Why I Love.. 15 Storey’s High
When I was teen, I was most often likened to Whithnail, Richard E Grant’s impressively spammed, out of work actor with a penchant for hard drink from the film Withnail and I.
As I got older my friends, plus any other random person with a big mouth and an inflated opinion of their owns sense of humour, felt that I had become more like Bernard Black, another cynical and bitter drunk this time played by Dylan Moran from Chanel 4’s Black Books.
Despite the obvious failings of these characters, a lack of social skills, their more than casual acquaintance with strong liquor and a seemingly boundless appetite for self destruction. There was also plenty to admire. These were two intelligent, cultured and witty men who had committed to their own idiosyncratic lifestyles with dogged tenacity, capable of sticking up for themselves and friends with a well aimed barb or withering put down. They gave me an excuse to revel in the romantic ideal of being a wasted artist or social iconoclast; I could do things my way and to hell with everyone else!
Then I saw 15 Storeys High.
Written by and starring Sean Lock, this BBC sitcom from 2002 centred around the life of miserable curmudgeon Vince and his naïve flatmate Errol.
I loved the way it was surreal but set amid the banality of day to life. Following Errol and Vince as they went about their business and interacted with their fellow inhabitants of a London Council Estate, I saw not only how Vince’s lack of social skills and propensity to lie for no reason got him into the weirdest situations but also how Errol’s opposing qualities of friendliness and altruism would end with similar results.
I found myself giggling like a school girl at classic episodes such as ‘Blue Rat’ where Vince is strung out by his addiction to a Polish energy drink that promises “all the energy of a trapped rat…in a can!” and ‘Ice Queen’ where Vince falls in love with a tower block femme fatale but becomes disappointed when he realises she is nothing special as she too can get stuck in a lift.
An extra layer was added by breaking up the show with cutaways to random characters on the estate, pointing out the eccentricities of so called normal people. Such as, the middle-aged men who work out with little bunnies instead of actual weights, or the sexually inadequate swingers and most memorably to anyone who has seen it – the man shouting at the TV.
Though brilliantly funny, 15 Storeys High also held a mirror up to my life. I did not own a book shop or live in a shabby bohemian town house in West London, nor I did not swan about drinking booze like it was going out of style, in fact I hardly drank at all and I lived in a pokey little flat in a London council estate. I was miserable and bitter like Bernard and Withnail but without the style, brains or wit to make it attractive. I was sarcastic, I was misanthropic, and my only pleasure in life came from the failures of others. In short I was Vince.
This epiphany enabled to me put my life in to order and now kicking back in my luxury pad, pulling in that fat website contributor cash I can look back on Vince with fondness and thank him for helping sort myself out. He would hate that.