Monday, February 13, 2006

Bugger the present

There may be little to say about the present at the moment, but writing about my old house brought memories from a period 1965-1993, of the happier and funnier variety, often toilet related, which I'd rather write about.

The time when (which was only funny after the event) there was a nasty fishy smell for weeks which we couldn’t track down until the cleaner discovered the cat had been sick under the telephone table… If it was my own house the humour would have been totally absent. The dog who was brought by a friend, who was looking after it for the day, and peed all over my mum’s office carpet as they spoke to each other. I almost willed it to happen and it did, I was about 9 by the way. OK, that was probably the worst examples, but the first that sadly entered my warped lavatory slanted mind.
The baths I already mentioned with my neighbour when I must have been about 6, and my two ladybird dressing gowns, with a curly cord belt and ladybird buttons. One was blue and the other red and I wore them in rotation. Fast forward 25 years to my Dad sitting on the patio (built c 1974) with the cat under the chair. After he retired we spent many afternoons out for tea around Hampstead Heath and Hertfordshire and when it was warm he usually sat out in the garden. We had a succession of gardeners, my favourite being Charlotte who was probably a PhD but preferred gardening to academia, and almost every person who came to work on the house was a character and some became family friends. The first was Alan Smith, the tree surgeon, who was a model and 6’4’’, and the first time he came round he sat down and crushed the kitchen chair.

We then had a series of ‘Mr’s’- Derham the plumber, Bennett the builder, Cunningham the electrician, Bateman and Reilly (two brothers) the decorators, Gross the carpenter, and possibly the best Mack the boilerman who fucked up the boiler but provided a stream of jokes that only ended when he did. Nearly all are sadly no longer with us, as one by one they retired or dropped off the perch first. Most would spend days in the house when I was on school holidays, and some would entertain me with dirty jokes as they worked, the best Mr MacDonald, our first decorator we inherited from my grandparents, who had a competition with me (I was 5) as to where the funniest place was to wipe our nose. He won with ‘I wipe my nose on my trouser leg’. Well, I was only 5. There was also our car mechanic, Mike, who was a genius with a spanner and one of the nicest people I knew who sadly died very young, possibly from alcohol abuse. I saw him as a shadow of his real self a few days before he was no more. Tragic.

Then there were the other visitors mainly who came when my Mum was still there (pre 1982). Willy, the Jewish Frankie Howerd came over sometimes and drove her mad. We had a stream of musical and left wing friends for meetings and duets with my Mum playing the piano and singing. I had friends over the whole time, many overnight, and drove my parents mad until I got to about 18 and we calmed down a bit. My mum finally let me have women over (as in bedroom) by about 20 but didn’t like it! I always had my freedom, and about that time set up a CB radio with a growing aerial system hidden within the roof until I could transmit around the world. That was the beginning of my late nights which have now reached their reversal point.
I loved fire. I used to collect rubbish to burn in the garden and probably inhaled some dreadful stuff when my favourite material, plastic, was burnt with fascinating results, sending drips of flaming liquid falling to the ground, each one whistling as it fell like a musical firework. I even burnt all the neighbour’s garden rubbish in a fire which lasted for hours as the leaves had been building up for ages. I had tea with them afterwards, and the husband died in his sleep the same night at 88. I remember doing a bit in their garden before my finals, and after telling them I passed she said she’d been praying for me that day. It clearly worked (my marks doubled in the final year).

The outbuildings provided a workshop for my more practical hobbies. We had an outside boiler room, which also stored the garden chairs and compost etc. One day I decided to start decorating by painting it. I did the wall in purple gloss, which remained for almost 20 years and looked fantastic. The only minor problem was I ran out of paint, and a grey patch remained the whole time. I painted wooden articles in the garage, a hamster cage, guitar (used in my recent video), models etc. and had my bike, tools and other implements and also carried out a number of motorbike repairs with the help of my friend who was good at that sort of thing.

Though I always missed a brother or sister, I was as happy as I could be there, and though my mum left half way through, leaving a woman-shaped gap for 12 years, it was still the same place, and some friends of my Dad’s still came over, mine were the same and though it took a long time to get used to the loss, I was busy on my degree and used that to get absorbed in something else. I bought a flat in 1988, but always came back more than not, and worked my way through three properties while living there, finally staying there when my father moved to my house, where I am usually now at weekends since he bought it from me. Of course most people leave the family house to have their own, and I missed out on the family bit. I know people who inherited the family house and kept it after the family died. But though the closest I get now is looking through the window, I’ll always have those 28 years of memories, and know a place can become magical, as was our previous house (very similar but half the size), the main reason it took me so long to settle into the next one as I was happy there and wanted to stay.I can’t turn the clock back, but magic is magic and may be able to do strange things by entering its field.


Edward Ott said...

You have a nice blog, you really put yourself out there and i like that.

Sharon said...

Lots of good memories of events and people for you to look back on.

David said...

Thank you Edward, always nice to please the readers :)

I had some nice memories, didn't I.