Friday, 12 March 2010

Elemental Challenge

"March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb"

Just Jill challenges her readers to capture that well known phrase in photography, words or drawings. I choose words because, for some reason, it reminds me of buying my first house.

I moved out of my parents' when I was 26, that was in autumn 1981. A bit old some may say but, with a proper job 9 to 5 and playing in a band 5 or 6 nights a week, I was hardly ever there anyway. When the band split up, tensions at home rose and I realised the need for more independence than bed, floor or caravan so I went shopping for a house... Then I looked for something within my means to pay the mortgage. There were a few cheap terrace houses in the nearby towns but then a local property came on the market and it was like the Ideal Home Exhibition to me. A quirky little run down thro-terrace. One room, a kitchen extension stuck on the back but open to the room, 2 bedrooms, bathroom, an attic and a cellar! Plus it was just doors away from my childhood. See top arrow...


The bottom arrow is where I lived till I was about 9 or so. That was a rambling, detached house with lots of rooms and dusty attics and spooky cellars. Oddly, I can't remember who had 'my' house when I was a kid, but my neighbours on either side had been there since the ark. I came home.

This curious 'V' shaped block of houses points almost due North and, by the angles, none of the rooms were square as I found out when I tried to fit carpets or ceiling tiles :) The house faces NNE and that seemed to become important!

It was a cold and drafty first winter in my new house, but March brought a glimmer of spring. Then it rained and the wind howled on and off for days, battering the house till I thought the roof would blow away. That's the humble me, underestimating the skills of the builder... but the March lion was here.

There must have been some tiny gap in the lead flashing over my small bay window and one day the wind and rain conspired to find the exact angle of attack. I came home from work in the driving rain to find half the room awash. Pot plants* on the windowsill were drenched, carpet soaked. I ran for buckets and pans to stem the drips, and shifted maybe 5 gallons of water from the windowsill over the next few hours. The deluge subsided as the wind shifted, and that was it. It didn't happen again. Over the next days I remained ready with bailing vessels but, not a drip. So, as a hard up new home owner, I diligently ignored this as a freak occurrence.

Did March go out like a lamb? Yes it did, no more floods anyway, and the next year brought me a new freedom. Because money was tight, and I didn't have the earnings and nights out from being in a band, I began to read again - like I used to when I was 10 years younger and before I discovered sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll - but with a renewed vigour. A quiet studiousness descended.

I already had a computer, a UK101 with 4K RAM (YES! FOUR KAY! I later upgraded to 8 and added a tape modulator so I could actually save things. It plugged into the telly), I'd assembled it with a soldering iron as a kit project whilst still at Mum and Dad's, but now I learned how to program. First in BASIC, then in 6502 machine code. I soaked it up like a sponge.

The next winter was even colder, but a mile of draught excluder tape and heavy curtains across the kitchen hatch kept out the worst. Two cats, thick rugs and subdued lighting made it cosy. Huge campaigns of Dungeons and Dragons were played out on that floor between myself and some good friends. We pushed back the furniture and, on a 4 foot square sheet of glass with graph paper underneath, felt tip pens, painted models and many different shaped dice, we had countless hours of entertainment.

Winter turned... Snow and frost became rain and wind. March roared in on cue, and bugger me if it didn't rain in again! Through the same window, and just on one damn single day when the wind blew the rain at exactly at the right angle. Having forgotten the previous March, one afternoon I was again frantic for pots and pans. But, like the year before, it was a short lived growl. I learned the lesson though. In the third year I had buckets ready (two days of drips, if memory serves), by the fourth I had moved across the village to where I live now. I never repaired the leaky bit, it counted the years for me and it was too much fun!

After all 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway' maybe, but not me.


The Lamb Live Down On Broadway - Genesis - Part 1
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* not that kind on a windowsill

6 comments:

jill said...

What a great lion/lamb story! Isn't it funny how some things never bothered us in our younger years, but now they would drive us crazy? Thanks for taking the challenge and I'll go over and link you up now. Have a great weekend!

Laura said...

Thanks for the footnote on plant, I was suspecting you of what I imagine was probably true.
Fun story...
My son has returned home, age 24....

Andy Holroyd said...

Thanks Jill. The summer after I’d moved out I noticed the new owners had replaced the window :)

Laura, moving back to live with parents must be difficult - for both sides. A friends’ son went to university, and then came back home. I noticed within a few months he was looking for his own place. I hope things work out well for all of you. You seem to have had difficult times recently.

Andy Holroyd said...

Oh and Laura, your supposition was Not! Not! Not! Not correct.

lisleman said...

I also entered Jill's game.
I enjoyed your story and the computer part brought back memories (1K at a time). I had a Sinclair (UK made I believe) ZX80 that I attached to an old TV set. I still have it in the basement somewhere.

Andy Holroyd said...

Hi lisleman, I read your entry via Jill's but at the time I lacked the loquacious latitude to launch a literary lampoon :)

I well remember the ZX series, the 80, 81 and Spectrum. Never had one myself, but friends did. One day I must do a full post on my old computer days, it was a lot of fun.