Monday, February 07, 1994


So, where was I? Ah yes, the flat in Walthamstow. I lived in the flat for a year and a half in the end, fairly happily, though I did sleep with a large kitchen knife down the side of the bed, so unused to the sound of fighting and shouting in my hallway at 5am.

This, though, isn't as bad as the flat we lived in, in Hornsey many years later. Remind me to mention that sometime – the murder, the robbery, the fighting etc.

So a pretty mushroom started to grow in the corner of my shower. It was frilly and yellow and I quite liked it. As there were no women trooping through my apartment on a regular basis, I was allowed to keep it.

It looked something like this (I do actually have a genuine picture of it, but can't find it):

Well, it grew and grew and grew until it was about fifteen centimetres tall (six inches, ye Imperial people) and then started to show signs of wear and tear. It's once proud ruffles started to look tatty, its orange ridges began to sag and display holes.

So, I was showing one day and observing my mushroom, thinking that I would put it out of its misery and throw it away, when a disturbing event happened – a sudden burst of water was the proverbial spore that broke the mushroom's back, and it exploded into a thousand bits and washed all over my feet.

Along with the centipedes.

I screamed (in a manly way) and briefly did a shower dance only ever seen performed by people in slippery showers trying to avoid angry orange centipedes, before managing to throw myself out of the cubicle.

I turned off the water and surveyed the situation. The centipedes weren't moving any more. There was one very large one, and two very small ones. I prodded them with the end of an old toothbrush, but they continued to play dead.

I say play dead, and that's what I mean. Insects are like monsters in horror movies – if you turn your back to them then they're liable to come back to life and vanish whilst you look for a dustpan and brush to dispose of them.

I didn't even know that we had centipedes in England at the time. I was quite shocked. As I've mentioned before, we don't actually have anything dangerous in the country, so wasps and biting multi-peds score strongly on our fright scales.

In the end I dry them off with toilet paper and carry them outside into the back yard, where I place them in a dry spot, in the sun. Sure enough, when I return five minutes later, they've gone. Only later in life did I consider the possibility that perhaps a bird took them...

Friday, February 04, 1994

Bad Flat

If you ever move into a new apartment, take heart that it probably isn't as bad as the one I used to reside in Walthamstow, London.

I had been staying with half-known cousin in Twickenham, and commuting every day into the centre of a (then) unknown London to buy 'Loot' and spent several heart-breaking hours exploring the dodgiest parts of London Town. If you don't know London, then you might think that Plumstead sounds quite nice... You begin to see what I mean (or don't).

Anyway, after a thousand one-room, cockroach infested pits with odd landlords that seemed to live next door to you with a glass permanently attached to the connecting wall, I found this tiny flat in East 17 (that's north, and east, and grim for those of you that don't know).

But, it had a bathroom all of its own. No more sharing toilets with un-housebroken junkies and cats, no picking hair-and-dried-sperm-and-soap balls out of the plughole, no siree, I'd be able to spend my entire weekend, or even week, inside my apartment without seeing a soul.

Now, perhaps 'apartment' is a little too fancy for what I got. There was a small room that contained a kitchen, lounge, eating area, well, everything in fact in about ten foot by six, and a nice little bathroom with a shower and toilet. There was also a mountain of month-old washing-up in the sink, but the landlord insisted that would be gone by the time I moved in.

It wasn't of course. So I put it all in bin bags and threw them (smashing noises occurred) into the hallway, where they remained for several months. So then I cleaned for a few hours and changed the lock, as the landlord told me the previous tenant still had a set of keys, and would be dropping them round at some point (in the middle of the night whilst murdering me, I thought...)

So, I'm sitting on the tiny sofa, feeling happy, when a feeling of dread comes over me.

Yes, that's it.

Where's the bedroom?

Oh my god, there's no bedroom. Then I realise that I am, in fact, sitting on my bed.

Sweet Jesus, I almost cry.

Half an hour later I gather courage and open out the sofa bed, which is about three foot wide when fully extended, and a little grubby. A side effect of this is that it's now difficult to get into the bathroom – you have to shimmy past the bed at an angle and squeeze through the door.

I feel stupid, and done, well and truly. But, well, we learn from our mistakes, and I stayed, and felt better after I went out and bought some beers.

Felt better until Mister Barry White came in, that is.

Now, I know we shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I hate Barry White with a passion. Which is quite a contrast from the way my neighbour upstairs used to feel about him. He, in fact, loved Barry sooo much that he liked to listen to him at a volume that made my sofa-bed and all the walls of the house vibrate.

So, Barry played until about 10pm and I went out to the pub to get as drunk as I could. When I returned, mission accomplished, Barry was still hooting his heart out and I felt like throwing some cups at the wall in anger.

Instead I looked through my music collection for Barry's Nemesis, and found an Osric Tentacles tape that I used to trip out to when I was younger. On this went at a volume so loud that my speakers almost blew up. I then lay down on my bed and fell asleep.

When I woke up next, it was 3am and my looping tape was still blasting out. I leapt out of bed in a panic and turned it off. There was an eerie silence as the entire street breathed a sigh of relief.

I felt guilt.

Mind you, Barry White was never again played at a volume that bothered me.

The real point of this blog was to tell you all about my orange centipedes, but, that'll have to wait now, as I've come over all thirsty and require tea, urgently.