I have a hard time buying presents for people. I fret and worry about how it will be received, what the present means for the other person, what the act of giving says about our relationship. Will they like it? By giving it, will I reveal that I know nothing about the person I am giving to? Receiving a present puts me in a similar boat. To receive a present you don’t like is to realise that someone else doesn’t know you like you thought they did. Surprises are the same. Stag weekends are the same. When your friends begin planning a weekend for you, you hope, and you pray, that they are, in fact, your friends. That they know how to show you a good time.

“Everything is under control”, said the text message I received from my best man in response to a question about booking holiday in preparation for the stag weekend. “Just maybe get your most important work done in the morning.”

Surprises are few and far between in today’s world. We know the weather, the traffic, the news. Everything is predictable, everything can be planned months in advance. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be blessed with a surprise as big as this: I knew they were coming for me on Friday. I knew I had to topload my day as best as I could. Beyond that, I was in the dark. I knew absolutely nothing, and my boys did an amazing job of keeping it that way. Work told me that some investors would be in the office on Friday and to ask my groomsmen to keep it subdued, so that they were not disturbed. I elected to hide this information from the groomsmen, lest it stopped them in their tracks, but as it turned out, I was victim to the most civilised kidnapping ever. They arrived in suits, kindly asked me to leave the office, put me in a car, and drove. I didn’t ask where we were going and they didn’t tell me. We drove past Andover and I feared for my life a little, but fortunately we did not stop.

We did, however, arrive in Winchester, where we went to college, and pulled up at the Hotel Du Vin. I was handed a suit jacket, led inside, and treated to a delightful meal. It was remarkably civilised. I was really happy to have the time to sit down with my groomsmen before the presumably impending carnage, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were setting me up for something. We got back in the car and kept driving. I didn’t ask where we were going and they didn’t tell me.

An hour or so later we arrived at a beautiful house in the New Forest. It was big enough to sleep 10-20 people so for the first time I had a rough idea of how many people were coming, and as they unpacked the car, I learned that this was definitely where we would be for a lot of the weekend: they had brought an estate car full of food and toys, including a LOT of board games, a TV (for the house’s included TV was not sufficient) and a PC. People started arriving shortly after and I spent the night catching up with old friends and playing games. I ran a lot of games of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which were all absolutely fantastic.

On Saturday, I shook off my raging hangover in time to settle around a huge table for a tutored wine and food tasting run by my good friend Sam. A lot of people reading this will know this guy, but if you don’t: Sam’s a wizard. Endlessly knowledgeable about wine, it turns out he’s also pretty spot on about food. He ran us through 8 bottles of wine, each paired with a particular nibble (almost entirely cooked by him, too). By the time we were done, merry was an understatement for some people, and the game of Ladies and Gentlemen that followed was the loudest board game I have ever heard. I’m actually quite glad I wasn’t involved.

Games continued into the night, coupled with a seriously good chilli cooked by Maisey and a lot of cocktails. We drank a lot, we talked a lot of nonsense, and life was good.

Sunday came around all too soon and we were all endlessly grateful to Trim for his homemade bacon - a truly epic breakfast - and my groomsmen and I squeezed in a game of Risk Legacy before it was time to leave.

When your friends begin planning a weekend for you, you expect mayhem, you fear that they will leave you handcuffed to a lamppost in a blizzard. It turns out that my friends know me better than I thought. There were times during the weekend when I had to swallow down a serious lump in my throat. I was so touched that they’d go to so much effort for me. I am truly honoured, and eternally grateful. Thanks, you guys.