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diskant rewind: Honey Is Funny #7

Posted: August 8th, 2008, by Chris Summerlin

(Originally posted February 2003)

Honey Is Funny by Chris Summerlin

Sorry there was no christmas column, I moved house and was left without home internet access for a month or so and my work situation is a little, erm…fragile so I had to give it a miss.

I’d love to say that the month absence means I have extra fine subject material this month but sadly it doesn’t. I’ve been racking my brains with what to write about and have drawn a blank.

So, I’m going to tell you about The Beech.

Like I said, I moved house in December. Its been a while since I’ve had to move anywhere so I’d forgotten exactly how much money you get screwed for if you rent through a letting agent and also how badly you get treated. I’d also overlooked how much crap we’d accumulated in the old house over the two years we lived there. “We” means a variety of people actually…

The house was originally taken on by myself and Matt (who does Gringo Records), Tom (from Hirameka HiFi) and Neil (who I play in Wolves! (of Greece) with). Over the two years we’ve had people living with us for a month at a time or so and then more recently my girlfriend Claire moved in and then when Tom moved out her sister Amelia took his room.

When we all made the decision to move to Nottingham (Neil already lived there but in a 2 bed flat) we wanted a big place so we could have plenty of room (4 people can get a bit overcrowded) and so when bands stayed it was comfortable. We looked at tons of places, all of them pretty grotty or in a shit area.

By luck we found this old place in an area of Nottingham called Forest Fields. It’s pretty rough in terms of crime but at the same time it’s nowhere near as bad as The Meadows, St Anns or Sneinton. It was on Beech Avenue and therefore became known as The Beech. The house was huge and in a bit of a state (i.e. huge wasp nest above bathroom) but the landlord seemed quite relaxed so we took it on and ended up living there for 2 years.

Towards the end it was a bit of a nightmare as each of us got more settled into the timetable of our jobs and found that even though the house was huge it was impossible to get any quiet time and quite often the house was noisy for about 20 hours a day because people worked evenings and other people worked early mornings.

We started having landlord problems a few months in. The benefit of the old landlord was that he was never about. He didn’t live locally and so he never bothered us. We were free to do what we wanted to the house and he was cool about rent being late etc. However, if something broke we were fucked. The peak of this occurred one morning when I was washing my face in the bathroom on the way to running out of the door to work. I heard a strange creaking noise from the roof just as I walked out onto the landing. I got about 2 steps out of the room and the ceiling collapsed behind me, just missing me. The entire back of my person was white with dust.

We stepped over that pile of rubble every day for about a month.

The landlord’s phone was never on and so the messages went from “Hi, the ceiling has fallen in, this is urgent can you send someone to fix it?” to “Hi. I’m standing on the ceiling. How is this possible? BECAUSE THE CEILING IS ON THE FLOOR”.

It was when we finally got hold of the landlord that we realised what we were dealing with. His reason for being so unobtainable was that he had had both his legs broken in a “freak mugging incident”. How many people do you know that have had anything broken in a mugging? It became pretty obvious that our landlord was up to his neck in shit with someone.

It became even more apparent when Neil woke up one morning to the sound of hammering. He opened the front door to find a For Sale sign being erected in the garden. Being the good citizen he is, he pointed out the person’s mistake and suggested they might want to put the sign in the correct garden.

It WAS in the correct garden. The bastard landlord was selling the house with us in it. And because we hadn’t re-signed our year contract we stood to be kicked out. Luckily (kind of) it was bought with us as tenants. But that was really the beginning of the end for us living in The Beech. The rent now went to a letting agency who seemed to have handpicked the biggest arseholes in existence to staff the front desks. What followed was a series of misunderstandings, debt collectors and being treated like a scumbag every time you went in to pay the rent.

And the house, despite our hard work was falling apart. A large brown stain was growing on the dining room ceiling which we traced to a busted outlet pipe on the toilet. Damn right. It was actual poo. The carpet in the bathroom disintegrated leaving us with a mouldy wooden floor underneath. The kitchen – never the most appealing room – was impossible to keep clean. With no extractor fan a thin film of grease just settled everywhere.

So it’s fair to say no one really shed a tear when we left. Neil and Matt moved to Sneinton and me, Claire and her sister moved round the corner.

I went back to collect some mail the other day and found the new owner of the house was a man we refer to as “Corkhill” because of his likeness to the soap character Jimmy Corkhill. Our first encounter with Corkhill (a builder) came when he started renovating a huge house which was directly opposite the Beech. It was a pretty noisy road to live on anyway but I got woken up one night by banging and shouting from outside. I crept downstairs to find Neil in his pants, cowering at the window edge looking out. This guy (Corkhill) was screaming at a taxi and then noisily let himself into the house opposite. He then turned all the lights on and began storming around throwing bits of wood and tools as he went.

We were fucking shitting ourselves.

We were both crouched down in Neil’s room, in just our pants, looking over the window ledge in the dark to see what he was doing. We’d occasionally lose sight of where he was in the many windows of the house only to freak out and begin whimpering and diving for cover when we noticed he’d somehow got himself up to the top window and had been staring back at us for the last 5 minutes. The best bit was when he got a circular electric saw and began roaming the empty house with it on. Bear in mind this was about 2am. So we grassed him to the owners of the house and he was very vocally sacked the next day. Turns out he’d done loads of speed to try and stay awake and catch up on the building work in the house.

It was when he opened the door that I started to feel differently about the house. He was quite friendly and showed me what he was doing to the place. Essentially he was ripping it apart. They were completely gutting The Beech to turn it into a student place with many more rooms. Another guy was there and without knowing I lived there he began referring to the previous tenants as “animals” and saying what a shit hole it was.

This got me angry because despite the faults of the house and the frequent disagreements between us it wasn’t so bad. Especially when we had bands staying over. Neil’s places over the years have become band hotels for touring bands passing through Nottingham and the size of the new place meant the number increased.

Looking back on the house now my best memories seem to involve times when we had people staying over. So here’s the name dropping, though none of it’s very glamourous.

I’ve already mentioned in this column the weirdness of watching world cup football with Damo Suzuki from Can. Equally weird was taking goth rockers Pleasure Forever to buy pants and socks at C&A.

I’ve trodden on a lot of people too. I once landed on the head of Tim Green of the Champs as he slept on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. I think he was somewhat freaked by the Ulysses posters in most of the downstairs rooms. I also caused myself a mischief tripping over the drummer from Pleasure Forever who had snuck up to the top floor and was sleeping outside my bedroom door. Whats more worrying was that he might have heard me having sex. Doubt it though, not much window of opportunity there.

The Bellrays stayed for 2 days and brought a wave of bad luck that beats the curse of The Lapse. First of all some scumbag burglars (who had been lying in wait in the garden in the dark watching everyone in the house for ages) smashed the window and stole Claire’s wallet off the table. Then the singer broke our toilet. It was on it’s way out to be fair. And they thanked us vocally in an MC5 style onstage so no-one minded. Especially as the wife of the drummer from Arcwelder did the same thing when they stayed.

Talking of burglars (and there were lots of them), just after we moved in I heard Neil freaking out downstairs and I ran down to find him hiding in our kitchen staring into the garden at the outside toilet where there was a man hiding. He seemed to be looking at next door. We thought nothing of it. Or purposefully chose to not think about it at any rate. Not long after we were looking after Neil’s parents’ dogs and the back door was open so they could run around. It was about midnight or so and as Neil walked through the kitchen to the back door he found large man dressed in black (think Candyman here) standing at the open back door. His natural reaction was “ARGH. SORRY” and slammed the door on him. We were properly burgled just before we moved out and when Matt, Tom and Neil were in Europe. The back door looked like it had been shot with a sawn off. They didn’t take much apart from money but we had to pile filing cabinets against the back door for security as we were robbed on the weekend and no one was coming to get us a new door until the letting agency opened up on the Monday. There were many other weird goings on. A few times I heard people try the front door as I sat and watched TV in the living room. Assuming it’s someone who lives there you just leave it and then no one actually comes in and you realise it’s some chancer trying the door to see if we’d left it open.

And don’t get me started on angry bat wielding mobs bashing car wing-mirrors off, next door neighbours who buy a puppy and then leave it barking in a top floor flat for a weekend (the same top floor flat the previous tenant ran a pirate radio station from at a volume that meant transmitting equipment was largely unneeded) or the aforementioned nutbar builder with a circular saw.

Sometimes the two things clash like Enon getting into a hot dispute with a random loony in the literally 5 step walk to their van from our front door. Talking of Enon, we have made some good friends out of all this unpaid band hospitality. When Neil went to New York the Enon people repaid the favour and seeings that they can’t seem to get enough of the UK I see them more than I see my own parents. They rule. The first time they came over they had a guy playing guitar who brought with him a set up of DATs, Minidiscs, samplers and a turntable all packed into a suitcase. He stayed up all night sampling records that were laying around downstairs and I got the pleasure of seeing them 2 days later and hearing samples of Saxon done at The Beech get worked into their set.

Owls were another band to have their creative juices stirred. While I bunked work to take Tim and Joan to the castle and museum, Ryan and Victor stayed back at the house and used our shitty gear to write songs for their new album. Expect themes of burglary and ceilings dripping with human faeces.

In fact I seemed to bunk work a lot. Or get sent home. I remember really forcing myself into work the day after Wolves played with Melt Banana and Enon and they all stayed over. I was sent home after about an hour for looking like shit and practically skipped home to a pancake breakfast handed to me as I walked through the door by Toko from Enon and some strained but funny as fuck conversation/charades with the Melt Banana people. I did better than Steve our drummer who got to work, closed the door to the section he works in and promptly assumed foetal position where he slept blissfully until being found and ordered home.

I did it again when we did a Touch And Go night and Arcwelder, Pete (Flour) and Todd Trainer (Brick Layer Cake). The show was good and we all got hammered in celebration (even Anton from Night With No Name leading to a confusing 1/2 hour as we desperately tried to count the money with Preston Long looking over our shoulders) and they all turned out to be a great bunch. I got to work the next day and thought “Fuck this! Todd Trainer’s back at my fucking house!” so I promptly faked a vomit (which later nearly cost me my job – see previous columns) and went home to chill out and enjoy the company.

The only time I actually chundered in the office was after the Dirtbombs played. They were quite restrained but the gig was so good I opted for the big night and then ralphed all over the office.

The people at work are starting to understand me a bit more since Meg White from the White Stripes crashed over with her fella from Soledad Bros. Its the closest we’ve come to housing a genuine celeb and so they think it’s all a bit more exciting now.

Better than all the bands that have stayed have been the people driving – specifically Mr Paul Drake and Mr Jocham. Paul Drake is a prince which makes the recent theft of his IMac in Europe even harsher. Go to www.threeoneg.com to give the man some bucks to buy a new one. Ditto for Jocham. If a band is being driven by either of these two then it’ll be great.

Thats not to say it’s been all joy. A leading space rock act from the USA were weird fellas. When Neil asked their names they replied that he didn’t need to know. Fair enough.

After we played with Song Of Zarathustra I accidentally smashed Claire’s teeth out at a nightclub by walking into her while she drank a bottle of booze. We went home but SOZ (and Neil) didn’t get in till much later where they ripped out 2 hours of piano based Chas n Dave hilarity causing Matt and Tom to stand on the stairs yelling down “SHUT THE FUCK UP” and ended with me going down and asking them to be quiet like I was my own Dad. WOO HOO!

Some bands have also brought some weird people back with them. There were some mental Spanish girls hanging round one pair of bands that played and they ended up coming back and just sitting in the corner of the room staring at everyone. By the time everyone woke up they had left and then next night on the band’s tour they were there again. It was like an exceptionally slow pair of very passive and polite groupies.

One US band brought back a girl from hell to the house who had spent the whole night slagging Nottingham for being backward before asking to stay over. I later saw the same girl at a gig in London at a venue that holds about 50 people. There were about 150 in there causing my bud Paul to keep being pushed into the back of her. This led to an embarrassing stand off where she scolded him for being lecherous despite him having no control over what was happening and actually apologising every time he bumped her. I have thus concluded she believes she is living in Olympia circa 1993 and even though she missed out on the days of men being men at gigs she’s going to actively seek the opportunity to get up on her high horse whenever it arises. Not sure how acting like a spaz fits in. She also asked if she could have a poster from our kitchen and Tom deadpanned “the only way you’ll get that is to prise it from my cold, dead fingers”. Ho ho.

But overall, living in that house was not bad.

I’m pleased I’m out of it, I get to go home and have peace and quiet. When I go to bed I don’t wake up until 5 minutes after I’m supposed to be at work. Y’know – it’s how it SHOULD be. But it wasn’t that bad.

Anyway, next month’s column should be much more action packed now the enormous burden of the Reynolds second album has finally been lifted. Or at least shifted onto Adrian Errol’s shoulders. Out Valentine’s Day, there’s my plug over and done.

I played my first ever solo gig on Nov 29 and my second one on Jan 7th. It was really good fun. I play under the name Last Of The Real Hard Men so come and say hi.

Been listening to:
Amelie Soundtrack
Captain Beefheart – Safe As Milk
Dead Wrong – 7″
Warhorse – I Am Dying
John Fahey – The Yellow Princess
Jeff Buckley – Grace (my girlfriends sisters but it’s growing on me)
Slayer – Reign In Blood
Hot Snakes – Suicide Invoice
Quixotic – Mortal Mirror
Led Zeppelin – IV
The For Carnation – Marshmallows
Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline
Bonnie Prince Billy – Master and Everyone



Chris Summerlin

Chris lives for the rock and can often be seen stumbling drunkenly on (and off) stages far and wide. Other hobbies include wearing jumpers, arsing about with Photoshop and trying to beat the world record for the number of offensive comments made in any 24 hour period. He has been married twice but his heart really belongs to his guitars. All 436 of them.

http://www.honeyisfunny.com

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