Thursday, June 9, 2011

1988: All we've got is this moment

So it's autumn 1988, I'm midway through my year at the bookshop, living in a lovely little flat in Kennington minutes from central London when suddenly I find myself homeless.

Well, not suddenly, but homeless definitely.

In late May I'd 'temporarily' moved in with a friend who offered me the room in her flat for £50 a week inc. bills until her proper flatmate arrived from Italy in September. The friend had a new job as a stewardess on cross-channel ferries (think Kate O'Mara in Triangle - no, really), and would only be in the flat perhaps one day a week.

It was perfect. Minutes from work, and out every night without a care in the world. But as usual for me back then, I didn't do anything about thinking beyond September. It was a summer that seemed like it would never end, probably the most fun summer I ever had, with just one party after another with a bunch of like-minded friends who all just happened to work together.

But then it came. The new flatmate was arriving next week and as agreed I was to move on. I asked around, and a friend offered me his flat for three weeks while he went to Barbados on a holiday which he'd won in a competition. What a contrast. A bedsit in a hideous yet large former boarding house with no bathroom and which overlooked a graveyard. In Leyton.

Beggars were in no position to be choosers. I remember Orinoco Flow for the first time on the Jonathan Ross show, and Sherlock with Michael Caine was a hot new mini-series. I rearranged the furniture, attempted a bath and lit the gasfire. It was alright. But that too had to end.

I did a few days on floors, but the wheels were in motion with two other friends to find a place. Eventually we did, an amazing mansion block apartment at the foot of Albert Bridge with views of Battersea Park, and all for £45 week including bills. I wonder if that still happens now?

That was a tricky time. I did three weeks in Greenhithe, Kent, at the home of a friend's brother who was never there, middle of nowhere, dying for a wee on the train from Charing Cross, then walking in pitch darkness to the house, then up again at 6 in the dark and off back to work. My God it was grim. And tiring. Bluewater is there now, but I remember the grocery shop where you still had to ask for groceries. Archaic even then.

I'll never be going from sofa to sofa again, but looking back it was quite adventurous if not rather stupid. But hey, we've all done it, right?

So the one song that reminds of me of cold dark October/November mornings as the clock radio clicked into life is this one. It was a toss up between this and Kylie's Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi, both are huge reminders of this time, but Need You Tonight won out. It's that familiar riff I heard endlessly coming from the pub jukebox before I knew what it was. It's firm favourite, and a reminder of a time of thrilling uncertainty I'll more as likely never see again. I hope.


  1. Brrr, what an eovcative tale. There's nothing more frightening than lighting an ancient gas fire in rented premises for the first time. I imagine it's what defusing a bomb feels like, expecting it to blow up any moment.

    I had a brief INXS phase around this time. I even bought the previous album, Listen Like Thieves. I really only like Never Tear Us Apart now, though. I think it's a bit tragic they're still keeping going.

  2. Especially as Michael Hutchence has been dead for at least 10 years.

  3. The transient London experience, very crisply evoked.

    This song has stood the test of time quite well, but overall I could never really see what INXS were about. The music always sounded a lot tamer than I think they imagined. But that one takes me back to a terrifying nightclub in Falmouth called 'Shades', where I danced to it with an Algerian bloke. I remember him asking me if I fancied Michael Hutchence, and I replied that I didn't, particularly. This pleased him. "He have terrible spots," I recall him saying wisely.

  4. Another friend lived in that street in Leyton around the same time - the cemetery was clearly visible from the kitchen window. It used to freak out his wife, a superstitious Catholic, and they didn’t stick around long.

    Oh, and there was a Corrie actor living in the basement flat - can't remember his name, but he played a Jack the lad type and lived up to it in real life.

  5. I wonder if she was the girl upstairs whose washing machine I broke on day two. And I'd used it without asking. She was furious.