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Monday, 30 August 2010

Summer In The City

We shared a ground floor flat in West Hampstead. It was huge - we all had our own room except me and Malcolm. Three of us from the South, Hove, Bletchworth and Harrow: two from "the smoke" Stoke and Manchester. We were all at King's College, London, except Malcolm who was at Battersea College of Technology, soon to be renamed and repositioned (University of Surrey in Guildford).

I was studying Maths and Physics (with Astronomy in my first year). Two were studying Geology - for that read getting pissed most nights but hugely focused when it counted - passing year end exams. Another was studying dentistry - I consoled myself that dentists tended to die young - I never found out why. Malcolm studied Metallurgy.

Extracts from a (late) teenage opera:

One of us had a car which he'd drive into college some days. One day when he was at college but hadn't taken his car, I thought it would be a good idea if we moved the car from the drive and parked it a few streets away. (This was the age of the lotus eaters. The car doors weren't locked.)

He arrived home from a hard day in the lecture theatre to enquire what happened to his car. We said we thought he'd driven it to college that morning. He said he didn't remember. We said yes you did - don't you recall? So he started out for the tube station to go and collect his car which we told him he'd left at the college.

When he came back he was really upset. The car wasn't at the college. It must have been stolen.

I manage to duck the full bottle of milk, which smashed quite artistically on the kitchen wall, when I told him the car was parked around the corner. Well,I thought it was funny!

Malcolm and I shared a bedroom, but not a bed yet (more of that some other time). He was a handsome sort of a chap; imagine Alan Bates out of Ian McShane. He had infatuated one of my student friends. A lovely woman called Vivienne who's dad was a dentist in Paddington - she lived at home in this huge house in Kilburn.

I digress. Malcolm was the apple of his mother's eye. You know the type; the first man in the family not to go down the pits (or Stoke's equivalent), head boy at local school and now at university - it made you proud to be working class. And Malcolm arrived at the beginning of term with a whole term's worth of pants and socks.

Remember this was the 1960's - 1967 to be precise. So it was Bronco loo paper, a change of shirt and pants twice a week and "Camay" soap to give you that scrubbed up look - undercut with "Old Spice".

The rest of us would take our "dirties" to the local launderette to have the shit wrung out of them. If you were feeling flush you'd treat yourself to a "service wash" which meant when you arrived in the evening the gap tooth biddie would drop fag ash as she handed you your slightly less grey undies. But not Malcolm.

Malcolm would "store up his treasures", so to speak, in the cupboard in our bedroom which he was planning to put in his very large suitcase and ship off to Stoke for his mother to boil down into glue or something equally industrial. I didn't know about this so the disturbed nights' sleep I experienced I put down to excessive farting brought on by an unhealthy diet of beer and pork scratchings. It was only after others in the flat commented on the smell in our room that I began to consider other sources.

And so I discovered the pile of fuming pants and socks.

It was unfortunate, for Malcolm, that I and the others were slightly if not heavily pissed at the time. Malcolm was away on a romantic visit to Kilburn and Vivienne so we took the opportunity to dump all his washing in the bath. In went tomato ketchup, vinegar,salt,pepper and I think the communal meal for the evening.

He took it rather well I thought. He appreciated that 6 weeks of unwashed smalls was rather stretching friendship and he looked on me with fresh eyes.

To the extent that we spent the summer break together in Mill Hill East fraternising with a branch of the Free (Love) French be continued.


Selina Kingston said...

Oh wow - what great memories. I loved, loved, LOVED my student days. Lord knows how I got my degree in the end as I just remember having three years of FUN !!

BrightenedBoy said...

Oh, this sounds so interesting. I have this fascination with the
'60s that I think stems from the upheaval in the era and the fact that it was a bridge between periods, neither as conservative as the time that came before it nor as liberal as the one in which I grew up.

I'd love to hear more about this.