You came in round the back as Amin’s 24/7 shop was round the front and unless you wanted to fight your way through literally ten tonnes of garlic that Amin had, rather mistakenly it proved to be, invested a fortune in to corner the market in garlic in ignorant white working class Thornton Heath. There was negligible demand for garlic in such a neighborhood in those days.
Wicko, Nick and I had all met while working at the lab. Wicko and Nick knew each other when I started but after Wicko and I were dispatched on the same day rel;ease course we became friends with very common interests. One of these was failing to attend virtually any of the day release classes preferring to go on all day drinking sessions instead. The result of this was I was thrown off of the course and disciplined and transeferred to a different department from Wicko while he continued his studies undisciplined. Clearly I was a bad influence on people.
You entered at the back through a garden or more accurately an overgrown patch of mud with a gradually disintegrating cement path passing a locked, well locked to me and Nick, shed abutting the back wall and rotting gate on the way. A huge iron key unlocked the back door if you gave it a good pull first. If you didn’t it just stuck and the wrought iron key threatened to break. Surprisingly when I stayed there with Nick it never did break although after I left to move in with Jane, Amando moved in, fresh from fleeing the Camorra in Napoli after deciding to keep the proceeds of selling some small amount of drugs without passing any money on and making almost enough money off the deal to buy a one way flight to Heathrow, and manged to snap the key on his first day.
So I found myself investigating London fires or at least important ones. Ones involving death. Ones involving politics. Ones involving loads of money. Ones involving explosions due to accelerants. Yeah I’m sure you are thinking what an interesting job but then you probably aint been called out from a nice sleep ion a warm room at some unearthly hour on some February morning to the smouldering remains of a burnt out warehouse bigger than ten football pitches and now covered in inches of snow, and had to trudge around shovelling it out: snow, debris, roof beams and insanely twisted steel girders and all while starving and freezing your nuts off knowing there was no way you’d ever know what started it. But then again in the fire investigation unit you could make all the overtime you wanted, or even all the overtime you could possibly invent and stuff on some standard government claim form, and as the lowest paid of civil servants this was well appreciated to finance my increasingly active lifestyle.
Inside the door was a kitchen. A kitchen one generation on from a Victorian one replete with dripping tap above a sink gradually working its way from the wall, a table clattered with kitchen gear, one of those 60’s ovens all curvy with chipped surface and a missing knob for the hob and an oven that popped and flared violently as you leant in with a lit swan vesta and hoped you weren’t pissed enough to temporarily remove all your facial hair and any fringe if you happened to have one. And then there was the smell of garlic. It permeated the whole house but was worst in the kitchen. Tonnes of it still fermenting in Amin’s shop backroom, which the shop itself for some mystical reason never had the odour at all, which was adjacent to the stairs at the back of the kitchen that led to our first floor.
Nick and I became better friends after the forcible separation of Wicko and me. Nick had left the lab and I would follow in the not so distant future. Nick had travelled and was back around. Wicko always thought me and Nick had some special bond as mates over and beyond any friendship with because Nick and I were both adopted. That was crap though. So me and Nick ended up sharing Amin’s place . I paid 25 quid a week and NIck 20. I had my own room as I still worked at the lab and needed somewhere private for all the shagging although if truth be known there wasnt at first a lot of that. Nick was busking so by the time he came in I was usually asleep leaving the lounge as his abode. It worked well but Wicko felt the two of us were growing apart from him.
There on the first floor the bathroom could be found with a couple of ill-fitting sah windows allowing the freezing winter in. We covered this with a sheet of clear plastic. There was no heating in the bathroom,and, as it was a flight of stairs from the bedrooms, in winter it was not a relaxing time taking a bath even though their was plenty of hot water and the bathtub must have been about seven feet long. Pleasant enough while in it but not so pleasant to and from.We had been drinking Wicko and I. Either at the Pineapple on the way from the lab to Lambeth North, not that that was the way to my home, or at the pub maybe called the George, I can’t quite remember if that is correct, next to Lambeth North where once the pope had driven by, or maybe we had been to the Marquee to watch some random band, or maybe it was none of these places but somewhere else. But we had been drinking and were well pissed. We made it back to my place. As Wicko was well gone he wasnt going to make it to his. Our sofa would do. To get round the back of Amin’s you had to walk down a small side street past the pensioners house. The pensioner was our neighbour with shared wall and dint take kindly to the antics of Nick and I and for some reason I seemed to take most of the blame. Loud music, guitars, singing, drinking, at all hours. Not exactly neighbourly to be honest. Anyway to get home we had to walk down the road past their door and then take a right into the alley that to our back gate and path. Turning into the alley I noticed I noticed Wicko was no longer with me. Heading back thinking he had probably collapsed I was surprised to notice him leaning against the pensioners door. Approaching him I was even more surprised to see him with one hand holding his cock and with the other holding the letterbox open and just pissing straight through the pensioners letterbox. Pulling him away I explained you can’t just terrorize the old ones. But Wicko as was his way off on one of his stubborn ons saying that as the pensioner didn’t like his mates the pensioner must suffer. Being pissed and it being late and Wicko in the middle of a stubborn on I decided it was not a time to row. Not much could be done now anyway. We headed down the side alley to the gate. On the path I realised again that Wicko wasnt there. What now? Then I saw it. A flaming object flew through the air onto the roof of the pensioners extension where it broke and it started burning. It flared and burnt and then went out on the flat asphalt roof. Thank God it went out. Predictably the pensioners lights went on. The window opened and there wa sI stood in the middle of our garden with them screaming at me demanding to know what I had done. I of course and quite honestly told them U had done nothing unless of course bringing back a drunken mate with now but not earlier noticeable psychotic tendencies was something. Eventually it queitened down. Window closed and lights off they had abandoned their inquisition. I went looking for Wicko. Hiding behind th wall he was. We went inside with him telling me of how he had taken care of the enemy and stood up for his mates when he had found an old paraffin lamp, lit it and lobbed it into the pensioners garden. Too late for much to be done, not fancying bruising my hands on Wicko’s face and increasingly concerned at his stability, I left it and went to bed.
From the bathroom and up a set of stairs was the second and final floor unless of course you wanted to climb a step ladder and squeeze through into the loft, which wasnt very advisable considering the state of it, were the final two rooms. On the right as the smaller of the two which wa my bedroom with bed, wardrobe and gas fire and more ill-fitting sash windows but at least it had the heating. In front was the room in which NIck slept and which was also set up as the living room with a gaudy orange bobbly materialed sofa and matching chairs pl;us a TV, hi-fi and the guitars. The sofa I particularly remember well after falling in love with it after 5 lunch time pints and a bottle of Benyline resulting in a 12 hour delirium which only ended when Nick who I had been drinking with earlier, returned in the early hours of the morning from a busking session and insisted on us drinking some more.
A few days later the pensioners wife ambushed me perfectly as I was scooting down the cement path, which was collapsing quicker than my own life, to hang out my freshly washed boxers in th garden. She was holding up an old burnt paraffin lamp telling me how they were going to tell the police about my attempts to kill them and how they had seen me doing it. Surprisingly I calmly told her it was nothing to do with me, with the emphasis on me, and she was welcome to tell the police. Inside not so calmly I thought about I don’t know what. I never found out if they had noticed the wet patch just beneath their letterbox. Wicko remained working at the lab as an upstanding member of society. I left and joined Nick on the outside.