Christian Møller

My best mate Christian died 7 years ago today. I have shed a tear or two. And laughed a lot.

I think of him nearly every day.

You’d have loved him. The dirty Danish perv.

Yes, he would have taken that as a great compliment.

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Someday, my Prince(ss) will come..

2735647Around the time I started going out with girls, I also made a new male friend. Jeremy (Jez).

We knew each other through friends, and I can’t remember how we became mates as I was a quite well-educated softie from a council house, and he was a completely wild, hard-as-nails, nightmare of a bloke from the very well-to-do side of town. The kind of guy who would willingly have sex with a girl for 10 B&H, that sort of thing.

But he was absolutely hilarious.

Either because of the way he used to take the piss out of everything (he wasn’t scared of anyone or anything), or just the situations we ended up in.

It was wild. One step ahead of the law wasn’t *quite* accurate, but I blame him for none of my misdemeanours. It was mental.

So anyway. He had no licence (it had been taken off him TWICE before he had even passed a test) but after we’d been friends a few years, he turned up one day in a bargain car. £5 from “a mate at work”. If someone can tell me the name of the particularly livid orange British Leyland used to paint their cars, I’d love to know. There she was in all her pomp: an Austin Princess. It was old THEN, and I’m talking well over 20 years ago.

After driving around in it for a few days, mainly “posing” up and down Guildford High Street, it started to smoke quite alarmingly. I mean, we got used to the bloody thing being full of smoke,  so all we did was drive round with the windows open. But it was when you stopped at a junction or for any reason. If the wind was behind us, a huge cloud of smoke would billow out above, and in front of, the car. A bit like the beginning of Gladiators, only I don’t remember THEIR faces being covered with soot. Parking outside KFC at 11:30 on a Saturday night, in a car that looked like it was going to explode any second, was an absolute riot.

At the same time, we noticed that we had to put loads of oil in it (big surprise), so we brought it back to my stepfather to have a look at. To this day I have no idea what a “head” is in a car, but whatever it was, it was cracked. Michael, my stepfather, never says a lot at the best of times, but on this occasion he shook his head, gave me the look that says “you’re probably going to die soon” and laughed. Righty ho, I thought. Thanks for that.

Another interesting facet to the car was that the battery died quite often so we needed to keep it parked on a hill, to bump start it. But no problem there, as he lived on a hill, but did seem to like to keep it on the hill at the bottom of MY road. Probably nothing in that, my 18 year-old head told me. But I digress.

Enter Sarah. I thought she was alright-looking, but Jez thought she was a goddess. Privately-educated, posh parents, big house, loads of money. Sorted. Only problem was, they didn’t like Jez. They fucking hated him. Like a lot of well-to-do people, they can smell trouble (or at least the distant threat of trouble) a mile away.

Ironically, they couldn’t smell the smoking Austin Princess parked not 200 yards away on the hill above their house, the day we went to pick her up. Her cover story was she was going to walk the dog. A pedigree Red Setter no less.

She was wearing a kind of clingy, white, jumper dress and in a film now the scene would have slowed to half-speed as she strutted purposefully and tossed her mane of blonde hair, looking like a pre-surgery Pamela Anderson, with a soundtrack of “let’s get it on”….ahem.

Scene cuts (with sound of needle being ripped off a vinyl record) to look of absolute horror on her face, as she sees a battered orange Princess barrelling silently down the road at her, with a big-haired moustachioed freak hanging off the back (Me. Well, it was the eighties). At this point, the Princess kaboomed into life; the dog absolutely freaked out at the sound and legged it back up her driveway into the house. I heard her dad call out, and dived into a bush.

Jez continued past and sat a few hundred yards away round the corner, revving the fuck out of it. One way or another, and quite some minutes later, me, Sarah and the dog made it down to the car without giving the game away. We were off!

Now, I didn’t know a LOT of nice girls then, but I would have thought that the prospect of getting in a battered, smoking wreck of a car with a couple of freaky-looking dudes would have put most off. Not Sarah, so off we went to the Pub. Well, we started off for the pub.

Lovely sunny day, New Order cassette in the stereo (which was in the front footwell, as, and I don’t know why, it didn’t seem to fit in the hole in the dashboard), cruising round the back streets. Apart from the fucking dog trying to bite my balls every 30 seconds, it was all going swimmingly.

In those days, the police would be out in force in the centre of Guildford on a Sunday (probably to stop any “violent littering”, or “alcohol-fuelled smiling”), so we had to go down the back lanes. Halfpenny Lane nearby is a steep, narrow and twisty single-track lane that looks worn into the countryside, rather than designed as a road. Very beautiful, so it is. Consequently,  there were steep banks up on either side, and a few passing places.

Now, I’ve mentioned that Jez had not passed a test. We raced up Halfpenny Lane as the car was beginning to fill with smoke, and Sarah and the dog both had their heads out of the window. I *may* have been drinking a bottle of warm Becks, so I didn’t give a toss. Suddenly, a VW Scirocco appeared out of nowhere coming the other way. Jez braked hard and thumped into a bank. The Princess stalled, blocking the road.

The car continued to smoke. This time it was Sarah’s time to completely fucking go into one, and as she wrestled with her handbag there was a big spark and she got a huge bolt of electricity from the wiring of the stereo. Well, that helped her get out of the car double quick as it shocked her again and she screamed. The dog had gone all quiet (probably through smoke-inhalation), but nevertheless had a last dip into my ballbag, before springing out of the car and knocking Sarah off balance into a muddy ditch.

Superb. From one side, she didn’t look dirty at all…the other was absolutely plastered in mud. And the dog thought he’d lie down in it as well and nibble his own crotch for a change. Sarah, rather indignantly, then tried to stomp off up the bank. That was never going to end well, was it? But panic had set in, as she madly tried to think of a convincing story to tell her Dad. All day I could have watched her, in a complete state, trying to climb that bank….

But we had other matters at hand. There were now 5 cars in the queue behind the Scirocco, and they were starting to toot their horns. Jez and I debated the possibility of jump-starting the car in reverse down the hill, and I started to get the giggles. When he suggested doing a runner and leaving the car I looked over at Sarah, who was STILL trying to climb the bank and was now hanging on a tree root, and I thought better of it. Besides, people were now out of their cars and we’d have no chance (quite apart from the fact that the owner of a legally licensed and insured car would be easy to trace. Ahem). Jez was madly thinking of ways out of this and all I could do was laugh. Now it was HIS bloody turn to have a fit, and he stomped back to the car and started rolling backwards. Did I mention he’d never passed a test?

He’d obviously seen someone in the Sweeney reversing backwards whilst leaning out of the door, and he made probably 20 feet before the car’s rear wheel started going up the bank…and further up the bank…and further up the bank…

He tried to steer away but all that did was alter the steepness of the bank. Luckily he put his foot on the brake as the car tipped over. Onto the open door.

I’ll never forget seeing him pleading for my help as the car sat perfectly balanced. If he’d have shut the door it would have rolled onto it’s roof. And what was i doing? I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe. At one point I was lying in the road in front of probably 15 people, actually having a fit of laughter. Some mate I was.

It dawned on me that someone was bound to call the old bill, so I joined the other 5 or so blokes that were now out of their cars and pushed the car back up and off the bank. As he was completely useless about it by now, I reversed the car slowly back down and into a side track. I hadn’t taken a test either, but I’d driven my brother’s mini clubman estate up the road once, so I knew I was a good driver.

Needless to say, none of the people we’d held up were willing to give us a jumpstart. I’ve probably never been called a wanker quite so often in such a short period either.

Jez wasn’t a very patient person. We were now on the flat, in a muddy track, with absolutely no chance of bumpstarting the car. So, when the third car that came down the road didn’t stop for me, he barged me out of the way and stopped the next by all but spreadeagling himself on the bonnet of a Montego. Shoosh, they were quite new and fancy then.

The old boy that got out seemed quite willing to help. I think he thought we might steal his car if he didn’t. (We wouldn’t have – we’re not thugs). We got our jump leads out, but they weren’t long enough, so he got his. Took them out of the packet and everything. He got in his car and waited for me to give the signal. Now, I don’t know whether you know anything about electrics, but I had an electronics starter set when I was 10, and you connected the wires Negative to Positive. So, I knew what I was doing and connected the two batteries.

I peered around his bonnet and gave him a confident thumbs-up. He started his engine and revved. For some reason, the Princess didn’t start. As I looked back, there was all manner of sparking and the plastic on the guy’s jumpleads started to melt. Probably because all the  colour drained out of my face, and I clasped my cheeks in horror, he soon twigged what I’d done. For the second time, I was barged out of the way. He connected the jump leads the right way round, barked instructions at Jez and got the car going. He disconnected the smoking leads, looked at them, shook his head and thrust them into my chest saying, “Here. A fucking gift” in quite possibly the poshest accent I have ever heard. Very cool dude.

By the time we’d caught up with Sarah, she was a wreck. She had lost one shoe in the mud, but was insisting on still wearing the other, which had at least a three-inch heel.

The dog didn’t look much better. Somehow it was covered in mud and oil, and had decided that it’s tail was now another animal. Stupid fucker would wag it’s tail, try and bite it, get spooked and run off ten yards before stopping and looking to see what was chasing it. And doing it all again. 6 times I saw it do this.

Sarah wouldn’t get in the car. It was at least 2 miles walk home, but dignity prevented her.

Jez was trying to do the cool bit and drive at 3mph alongside her begging her to get in (we’ve all done it), but the engine kept choking and he had to rev the hell out of it to stop it stalling. Imagine the most plaintive, heartfelt apology, interspersed with a klaxon. There, you’ve got it.

I only saw Sarah once, briefly, after that. Jez had lost the love of his life. I had only recently started going out with mine.

We drifted apart after I got a job in insurance, and couldn’t go getting arrested every time I went out for a drink (long story). I found out a few years later that his Dad, who absolutely loved me, got some deal that made them actual millionaires and they moved away. Saw Jez driving a Bentley a few years ago. I didn’t wave as I was driving a knackered Cavalier at the time.

It was a kind of reddy-bronzey colour. Kind of orange, in fact…

Garden leave…

Autumn 2006.

The previous owner of my house had erected a trellis in front of the shed, and grew ivy over it, so it kind of covered the unsightliness of this lovely little outbuilding.

As she was a divorcée, I’m pretty sure that she didn’t use it as some sort of freaky masturbatorium, but in Surrey you never know.

Anyhoo, over 20 years or so, this thing had become massive. We kept trimming it, but it was 80% wood, so “trimming” meant clipping the odd leaf off here and there.  It looked ok, and was very useful to hide behind to have a crafty fag when my wife thought I’d given up. Did try and take her roughly in the shed once or twice, à la Lady Chatterley, but to no avail.

It’s important to embroider the backdrop to any story, I feel.

Right. After a particularly stormy few weeks, the ivy had decided to commit some kind of vegetable suicide, and I came out to find it leaning against the shed. Fucking thing must have weighed 300 pounds.

After sawing through the remaining trunks (for there were about eight) I managed to drag it into the middle of the garden, on to the bare strip of earth my lovely chidren had created in my beautiful lawn playing football or cricket (I don’t know which, I’m never home).

The options facing me at this point were:

1. Leave it where it was. This option didn’t necessarily please Mrs C, as she’d always figured (in her delusion) that we would have a rather pretty, well managed, but very small, boutique garden layout. So, the other (or rather, only) choices were…

1a. Spend two days cutting up the bloody thing, and another two hauling it in pieces to the dump. Or,

2. Burn it.

I know what you’re thinking. “Garden leave” is all about Chads cutting up the ivy and doing himself a mischief taking it to the nearest rubbish tip. Well, that part is certainly true, but not QUITE as interesting as what happened first.

So there I am at the petrol station.

The barbecue lighter fluid had burnt quite magnificently, yet briefly, on the ivy bush. In fact, so pathetic was this attempt at hederacide (I made that up), I swear the damn thing started sprouting shoots just to mock me. What I needed, I thought, was something with a little more “Zhoosh”. I know that’s a word only used at trade exhibitions, when hawking floor cleaning fluids or some such, but a little technical-sounding jargon always adds to the colour. You know, like a well-judged dab of burnt umber, or a deft touch of Wedgwood blue in the background scenery.

So, filling up the container with unleaded (not diesel. I’m not stupid), I inadvertently splashed some on my shoes. Oh well, I thought, no harm done. Driving home, I was going to have a cigarette but, *taps temple* I’m not THAT stupid. Only got a gallon of petrol in the footwell, but it would be stupid to risk it….but I was a bit pissed off that the car now stank of petrol.

The ivy bush’s day of reckoning had come.

The Plan: Pour half the petrol on the ivy and let it soak in, then pour the other half on, and light. Parts 1 and 2 went perfectly. I recalled seeing my father lose his eyebrows and front part of his hair lighting a bonfire with petrol on Guy Fawkes Night 1974, so I thought I’d take a couple steps back and lob a lit piece of rolled-up newspaper to light it. As I’ve said before, I’m a bit clever like that.

So, rolled up newspaper in hand, I carefully lit one end and gently, tentatively even, threw it in the direction of the petrol-soaked ivy.

It’s amazing sometimes how slowly time passes, and how many thoughts cross your mind in a fraction of a second. I remember thinking, as the paper arced toward the ivy, “blimey, petrol’s clever stuff. All those little explosions push a two-ton car forward…”, and it seemed to go very quiet….

Then ALL FUCKING HELL broke loose.

I stood in the middle of an inferno. Every single bit of my garden was on fire. This is no exaggeration. There was a carpet of flame completely surrounding me. The explosion (which I didn’t hear) nearly put all of my, and my neighbour’s windows in. There was a loud shriek from my neighbour’s kitchen. My neighbour’s cleaner was screaming, “fucking hell. Oh shit, I’m going to have to clean the kitchen floor again”. She appeared, sodden from the waist down, looking like she had seen her Lord in an overflowing urinal, and was now praying to him.

But I didn’t care.

My wife and kids appeared at the back door screaming too, because they thought the house was falling down. They didn’t happen to notice that my shoes and trousers were on fire.

But I just didn’t care.

I was rooted to the spot. Everywhere looked like it was on fire. Plants in tubs, plants in hanging baskets, plants growing along the fence, plants in the flower beds. All on fire.

About two dozen three-inch spears of burning ivy had been fired in all directions with such ferocity, they were actually embedded in anything softer than stone. So, not only was I on fire, two fences, the shed and some dried leilandii bushes looked like they were going the same way…..

To be honest, I have no idea what happened next. In the 10 seconds or so it took me to register what the hell had happened, it was over.

Like a scene from a WW2 film, all around had gone quiet, save for the crackling of a few smouldering fires. I’m aware, at this point, that the cleaner next door was crying, as were two of my children. My wife is just standing in the kitchen doorway open-mouthed, trying to work out what to say. She knew she should bollock me, but for only the second time since I’ve known her, she was genuinely frightened. (The first was when I flipped my Golf at 80, but that’s another story).

I guess I must have got the hose out and watered down the garden, to make sure there was no more damage. I waited for the Police, or the bomb squad, to appear, but maybe someone’s cat was stuck up a tree or something and they never showed.

I went and had a bath and laughed as I peeled off my Umbro track bottoms which were melted to my leg. Until I found a saucer-sized blister on my ankle. (No, I didn’t faint). I just had a little lie down on the bed for 5 minutes. (I fainted. Like a GIRL).

Amazingly, the dried out leylandii didn’t catch, but were a lot browner and about 2 feet narrower than they had been. At 25 feet high, if they’d have gone, I’d still be paying for the damage now.

Strange thing was, the ivy didn’t look any different. A couple of leaves had been singed, but other than that, nothing.

It probably had nothing to do with it, but two weeks later my neighbour’s fence fell down. Of it’s own accord, in calm weather.

In all of this, I have no parting words of wisdom. Indeed, if you are stark-staring crazy enough to go to the petrol station to do any sort of gardening then you, my friend, deserve everything you get. All I will say is, petrol fumes catch fire too.

The ironic thing was, I had just left a job to start up in business with a previous boss, and I was contractually bound to not contact any clients for a set period of time.

I was on garden leave.