|The end of an era 1986 - Graham Park Festival 1986|
Any car journey with him was scary beyond belief, as he'd drive along, spliff in mouth, leaning over the back seat to change the cassette in his massive ghetto blaster. How he never had an accident, I still don't understand, but I think he never lost his no claims bonus, even if he terrified us all. (I hasten to add that the Barnet Eye does not condone such behaviour, as we are a sober and serious blog).
At a friends funeral a few years ago, my friends son saw a picture of him with an illegal combustible substance and berated him for being "Mr hypocrite". His current attitude to such things is a 180 degree turn. In 1987, my friend did a long tour of India, after which he decided to become a fine, upstanding citizen. It's always a shame when your friends grow up! The picture at the Grahame Park Festival was the last of that era of madness and chaos, sadly only myself and our drummer are still involved in music (to the best of my knowledge).
The collage that we put together of our deceased buddy showed a side that his son had never seen, my friend seemed quite embarrassed by it, but we all do things in our teens that we would be horrified if our kids did now. I was chuckling over some of these, and thought it only fair to share some of his best moments.
1. The Parking space.
We had been on a night out. As ever he drove us home, with a large spliff in his mouth. He didn't drink so, he was a willing designated driver. It never really occurred to us that the spliff may not really help his judgement. On arrival back at his house, he parked between two cars, so close that none of the doors could be opened. His house was in an industrial estate and the cars were ones being worked on by one of the businesses. When I stated that it was a stupid place to park his response was "It's OK, tomorrow's Sunday". This stumped all of us. When I queried what that was supposed to mean, he said "Well no one will need to get into that car tomorrow". He'd rationalised that it was OK to block it in, because no one would be collecting it, failing to recognise that we were stuck in the car, unable to exit.
On another occasion, we were going to the Three Horseshoes in Letchmore Heath. My friend was a man of strong views. He wasn't driving, but he would always believe that his preferred route was the best. As we approached Apex Corner from the Broadway, he queried why our friend who was driving was in the lane that took him onto the A41 rather than the A1 towards Sterling Corner. When the driver said "This is the way I always go", his response was "Don't go that way, go this way", signalling towards the A1, adding "That way's much quicker". This logic prompted much hilarity, if he'd been a comedian, it would have become his catchphrase.
3. The Arrest.
As previously mentioned, my friend lived in an industrial estate, in the caretakers cottage. Every night, he'd patrol it, checking the gates etc, with a large stick. On one occasion, the 12th August, he was patrolling and he noticed a meteorite. He remembered that there was a spectacular meteorite shower predicted for the evening. He decided to walk around to my place and suggest we walk up to Arrandene to watch it. Unfortunately he forgot to put the large stick down. As he walked down Mill Hill Broadway, he was spotted by a passing police car. The sight of a large man, clad in a leather jacket carrying a big stick, understandably sparked some interest. He was pulled up and grabbed. Rationalising that it wouldn't be a good move to tell the police of his plan to meet up with me to smoke spliffs and watch meteorites in Arrandene, when asked why he had the stick he replied "Do you know what the date is?". The Policeman was stumped and replied "The 12th August?", to which my friend triumphantly replied "Yes, it's the start of the grouse beating season". The policeman concluded that he was clearly a deranged nutcase and he was arrested. He was taken to Colindale Station and charged with possession of an offensive weapon. Sadly for the officer, what seemed to be an open and shut case, suddenly took a very bad turn for his career. When he gave the paperwork to the Sergeant, the Sergeant quieried his surname, which was the name of his boss. My friend replied that yes, the chief superintendent was his Dad. As the paperwork had been filled in, this now was all rather embarrassing. The case went to court, as the wheels were in process, but oddly the Police offered no evidence and the case was dismissed. My friends Dad queried why his son hadn't mentioned his name before he was charged. My friend replied that he'd told him not to. His Dad was perplexed and said "Surely you realised that I didn't mean it!". If ever you get stopped in Mill Hill Broadway with a large stick, I strongly recommend that you don't tell the Police you are grouse beating. Interestingly the police didn't search my friend. If they had done, the charge would have been far more serious.
4. The explosion.
The house my friend in had an open fireplace. There was a factory on the estate, that had a skip full of wood offcuts. My friend had no heating bills, as he'd simply collect the wood and burn it in the fire. We'd have many a pleasant evening sitting in front of the fire. On one occasion, we were happily sitting there having a beer. All of a sudden, we became aware of a load ticking coming from the fire. We were all puzzled. The next thing, there was a large explosion and we were all showered with hot cinders. It was a miracle the house wasn't burned down. When we'd managed to deal with the chaos, someone said "WTF happened there?". My friend said "Oh, that was my inhaler, I put it on the fire". We were all gobsmacked. I asked why. He replied "It said don't put it on a fire".
5. The Van.
My friend was also our roadie in chief for the band. Another friend had an old VW camper van, which he would lend us when we had gigs. The deal was that we'd leave it with a tank full of petrol. The van was a classic Mk1 model, in army green. We were loading the gear from the van, into a gig when a rather fit looking young lady approached my friend. He was an exceptionally good looking chap in his teens. At the time he was single. Seeing his muscles lifting huge speakers from the van was simply too much for her. She approached him and said "I love your camper van, I've always wanted to go for a ride in one of those". To my amazement his response was "Oh, it's not my van, it's my mate Emils" and he walked off with the speaker into the gig. The young lady was quite bemused and walked off. When I queried his response, he said "She was only interested in the van".
6. The Dickies.
We'd grown up together, gone to the same school, been alter servers together, but my friend had one thing that I didn't. He was an amazing footballer. He was a proper cultured centre half. Whilst I was into music, he was into football. I decided that something needed to be done. Fortunately, the Dickies, probably the best live band in the world were playing at The Marquee. I suggested that he come along. At the time, his clothing was very non descript. I lent him a t-shirt as I didn't want him to look too out of place. As I'd suspected, the gig was brilliant and for him, it was life changing. The next day, he bought a new wardrobe and a stack of records. But my abiding memory of the gig was a conversation I had with Steve Ignorant, the lead singer of anarchist punk band Crass. I followed Crass and I knew Steve Ignorant. Steve was very political and a serious character. He walked out of the gig muttering about 'Stupid Americans'. I asked Steve how things were going. He replied that things were not good. He lived in a squat in Essex and he'd been getting some unwanted attention from the Police for his activities. My friend piped in "I could have a word with my Dad, he's a chief inspector if you like". I can't put Steve Ignorant's response in a family blog, but its fair to say Crass weren't one of the first albums my friend bought after his damascene conversion to punk rock.
7. The Barrel of doom.
At the back of my friends accommodation, there was a rainwater barrel. We had a drinking game, where we would play cards and the looser would have to immerse themselves in the barrel of cold water. We usually played this in January, the upside was you got to dry off in front of the fire, with a nice warm cup of tea. Being a nasty sod, I once cheated, so that my mates flat mate lost four times in a row. The next day, when he sobered up, the flatmate decided that there would be no more games of the barrel of doom. He emptied the barrel out. To his horror, there were several dead rats at the bottom of the barrel. That evening, we gathered to go out. The flatmate told us of his horror when he found them. My friend replied "There's nothing to worry about, they were dead".
8. The cup of sugar.
In around 1984, the industrial estate at the back was being redeveloped. The work was going on 24 x 7. We had been for a night out and found ourselves back at my friends. We fancied a cup of tea, but we had no sugar (not a problem for me, but it was for some of our friends). It was around 3am in the morning. So my friend got the sugar bowl and walked over to where the workmen were and asked if they could spare a cup of sugar. They happily obliged. When we returned, we were drinking the tea and he said "those builders are a bit weird". When I asked why he said "They offered me some chocolate biscuits to have with the tea". We were perplexed (not least because some chocolate biscuits would not have gone amiss). I queried why that was weird. He replied "You can't dunk chocolate biscuits in tea".
My friend bought himself a white fiat. For reasons I couldn't quite fathom, he decided to celebrate it's Italianness by making a stencil of the word Spaghetti and spraying it on the side. He seemed to spend days working on the stencil. Eventually, it was ready. He was working as a welder, so the plan was to spray it on with underseal. When it was unveiled, it said ittahgaps. We were all rather surprised. I queried why he'd done this. He replied "I think its more interesting". We suspected that he'd simply not realised the stencil was the wrong way around when he'd sprayed it, but he would have none of it.
10. My friend decided that he wanted to get himself a proper education when he got into his twenties. Like myself and most of our friends, he'd gone to Finchley Catholic High School in what I've been informed the school now call 'the dark period'. I escaped and went to Orange Hill, which resulted in O levels and A levels. My friend serially under achieved. But he is a bright lad. He decided that he wanted to study French. He loves gallic culture and ended up doing a degree. Now he owns a place in France and is a proper Europhile, but when he started it wasn't always smooth. We were having a beer and he told us that he'd caused much mirth when he handed his first essay in. The assignment was to write a newspaper style article about a local event. He had chosen an armed robbery at the post office in Mill Hill, that had been in the news locally. When he got his essay critiqued, the tutor congratulated him on a fine piece of work, but was surprised that the robber had chosen a cuillère as his weapon of choice. Of course my friend had meant to use the term couteau which is a knife, rather than a spoon. This caused much merriment, but he had the last laugh as he's now fluent
Have a great weekend