Paddy's Twelfth KBC article
Gateway to the Firmament

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[Here is Paddy's twelfth article for the Newsletter. It appeared in the nineteenth issue (Christmas 1985).]

Gateway to the Firmament

Some months ago I had cause to look for something up in the attic. If only I had known then what I know now. At most times a journey to the upper reaches of Bush Towers is a daunting prospect, and when you've got to find something that was put away eight years ago, the thought makes you feel quite queasy. Climbing up the rope ladder rung by rung, I tried to picture the scene above me.

It's been so long since I've been up here. I'm sure I left it pretty well organised last time. Still, there have been a couple of incidents since then. Climbing a rope ladder is a pretty slow business, and when you get to about ninety feet, the bottom end snakes around on the floor, and you climb at a very odd angle. The incident I mentioned? Well, some of the album stuff in the attic has been added to the tour stuff in the attic, and I'm sure that will make finding things a lot more difficult. Oh, and the other thing was my reproduction water organ, the Hydraulis. Do you remember I told you about it in the last but one issue? Well, when it came to testing it, one or two miscalculations led to an unusual first demonstration inasmuch as most of it exploded, with some the pipes lifting off like Titan missiles. It was a wonderful sound, like Ivor the Engine hitting Paddington station at 250 miles an hour--quite a surprise and fantastically dangerous.

Sure enough, when the trap door is open that is the first thing I can see: scores of organ pipes rammed up through the floor and looking like stalagmites. One or two have gone through the roof and are poking out into the night sky. I can see stars through one, like a telescope, and I can hear a strange noise as the wind outside blows gently through. Next to the trapdoor is a chest marked "Army Dreamers"--my helmet from the video comes out and goes straight onto my head. A place like this can be very dodgy. Roofs and attics of English houses are renowned for their wildlife, like bats, storks, owls, as well as all those pigeons from The Dreaming, and with all these loose tiles who can tell what might have got in?

It's important to walk only on the rafters in the attic, as there is no proper floor in places and there is only a thin bit of plaster between me and Bush Towers, which now seems like miles below me. The wooden beams and roof timbers make it feel a bit like a ship, almost like being up in the masts. With only the light from a torch it's hard to see anything in this Aladdin's cave of memories.

Speaking of which, an incident comes to mind concerning this helmet and plastic gun which are my integral attic attire. We were going to Holland to do Army Dreamers and we were taking our costumes and props with us. Everybody just packed their uniforms and helmets with their normal travelling luggage and the plastic guns, about five of them, were all put in a bag together. You should have seen the look on the faces of the security guys who were looking at their X-ray machine as our bag of guns went through. They stayed quite calm as they pressed their panic buttons, and within seconds we were surrounded by airport security. Don't you feel we could all learn a lesson from this? I know I did: it's best to be well behaved at airports at all times.

This is the tricky part of the attic. I have to squeeze through a small gap between the chimney-stacks and the roof to get to the main storage area, but barring my way are two huge black double-bass costumes like a pair of sleeping sentries. Taking care not to wake them, and keeping one's feet on the rafters, I slip by unnoticed, only to place my right foot straight into the mouth of a man-eating lion ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

It's hard to scream in terror on paper, but I hope I got the general impression across. Actually, how I could mistake Kate's cover-costume from the second album for the real thing now strikes me as quite funny, but at the time it came across with the reality of a half-ton carnivourous jungle feline. What could I do? I emptied three or four rounds of plastic ammunition into the beast and, powered by a timely spurt of adrenalin, leapt an incredulous eight feet into the darkness of the roof, where I clung to the light-fitting in a remarkably automatic way.

It was exceptionally dark, and this lion seemed exceedingly patient, and so quiet that I tried holding my breath and listening for the purring. After about ten minutes a pigeon settled on my head. I was not completely sure what this might mean. The full moon was now shining in through some of the missing slates. I could see some of our old prop boxes. There were the sun-masks we made for Breathing, and the weird bovine-person suits we wore on Sat In Your Lap. Do you remember, some of us were wearing horns on our heads and rings through our noses. We did a funny dance with long sticks, and one of these bovine-persons, without mentioning names--Preston--did the funniest dance I have ever seen in the dressing-rooms at Abbey Road, involving total disrespect for EMI property and a solo self-accompanied rendition of Sat In Your Lap. I laughed so much that every time I thought of him doing this ridiculous dance in that ridiculous costume I would have convulsions.

Despite my predicament of dangling in a moonlit attic above a hungry lion, the mere sight of the bovine-person headgear was sufficient to trigger the above-mentioned memory. I tried to stifle my laughter by remembering my supposedly terrible situation. It wasn't working. The pigeon took flight. I tried bashing my head against the roof: that should be unfunny. And as I was, but it didn't really stop the now explosive proportions that the image of the minotaur dance was reaching. I was desperate, and was sure I could feel a claw attached to a front leg the size of a tree-trunk pawing around in the air just beneath me. Do you remember the bit in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when Captain Nemo's submarine, the Nautilus, is attacked by the giant squid, and they eventually have to get it off by putting a huge electric shock through the hull of the boat? Well, for some reason I jammed my fingers into the electric light-fitting, and sure enough I stopped laughing. I also stopped hanging around in the roof. In the half second or so that it took for me to fall like a stunned insect on one of those ultra-violet fly-zappers you see in cake shops, I somehow forgot the bit about keeping feet on the rafters.

You can probably guess the rest. Thin plaster just can't support an electrocuted, partially clad army dreamer, and Kate, who was practising a new routine, said that when my legs plunged through her ceiling it reminded her of the first album cover. Jay said that on the way through his ceiling I looked a bit like the space-aboriginal character I played in The Dreaming. The kitchen ceiling really slowed things down. Luckily I went through head first and my heels got hooked somehow on the broken floorboards above, so I was hanging upside down, my jacket having slipped and dangling like a cape about my shoulders. The dogs stood there pointing and howling, and then somehow The Morning Fog just came into my head.

OK, that's the end of my story, and now you'll expect me to go on about bull roarers. Well, you've missed your chance, as they are becoming very unfashionable and now I recommend you not to make one. And furthermore don't do any of the stupid things I tell you about in these articles as I'm hoping you will learn from my mistakes, like last issue's little lobster saga.

Meeting you at the Convention was really marvellous, and I wish I'd had the opportunity to talk to some of you for much longer. It was difficult in the short time that there was, and one or two of you I could detect were a little shy to come over and see what we were like. But nevertheless I got a glimpse of what you're like and I'm very impressed. In fact I feel somewhat moved by your reaction and I'm glad that it's your ears at the end of our music.

-- Pad

The Garden
©1990 Andy Marvick