Martin was a hippy.
I don’t think he actually made a conscious life choice to become a hippy. He just sort of drifted into it through a lax attitude to life, alcohol (ab)use and occasional college attendance. He would, if out of bed at a reasonable hour in the afternoon, be the first to admit he was an utter layabout, and made it his life’s mission to get away with doing as little as possible for as long as he could.
He got away with this for years, mainly because his dad – the lock-keeper at Sonning-on-Thames – was far too busy with sluice gates and idiot boaters to notice his son was a slob. It also meant he had the finest venue in the known universe for slobbery.
The upshot of this was that - foolish youth that I was - I spent a good portion of my time covering for him. I think, after about the twentieth time, the “he’s got a dental appointment” excuse might not have been entirely believable to our rubber-faced, plaid-wearing mini-roundabout-inventing (and I’m not making this up) maths tutor.
There were times when Martin’s dad was away, off on advanced lock-keeping courses somewhere where they have loads of locks and the very best weirs. So, only one thing to do under the circumstances – wake Martin from his hippy coma and organise a party.
All the best people would be there. Actually, absolutely every would be there. Martin made sure of this by telling a bunch of hairy-arsed Bracknell bikers there would be a no-holds-barred party at his house on Saturday night. Just turn up. And hey, bring a mate.
“A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet.”
“And there better be fuckin’ booze.”
By Saturday evening the word was out. Half of Reading, Bracknell and every biker in the South of England would be descending on Martin’s place that night. A two bedroomed house on an island in the middle of the River Thames.
It was the most frightening night of my life.
It started off quietly enough for us unfashionable early arrivals. A few relatively quiet drinks and a chance to letch at Iron Drawers Debs, a girl I fancied like buggery, but knowing deep, deep down that the chances of seeing anything more than a flash of her ankle were remote in the extreme.
She was “nice”, from a “nice” household, had a “nice” job in a bank and did “nice” things with her time, such as knitting and playing the hits of Stevie Wonder on a Bontempi organ (something I witnessed too many times for my sanity to handle). I don’t know why I bothered, but I did for far too long, getting precisely nowhere and falling out with Balders into the bargain over who should be first in line for her lack of attentions.
And then, the bikers came. Dozens of them, cruising up the towpath in the dark like a long, evil snake of bearded, warty, foul-smelling, Hawkwind-loving death.
Martin, we could tell, was entirely cool about the idea of his house getting totally trashed. This was mainly because he was unconscious in his bedroom, lying in a pool of his own rich, brown vomit which seeped over his priceless signed copy of Thick as a Brick, while bikers smashed the vinyl over some poor bastard’s head and ripped the arm off the record player.
“What’s this hippy bollocks?”
“Give us all the booze and music we want or we trash the place!”
“But, Dave, you’ve just broke the record player.”
“Ah, fuck. Just give us the fuckin’ booze!”
As anarchy, death and destruction spread around us, and priceless family heirlooms shattered windows, I did what any sensible man would do in the circumstance. I grabbed Debbie and hid with her in the shed, where she ripped her clothes off and seduced me in a frenzied whirlwind of lust, rimming, golden showers and something filthy with a hover mower. Or perhaps she just sat there and told me how much she admired Lionel Ritchie – the man and his music. Go on, guess which one I got.
Eventually coming to his drink-addled senses Martin decided the only way to get the bastards out was to open both lock gates. At the same time. Thus, sweeping away the bikers and their infernal machines on a tide of white water. Never mind flooding the whole of Sonning, Wargrave, Henley and towns all the way down to London, this was important.
In the end, with one gate open, and several saner party-goers physically restraining the hippy in his attempts to open the other, the bikers got the message, and drifted away, taking all the booze and the vol-au-vents with them, the bastards. The party was dead in the rapidly-flowing waters of the Thames. With nothing to do, or drink for that matter, it would only be a matter of time before some hippy bastard got a guitar out.
Then drunken hippy Martin suddenly realised – about twelve hours too late – the one thing he was supposed to be doing that very day.
“Shit!” he cried, suddenly and frighteningly animated. “House-sitting!”
He fled from the house, the rest of the party crowd in tow, over the weir into the rather plush grounds of a very large house.
“Mr Geller will go mental if I don’t check his house,” he puffed, stopping only to roll up an anaemic looking cigarette.
“Where’s the kitchen?”
“Don’t you dare touch the fucking spoons.”