#2: The Morden Connection
From writing about those first music experiences (see #1 here) I recalled one or two other things that still make me chuckle. It was about that time that my friend and I watched Robocop on a VHS. My friend paused and re-wound the bit where they shoot his hand off, watched it in slo-mo over and over. Teenage fascination and all that – but he had (and still does) a thing about repetition over and over.
Then there was the Dyson that his father bought. One night we were up late watching Noisy Mothers and my friend just suddenly ralphed up on the carpet. He used the Dyson to clean it up, swirling, swirling, round and round in cyclone action…….
And at some point we tried to listen to the vinyl of the 2001: Space Odyssey soundtrack. In the dark……
Breaking point was quickly reached and the lights went on pretty damn fast.
By this time we were moving on in our school lives to the next institution, a grotty little private school called Ewell Castle. This was where I made the acquintance of a new friend – who I shall refer to as C – who would introduce me to such novelties such as riding on the Northern line – I’d actually never been on the Tube until I went home with him one night, back up to Morden where he lived in the back streets. But that was just the tip of the ice berg of the fun we would have as my world began to expand.
I can’t recall the order of things clearly, but I think this was one of the first stupid things we did. We’d been to France on a school trip. C had a walkman and that was the first time I heard Pearl Jam. He had a copy of Ten. But he also had a copy of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, and while it would be some time until I learned to appreciate Pearl Jam, I was away with the Four Horsemen.
Typical of French field trips everyone bought bangers and smut before we headed home. I think one of the teachers came along with a bin bag asking people to fess up or face the wrath of UK Customs. Good luck with that! Back home I caught the bus with C and when we got to the end of the line we thought we’d drop a banger out the window. My friend tossed it, it hit the window and bounced back in onto my rucksack. C put his fingers in his ears. I tried to blow out the fuse – which made it burn faster – and it blew up in my face.
Suffice to say the bus driver was not amused.
And so I would go home with C on Fridays and stay over at his, then Saturday morning we might catch the Tube up to London and visit the shops on Tottenham Court Road. We’d go to HMV and there were two albums that I remember distinctly. One was Cypruss Hill’s Black Sunday and the other was Green Jelly’s Cereal Killer. I think there was also some Red Hot Chili Peppers too.
C was interested in music because it was the coolest, hippest thing at the time, and he really was one of those cool guys who just made everything look effortless. Moreover he had that air of confidence, of knowing all that secret stuff that made adult life fun. So it was that together with another friend (let’s call him A), we went to the off licence which was nothing more than a heavily fortified little shop wedged into Morden High Street. We bought at least one 2 litre bottle of Strongbow and drank it on top of a pizza. I remember….. a park, then trying to sleep on the pavement on the way back to the house. It was A who picked me up. Together we struggled home.
And that was the first time I got really drunk. It had the fascination of intoxication that humans from all epochs have explored for good or ill. When we’d get up to this sort of thing we’d often go to the local Blockbuster’s and rent terrible horror movies like Puppet Master and Ghoulies. I can’t even remember what most of them were now, but it was all a new lease of freedom for me.
Then one night we went out to see a movie. Standing in the bus stop C pulled out a joint. I’d never smoked anything before, but I didn’t have any real reason not to give it a try – sure, we’d been given some anti-drug presentation by the police, but it was just another authority figure saying don’t do this and don’t do that. It’s a totally inept way to educate people, nothing more than scare mongering. So I took a drag. I can’t say it really did much for me at the time, then we went off to the movie theatre to see Basic Instinct. Anyone else remember trying to sneak into movies when you were under age? I was a bit spotty with adolescence and had braces (Oh man! The brace’s, what a nightmare that shit was!) and as we got into line to get the tickets the big security guy stops us. Two seconds later the old lady behind us starts berating him, saying “come on, they’re clearly 18”. He capitulated right away and let us pass. We were in, and so we saw what was, at the time, a ‘controversial’ movie. Years later I would be laughing at Bill Hicks when he said: “quick capsule review: iiiiiiiit’s a piece of shit!”
These were exciting, fun times, and I think that in many ways I let myself be carried along by someone with more confidence and charisma than I, but I was learning about life and having fun. C and A were good friends, and I met some others through them that I’ll return to another time. For now C and I hit a peak when he and his mother (his father having left years before) took me along on a holiday to Wales. It was a cottage in the middle of nowhere, and belonged to an aunt of grandmother, I forget which. It had no electricity, so evening’s were spent by candle light – I remember having my first try of roast lamb, something my family would never eat.
During the day time we would travel about and this was the first time I visited St. David’s and Whitesands Bay. This place would become a reoccuring local through the years, a fulcrum of time and experience, but for now it was probably the first time I had been in the sea since I was a child – I once trod on a spiney fish of some sort and endured a pain that was…… indescribable. Needless to say, I had some trepidation about entering the sea.
Other activities included shooting empty vodka bottles with an air rifle.
During this road trip we listened to a tape of Ugly Kid Joe’s album America’s Least Wanted, another one of C’s super cool choices. I watch the video now and smile to myself. Such cheese. But at the time it was just another piece of the expanding universe of experiences, a soundtrack to the expansive nature of growing up.
Sadly however, in the end C and I went our seperate ways, and much of it was due to a horrible event that happened one night when we were out on the streets of a local town, an act of knuckle headed idiocy that would leave scars on all of us, and C with a broken jaw. It sticks with me today. You ask yourself still if you hadn’t froze up, if you had moved to intervene etc etc. But it all happened so fast. The low life came at us from behind and it was over before I could even grasp what was going on.
And even though I would see C occassionally over the next couple of years, we never talked about it. We were now moving on to college, and friendships were changing the lay of the land, new horizons were opening up but I was already beginning to tear myself apart, and I would find myself growing darker and darker as I headed into my 17th year of life.