The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath

I must have had about eight or nine bedroom-mates in the course of my five and a half year tenure at St Clements Road. It all started with a posh art student from Wiltshire called Jeremy. He didn’t hang around long before taking the well-trodden route to one of the Crescents in Hulme. There was a Geordie called Gordon who introduced me to the pleasures of Bauhaus – the goths from Northampton that is, not the post-modern art school. Dave AKA Barabas, also from Newcastle, was a prototype hairy biker who loved to have the window open at night and seemed to relish the sight of me shivering. Biddy Baxter was a business studies student from Yorkshire. Over-excited and over-groomed, he was already behaving like the young executive he most certainly turned into. Probably my favourite was Richard, just for sheer easy-goingness and companionability. He was just a silly pup-of-a-boy, more Sam than student, but he possibly ignited some early paternal instinct in me. We had a relationship not unlike Ronnie Barker and Lenny Godber in Porridge, the main difference being that we didn’t sleep in bunks or stick pictures of dolly birds on the wall. It was all good-natured banter and chuckles, long chats into the night about girls and summer holidays. He even ended up collecting pots with me. Perhaps the oddest was a nameless bedroom-mate who I awoke one night to find standing naked, hands on hips, urinating on his bed. We weren’t quite sleeping Morecambe and Wise style, but at that stage the two beds were positioned right next to each other so it was slightly disturbing. Whilst in the act, he kept repeating in an agitated voice, ‘The grapes are on! The grapes are on!’ On what, mate? On special offer in Safeway? Two for the price of one? Thankfully in 1985 that particular con hadn’t yet been devised. A few days later there was a mysterious pool of water on the dressing table and closer inspection suggested he’d been up to his tricks again, this time all over his stereo. Incredibly it still worked. Was I nervous? Understandably so, but its held me in good stead all my life. If you can fall comfortably asleep knowing there is the potentiality of being rudely awoken by a warm shower of frothy Woodpecker-scented piss, then none of life’s other minor travails are ever really likely to keep you awake. Sweet dreams.

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