As tales go, this isn’t a wild ride, but I hope it tickles a funny bone.
(Pssst! Oi, Lockwood! It’s all in the marketing. You should work on that.)
When I first left home, I rented a room in a shared house.
It was only a little room, but it was mine. And because it cost me all my wages each month, I became very attached to it and rightly possessive.
The owner of the house was a painter and decorator, often working away from home. He would return some weekends, usually staying overnight at his girlfriend’s.
I rarely saw my housemate as she worked in a pub, crossing paths only as my day ended and hers started.
So it was a simple and wonderfully independent set-up. Each of us having the house to ourselves when we were at home and a landlord we bumped into only occasionally. We all felt very safe and secure. We had no locks on our room doors. None of us felt the need to. We respected each other’s privacy.
Although the whole of the house was shared, we rarely left our rooms. I would ‘live’ in mine, my housemate in hers and the landlord took over the living room on his intermittent weekend visits.
These weekend visits were, however, a raucous affair. They were usually restricted to daylight hours and as I worked weekends, I was rarely around and only witnessed the tail-end of the shenanigans.
My landlord was a truly lovely bloke. He was a proper blokey bloke. And he liked a drink or 12. As did his many friends. They would all join him in our living room on a Saturday afternoon as they welcomed back this wanderer from wherever his trade had taken him. He was like a long-lost member of the family returning to the fold and these reunions were a celebration.
Alcohol featured prominently on such afternoons, as did music. My landlord was a very accomplished accordion player, as too were a couple of his friends. It was a scene to behold when they went full shindig in that little room. As most of this jolly crowd were Irish, the craic filled the air, mingling with the cigarette smoke. A little of which was homegrown. Someone would help themselves to a couple of spoons from the kitchen and start rhythmically bruising their thigh, harmonicas were plucked from jacket pockets and anything solid found itself in the percussion section.
One particular Saturday I came home from work to hear merrymaking in full swing. It bothered me not. Although these get-togethers were few and far between, they followed a pattern. The frivolity would peter out in the early evening, along with the booze, at which point a hiccup would proclaim ‘To the pub!’ and off they’d stumble to our nearest watering hole which was less than 20 metres away. Sometimes an accordion went with them.
I poked my head round the living room door to say ‘Hi’ and disappeared up to my room to relax.
I opened my door expecting to see the room as I’d left it that morning. What I found was a drunk old man asleep. ON MY BED!
Resisting the temptation to immediately set fire to him and all of my stuff, I kicked my bed. Hard. It was clearly going to take more than that to awaken this grubby stinking mess. I kicked the bed again. Harder. I wanted to hit him but was reluctant to make any kind of one on one contact. Some noises came out of his mouth. It is tricky enough to understand the inebriated, let alone one with a thick Irish accent and a dwindling number of teeth.
I needed reinforcements. I briefly glanced over at my pet hamster, wondering if I could let it loose on his face to nibble bits off. I dismissed it as animal cruelty and waded through the red mist back out the door. I hammered down the stairs, skipping 9 of them and launched myself into the living room.
‘YOU need to get THAT off MY BED. And you need to do it NOW!’ I accompanied my rage with pointing.
An accordion wheezed. A harmonica huffed. And a unisoned gulp of whiskey signalled an unspoken apology for taking their eye off one of the posse.
I found myself alone as everyone scrambled upstairs to deal with the intruder. Finding a drunk old man in my room was disturbing enough, but then I realised I’d just sent up 5 more.
With my room restored to an occupancy of just me, I revisited the idea of setting fire to everything. My hamster seemed less than keen on the idea and gave me a look that suggested changing and washing the bedsheets might be a better course of action. Off to the launderette I went.
The shindigs continued. As infrequent as they were, I secretly loved coming home to them. It always amazed me how someone could skillfully play an instrument as convoluted as an accordion whilst so ruinously drunk that they were unable to walk.
I love an Irish drinking song. Having recently discovered my DNA is largely Irish, it must literally be in the genes. But I can’t hear The Pogues without a fleeting flashback to my unexpected intoxicated septuagenarian bed-guest!
This is an actual scene from one Saturday afternoon in that living room. I dedicate this song to the memory of Gordon. A gravelly voice and a heart of gold. Still squeezing out tunes and most definitely not resting in peace.