My last Birmingham residence, from September 1978, was a draughty, linear house on the Pershore Road. It looked like this place.
The landlord, Mr Nicholson, belonged to a spiritualist healing church. Keith was in the room next door, but a more academically focused and less hedonistic Keith, who was engaged, ambitious and had enrolled upon a post-graduate M.Sc course. Two other house-mates were either first or second year males, who had their own friendship groups.
Within a few days of moving in, Steve Hudson-Parker had squirted his venom my way. It made me feel wretched, for the first time in my four university years. Things got to me more easily. I grew to be nervous of all kinds of stuff that had washed over me before. As the term wore on, Hudson-Parker was getting into bigger and bigger scraps with everybody in his orbit. Every tale that reached my ears spoke of a fully-fledged psycho. The strange thing was that I never saw him more than once again in my life. On the other side of the road, glaring at me.
That last year – the 4th for me, and 3rd for her – saw Saxon and I increasingly using each other’s company to get through the days. Her dad’s suicide blanketed everything darkly. We began to plod. Imperceptibly. When it became clearer, months later, neither of us wanted to pinpoint the trouble, thus avoiding the discomfort that would cause.
Odd memories stick out. Particularly the snow that winter. Standing freezing at bus-stops while Ian Dury’s ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ sailed around my cerebellum. Watching the Deer Hunter with Dad and Shaun, who returned every now and again from his Amersham job to stay with Fran. And a healthy diet of casseroles. Lashings of liver, bacon and root vegetables, that would last me four days. Academically, I did quite well in a 20th century Italian history module. Such a waste that I remember little else.
Keith introduced me to Bournbrook rugby club. I trained and played a few times, but it wasn’t for me. A few soccer games here and there for the History department were equally uninspiring. Things perked up after Christmas, when Big Dad came to live with us. He usually had a tale or quip to cheer, but was also a little battered, after achieving only a pass in his Chemistry finals, and desiring another year for a retake.
The nearest pub, the Sir Harry, is not recalled with massive fondness. Lagers, chitchat, and a nice barmaid, but no ‘sketching’. I generally shied away from the old drinking sessions, with the exception of the awakening in the snow. These were just a pale imitation of former days, I told myself, when hearing of the ongoing exploits of drinking pals who were still around, like Mac, Nigel and Biff.
It was noticed by visiting friends that my appetite for life seemed to have paled. In truth I lacked the bravery and techniques to look into myself. The notion that I might be depressed was unthinkable.