He rented a bungalow near Watford for next to nothing because it was run down and the landlady liked him. There was a collapsible brown sofa in the living room. It was frayed at the edges and bald on the seats. When I stayed the night he put an old army rug on the sofa and I lay wrapped in the blue caul of a thin sleeping bag looking out of a big expanse of window into trees that were lit either by moonlight or the single Narnian lamp that stood sentry in the garden, where the landlady’s chickens were. At new year we watched Old Grey Whistle Test with whispering Bob Harris, drank Hirondelle and smoked whatever there was to smoke. He cooked steak and kidney stew by boiling it up in water with a bayleaf and adding Bisto gravy powder when the meat had softened. We had it with mash and tinned marrowfat peas. The bright green liquid from the peas bled into the potato and merged with the brown Bisto sauce. A bit of white pepper, he said. I like a bit of pepper with stew. It was delicious. Afterwards we had tea with milk that was made up from dried milk powder. Saves faffing about and it’s cheaper, he said.
He had two cats – one called Monty and the other called Nancy Boy. Monty only had three legs and Nancy Boy had no tail. He couldn’t remember where they had come from, they were just there when he rented the house. He was kind to them in a rough sort of way, made sure they were fed and called to them when they came in from outside: hey Monty, Nancy Boy – how you doing, lads – alright?
There was a girl he was seeing on and off. I never met her but one day I saw her stockings hanging up to dry on the bathroom rail. Sex, he said, was very good for you, but having a screw was no big deal and people made too much of a song and a dance about it. When he turned cool on her she rang him up crying and threatening to kill herself. So I went round with a bottle of aspirin, he said. She went berserk. I asked what he would have done if she’d killed herself. Nah, he said. The ones that wanna do it just go ahead and get on with it.