The Chamberlayne Road Era
THE CHAMBERLAYNE ROAD ERA
Part One: House of the Kensal Rising sun
“Come on baby, go back to start, I got your picture in my heart, It’s only me, babe, it’s only me, refuse disposal refugee.” (I GOT MINE)
In 1984, shortly after Phil, Würz and Pete Gill joined Motörhead, the band moved into a house on Chamberlayne Road, in leafy Kensal Rise. As it turned out, from time to time, over the years, I would live there, too.
It was a nice old place. Upstairs was where the bedrooms and bathroom were kept – downstairs supplied the big front room, a toilet and a cupboard. In addition, despite the overwhelming indifference to eating displayed by a large percentage of the residents, the landlord had seen fit to waste the sizeable space at the rear of the house by declaring it should be a kitchen. Ignoring his food-related mandate, we chose, instead, to treat it as the place we kept the back door – through which we could access the lovely garden.
I say lovely – sadly, it actually looked as though the last people to have shown it any real attention may well have been the Luftwaffe, whose visits, during the last unpleasantness had, by all accounts, resulted in a great deal of the ‘light weeding’ which was performed in the area.
But, it was in the main front room that the bulk of the action occurred, and it was here that Lemmy spent most of his time; making stuff, reading stuff, watching stuff and listening to stuff – amidst an ever-growing mountain of crap, made up of things he’d either bought, been given, or for which he had foraged.
To most people, a skip is little more than a giant yellow bucket, piled high with fragmented debris that sits in the street for weeks until someone finally deigns to nip round and cart it off to the landfill site to die. To Lem, however, it was something entirely different. To Lemmy, the skip was like a kind of al-fresco treasure trove that represented an endless supply of possibilities – and a place from where he could satisfy the bulk of his furniture and horticultural needs.
Chairs, tables, bookshelves – if he owned them, then, chances are, they’d been dragged from the wreckage, given a cursory wipe with a damp cloth and thrown straight back into service.
And, to be fair, he didn’t have a bad eye.
Television these days is riddled with “top” interior designers, who waltz across our screens, hurling around phrases like urban style and utilitarian shabby-chic, as if they actually mean something – and every time I see one of them droning on about the stunning reclaimed elm and beech chest of drawers, with distressed-look panels and mis-matched handles that they just picked up for a steal at a mere three and a half grand – I think – 30 years ago, we described that exact same thing, as “the piece of shit Lemmy just dragged off the skip!”
I see, now, that he was just way ahead of his time.
Perhaps, if he hadn’t been so focussed on making it with the music thing, he’d be hosting Extreme Makeover by now. I’m seeing him in a pair of ochre-yellow slacks, a classic, raw silk blazer, in robin-egg blue to match his hand-stitched, Antelope leather boat moccasins. No cravat, though… that would just look stupid!
But, it was with plants that Lemmy truly excelled. In fact, he was the most green-fingered person I ever met – which, considering I worked at Covent Garden Flower Market for a while is saying something.
For some reason, the feature that most attracted him to them, seems to have been their, at best, 50% chance of surviving to the weekend. So, every time he walked back through the door, carrying something that had long since lost the right to call itself green, you immediately knew that, somewhere in town, there was a skip, bin or dumpster which was one dying item light.
Nevertheless, he’d gently remove the bits that looked the most dead of all the dead bits, lavish his love on the remainder and, in no time, the thing would be flourishing – it was really quite extraordinary.
And, if a flower bud appeared – well… He’d wait for it to open and then stare at the petals, with the look of a man responsible for giving the gift of life.
And, he did have a spiritual side – not in the Dalai Lama sense, in the Lemmy sense – which involved no meditation, deprivation, concentration, contemplation, searching for inner this or trying to control inner that – no chants or mantras (well – he did repeat “we’re not a heavy metal band” regularly but that was different) and, definitely no getting smacked in the nads by a monk holding a big bamboo stick – but it was around his plants you sensed it most.
One day, however, I realised that, at last, he’d gone too far – when he turned up with an old stick in a pot. Saving them just before death was one thing but after? Perhaps, all the “Lemmy is God” business had, finally gone to the poor dear’s head?
And, as the weeks went by, it became increasingly sad watching our “Supreme Being” doing all the things he usually did, while his dead stick did what dead sticks usually do – fuck all!
And, it also became harder not to bring up the fact that he was now completely delusional but, let’s pretend I managed to!
Which was all fine, until the day he excitedly dragged me down to see the stick and, there, half way up its lifeless stem, he pointed to what looked a bit like a tiny green sprout. As this was impossible, I chose to ignore it – however, when more and more green sprouts appeared, it started to look a bit like, maybe the former stick had never really been dead at all – merely resting.
Soon, it had grown some leaves and, a year-or-so later, Lemmy was the proud owner of a lovely rubber plant. Truly, it was a miraculous feat.
I’m sure it must have been hard for him not to go on about it but, let’s pretend he managed to!
PART TWO: Neighbours – everybody needs good neighbours
“If you moved in next door – your lawn would die!”
“I don’t need no blind belief, I don’t need no comic relief,
I don’t need to see no scars, don’t need Jesus Christ Superstar,
Don’t need Sunday television – You bet your life I don’t need religion”
What a thrill it must be – to discover that new people are moving in next door?
You stand at the window – peering, excitedly, through the net curtains – hoping to catch a glimpse of whomever it might be – all the while, thinking – perhaps it’s that nice retired couple who looked at it the other day? Or, what about the mime artist and his deaf mute girlfriend… just think of the peace and quiet – yes, they’d be perfect.
As one good possibility after another, criss-cross your mind – and you plan to rush out and greet them – suddenly – a car pulls up.
Moments pass – the excitement is becoming unbearable – then the door slowly begins to open…
And – out gets – Lemmy!
* * *
As you start to come round – and the shock finally begins to subside – your first thought would probably be – “Why couldn’t it have been a satanic death cult – or, a halfway house for sex offenders?”
“Anything – in fact- but this!”
* * *
As it happens, our next-door neighbour, at Chamberlayne Road, turned out to be man with bigger problems than Lemmy.
This guy worked for God – a humourless and demanding individual, whose biography can be found in the bedside table drawer of any hotel room – courtesy of the good people at Gideon (whoever, they might be).
Yes, our neighbour was a vicar… But, in spite of this, he was a lovely, exceptionally understanding bloke, whose faith, I’m sure, must have been severely tested by us on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, I can’t recall him complaining once – although, he might have been banging on the wall every night, for all we know. How could we be expected to hear anything above all the noise we were making?
Actually, it’s a problem worth thinking about – How do you alert the people next door to the fact that you’d like them to tone it down a notch or two? Especially, when one of those people stands in front of the loudest band in the world and shouts “TURN IT UP”, for a living.
I mean, it’s no good tapping on the wall – or banging on it – or storming round and jack-hammering on the front door, for that matter – because you have to accept, that, there may be a slight possibility that his hearing might not be quite as “pin-droppy” as it once was.
Yep – It’s a pickle, all right.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes…
So, one day, we found the poor man standing in his garden – looking very perplexed about something and… guess what…
(mandatory tension building pause – in the style of every television show, these days, where the making of some kind of decision is required)
…his lawn had died!
I mean, how great is that?
I mean, of course it’s not great. It’s a terrible tragedy – and, I feel simply dreadful for everyone concerned…
But, that said – not only had what, Lem, said would happen – actually happen… It happened, for good measure, in a garden that, technically, belonged to his arch rival – God!
I don’t think I ever saw Lemmy looking more proud.
(In the interest of responsible journalism, I am bound to point out that lawns do not, in fact, die – they, of course, go “dormant” – but, had Lemmy said that, then his famous quote would have jumped straight out of the pages of Kerrang… and, straight into the ones at Gardening World… which, in turn, would probably have resulted in his being asked to present the award for Best Petunia at the 1987 Giggleswick Flower Fayre… which, in turn, may have impacted, ever-so slightly, upon his “wild man rock ‘n’ roll dressed in black don’t give a fuck drug-sex machine” image… So, perhaps, it’s better that I don’t mention it, after all.)
Part 1 – The Great Beetroot Incident
“You think that life’s all dollars, won with greed and lust and spite
But I wasn’t born to follow…like to get my sleep at night.”
It’s not that Lemmy didn’t like mornings – it would be quite wrong for me to give you that impression – because, he fucking hated them!
The words early start, spelled out nothing but impending misery for him. And, being the generous, caring, guy he was – he insisted upon sharing that misery with everyone lucky enough to be around him.
But, to be fair, none of this was his fault.
Because, you see, if Lem had had his way – he’d never have gone to bed in the first place (not for sleeping purposes, anyway) – it was just something he didn’t care for, one bit. In fact, there was only one bed-related activity he disliked more than getting in to it… getting out of it, again!
* * *
But, back to those early starts…
Arguably, the most disastrous, was the one that ruined his birth. Induced from the womb he seemed to have no wish to leave – the thrill of his 8 am arrival was soon tempered by the realization that someone hadn’t done their sums right and he’d been dragged into the world 5 weeks premature – making survival a bit touch and go.
Then, there was that unpleasant Hotpoint episode.
Here he was, a 15 year-old boy – recently informed by his school that his services as a boy would no longer be required. So what do his family do?
They drag him out of bed, at some ungodly hour – point him towards the nearest factory – and sign him up for an assembly line, where he could wile away his shift twisting the thingummybob then tapping it through the whatchamacallit, several thousand times a day. I mean – had his parents actually met him? Why would they send him to do something that put him about as far away from his dream as it was possible to be.
Sure… without him, the spinny thing wouldn’t spin – so the washy bit wouldn’t wash – but, who wants to get up at the same time as an anteater, for the privilege of making that happen?
Fortunately for Lem, it wasn’t long before fate came to his rescue – in the shape of a keen-eyed management talent spotter – who spotted immediately there was a problem with Lemmy’s talent.
It’s not that he couldn’t do it – of course he could. He could have been the best darn thingummybob twister north of the Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog if he’d wanted to – it’s just he didn’t. But, just because they were right – how dare anyone question his commitment to the washer dryer industry.
So, with his head held high… and his hair held firm – courtesy of the hairnet he’d been forced to wear when he refused to get a haircut – he walked out of the household appliance business, forever.
Luckily, it hadn’t all been in vain. He had learnt two very important life-lessons, which he would carry with him, always. Firstly, that any job which involved rules, regulations, a dress code or time keeping – was not the job for him. And, secondly – whatever job he did finally end up doing – no way would he be getting up at the crack of fucking dawn to do it.
* * *
It was the following year – after seeing The Beatles at the Cavern Club for the first time – that everything fell into place in Lem’s mind – and Hotpoint’s loss became entertainment’s gain.
But it wasn’t just John Lennon’s tight trousers that persuaded him to take the musical plunge – there was another important factor in the decision – his discovery that, in general, aspiring young rock ‘n’ rollers had no use for anything that occurred before lunch.
And, as if that wasn’t enough – coincidentally, he had recently noticed that his appetite had mysteriously disappeared – meaning lunch was now obsolete – meaning he could not find a single earthly reason for beginning his day any time before mid-afternoon at the earliest.
And, so – from then on… it didn’t.
* * *
It was an arrangement that, unquestionably, worked in everybody’s best interests, because – and this might surprise you – first-thing Lemmy, was not exactly the non-stop giggle machine you might have imagined him to be.
In fact, his initial reaction to being woken up was probably not too far off that of Attila the Hun. A tyrannical leader, who greeted each day by bringing misery and damnation upon the heads of everyone who stood in his way… Attila could also be a bit of a grump, by all accounts.
Which made it all the more important that, once awoken, he remained in the horizontal position for as long as possible – because if he walked out of his room with a bad mood still attached – then it was just a case of cross your fingers and pray that he didn’t spot you.
It always took me back to my childhood in Kenya – where you’re taught that if you happen across an elephant in the wild – it’s vital to position yourself downwind of it and then remain still and quiet. The alternative will land you in a world of pain.
Sadly, my expertise on the Masai Mara didn’t translate to the stairs and hallways of NW10. And, as a result, I often found myself, either, on – or not far from – the sharp end of some bullshit or other.
The strange thing about that, was – it rarely involved any of the sex and drugs and ‘well-that’s-never-going-to-get-through-there-Oh-my-mistake’ hoopla, that one normally associates with a Lemmy anecdote.
Take one major incident, for example, that was sparked off by – a root vegetable!
The Great Beetroot Incident – Part 2
“You’re playing tricks babe, and that’s a fact
You’re magic circle, ain’t where it’s at
One moment you were there… and then you disappeared
This ain’t the first time… I’ve caught your act.”
As a rule, the kitchen wasn’t the first place you’d expect to come across Lemmy – and yet, here he was – staring into the fridge.Being our first communication of the day – I decided to keep it simple…
He went another way…
“What the fuck is that?”
A quiz! I love quizzes. And, even though I was on the other side of the room and therefore unable to see what he was pointing at – my excitement was undampened.
“What the fuck is what?” I enquired – hoping to trick him into giving me a clue.
“That!” – it had failed.
“Stop fucking about. What is it?”
His inability to give helpful clues was spoiling the game a bit – so this seemed like the perfect time to introduce a modicum of sense…
“I don’t fucking know, you tell me – You’re looking at it. Is it cheese, maybe?”
I felt these words were just what was needed to steady the ship – and restore calm.
“Cheese? Cheese? Does it look like fucking cheese?”
OK, I was wrong about the calm thing.
“Look, Lem, I can’t see anything from over here – guessing is all I have.” To highlight the point, I jumped straight in with another one…
“Is it a swan? I bet it’s a swan.”
I knew it wasn’t – Kensal Rise was notoriously light in the swan department but I had made a joke. You wait – now he’d make one – we’d laugh – everything would be great – that would be the end of it. I can read Lemmy like a…
“Just fucking come here and fucking look… NOW!”
* * *
At this point – it may help to explain something.
A couple of days previously, I had been doing my weekly supermarket shop – Jack Daniel’s, bread and toilet paper – when I spotted something I had not had in years… pre-cooked, sweet beetroot.
I was struck by an instant craving and bought a couple of packs – which I rushed home to eat. But, the moment I cut open the vacuum packaging – I was hit with a flashback that reminded me why I’d been beetroot-free for so long.
I’d completely forgotten how – the minute this delicious little vegetable makes contact with the air – you, your clothes, your walls, your curtains, your goldfish – in fact, every-fucking-thing, every-fucking-where – is, immediately, covered from top to toe in this purple shit… which – to this day – no one has ever found a way to remove.
So, I just threw it all in the fridge and forgot about it.
* * *
How do I describe Lemmy and vegetables?
I had a Grandma who – if she met someone and found out their dream was to strap themselves to another human being, step out of a perfectly good plane, and freefall the couple of miles back to earth – would shrug and say, “In which case we have nothing left to say to each other – Goodbye.”
Lem didn’t go quite that far – but not far off. He hated vegetables with an passion. Hated their taste – their look – their feel – I mean, they all had different shapes and colours – what were they trying to hide, for heaven’s sake? There was only one exception – the one responsible for fries and crisps – but anything not potato-based… forget it. So, anyone trying to convince him of their benefits and to add some to his diet – was met with short but educated, thrift. It usually began with, “Hitler was a vegetarian” – followed by a more zoological argument, containing the construction of various digestive systems through nature.
Bottom line, even if his life depended on it – the man wasn’t about to put broccoli in his mouth.
* * *
I walked over to the fridge…
“Oh! That’s beetroot.”
“Beetroot. It’s a…”
“I don’t give a fuck. Nobody eats that shit.”
Sure, I could have argued – said it tasted good – said I liked it – I could even have brought up its exceptional nutritional benefits, to the blood, liver and bowels – if Wikipedia had been invented back then so I could have looked it up – but I hadn’t. I chose, instead, to go with…
“The Amish do.”
I knew, immediately, I’d made a mistake. Had I learnt nothing? This was neither the time, nor place, for humour.
Not to mention that – much like mornings, lunch, queuing, running and breast reductions – Lemmy, also, didn’t see the point in the Amish… So, this just made it worse.
“Fuck off, Simon! Just get rid of it. Now!”
If I hadn’t already realised this was no ordinary bad mood – I knew now.
* * *
Something that isn’t known about Lem was that the thought of throwing away perfectly good food, really bothered him. It was a mentality inherited from his Mother and the post-war rationing era in which he grew up. Food had been scarce, so they used everything and threw away nothing.
Once in Sainsbury’s (yeah, we shopped together… shared a basket too. Wanna make something of it?!!), seeing a trolley, piled sky high – the thought of how much would end up in the bin, genuinely upset him.
In fact, when he was about to go on tour, he would check his fridge and, if there was anything edible, would make sure someone took it.
* * *
So, I started to explain how I wasn’t going to throw out my beetroot…
“Right!” he interrupted – grabbed the packs, marched up the corridor, threw open the front door, hurled them into the busy road, slammed it shut and stormed back into the sitting room. At last, it was over.
I walked back to the kitchen, sure of only one thing – this was definitely not over.
How did I know? Because, there had been no last word – and unless he delivered one, Lemmy, was like an extra in Scanners – he felt like his head was about to explode. He needed that last word and he needed it now.
Suddenly the house began to shake. You could hear his footsteps marching my way. He had it.
He stopped in the doorway…
“And, if you’re Amish now, don’t wear the hat – it’ll make you look more fucking ridiculous than you already do!”
He turned – tried to hide his smile – and walked away.
* * *
So, the Great Beetroot Incident was over – and, so, more importantly, was his bad mood.
And the only casualties had been the beetroot, a newly purple road surface, a few cars with purple splattered sides and my confidence regarding the wearing of Amish hats.
Oh, and my relationship with beetroot. We haven’t seen each other since.
“Planes, Planes and Aero-mobiles” – Part 1
“When I was young I was the nicest guy I knew
I thought I was the chosen one
But time went by and I found out a thing or two
My shine wore off as time wore on”
We may have only been living there for a couple of days but, the war against natural light was already in full swing, at Chamberlayne Road, back in 1984.
From the moment we arrived, Lemmy was busy attending to his long-standing feud with daylight. The ill feeling between the two was no secret and the fact that, over the past couple of years on the boat, daylight definitely held the upper hand, only fuelled Lem’s determination to reverse things – now the game was being played back on dry land, once again.
Having closed all the curtains and pulled down the blinds, he went round pinpointing every weak spot in the defences. Wherever the sun could be found forcing its way through a crack was immediately shored up using whatever material came to hand. It wasn’t pretty but sacrificing outside appearance, was a small price to pay for inside darkness. Control had been wrestled back to where it belonged and was now in the hands of a light bulb – although, he’d been round making sure there were precious few of those, as well.
To give you an idea of what it was like – movement from A to B was no longer a visual matter but one of instinct. And, as it turns out, you only need to smack face-first into the wall – or snag your nuts on the a table edge – two or three times, before that begins to sharpen up quite nicely.
* * *
‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’, they call it – a, kind of, one-stop-shop for depression under whose banner experts seem to have been able to lump together almost every symptom attached to feeling miserable. And, what do they say is the reason for all this? Well, apparently, living in a state of permanent darkness doesn’t help much.
And how did they find this out? Well, it took years of chucking a bunch of rats into a box – slamming the lid shut – fucking off to the Bahamas for a couple of weeks to think about stuff – and getting back to find a load of really sad-looking rodents – but, eventually, a group of heavily-tanned behavioural scientists were able to conclude that – if that’s what it does to a rat (a species that allows mothers to get off scot-free when they suddenly decide to eat their own kids) then, presumably, that’s what it would do to a human, too.
Why they didn’t just pop round to ours and ask how we were getting on, living by the light that came off the telly and a couple of Wurzel’s lava lamps, nobody knows. But we took to life in the dark, the same as male MPs, back then, took to hanging around in wardrobes – naked, penis in hand, orange in mouth and bag over head… We, simply, couldn’t have been happier.
Lemmy, even found the gloom to be quite inspirational.
One night (it may have been day – how could we know?), he was struck by a sudden brainwave: he would take up a hobby. And, given that we lived in conditions that fast-approached zero-visibility – what better than the fine, but fiddly, art of… model plane making?
* * *
Having made his decision, he wasted no time in acting upon it.
Rushing down to Hamley’s AIRFIX department – he queued up with all the other 10 year-olds and picked out his first project. What that was, I’m ashamed to tell you, I can’t remember.
What I can recall, though, is how seriously he took it all.
Plans were laid out and closely studied and – for what may well have been the first time in his life – he did exactly what he was told.
Lemmy had several hard and fast rules – but the hardest, and fastest of them – was to ignore, or do the opposite of, whatever form of instruction anyone had been foolish enough to give him. This, perhaps, may go some way to explaining the somewhat strained relationship he enjoyed with the police, judges, magistrates, teachers, record labels, Dave Brock and dominatrixes (although the latter probably got the most latitude, purely on clothing grounds. Had the police donned vinyl spanking corset dresses and 8” heel PVC crotch boots – I’m sure he’d have handed himself in on a regular basis… but, they didn’t – so, he didn’t – so, they’ve really no one to blame but themselves).
With AIRFIX, however, there was no question who wore the pants – vinyl or otherwise.
* * *
It’s interesting that model making seems to require a few basic qualities – patience, precision, focus – and a bunch of other things that, unless he had a bass dangled in front him, Lem didn’t possess. He never made it public, but Lemmy suffered from acute ADOLIS (Attention Deficit …Ooo Look It’s Shiny) – which makes concentrating on anything that lasts longer than a sneeze, a bit of a problem.
But, of all the pre-requisites for any glue-based pastime, one would think that a pair of rock-steady hands can’t be far off the most important. Sadly, having only been to bed twice since 1967 – Lem’s nervous system had plenty to say on this matter – often causing random limbs to move involuntarily whenever it fancied. Bless his heart, though – he was never going to allow a couple of ungrateful body parts to stand in his way. He simply worked around them.
And this, generally speaking, turned out fine… although…
“Planes, Planes and Aero-mobiles” – Part 2
“No night fighter, gonna stop us getting through
Sirens make you shiver, you bet my aim is true
You know we aim to please, bring you to your knees
It’s a Bomber – It’s a Bomber – It’s a Bomber.”
Van Gogh’s were bold – Jackson Pollock’s splattered. Rembrandt’s were coarse – Manet’s loose – and Lemmy’s? Well, Lem’s brushwork style was hard to define, although it had a jabby quality to it – perhaps, even a bit stabby. Technically speaking, his approach owed less to the St. Trinian’s work of Ronald Searle than to the Jack “the hat” McVitie work of Ronald Kray.
Luckily for him, the modelling world – unlike the organized crime one– looks after their own and caters for every painting eventuality. From the surrealist, to the impressionist, to the cubist, to the bassist, everyone is accounted for, with detailed instructions on how to carry out the complex programme of dry-brushing, washing, texturing and camouflaging. And as long as you followed their directions to the word, you’d be fine.
Which with our dear friend the artist could have posed a problem – but, somehow, in the face of such obvious goading, Lemmy managed to suppress his natural urge to know better and just did as he was told…and it paid off nicely.
Despite, at the wet paint stage, being what an art critic might describe as, “not looking much like the picture on the box” – by the time they were dry, his planes looked great.
And, then came the difficult bit – their sodding drivers.
* * *
Aesthetics-wise, Lem was a stickler for authenticity. Colours and insignia had to be perfect. But, when it came to the pilot, that was a different matter.
To begin with, the models of the brave ‘few’ – or, the equally brave ‘rather more’ – turned out to be tiny specks of plastic humanity in your hand. Just picking them up was a victory – although the makers, seemingly ignoring this fact, had provided a box-picture of said-pilot on which you could even see the time on their watch. Talk about insanity! If the steady-handed Picasso couldn’t be arsed to paint the other side of a face on which to house his subject’s second eye, no way was the not-so-steady-handed Lemmolo going to worry about polka dotting that ridiculous fucking cravat fighter aces insisted on wearing! Instead, Lemmy devised his own process: the dunk in paint – pull out – wiggle off excess – chuck into cockpit – and forget forever method. Pretty? No. Effective? You bet.
Sure, if Michelangelo had gone down a similar route with the Sistine Chapel, it might have been a trifle less impressive – but, think of the extra years of drinking wine, Hailing Mary, praying for whatever it is they pray for and passing round solid gold plates to mop up any money they hadn’t already got?! All lost, due to someone’s insistence that 400 odd dicks, several vaginas and who knows how many pairs of knockers makes for ideal viewing when looking up in church(where were we? Ah yes, Lemmy and models – plastic ones from a box with glue involved)…
Mind you, Lem did take a tip from Mikkey A (no relation to our Swedish drumming friend!). He took such a shine to the showy-offy ceiling idea, that he decided to suspend his own work from our humble overhead floor – in the manner of a full-on dogfight.
Representing the home team, we had the Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster, a Wellington and a bunch of others. And, for the away team, who flew in all the way from mainland Europe for the match, there was a Heinkel, Foche Wulf, Stuka, a Messerschmitt, or two and, whatever else Air Marshal Lem-odel (that’s almost clever), had glued together for the event.
And certainly, if you were nice and relaxed on our couch with your head tilting back, the sight of the Battle of Britain taking place overhead was an impressive one.
However, let’s imagine that, for who knows what reason, you’d missed a couple of beddy-byeses – and found yourself in the somewhat heightened state of jumpy-ness that tends to accompany that sort of thing. Then, you’d get up from the sofa, feel something brush against your ear – which makes you spin quickly around – bringing you face-to-face with the bomber, in whose direct flight path you’re standing – which causes you to hurl yourself to the ground in a state of fear – presumably, with the idea of crawling to the nearest air raid shelter. That can happen, you know? Not to me, mind…
…I remember when…err… when… Oh… when Wurzel… yes, Wurzel, (sorry, baby, but wherever you are, I know you understand) did something similar. Thank God, nothing humiliating like that ever happened to me – only to Wurz, as I said.
* * *
It’s well known that modelling doesn’t last forever. Even top modellers have to call it a day, sooner or later – and, Lemmy was no exception. But the situation came to a head when – out of the blue – his 40th birthday arrived.
I’d love to be able to tell you he wasn’t the least bit surprised – but I’d be lying. Despite having had a birthday every year since he was born – this one was completely unexpected.
Don’t get me wrong… Lem never saw the appeal in dying young. But, given the way he’d gone about it – living long was just something he took for granted wouldn’t be happening.
So, to suddenly find himself at a point where – if anything happened – people would say that he lived fast and died middle aged – well, how was he supposed to deal with that? He needed to come up with a way of avoiding this embarrassment – and all he could think of… was surviving until old age.
Despite the fact he wasn’t one for making a plan – now that he had, he saw it was time for a radical change in his lifestyle. And, after stepping back to survey his demons – it was clear which one posed the greatest threat to his longevity… He never made another model plane again.
* * *
There’s a little post script to that story.
Many years later, as he glided through his fifties with all the grace of an angry hippo on ice skates – Lemmy discovered the Kinder Surprise Egg. An undeniable festival of chocolaty goodness, it soon became clear that the inclusion of half a dozen of them to his rider was nothing to do with their taste, but the construction element of the, slightly-spoils-it-when-you-include-the-word-surprise-in-the-name-don’tcha-think – surprise.
Watching the joy on his face as he picked up the wheel and clipped it onto the body, creating a wheelbarrow, was rather lovely. A bit like that look of pride as he gazed up at his handiwork, all those years earlier.
And, through those eggs – as well as the siren that went off at gigs to let him know The Bomber was on its way down to smack him on the head – I, too, got to re-live those dimly lit years, when we somehow survived the Chamberlayne Road blitz.