Sunday, 9 September 2012

Refurbishment Rock

Three weeks ago our flat was becalmed, like a ship at sea with no wind in her sails.

The 'safe' cupboard with TV on top was butted up to Mrs B's Laura Ashley chair and corralled in the middle of the room. The Tesco catalogue bed frame was upended with the mattress leaning against the plasterboard wall. Having no dust sheets, I had covered the TV and chair with flat pack cardboard, wrapping it with white paper and brown tape, kindly left by the removal men. So, here we were, sitting on the floor waiting for our electrical team to arrive with what looked like an art installation in the middle of the room.

Over-tired from late night and early morning preparation, I jokingly said to Mrs B "It's a bit like living in a squat", (not that either of us have any experience of that). However, in my teens I did go to a party in an old terraced house that was due for demolition. The 2 up, 2 downs of Froddington Road were all going to be knocked down and through the grapevine the word of a party had spread. I remember standing in the entrance hall, listening to 'The Prisoner' by The Clash while a tall, red-haired 5th former from school did the "I look to my left...I look to my right" hand gestures to the song.

That was 34 years ago (!). More recently, I was working on an outdoor festival in Granada. We were working through the night to allow the Lighting Department to focus the rig, (illuminating swathes of bats as they flew among the trees).

Down the hill from our hotel, stood the Washington Irving, an abandoned hotel, named after the author of 'Tales of the Alhambra' and 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'. The hotel, which previously had as guests The Royal Ballet with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, had since fallen into a state of neglect, with tarpaulin covering its' roof. Throughout this refurbishment programme, to keep spirits up, I have put our flat on a par with the 'pipe dream' of restoring the Washington Irving.

During a break, waiting to change scenes, Pete had set up his speakers in the physio room off the side of the stage and Paul borrowed the kettle from Wardrobe, proceeding to make tea. This was about 3 o'clock in the morning. Pete was playing tunes he had downloaded from Spotify and was asking everyone what their first gig was, that they went to. For me, it was Queen in Hyde Park; "Welcome to our little picnic by the Serpentine" said Freddie Mercury. Steve was The Jam, Johnny was Metallica and Diana was quite coy about Dire Straits! During all this late night jollity one of the tracks on Pete's play list was 'Anarchy in the UK'. On hearing this, our Spanish interpreter wandered in and told us that her dad had been in Public Image Limited the band that John Lydon formed after the Sex Pistols. We had met the gentleman earlier, when he had called in to see his daughter and catch up with some fellow Brits. He had been talking to Steve about football, when he shook my hand and Steve said "This is Luna's dad". As he knew all the local crew I presumed he was the Sound Engineer as I had not seen him backstage, but it transpired that he runs a concert space in the Fortress Building in the Alhambra Palace. I had seen the concert hall when I had been exploring the previous day, the same day as I saw the Washington Irving. "The acoustics must be good" I said. He told me he thought so, but a famous Conductor had been there and said the opposite.

It was only hearing John Lydon's voice at 3 in the morning that Luna told us that her dad was the drummer on 'Metal Box', a highly regarded record that was also very collectible as it originally came in a PiL film spool can, like a cinema projectionist would have. On a previous night, whilst tying purple cushions onto silver deckchairs, Luna had told me about her studies of Primitivism in Art. On this night, she told me that she only found out her dad had been with PiL, because playing one of their records in her bedroom her dad had casually remarked "Oh, Public Image, I used to play with them." Yet more Rock & Roll pedigree unfolded, as she went on to say that he had also been in the 101ers, which was Joe Strummer's band before The Clash. I asked where her mum and dad had met. They were both living at the 101 squat, which was the house number from which the band took their name.

As to equating the renovation of our flat with the restoration of the Washington Irving, our new electric oven, gas hob and cooker hood are in, so if this were an hotel I think we could now start taking bookings for Christmas Lunch!

picture from

Primitivism in Art? I wonder what Luna would've thought of our television wrapped up in the middle of the room. Back at Froddington Road...I would like to dedicate this song to Mrs B's last post. Come on everybody, do the hand gestures...I look to my left...I look to my right, I don't want to be the prisoner.

1 comment:

  1. What a fab post!!! I feel like I'm right there with you boogying away!!

    I always find renovation so stressful but so worth it...once it's all over!!