Darth Maul slippers
I am drumming on a production of A Slice of Saturday Night, the Christmas show at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre in Highgate, the high point of which (the climax, if you will) is a song called, and very much about, “Premature Ejaculation”. One of the actors, Matt – whose big number “O So Bad” is performed in the gents’ urinal – is in need of a place to stay (his housemates in Palmers Green have made it clear that the room in which he has been living will no longer be available to him, as the girlfriend of one of his cohabitees is returning from a musical theatre tour to occupy it). I consult briefly and persuasively with my own housemates, and shortly Matt is freeloading in our tiny spare room (it’s basically a cupboard where I keep my drums – fortunately for Matt, a lot of these are currently in the theatre) while he looks for a larger, more permanent base. This is the room in which former housemate Stu would, when in town for gigs, sleep with his girlfriend Sophie, shagging long and loudly into the night. In order to help keep their enthusiastic sexual activities to an acceptable minimum, Dave – who occupies the adjacent room and understandably wishes not to be roused too frequently from his precious slumber by thumping headboards and screaming redheads – devised a cunning plan to adjust the ambience of the room. For reasons he never fully divulged, Dave preserved an old pair of particularly rancid Darth Maul slippers in a plastic bag, which, when unleashed, smelled not unlike a family of decomposing rodents. On a night that he was especially desirous of rest, before Stu and Sophie retired for the night, Dave hid the frightful footwear beneath the bed so that their pungent pot-pourri might distract the would-be-lovers from their amorous inclinations. The pair slept silently that night, and in the morning complained of “a smell, like something rotting, under the bed”.

Matt sleeps little during his stay, instead spending his days drinking lapsang souchong and reading Lord of the Rings (his ninth time) in anticipation of the cinematic release of The Fellowship of the Ring. I am delighted that in Matt I have a friend who understands my father’s Tolkein obsession – the Smith family home bears the name Rivendell, and the dining room proudly displays 24 “collectible” LOTR plates, 38 porcelain figurines, and a wall-sized map of Northwestern Middle Earth. During his second week with us, Matt announces that he’s found somewhere to live that is but a stone’s throw from the pub under the Gatehouse theatre. I am sorry to see Matt go, but give him a lift with his stuff to the new place, where his room contains no drums and enough space to swing a (small) cat. It is with some concern, then, that I see Matt visibly distressed, wandering the corridor (there is only one) of the theatre three evenings in to his new tenancy. Knowing that it isn’t, so asking anyway if everything is all right, I am surprised by the news that the possessions of everyone in his new basement accommodation are, owing to a brief but comprehensive plumbing malfunction, now covered in a thin coating of effluent. The apartment’s floorboards have by this time been soaked in shit for 19 hours, and the toilet whence the problems began remains blocked and brimming with sewage. Matt has not fully unpacked yet, so escaped more lightly than he might have done; his bags, however, were far from untouched by events. The waters having now receded, Matt’s possessions are mostly in the theatre dressing room in fresh dustbin bags, ready for pastures new. I ask him for the second time that month if he’d like to come and stay at ours.



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