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  • You are here: Blogs Directory / Personal / CARL HALLING SELECTED WRITINGS @ Christiansunite.com Welcome Guest
    CARL HALLING SELECTED WRITINGS @ Christiansunite.com
          You've come to the right place for the writings, including stories and essays of Carl Halling, born London, currently residing in suburbia, keen to develop as a writer. Please feel free to stay awhile, read, comment, but above all...enjoy.

    Wed, Jun 15th - 6:59AM

    Your Lethal Life and Other Versified Leftovers

    1. It Wasn’t So Long Ago
    I shaped a heart outside her door
    With the matches I’d procured
    We had our season in the sun
    Our romance when we were young
    It wasn’t so long ago
    A new time may have grown
    And so many tears have flown
    But it wasn’t so long ago
    A melody plays from time gone by
    All the years between them fly
    I’m back in her tender arms once again
    Embracing in the summer rain
    It wasn’t so long ago
    A new time may have grown
    And so many tears have flown
    But it wasn’t so long ago
    Time rushes by like a hurricane
    And leaves so much chaos in its wake
    Run to the one you love tonight
    Say something tender
    Find it in your heart
    Don’t wait too long
    Two lovers kissed on a summer morn
    And a lifetime love was born
    A love that makes a man a king
    And a maid’s heart start to sing
    It wasn’t so long ago
    A new time may have grown
    And so many tears have flown
    But it wasn’t so long ago
    2. (Your Beautiful) Lethal Life
    Shooting star
    With a quicksilver mind
    You deserve to go so far
    Can’t someone stop you
    Before you ruin your soul
    With irreversible harm?
    Drinking all day
    Every single day
    Out of your head on booze
    Is this the life
    Is this the way
    A gifted child should choose?
    Your beautiful lethal life
    My friend
    Has sent you around the bend
    Your foolish defiant
    Dionysian dance
    Could soon be at an end
    But you don’t care
    Do you shooting star
    As you drift in your blissful dream
    3. Thoughts of a Forlorn Flâneur
    Early days as a flâneur
    I recall the couple
    On the Métro
    When I was still innocent
    Of its labyrinthine complexities
    Slim pretty white girl
    Clad head to toe
    In new blue denim
    Wistfully smiling
    While her muscular black beau
    Stared straight through me
    With fathomless, fulgorous orbs
    And one of them spoke
    (Almost in a whisper):
    "Qu'est-ce-que t'en pense?"
    Then it dawned on me…
    The slender young Parisienne
    With the distant desirous eyes
    Was no less male than I
    Being screamed at in Pigalle
    And then howled at again
    By some kind of wild-eyed
    Drifter who told me to go
    To the Bois de Boulogne to seek
    What he clearly saw as my destiny
    Getting soused in Les Halles
    With Sara
    Who’d just seen Dillon as
    Rusty James
    And was walking around in a daze
    Sara again with Jade
    At the Caveau de la Huchette
    Cash squandered
    On a cheap gold-plated tootbrush
    Portrait sketched at the Place de Tertre
    Paperback books
    By Symbolist poets
    Second hand volumes
    By Trakl and Delève
    And a blouson noir from
    The Marché de Puces
    At the Porte de Clignancourt
    Métro taken to Montparnasse
    Where I slowly sipped
    A demi-blonde
    In one of those brasseries
    Immortalised by Brassai
    Bewhiskered loup de mer
    In a naval officer's cap,
    His table bestrewn
    With empty wine bottles
    And cigarette butts,
    Repeatedly screeched the name
    "Phillippe" until a bartender
    With patent leather hair,
    Filled his wineglass to the brim,
    With a mock-obsequious
    "Voilà, mon Capitaine!"
    I cut into the Rue de Bac,
    Traversed the Pont Royal,
    Briefly beheld
    With its gothic tower,
    Constructed only latterly,
    In order that
    The 6th Century church
    Might complement
    The style of the remainder
    Of the 1er Arrondissement
    Before steering for the
    Place de Châtelet,
    And onwards...les Halles!
    4. Wicked Cahoots
    When he made
    his first personal appearance
    in the dirty alley
    on someone else's rusty bike,
    screaming along
    in a cloud of dust
    it rendered us all
    speechless and motionless.
    But I was amazed
    that despite his grey-faced surliness,
    he was very affable with us...
    the bully with a naive
    and sentimental heart.
    He was so happy
    to hear that I liked his dad
    or that my mum liked him
    and he was welcome
    to come to tea
    with us at five twenty five...
    Our "adventures" were spectacular:
    chasing after other bikesters,
    screaming at the top
    of our lungs
    into blocks of flats
    and then running
    as our echoed waves of terror
    blended with incoherent threats...
    "I'll call the Police, I'll..."
    Wicked cahoots.
    5. The Woodville Hall Soul Boys
    Soon after I'd paid
    My sixty
    0r seventy pence,
    I found myself
    In what I thought
    Was a miniature London.
    I saw girls
    In chandelier earrings,
    In stiletto heels,
    Wearing evening
    Which contrasted with
    The bizarre
    Hair colours
    They favoured:
    Jet black
    0r bleach blonde,
    With flashes of
    Red, Purple
    0r green.
    Some wore large
    Bow ties,
    Others unceremoniously
    Their school ties
    Round their
    Eye make-up
    Was exaggerated.
    The boys all had
    Short hair,
    Wore mohair sweaters,
    Thin ties,
    Peg-top trousers
    And winklepicker shoes.
    A band playing
    Raw street rock
    At a frantic speed
    Came to a sudden,
    Violent climax...
    Melodic, rhythmic,
    Highly danceable
    Soul music
    Was now beginning
    To fill the hall,
    With another group
    0f short-haired youths...
    Smoother, more elegant,
    Less menacing
    Than the previous ones.
    These well-dressed
    Street boys
    Wore well-pressed pegs
    0f red or blue...
    They pirouetted
    And posed...
    Pirouetted and posed.
    6. Spark of Youth Long Gone
    Two days ago, I decided
    To realise
    Some cherished memories
    Of my beloved little ,
    So I drank about five glasses
    Of Monteviejo
    In preparation for
    The rediscovery of
    The town of my heart.
    Firstly, I sat in the bar
    Where I used to meet
    All my friends,
    And was assaulted
    By the prices of the drinks
    And the volume of the music.
    I searched the place
    With my eyes
    For the innocence and laughter
    Of yesteryear, but in vain…
    The young people are forced
    Into tight little groups
    So atmosphere
    Is ponderous and alienating.
    Where is the fun?
    The wild and foolish socialising?
    The comic local music?
    All gone.  I could cry.
    Oh, these nerves, this living death. 
    I am so full of fear,
    Lethargy and fury
    I can hardly function.
    There’s a lack of innocence
    Of simplicity
    And is this change
    From deep within me?
    The freedom,
    The spark of youth
    Is gone
    Or have I merely lost it?
    Sophistication spoils
    The city ravages
    Senses refined
    By knowledge and wine.
    7. Some Perverse Will
    I’m a restless man
    I am never
    I’m always spurred on
    By some perverse
    The grass is never
    No peace here
    To find
    Some demon
    Of motion’s
    At work within my
    No bed is too soft
    That I won’t
    It’s sweet calm
    And comfort
    For a softer
    I’m a restless man
    I am never
    I’m always spurred on
    By some perverse will.
    8. London as the Lieu
    Until recently, I had the impression
    Of decaying
    Along with the moral standards
    Of contemporary Europe
    With London as the lieu
    To which all autoroutes lead.
    In my room, I was surrounded
    By debris
    Of my existence,
    Lacking the will even to clear
    The carpet, whose colour,
    Incidentally I came to forget.
    I ceaselessly tampered with my hair,
    Growing it long,
    Having it cropped , hennaing it red,
    Dyeing it blue-black, bleaching it near-white;
    It fell out in bunches,
    Dessicated and exhausted.
    My face grew sallow and haggard,
    With bloodshot, inflamed,
    Glazed, blue-ringed orbs
    And bitten, bloated, ravaged lips.
    My body lost its athletic aspect
    And became shapeless and emaciated.
    9. Lone Birthday Boy Dancing
    Yesterday for my birthday,
    I started off
    with a bottle of wine...
    I took the train
    into town...
    I had half a bitter
    at the Cafe de Piaf
    in Waterloo...
    I went to work
    for a couple of hours or so;
    I had a pint after work;
    I went for an audition;
    after the audition,
    I had another pint
    and a half;
    I had another half,
    before meeting my mates,
    for my b'day celebrations;
    we had a pint together;
    we went into
    the night club,
    where we had champagne
    (I had three glasses);
    I had a further
    glass of vino,
    by which time,
    I was so gone
    that I drew an audience
    of about thirty
    by performing a solo
    dancing spot
    in the middle
    of the disco floor...
    We all piled off to the pub
    after that,
    where I had another drink
    (I can't remember
    what it was)...
    I then made my way home,
    took the bus from Surbiton,
    but ended up
    in the wilds of Surrey;
    I took another bus home,
    and watched some telly
    and had something to eat
    before crashing out...
    I really, really enjoyed
    the eve, but today,
    I've been walking around
    I've had only one drink today,
    an early morning
    restorative effort;
    I spent the day working,
    then I went to a bookshop,
    where, like a monk,
    I go for a day's
    drying out session...
    Drying out is really awful;
    you jump at every shadow;
    you feel dizzy,
    you notice everything;
    very often,
    I don't follow through…
    10. All Through the Ages
    All through the ages
    I have faithfully waited
    Now I'm ready
    For you
    To make this dream come true
    All through the ages
    I have faithfully prayed
    You'd come and rescue me
    You've been
    So far away
    All through the ages
    I have faithfully kept
    Myself so pure for you
    Except a crush or two...
    All through the ages
    I have faithfully waited
    Now I'm ready
    For you
    To make this dream come true.
    11. Time Travel
    Time Travel’s set me free
    And sunk its
    Sharpest hooks in me
    In disguise as a young man
    In the city
    But the bright young lights
    No longer belong to me
    I’m not a London man
    I’m just a carbon copy
    Doing some travelling
    Time Travel’s set me free
    And sunk its
    Sharpest hooks in me
    Seeing faces that I knew in ‘77
    When I was young
    And in love with London town
    But please don’t ask me
    Where those thirty years
    Have flown to
    They’ve just gone travelling.
    Time Travel’s set me free
    And sunk its
    Sharpest hooks in me
    Lady, though your sweetness
    Is such a blessing
    Tender angel
    Please don’t lose your heart to me
    For I’m a visitor
    From a distant generation
    Doing some travelling
    Time Travel’s set me free
    And sunk its
    Sharpest hooks in me
    12. Toilers of the Sea
    Come away with me
    To toil upon the sea
    Come away and see
    How sweet sea life can be
    I’ll sing “Bonny Dundee”
    Off the coast of Old Guernsey
    You and me,
    Are toilers of the sea, toilers of the sea.
    Help me put that wrecked
    Romance away from me
    Help me understand
    How it was lost at sea
    It wasn’t destined to be
    She belonged to another not me
    So I let them be
    Whatever will be will be
    For the salty old likes of me
    For  toilers of the sea, for  toilers of the sea.
    I can stand it if you’re
    There with  me
    For the solitary life at sea
    Is enough to make you sea  crazy
    With the whales and gulls for company
    We can ponder on
    The ocean’s mysteries
    I’ll unveil a few of
    My old sea stories
    You’ll see how kind a tar can be
    I promise you’ll be safe with me
    When we’re out at sea
    As toilers of the sea, as toilers of the sea.
    13. A Song of Summer
    Faith, where’s your smile
    Don’t be a melancholy child
    Can’t you see
    That the summer’s come?
    Stuck in your room
    With your winter curtains drawn
    While the suburbs
    Are all bathed in sun
    No more winter time lows
    Only joy now because
    We can shake off the blues
    Faith, there’s no time to lose
    We can go for a cruise
    Down the Thames
    Or down the Ouse
    Or just snooze under summer’s sun
    Find a village green
    Watch some cricket,
    Take some tea, as you please
    Summer’s made for fun
    Get some sweet summer air
    Feel the breeze in your hair
    Forget that sad old affair
    He’s not worth all the tears
    Cast you cares on me
    I can set you free
    Don’t let me wait too long
    Summer will soon be gone
    No more winter time lows
    Only joy now because
    We can shake off the blues
    Faith, there’s no time to lose
    We can go for a cruise
    Down the Thames
    Or down the Ouse
    Or just snooze under summer’s sun.
    14. Stevie B and Me
    Stevie, we were free,
    Stevie, you and me,
    On that golden day
    Was it 68?
    The decade’s last few days,
    The whole wild world was crazed,
    But where we were was peace
    For you and me at least.
    If I stop for a moment,
    I dream groves and country paths,
    Green’s “Albatross” is playing
    In this our past,
    Whole empires were falling,
    The old ways were fading fast,
    Things never last,
    But you and I
    Found pleasant peace at last.
    We weren’t friends for long,
    These things aren’t too strong,
    We were far from home,
    Together less alone,
    We drifted far apart,
    Hardened up our hearts,
    We had so far to fall,
    Four years took their toll.
    We walked and talked
    For many hours
    Safe under Blue Berkshire Skies.
    Stevie, we were free,
    Like we’d never been,
    On that halcyon day,
    Stevie B and me.
    The decade’s last few days,
    The whole wild world was crazed,
    But where we were was peace
    For you and me at least.
    15. The Ones We Love
    Though we fight every day
    I can say Honey,
    I do love you
    With a love,
    A burning love
    A tender love
    A kind of love
    That’s forever true
    It seems that it’s the truth
    Between man
    And woman
    And age and youth
    It’s true that we do
    Hurt most the one we love
    So many times I’ve let you down
    I’ve messed you ‘round
    And I still do
    I know it’s weird
    It seems absurd,
    But I never ever wanted to
    You know it’s often said
    And I’ve seen it
    Many times
    In all the books I’ve read
    It’s true that we do
    Hurt most the ones we love
    You’ve got to forgive me, babe
    Sometimes it’s hard
    To control the things
    I do and say
    I’m just a weak and sinful man
    Yes I am
    Trying to do the best I can
    It seems that it’s the truth
    Between man
    And woman
    And age and youth
    It’s true that we do
    Hurt most the one we love.
    16. Like all the Moonstruck Do
    If I fell in love with you
    I would like to
    Make my dreams come true
    You could fulfil all yours too
    So come on angel
    Just one look will do
    I’ll lose my heart to you
    Like all the moonstruck do
    We could go all round the world
    Just like other
    Moonstruck girls and boys
    So come on angel
    Don’t be scared
    We are only young once
    Say the word
    I’ll lose my heart to you
    Like all the moonstruck do
    Bali Frisco Rio or wherever
    You may choose
    The world’s our oyster, angel,
    There’ll be no more bad news
    We could escape tomorrow
    I tell you we can’t lose
    We will soon be
    Saying bye bye to those blues
    If I fell in love with you
    I would like to
    Make my dreams come true
    You could fulfil all yours too
    So come on angel
    Just one look will do
    I’ll lose my heart to you
    Like all the moonstruck do.
    17. I Let You Go
    What was I thinking
    I let you go
    I wasn't drinking still
    I let you go
    Where was my head at to
    Let you go
    I can't accept that I just
    Let you go
    I wish I could make
    So we could at least
    Be friends
    I have no real
    Reason why
    I let you say goodbye
    Did I confuse you when
    I let you go
    Such a fool to have
    Let you go
    You were so precious still
    I let you go
    Worth more than jewels still
    I let you go
    I wish we could start again
    I'd be quite a diff'rent man
    I've learned quite a lot
    Since then
    I know how to keep a friend
    We could meet up in the
    Centre of town
    And I'd explain my motivations
    About how I came
    To let you down
    And all those other
    Explications and complications
    I'm not asking for
    Just give me half
    A chance
    Cos’ I got a real
    Good heart
    So how 'bout
    A brand new start?
    What was I thinking
    I let you go
    I wasn't drinking still
    I let you go
    Where was my head at
    To let you go
    I can't accept
    That I just let you go
    18. Time Was I Was (A Wand’rin’ Star)
    Time was I was a wandering star
    With a restless quenchless soul
    Time was I had an unquiet heart
    And from dream to dream I'd roam
    Well I thought I was a free bird
    And I didn't have a worldly care
    Till I found myself abandoned and
    Alone I cried but you weren't there
    Now all I really want is you is you is you
    Time was I played the gadabout
    Thought I did not need a home
    Time was I thought I was so smart
    I could do it all alone
    Till it dawned on me that there would
    Come a time when you would say: OK
    If that's the way you want it, babe,
    I'll leave you to go on your way
    Now all I really want is you is you is you
    Very minor edit: 7/3/13

    Comment (0)

    Wed, Jun 15th - 6:54AM

    A Halling is a Halling Wherever He Is

    Incidents from an Infamous Year Zero
    As the ‘70s proceeded apace, both Prog and Glam receded in terms of influence, although they’d experience periodic rebirths. Glam, for example, would be revived in the '80s through American Glam Metal, and the British Goth and New Romantic movements; and still exists to this day. However, given the extent to which the West has become inured to outrage, its power to shock has been reduced to zero.
     By ‘77, it had been supplanted by Punk, a movement which, if it were at all possible, was even more scandalous.
     While some years earlier, Soul, a melodic fusion of Gospel and R&B which had made a massive impact on the Pop charts, birthed a mutation known as Disco. And one of its major hallmarks was the liberal use of strings often played in a staccato style.
     Thence, Pat was involved in several major projects at the height of the Disco era, including the international hit album “Symphony of Love” (1978) by Miquel Brown, which was produced by British composer Alan Hawkshaw. And another Hawkshaw production, “Again and Again” by Love De-Luxe, from the following year.
     Pat also worked with Alec R Costandinos’s groundbreaking “Love and Kisses”, who produced three albums between 1977 and '79, which were massively successful at the time, yielding several US hit singles and helping to define the Disco sound.
     And both Pat and Costandinos had worked with another French Disco pioneer Jean-Marc Cerrone on his hit album, "Love in C Minor" from 1976, produced at a time when Disco had yet to truly enter the mainstream.
     While Pat played on several other Costandinos records, including an acknowledged Disco masterpiece "Romeo and Juliet" (1978), which has to be lauded for its subject matter. For while Soul in the seventies was as extensive as Rock; and every inch as sublime at its most artistic, Disco had a greater tendency to fixate on the pleasures of the flesh. And so was the ultimate music of the mid 1970s, at a time the values of the permissive society were seeping into the mainstream.
     Yet at the same time, there were many exceptions, and Disco could be no less artistically exalted than Soul.
      As well as “Look Out” and “Ordinary Man” for Bad News Travels Fast, both from ‘79, and Costandinos’ own  “Sphinx” from ’77, and “Winds of Change”, also from ’79. While Melaphonia’s “Limelight Disco Symphony” from ’78 was a Disco tribute to Sir Charles Chaplin, who’d died the previous Christmas Day, produced by Franck Pourcel and Alain Boublil.
     Boublil went on to write the libretto for the musical "Les Miserables" with composer Claude Schonberg, with John Cameron arranging.
     And Pat was involved with the London production of "Les Miz" for many years as the leader of the orchestra, one of several highlights of a concert career which has seen him work with Pop legends as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Tiny Tim, Barry Manilow and Boy George of Culture Club…and tour with Tom Jones and Barrie White.
     But it's his participation in Bing Crosby's final tour that is perhaps the dearest to his heart, as a personal fan of the Old Groaner’s.
     In September ‘77, Bing, his family, and close friend Rosemary Clooney began a concert tour of England that included two weeks at the London Palladium. He recorded an album "Seasons", and a TV Christmas special with David Bowie and Twiggy, which featured a famous duet with Bowie.
     And Pat actually managed to wangle an autograph from Der Bingel during what may have been a final recording session at Maida Vale studios. But the great man had initially objected to Pat helping himself to a piece of his sheet music, before relenting with the words, "he seems like a good man", and signing the music into the bargain.
     His final concert took place at the Brighton Centre on the 12th of October 1977. For two days afterwards, following a round of 18 holes of golf on a course near Madrid, he died from a massive heart attack. And his passing came at the end of a year that had claimed a string of cultural giants including Groucho Marx, Joan Crawford, Maria Callas, Marc Bolan, Elvis Presley and Charlie Chaplin.
     And amidst all this tragedy, Punk’s inexorable ascent to international notoriety showed no signs of abating. Yet while the London variant thrived, New York failed to capitalise on its initial promise as Punk’s true spiritual capital.
     For lest we forget…Punk’s origins lie in the US among the so-called Garage bands of the 1960s. And their attempts to emulate the rougher acts of the British Invasion, themselves heavily indebted to American Rhythm and Blues. But it was the distinct New York variant of the early ‘70s that exerted the greatest influence on British Punk, and largely through the influence of a young entrepreneur by the name of Malcolm McLaren.
     McLaren was born in London as the son of a Scottish father and Jewish mother, and raised by his grandmother, the daughter of a Sephardic-Jewish diamond merchant.
     As an art student in the late 1960s, he was drawn to the subversive ideas of the Paris Situationists, believed to have played a part in fomenting the '68 riots, and were themselves offshoots of the post-war Lettrists.
     Formed by the charismatic Isidore Isou in the late 1940s, the Lettrists were very much precursors of the Punks, and one of their number, Jean-Michel Mension, became infamous for scrawling slogans on his trousers as early as 1953.
     In 1971, he and his then girlfriend, Vivienne Westwood, opened a clothing outlet specialising in ‘50s style Teddy Boy clothing designed by himself and Vivienne at 430 Kings Road, Chelsea. It exists to this day as “World’s End”, part of Dame Vivienne’s global fashion empire; but in ’71 it first saw the light of day as “Let it Rock”.
     Four years later, he became the manager of the disintegrating New York Dolls, who’d created a sensation in the UK at the height of Glam with a combination of exotic image and corrosive three-chord Rock.
     He designed some red leather outfits for them in tandem with a new pseudo-Communist image, but it was too late to save them, and they folded soon afterwards. But while in New York, he came across a former Sandford Preparatory student from Lexington, Kentucky, by the name of Richard Hell.
     He’d taken his name from a famous prose poem by Arthur Rimbaud, and was at various times a member of several key New York Punk Rock outfits. And McLaren was especially impressed by his unique image of torn tee-shirt and spiky unkempt hair, allegedly inspired by the famous tousle-haired photograph of Rimbaud by Etienne Carjat, and so before long he’d decided to  take it back home to London and promote an anglicised version.
     Some time afterwards, he renamed his Kings Road boutique “Sex” and set himself up as the manager of a group formed by three denizens of the Hammersmith area of West London, allegedly at the urging of their guitarist, Warwick "Wally" Nightingale. And there is some evidence they were called the Strand, after a song on the second Roxy Music album “For Your Pleasure”.
     McLaren agreed to be their manager, but only on the condition that founder member Wally, be ejected from the band; and so he was.  Sadly, he died from complications related to substance abuse in 1996.
     He was replaced by Johnny Rotten, a young London Irishman born John Lydon in London’s Finsbury Park in 1956. And with Rotten onboard as front man, the band was renamed the Sex Pistols; and so began the most infamous Punk odyssey of them all.
     As as I’ve hinted earlier, Punk in the UK could be said to have been a final furious stand-off between the old-style Victorian values of the 1950s and the new values that had been ushered in a decade later. But while these had at first seemed to be comparatively benign, by the end of the sixties, they’d curdled into something far darker.
     However, no sooner had Punk taken off, than it was slyly supplemented with those very elements it was reacting against; as a generation of musicians sought to fuse the attitude of Punk with the artistry of Prog.
     And so the New Wave was born in the shape of a vast variety of acts and artists who while progressive in the truest sense, were content to ride the Punk bandwagon all the way into the Pop charts.
     While New Wave threatened to supplant Punk at its crudest, other genres competed with it for the hearts and souls of the sybaritic young. Such as Reggae, which was Punk’s most serious rival as the music of choice for Punks themselves; and Electronica, which had been pioneered all throughout the ‘70s mainly by so-called Kraut Rock acts such as Can, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream.
     But Disco was its true competitor, even though it was still known as Soul for the most part as I recall; but then I was just a rube from the ‘burbs.
     One thing is certain is that I was as much a lover of Soul as Punk circa ’77, and dressed more like a Soul Boy for much of that year. In fact, it was only in its final few months I started affecting the more flagrant trappings of Punk; such as spiked and dyed hair and drainpipe jeans.
     So for me, ’78 was my own personal Punk Year Zero; and it was in that year, at the very height of Disco, that “Central Heating” by Heatwave, a rare classic of British Soul, was released.
     Produced by former teen idol Barry Blue, and with arrangements by John Cameron, with Pat Halling serving as his concertmaster, it was a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic, ascending to number 10 on the Billboard 200. And yielding two hit singles in the shape of “The Groove Line” by Englishman Rod Temperton and “Mind Blowing Decisions” by American lead vocalist Johnny Wilder Jr.
     Temperton went on to write for the best-selling album in musical history, which is Michael Jackson's "Thriller", produced by Quincy Jones in 1982.
     He also wrote for Quincy on his own hit album "The Dude", with singer Patti Austin sounding remarkably like Jackson; as well as for Patti herself. While George Benson’s  “The Star of the Story” was blessed with the same kind of stardust that helped turn Michael Jackson into the most famous Rock star on the planet.
     Then towards the end of the ‘70s, Pat played what was possibly his most memorable ever solo for a television program. And this was for the stunning opening and closing theme to BBC’s “Life on Earth”, composed by Edward Williams and conducted by Marcus Dods.
     As a solo, it was so breathtakingly beautiful, that Pat was compared by one devotee of the violin to Jascha Heifetz, whom many believe to have been the greatest violinist of them all. Quite an honour for the boy from the Tasmanian back country.
    From New Pop to Rap in the Crazy 1980s
    The '80s was a potentially tough decade for session musicians such as Pat Halling as the synthesizer started threatening the world of recorded music as never before. And one of the fruits of this putsch was the so-called New Pop that arose in the wake of Punk.
     And New Pop could be said to be a more purely commercial variant of the aforesaid New Wave; itself an offshoot of Punk. Although the term was only ever used in the UK, while the US continued to favour that of New Wave to describe the explosion of British synth-driven bands that invaded the Pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic throughout the ‘80s..
     For several New Pop acts took part in the so-called Second British Invasion, which saw British bands dominating the American Pop charts to a degree unknown since the hey day of the Beatles. And this was largely due to a demand on the part of the newly launched MTV music channel for glamorous videos which enabled British acts such as Culture Club, Duran Duran and Eurythmics to score massive transatlantic hits.
     But for many, this resurgence of Pop was a negative development, despite the musicality of many of its proponents, so that it fused the commerciality of Pop with the virtuosity of Rock. And it could certainly be said that such phenomena as Glam, Punk and Goth witnessed a certain taming throughout the ‘80s; so that by the end of the decade, they had been shorn of their ability to shock.
     But for all the ballyhoo created by the rise of Electronica, Pat Halling’s career was barely affected.
     And in 1980, he worked again for his old friend John Cameron…this time on the movie "The Mirror Crack'd", based on the Agatha Christie novel, with music by JC, and featuring a roll call of Hollywood legends. Pat even had a small non-speaking cameo in the movie as a World War II bandleader.
     And in that same year, he led the orchestra for an album by Greek superstar Demis Roussos, which while produced by David Mackay, featured another close friend Barrie Guard as conductor.
     He also found time to lead the orchestra for the distinguished composer Wilfrid Joseph’s theme to the 1980 BBC TV series of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”.
     In 1982, he was back with John Cameron for a further star-studded Agatha Christie movie, "Evil Under the Sun", helmed, as in the case for “Crack’d” by Bond director Guy Hamilton, and produced by Lord Brabourne and Richard Goodwin, who became a close friend.
     For Richard’s wife, Christine Edzard, he served as the soloist for “Biddy” in 1983…working again with Christine, with Richard producing, on Dickens’ “Little Dorrit" in ’88, and two years later on “The Fool”, written by Christine with Oliver Stockman. And all three movies were scored by French composer Michel Sanvoisin.
     For Paul McCartney, possibly the most lauded Rock and Roll musician in history, he led the orchestra for the soundtrack to the ’84 movie “Give My Regards to Broad Street”.
     And while it sold well, the film itself performed poorly at the Box Office; although it benefits from a good deal of affection from contemporary McCartney fans.
     A year later, he was concertmaster for his old colleague David Essex on the album version of the musical “Mutiny”, based on “Mutiny on the Bounty” by Nordhoff and Hall. And in that same year, played on three tracks from Jazz musician Barbara Thompson’s album  “Heavenly Bodies”.
     And then a year after that, he contributed to "To Go Beyond II", final track from the hugely successful “Enya” album by Irish superstar Enya Brennan. As well as “If” for Hollywood Beyond, featuring singer-songwriter Mark Rogers.  And tenor saxophonist Spike Robinson’s “Gershwin Collection”.
     In 1988, he and Richard Studt served as orchestra leaders on Elaine Page’s “The Queen Album”, produced by Mike Moran, while in ‘89, he worked with yet another Rock legend, Pete Townsend, serving as leader on his concept album "The Iron Man - The Musical", based on the novel by Ted Hughes.
     Interestingly, Pete's father Jazz saxophonist Cliff Townsend had been a colleague of Pat's during their time together on the famous BBC television chat show “Parkinson”, named after host Michael Parkinson.
     Then in 1990, he appeared on John Williams’ album “The Guitar is the Song”, having earlier worked with the great Classical guitarist on “John Williams plays Patrick Gowers and Scarlatti” (1972), and “Portrait of John Williams” (1982).
      But briefly returning to film and TV, television projects on which Pat worked throughout the '80s include “Hold that Dream” (1986) based on the novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, with original score by long time friend Barrie Guard, “Tears in the Rain” (1988), from a novel by Pamela Wallace, with music again by Guard, and “The Darling Buds of May” (1992-1993), based on the novel by HE Bates, and with music by Pip Burley and Guard.
     His recording career in the ‘90s included work for acts and artists as varied as British Indie band Cud and French singer Dany Brillant (“Nouveau Jour” from 1999).
     And on a larger scale, the ‘90s witnessed the fading of such once provocative cults of Glam, Punk and Goth to make way for the far starker cult of Grunge, as well as the facelessness of Electronic Dance. But the greatest success story of the decade was Rap, which many would contend is not a Rock music genre at all, but an entirely different form of music, as distinct from Rock as Rock once was from Jazz.
     While others would insist all offshoots of Rock’s first forefathers that have in some way benefited from the Rock revolution are perforce forms of Rock and Roll. And by forefathers I’m referring primarily to Rhythm and Blues and Country and Western. And I’m inclined to side with this view.
    A Halling is a Halling Wherever He is
    Moving into the Noughties…and Tiny Tim’s 1968 concert at the Albert Hall finally secured a CD release in 2000 through Rhino Handmade Records as “Tiny Tim. Live! At the Royal Albert Hall”.
     And conducted by Carpenters producer Richard Perry, with Tony Gilbert as leader, and Pat among the first violins, it was revealed as a neglected masterpiece that had remained unreleased for nearly two decades. Yet within two years of its recording, Tim’s legendary appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival would secure a standing ovation from the assembled flower children, with the Beatles and the Stones among them.
     And between 2000 and 2002, Pat played violin for a band formed by his good friend Barrie Guard, and featuring his son Carl on vocals.
     And together with bass player John Sutton, they recorded a series of demos at the latter’s home studio in Esher, and even went so far as to record a pilot radio show but to no avail. 
     They gigged sporadically for about a year and a half to limited response, until a final concert at the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival brought them into contact with the kind of intimate cultured audience they should have been aiming for all along…and they all but brought the house down. But dispersed soon afterwards after barely a year and half together.
     On a brighter note, there's a fascinating tale attached to singer-songwriter John Dawson Read for whom Pat served as leader on his two classic albums from the ‘70s, namely “A Friend of Mine is Going Blind” from ’75, and “Read On” from a year later.
     Sometime around 2005, fellow singer-songwriter Michael Johnson included an MP3 of Read singing the title track of his first album, “A Friend of Mine” on his website, and many Read fans began communicating through the site in as a result.
     His subsequent re-entry into the music world after nearly thirty years of relative inactivity, resulted in a third album, “Now…where were we?” being released that same year.
     Until quite recently, Pat served as leader for the longest running comedy series in television history, Roy Clarke's "Last of the Summer Wine".  And working alongside Pat was harmonica maestro Jim Hughes, whose playing it is that makes Ronnie Hazelhurst’s gently pastoral theme tune so distinctive. 
     With Jim's help, Pat began work on an album of popular song standards featuring Carl Halling on vocals, Judd Procter on guitar, Dave Richmond and John Sutton on bass, and John Dean and Sebastian Guard on drums.
     The album was produced by Pat and arranged by John Smith. And largely engineered by sound recordist Tony Philpot, with contributions by Keith Grant of West London's legendary Olympic Studios. To be finally released in 2007 as “A Taste of Summer Wine” by James Hughes Carl Halling with the London Swingtette.
     And as things stand, Pat plays in two quartets, the Leonardo, formed in 1993, and the aforesaid Quartet Pro Musica. And the quartet’s recent projects have included the 2007 world premiere of  “A Poet’s Calendar” by long-time friend Derek Wadsworth, with whom Pat first worked in the ‘70s, such as on Alan Price’s “Metropolitan Man” from ‘75
     As well as performances of Quartets 1 and 2 by Jazz drummer and composer Tony Kinsey; and a string of concerts organised by Pat’s youngest son, Dane. The first of these taking place at London’s Cadogan Hall in the spring of 2010, and featuring works by Haydn, Debussy and Purcell. To say nothing of the world premiere of “Tara’s Brooch” by faithful colleague John Cameron, which features on a CD of theirs released towards the end of that year.
     In addition to his music, Pat continues to be a keen dinghy sailor during the season at his local club, where he races to win every Sunday, and to paint under the handle he once rejected, Clancy.
     Also, for several years he’s attended several functions organised by PPL, formerly known as Phonographic Performance Limited, a music licensing company which collects and distributes airplay and performance royalties on behalf of record companies and perfomers throughout the UK.
     At one of these, the Fair Play 95, which took place on behalf of the Fair Play for Musicians campaign at the Stanhope Hotel in Brussels in April 2009, he played a medley of Tony Hatch’s “Downtown” and the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”, before inviting flamenco guitarist Manuel Espinosa on to the stage for a short duet.
     There seems to be no end to the man's almost preternatural energy and force of will.
     And although there's no hard and fast evidence that Pat has Scandinavian blood, research related to the Norwegians who emigrated to the American Midwest from about the mid-19th Century onwards reveals that one of the purported characteristics of the Hallings of the Halling Valley in Norway's Buskerud County is firmness “in thoughts and beliefs”, so that he would “rather break than bend”. This in the words of the Norwegian-American writer Syver Swenson Rodning, who allegedly took first prize in an essay set by a man called Hallingen in 1917 called “A Halling is a Halling wherever he is”, the Hallings themselves settling primarily in Spring Grove, Minnesota, where traces of their dialect and subculture survived into the 1930s.
     Perhaps then, alone among the three children born to Phyllis Mary Halling, Patrick is a true Halling with roots deep in the Hallingdal where the Halling Valley River lies.
     And what of the music that has dominated his days and nights for so many decades?
     The truth is it has never been more accessible thanks to the miracle of sites such as Spotify and You Tube. Sites where one might access a degree of music inconceivable to those of my generation, who as late as the late 1990s could only ever hear as much music as they were able to afford via the medium of the long playing record, Compact Disc or Musicassette.
     And of Rock…surely the most revolutionary music form in history, it could be said it has been tamed at long last. And quietly taken its place alongside Classical, Jazz and Folk as just another facet of the massive music industry. But then is that not its final victory?

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    Wed, Jun 15th - 6:48AM

    Rock and Roll and the Western Soul

    The Burgeoning Generation of Love
    The highpoint of Patrick Halling’s early Pop career was undoubtedly his leadership of the string section for "All You Need Is Love", transmitted live at the height of the so-called Summer of Love on July 25th 1967.
     The programme, entitled “Our World”, was the first satellite broadcast in history, and it secured an audience of 350 million, which was unprecedented at that time. And among those taking part were such legendary figures of the swinging sixties as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Marianne Faithful and Donovan.
     But this was not Pat’s first involvement with the burgeoning Love Generation.
     For the previous year of ’66, he’d taken part in the recording of Donovan’s “Museum”, destined to see the light of day on the “Mellow Yellow”
    Album, which reached the number 14 position on the Billboard Hot 100. Although it failed to secure a UK release due to contractual complications.
     Also involved with the “Mellow Yellow” sessions were close friends Mickie Most, who produced, and John Cameron, who did most of the arrangements, as well as session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, and future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
     A year later, he worked on a project that was as much a concept album as any of the Beatles’ records of the same period, Ken Moule's superb "Adam's Rib Suite", which fused elements of Jazz, Pop and Classical music to recount the history of womankind from Eve to Cleo Laine.
     Needless to say though, it was infinitely less successful than any comparable record within the Rock genre, Rock being at the vanguard of popular culture in a way that Jazz had once been, but no longer was.  However, by the turn of the decade, a reconciliation between the two alienated factions was well under way, with Jazz-Fusion coming from one camp and the more populist Jazz-Rock from the other.
     In '75, Pat served as leader for Mike Gibbs' "Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra", an unsung classic of British Jazz fusion, which was finally released on CD in 1997. Adam's Rib followed it on CD exactly ten years later.
     By the time of his involvement with "Adam's Rib", Pat had already moved into the worlds of film and television. And his early career included solos for the 1960 movie “Exodus”, produced and directed by Otto Preminger, with music by Ernest Gold…and for British sitcom "Steptoe and Son" (1962-1974), with music by his close friend Ron Grainer.
     He also served as concertmaster for the great Johnny Green on Carol Reed's version of Lionel Bart's "Oliver" in 1968, and for John Williams on three movies beginning with the musical version of James Hilton’s “Goodbye Mr Chips”.
     And going on to include “Jane Eyre” (1970), directed by Delbert Mann, and “Fiddler on the Roof” (1971), by Norman Jewison.
     Directed by Herbert Ross in 1969, “Chips” featured a screenplay by no less a luminary of British literature than Terence Rattigan. And as he was the author of such quintessentially English tragedies as “The Browning Version” and “The Winslow Boy”, both centring on the English private school system, he was the perfect choice. 
     Sadly, though, for all its virtues, including a lovely score by Leslie Bricusse, it was not a critical success, although it was nominated for several major awards, and has gone on to enjoy something of a following on the internet.
     Also in '69, he worked on David Lean's "Ryan's Daughter", a visually beautiful epic set in rural Ireland during the First World War, which was another film that has grown in stature since its initial release. Written by playwright and screenwriter Robert Bolt, with music by Maurice Jarre, it was poorly received by the critics, although today, it’s considered by many to be among Lean’s finest works.
     In addition to Williams, Green and Jarre, he's served as concertmaster for a panoply of major 20th Century musical figures working within the media of film and television, including Dimitri Tiomkin, Nelson Riddle, Georges Delerue, Wilfred Josephs and Christopher Gunning.
     But to return the world of Pop, which became renamed Rock as a means of investing it with some respectability at some point in the late 1960s, while yet including  Pop as a sub-genre.
     As the ‘60s ceded to the ‘70s, Pat’s close friend Mickie Most was poised to enter the second phase of his glittering Pop career. For while he’d been briefly involved with the nascent Rock movement through his management of the Jeff Beck Group, it ultimately became clear that Rock was not for him.
     For even at that, he’d sought to turn guitar virtuoso Beck into a major Pop star…while apparently remaining impervious to the star quality of his one-time front man, Rod Stewart.
     And it fell to business partner Peter Grant to prosper within Rock music, first as co-manager of the Yardbirds with Most, then as sole manager of Led Zeppelin, who went on to become the ultimate Rock band; and second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery.
     And by the time of the Zeppelin’s conquest of America, the face of Western society had yet been altered almost beyond recognition by the Rock and Roll revolution.
     Yet, in all good conscience, responsibility for this transformation can't be laid solely at the feet of Rock. 
     For, after all, tendencies hostile to the Judaeo-Christian fabric of the West can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Much of the groundwork had already been done in other words, and that's especially true of the forties and fifties.
     It was in these two immediate post-war decades that the Existentialists and the Beats became international icons of revolt, while lesser groups such as the Lettrists of Paris served as scandal-sowing forerunners of the Situationists, believed to have played a major role in fomenting the Paris riots of May ’68.
     At the same time, Britain's first major youth cult surfaced in the shape of the Teddy Boys, and a cinema of youthful discontent flourished as never before. Movies such as Stanley Kramer’s “The Wild One” and Nicholas Ray’s “Rebel Without a Cause” fostered a desire among millions of young Americans to be identified as rebels themselves, reacting against the stifling conformity of Eisenhower era America.
      For all that, though, none of these phenomena enjoyed a tithe of the influence of Rock in terms of its effect on the Western soul.
    Glam and the Gender Revolution
    My Pangbourne years coincided with the rise of Rock, which was Pop transmuted into an art form, while somehow including Pop as its less intellectual counterpart. And the music we listened to as self-styled lads had “lad value”; and we called it Underground for its shadowy exclusivity, while at some point it became known as Progressive.
     But as I recall…it included both Hard Rock and Soft Rock, and the sophisticated Art Rock of acts and artists as diverse as the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Doors. And for me, there was no real difference between the experimental Hard Rock of Deep Purple, and the out and out Prog of Yes or ELP.
     For Rock was split into two categories…Underground…and Commercial…a term we tended to spit out like some kind of curse, as this was pure Pop, whose domain was the despised hit parade featured weekly on British TV show Top of the Pops.
     The Underground, on the other hand, was composed of bands who made music largely for the growing album market. And there were those Rock acts such as Led Zeppelin, who never graced the singles chart despite earning fortunes through concerts and album sales. And from about '69, they constituted one of my prime facilitators into the murky depths of the Underground.
     But by the time I quit Pangbourne in 1972, a new Rock revolution was underway in the shape of a heterogeneous mix of Rock and Pop allied to an outrageous androgynous image…and known as Glam.
     Glam had begun to infiltrate the British charts as early as ‘71, while making little impact on the US, despite the fact that many of its pioneers were American. While its true roots were to be found in the Blues and early Rock and Roll, more of which later.
     But it had been carried into the mainstream by one Marc Bolan, born Mark Feld in 1947 into a Jewish family of working class origins, who had been featured in 1962 in a magazine called “Town”, as one of the Faces, or leading Mods of Stamford Hill in East London. 
     Although by then he'd moved with his family to a council house in Summerstown in West London.
     He went on to achieve major success as one half of the acoustic duo, Tyrannosaurus Rex; the other being multi-instrumentalist Steve Peregrin Took who, like Bolan, was a leading figure of London’s Hippie Underground centred on Ladbroke Grove.
      But In 1970, Took was replaced by percussionist Mickey Finn, who shared Bolan’s love of old-time Rock and Roll. And as T. Rex, they had their first top 5 hit in the shape of “Ride a White Swan”.
     And by the time of their first number one the following year, T. Rex were a four-piece band, with Bolan the biggest British teen sensation since the Beatles. While the Bolan phenomenon was dubbed T Rextasy by the British press…and all throughout the land, bedroom walls were adorned with Bolan’s fascinating fallen angel’s face.
     However, for the true roots of Glam one must return to the very earliest days of Rock and Roll. And specifically to a certain Rhythm and Blues shouter by the name of Little Richard.
     As a boy, Richard had attended the New Hope Baptist Church in his native Macon, Georgia, and sung Gospel songs with his family as The Penniman Singers. And aged just 13, he joined Gospel legend Sister Rosetta Tharp onstage in Macon after she heard him singing before the concert. And he had serious ambitions of becoming a full-time minister of the Gospel, while demonstrating extraordinary gifts as a boy preacher.
     By 1951, however, the world had begun to beckon, and he won a talent contest in Atlanta that led to a recording contract with RCA Victor, but the four records he subsequently released all flopped. While around about the same time, he came under the sway of an outrageous Rhythm and Blues musician by the name of Esquerita, who shaped his unique piano style.
     Esquerita is also believed to have influenced his increasingly flamboyant image, although self-styled King of the Blues Billy Wright, who piled his pomaded hair high on his head and wore eye liner and face powder, was also an influence in this respect.
     Real success came for Richard in 1955 with “Tutti Frutti”, which has been cited as the true starting point for the Rock and Roll revolution; but within two years, he'd quit the business and returned to his faith. And as a Christian myself, I can only hope that for all his struggles, the good Reverend Penniman is a saved Christian man, and there is a good deal of evidence he is.
     For few Rock stars have been as vocal in their condemnation of Rock and Roll as he has been.
      Yet, in his wake, androgyny went on to become one of its major features; and this was true of several of its earliest pioneers. And that includes the single most influential phenomenon in Rock and Roll history with the possible exception of the Beatles, Elvis Presley.
     For as masculine as Presley was, he was as much a Glam pioneer as Penniman with his early use of make up, and the the flamboyant outfits he’d worn even before he found the fame that proved a mixed blessing to a boy raised in the Pentecostal Assemblies of God.
     And the mantle was taken up in the mid to late sixties by such pioneers of Glam as the Kinks, Barrett era Pink Floyd, early Soft Machine, the Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper.  But the decade as a whole witnessed an extraordinary explosion of androgyny on the part of the Western male, which served to pave for the way for the ‘70s.
     And Glam swept a host of musicians who'd been striving for major success since the early ‘60s to fresh levels of stardom in the UK and elsewhere. Such as David Bowie, Elton John and Rod Stewart. For all three had first appeared on record as part of the British Blues Boom…Bowie and Stewart in ’64, and John in ’65; and despite being idolised at the height of Glam, they continued to be admired as serious album artists.
     For there were two major strands of Glam in its hay day of 1971-‘74, one being allied to the consciously artistic tradition of Progressive Rock, the other, to the purest pure Pop. And among those acts and artists affiliated to the former were David Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople and the Alex Harvey Band; while the latter embraced T. Rex, the Sweet, Gary Glitter, Slade and Wizzard. While there were many more who either flirted with the genre from within the confines of Prog, such as the Strawbs, or existed on its fringes, such as Silverhead.
     As to stateside Glam; pioneered primarily by Alice Cooper, it went on to include such cult icons as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, Jobriath and Brett Smiley; as well as singer-songwriter, Todd Rundgren, a serious candidate for the most gifted Rock artist of all time. While several major acts were briefly touched by it; such as Aerosmith and Kiss, but it would not be until the 1980s that Glam entered the mainstream in the shape of Glam Metal.
     Also among those who leaped on the Glam bandwagon was the band that effectively invented the genre, the Rolling Stones. Although they didn’t adopt its more flagrant trappings until around 1972, the year they released the album which is widely considered to be their masterpiece, "Exile on Main Street".
     Initial sessions took place in the basement of the Villa Nellcôte, a 19th century mansion on the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-Mer in France's Cote d'Azur, which had been leased to Keith Richards in the summer of '71. However, several tracks had already been recorded at Mick Jagger’s country estate, as well as at West London's legendary Olympic Studios.
     Originally a theatre, then a film studio, Olympic was converted into a recording studio by the architect Robertson Grant, while his son Keith Grant – a very close friend of Pat Halling’s - completed the acoustics in tandem with Russel Pettinger. It went on to become the virtual nerve centre of the British Rock movement.
     Much has been written of the "Exile" sessions, which saw various icons of the counterculture passing through Nellcôte as if to lay blessings on the decadent antics taking place therein, which stand today as the very quintessence of the benighted Rock and Roll lifestyle. While less than a decade had passed since Rock’s true inception at the hands of the clean-cut Beatles, Western society had already been altered almost beyond recognition within that short space of time.
     Yet, responsibility for this transformation can't in all good conscience be laid exclusively at the feet of Rock, given that tendencies inimical to the West’s moral fabric can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries. So, how had society come to be so successfully and swiftly revolutionised by Rock?
     Part of the answer lies in its sheer popularity, itself arguably born of its extraordinary eclecticism. Yet, in purely artistic terms, its decline was so rapid that by ‘72, it was already wholly jaded as an art form, even though it remained creatively vibrant for a further decade and a half…but little more, despite sporadic flashes of the old genius.
     It’s as if it carried within it the seeds of its own destruction as a result of its reluctance to embrace progression, and persisting returns to the simple rhythms whence it sprang, and worship of those who’ve refused to transcend these. Many would cite the Rolling Stones as foremost amongst these, and yet this has not always been true, far from it.
     For all throughout the ‘60s, thanks to the extraordinary musical versatility of founder member Brian Jones, they were among those who sowed the seeds of the Progressive movement to come. 
     However, once Jones was no longer able to significantly contribute to their music, the Stones made a conscious effort to return to their roots in the Blues, and this process reached an apogee in the shape of “Exile on Main Street” in 1972.
     In that selfsame year, Pat Halling was involved with an album that was greeted with little of the ballyhoo of “Exile”. This being “Slides”, by the great Irish actor Richard Harris, who’d launched a Pop career on the back of Jimmy Webb’s 7 minute Pop tour de force, “MacArthur Park”.
     In 2005, it was released on CD with "My Boy", receiving very high ratings from Amazon reviewers both in Britain and the US.
     However, as the ‘70s progressed, Pat became involved with several far more successful projects on the fringes of Glam, more of which later.
    Rock and Roll and the Western Soul
    When such acts and artists as David Bowie and the Sweet had first appeared on television in full make up, some unreconstructed British males were moved to revulsion and rage. Yet by about ’74 it had almost entirely shed its revolutionary trappings,
     But by the time it had done so, it had effectuated a minor sexual upheaval by making male androgyny more acceptable than ever before. And it did so in defiance of the Bible’s strict delineation of the sexual roles, and prohibition of any form of cross dressing.
     And one can only wonder what effect it had on the psychological development of young men such as myself, who’d already been weaned on the ferocious rebel sounds of Rock, only to swoon at the feet of the gorgeous androgynes of Glam.
     But by ’74, Glam had entered the mainstream as teeny bop Pop, although an avant-garde form persisted in the shape of a nostalgic love affair with
    Europe’s immediate past. And it was shared by acts and artists as diverse as Bowie and Roxy Music; as well as newcomers Sparks and Cockney Rebel, who were lavished with critical praise in some quarters of the British press. While Roxy were especially indebted to the decadent café and cabaret culture of pre-Rock Europe, when Modernism was at its point of maximum intensity. And the persona Bowie adopted in 1976, and which he enigmatically termed “The Thin White Duke” was the apotheosis of this romantic Europhilia. 
     But little of this was in evidence in the happy world of Pop which continued to mine the Glam Rock craze for all it was worth, propelling a multitude of entertainers into the charts in the process. Such as one David Cook, a startlingly handsome young cockney Londoner of Irish Traveller extraction who as David Essex became a major star on the fringes of Glam.
     But rather than Rock or teeny bop Pop, he did so largely through acting. And it was his own song, "Rock On", that really put him on the map as a major heart throb in 1974 when it became a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic, due in no small part to its distinctive string arrangement, featuring one Pat Halling as concertmaster.
      Its follow-up, “Stardust”, was the title of the hit movie of the same name, a salutary tale of a young Londoner who achieves his dreams of superstardom, only to end up holed up in some Spanish castle as a drug-addicted recluse.
     Like its predecessor, it had been produced by New Yorker Jeff Wayne, with whom Pat worked both on "Rock On" and his own “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds”, widely viewed today as a masterpiece.
     That same year of ’74 saw the release of Cilla Black’s “In My Life”, produced by David Mackay, and “The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast” by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand from an original book by William Plomer, both with orchestra led by Pat.
     While he was still a close colleague of Mickey Most, who was enjoying the second phase of his glittering Pop career. For as previously stated, he’d been briefly involved with the burgeoning Rock movement Rock in the shape of the Jeff Beck Group, which had been formed in early ‘67.
     But in time Most bequeathed the band to his friend and business partner, Peter Grant, and under Grant’s aegis, they went on to enormous success in the US. And by so doing, they anticipated the mega-glory of another Grant-managed band led by a one-time member of the Yardbirds.
     I’m referring of course to Led Zeppelin, a band second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery, if you’ll excuse the leitmotiv.
     While Grant went on to take the US by storm with Led Zep, Mickie set about turning RAK, which they’d formed together in 1969, into one the key Pop record labels of the '70s and home to several classic Glam, Pop and Teeny bop acts.
     These included Disco-Poppers Hot Chocolate which had been formed as early as 1969, and former Detroit native Suzi Quatro, both of whom Pat worked with on several occasions with Mickie at the helm; as well as Mud, Arrows, Kenny, Smokie and Racey.
     Quatro benefited from the brilliance of songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also wrote for the Sweet, Mud, Arrows, Smokie and Racey, and for a time was one of the few female stars of the Glam-Glitter genre.
     But Pat’s work in the mid 1970s was by no means restricted to the purest pure Pop, far from it.
     There was a major movie project in the shape of “The Day of the Jackal”, directed by the great Fred Zinnemann, whom I have always admired enormously.
     I was fortunate enough to be introduced to him by Pat. And he was the second of two legends of the cinema I met around about that time, the first having been the great Charles Chaplin, and they were both quite delectably charming to me.
     Pat was the concertmaster, serving under the Frenchman Georges Delerue- whom I also met – who both composed and conducted the music.
     In terms of recorded music, Pat became caught up in the final stages of the Prog Rock boom when he served as leader for Jethro Tull, for despite himself, he’d been part of the growing Rock movement from the outset.
     And notably through his association with the Beatles, who by '67 were at the forefront of the Rock revolution; although their Rock was ever replete with beautiful Pop melodies.
     But the same could be said of Tull, one of the most purely artistic bands of the genre, which yet achieved both commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic. And the first of these projects, “War Child” from 1974 could be said to be the quintessence of Rock as an art form, whose earliest expression was the aforesaid Prog.
     For by fusing elements of Classical, Folk and Rock, the Prog phenomenon created a music that at times amounted to high art, as in the case of Tull.
     But it was Frank Zappa and the Mother of Invention who effectively birthed the genre; although the notion of Rock as art had evolved by degrees in both Britain and America, with both the Beatles and Bob Dylan being especially influential in this respect.
     Yet while both Britain and America served as the cradles of Art Rock, Prog was characteristically British, with King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes, Gentle Giant and Genesis serving as early exemplars. And in keeping with its position within the rebel music of Rock, its lyrics often inclined to a darkness of tone which was characteristic of much of the musical Underground of the late 1960s.
     Speaking of which…from about ‘73, Prog set about returning to the Underground whence it emerged. And from there, set about informing a vast variety of genres, including Glam Rock, Jazz Rock, New Wave, Post-Punk, Alt Rock and Indie…in fact, one might go so far as to say it’s been ubiquitous ever since.
     So that as things stand, several of the most successful acts in the world could be said to be Progressive in varying degrees. While at the same time, its arch-enemy Punk languishes on the sidelines as little more than a fashion concept.
     But by ’73, pure Prog was already starting to look stale in comparison to the Art Rock of figures such as Todd Rundgren and David Bowie, who were operating as progressives within the Glam Rock genre.
    And in that selfsame year, Pat worked on two concept albums that were nowhere nears as commercial as anything by these two innovators, namely “Cosmic Wheels” by Donovan; and Johnny Harris’ “All To Bring You Morning”, for which he led the strings. And which featured no less than three one-time members of Yes, who just happened to be recording next door at the time as Johnny and friends, and were great admirers of his work.
     He went on to work on a series of Art Rock projects which while not as successful as international best-sellers by the likes of Tull have received fresh critical acclaim through the internet.
     They include “Beginnings” (1975) by Steve Howe, "Octoberon" (1976) by Barclay James Harvest, “Visionary” (1976) and “Perilous Journey” (1977) by Gordon Giltrap, “Donovan” (1977) by Donovan and “Woman in the Wings” (1978) by Steeleye Span lead singer Maddie Prior. While a very early Progressive project of Pat’s was “Definitely What” by Brian Auger and the Trinity.
     But for Pat, involvement in the rebel music of Rock and Roll was ever but a means of earning the amounts of money necessary to support a home and family. While in my case, it was entirely voluntary, and one after the other I immersed myself in its messages of revolt.
     Which is not to say that all Rock music is overtly dark or iconoclastic, far from it. For much of it is relatively innocuous, and there is much beauty to be found in all forms of Rock, both musically and lyrically, as I’ve already made clear. Yet from a historical perspective, it could be said that few art forms have been quite so effective in challenging the Judaeo-Christian foundations of Western culture as Rock.
     And for a time, it was as if a civil war was being fought for the hearts and minds of the young. And that’s especially true of the ‘60s, where in both Britain and America, the conflict was quite extraordinarily fierce…and this persisted into the ‘70s. With the result that the British Punk insurrection provoked a reaction from ordinary members of the public which would be inconceivable today in a West that has become so utterly inured to outrage.
     While by the ‘80s it could be said to have started to wane, as the values of the counterculture started percolating the mainstream. And while this was concurrent with a famous conservative backlash, the latter hardly constituted a wholesale return to traditional values. For these were still in terminal recession, and fighting desperately for their very existence. And the backlash was but an expression of this desperation as I see it.
     And to those who disagree, I can only say they have failed to realise just how deeply embedded into our society these values once were.
     While today, they are merely the province of a minority, and a relatively powerless one at that. So for the time being, it could be said that the culture wars of the past half century or so have been won…and that Rock and Roll stands tall among its victors.

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    Wed, Jun 15th - 4:08AM

    And So the British Blues Boom

    The Riddle of the British English
    The first son of Patrick and Ann Halling was born Carl Robert Halling at the tail end of West London’s Goldhawk Road, which is the sole and only part  not to bisect the traditionally working class district of Shepherds Bush. And while it’s officially in Hammersmith, it’s far closer to the more bourgeois area of Chiswick.
     My first home was a small workman’s cottage in Notting Hill, but by the time of my brother's birth on the 2cnd of May 1958, the family had already moved to nearby Bedford Park. Which while also in Chiswick according to its postcode, is nonetheless part of the Southfields ward of another tough part of West London, South Acton. And presumably was then too.
     One thing is certain is that it was part of the obsolete Borough of Acton, which was scrapped along with the County of London in 1965 to make way for the Greater London Council, which exists to this day.
     Carl was the name of my paternal grandfather, and Robert that of my mother's brother Bob, and I came into the world very much as a Briton as opposed to an Englishman. Which is to not to say I don't consider myself English, because I do; but my origins are British as opposed to strictly English.
     By this I mean English, Scottish and Scots-Irish Canadian through my mother, and English and Danish Australian through my dad, with a possible Cornish admixture coming through my paternal grandmother.
     For her maiden name of Pinnock is a common one in Cornwall, and therefore of possible Brythonic Celtic origin…the word Brythonic having served as the origin for more modern terms such as Britain and Briton, as well as British.
     To explain…there have always been two distinct strains of Celtic people, which is to say, the Brythonic and the Goidelic, or Gaelic. And while the Welsh, Cornish, Manx and Breton peoples are of the Brythonic strain, the Scottish and the Irish are of the Gaelic. 
     It could be said therefore that I partake of both Gaelic and Brythonic Celtic ancestry. Confused? You should be.
     Whatever the truth, I'm proud of my roots in Ulster and Glasgow, both of which possess long-established proleterian traditions, and the same applies to Wales and the north and midlands of England. The south, on the other hand, is widely seen as an affluent, middle class region, and that’s especially true of the so-called home counties, which are those adjacent to London.
     Needless to say, though, poverty does exist in these regions, and even
    the great metropolis of London contains no less than fourteen of the nation's most deprived twenty boroughs. Yet it remains one of the most powerful urban centres in the world.
     And according to certain authorities, it’s easily the most powerful, being the financial heart of a still existent British empire.
     Others would refute this theory out of hand, but it attracts strong support nonetheless. For my part, I view it with a characteristic mix of open-mindedness and scepticism.
     What's more, while Glasgow is home to a massive urban working class, with clearly defined Catholic and Protestant communities, Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh has a reputation for great gentility. Yet, in common with other affluent cities throughout a nation of striking extremes of wealth and poverty, she also contains areas of enormous deprivation.
     One of these, Leith, is the setting for the controversial novel “Trainspotting”, which was made into a successful movie in 1993.
     I'm also proud of Anglo-Saxon ancestry coming through my father, who although born in the Tasmanian backwoods and raised by a Danish father, is English through his mother Mary.
     Her own father was what is known as a gentleman, and therefore part of the lower, or non-titled, gentry.
     Yet, by leaving her first husband, an officer in the British Army, for my paternal grandfather, a formerly prosperous Dane by the name of Carl Christian Halling, she effectively cut herself off from her class and country. Or rather, it could be said she did…at the risk of over-romanticizing matters.
     Having established my quintessential British credentials, England is the nation I identify with in spirit. Indeed if anyone incarnates the riddle of what it is to be both British and English, it’s me. That said, Britain is less a nation than a sovereign state of four nations, four countries, four peoples…England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
     For all this talk of earthly nations, however, in the end there will only be one state remaining…”another country”, in the words of the famous British hymn, “I Vow to Thee My Country”, in which all distinctions of ethnicity and class will be a thing of the past, and all conflict consigned to the Lake of Fire to burn forever and ever.
    And so the British Blues Explosion
    My first school was a kind of nursery school held on a daily basis at the home of one Miss Pierce in Bedford Park.
     But as the sixties were about to dawn, I joined the exclusive Lycée Francais Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, where I was to become bilingual within a matter of months. While it was early in the totemic decade of pop and youth culture that Pat Halling moved into the tough London session music world…where he was to record for film, television and the new popular music that had been recently sired by the Rock and Roll revolution.
     And for much of the time he spent within this lucrative sphere, his main role was that of principal violin, or leader or concertmaster, traditionally in charge not just of the string section but the entire orchestra and so answerable to the conductor alone. But he also served as the fixer contracted to recruit the players for a particular session.   
     In the meantime, Miss Ann Watt's musical life was put on hold while she concentrated on being the mother of two small boys, while supporting her husband in his various passions.
    For example, she faithfully crewed for him for many years at the Tamesis Sailing Club in Teddington, West London, where he was a member for much of the sixties, winning several racing trophies initially in Firefly number 1588, while his career as a session player thrived.
     According to what Pat has told me, he worked on early sessions for British musical sensations Lulu, Cilla Black and Tom Jones, as well as with superstar producers Tony Hatch and Mickie Most.
     Hatch wrote most of Petula Clark's hit singles of the sixties, some alone, some with his wife Jackie Trent, and she went on to become a major star in the US as part of the so-called British Invasion of the American charts. And the same was true of several acts produced by Most; such as Herman's Hermits, whose angelic front man Peter Noone ensured his band were briefly almost as popular as the Beatles stateside
     Pat became close friends with both Most and composer-arranger John Cameron, the two men who helped turn Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan into an international superstars. And among those session musicians who played for Most in the early to mid '60s were Big Jim Sullivan, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, who also arranged for him.
     And guitar virtuoso Page went on to join seminal British Rock band The Yardbirds, which had been initially managed by the impresario Simon Napier Bell, before being taken over by Most's business partner, Peter Grant.
     When the Yardbirds collapsed in 1968, the two remaining members, namely Page and bassist Chris Dreja, set about forming a new band, the New Yardbirds, also to be managed by Grant.
     While Page’s first choice as vocalist, the super-talented Terry Reid, turned him down, he yet recommended a 19 year old from the midlands of England by the name of Robert Plant for the job.
     Page duly travelled to Birmingham with Dreja and Grant to look the youngster over, and was impressed by what he saw. He then invited Plant to spend a few days with him at his home, the Thames Boathouse, in the beautiful little Berkshire village of Pangbourne for initial discussions related to the band.
     And all this took place in the summer of '68, just months before I joined the Nautical College situated a few miles from the village itself.
     So the New Yardbirds were born, but before long they’d mutated into
     Led Zeppelin, one of the most successful Rock bands of all time, and second only to the Rolling Stones in terms of legendary darkness and mystery. 
     It seems incredible that a force of such seismic power and influence as Led Zep should emerge from the relative innocence of the London Blues and session music scenes of the sixties, but then a similar thing could be said of British Rock as a whole.
     So what was it that transformed an interest among young men of largely middle class origins in the bleak brooding music of the Blues into a musical movement that took the world by storm all throughout the '60s and beyond? That's not an easy question to answer, but I'm going to give it some sort of a go.
      The Blues themselves may provide something of a solution to the puzzle, for in the shape of the British Blues boom they constituted one of the dominant tendencies within the Pop explosion of the 1960s.
     Yet, far from proceeding from the Pop revolution inspired by the Beatles, the British Blues came long before it. In fact, they emerged from the Trad revival of the late 1940s, although most Trad devotees decried the Blues as simplistic in comparison to Jazz.
     The most beloved and fearful form of the Blues was the Delta Blues, whose spiritual homeland was the Mississippi Delta, a region lying between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and stretching all the way from Memphis in the north to Vicksburg in the south. 
     With lyrics reflecting the sensuality, isolation and anguish of lost souls victimised by life and alienated from God, she found fertile soil in the still repressed United Kingdom of the late 1950s and early sixties. And especially in the affluent south among such passionate young men as Brian Jones from the spa town of Cheltenham in Gloucester; Eric Clapton from Ripley in suburban Surrey; and Jimmy Page from nearby Epsom, also in Surrey.
     However, it’s none of these legends, so much as a certain guitarist of Greek and Austrian ancestry by the name of Alexis Korner who’s been called the Founding Father of the British Blues. And justifiably so, for more than anyone, he was the incubator of the British Blues Boom which was one of the great cornerstones of the entire Rock movement.
     Korner began his musical career in 1949 as a member of Chris Barber's Jazz Band, but his love of the kindred but then lesser known music of the Blues led him to form Blues Incorporated in 1961. And he did so with several future Rock superstars, including Jack Bruce, most famous for his tenure with Blues-Rock legends Cream, and Charlie Watts, future sticks man for the Stones, both from a Jazz background. Which was not unusual for the first generation of British Rock stars.
     And in addition to those already mentioned, the list of future Rock stars who were drawn to Korner's regular Rythym and Blues night at the Ealing Jazz Club in the early '60s included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ginger Baker, Jimmy Page, Rod Stewart, and Paul Pond.
     Pond, a tall, elegant Oxford undergraduate with the chiselled good looks of a Greek god, had been Brian Jones' first choice as vocalist for his band the Rollin' Stones, but he turned him down in the belief that the Blues had no future.
     He later resurfaced as Paul Jones, front man for former Jazz outfit Manfred Mann, one of the first generation of British Blues bands to achieve mainstream Pop success. And alongside Jones and Mann were Mikes Vickers and Hugg and bass man Dave Richmond…soon to be replaced by Tom McGuiness, who’d begun his career in the Roosters with Eric Clapton.
     While Clapton himself found fame with the Yardbirds which, like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who and the Spencer Davis Group surfed the first wave of British Blues and R&B all the way into the Pop charts.
     But British Rock was fuelled not just by the Blues, but an effervescent fusion of Rock and Roll, Skiffle, R&B, Doo-Wop, Motown and Tin Pan Alley known as Beat. And Beat emerged principally from the tough industrial midlands and north of England to form part of the great Pop revolution of ’63 to ’64, although it’s doubtful the great record buying public had any notion of the difference between Beat and the Blues.
     Yet there were those Pop musicians who clung doggedly to the Blues ethos, despite spectacular chart success. Such as Brian Jones of the Stones; and Eric Clapton, who forsook Pop stardom to seek refuge in Blues purist band Bluesbreakers; whose John Mayall played host to a veritable plethora of future Rock superstars at various stages of his career.
     Another vital component of Pop that threatened to subvert Rock’s evolution as an exclusive offshoot of the Blues was melody; which was the very element the Beatles made central to their music. And as the Rock revolution proceeded apace, it came to play as important a part in its music as rhythm.
     And this was significantly attributable to the Beatles, who, in thrall to the nascent sounds of Motown, a form of R&B that had been heavily infused with a Pop sensibility, sought to emulate its exquisite romantic tunefulness.
     They also imbued their early music with the sentimental sweetness of both Vocal and Latin Jazz and Canzone Napoletana; while all three songwriters were admirers of Classical Music.
     Thence the Rock explosion emerged from several incredibly divergent areas to produce a veritable musical Babel. But lest we forget, it did not begin with the Beatles, for even the term Beat was first used in relation to Pop music as early as 1961.
     For instance, in "The Big Beat Scene" by British writer Royston Ellis, Beat is used to describe the music of the first British Pop stars to emerge in the wake of the Rock revolution. While the term Rock is used as shorthand for Rock and Roll in the selfsame tome.
     In fact, by the time of the Beatles first hit record in 1962, Rock had existed in Britain for at least five years, birthing a host of early superstars. Among these, song and dance men Tommy Steele and Joe Brown had brought a music hall element to the music; while Cliff Richard and the Shadows had preceded the Beatles as the quintessential British guitar band.
     In other words, an entire spectrum of British Rock and Pop music had been established even before the Beatles had recorded their first hit record. But this is a truth that history has failed to emphasize.
    This Thrilling New Art Form
    The Beatles are seen by some as the inventors of modern guitar Pop. While this is of course untrue, they are without doubt the best known and most successful Pop group in history. It was they who consolidated and perfected British Pop, thereby laying the foundation for the entire Rock revolution.
     Yet, while they began very much as a Pop group, in time, having resisted being typecast as mere Pop, they could be said to have birthed a special type of Art Rock founded on a vast variety of genres, including Classical music, Music Hall, Tin Pan Alley, Rock and Roll, Country and Western, Folk, Jazz, Motown, Soul and the Blues. But no less removed from pure Pop than the Blues-based Rock of their chief rivals the Stones.
    While this might lead one to conclude that it was largely through their influence that Rock became the ultimate musical smorgasbord, this was only partly true, as I’ve already made clear.
     Yet, during their brief few years of existence, they informed the development of Rock to a greater degree than any other group or solo singer. And that includes the Rolling Stones, for while the Stones' primal proto-Punk went on to form the basis of all forms of Hard Rock, even these have benefited from the unrelenting melodic inventiveness of the Beatles.
     In addition to those already mentioned, another of its chief sources was the Brill Building Sound, which thrived in that brief period between Elvis's induction into the US Army and the onset of Beatlemania. And during this era, the music's initial threat was neutralised by its co-option by teenage idols who while heavily influenced by Elvis visually, had nowhere near the same devastating effect on the moral establishment.
     Brill Building was named after the very building in New York City where many of its songwriters were housed and which since the '30s had been a centre for Pop music, a term allegedly coined as early as 1926.
     Its music could be described as traditional Pop informed by the Rock and Roll revolution, and as such it exerted a massive if largely unsung influence on the evolution of Sixties Rock, with the Beatles covering several Brill Building songs in the early phase of their career.
     Yet, while the Beatles remain indelibly associated with modern Pop, by the totemic year of ‘66, they were as much a Rock as a Pop group; and their lyrics had started to acquire a marked intellectual dimension. And this was in no small part attributable to Bob Dylan.
     For Dylan was a consciously intellectual figure who in the fallow years immediately preceding the British Invasion had mined the ancient American art of Folk Music for inspiration.
     By so doing, he’d gained an international reputation as a poet-minstrel in the Protest tradition, and largely thanks to him, Pop had acquired a certain gravitas by the mid 1960s. And one which was strikingly at odds with the innocent and sentimental music of the early Beatles. Yet, the Beatles outgrew the Beat era with ease, while Beat itself was rendered obsolete by the depredations of Rock.
     This thrilling new art form developed not just as a result of Dylan's influence as the first great poet of Rock, but an increasing musical complexity, possibly allied to a greater spiritual darkness. And while the Beatles led the field in terms of the former, the latter could be said to have arisen from a tougher element introduced into the music.
     This came courtesy of such Blues-based outfits as the Stones, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things and the Who, and the term Rock was somehow perfect in describing their powerful primal sound. However, when this moved in to supplant Pop as the term of choice, it's impossible to say.
     One thing is certain is that as soon as it did, Rock became far more than a mere music form.
     In fact I’d go so far as to say it was a way of life from the outset; a philosophy; even a religion, and as such, one of its prime tenets was rebellion against the traditional Judaeo-Christian values of the West. So it’s not surprising its spiritual homelands were Britain and the USA, given these are the nations most associated historically with the rise of Evangelical Christianity.
     For despite having been inextricably linked to Pop since its inception, Rock is clearly more than just another form of popular music. And while it possesses very little ability left to shock, Western society has been altered, possibly beyond all hope of recovery, by the rebel spirit of Rock and the sexual and social upheavals it once spearheaded.

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    Wed, Jun 15th - 3:57AM

    Miss Ann Watt Had Stars in Her Eyes


    The Scots-Irish Sept of Watt
    My father Patrick Clancy Halling joined the London Philharmonic 0rchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London. And during this time, he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the Thames River Emergency Service.
     This was an organisation which, lasting from 1938 to ’41, used  converted Thames pleasure steamers as floating ambulances or first aid stations.
     Following his time with the LP0, he played with the London Symphony Orchestra with his cellist brother Peter, before going on to specialize in Chamber music.
     His chamber career included eight years with the Hirsch quartet, led by Dublin- born violinist Leonard Hirsch, and the formation of his own Quartet Pro Musica in 1955, with Roger Raphael, Peter Sermon and his brother Peter, while Ernest Scott and Gwynne Edwards joined at a later date. And three years later, this resulted in an extraordinary event taking place in the Recital Room of the Royal Festival Hall.
     On the 2cnd of November 1958, the Quartet convened to take part in a reading of TS Eliot’s “Four Quartets” by four giants of the arts including the then poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis, together with his wife the actress Jill Balcon, fellow actress Maxine Audley, and Shakespearean scholar George Rylands. By which time, Lewis’ and Balcon’s son, future Hollywood superstar Daniel Day Lewis, would have been a little over a year and half old. And this was interspersed with a rendition of Bela Bartok’s Sixth Quartet.
     He also played with the Virtuoso Ensemble, whose distinctions are believed to have included first UK performances of works by major British 20th Century composers, such as Elizabeth Lutyens, Humphrey Searle, Peter Racine Fricker and Mátyás Seiber.
     And among his recordings from the late 1950s currently featured on the internet are “The History of Music in Sound, Vol. VI: The Growth of Instrumental Music (1630-1750)”, on which, with Richard Hadeney on flute, Basil Lam on harpsichord and Terence Weil on cello, he interprets Vitali’s “Trio Sonata in E Minor, Op. 2, No. 3”, Legrenzi’s “La Cornara” and Jenkins’ “Fancy in G Minor”.
     In June 1949, he wed my mother, the Canadian singer Miss Ann Watt, who through marriage became Mrs Ann Halling, thereby substituting a Scottish surname for a Danish one.
     In Ireland, the Watt surname is exclusive to Ulster, home province of my grandfather James Watt, having been carried there by the Scottish and English planters of the late 1600s. It's common in the Scottish Lowlands, especially in the counties of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. As might be expected it’s affiliated with that of Watson, and both are what is known as septs of the Forbes and Buchanan Clans. A sept being a family that followed a certain chief or Clan leader, either through being related by marriage or resident on his land, thereby making up a larger clan or family.
     Kindred septs include those of MacQuat, MacQuattie, MacQuhat, MacQwat, MacRowatt, MacWalter, MacWater, MacWatson, MacWatt, MacWatters, MacWattie, Vatsoun, Vod, Vode, Void, Voud, Voude, Vould, Walter, Walterson, Wasson, Waters, Waterson, Watson, Watsone, Watsoun, Wattie, Wattson, Wod, Wode, Wodde, Woid, Woide, Wood, Woyd and Wyatt and Watt.
     She’d been born Angela Jean Elisabeth Watt on the 13th of November 1915, in the city of Brandon, Manitoba, the youngest by 7 years of the six children of James and Elisabeth Watt from Ulster, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland respectively, and the only one not to be born in Britain...the others, Annie-Isabella, the eldest born ca. 1897, Robert, James, Elisabeth, who died in infancy, and Catherine having been born in Glasgow, except Cathy, who was born in Ireland.
     While still an infant she moved with her family to the Grandview area of East Vancouver.
     Grandview's earliest settlers were usually tradesmen or shopkeepers, in shipping or construction work, and largely of British origin. James Watt himself having been variously a builder and electrician by trade who'd been born in the little town of Castlederg in County Tyrone, Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
     Grandview underwent massive change following the First World War when Italian, Chinese, and East European immigrants moved in, and still more after World War II with a second wave of Italian immigrants. Today it’s part of the Grandview-Woodland area of East Vancouver.
     Ann’s mother was from the great industrial city of Glasgow, having been born there to an Englishman from either Manchester or Liverpool; while her mother was Scottish. This means that my mother is of mixed Lowland Scottish, Ulster-Scots and English ancestry, not that any real difference exists between these three ethnicities.
     As to my maternal grandfather…he was almost certainly a descendant of the Planters sent by the English to Ulster in the 1600s, many of them originally inhabitants of the Anglo-Scottish border country and the Lowland region of Scotland.
     According to some sources, Lowlanders are distinct from their Highland counterparts, being of Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic ancestry, although how true this is I’m not qualified to say. Certainly, the region straddling the Scottish Lowlands and Anglo-Scottish Borderlands, is one traditionally perceived as Sassenach, which is the Gaelic term for Saxon, or person of Anglo-Saxon origin.
     Whatever the truth, the sensible view is their bloodline contains a variety of kindred strains including - as well as Anglo-Saxon - Gaelic, Pictish, Norman and so on, depending on the exact region. Moreover, all Caucasian inhabitants of the British Isles - including the independent sovereign nation of Ireland - partake of a fairly homogenous ancestry, which certain experts are claiming to be more Iberian than anything else. In the end, though, are we not all of the same single human race created by God? As a Christian, I can’t believe anything else.
     The Ulster Scots emigrated to the US in the 1600s, and their descendants are to be found all throughout the country. But most famously perhaps in those regions which are culturally Southern, which is to say those states situated beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Indeed most of the original European settlers of the Deep and Upland South are widely believed to have been of British and especially English and Scots-Irish origin. Today, many of them describe themselves as merely “American”, while others continue to claim either English or Scots-Irish ancestry. 
    The Theatre Under the Stars
    By the time he'd moved his family to Grandview in the autumn of 1924, my grandfather James Watt had abandoned the severe Presbyterian Calvinism of his Ulster boyhood and youth for the more open - Wesleyan - theology of the Salvation Army. Yet, in keeping with the Army of that time, his approach to Scripture was what would be described as fundamental today; and he was accordingly opposed to worldly pleasures such as dancing, the theatre, and movie-going. Alcohol was nothing short of the Devil’s own elixir, while even the drinking tea and coffee was frowned upon. 
     Some years after moving to Grandview, James Watt built his family a house in Kitsilano on the city’s West Side, but a reversal of fortune in terms of his business meant that the family was forced to return to Grandview.
     Then at the age of 14, Angela joined her friend Marie and Marie’s mother on a car trip just beyond the US-Canadian border into the state of Washington, where she saw her very first movie, a romantic civil war picture entitled “Only the Brave” starring Gary Cooper and Mary Brian. Its effect on her was little short of seismic, as by her own admission it introduced worldly ideas into her psyche for the very first time.
     Despite an intensively Christian upbringing, from then on, she became consumed by the glamour of the movies and show business. In other words, she'd allowed the camel's nose into her life, and it only remained for the rest of the camel to follow.
     At high school, she'd been a good but not exceptional pupil, unlike her closest friend Margaret Stone, who excelled both in schoolwork and sporting activities, while Angela's single sporting distinction was being part of her school track team. However, it was in the Glee Club that she came into her own, thanks to a singing voice that was of a rare beauty and quality.
     When she was 17, her father became very seriously ill and she was forced to take time off school to do her share of looking after him. She spent long periods of time by his bedside, weeping for a man who when she was still only a little girl had a habit of affectionately flicking the back of her hair and she'd scolded him to make him stop.  She was off for so long that Margaret Stone had come calling for her with another friend, concerned by her long absence. He died after a short illness, and Angela, utterly heartbroken, wept openly at his funeral.
     In her final year at high school, Angela learned short hand and other tools of the secretarial trade, while working part time at F.W. Woolworth's on Commercial Drive. After leaving, she started work answering telephone enquiries on behalf of her sister Cathy's laundering business at Pioneer Laundry. She ran a branch specialising in the washing and starching of men’s collars.
     In time though, she was able to make her living exclusively as a soprano singer. Many of her greatest triumphs took place at the Theatre Under the Stars, one of Vancouver’s most famous musical theatres, which officially opened on August the 6th 1940.
     At the TUTS, Miss Ann Watt played the lead in such classic operettas as Oscar Straus’ “The Chocolate Soldier” (1908 ), “Naughty Marietta” (1910) by Victor Herbert, with libretto by Rida Johnson Young, and “The Student Prince” (1924 ) by Sigmund Romberg, with libretto by Dorothy Donnelly.
     And for the CBC with full orchestra, she broadcast many popular classics. Such as, to the accompaniment of Percy Harvey and the Golden Strings,
    two songs by Victor Herbert with the baritone Greg Miller, viz., “A Kiss in the Dark” from “Orange Blossoms”, and “Sweetheart”. 
     As well as “’Neath the Southern Moon”, another lovely song by Herbert,  “Strange Music” from “The Song of Norway” (1942), adapted from Grieg by Wright and Forrest, “Can’t Help Singing” by Kern and Yarburg from the 1944 movie of the same name
     Such was the loveliness of her voice to say nothing of looks so glamorous she was likened to Betty Grable, she became something of a Canadian Forces Sweetheart. While her irresistible vivacity and charm caused both audiences and press to fall in love with her not just in Canada but parts of the northern US as well.
    Among the Classical songs she broadcast during the North American phase of her career, largely to the piano accompaniment of her very close friend Phylis Dylworth, were “Dedication” by Schumann, “The Vain Suit” by Brahms, “Les Filles de Cadiz” by Delibes, “Mandoline by Debussy, “Before My Window” by Rachmaninov and “Silent Noon” by Vaughan Williams…with all liede rendered in English due to wartime restrictions on the German language.
     After the war, she hoped to expand her career either in the US or the UK, but despite a successful audition for the San Francisco Light Opera Company, she ultimately opted for England, once a ticket to sail had become available to her.
     She set sail for Britain laden with letters of recommendation from her singing teacher Avis Phillips, as well as numerous press cuttings from her brilliant Canadian career.
     She'd been led to believe that once in London, she'd effectively take the singing world by storm, at Drury Lane and elsewhere. Sadly though, soon after arriving, she failed an audition for the internationally famous Glyndebourne Opera House, home of the annual festival of the same name.
     However, she did land a small role in the Ivor Novello musical, “King’s Rhapsody” which opened at the Palace Theatre on the 15th of September 1949, with its author one-time matinee idol Novello in the title role. It ran for 841 performances, surviving Novello who died in 1951.
     And she broadcast for the BBC, with “De Fleurs” from Debussy’s “Proses Lyriques”, “Stars in my Eyes”, a lovely song by Fritz Kreisler with lyrics by Dorothy Field, and the popular Harry Ralton standard “I Remember the Cornfields”, with lyrics by Martin Mayne, being among the songs she performed for them.
     She also appeared in an early television show called “Picture Post”, of which there remains no record. 
     Sadly though, it wasn’t long after her arrival in London that she realized her voice was deteriorating - this being especially true of her top notes - possibly as a result of sleeping difficulties. Although she was a smoker; and she has alluded to a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle enjoyed at the height of her fame in Vancouver.
     She went from one singing teacher after the other in the hope that her once near-perfect voice might be restored to her but little came of her efforts, although one of her tutors, who just happened to be the great German soprano Elisabeth Schumann did offer some hope.
     Schumann suggested that once her time in England was over, for she was recording her final liede 78s in London with the British pianist Gerald Moore, she accompany her back to New York City, which had been her home town since 1918.
     However, my mother turned her down, feeling she’d already spent enough money on lessons. And besides, she was seriously involved with a London-based musician my father Patrick Halling, whom she married in June 1949, and so uprooting would not have been easy, and they were far from rich.
     Pat and Ann spent the next seven years living the vie de bohème in a peaceful post-war London and on the continent, travelling by car or motorcycle, just happy being young and in love in that relatively innocent period between the end of the Second World War and the onset of the Youth Culture of the sixties. After which things would never be quite the same again.

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    Wed, Jun 15th - 3:55AM

    The Heroic Life of Phyllis Mary Pinnock

    (Phyllis) ChartleyChartley Mary Halling

    In the Beautiful Valley of Tamar
    My paternal grandmother Phyllis Mary Pinnock grew into a remarkably beautiful young woman with dark hair and green eyes, and an exquisitely sculpted mouth.
     She'd been born sometime towards the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century, possibly in the Dulwich area of South East London. And given her father had been what is known as a gentleman, which means he forswore all labour, it may have been she was a scion of that part of the upper middle class known as the lower gentry.
     And according to my father's account, her first true love David was a scion of the Wilson Line of Hull which had developed into the largest privately owned shipping firm in the world in the early part of the century.
     But like so many young men of that dutiful generation, immortalised in cruelly beautiful poems such as Owen’s "Anthem for Doomed Youth" which speaks to us of "sad shires" decimated by an inexplicable conflict, he died young during the First World War. And she subsequently married an officer in the British army, to whom she bore two children, Peter Bevan and Suzanne, known as Dinny.
     When her children were little more than infants, she elected to join her husband as a tea planter in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. And it was on that breathtakingly beautiful island, in a tough and typically isolated environment that she met the two men, tea planters like herself, who were destined to become her second and third husbands
     They were a British engineer by the name of Christopher “Chris” Evans, and my Danish namesake Carl Halling.
     Carl had evidently once been a successful businessmen within the linoleum industry before some kind of reversal of fortune found him on the famous tea fields of Ceylon, which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once described as being “as true a monument to courage as is the lion at Waterloo”.
     Mary’s third child, my father, was born Patrick Clancy Halling in Rowella, Tasmania, in the beautiful Tamar Valley, but raised as Carl's son in the great city of Sydney.
     And it was in Sydney that Carl contracted the multiple sclerosis that would ultimately kill him, after which, according to family accounts, Mary made a living variously as a journalist - writing for the Sydney Telegraph - and teacher, even running her own primary school for a time. But it was a hard life without a husband to depend on.
     One blessing was that all three of her children were exceptionally gifted musically, Patrick as a violinist, Peter as a cellist and Suzanne as a pianist, but of all of them Pat was the only borderline prodigy. For at just eight years old, he won a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatory of Music, soloing for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra a year later.
     However, he reserved his true passion for the water, this love of the sea and ships and specifically sailing being a legacy from Mary, who spent much of her adult life by the sea.
    According to Pat, Carl died around the time of the abdication of King Edward the VIIIth in late 1936, soon after which Mary and her family set off for Denmark, Carl having expressed a wish to be buried in his native land.
    And then on to London where Pat studied both at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama under the tutelage of the great Austrian violinist Max Rostal.
     He joined the London Philharmonic 0rchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London. 
     And at the same time, he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the Thames River Emergency Service, which, formed in 1938, lasted for three years, using converted Thames pleasure steamers as floating ambulances or first aid stations.
      But once Phyllis had settled back in her native London with her children, there is evidence some kind of reconciliation, which included financial aid, took place between herself and her family. And if one wanted to over-romanticise matters, it could conceivably be said she was reconciled with her hallowed social class, after having been cut off from the same in consequence of marrying beyond it.
     And in this one respect, she was akin to the mother of “Kind Hearts and Coronets” anti-hero Louis Mazzini, who suffers ostracism at the hands of her aristocratic family for the social crime of marrying an Italian opera singer, which is to say out of her social caste. And following the untimely death of her husband, she enters a state of deep mourning for the decision that wrecked her life; before passing her pathological preoccupation with social position onto her only child. Before he proceeds to effectuate a terrible revenge on the class that rejected her.
     But nothing anywhere near as dramatic as the fate of the Mazzinis of Robert Hamer’s pitch black Ealing comedy came to affect my own family. For far from a sadistic psychopath my father went on to become a successful professional musician.
     But the comparison can be made, and my  father would occasionally speak to me of a supposed distant connection to aristocracy when I was a young man. And on at least one occasion, he did so as a means of boosting my morale…by convincing me that my destiny was that of a scholar and athlete; born for great things so to speak.
     A further comparison can be made to the mother of the great movie star Montgomery Clift, whose extraordinary beauty and magnetism could be said to constitute the very quintessence of the aristocratic WASP Prince.
     Although born into a fairly humble middle class family, Clift was a scion of the southern aristocracy according to his mother Ethel “Sunny” Clift. So Monty and his twin sister and elder brother Brooks were raised as if to the manor born, and educated in French, German and Italian.
     And like Sunny Clift, Phyllis Mary Pinnock insisted she was descended from a lost branch of an aristocratic family.
     But I never fully believed her story until one day in the 1980s, while my family was being paid a visit by great aunt and uncle, and I surreptitiously placed a cassette tape recorder close to Mary’s younger sister Joan while they were dining with my parents and myself. And I did so in the belief that one or another of my parents would quiz her as to the veracity of Mary’s longstanding boast of distant blue blood.
     If my memory serves me aright, among the truths she revealed about our family that day was that Joan and Mary’s paternal great grandfather had been a coachman by trade who’d been left an enormous sum of money by a grateful employer. And this act of philanthropy introduced money into the family for the first time.
     Another was that her maternal grandmother’s maiden name had been Butler, which allegedly links the family to the Butlers of Ormond, a dynasty of Anglo-Norman nobles named after the Earldom they went on to rule in Munster, Ireland.
     And the Butler saga begins in earnest with the Norman Invasions of Ireland, which took place in 1169 on the orders of one Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, one of five kingdoms of pre-Norman Ireland.
    The Mystery of Ormonde
    But who precisely were these Normans who went on to create one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe and whose territorial conquests would ultimately include not just Ireland, but England, Scotland, Wales, Southern Italy and the island of Sicily?
     Unsurprisingly, they are largely Nordic, although believed to have been of mixed Viking, Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock, a mixture which apparently produced an instinct towards elitism and dominance.
     And the Norman conquest of England was famously sealed with William the Conqueror’s success at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD, which introduced a new aristocracy into the country. Which means that the Normans replaced the Anglo-Saxons as the ruling class of England, while becoming part of a single French-speaking culture with lands on both sides of the channel.
     And this explains her fierce rivalry with mainland France, as well as the 1842 poem "Lady Clara Vere de Vere", in which Tennyson makes the valid point that "Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood." Which of course inspired the movie "Kind Hearts and Coronets".
     And what the poem was alluding to was the specifically Norman nature of the English aristocracy. But back to the travails of the Emerald Isle…
     By the fateful year of 1169, Ireland, a land once given over to the ancient Celtic faith of Druidry and the worship of the Sidhe or Faery Folk, was profoundly Christian, despite a remnant of paganism.
     But an invasion had already been authorised as early as 1155 by the first and only English Pope Adrian IV, decision which occasioned centuries of English dominance and Irish misery. While MacMurrough had been forced into exile in 1166 by a coalition of forces led by the High King of Ireland Rory O'Connor, and had fled…allegedly to Bristol first...and then to France.
     There are various accounts of what happened next, but it’s certain he asked Henry II, first English King of the Norman House of Plantagenet, for help in regaining his kingdom. And after Henry had pledged his aid, began recruiting allies in Wales, with Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, foremost among them. So Ireland was earmarked for invasion.
     In 1167, he returned to Ireland with a small army of mercenaries, but it wasn’t until ‘69 that a full-scale invasion by the Anglo-Normans and their Welsh and Flemish allies got under way. And while contemporary accounts refer to the invaders as English, they have also been described as Anglo-Norman, Cambro-Norman and Anglo-French. With the Flemish contingent recruited largely from those Flemings who’d arrived in Britain with William the 1st… and had settled in Wales…only to be perceived by the hostile Welsh as English.
     And also believed to have taken part was one Theobald Walter, patriarch of the Butlers of Ormond.
     Two years afterwards, Henry II set foot in Ireland, the first English King to do so, and so High Kingship was brought to an end, to be replaced by over 750 years of English rule.
     Henry was an ancestor of future generations of Butlers, and a grandson of William the Conqueror, which may provide a kinship with the mysterious Merovingian dynasty of Frankish Kings.
     And when his son Prince John arrived in Ireland in 1185, it was in the company of the said Theobald Walter, whose father had been Butler of England; and so he was appointed Butler of Ireland and given a portion of land in eastern Munster that would become known as Ormond. Thence the name, the Butlers of Ormond.
     And he married one Maud le Vavasour around 1200, and they had one son together, named Theobald le Botiller, the 2cnd Baron Butler. While his son Theobald Butler married Margery de Burgh, a descendant of both Dermot McMurrough and the legendary Brian Boru, thereby bringing royal Gaelic blood into the Butler bloodline.
     Through one of their sons, Edmund Butler, the first Earl of Ormond came into being through his marriage to Joan FitzGerald of the ancient  FitzGerald dynasty. And he was appointed as such in 1328, which came a year after his marriage to Eleanor de Bohun, beautiful grand-daughter of Edward I of the House of Plantagenet…known as the Angevins from their origins in Anjou, France. Dubbed The Hammer of the Scots, Edward Longshanks was that Anglo-Norman king who'd had Scottish noble Sir William Wallace executed in 1305 for having led a resistance during the Wars of Scottish independence. And who was chillingly portrayed in Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning “Braveheart” by Patrick McGoohan.
     The Earldom was created for this self-same James Butler, and through his issue all subsequent Earls of Ormonde were descended, including his son Thomas, who was the great grandfather of Anne Boleyn, and so great great grandfather of Elizabeth the 1st.
     Anne’s father Thomas became the Earl of Ormonde in 1528, when Piers Ruadh Butler resigned his claim by orders of the king, only to have the earldom restored to him ten years later…an act which heralded the title’s third creation.
     And by this time, England had become a Protestant nation, and Anglicanism established in Ireland as the state religion, despite the vast majority of the population being Catholic.
     And much to Ireland’s misfortune, the Butler family became involved with some vicious feuding with their longtime rivals the FitzGeralds in the late 1500s. And when the Black Earl Sir Thomas defeated his own mother’s family at the Battle of Affane in 1565, it helped provoke the Desmond Rebellions of 1567-73 and 1579-83, the second of which was bolstered by hundreds of papal troops.
     But these were defeated by the Elizabethan Armies and their Irish allies, soon after which the first English Plantations were carried out in a devastated Munster. While the first plantations in Ulster, Ireland’s most purely Gaelic region, remained yet in the future.
    Of the Supposed Superiority of Nobility5
    In 1609 the first Ulster Plantation came into being in the wake of the Nine Years War of 1594-1603 which was largely fought between the Kingdom of England and its Irish allies and an alliance of Gaelic clans led by Hugh O’Neill and Hugh Roe O’Donnell. While the latter would ultimately include
    6000 Spanish soldiers sent by Phillip II.
     The routing of the Ulster Earls led to the famous Flight of the Earls to Europe, the end of the Gaelic Clan system, and the colonization of Ulster by English and Scottish Protestants.
     While the next conflict to involve the Butlers of Ormond was the Irish Rebellion of 1641 which was an uprising not of the Catholic Irish, but the Old English, composed of Catholic gentry who’d become more Irish than the Irish themselves. And while the fifth earl of its third creation James Butler was placed in charge of English government forces based in Dublin, the Old English were led by James’ own cousin Richard Butler; and in time Ireland fell to the Catholic rebels.
     But in time it mutated into a war between the native Irish and the newly arrived Protestant settlers from Britain which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Protestants, the precise number being a matter of much debate.
     While a year later, James Butler was involved in yet another conflict in the shape of the English Civil War. And being a Royalist sympathizer, he despatched an estimated 4000 troops to England to fight for King Charles the 1st against the Calvinist Roundheads under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell…only to be made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by Royal Appointment in 1643 for his pains.
     But by 1649, Ireland had become a stronghold of support for the King; with Ormonde in charge both of the Royalist forces and the Irish Confederation of Old English Catholics and native Gaels; and this had the effect of attracting the hostile attentions of Cromwell and his New Model Army.
     And when Ormonde attempted to thwart the English Puritan invaders by holding a line of fortified towns across the country, Cromwell defeated them one after the other, beginning in 1649 with the Siege of Drogheda.
     While in the summer of 1650, following a long series of humiliating defeats for the Irish, Ormonde, having been deserted by Protestants and Catholics alike, was urged to leave the country by the Catholic clergy, which he promptly did, seeking refuge in Paris with the exiled Charles II.
     Yet, on the Restoration of the Stuart Monarchy in 1660, he was showered with honours by the new King of England, Scotland and Ireland; and was made Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of Ireland in the spring of '61.
     But eight year later, he fell from favour as a result, allegedly, of courtly intrigue on the part of Royal favourite James Villiers, the 2cnd Duke of Buckingham. While in 1671, an attempt was made on his life by an Irish adventurer by the name of Thomas Blood; but Ormonde escaped, convinced that Buckingham had put him up to it, although nothing was ever proven.
     Then in 1682, he became Duke of Ormonde in the peerage of England, dying four years later in Dorset. While soon after his death, a poem was published that celebrated an essential decency that was never compromised.
     One of his sons, the 2cnd Duke of Ormonde, commanded a regiment at the Battle of the Boyne under William of Orange, and took part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. While his own son was the third and final Duke of Ormonde.
     However, the Earldom lasted until the end of the 20th Century, becoming dormant in October 1997 with the death of James Butler the 7th Marquess of Ormonde, who had two daughters, but no sons.
     And it may be I’m a distant relative of theirs…and if so, also related to many, perhaps even al,l of the most blue-blooded families not just in Europe but the entire world.
     In the end though, the facts history entirely fail to attest to the natural superiority of nobility, even though the Bible upholds the authority of parents and the instruments of the state. For God has implemented these as a means of controlling Man's innate depravity, while appealing to his hierarchical instincts and deep-seated desire for order and structure.
     But all hierarchies erected by Man in order that one section of society might feel superior to another, whether on the basis of class, race, skin colour or some other false distinction, are antichrist, because all human beings are created equal in the sight of God.
     And there is a theory that those blessed by nobility of birth are in fact less likely to turn to Christ than those from backgrounds of brokenness or poverty. While great beauty or wealth or intellectual distinction can fill its possessors with a sense of self-sufficiency which can lead to a refutation of God.
     But my beautiful grandmother Phyllis was ever attached to the notion her family boasted blue blood; and she clung to her dream throughout a life of unending hardship, much of this attributable to sheer ill fortune.
     For instance, having married Chris Evans soon after the death of her second husband Carl, she lost him in ’49 while they were both out sailing together, the victim of a fatal coronary.
     I first met her in the early 1960s when I was still just a small child, by which time she was living on a yacht in the south of France, possibly Nice, or Cannes, a striking figure, slim and tanned, with a magnificent head of the purest white hair. But by about the middle of the decade, she’d moved into her own house, Chartley, named after her former house in Sydney. And situated near the little town of Cambrils in the province of Tarragona on Catalonia’s Costa Brava.
     And for several years until about ‘68, our family vacationed with her at Chartley every summer, often with Peter’s family, who lived opposite us in Bedford Park, West London.  While photographs of her from around this time reveal a weather beaten woman with wiry white hair, habitually clad in old and even patched trousers; but she could be sweet when her heart was touched.
     She was a fantastic spirit, given to what could be called Celtic whimsy, which may have proceeded from Cornish origins, which her maiden name of Pinnock certainly suggested. Although the Anglo-Saxons are hardly less inclined to this quality, for after all, did they not produce such icons of nonsense as Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll?
     By the early ‘70s, ill health forced her back to Britain, where she lived until her passing in 1973, sometimes with us, and sometimes in her own little cottage in Berkshire. While her constant companions were two mongrel dogs whom she’d rescued from the beach towards the end of her Spanish sojourn.
     These were Charlot, who was sandy-coloured and looked a little like a whippet, and Phillippe, who had long pointed ears like those of an Alsatian.
     She was an altogether different person in frail old age, much mellowed and desperately vulnerable, writing desolate poetry for my benefit, or watching old movies with me on TV. Such as the sentimental Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Carousel” which she initially dismissed as “slush”. But the famous climactic tune of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has a tendency to touch all but the most stoical of hearts, and Mary’s was not exempt.
     For my part, I’d left the room, possibly to weep softly to myself in some secluded part of my parents’ house, only to return to find her in tears. I’ve never forgotten it.
     There were times I was able to share some tender moments with her, but looking back, I wish there’d been more, and oh how she’d have welcomed them. But I was young and strong and thoughtless, with little concern for the trials of the elderly, fact which saddens me today.
     For does not the Word of God say in Matthew 25:40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”?
     Now I’m almost the same age she was when we first met, and I’ve come to honour the memory of a brilliant tragic woman, and to feel for her in a way I was never capable of during the brief few years of our acquaintance.
     A little before her passing, Phillippe vanished under mysterious circumstances into the English countryside. So Charlot came to live with us on his own in ’73; and was subsequently renamed Charlie. He proved a gentle, faithful and loving pet, but with a strong character akin to that of his doting mistress, dying himself in 1983 following a short but valiant battle with declining health.

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    Wed, Jun 15th - 3:44AM

    Letmotifs from an English Pastorale

    Thumbnail for version as of 19:57, 24 May 2008Thumbnail for version as of 19:57, 24 May 2008

    One thing is certain. Paul Runacles had not been born into a typically privileged upper middle class family, and so by the time he arrived at his college, he was bereft of a frame of reference; unlike the majority of his fellow pupils, weaned on the gilded sports of the British social elite.
     And he escaped  from his college once…like some kind of hysterical gymslip schoolgirl...just the once it was...around ’71 or ’72…to avoid being punished for something stupid he did.
     It was an utterly pointless exercise as it was the last day of term, but he just panicked and bolted, and kept on running...until he ended up wandering through some muddy field in the heart of the English countryside before simply giving up and sitting by the side of the road. 
     But he never did it again, and in later years, when he looked back at his time as a public schoolboy, he’d insist if he possessed a single quality that might be termed noble…such as patience, or self-mastery, or consideration of the needs of other people, then he owed it to his education, and not least the four years he spent at his college.
     Yet, looking at the facts after his eventual exit, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d simply picked up from where he left off before he collapsed in that muddy field in the heart of the English countryside and started drifting in circles again…leaving so many tasks unfinished he effectively wrecked his gilded destiny. But in fact this was far from the truth, for he was never without purpose; but simply…he lacked the go-getter’s ability to turn his dreams to good account.
     And looking back on all he’d lost in late middle age, he’d often weep silently to himself at night, at the end of yet another day spent doing really very little when he thought about it.
      And there’d be times when certain pieces of quintessentially English pastoral music still had the power to evoke his strange and sudden flight, or rush of blood to the head, of over four decades ago. Such as Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending", which bespeaks a passion for the Arcadian soul of England that verges on the ecstatic. And the same could be said for the opening sections of Mike Oldfield's “Hergest Ridge", which tended to convey to him a deep mournfulness silently existent beneath the picture perfect image of English privilege.
     Any argument in favour of such a tragic element would be powerfully reinforced in his eyes by playing the music of the much-loved singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who was not so much handsome as beautiful in what could be called a classically English, soft, wistful, romantic, Shelleyan fashion, with seemingly perfect skin, full lips and a head of cascading curls.
     And in some of his many photos, he bears an uncanny resemblance to the former Doors front man Jim Morrison; and like Morrison, he was a poet as much as a musician. But the likeness ends there, for while Morrison was able to conquer his natural shyness and become a wildly charismatic showman, Drake never mastered the art of Rock performance.
     However, blessed with a precocious musical genius, he secured a recording contract with the Island label while still only twenty years old and at Cambridge University.
     On the surface of things, he was destined for a long and happy life, but unlike his near-double, was unable to translate his enormous gifts into commercial success. And he became very seriously depressed as a result, dying mysteriously at the age of just 26, after having released only three albums in his lifetime.
     Looking back from the vantage point of the early 2010s, Runacles couldn’t help thinking that in any era other than that ushered in by the Rock revolution, Drake would have pursued a career more suited to his background and temperament. As opposed to one which, while ensuring his immortality, clearly caused him an inestimable amount of pain.
     And he came to maturity in a Britain whose young were in active rebellion against the Judaeo-Christian value system on which the nation had been founded. So was perforce affected by the spiritual chaos of the times, which propelled him towards the endless night of worldly philosophy, deadly for a mind as litmus-paper sensitive as his.
     And listening in late middle age to such perfectly English examples of pastoral music as Drake’s “River Man”, which bespeaks a passion for the Arcadian soul of England that verges on the ecstatic, Runacles became suddenly cognizant of a colossal compassion within himself.
     But not just for the youthful Runacles… who ran away from his college once like some kind of hysterical gymslip schoolgirl...so much as for the privileged classes as a whole…those traditionally educated at public schools.
     A somewhat unusual receptacle for the milk of human kindness, some might say. But the privileged among us are surely no less in need of consideration than any other social class. 
     For despite the fact that the vast majority of those who pass through the British public school system go on to lead full and successful lives entirely free from melancholy, social advantage can clearly be a heavy burden to bear for some. Such as Nick Drake who sang so devastatingly of “falling so far on a silver spoon” in the dark pastorale, “Parasite”.
      As to Runacles…he’d not been born into a typically privileged upper middle class family, and so by the time he arrived at his public school, he was bereft of a frame of reference, unlike the majority of his fellow pupils, weaned on the gilded sports of the British social elite.
     Yet, a close connection existed in the shape of his paternal grandmother, born into what was once known as the lower gentry, in as much as her father was independently wealthy, and so had no need to work.
     Yet, she left her first husband to live in Australia with a man she’d met in Ceylon while working on a tea plantation, a Danish citizen who’d allegedly once been a successful businessman, until a reversal of fortune reduced him to penury. The outcome was she was cast out into a kind of social exile, exacerbated by the Dane’s slow decline and death from multiple sclerosis. At least, that’s how Runacles saw it.
     His mother, on the other hand, was the product of working class immigrants to British Canada from Ulster, Ireland and Lowland Scotland. And it amused him to think that there was a good chance distant relatives of his continued to live in these regions.
     But that was not the reason he had trouble adapting to public school life, for his brother positively thrived within it.
     No, there was something intrinsically askew about Runacles himself. For after all, who thinks of running away on the last day of term without any purpose or aim, only to finish up collapsed by the side of a muddy field in the heart of the English countryside?
     The truth is that while public schools have long served as the traditional places of learning for future members of the British governing and professional classes, they have never done so in the capacity of pampering wet nurses.
     And so not every child who finds themselves within the bosom of such institutions is able to prosper as others do. And during Runacles’ time at his own college, he knew many boys who responded to the fiercely hierarchical nature of public school life with fear, self-effacement and timidity.
     Yet he himself was not among them, for while he could hardly be said to have thrived, he was yet happy in his own way, and enormously popular. What they used to call a character. So this strange flight of his was totally out of character…especially seeing as  he was famous for his resilience, having been one of the most intensely punished pupils of his generation.
     But he never ran away again, and in later years, when he looked back at his time as a public schoolboy, he’d insist if he possessed a single quality that might be termed noble…such as patience, or self-mastery, or consideration of the needs of other people, then he owed it to his education, and not least the four years he spent at public school.
     Yet, looking at the facts after his eventual exit, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d simply picked up from where he left off before he collapsed in that muddy field in the heart of the English countryside and started drifting in circles again…leaving so many tasks unfinished he effectively wrecked his gilded destiny. But in fact this was far from the truth, for he was never without purpose; but simply…he lacked the go-getter’s ability to turn his dreams into good account.
     Now, souls in thrall to the psychological persuasion might assert that failure in life is but the consummation of an underachieving childhood.
     But the Runacles of the early 2010s had no time for theories of this kind, since pupils historically written off by their teachers via the medium of the school report have included the greatest Englishman of them all. No, not Runacles…Churchill.
     While many might dispute this fact, and goodness knows Churchill has his detractors, few would go so far as to label him an underachiever.
    And Runacles himself was offered multiple opportunities to turn his life around; so why didn’t he do it…simply in order to prove to the world that while a failure on the surface, he’d been a success all along?
     There’s no sure way of knowing why…other than to have recourse to a theory earlier expressed in this piece, that there was something intrinsically askew about Runacles himself. For after all, who thinks of running away on the last day of term without any purpose or aim, only to finish up collapsed by the side of a muddy field in the heart of the English countryside?
    And who knows how long he’d have sat there, had it not been for the fact that as he did so, his Divinity teacher happened to spy him while driving by before offering him a lift back to college.
     And as might be expected, by the time he arrived, there was hardly anyone left; yet, he was summoned his housemaster, who assured him he’d not be punished, for after all, it was the last day of term, and school was over for a month or so, and he was therefore free to do as he wished within the limits of the law.
     But there was no one to take him home, as his mother had earlier departed without him, as no one was able to tell her where he was. So he contacted his father, who then set about the hour-long journey from London to Berkshire to pick him up.
     And he later heard from his friends about just how frantic with worry his mother been when, after innocently turning up to take her son home, she was informed he was nowhere to be found. One can only imagine what she went through. And looking back at this terrible afternoon from the vantage point of late middle age, it pained him deeply to think of her suffering.
     But he never ran away again, and in later years, when he looked back at his time as a public schoolboy, he’d insist if he possessed a single quality that might be termed noble…such as patience, or self-mastery, or consideration of the needs of other people, then he owed it to his education, and not least the four years he spent at public school.
     Yet, looking at the facts after his eventual exit, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d simply picked up from where he left off before he collapsed in that muddy field in the heart of the English countryside and started drifting in circles again…leaving so many tasks unfinished he effectively wrecked his gilded destiny. But in fact this was far from the truth, for he was never without purpose; but simply…he lacked the go-getter’s ability to turn his dreams to good account.
     From the time he was about seventeen, he was desperate to succeed as actor, musician or writer, yet the evidence suggests that despite an enchanting and extrovert personality he was under-equipped for the task he’d set himself.
     For instance, he refused to apply himself to developing as a musician, even when being taught by a true virtuoso, as was the case towards the end of the ‘70s…when a future member of a super group struggled manfully to motivate him. And he was incapable of finishing a single cohesive piece of writing due to his tendency to allow his teeming imagination to take him from one unending digression to another.
     As to his professional life, if you can call it that…it was marked by a similar desultory quality. And in the summer of ‘77, he worked briefly for a sailing school on the Costa Brava, but lost his job after a matter of weeks; and ended up drifting along the sea front and elsewhere in all his Disco Punk finery.
     And later that year, he spent a short period of time at Merchant Navy School, before serving as a salesman in a long-vanished jewellery store in suburban Kingston, and after calling in sick while working as a filing clerk early in ’78, lost that job too. Still…he’d made a good friend on his day off in the shape of a pretty young Punk covered in safety pins who’d spied him wandering aimlessly around Kingston with spiky blond hair like his doppelgänger Billy Idol.
     But by this time, he’d been accepted as a student at a prestigious drama school in the centre of London. Although when it came to his actual studies, he failed to convince the authorities he had what it took to succeed as a professional, so departed in the summer of ’79.
     What a hopeless case… but then what kind of person decamps on the last day of term without purpose or aim, only to finish up collapsed by the side of a muddy field in the heart of the English countryside?
     For that it was he did; and he never forgot it, for those four years he spent at boarding school were his rosebud years, when everything was heightened in terms of its effects on his temperament which was at once happy go lucky and high strung, an unusual combination perhaps.
     And one that saw him at once almost universally popular, and yet beset by tics and twitches. Such as the head-shaking habit he thought he’d never kick. But which vanished soon after he quit college at the early age of 16, at which point he which he mutated by degrees from a round-shouldered youth with a Chaplin-esque walk into a full-blown narcissus. But what an inefficient Adonis he was…he couldn’t even cut it at acting school.
     Although the ‘80s were a time of relative stability for him, and he worked as an actor for a time, before completing a degree in French and Drama.
     But then he resumed his maundering ways. And perhaps it’s significant that one of his favourite songs while at college had been “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin, a band revered by many of contemporaries. But then the vast majority of these wasted little time in settling into conventional occupations. So why not Runacles?
     Why did he ramble on way beyond his college days despite the philosophy of stability the latter afforded him? It’s impossible to say for certain of course, but it may be that like self-styled poor boy and rover Nick Drake, he’d been blessed – or cursed – with the sensitivity of litmus paper. The upshot being that the messages being relayed by the counterculture penetrated more profoundly into his psyche than those of most of his contemporaries.
     But that’s not to say he was alone in this respect, and when all’s said and done, he got off lightly.
     But among those messages was a clear exhortation to drift, to wander, to rove, to ramble, which was one of the great leitmotifs of Rock from the outset. But, there being nothing new under the sun, its origins lay deep in the history of the avant-garde, which produced wanderers from life and art alike from the outset.
     And its first stirrings could be said to have reached an apogee in the shape of the Byronic hero, who went on to exert such a powerful influence on French Romanticism. Which while the last, was surely the most powerful of the three great waves of Romanticism, for it was the true forefather of the avant-garde.
     And Runacles became an acolyte of the latter from his late teens, falling in love with one of its icons after the other…Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Cocteau, Genet; and in time, he developed a taste for avant-garde nihilism, and its repudiation of all of the so-called bourgeois values, including sanity and health…even life itself.
     He came to adore the idea of early death, and to resign himself to dying young himself, in fact not so much resign as commit himself. And it may be this refusal to settle into any kind of conventional existence was rooted in a desire to be one of Jack Kerouac’s “mad ones”, and so to “burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the sky”.
     And by the time he quit university in 1985, he’d been a devotee of this dark ethos for several years, so that his art was more important to him than his life; and he welcomed every experience, no matter how ruinous to his health, if it could serve as fuel to his creativity. And the art that fascinated him most was literature, and he longed to be a published writer, but most of what he’d attempted to write since his late teens remained unfinished
     But at university he’d evolved into a magnetically intense stage actor. And he inspired many with his performances; as well as his larger than life personality, so he was likened by one friend to Hesse’s Goldmund; by another to Don Juan. While one of his tutors informed him he had the makings of a heroic figure, if not as actor, then as academic…and even writer. 
     But Runacles would not have been true to himself had he not failed to justify their faith in him, and so following his eventual departure, he sought work as a deliverer of novelty telegrams. But not for the money, which was excellent, so much as for the sheer joy of showing off, which points to something awry at the base of his soul.
      And by the time he did, he was well on the way to developing an alcohol problem, which in later years he’d at least partly blame on what he termed a negative identity. Which is not to say he was negative in his attitude to others, for contrary to what may be believed given the evidence so far, the effect he exerted on others was almost overwhelmingly positive.
     Yet he deliberately chose such an identity as a means of making himself more interesting than he would otherwise have been…to shock, in other words. And his motives in doing so weren’t entirely frivolous, for his attraction to the avant-garde was authentic, and rooted in a deep-rooted raging intelligence that also fuelled his constant, frenetic defiance of respectable society.
     And looking back from the vantage point of late middle age, he’d muse that having foisted this nihilism onto himself for as long as he had, his litmus-paper mind had finally started to turn on him by the middle of the ‘80s.
     To begin with, his empathetic powers started to recede, which caused him enormous distress, because he’d always found great comfort in his compassionate and affectionate nature.
     And he started to drink as a means of restoring them. But what right did he have to them, when his negative identity included a corrosive cynicism of the type he so admired in his avant-garde idols? It’s as if he wanted it both ways…to be loved for his personal sweetness…and yet reserve the right to rage like Rimbaud whenever he felt like it.
    Yet, his inner turmoil proved an asset when it came to his acting career, and he provided some extraordinary performances in the second half of the ‘80s.
     The first of these took place at the University of Cambridge, where he studied for a term in the winter of ‘86 as part of their teacher training unit, before typically taking off in the early part of the new year. While the second was at Notting Hill’s famous Gate Theatre, where he received some fair reviews for his acting from various periodicals including the London Times.
     But no sooner had he done so than our boy was on the drift again, taking a job as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language in one of several TEFL schools situated on London’s teeming Oxford Street. But to be fair, he needed the work, for the acting profession provides little by way of remuneration for all but a small minority.
     And by the time he did, his drinking was under control, but long-term tendencies had developed into full-blown Obsessive Compulsive Disorder so that his day was marked by an endless series of rituals:
     He’d part his hair so that it went from his crown to a specific point above one of his eyebrows, and carry a tiny mirror on his person for the purpose of checking on it throughout the day…iron his shirts inside out with the seams inclining to the right, and touch every item of clothing including his belt with said iron… arrange the items in his jacket pockets so that they went from left to right in terms of importance…constantly wipe the insides of his boots before dousing them with water…and hold an intimate part of his anatomy for a set number of beats…
     But if the physical rituals were tormenting, the mental ones were even more so.  And every time he met someone, he became beset by a need to compare them to someone else, so that some kind of card index set to work in his mind, proffering faces until to his horror it stopped at one resembling the person in question. And he’d not rest until he’d calculated the significance of their names.
     It was as if his mind had assumed a life all of its own and started producing thoughts independently of his will. But he came to view it with a certain morbid fascination; and if he drank enough at night, he was able to sedate it. It was a wonderful feeling.
     And yet for all the turmoil of his existence, he remained almost manically elated by life, so that on Saturday mornings, he’d often be seized by a sense of joy so intense it verged on the ecstatic.
     For all that, though, he was at all times aware of a need to keep depression at bay, for on those rare occasions he succumbed to the blues, they were so violent he could be moved to minor acts of self-harm, such as punching himself, or striking his head against any available wall. 
     But they were usually short-lived, and once they’d moved on, the elation returned. It was a wonderful feeling.
     Yet, there may have come a time when the latter started being produced not so much endogenously, as through alcohol. For although he didn’t drink on a daily basis, the effects of his nocturnal binges persisted throughout the day in the shape of a euphoria which he supplemented with endless cups of coffee.
     But as might be expected, as a result of poor attendance and other issues, he lost his beloved job early in the 1990s.
     And having found a degree of fulfilment in his post as an Oxford Street English teacher almost unmatched by any other means by which he’d attempted to make a living, he tried desperately to regain it. But his efforts were unavailing.
     So by the summer he’d made a return to the stage, and despite the fact that his work was once more the object of justifiable acclaim, it was a short one. And by the end of the year, he’d embarked on another teacher training course…quitting this one before the end of the term. At which point, he set himself up once again as a peripatetic deliverer of novelty telegrams.
     But the following winter saw him roving anew, ending up in Hastings, an English coastal town with a large London overspill population, a distinction it shares with several dozen towns throughout the UK, some new, some older towns like Hastings, expanded to accommodate the newcomers.
     And once there, he set about taking a course intended to net him a TEFL certificate, entitling him to teach English as a foreign language on an international basis. Because, he still hankered after his days as an English teacher of foreign nationals, having effectively fallen in love with this vocation.
     But if he thought he was going to pass the course, he had another thing coming, because although he was well-liked at Hastings, there were few who knew him there who’d not be of the opinion that something was troubling Paul Runacles.
     Precisely what, they’d be at loss to say….but one things was certain…his mind had become such a chaos he was losing his ability to communicate normally with his fellow man. But he still only drank at night, and to such an extent there were times he lapsed into incoherency. It was a wonderful feeling.
     Soon after returning to London with nothing to show for a fortnight’s hard graft and a fairly hefty sum of money, Runacles’ drinking assumed a lethal quality from early ’91, although in truth it had done so almost a decade earlier. But there was a new recklessness to it in that it became diurnal as well as nocturnal. And perforce, in later years, he’d have little recollection of the rest of ’91, and much of ’92 to boot, and so struggle hard to recall precisely how he spent his time.
     Looking back from the vantage point of the early 2010s, he recalled quite regular work as a television walk-on. And among the parts he fulfilled as such was that of a crime scene photographer for a long-running British police series.
     He also saw a lot of a close friend from East London, performing with him for a few years from about 1990 as half of a musical duo in various clubs, pubs and restaurants, and even busking on one memorable occasion, which saw the two musicians being showered with cigarettes from an appreciative member of Leicester Square’s homeless community.
     And at some point in what may have been ’91…or ’92, he resumed his career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams for a third time.
     While all throughout this period, he wrote…constantly…in a bizarre style replete with archaisms culled from various sources, some being ancient dictionaries, while one was a cheap facsimile of an ancient edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.
     In the summer of ’92, he made one final attempt at passing the TEFLA certificate, but the strain proved too much for him, and he left before the course had finished.
     While towards the end of the year, he was praised for his portrayal of Stefano in a production of “The Tempest” at Conway Hall in London’s Red Lion Square. This despite the fact he was intoxicated from his very first rehearsal to the second he quit the stage after the final curtain call.
     While a little later, he accepted a small part in a play based on the life of James Joyce’s beautiful troubled daughter Lucia to be performed at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith. By which time, he’d embarked on yet another teaching training course; and resumed his career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams for the fourth and final time.
     And while his life was hectic, he lived it as if in a dream, which is to say in a state of near-constant elation occasioned by vast quantities of alcohol.
     It’s difficult to explain the appeal of alcohol taken in the kind of quantities characteristic of Runacles’ intake towards the end of 1992 to all who are not nor have ever been alcoholic.  But there is a theory held by several authorities on alcoholism that in certain alcoholics, alcohol comes in time to exert a morphine-like effect. Although how true it is it’s impossible to say.
     While another proposes that in common with other drugs, alcohol can ultimately tamper with the body’s ability to produce the naturally occurring pleasure-inducing substances known as endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine.
     Certainly there came a time in Runacles’ life when the thought of an existence without his beloved elixir filled him with the utmost horror, for what would he be without it, other than the most hopelessly dull and timorous individual? Which would not have been the case for the Runacles of about ‘82, who was the most incandescent individual even when sober…a natural extrovert whose warmth, while verging at times on the fulsome, was viewed with almost universal appreciation.
     And while much of this warmth remained in late ’92, it was being sustained by booze, in fact his entire existence was being held together by ethyl alcohol. So that when he finally did collapse under the strain of his responsibilities, it was a messy crash indeed, provoked first by alcohol alone, then by alcohol in cahoots with prescription medicine. And a few weeks after that, he suffered another crisis involving a potentially deadly combination of prescription medicines.
     But by this time, he’d undergone a Damascus-style conversion to born again Christianity; so that his life from early ‘93 onwards was as tranquil as it had once been frantic. Not that it ground to a halt, but it certainly slowed down to a snail’s pace.
    Early in January 1993, while still attending meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, he received a call from a man who told him he was from an organisation by the name of Contact for Christ based near Croydon in Surrey.
     He'd got in touch with Runacles as a result of a card he'd filled in on a British Rail train some months previously. He tried to put him off, before he knew it, he was at his door, a neat, dapper man with a large salt and pepper moustache and gently penetrating deep brown eyes.
     He wanted to pray with Runacles, who promptly ushered him into his bedroom, where they prayed together at length.
     Later, he found himself a guest at his house deep in the south western suburbs where Runacles was asked to make a list of sins past requiring deep repentance. And once he’d done this, the two men spent a few hours praying over each and every one of these sins Runacles had made a note of.
    The man was a Pentecostal of long standing, and therefore convinced  that the more supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as Tongues and Prophecy are still available to Believers.
     In this capacity, he opened Runacles’ eyes to many facts of the Pentecostal world, including the magazine “Prophecy Today”, then edited by the Reverend Clifford Hill, and the works of the late New Zealand Evangelist and writer Barry R Smith.
     And to think there was a time Runacles viewed theories concerning the End Times, or Last Days prior to the Second Coming of Christ with rabid contempt. But he was changing on every level. In fact he was barely recognisable in the early nineties to the man of only a year or two previously, having become calm and sober, even sedate in manner.
     But he’d not entirely lost his taste for underachievement, for in late ’94, he failed his third and final attempt at qualifying as a teacher. Only to go on to secure a personal rave review from the London Time Out for his acting in a little-known play on the Fringe, which is the London equivalent of Off-Broadway.
     And his acting triumphs persisted throughout the ‘90s, a decade throughout which it could be said Runacles survived on the minute amount of energy he had left over after his collapse. But it was hard for him; and in terms of impetus, he was running on empty.
     And it may be his experiences with alcohol and prescription medicine, and the health crisis these produced, had left him at the mercy of some kind of depressive condition. But if this was indeed the case, it was one which while debilitating was yet relatively mild.
     For he still had a great capacity for joy. But a joy born of the peace that comes from the promise of eternal life, which is infinitely purer and more profound form than any earthly joy born of a love affair with the fleeting pleasures of the world. But which doesn’t necessarily preclude great suffering…for from the time of his conversion, he was engaged in a terrible struggle with what some Christians called the “old man”.
     And there had always been a dark aspect to Paul Runacles, but not in a romantic, Byronic sense, although this appeal was something he’d always coveted. So much as one that was in terrible conflict with his warmer, more affectionate side, which was no less seismically intense than the other.
     It had once made him a ferocious critic of what he saw as the follies of humankind, while threatening to turn his once tender heart to stone.
     But as a Christian, he no longer sought to condemn people, so much as seek their eternal salvation. So this aspect was something to be confronted and tamed, rather than fuelled by corrosively cynical writings, and then partially controlled by lavish quantities of alcohol.
     And from the mid ‘90s onwards, he went to war against it, little knowing he had the most colossal fight of his life on his hands. For having been sidelined, it’s as if it had assumed a terrifying new force, and was determined to win. And it manifested itself not just as depression, but intrusive thoughts that seemed to have a life and power all of their own, in so far as they had an ability to alter his mood and countenance for extended periods of time, which made him petrified of them, and so at all times inclined to permanent social seclusion.
     The first phase came in ’95 when Runacles made contact with a former pastor who ran his own ministry from a tiny little village in the south of England after reading an article he’d contributed to “Prophecy Today”. And some time later, he travelled down to meet him where he laid hands on him in his capacity of what is known as Deliverance Minister. But this was just the first of several experiences of this kind, one of which saw Runacles being ministered to by a vicar in his ancient village church.
     But nothing could cure Runacles of his restlessness, and, unable to settle in a single fellowship for any great length of time, he encountered a vast variety of churches throughout the ‘90s…affiliated to the Word of Faith; Vineyard, Baptist and Elim Pentecostal movements among others.
     And in each one, he hoped to find a lasting solution to his shadow side, the darker Runacles who tormented him. And which he saw as a throwback to his pre-Christian self, incubated over the years through immersion in a decadent culture he now uncompromisingly rejected.
     And as he did, he acted more or less consistently, notwithstanding a fairly lengthy period of office work, which stretched from about 1997 to 2000, by which time he’d performed in his final play for a long time.
     He then made an attempt at launching a modest career as a session singer. And as such recorded a vocal in the style of chanson master Charles Trenet, which received some praise for its closeness to the original. In fact, so much so he was asked to record a second one in imitation of one of his favourite song stylists, Nat “King”Cole, which was rejected.
     But while his session career floundered, his singing career was still in full swing, and he served as front man for a Jazz band for two years between 2000 and 2002. And yet when the latter folded, it was as if Runacles himself himself in a social sense.
     But there was still some fight left in him. And in ‘03, he started taking himself seriously as a songwriter for the first time, before attempting to place some recently demoed songs with a music publishing company. But none were interested. So he turned to creative writing in early 2006. While at the same time, he set about  recording a CD of popular standards, which finally saw the light of day in 2007. And while it received a rave review in the Musician’s Union magazine the following year, it sold in pitifully small quantities.
     But he’d achieved a degree of artistic stability nonetheless; and this was reflected in his church life, for towards the end of the 2010s, he tired of church hopping, and permanently settled in a Church of England fellowship in the south western suburbs of London.
     And being both Evangelical and Charismatic, it was highly sought after, with up to four services taking place each Sunday…which meant Runacles could conceal himself within the congregation if he so chose.
     And so it seemed he was definitively quieted…a bizarre state of affairs for one who’d once been among the most frenetically extrovert of souls. But if he found himself all run out…as had been the case all those years ago, when he collapsed by that muddy field in the Arcadian heart of England. Well, it was only a temporary situation in his mind, and one day he’d be in a position to quit the wilderness after so many years of languishment
     And yet there’d be times when, looking back on his youth he’d often weep silently to himself in the dead of night at the end of yet another day spent doing really very little when he thought about it.
     But he was being typically harsh with himself. For hermitic as he was, he was far from worthless. For instance, in his eyes, he’d seen many results from a powerful prayer ministry. And he continued to grow as a musician, planning a future for himself as a singer-songwriter despite being in the midst of late middle age. While he was able to make a modest living as a writer after more than five years of trying to set the world wide web on fire with his pen…and failing.
      And there’d be times when certain pieces of quintessentially English pastoral music still had the power to evoke his strange and sudden flight, or rush of blood to the head, of over four decades ago. Such as Gerald Finzi’s "A Severn Rhapsody", which bespeaks a passion for the Arcadian soul of England that verges on the ecstatic. And the same could be said for Elgar’s “Elegy” which tended to convey to him a deep mournfulness silently existent beneath the picture perfect image of English privilege.
     When he ran away from his college…like some kind of hysterical gymslip schoolgirl...just the once it was...to avoid being punished for something stupid he did. And it had been an utterly pointless exercise as it was the last day of term, but he just panicked and bolted, and kept on running...
     And then there was a point he stopped, because he realised to his horror that he’d arrived back at his college. And he saw his mother’s car. And it pained him to think what she’d been going through while he ran around the English countryside like some kind of demented faun, only to finish up collapsed by the side of a muddy field in the Arcadian heart of England.
     And having become newly enmired, he despaired of ever being fully free again. But he searched for solutions on a constant basis. And he comforted himself with the thought that even if he failed to effect an escape, God was beside him, while four decades previously he had no faith to speak of, other than in the pre-eminence of might. For after all, is God’s Grace not sufficient?
     And he took courage from that fact, while continuing to plan for the time he’d find the strength to make good on the faith that had been placed in him by so many for so long. So when he looked back at memories of his youth, such as the time he ran away from his college on the last day of term without purpose or aim, it would be in peace not pain. And he might even return to the scene of his flight as if in atonement, and commune with the soul of his beloved England with a passion verging on the ecstatic, and then along with so many others, put the memory to rest for all time.
    Very minor edits: 7/3/13.

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    About Me

    Name: Carl Halling
    ChristiansUnite ID: carlhalling
    Member Since: 2008-07-01
    Location: London, United Kingdom
    Denomination: Born Again Christian
    About Me: Born Again Bible Believing Christian Writer, Actor, Singer, Songwriter. Born London. Born Again 1993.

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