By the way, I have my new laptop and I love it....so fast and smooth and I'm finally free of Vista as a running programme!
I was thirteen when my brother got friendly with Barry from lower sixth. They’d spend loads of time up in Stuart’s bedroom playing records at full volume and mum or dad would forever be shouting up to them to turn it down.
Stuart and Barry were like twins. They grew their hair long and began wearing flared trousers. Barry had an Afghan coat that ponged of shaggy dog when it rained. It was shortly after they became friends that I was no longer allowed in Stuart’s room. He put a notice on the door saying Keep Out, man and fitted a padlock to which only he had the key. I felt right put out.
Mum and dad often argued with Stuart about coming home late, his untidiness and what not but Stuart just shook his head and said ‘Chill out, man’ and walked off. Stuart was supposed to be studying for his A levels but was always threatening to drop out. His speech got weirder. Every sentence ended with man and his clothes were bright and garish. Dad once called him a nancy boy.
Life at home was a continuous round of arguments and slammed doors but it was the music that saved me. I’d lie back on my bed and listen through the wall to Stuart’s records. My favourite was Let’s Go To San Francisco.
As summer wore on the rows increased and finally Barry was banned from the house as being a bad influence. I guess Stu got my sympathy a bit on that one because not having your friends round is pretty rotten but Stu just shrugged his shoulders, pounded up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door.
I’d hoped that my support would have got me into Stuart’s good books and his room and we’d be buddies again, but no. Instead he told mum and dad that he was going to redecorate his bedroom to a more ambient colour. What?!
The smell of paint intrigued me and drove mum and dad mad wondering what the heck he was doing in there. Dad threatened to break the bloody door down if he didn’t pack it in. I think mum was just relieved that he was off his backside for once.
About two weeks later I came out of my room and found Stu’s door ajar. I could hear him in the bathroom lumbering around slamming cupboard doors. He did crash about in those days. I saw my chance and was in his room like lightning. It was dark as the curtains were closed and my eyes took a time to adjust. Once they did I saw the brown walls with huge turquoise flower swirls that looked to have been done freehand, not too well at that. Mingling with the left over paint smell was sweat and a sweetness I didn’t recognise. I saw the overflowing ashtray but there was also a cigarette still burning.
I’d always wanted to try a cigarette. Dad smoked but he’d probably know if I took one of his. He probably counted them or something. This one was conveniently alight. I picked it up, liking the feel of it between my fingers. I went over to the mirror and posed before it, moving this way and that then put it to my lips. I drew on like I’d seen dad do. The smoke seemed to fill every part of me and I started to cough. I tried again more slowly. It actually began to taste quite nice. I sat on Stuart’s bed. Woa, my head felt woozy but not unpleasant. My head filled with sounds of Scott McKenzie and I started to sing, getting louder. When Stuart walked in I was laughing. Well, I think it was me laughing. It all seemed very funny anyway. Stu just stood there, his hair a mess of tangles, John Lennon glasses stuck on his nose. I tried to say something but all I could do was giggle. I took another lung full of smoke and lay back on the bed. I felt wonderful. Through the haze I suddenly heard Stuart’s voice ‘What have you done, man?’ I just laughed all the louder.