The other night, for my birthday, I paid a visit to Infernos nightclub in Clapham. Infernos belongs very much to the so-bad-it’s-good school of nightclub; or at least, that’s the idea. In fact, it’s so bad, it passes straight through good, back to bad, and on into the realm of the truly terrible.
Dante’s Inferno, a 14th-century epic poem, takes its readers on a journey through Hell. It depicts Hell as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth. Clapham’s Infernos, a 21st-century epic shithole, is similar in all respects, except that ‘nine circles of suffering’ is way too conservative an estimate. Limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery? Clapham has all of those covered in the queue on the way in.
I’m not a very good clubber, it should be said. I don’t like irrationally cheerful or excited people, and particularly not when they’re bumping into me from every angle as they jerk around ecstatically to S-Club 7. It just reminds me of being on the tube. Or what the tube would be like if everyone was drunk and the lights were malfunctioning and there was no emergency button and some deranged S-Club 7 fan had put her iPod on speakers.
Anyway, in years gone by, my rationale for clubbing was this: it was a way of meeting men. Despite the fact I’m claustrophobic, and a terrible dancer, and prone to barging around homicidally with a face like an angry walrus, I would put myself through the ordeal on a semi-regular basis. My hope was that the night would yield the goods: I’d drunkenly lurch into the man of my dreams, and my walrus schtick would be exactly what he was into.
The other night made me realise how far online dating has altered my perceptions. Now, it all seemed laughably random. “Hmmm, he’s fit,” I’d think to myself, staring at some poseur by the bar – “but I wonder how well we actually match?” Or, “that good-looking chap over there – I wonder how he feels about living on a houseboat?” Using looks as a guide to chemistry now seemed a form of divination on a par with reading tea leaves. It felt like trying to pick out someone with the same birthday as yourself purely through an assessment of their footwear.
Online dating, I fear, has spoilt clubbing for me for life. Once you’ve applied some selectivity, there’s no going back to a needle-in-a-haystack approach, and without that, what reason is there to go clubbing? From now on, I shall go clubbing if and only if coerced. And am wearing earplugs. And have taken Valium. And have found somewhere slightly less hellish than Inferno’s.