Back in ’87, twenty five years and 250 miles away, in Sussex, I lived with three friends in a very posh flat.
It was in a leafy avenue on the monied side of town, attached to a house that was even then worth over a million. Looking back on it now, it seems insane that the nice German lady and her severe, bespectacled husband (who we half-joked about being an escaped war criminal) would allow four long haired, drunken, young, single blokes to stay in their annex flat.
But apparently, our ability to be polite in emergency social situations, our fully employed status, and a cash deposit, were enough to sway them. Possibly the fact that it was only a ten week lease helped too.
I mean, how much damage could we do in that time?
Of the four, (me, Zip, Andy and Nigel) only one of us, Zippy, was remotely “responsible” in matters of being straight and sober, knowing when to keep the noise down, not breaking furniture, and not causing mild panic about radiation leaks…
…sorry I’m getting ahead of myself.
Zippy rarely caused any trouble. Although he was the butt of many jokes and suffered from being kept awake by his less considerate mates on numerous occasions.
Anyway, you get the idea; The Young Ones in suburbia. The bemused Germans didn’t really know what to make of us, and left us pretty much alone.
Obviously, we had to have a house warming party, so we recruited most of our local pub on a Friday night, and did what we did best
Got very, very messy.
The next morning, there was a fair amount of post party detritus, mainly beer and cider cans, and two broken chairs of indeterminate antique design.
We bodged the chairs back together as best we could, and placed them in strategically remote parts of the living room, in the hope that nobody would sit on them.
While we were clearing up, someone put some of the cans on the impressive mantelpiece over our log fire. Then a few more, just to get them out of the way whilst clearing up.
The mantelpiece was at least six foot across, and by the time we had finished there must have been 200 cans, stacked in rows.
This wall was added to during our entire stay in the flat, and by the time we left, had reached the ceiling and was two cans deep.
(On our final night in the flat, we had the inevitable leaving party. Someone had the great idea of doing handstands in the living room…Yes, the whole lot came down. The noise was quite extraordinary, and was one of the only time we attracted unwanted attention from the Germans)
One weekend, Nigel’s brother came to visit. He bought with him some luminous hair gel. I’m not talking day-glo here, but actually, properly luminous, glow in the dark green gel. Of course we all gelled our hair and went out for the night, but when we got back we had a brilliant idea.
If the gel glows in the dark, we thought, what would happen if we put just a little bit on, say, the ceiling?
What happens is, you stand on your bed and flick splatters of gel upwards until you have a veritable constellation over you at night.
Except, when we finally left, we realized that, with all the high ceilings, we couldn’t reach to wipe it off. So we left it, after all, you couldn’t see it in daylight.
Now, we didn’t always congregate at our place. A friend called Chris lived in his family’s very large house in a similarly well-off area, and we used to go there when his parents were away.
One night we were there, after a long Friday pub session, watching the cult Rolling Stones concert movie Gimme Shelter in Chris’s TV room, at the back of his house. Zippy was supposed to be joining us, but had worked late and hadn’t turned up.
The way the house was constructed, the grounds at the rear were lower than the front drive, so there was a one storey drop from the back windows.
During the – rather loud – showing of the film, a couple of us thought we heard a thud from outside. We looked out the window, saw nothing, and went back to watching Hell’s Angels beating the shit out of people.
A couple of hours later there’s a ring on the doorbell. Its very later by now, and when we answer the door there is an incandescently angry Zippy, with his arm in a sling;
“You Bastards, why didn’t you let me in. Give me a glass of water for my painkillers”
With that he stomped into the house and proceeded to recount his night’s adventures.
Basically, he had come down to Chris’s, knocked on the door, been ignored, and thought he’d go round the back and knock on the window of the TV room. To do this he had to climb over a wall.
He hadn’t taken into account the topography of the land though, had he?
That thud we’d heard?
Zip hitting the ground.
He’d then walked all the way to the hospital on the other side of town, got his arm seen to, and made a special journey back down to be furious at us.
I have got Zippy, in his own inimitable style to relay his version of events, which you can read in all their literary glory here.
A week or two after we moved out of our lovely flat, the German lady rang Andy in a very agitated state. She asked if we had been “doing anything” in the loft of the flat, as there was something luminous leaking through the ceiling in some of the rooms. She was worried that it may be toxic in some unspecified way.
Andy had to sheepishly go and explain the hair gel, and with a stepladder and a long mop, managed to remove the possibly radioactive substance without further incident.