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This is a question How clean is your house?

"Part of my kitchen floor are thick with dust, grease, part of a broken mug, a few mummified oven-chips, a desiccated used teabag and a couple of pieces of cutlery", says Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic. To most people, that's filth. To some of us, that's dinner. Tell us about squalid homes or obsessive cleaners.

(, Thu 25 Mar 2010, 13:00)
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I thought I had expunged these memories...
...and yet, they return to haunt me, thirty years, and three continents, later.

Cue wavy lines.

October 1980, and I presented myself, bright-eyed and bushy-bollocked, at Imperial College, to read engineering. Four of us white guys had struck up a friendship during our year out working, and so we ended up renting rooms above a travel agents on Wandsworth Bridge Road. Renting the two other rooms were two Hong Kong Chinese guys, studying at Chelsea College.

I liked them well enough, and we all seemed to get on ok. They'd often lapse into high-speed Cantonese, occasionally throwing out English words, like "tea towel" or "emitter follower." But holy mackerel, when they got going with the wok a fine mist of cooking oil vapour would cover every horizontal surface as well as the vertical surfaces adjacent to the stove. At the end of the year, they just buggered off, and we impoverished British guys (not having everything paid for by our government) had to strip to the waist and expend vast quantities of elbow grease and no little amount of noxious chemicals in order to get back our security deposit.

But the event I want to describe to you is the Pancake Party we held one Shrove Tuesday. Now we were (and remain) far from observant in any religion, but it seemed like a great excuse - as if we needed one - for a gathering at which we'd eat pancakes and quaff gallons of ale. Wags that we were, pancake batter was prepared, divided into different containers, and coloured with food dye. A roaring success, everyone ate and drank huge amounts, and we called time somewhere between 2 and 3, as 9:30 lectures were looming large.

At 5am the travel agent's alarm went off, dragging us back into consciousness. One of us saw the criminal leg it down Wandsworth Bridge Road, so we called the rozzers (none of us were in a particularly cogent frame of mind at the time), and two of London's finest dutifully turned up. We invited them into the kitchen, a scene of utter devastation; frying pans, half-emptied pancake batter containers, empty beer cans, scotch bottles, paper plates bearing bizarrely-coloured pancake remnants, and overflowing big black garbage bags. I'm reminded of the Spike Milligan line in one of his books about a place looking "like it had been bombed by unemptied Arab dustbins." And yes I've lived and traveled in the Middle East. It was Armageddon in that kitchen.

I still remember the senior of the two coppers looking around, licking the end of his pencil and saying in a very understated way, "so, students are we, lads?"

Thank heavens they never went beyond the kitchen. Passed out on the upstairs landing was a guest (hi Mike!) who had drunk of his fill, and passed out while urinating, falling backwards out of the tiny toilet, landing face-up and continuing to urinate, all over himself and the hall carpet. And sitting in the toilet bowl was something that I had been too proud to flush, fecal matter so brightly coloured (think neon green and bright yellow in equal measure) that I wanted to share it with all in the house.

And that place was nowhere near as bad as Philbeach Gardens, our home during our second year. A damp, rat-infested basement in Earls Court, land of murders (two in our year there), Australians, prostitutes and homosexuals. I'm still not sure which were the worst.

Long-time reader. First time contributor. Be gentle.
(, Tue 30 Mar 2010, 5:38, 1 reply)
click for saving neon shit for your housemates!
(, Tue 30 Mar 2010, 9:26, closed)

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