Tuesday 26 November 2002

A perfect start to the weekend

5:00pm The 1614 to London

Dan has fallen asleep, the hassles of the working week have drained the colour from his cheeks and forced his eyelids and body to succumb to gravity. Sitting opposite me with his slack face leaning against the rattling window he is enticing me to snooze too. My laptop is open in front of me, but the harsh screen glare makes my eyes slip off to hook on the brightly lit windows of houses that abut the tracks, looking for a glimpse of unconnected lives.

6:30pm Linhope Towers

I have just one hour in the house I call home, that time must buy me an unpacked work bag and two packed bags full of camping gear. I am used to this routine now and shake off the dullness of a week's work as I fold clothes and hunt for equipment to the smooth bass and spacey vocals of The Orb.

8:30pm The M6

I'm watching Birmingham track smoothly past the window as Gus accelerates hard around another lorry. The M6 keeps pace with us by paying out more road, more drivers, more lamps as quickly as we can blast along the fast lane. We haven't spoken in 40 miles, the car is too full of The Prodigy's ferocious Music for the Jilted Generation to allow space for normal speech . Liam Howlett's vicious breaks and beats spit and stutter from the sound system, the thundering bass and acid squelches adding an angry glamour to the rain-soaked, sodium-painted road that rushes us North.

10pm Welshpool

I'm driving now, the car slipping through dark and lonely Welsh country roads. Jon Carter Live at the Social is scribbling messy ragga chants and chunky basslines into the night air to briefly enliven the hedges and fields that shoot past. The hills grew from minor ripples as we drove through the borders and are now vaguely visible as black monsters holding the night sky's edges high above us.

11:30pm The end of the road

We have parked in a single-track country lane high above Barmouth. There are no other lights visible, no sign of civilisation save for the tarmac of the layby. Bob Dylan is accompanying us as we sit on the tailgate, wrapped in fleeces, drinking beer and staring at the shifting undersides of low clouds. We are talking rubbish in diminishing voices as the rush of the journey is diluted by the slow grandeur of the surroundings. The moon is out now, its palette can only stretch to greys to colour the world; hills, clouds, sheep, trees are all monochrome.


Two sleeping bags lie side by side in the back of the car. A gentle snoring resonates, behind it lies a vast silence.

Wednesday 13 November 2002

Carry On Linhope

Linhope Street is part of a quiet residential neighbourhood. Sumptuously decorated three-storey Georgian terraced houses abut discreetly converted offices. Although our house is identical from the outside save for the prominent Sky dish and cable, inside there are substantial differences from the plush retirement home decor our neighbours prefer.

Apparently the landlord offered to decorate before my flatmates moved in (I joined later), but the projected increase in rent turned the saggy sofa-bed, tired walls and Bakelite fuse box from annoyances to charming features. Fortunately the slovenly surroundings are more than compensated for by being a mere 20 minutes walk away from the West End and by the Carry On scripts that my flatmates (Baz and Davis) and I are frequently called upon to play out.

I'd returned from Ipswich to spend a school night at London's finest club bedrock, my danced-out legs eventually propelling me from Heaven's doors in the early hours to return to Linhope and the comforting if lumpy arms of my bed.

All seemed normal as I entered the front door, Davis had left the lights and sound system on and Baz had clearly been raiding the whisky stash, but that's par for the course. All seemed normal as I stepped over the darkened bikes in the front hall - there is no light fitting, merely a spaghetti mess of wires hanging from the ceiling. All seemed normal as I pushed open the door to my bedroom and switched the light on.

What was not normal was the lump under my duvet cover. I pulled back the duvet to reveal a sleepy, drunken, baffled Barry wearing only his pants. Small talk was not on my agenda,

"Barry, what the bloody hell are you doing in my bed?"

"Go and have a look at my bedroom."

I descended the stairs again and opened Barry's bedroom door to reveal water and plasterboard dribbling gently from a largish hole in the ceiling. To further enhance the bombsite vibe, Barry had tossed the mattress carelessly away from the bed base to lie across his bookcases after it had borne the bulk of the initial impact. Looking up I could see the curving underside of the bath, the plumber's attempt to repair the bath tap that had come off in my hand a couple of months before clearly could not be deemed an unqualified success.

Of course, the situation was easily rectified - I threw Barry out of my bed and let him sleep on his damp mattress.

Some days later it's still possible to see the head of Barry's bed through the hole in the bathroom floor and we do not hold out great hopes of a fix in the immediate future. All that remains to complete the whole episode is for the bath to plunge through the hole and deposit a shocked, showering Davis in Barry's room, preferably while Barry is laughing like a drain at a scantily clad young woman.

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