43 Walnut Walk was the house that saw Dave and I form what appears to be a life-long bond, and was the subject of our only falling out. It bore witness to the most tumultuous and tormenting of romantic relationships and served as a pre-Heathrow-airport pit-stop for musos of various hues; it witnessed the end of my fling with Maria and the beginning of my life with Jane; it provided nature with the opportunity to develop in our back garden what I recall from high school geography lessons being termed a Climax Culture that took us many days in the blistering heat of our third July there to conquer. While he was with Leticia, Dave’s bedroom was the backdrop for a climax culture of an altogether different sort, prompting on more than one occasion me and third housemate Dan to applaud at the conclusion of what had clearly been for both parties an exhausting and near-Olympian display of physical intimacy. It was in this house that Jake squatted, that Alf entertained more women than Robbie Williams at Wembley, and that my brother and I discovered the difficulties inherent in moving an upright grand piano from Brighton to London with only a Post Office van (fitted with aeroplane seats), a double mattress and a girl called Sally. It was at this house that I left my gear in the driveway en route to a gig, that Dave chain-sawed his way through a mains cable while one day attacking our hedge, and that I would from time to time wander at leisure in the road and a dressing gown, sipping the LapSang SouChong tea that was Jake’s sole material contribution to the running of the place while he squatted.

For me, however, and I hope for the others who came to know and love this house, my abiding memory of it will be of the persistent howl of the (midnight) toilet.

Probably the best thing about this water closet’s idiosyncratic behaviour was its impeccable sense of comedy timing. Whenever initially one had flushed the toilet at 43 Walnut Walk the event would appear, to all intents and purposes, unremarkable. Until one had left the confines of the smallest room, re-zipped and refreshed; whereupon the contraption would contrive to let rip one of the most penetrating and humbling sounds perhaps ever to ensue from an instrument of domestic plumbing. Tenderly and cautiously at first, but within seconds rising to nothing short of confident exuberance, the crapper would belt out a trombone-ish concert Eb. This horn-of-an-ocean-liner would last for up to two minutes, claxon-ing its urgent warning throughout the house and, doubtless, reverberating assuredly around the rooms of our adjacent neighbours’ home, sharing as we did an adjoining wall.

Revisiting episodes of my life wearing the warmly rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, I find it now more astonishing than the exuberance of our loo that the four housemates who endured this frequent (and never once unintrusive) serenade not once in eighteen months saw fit to call a plumber about what was a cause of considersable mirth, frustration and despair. I wonder with hindsight if perhaps this loud yearning moan, this passionate orgasmic groan from an object of our collective experience, so objectified, enameled and white, if this anthropomorphizing feature of our bog brought us somehow closer together and, curiously, in closer communion with that toilet.

Of course, the best opportunities for mischief to be wrought by the trumpeting toilet were proffered by the quiet of night. Oft would an unsuspecting visitor tiptoe innocently to the bathroom discreetly to perform his or her midnight ablutions; only to have their return journey to the guest room rudely arrested by the terrifying (yet, I confess, strangely endearing) nocturnal protestations of that rambunctious appliance. Many a morning over coffee and toast, clearly worried that they might have inflicted upon our home some irreversible damage by their ham-fisted and insensitive flushing, a friend would say something like, “erm, your toilet made a lot of noise last night”. Ha-ha! And they were nailed! Hook, line and sinker! The loo had caught them with their pants down and they had confessed. A small admission, albeit phrased as one of concern, became a confession of sullying guilt by Jake/Rick/Martin – whoever was the culprit – he had last night awakened everyone within a mile of the bathroom; he had not been able to wait ‘til morning; he had been the object of an insanely funny practical joke played not by us, the generous and deep-sleeping hosts, but by that mostly-silent partner, that sleeping dog, that coiled spring of a contraption that would leap to life to victimize a visitor just when it mattered the most.

We did eventually arrange circuitously for a plumber to call (via messages left with the estate agent, the landlady’s parents and finally the witch herself – more of her another time); and the stakes of the game, or rather its pitch, were raised. The plumber, after flushing and listening and prodding about, helpfully informed us that there wasn’t much he could do because there was air in the pipes. As musicians ignorant of the minutiae of plumbing, and being mostly an intelligent (if under-confident) bunch, we all silently wondered if perhaps a solution might, therefore, be found in the extraction of the accused air; but we collectively failed to articulate this suggestion and were left to revel in the consequences of our combined cowardice.

So, although he did not manage at all to alleviate the problem, the plumber did alter the sound. I will never forget the moment that Dave triumphantly confirmed our suspicions when, during a particularly prolonged pronouncement form the inanimate occupant of the smallest room, he bounded up the stairs, took one of his guitars from the wall, plucked a string and pronounced that the toilet was indeed now yodelling in F. (I couldn’t, for shame, bring myself to admit that I’d thought it was a G – I merely consoled myself with the assertion that I’m a drummer so getting notes wrong in my head was okay.) That day, though, something was lost. We could feel the end encroaching, tangible and sad. After the plumber had come and gone, the shitter wailed refreshingly its whole-tone higher than before. But this was short-lived. The glory days were over. One day less than six months later, someone noticed that the toilet had fallen silent. Thus it was with a heightened, brooding sense of the supra-normally mundane that we each would now trudge up the fourteen stairs to the bathroom for what was certain to precipitate a dull and un-gratifying experience. The toilet tried from time to time to revive its heyday by emitting a pathetic whimper or a mild, disappointing croak; but nothing to warrant any attention or to properly perturb the passing of now meaningless time.




2 Responses to “43 Walnut Walk”

  1. shirley smith said

    I enjoyed reading this, and certainly had a laugh.

  2. Jane said

    That damn toilet – it got me once or twice, I recall…

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