When I look back, I sometimes think that the years I spent as a very young man, in that dismal little flat in the company of Withnail, were amongst the best of my life.
I'm very conscious that my memories are rose-tinted; that I am remembering youth itself as much as the actuality of events. In many ways, of course, they were terrible times.
A period even now half-obscured by a fug of alcohol, cigarettes and the heavy, choking smoke of Danny's ubiquitous joints. There was never enough to eat; sometimes there was nothing at all.
We seemed to be permanently cold; we were forever assuaged by creeping damp, creeping mould, and creeping rats; and the constant fear of eviction hung over us even more tangibly than the smoke.
If I take the time to analyse it in those terms, the romance of the period soon drains away, like the oily, black water in our terrifying sink. There are other memories, though.
Long walks in the park, Withnail regaling the pigeons with scenes from his hollowly privileged youth; bizarre adventures when half drunk,
stumbling together down wrong turnings into Camden's weirder backstreets; or tumbling in gales of laughter over garden fences, chased by irate publicans, ferocious constables,
or the occasional broom-wielding housewife, expertly insulted by a grandiloquent Withnail.
The quiet, peculiar joy of sprawling together in the flat of an evening, listening to ancient, hefty discs on the gigantic gramophone that we had unearthed in some monstrous cupboard.
Withnail would direct me to wind the thing, whilst he lay on the hideous old sofa, wrapped in an ancient silk bed-coat, and all the blankets he could wrangle,
waxing lyrical on his many philosophies, as long-dead singers wailed through seas of pops and crackles. Lean times then, but not without allure.
Ultimately I had had to get away, but for all that I had yearned for cleaner air and a clearer head, I can hardly deny that a certain regret forever hangs over my choice to leave.
Had I stayed, I fear that my life would soon have ended in a sordid scene in some vile little bedsit, with Danny's latest offering by my side. And yet, for all that, I still wonder.
How could I not?
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