down to see 4 new Grindr notifications and realised that the night’s real safari was only just beginning.