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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Let's Go To San Francisco

It's the summer of '67, my first year at uni and we've this flat in West Hampstead. Malcolm and I shared a bedroom and, for a while, a pile of his unwashed smalls.

I had extremely limited success with women, Malcolm very early on hitched up with one of my fellow students, Vivienne. Honestly it was a coupling made in heaven;  their relationship lasted all of university and beyond and I have no doubt that they're still together.

I would be sound asleep in my bed and Malcolm would be out visiting until very late. And no matter how hard he tried he'd always wake me up. And we'd end up talking about how things went. I think Vivienne's family took pity on our Malcolm from the smoke because he'd  regale me with tales of sumptuous dinners and evenings out with the family. They'd feed him up and send him on his way - or Vivienne would drive him back to the flat, but she'd not come in.

I suppose I was quite envious of  Malcolm and his totty on tap, although he would never disclose details of intimacy.  Anyway, one evening it all got too much. He was out canoodling, the other guys were focused on revising for the exams and I, having no application whatsoever, was just bored. Then I had a plot!

The next anyone knew about it was when I triumphantly showed them my "installation" which I'd placed in the front porch of the flat. There in all its glory, brilliantly lit by the porch light, was Malcolm's bed, made up with his pyjamas neatly folded on his pillow and his slippers placed at the end of the bed. I think I also laid out his towel and toothpaste and ttothbrush. "Now he can come home as late as he likes and I'll not be disturbed."

I thought it was a great laugh; the others resumed their revising. When Malcolm arrived home - he smiled, said nothing and put it all back in our bedroom.

We decided to have a party. A big party inviting loads of people from college and their friends. The flat was big enough. We had a huge punch bowl filled with a mixture of spirits and wine. The kitchen was given over to receiving and then distributing the bottles and cans people bought. The bedrooms were out of bounds - or so we thought.

In no time, there were well over a hundred people in the flat. We knew none of them. Word had got around the Swiss Cottage pub, which was half a mile up the road, about the party and we were invaded. I can't say we enjoyed the time - it's a pretty frightening experience having a herd of strangers crashing through the place.

At one point the gas went out and I was nominated to feed the meter which was in one of the bedrooms.

The bedroom was in near darkness and the meter was behind the bed. I didn't dare turn on the light because the sounds arising from the bed clearly indicated that it was occupied by two or more bodies. As unobtrusively as possible! I lent over the humping group and inserted the coins in the meter (no jokes please). "Hold on a mo', I've nearly finished with this one." I turned my head in the direction of the voice and saw, dimly, a young attractive girl finishing off her man.

I'm not sure if I said anything, but was out of the room in no time. I dutifully reported the incident to the flat mate whose bed it was and he, being quite peeved, stormed in and flung out the copulating couples.

The party continued well into the Sunday. I was still in bed when the door bell rang and three young women stood in the hallway. They'd been at the party and said they felt bad about the mess their friends had left the flat in. In no time they were washing up and tidying the main room. One of them brought me a cup of tea in bed and, I think out of pity, stripped to her bra and pants and joined me. We talked for hours. And they went; and we never saw them again.

At the end of the summer term we let the flat go. We couldn't afford to keep it going over the summer break. Three of my flatmates went back home and Malcolm and I decided we'd stay in London. Malcolm because of Vivienne  and me because I didn't want to see an ex girl friend who'd dumped me soon after I went to uni.

Our first attempt at getting a summer job was not that successful. We saw an ad promising good commission selling door to door the Encyclopedia Britannica. The introductory training session in dingy class room on Oxford Street killed off any thoughts of easy money. And so we started looking elsewhere for employment and digs.

I can't recall how we ended up in Mill Hill East but that's another tale.

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