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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.

    Mon, Oct 10th - 4:24AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Seven



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      David Cristiansen struggled on with the Post Graduate Certificate in Education throughout the earliest days of 1993.
      And he did so while rehearsing for a couple of tiny parts for a play based on the life of James Joyce's troubled, fascinating daughter, the dancer Lucia Joyce, under the direction of Ariana, which premiered at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith on the 4th of February 1993.
      He also attended occasional drugs and alcohol counselling sessions at a church in Greenwich, South East London with Ellen, a lovely blonde woman of about 45 with a soft and soothing London accent and the gentlest pale blue eyes imaginable. The only time he ever knew her to lose her composure was when he announced over the phone that a matter of hours after deciding of his own volition to stop taking Diazepam, he'd reverted to Chlomethiazole:
      "Why'd you do that?" she unceremoniously asked.
      However, enough time had passed between his taking the capsule and calling Ellen for him to be out of danger; and she literally laughed with relief at the realisation.
      Then, a matter of days after coming to Christ, he received a phone call from a counsellor for an organisation called Contact for Christ based in Selsdon, South London, by the name of Denver Cashe. Perhaps he'd half-heartedly filled in a form of theirs the previous summer while filled with alcoholic anticipation as he slowly approached Waterloo station by British Rail train with the sun setting over the foreboding South London cityscape.
      Typically, he tried to put the caller off, but Denver was persistent, and before he knew it he was at the door of David's parents' house, a trim, dark, handsome man in late middle age with gently piercing coffee coloured eyes and a luxuriant white moustache. And at his insistence they prayed together.
      Some time later David visited him and his wife Rose at his large and elegant house where suburb meets country just beyond the Greater London border. And on that day, David and he made an extensive list of aspects of his pre-Christian life requiring deep repentance, and they prayed over each of these in turn.
      In addition, they discussed which church he should be attending, and there was some talk of his joining Denver and Rose at their little family fellowship. But in the end, Denver gave his blessing to Cornerstone Bible Church, now Cornerstone the Church, a large fellowship affiliated to the Word of Faith Movement, and based in the prosperous London suburb of Esher in Surrey, where David would soon be baptised by its pastor.
      David had attended his very first service there even before becoming a Christian in late 1992. Drunk at the time, he'd sat next to a beautiful blonde woman of about 55 whom he later discovered to be a successful actress. Apart from an elder from the Jesus Fellowship, who'd laid hands on him at a meeting of theirs in central London, she was his very first Christian mentor. However, he was never to see or speak to her again as he didn't return to the church for several months, and by the time he did as a new believer, she'd moved to another church. Then they kept on missing each other, and she died in 2001. But David never forgot her.
      In the early part of '94, David set out on the final phase of his PGCE, although he was ultimately to fail the course as a whole.
      To their credit, though, his tutors at did offer him the opportunity of retaking the Teaching Practice component alone, but he chose to turn them down. And if he was depressed, it can't have been for long because in September, he successfully auditioned for the lead role of Roote in Harold Pinter's little known "The Hothouse". This for a newly formed fringe theatre group called Grip based at the Rose and Crown pub in Kingston, a large suburban area to the south of London.
      Written in 1958, "The Hothouse" is eminently Pinteresque, with its almost high poetic verbal virtuosity and inventiveness and dark surreal humour laced with a constant sense of impending violence, although it wasn't performed until 1980, when it was directed by Pinter himself for London's Hampstead and Ambassador Theatres.
      From the auditions onwards, David gelled with the American director Ben Evans. For most of the auditions he'd attended up to this point had hinged on the time-honoured method of the actor performing a piece from memory before a panel of interviewers. But Ben insisted his candidates read from the play in small groups, which enabled them to attain a basic feel for their characters; and so feel like they were actually acting rather than coldly reciting. For David, this was the only way to audition.
      Once David had been told the lead was his, he devoted himself to Ben's vision of Roote, the pompous yet deranged director of an unnamed English psychiatric hospital: the Hothouse of the title. Ben demanded of him an interpretation of Roote which was deeply at odds with his usual highly Method-oriented, subtle, intense, introspective and yet somehow also emotionally vehement approach to acting. But Ben's directorial instincts were spot-on, as his production went on to receive spectacular reviews not just in the local press, but the international listings magazine, "Time Out", in which David's performance was described as "flawlessly accurate" and "lit by flashes of black humour." An amazing triumph for a humble fringe show.
      A theatrical agent – and an apparently reputable one at that - went out of her way to express her interest in David; and then asked him to ensure his details reach her...which he duly did.
      But he never heard from her again...possibly due to the amateurish condition of his CV at the time.
      And he didn't pursue the matter further, which says a lot about his attitude to the push that is essential to success within the acting profession; more so perhaps even than talent.
      In his defence one could say that since his recent conversion his priorities had shifted so that he viewed worldly success with less relish than he'd done only a few years before. Also, he badly missed the relaxation alcohol once provided him with following his work onstage; as well as the revels extending deep into the night during which he'd throw his youth and affections about like some kind of maniacal gambler. So, while he still loved acting itself, the process of being an actor had become pure torture.
      He'd boxed himself into the position of no longer being able to enjoy social situations as others do, nor to relax.
      This may have had something to do with the state of his endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. For a theory exists to the effect that these can be permanently depleted by long-term abuse of alcohol and other narcotics.
      To further complicate matters, he'd started suffering from deep tormenting spiritual problems for which he'd ultimately seek a solution in the shape of what is known as Deliverance Ministry.
      Within a short time of "The Hothouse" reaching the end of its two week run, Grip's artistic director Richard asked David if he'd like to audition for an upcoming production of Jim Cartwright's two-handed play, "Two". Naturally he said yes; and so after a successful audition, found himself playing all the male characters opposite gifted character actress Jean from Liverpool, who played all the female.
      By the end of the run the houses were so packed that people were sitting on the side of the stage at the actors' feet, something David had never experienced before on the London fringe. Yet, he dreaded the end of each performance, which would see him make his excuses as soon as it was possible to do so without causing undue offence.
      Release from a torturous dungeon of sobriety came while he was attending some unrelated function at the Rose and Crown a day or so following his final performance in "Two", when a guy he'd only just met offered to buy him a drink and he asked for a glass of wine. Apart from the time at his parents' house a few weeks earlier when he took a swig of what he thought was water but which turned out to be vodka or gin, this was the first alcohol to pass his lips since January '93.
      This single glass of wine made him feel amazing, doubly so given the purity of his system. He cycled home that night in a state of total rapture, feeling for the first time in months that he could do anything. Over the next few weeks his drinking incrementally increased, reaching a climax in a pub in Twickenham where he met an old university friend who'd just finished a course at St Mary's University College in nearby Strawberry Hill, and where he drank and smoked himself into a stupor.
      Cycling home afterwards, he took a bend near Hampton Wick and came off his bike, striking his head against a bus shelter. He stayed flat on his back for a while, abject and stinking of drink. He could have sworn he saw a shadowy figure running towards him as he lay there in the dark, but before long he was shakily resuming his journey home.
      However, weeks of controlled drinking and one massive binge, possibly combined with the ill effects of a violent blow to the head, resulted in his becoming ill and virtually incapacitated for what might have been as long as a fortnight. And there were times during this awful period he'd awake from a semi-sleep in a desperately agitated state...pale...faint...and terrified of imminent death; but each time a single further second of consciousness seemed beyond him, it was as if God breathed life back into him and the fear of dying subsided. All he could do was lie around, waiting, praying for a return to normality...and when this came, he determined never to drink again as long as he lived. But we swiftly forget our sojourns in Hell...

      A few months after appearing in Jim Cartwright's bitter-sweet two-hander "Two", David performed in one final play at the Rose and Crown theatre, the character-driven comedy "Lovelives". Written entirely by the cast, it consisted of a series of sketches centring on the disastrous antics of a group of singletons who'd come together at a lonely hearts club in the suburbs. Perhaps then it chimed perfectly with the spirit of British post-war comedy and its characteristic celebration of banality and even failure.
      Later in '95, he undertook two small roles in a production - at the Tristan Bates theatre near Leicester Square - of the famous Greek tragedy "Iphigeneia in Taurois", written by Euripides somewhere between 414 and 412 BC. These being Pylades, constant companion of the main character Orestes, and the Messenger, whom he played as a maniacal fool with the kind of "refined" English accent once supposedly affected by policemen and non-commissioned officers. Directed by a close friend who'd also translated the text from the original Greek, the houses were sparse at first, picking up towards the end of the run.
      In January '96, he joined a Christian theatre company based at the Elim Pentecostal church in West Croydon, Surrey. They were known as Street Level, and he went on to serve variously for them as MC, script writer, actor, singer and musician with two other members, married company leader Serena, and 19 year old Rebecca from nearby Sanderstead.
      Together, they toured a series of shows around schools in various - usually tough - multicultural areas of South East London, and on the whole, were greeted by the kids with an almost uniform affection. And there was an incredible chemistry between Serena, Rebecca and himself...until things started to go wrong.
      Towards the end of the summer, Serena asked David to write a large scale project for the group, suggesting a contemporary version of John Bunyan's classic Christian allegory, "The Pilgrim's Progress":
      "I'll put your name in lights," she promised him.
      This he set about doing, and after some weeks of labouring over what turned out to be an unwieldy and often violent epic punctuated by scenes of dark humour that occasionally verged on the Rabelaisian, he started to have second thoughts about carrying on with Street Level.
      The play, "Paul Grim's Progress", had left him in poor shape spiritually, and he didn't fancy too many more of the long and costly train journeys that were necessary to get him to Croydon and back. And so he began to withdraw.
      And by the time of his final exit from Street Level, he'd already moved from his first spiritual home of Cornerstone to the Thames Vineyard Christian Fellowship, part of the Association of Vineyard Churches founded by John Wimber in the 1970s. This as a result of being told by a phone friend that the Vineyard movement contained members whose spiritual gifts were in the realm of the truly exceptional.
      His curiosity aroused, he went along one Sunday evening and had a powerful experience which made me want to stay; and so he did.
      As with Cornerstone he joined a Home Fellowship Group where he completed part of the Alpha course, which had been pioneered by Nicky Gumbel of West London's famous Holy Trinity Brompton.
      He visited HTB at some point in the mid '90s, when it was at the height of the revival movement known as the Toronto Blessing. This being so called because it had been ignited in January 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church by St. Louis Vineyard pastor Randy Clark.
      Clark had himself received it from South African evangelist Rodney Howard Brown during a service at Rhema Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, then pastored by Kenneth Hagin Jr., father of the Word-Faith movement, one of the major strains of Charismatic Christianity, with a controversial emphasis on "Positive Confession".
      The Anointing spread to the UK in the summer of 1994 where it was eventually dubbed The Toronto Blessing by The Daily Telegraph. Its main centres included HTB, Terry Virgo's New Frontiers family of churches and Gerald Coates' Pioneer People.
      Pioneer's centre at the time was a cinema in the Surrey suburb of Esher, which David visited a couple of times, when it was so packed he was forced to stand all throughout the service, a situation which was duplicated when he dropped in at the London HQ of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God one afternoon around about the same time.
      Like many Charismatic churches, UCKG upholds the Fivefold ministry, and so believes that the five gifts referred to in Ephesians 4:11, namely Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, are still in operation.
      But to return to David's acting career...in the spring of '98, he started rehearsing for a production of Shakespeare's infamous Scottish Play, to be staged at Fulham's Lost Theatre in the summer. And despite the fact that his three cameos - as Lennox, the Doctor, and an Old Man - were praised by cast and audience members alike, to date, it remains his last hurrah as an actor. Quite simply, the passion to perform in front of a live audience that raged within him like a forest fire for more than two decades had long been extinguished, or rather turned to dread.
      A few months later and the troubled, turbulent 20th Century gave way to the 21st to the sound of fireworks frantically exploding all throughout David's neighbourhood of West Molesey. Phoning his father that night to wish him a happy new year he discovered that his mother was desperately ill with flu:
      "Some start to the millennium," he grimly told his dad.
      It went on to occur to him that she'd become susceptible to the flu virus partly as a result of stress caused by his recent departure from yet another course; this time an MA in French and Theory of Literature, which was one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world. In time though, her incredible Scots-Irish constitution saw her through to a complete recovery.
      He'd found the course magnetically compelling on an intellectual level, despite an awareness that writing extensively about Literary Theory might come increasingly to disturb him, and perhaps even challenge his faith, given its emphasis on what is known as Deconstruction, a term coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He withdrew on the advice of several spiritual advisers, but it was a decision that would haunt him for the next ten years of his life.
      Subsequent to making it, he started playing guitar for Liberty Christian Centre, a satellite church of London's Kensington Temple, a large Elim Pentecostal church pastored by Colin Dye based in Notting Hill, West London. Then, shortly after agreeing to be Liberty's lone musician, he quit his position as a telephone canvasser for an e-commerce company based in Surbiton, Surrey, thus bringing a fairly lengthy period spent as an office worker to an end.
      A real change in his professional fortunes came around Christmastime when he was made lead singer for a Jazz band formed by the versatile musician Barrie Guard, an old friend of his father's. And which was complemented at various times by his dad, a double bass player, a brace of drummers, and David. They went on to cut several demos with glorious arrangements by Barrie, with David crooning "Fly Me to the Moon", "Moonlight in Vermont", "The Days of Wine and Roses" and other standards of the Traditional Pop canon.
      In early '01, Liberty's Pastor Phil decided to dissolve the church, so David made yet another return to Cornerstone. While the following summer, Barrie's band folded in the wake of the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival, which was a real shame because it had finally found its optimal audience, if the enthusiasm with which their performance was greeted was anything to go by.
      Within days, David started working from home making appointments for a genial travelling salesman. And he was briefly very successful, until things started tailing off in the autumn; and he was let go. By this time he'd effectively left Cornerstone for good, although he was to make many subsequent sporadic returns.
      This sudden exit came in consequence of a desire born of intensive internet research to seek out churches existing beyond the Pentecostal/Charismatic fold. These being Cessationist, which is to say they don't accept that the more spectacular Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as Tongues and Prophecy are still in operation.
      For up until this time, any church that didn't encourage the speaking in other tongues David had refused to accept as being truly Christian. In fact, before 2003, which was his year of relentless internet research, he'd known next to nothing about the finer points of his faith.
      Although he was fairly well versed in the subject of prophecy thanks to having been introduced to the same early in his Christian life by Denver and Rose. And specifically through various magazines and books, such as "Prophecy Today" and the works of Barry R Smith.
      He had no clue as to the meaning of Calvinism or Arminianism, Predestination or Foreknowledge, Cessationism or Continuationism and so on...but he didn't believe that made an iota of difference to the condition of his soul, as people - as he saw it - are saved by faith alone, with true saving faith producing the fruits of repentance.
      In a general sense the year 2000 turned out to be something of a turning point for David, not just spiritually, but in terms of his entire personality, which became more inward looking, even by the standards of the previous seven years.
      Significantly perhaps, the previous year had been the first since he was about 17 that he faced the world with his hair its natural medium brown after having dyed it for nearly three decades. What prompted this was not a sudden loathing for the vanity of the bottle blond, but the fact that the peroxide-based streaking kits he favoured were causing him to have breathing difficulties.
      At first, he missed being blond, but in time he came to prefer his natural colour after years of youthful blond androgyny. The fact is that throughout his twenties and for much of his thirties, he had remained in a state of extended adolescence, blond being after all the natural colour of eternal youth.
      In his time, David had elicited a lot of admiration for attempting to take the romantic bohemian rebel existence to its logical conclusion when all around him were conforming at a furious rate. But the price for having done so was high, cruelly high, in terms of social and financial humiliation, leading David to become a veritable Jeremiah, in terms of his opposition to a lifestyle he blamed for ruining his life.
      Yet, young people in the 2000s worshipped at the altar of romantic rebellion as they'd always done. But perhaps not to quite the same degree as those of David's poor generation, who came to maturity to a frenetic Rock soundtrack. And who can say what effect it had on them, this music...tailor-made to inspire a generation scornful of deferred gratification, a generation of hipsters.
      To the David of the Christian years, Rock - far from being just another music form - was a total art, involving poetry, theatre, fashion, but even more than that...a way of life with a strong spiritual foundation.
      He fell under the influence of various Fundamentalist Christian critics of Rock music for a brief period in 2003, which made him feel inclined to destroy all traces of Rock music in his possession, even though he'd long lost any real taste for Hard Rock by then. However, by the summer, his attitude had mellowed to the extent that he was prepared to write about an hour's worth of Rock songs in response to a request from his dad for songs for a possible collaboration with the son of a close friend. But these were as far from Hard Rock as its possible to be, being influenced by such relatively benign and melodic genres as Folk, Pop and Soul.
      Some new, some upgrades of old tunes, they were recorded on a Sony CFS-B21L cassette-corder, and were generally well-received despite their humble origins. And so two of David's songs were recorded on a friend's computer using what may have been state of the art technology for 2004, with the resultant demo being sent to a music publishing company for assessment. But when their response was far from encouraging, it was back to the drawing board for David Cristiansen.

      As if disillusioned by constant failure, David decided he wanted to write creatively as of January 2006, although the real motive for his doing so was altogether different. In fact, it was a period of sickness that spurred him towards a serious literary career.
      This began with a panic attack in central London, which grew into a flu-like illness, but it wasn't until he developed a painful condition affecting a singularly delicate section of his integument that he decided that he'd no further interest in maintaining optimal physical attractiveness, and so felt he had little to lose by writing.
      The truth is that soon after becoming a Christian, David had destroyed most of what he'd written up to that point, and then wrote quite happily for a time as a Christian, until it seemed to him as if God was calling a halt to his writing. So, once again, he started destroying any writings he managed to finish...sometimes dumping whole manuscripts into handy dustbins, or dispensing with them one sheet at a time down murky London drains.
      Then in about 1998, he more or less gave up altogether...that is, until he felt compelled to break his literary silence as a result of the aforesaid extended bout of sickness. Thence, he started posting articles to the Blogster web site, which went on to form the basis of his memoir, "Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child".
      In terms of activities of note in the following year of '07, he rehearsed an album of popular standards with his father which was finally released in the spring of 2008, although it only went on to sell a handful of copies, the majority remaining firmly ensconced in the box in which they'd arrived from the recording studio, where it had been recorded at Pat Cristiansen's expense.
      Later that year, he completed a first draft of his memoir after a full two years of labour.
      Around about the same time, his former mentor Dr Elizabeth Lang died in her adopted village of Woodstock, Oxfordshire. The executor of her will, who was also the publisher of her final book, asked him to read one of the lessons at her funeral and deliver a eulogy in the capacity of a former student. This took place in the parish church of St Martin's in the beautiful village of Bladon, where Winston Churchill is buried, along with fellow members of the Malborough family.
      It was such a sad experience for him to be reunited with Elizabeth in such a way after nearly a quarter of a century, while being unable to communicate with her as he'd have been able to had he thought to make contact...even a handful of years earlier when she was still a published writer. It made him realise how important it is to stay close to friends and family before a time comes when its no longer possible to reconcile with them:
      "Then it's too late," he thought to himself, "they've gone, and the world is always so much the poorer for their sudden absence and silence."
      By the beginning of 2011, there were so many versions of his story that David no longer knew which, if any, was the definitive one, and he occasionally teetered on the verge of dejection, as if his image of himself as a writer had been terminally shot to pieces. And he saw himself, and not for the first time, as a loser, in fact not just a loser but a king-size loser, a loser among losers, a loser supreme.
      The contemplation that he was the best at what he did afforded him some satisfaction at those times of the day when his status in life meant the most to him, such as in those last few hours before he turned in for the night. But when all's said and done, this was scant consolation to him.
      Yet, is it not so that among those who ultimately come to faith to Him though Jesus Christ are men and women who would be judged failures in the eyes of the world, and yet having lost in life, have yet found a purpose that eludes life's victors...among whom they may once have been counted?
      The answer is of course yes, and the ultimate example of a high achiever who became the ultimate loser once he'd given his life to Christ was the Apostle Paul, the former Saul of Tarsus born into the Tribe of Benjamin who as an impeccably pious high-ranking Pharisee was yet a ferocious persecutor and murderer of Christians.
      Yet, as a Christian, he suffered losses that most contemporary Western believers have no experience or even conception of. For while he was mocked and despised for his beliefs, he was also flogged, beaten, stoned, starved and repeatedly imprisoned, before being ultimately put down as if he were a sick and ageing dog.
      But that is not to say that all Christians come to faith in Christ through a violent Road to Damascus conversion after having undergone some unspeakable loss, far from it, for many - perhaps even most - come gently to faith without having suffered in any dramatic way whatsoever.
      Yet the Damascus converts are deeply valuable to the Body of Christ, for they serve as living proof of the fact that anyone can be saved, regardless of their background. And their testimonies are as precious as they are for their very relative rarity
      It could be said then that David was foolish to lament all he had lost in terms of opportunities for great wealth and success, for fame, status and glory and all the wondrous things that accompany these, for after all, these are things that one cannot take with us when we quit this earth, and life is short, so terribly short that it is described in the Word of God as a "vapour."
      And while for the most part his still handsome eyes failed to see this truth as if they'd become clouded o'er by the tears he often shed at night for his wasted past, and for the pain he felt when he thought of all he had lost, at other times, it became gloriously, brilliantly clear to him, and he rejoiced as the most fortunate of men. Yes, he was a loser, and yet yes, he'd gained so much more than he'd lost.
      Then in November 2011, a definitive version of "Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life" saw the light of day. Narrated in the third person, with the character of David Cristiansen doubling as himself, which is to say the author Carl Halling, the names of most of the other characters included were also changed. As were the vast majority of the names of institutions. While dialogue was as David remembered it, as opposed to being reproduced with 100% accuracy. Either that, or it was based on ancient informal diary notes, and then edited for inclusion in his writings.
      And by the time it did, he'd finally gained some real confidence within himself as a writer...
      "I'm not done yet," he'd boast to himself, or to anyone else who might listen, and to look at him, you might think he had a point. Yes, he was a loser, and yet yes, he'd gained so much more than he'd lost.
      Yet, it could have all been so different...

      Actually posted 6/4/12.



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    Mon, Oct 10th - 4:03AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Four



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    David Cristiansen's final trip with the Thames Division of the Royal Naval Reserve came towards the end of the summer of 1977.
    And while his best oppo Lofty O'Shea wasn't onboard, he had other mates to raise Cain with, such as Damon Cates, a tall redhead of about 26 who looked a little like Edward Fox in "A Day of the Jackal".
    Like David, he loved music and fashion and the Soul Boy and Punk scenes, and they hit it off from their very first meeting back at HMS Ministry.
    He later confided in David about his early life which had been marked by one family tragedy after the other; and his reserve masked a deep and complex sensibility. But he was not a man to flaunt it; nor an ability to handle himself in any situation. Such as the time an intoxicated sailor took a sudden, violent dislike to David in a south coast bar, and was clearly keen to do some serious damage to his pretty cherub's face. At which point Damon placed himself between David and his aggressor, before telling him to back off in no uncertain terms.
    Doubtless, though, there were those who wondered how such a natural-born gentleman ended up on the lower deck, such as the guys from another division altogether, based far away from the fleshpots of London where a simpler, harder way of life prevailed, who sailed with them that summer to the port of Ostend in Belgium.
    And when some of them were squaring up with some locals who had somehow offended them, Damon and David made it clear they had no intention of joining in.
    Which prompted one of their number, a little waiflike sailor of about 16 or 17, to turn to them and ask, "What's wrong with youse guys?" with a look of utter bewilderment on his beardless face. But Damon simply didn't see the point of fighting for the sake of it. While a secret inner fortitude would eventually see him being commissioned as an officer in the Royal Navy, which had been his destiny all along; but not David's.
    His time with the Thames Division, RNR, came to an end in late 1977 with a surprisingly positive character report. And if military life had never been for him, it became an important part of his identity nonetheless.
    Even later in the summer, he joined the former Merchant Navy School in Greenhithe, Kent, as a trainee Radio Officer.
    He formed several close friendships there; but closest of all was with Jayant, from Gravesend, a tough Thameside town in North West Kent with a large Indian community. And for a time, he and David were inseparable.
    And it was through Jay that David started going to discos at Gravesend's Woodville Hall; and pretty well every week for a while, a gang from the college would take the train to Gravesend, to be treated like visiting royalty by the - mainly white and Asian - kids, whose outfits stood out in such striking contrast to the industrial bleakness of their surroundings.
    For English suburban life in those days didn't include mobile phones or DVD players, personal computers or the world wide web, and so was a fertile breeding ground for way out youth cults such as the Punks and Soul Boys.
    There were girl in chandelier earrings, wearing evening dresses and stiletto heels, which were in stark contrast to the hair colours they favoured, such as jet black or bleach blonde, with flashes of red, purple or green. Some wore bow ties, while others hanged their school colours around their necks.
    The boys favoured short hair, thin ties, mohair sweaters, baggy, well-pressed peg-top trousers of red or blue, and winkle picker shoes. And when they took to the floor to pirouette and pose, they could forget the ordinary cares of their working class lives and become superstars for a brief few hours.
    David enjoyed his time at Merchant Navy School and made several good friends in addition to Jay, but ultimately had to realise it wasn't for him.
    And soon after returning to London, he auditioned for a place on the three year drama course at the Silverhill School of Music and Drama in the City of London, which was really where he'd wanted to go in the first place.
    And Silverhill took him on, which was a bit of a surprise to him to say the least, seeing as he'd already failed two earlier auditions for the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
    Yet, it failed to prevent him sinking further into the nihilistic Punk lifestyle. And having been blown away by the hairstyle of one of a small gang of Punks he knew by sight from nights out in Dartford, he decided to imitate it a few weeks later:
    It was spiked in classic Punk style, with a kind of a halo of bright blond taking in the front of the head, both sides, and a strip at the nape of the neck. And if you chose to chose to flaunt such a style in those days, you lived in constant fear of attack or abuse. For Punk's culture of insolence and outrage was extreme even by the standards of previous British youth cults; such as the Teds, the Rockers, the Mods, the Greasers, the Skins, the Suedeheads and the Smoothies.
    And at the risk of being fanciful, it could be said that to some extent, Britain was a nation still under the sway of the moral values of the pre-war years, so that a cultural war was being fought for the soul of the nation. While the Punks were the avant-garde of a new Britain in a way that would be impossible today. And this may go some way towards explaining the incredible hostility Punks attracted from many ordinary members of the British public.
    But David was determined to be part of the revolution. And to this end, he saw local Punk band Sham 69 in a hall above the Surveyor, a pub in the heart of the Molesey Industrial Estate some 12 miles from the centre of London.
    This was shortly before they shot to fame after singer Jimmy Pursey was arrested on the roof of the Vortex Punk club in central London on the 23rd of September 1977.
    Sham's very name had been derived from the legend Walton and Hersham '69, scrawled on a wall in Molesey's sister town of Hersham, referring to the year she topped the premier division of the long defunct Athenian amateur football league.
    David already knew Pursey by sight, having seen him a year or so earlier miming to Chris Spedding's "Motorbiking" at the famous Walton Hop, supposedly Britain's first ever discotheque, which held mime competitions for Hop regulars at the height of its popularity.
    Pursey was such a regular, and the same could be said to a degree of David and his brother Dany. And one evening, David and Dany and a friend considered taking part in the competition themselves; having selected "I Can't Give You Anything" by the Stylistics to mime to; but at the last minute, they changed their minds, as they hadn't even taken the trouble to rehearse.
    While unlike the ditherer David, Pursey made it clear to all who witnessed his performances at the Hop he'd been born to be a star.
    And sure enough, for a brief period, he was one of Britain's leading Punk heroes. While his followers, the Sham Army, consisting of skinheads on both the left and the right of the political spectrum, became almost as famous as him. But after a riot at the Middlesex Polytechnic in North London, the first frenetic phase of Sham's performing career came to a close. Although they continued having hits until in 1980, when they disbanded until the inevitable reformation.
    But 1977 was Punk's year zero in the UK, and a far darker one than those immediately preceding it for that very reason.

    Around about this time, David was often to be found at the Surveyor on a Sunday night with Dany, and mutual friends.
    On one occasion, the usual Disco or Pop gave way to a violent Punk Rock anthem which saw the tiny dance space being invaded by deranged pogo-dancers as if they'd been summoned by some malignant deity. On another, a Ted revivalist who favoured flashy fifties-style clothing, tried to start some trouble with him in the toilet, at which point Vinnie, another Ted who'd befriended him about a year previously when he looked like an extra from a '50s High School flick stepped in with the magical words: "He's a mate!"
    Vinnie's intervention may have saved him from a hiding that night, because Teds had a loathing of Punks informed by their essential conservatism. To them, Punks probably seemed to have no respect for anything.
    The Teds, or Edwardians as they were initially styled, were widely perceived as folk devils when they'd first emerged in the UK in about 1952, with a look purloined from a small minority of upper class Guards officers who'd adapted the Edwardian fashion in the late 1940s in defiance of post-war austerity.
    However, in comparison to the later Punks, they were a model of respectability, and that was especially true of the '70s, when a brief revival resulted in battles between Teds and Punks taking place on West London's Kings Road all throughout '77.
    They persisted into the '80s, only to all but vanish from the face of the globe with the passing of that last great decade of youthful eccentricity.
    It may have been that very night that Vinnie the Ted almost imploringly asked him whether he into "this Punk lark", and David assured him he wasn't. He may even have added he still loved the fifties, which was true to a degree, but that wasn't the point. For the fact is he lied to him to look good in his eyes, which was a pretty low thing to do to a friend.
    But given the times, young men like David were forced to learn certain survival tactics, such as the ability to flee at the first whiff of trouble.
    Yet, by the time of the internet revolution, Punk had become just another exhibit of the Rock and Roll museum, itself just another branch of the vast entertainment industry. And the culture wars of the late '70s had long since been quieted, while rebellion had become more or less fully co-opted by the mainstream.
    To give Punk its due, that this situation had come about in the first place was at least partly as a result of its utter ferocity. Which is to say of its first serious assault, which targeted a Britain still desperately clinging to the final vestiges of its Judeo-Christian moral fabric. And while it was rejected by the vast majority of British people - indeed the West as a whole - its influence went on to be little short of cataclysmic.
    Yet, declared dead by about '79, it returned to the underground, where it set about fertilising one rebel movement after the other throughout the '80s. And so, Post-Punk, No Wave, Anarcho-Punk, Industrial and Goth all benefited from its ethos, until finally in the early '90s, the Alternative Rock revolution brought it fully back into the mainstream.
    Spearheaded by acts as diverse as Alice in Chains, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the Smashing Pumpkins and above all, Nirvana, this movement could be said to have been Rock's final desperate outburst of sedition. And after its passing, Rock finally took its place alongside Classical, Jazz, Folk and World as just another music genre, where once it had been little short of a religion of youth.
    While the sheer intensity of Nirvana's later music continues to startle, it's been wholly shorn of its iconoclastic power; and it's available for anyone of any age to access via the simple click of a computer mouse. And the same could be said of the Sex Pistols, whose one-time bassist, the tragic Sid Vicious, has emerged as Punk's leading icon.
    Is this development in some respects a fulfilment of Nietzsche's philosophy of the transvaluation of all values?
    There are those cultural commentators who would insist that this is indeed the case, and that far from being a positive move towards universal tolerance, it's a tragedy beyond compare, although rather than Nietzsche, it's the Book of Isaiah they might feel moved to quote from:
    "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil."
    But there was a time that such a revaluation met with enormous resistance, and the British public's outraged reaction to Punk in '77 was a perfect example of this. As for the Teds, goodness knows they were no angels. But to them there was something uniquely rotten at the heart of Punk, while the Rock and Roll they loved possessed all the purity of a classic art form.
    It was at the tail end of this Punk Rock Year Zero that David took Jay to a party in London's swanky West End. It was the last in a long series of celebrations he'd gone to throughout '77 mainly as a result of friends from Welbourne reaching the landmark age of 21. It was also one of the last times he ever saw Jay.
    Before arriving, Jay and he met up as arranged with future oil magnate Chris, and as soon as the introductions were over, Jay saw fit to offer a solo display of his lethal street fighting skills:
    "I'm suitably impressed," said Chris...and he was, although he was no wimp himself; but Jay was something else, and few would have benefited from crossing him, but they got on like a house on fire that insane night which at one point saw David pouring a full glass of beer over his head. What the beautiful dancer he'd spent most of the evening with thought of a nice guy like David doing a thing like that she didn't say.
    In those days, David knew so many people who'd have done anything for him given half the chance, and yet his one true passion appeared to be the creation of endless drunken scenes, and a party wasn't a party for him unless he'd caused one, after which he simply moved on.
    And indeed in the spring of '78, he was on the move again...this time to the city of Fuengirola on Spain's Costa del Sol; and with the intention of helping set up a sailing school with Adam, a young Englishman whom his father had recently befriended in London. But for some reason, the project came to nothing.
    However, David stayed on, living first in an apartment Adam had kindly set him up in, then in a little hotel in town; and finally, rent-free with an American friend, Scarlett, one of a handful of US ex-pats resident in Fuengirola in the late 1970s alongside young people from Australia, Britain, Ireland, Germany, South America and other parts of the world.
    It was a hedonistic scene, and David wasted little time in becoming part of it. He spent his nights at the Tam Tam night club, where he set about establishing himself as Fuengirola's very own Tony Manero, in Punk Rock attire.
    It was his first year as a full-time Punk, in point of fact, and among the clothes he favoured were a black cap-sleeved wet-look tee-shirt, drainpipe jeans of black or green, worn with black studded belt, festooned with silver chain filched from a Spanish restroom, and kept in place by multiple safety pins, fluorescent pink teddy boy socks, and white shoes with black laces like the ones he'd seen on the cover of an album by London Punk band 999. At one stage, he even wore a safety pin - disinfected by being dipped into a drink - in his left earlobe, but removed this once his lug had started to pulsate.
    After a few weeks, he became lead singer for the Tam Tam house band, and would typically wear so much make-up onstage that one occasion, the microphone became smeared in lipstick; but the patrons liked him, and he'd pose and pout and throw his spare frame about for their benefit.
    He was always short of money, but could order anything he wanted from the Tam Tam bar, and when he was flat broke, his close friend Laura bought him toasted cheese sandwiches to keep him going.
    Laura and he were rarely on the beach, but would sometimes hang out at the famous Campo de Tenis; although David spent a lot of time rehearsing with the band. And in the evening, he was often to be found at Laura's parents' house, putting on the slap, and perhaps even painting his nails a gaudy shade of red, before heading along to the Tam Tam to do his gig.
    One night her dad, a charismatic former tennis pro, was disturbed by their antics, and upon spying the pair of them, with David possibly wearing more make-up than his own daughter, incredulously asked:
    "What is this ****, Laura?"
    However, there were those nights they preferred to get away from it all, and for David, it was a special joy to be alone with Laura, while brimful with anticipation, in the demi-light of the Disco, with the evening still in its infancy. And on one incredible occasion as they were making their way through Fuengirola by dark, possibly to or from yet another club, the legend that was racing champion James Hunt called out Laura's name before emerging from the shadows. They exchanged a few words; and then it seemed he vanished just as suddenly as he'd arrived.

    Once David Cristiansen had started at college, he made it pretty clear than the nice clean-cut young man who'd auditioned the previous year had been a curve ball; as he was making no further attempts to conceal his Punk image.
    This was compounded by a bizarre hyperactivity that occasionally verged on the downright outrageous, not to say, disruptive. It was as if he was determined to convince the world that he was an artist with a capital "A", and therefore entitled to incessantly attract attention to himself with aberrant behaviour and clothing.
    And among the items he favoured were slim jim ties, drainpipe jeans, florescent Fifties-style socks, and white leather brothel creepers, but the piece de resistance was a pair of tight plastic snakeskin trousers which he actually only wore the once.
    As if all this weren't enough to cause eyebrows to raise among the authorities, he insisted on wearing make-up even in classes, although to be fair it was subtly applied, except for gigs and parties, when he really piled on the slap...foundation, eye shadow, blusher, lip rouge, the works. Talk about lipstick, powder and paint.
    On one occasion, in the course of a class supervised by Den Denaghy, a brilliant bearded professional mime artist who'd been a regular on children's TV for a time, the compact he usually carried about with him for sporadic touch-ups fell out of an inner pocket of his jacket during an exercise, before hitting the floor with an embarrassing clatter. All eyes went to the compact, and there was a mortifying silence, which the manic Den mercifully broke by retrieving the offending article from the floor, and furiously daubing peoples' startled faces with glittery blusher.
    Still, his days of wearing slap were numbered. It was as early as '79, in fact, that he developed some kind of allergic reaction to a certain brown eye shadow, which caused his eyes to become so swollen and sore as to verge on the porcine...yet, he'd only worn it a little time before, and suffered no ill-effects.
    This was during that first gig, held in the basement of the nearby Lauderdale Tower a few days after his 23rd birthday as part of one of the Folk Nights held occasionally at Silverhill in those days. And he was singing for a band he'd named Narcissus, one of several he was involved in at Silverhill.
    And through one of them, The Rockets, he was talent-scouted as lead singer for a guitarist of genius called Don Taylor, who was hoping to form a band himself, and clearly thought David would cut it as a front man. But for some reason, it never came to be.
    Don went on to play and write for one of the world's leading Rock superstars, but at one point he briefly joined a Silverhill-based Jazz-Funk outfit with another then friend of David's. That band would go on to become one of the most successful Pop acts of the eighties, chalking up one hit after the other in a Britain in which Jazzy Dance music was favoured by flash boys in white socks and tasselled loafers. David was even invited to an early rehearsal, at a time when they might have done with a front man like himself...but of course, he didn't go.
    Through Narcissus, he found only disgrace and humiliation, and not just the once. Narcissus played a grand total of two gigs, both of them fiascos.
    The first time they played together was just prior to the forming of the Rockets, and although it had been a disaster due to his drunken upstaging of the other band members, piano player Perry was sufficiently impressed by him to ask him to front the Rockets.
    And it was through the Rockets that he was offered the job of front man for Don's mooted musical project. However, rather than wait for the call from him, David went on ahead and re-formed Narcissus with original members Simon on guitar and John on percussion.
    David piled on the make-up, and Simon and John followed suit, but being relatively untainted by personal vanity, the results were unsettling. Sweet-natured Simon painted his Botticellian features like an ancient pagan warrior, while gentle giant John saw fit to smother his with military-style camouflage. Not surprisingly, their set was accompanied by a riot of heckling which, although far from malicious, ultimately provoked David to irritation, and he ended up tossing his plectrum into the audience with a sarcastic:
    "Here's to all my loving fans!"
    This petulant outburst may have caused no end of harm to his reputation, because the chutzpah of the natural leader who demands and gets attention and respect through the sheer force of his personality was never among his gifts. Rather he was blessed with the seductive charm of the social climber for whom alpha status comes through the subtle exercise of exquisite manners. In this respect, he was a little like Julien Sorel, anti-hero of Stendhal's "The Scarlet and the Black" who despite humble origins, succeeds in ascending to the very top of the social ladder, only to allow a single act of madness to destroy all his good work.
    David's final band was the '50s revivalist act Z Cars, which even won a small fan base for itself, its members being Carl Cool, the front man and chief songwriter who had a tattoo painted onto his shoulder, Robert Fitzroy-Square, the geek with the Buddy Holly horn rims, Dave Dean, the hard man of the band, and Little Ricky Ticky, the baby at only 18.
    Things went wrong when one of the key members quit, to be replaced with a close friend, the deeply gifted Rhys Gruffydd, who was a far better musician than any of them. And thence to deviate from their usual three-chord doo-wop or Rock with more complex songs, starting with a tightly arranged version of Arthur Crudup's "That's All Right Mama", complete with harmony backing vocals. But they weren't up to the task, and disillusion swiftly set in; although by this time, David had left Silverhill anyway, and things just weren't the same.
    There had been emotional scenes at his farewell party held in the depths of the Barbican Estate's Lauderdale Tower, and some cried openly at the thought of his leaving.
    During the course of the night, a very dear friend of his, Tamsin, told him to contact Harry Creasey, a London-based impresario and agent well-known for offering young actors their very first positions within the entertainment industry.
    David was to take her advice, and sauntering cigarette in hand into Harry's Denmark Street office a few weeks later, he was confronted by a dark slender man of about forty whose outrageously flamboyant manner was compounded by seismic levels of personal charm, but not before he'd made one of his final ever trips to Spain.
    Yet, even though the guys from the band had so wanted him to reclaim his place as front man in Fuengirola, he'd chosen to go to La Ribera with his parents instead, and he felt a deep and overwhelming sense of exhaustion as he stretched out under the Costa Calida sun. It was as if he was already unconsciously aware that his acting career was destined to be a non-event.
    Yet, shortly afterwards, he took up his very first official acting job as Christian the Chorus Boy - doubling as Joey the Teddy Bear, complete with furry ursine costume - in a pantomime tour of "Sleeping Beauty", all thanks to the infinite generosity of Harry Creasy, who wanted David to look as good as possible
    "because he's pretty, all right?" he explained, and no one was going to dispute that.

    Actually posted 6/4/12.



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    Sun, Oct 9th - 7:54AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life - Chapter Five



      A few weeks after "Sleeping Beauty" had culminated at the Buxton Opera House over Christmas 1979, David Cristiansen appeared in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at both the Bristol and London Old Vics alongside legendary method genius and future Hollywood superstar Daniel Day Lewis, who played Philostrate; and brilliant character actor Nickolas Grace, who made a mesmerising Puck.
      However, the cast as a whole was incredibly gifted and charismatic, and shortly before the opening night, David was lucky enough to see a BOV production of one of his favourite ever musicals, Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls", featuring Clive Wood as Sky and Pete Postlethwaite as Nathan, which provided him with more unalloyed pleasure than any other theatrical production he'd seen up to that point. Even seeing the London premiere of Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" a few months later failed to top it.
      After resuming his role as Mustardeed in the summer, his next acting job came early the following year courtesy of an old family friend, Howell Jones, who just happened to be the Company Stage Manager at the famous Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road at the time.
      A production of Petronius' "Satyricon" was already under way, and they needed an Assistant Stage Manager at the last minute, and Howell suggested David. He'd also be the show's percussionist, with primal thrumming rhythms opening the show, and featuring throughout.
      Also in '81, David became a kind of part-time member of an initially nameless youth movement whose origins lay in the late 1970s, largely among discontented ex-Punks, but who were eventually dubbed Futurists; and then New Romantics.
      Their music of preference included the kind of synthesized Art Rock pioneered by German collectives such as Kraftwerk and Can, as well as the highbrow Glam of David Bowie and Roxy Music. All of these elements went on to inform the music of Spandau Ballet and Visage, who emerged from the original scene at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden, and Ultravox, a former Punk band of some renown whose fortunes revived with the coming of the New Romantics.
      The name arose as a result of their impassioned devotion to past eras perceived to be romantic, whether relatively recent ones such as the '20s or '40s, or more distant historical ones such as the Medieval or Elizabethan. Ruffs, veils, frills, kilts and so on were common among them, but then so were demob suits.
      Several of the cult's more outlandish trendsetters went on to become famous names within the worlds of art and fashion. They stood in some contrast to more harder-edged young dandies such as the Kemp Brothers from working class Islington. Their Spandau Ballet began life as the hippest band in London, famously introduced as such at the Scala cinema by writer and broadcaster Robert Elms in May 1980. In time, though, they mutated into a chart-friendly band with a penchant for soulful Pop songs such as the international smash hit, "True".
      David attended New Romantic nights at Le Kilt and Le Beat Route among other swishy night spots, and was even snapped at one of these by photographer David Bailey, believed to have served as model for the central figure of Antonioni's enigmatic evocation of sixties London, "Blow Up". But he was never a true New Romantic so much as a lone fellow traveller keen to experience first hand the last truly original London music and fashion cult before it imploded as all others had done before it.
      Despite its florid decadence, it was always far more mainstream than other musical movements which arose in the wake of Punk, such as Post-Punk and Goth.
      For this reason, several of its keys acts went on to become part of the New Wave, whose mixture of complex tunes and telegenic Glam image partly inspired the Second British Invasion of the American charts. This occurred thanks largely to a desperate need on the part of the newly arrived Music Television for striking videos, and went on to exert a colossal influence on the development of music and fashion throughout the eighties.
      As '81 wore on, David's acting career lost momentum, with the result that some kind of family decision was reached to the effect that he should return to his studies with a view to eventually qualifying as a teacher. Thence, he went on to pass interviews for both the University of Exeter, and Leftfield College, London, scraping in with two very average "A" level passes at B and C.
      He wanted to stay in London, so as to keep the possibility of picking up some acting work in his spare time, so in the autumn he started a four-year BA degree course in French and Drama mainly at Leftfield - but also partly at the nearby Central School of Speech and Drama - while staying in a small room on campus.
      At first, he was so discontented at finding himself a student again at 25 that in an attempt to escape his situation, he auditioned for work as an acting Assistant Stage Manager, but he wasn't taken on, so he simply resigned himself to his fate.
      A short time later, though, while sauntering around at night close by to the Central School, he was ambushed by a group of his fellow drama students who may have seemed to him to incarnate the sheer carefree rapturous vitality and joy of life of youth, and because of them and those like them, he came to love his time at Leftfield, which just happened to coincide with the first half of the last of a triad of decades in the West of unceasing artistic and social change and experimentation.
      Indeed, the Playboy philosophy which exploded in the 1960s could be said to have reached its full flowering in the crazy eighties. Even if the vast majority of people whose salad days fell within its boundaries ultimately forged respectable lives following a brief season as outsiders.
      As for David...as much as he loved being young in the '70s and '80s, by the 2010s, he'd come to bitterly regret the shallow narcissism that once caused him to scorn the trappings of status, security and respectability. And he'd find himself pining for it like some cruelly spurned lover.
      But then, as he saw it, the flouting of all the elements of a contented life for the sake of a few seasons of joy had been tirelessly promoted in the West for over half a century. Not least through Rock music, the narcissistic art par excellence.
      As to the society it had helped to create, it was akin in his eyes to the antediluvian world, whose workings of the flesh survived the Flood to be disseminated throughout the nations to spell the end of one empire after the other, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek, the Roman
      And the older, wiser David saw himself as having embraced the libertine life for no good reason, having been blessed by every great gift a young man could possibly hope for, including a stable childhood and first-rate education.
      Yet, as he'd come to understand it, our most treasured qualities, such as brilliance, beauty, charm and talent - which so often operate together - must be submitted to God, lest they become dangerous, as they so often do. While the gifted, being so visible, are also more susceptible than most to a multitude of temptations. And so all too liable to fall prey to Luciferian pride and Luciferian rebellion... which is why so many are drawn to the power offered by art, and especially music; the writer of the first song Lamech having been in the line of Cain.
      Indeed, there are those Christians who believe that the Cainites were the first pagan people, and that they corrupted the Godly line of Seth through a sensual and wicked music not unlike much contemporary Rock.
      Of course not all Rock music is flagrantly wicked, far from it. Much of it is melodically lovely. While in terms of its lyrics, its finest songs display the most delicate poetic sensibility.
      The fact remains, however, that no art form has been quite so associated as Rock with rebellion, transgression, licentiousness, intoxication and death-worship, nor been so influential as such.
      And while the David of the 2010s viewed this truth with the fiery eyes of a modern day Jeremiah, his '80s counterpart still desperately sought fame as a Rock and Roll star himself; and if not as Rock artist, then actor, or writer.
      And as the former saw it, it was surely a good thing he never gained this pagan form of immortality because had he done so, he'd almost certainly have been used for the furtherance of the kingdom of darkness. And once he'd served his purpose, may well have died a solitary premature death as an addict. As has been the fate of so many men and women all too briefly inspirited by the magnetic charisma of the superstar.
      And Leftfield in the early '80s was a seething hotbed of talent and creativity which provided David with almost unlimited opportunities for acting and performance.
      Within days, he'd made a close friend of a fellow French and Drama student by the name of Sebastian Stockbridge.
      Seb was a slim, good-looking, dark-haired charmer from the north east of England who, despite a solid private school background and rugby player's powerful wiry frame, dressed like a Rock star with his left ear graced by a pendant earring, and favouring skin-tight jeans worn with black pointed boots. Together, they went on to feature in Brecht and Weill's "The Threepenny Opera".
      David had two small roles, the most fascinating to him being that of petty street thief Filch, as he'd been played by Antonin Artaud in one of two film versions of the play directed by G.W. Pabst in 1931; and Artaud, an example of the avant garde faith in extremis, was one of his most beloved cursed poets.
      Through this production he went on to play jive-talking disc jockey Galactic Jack in the musical play "The Tooth of Crime", its director having been impressed by Seb and himself in "The Threepenny Opera", and so cast them in the lead role of Hoss, and Galactic Jack, respectively.
      It's no coincidence that its author, Sam Shepard, has gone on record as having been influenced by Artaud in his own work, as the latter's concept of a Theatre of Cruelty has proved prophetic of much of the theatre of the post-war years, indeed art as a whole, with its emphasis on assailing the senses, and in some cases the sensibilities as well, of the public through every available means.

      Before long, David was channelling every inch of his will to perform into one play after the other at Leftfield, while any real ambition to succeed as an actor receded far into the background.
      When it came to his French studies, in his essay writing he often flaunted an insolent outspokenness perhaps partly influenced by his favourite accursed artists, but also reflecting his own exhibitionistic need to shock. And while some of his tutors may have viewed these efforts with a jaundiced eye, one came to thrill to them and await them with the sort of impatience normally accorded a favourite TV or radio series. This was the remarkable Dr Elizabeth Lang, born in Lancashire in 1924, as the only child of working class parents who went on to gain a place at Oxford University, before becoming a lecturer there, and then at Leftfield.
      What an ascent...from humble northern roots to a lectureship at the most hallowed place of learning in history...little wonder she was so fragile, almost febrile as a person, but so kind, so single-minded in her devotion to those who shared her passionate view of art and life:
      "Temper your enthusiasm," she'd tell David, "and the extremes of your reactions. You should have a more conventional frame on which to hang your unconventionality. Don't push people, you make yourself vulnerable."
      Was she was trying to save him from himself, and from the addiction to self-destruction that so often accompanies extreme distinction, whether of beauty, intelligence or talent, as if it were the lot of some of the most gifted among us to serve as examples of the potentially ruinous nature of privilege when operating in a purely earthly realm?
      For David so loved to play the accursed poet and to scandalise by way of the written and spoken word. How close this carried him to the threshold of a terminally seared conscience it's impossible to say; but one thing is certain, his compassion would soon suffer, a process that would prove excruciating to him.
      That's not to say he ever fully stopped being a caring person, because he certainly didn't, and he continued to be repelled to the core by those artistic revolutionaries who advocated actual physical violence. At the same time, he was slavishly devoted towards certain favoured artists who sought the total demolition of the established order, a consequence that inexorably results in increased crime and violence, not that this occurred to him at the time.
      This nihilistic love of destruction kept uneasy company with a high and mighty dudgeon towards what he perceived as social injustice, and among its chief targets were dictators on the right wing of the political spectrum - in fact, the political right as a whole - and while he also opposed left-wing oppression, he reserved his real animus for the right.
      The 1980s was a decade of protest and riot in the UK, and all through its years of raging discontent, David allied himself with one radical lobby after the other; including Greenpeace, CND, Animal Aid, Amnesty, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement which published one of his characteristically apoplectic letters of protest.
      And he marched against the looming nuclear threat in London and Paris, and was a remorseless disseminator of rants, pamphlets, tracts, postcards, and whatever else was at hand as a means of spreading a message of social revolution.
      He would ultimately contend that his was the self-righteous fury that is rooted in a false notion of the perfectibility of Man, that fails to recognise that oppression stems from the sin we all share, and that has no real satisfying motive other than its own existence. But at the time, he knew nothing of any of this.
      In the summer, a faction from Leftfield, culled mostly from the Drama department, took Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" to the internationally famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and in their production, Shakespeare's Illyria was transformed into a Hippie paradise, with David playing Feste as a Dylanesque minstrel strumming dirge-like folk songs with a voice like sand and glue.
      Most of the Leftfield players' male contingent couldn't have deviated more from the politely liberal norm found nightly at the Fringe Club on Chambers Street if they'd tried. Among the wildest were Massimo, a dashing Britalian of passionately held humanitarian convictions, who played Sir Toby Belch, David, the anarchic product of multiple social and educational influences, and Jez, a tough but tender Scouser with slicked back rockabilly hair, who played Malvolio in a mesmerisingly understated manner.
      Jez was a fascinating, charismatic guy with a hilariously dark sense of humour who had been in a band in the early '80s at the legendary Liverpool Post-Punk club, Eric's. He and his girlfriend Gill, who'd designed the flowing Hippie costumes, and was also a very dear friend of David's, never stopped encouraging him nor believing in him:
      "I think you should be one of the greats, David," Jez once told him, "but you've given up and that's sad. When I'm 27, I'd be happy to be like you. In your writing, make sure you've got something really unbeatable...then say...'here!'"
      Yet, while he was complimented by many at Leftfield, others betrayed their disquiet with their words, as if he had the power to remind them of the true tragic essence of sed non satiata:
      "You give to everyone, but are incapable of giving in particular."
      "I'm afraid...you're inscrutable. You're not just blasé are you?"
      "I'm afraid there's something really troubling you, that you don't want to tell anyone."
      "There's a mystery about you...you change."
      "I like it when you really feel something, but then it's so rare."
      "Don't go away so long like that, David, it worries me."
      "Disabused."
      "Blind, deaf, indifferent."
      David's relationship with Leftfield was one of the great passions of his life, and one destined to haunt him for the remainder of his days, as if he knew he'd never know such depths of intimacy again, and be increasingly prey to the torment of fading affect.
      Then the following year, his second at Leftfield, he lived in an upper floor apartment in Golders Green with his close friends from the French department, Seb, a former Sedbergh School alumnus, and fellow northerner Stephen, whose alma mater was Sedbergh's age-old rival, Ampleforth, a Catholic college largely run by Benedictine monks.
      Steve was an incredibly gifted pianist and guitarist who despite a misleadingly serious demeanour was a warm, affectionate, witty, eccentric character who endlessly buzzed with the nervous energy of near-genius. He might not have wanted to ape the way his flatmates dressed and behaved, but he was fiercely protective of them despite their social butterfly ways.
      And David was determined to live like an aesthete, even if it meant doing so on a shoestring in a cramped little flat in suburban north London, which was hardly the city of dreaming spires; and to this end he organised what he optimistically termed a salon, which although well-attended didn't survive beyond a single meeting. For as aesthetes, David and co. fell pathetically short of the new Brideshead generation that was thriving at Oxford in the wake of the classic TV series.
      But David couldn't have cared less, for self-doubt simply wasn't an issue for him in the early eighties and he was a truly happy person; in fact so much so that he may have exaggerated his capacity for depth and melancholia as a means of making himself more interesting to others.
      In the final analysis though, what possible reason was there for him to be discontented, given that his first two Leftfield years were fabulous...an unceasing cycle of plays, shows, concerts, discos, parties set in one of the most beautiful and bucolic areas of London?

      After the second year ended in the summer of 1983, David had a few months to spare before travelling to Paris to work as an English language assistant at a Lycée Technique in the suburb of Brétigny-sur-Orge in Essonne...some sixteen miles south of the city centre.
      This spelled his exile from the old drama clique, and he'd not be joining them in their final year celebrations, and the knowledge of this must surely have affected him. He was, after all, severing himself from a vast network of gifted friends of whom he was deeply fond, and so losing an opportunity of growing as an artist in tandem with like-minded spirits. He could have opted for just a few weeks in France, but did he really want to be deprived of the chance of spending more than six months in the city he'd long worshipped as the only true home of an artist?
      Earlier in the year, his close friend Madeleine, a brilliant dynamic woman of North African Jewish ancestry had told him something to the effect that while many were drawn to him, it wasn't just in consequence of any magnetic attractiveness he might have possessed:
      "They sense death in you," she chillingly opined.
      Cognizant as she was of the intellectual worldview of the great psychologist Sigmund Freud, who identified a death drive subsequently dubbed "thanatos", she may have divined some kind of will to destruction within him, or rather, self-destruction.
      As things turned out, she was right in doing so, although this was barely embryonic in the early '80s, if it existed at all, but he would ultimately attribute its existence to a cocktail of intoxicants, namely, alcohol, the occult, and intellectualism, and to be of the belief that each exerted a terribly negative effect on his development as a human being.
      It was not, he would contend, that intellectualism is evil in itself, but that intellectuals are more tempted than most by pride, rebellion and sensuality, and that the same could be said of those blessed with great wealth, great beauty, and great talent. He'd see intellectuals as among the most powerful men and women in history, and the Modern World as having been significantly shaped by the wildly inspired views of men such as Rousseau, Darwin, Nietzsche, and especially Marx and Freud.
      To the man he'd become, their theories fanned the flames of a largely bloodless revolution in the 1960s, and rather than fade once the latter had been largely quenched, set about infiltrating the cultural mainstream where they became more extreme than ever. And so to enter the realm of the Post-Modern, while remaining the ultimate consequence of centuries of Modernist influence on the Judeo-Christian fabric of Western civilisation.
      However, David was never a true scholar like Madeleine, so much as someone who was both troubled and fascinated by the idea of hyper-intellectuality. Reading Colin Wilson's "The Outsider" in the early '80s, he especially identified with those intellectuals who were tortured by their own excesses of consciousness such as T.E. Lawrence, who wrote of his nature as being "thought-riddled".
      As a child he'd been extrovert to the point of hyperactivity, but by the time of his late adolescence, found himself subject to rival drives of equal intensity, one towards seclusion and introspection, the other, attention and approbation.
      In his quest for the latter, he subjected his body, the creation he tendered so lovingly at times, to a ruthless almost derisive work ethic, and intoxication mild and otherwise - facilitated the constant socialising that brought him the affirmation he so craved, what could be termed a narcissistic supply. How else to explain the sheer demented fervour of his endless self-exaltation?
      That's not to say that he wasn't a loving person, because he was; but precisely what kind of love was it that he spread so generously about himself? One thing it wasn't was agape, the perfect, selfless love described in 1 Corinthians 13.
      He was hardly less heartless towards his mind than his body, treating it as an object of research and experimentation. Little wonder then that he turned to drink as a means of pacifying it, although alcohol still wasn't a serious problem for him in the early '80s, when his exhausting daily regimen tended to be fuelled instead by massive quantities of caffeine tablets. That said, Madeleine didn't like it when he drank to excess, as if she'd already singled him out as someone who'd go on to develop a drink problem. In this as in other things she showed remarkable insight.
      "Your friends are too good to you...it makes me sick to see them...you don't really give...you indulge in conversation, but your mind is always elsewhere, ticking over. You could hurt me, you know...you are a Don Juan, so much. Like him, you have no desires...I think you have deep fears...it's not that you're empty...but that there is an omnipresent sadness about you, a fatality..."

      In the autumn of 1983, David took residence in a room on the grounds of his allotted school.
      It was during those early days in Paris that he became infected by a serious sense of self-disillusion, as a new darkness spread over his mind.
      This sea-change marked the onset of a real drink problem that went way beyond the usual student booze-ups into the murky realm of drinking alone by day, and which David would ultimately attribute to a conscience that was starting to become calloused through repeated defilement. His well-being, however, remained relatively unaffected, in fact, for those first few months, he was happy, blissfully happy to be a nomad in the city which had inspired so many great poets to write classics of the art of urban idling. He wrote of his own experiences, usually late at night, in his room with the help of wine and cigarettes, and while few of these notes survived, some incidents that may once have been committed to paper stayed fresh in his mind.
      There was the time he sat opposite a same-sex couple on the Métro when he was still innocent of its labyrinthine complexities. "She" was a slim white girl, dressed from head to toe in denim, who gazed blissfully, with lips coyly pursed, into some wistful middle distance, while her muscular black boyfriend stared straight through him with eyes in which desire and menace seemed to be mixed, until one of them spoke, almost in a whisper:
      "Qu'est-ce-que t'en pense?"
      He came to recall the night he took the Métro to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, where he slowly sipped a demi-blonde in a brasserie, perhaps of the type immortalised by Brassai in his photographs of the secret life of '30s Paris. At the same time, a bewhiskered old man in a naval officer's cap, his table strewn with empty wine bottles and cigarette butts, repeatedly screeched the name, "Phillippe!" until a pallid impassive bartender with patent leather hair filled his glass to the brim with a mock-obsequious:
      "Voilà, mon Capitaine!"
      And then there was the afternoon when, enacting the role of the social discontent, he joined an anti nuclear march through Paris which ended with a bizarre street cabaret performed by a troupe of neo-hippies whose sheer demented defiance may have filled him with longing for a time when he treated his well-thumbed copy of the Fontana Modern Masters bio of Che Guevara by Andrew Sinclair as some kind of sacred text...
      A day spent as a nomad in the City of Light would often end with a few hours spent in a movie theatre, perhaps in the vast soulless Forum des Halles shopping precinct, and there was a point he started to hate the movies he chose, as he struggled more and more with fits of deep and uncontrollable depression. For the first time in his life, he was starting to feel worse after having seen a film than before, the result perhaps of creeping anhedonia, which is a reduced ability to enjoy activities found pleasurable by the majority.
      He grew bored of watching others perform. What joy, he reasoned, was to be found in watching some dismal movie, when there was so much to do in the greatest city in the civilised world?
      He'd never really been any kind melancholic up until this point but this situation may have started to change in his first few months in Paris. If his travels failed to produce the desired uplifting effect, he'd fall prey to a despair that was wholly out of proportion to the cause.
      As a means of protecting himself, he started squandering his hard-earned cash on endless baubles and fripperies. These wholly pointless trinkets included a gaudy short-sleeved shirt by Yves St Laurent, a retro-style alarm clock with the loudest tick in Christendom, a gold-plated toothbrush which he never actually used, a black and gold cigarette holder and matching slim fit lighter, a portrait drawn of him at the Place de Tertre which made him look like a cherubic 12 year old, and a black vinyl box jacket procured from the Porte de Clignancourt flea market.
      Mention must also be made of the many books he bought, such as the three Folio works by Symbolist pioneers, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Villiers de L'Isle Adam and Joséphin Peladan; as well as the second-hand books of poetry by such obscure figures as Trakl and Delève...part of Seguers' Contemporary Poets collection.
      Could the kids who loved to wave and coo at him from all corners of the school have guessed that their precious David who looked like a lost member of Wham or Duran Duran was a secret dark depressive?
      Could they ever have known he was a collector of the literary works of late 19th Century Decadents...and a social discontent given to recording snarling rants against the callousness of Western society on a cheap cassette tape recorder?
      The simple answer is not in a thousand years...for he was leading a double life, perhaps even a multiple one. Little wonder, therefore, that he was starting to drink to try and make sense of what was happening to him, which was something akin to the fracturing of the personality.
      It wasn't long before he tired of his solitary existence; but then becoming more sociable may have simply been the result of being in one place for a significant length of time and nothing more meaningful than that. In fact, he'd already befriended twenty year old Theresa "Tessa" Evans, English assistant in the neighbouring town of St Genevieve du Bois while they were both attending classes at the Sorbonne intended to prepare them for the year ahead. And they went on to see more and more of each other as their Parisian sojourn proceeded apace.
      She'd been a close girlhood chum at convent school of his great Leftfield friend, Ariana Hansen...in fact, one of the first times they met up was with Ariana, when they saw "Gimme Shelter" in some dinky little art house theatre. This being, of course, the documentary of the Rolling Stones' 1969 American tour which, culminating in the infamous Free Concert at the Altamont Speedway in northern California, marked the end of the Hippie dream of peace and love.
      Another close friend was maths teacher Jules Cendrars, who was the rebellious son of an army officer, and a furious hedonist who worshipped the Rock and Roll lifestyle of Keith Richards and other British bad boy musicians. There was a vision that never left him...of Jules, tall, thin, dark, charismatic, with his head of wiry black hair, dressed in drainpipes and Cuban heeled boots, playing the bass guitar - but brilliantly - at some unearthly hour with friends following a night's heavy partying before rushing to be with a girl friend as the dawn broke.
      His best male friend was metal work teacher Milan Curkovic, the son of Yugoslavian parents from the suburb of Bagneux, whose impassive manner belied the exorbitantly loving and unstable soul of a true poet. He fell in love with Tessa at first sight, and spent the whole night on a train bound for the south of France in a romantic delirium singing the songs of Jacques Brel. He referred to David's and Tessa's elegant swan necks as being typical of what he called "le charme anglais".
      So many of the people of Bretigny went out of their way to make David feel welcome and content from the headmaster all the way down to the kids, some of whom staged near-riots in the classroom whenever he appeared. He felt so unworthy of their kindness, of the incredible hospitality that is characteristic of ordinary French people.
      However, if he was much loved in the warm-hearted faubourgs, in Paris itself he was at times as much a magnet for menace as approval.
      In fact, he was hysterically threatened in the streets of Pigalle only days after arriving in the city; and then verbally assaulted later in the year, this time on an RER train by some kind of madman or derelict who'd taken exception to his earrings and was furiously urging him to go to the Bois de Boulogne. But what he suggested he do there is too obscene to print.
      And mention must also be made of the sinister skinhead who called him "une ******* anglaise'' for trying on Tessa's wide-brimmed hat while travelling home by train after a night out with her and Ariana. But as ever, he was mysteriously protected against all the odds.
      On a far brighter note, he spent a sizeable part of the journey from Paris-Austerlitz to Bretigny with a self-professed "voyou" with chilling shark-like eyes, who nonetheless seemed quite fond of him, as he made no attempt to threaten him. He even gave him his number, telling him that unless he phoned as promised, he was merely what he termed "un anglais ***."
      David left his beloved Brétigny without saying goodbye to so many people that it was painful to think of it afterwards, but frenetic eleventh hour socialising had left him exhausted. However, there was one final get-together, organised by Tessa and a few other friends. Milan was there of course, as well as well as several mutual friends of Tessa's and his. Sadly though, Jules wasn't, although he bumped into one of his girl friends, who, her voice dripping with incredulity, asked:
      "Où est Jules?"
      Seized by guilt for having failed to invite him, David phoned him at home to ask him to make a last minute appearance, but in a muted voice, he told him:
      "Nah, I'm in the bath, man, it's too late"
      It was the last he ever heard of him. As for Milan, he and David were to talk on the phone once the latter had returned to London, but they never saw each other again. On the other hand, Tessa and he stayed friends until the early '90s, by which time she'd got married to a fellow church-goer and former Cambridge University alumnus called Peter, who also became a good friend.
      His parents stopped by that night to pick him up on their way to La Ribera where they were due to stay for a few weeks before returning to the UK, and after a day or so spent sightseeing, they set off. Soon after arriving, it became clear to David that eight years after Franco's death, with Spain's beatific innocence long gone, his beloved pueblo had changed beyond all recognition.
      In Murcia, while quietly drinking in a night club with some very dear friends of his from La Ribera's golden age, he found himself in the surreal position of being visually threatened by a local Punk who clearly objected to the bootlace tie he was wearing which immediately identified him as a hated Rockabilly. As he saw it, such a thing would never have happened ten years before; or perhaps even five.
      As for the youth of La Ribera itself, where once they'd been endearingly naive, now they seemed so worldly and cool that David was in awe of them, as they danced like chickens with their elbows thrust out to the latest New Pop hits from the UK, such as King's "Won't You Hold My Hand Now", which David endlessly translated for them.
      Actually posted 6/4/12  Minor edit 7/3/13



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    Sun, Oct 9th - 5:20AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life 3.



    The summer of '74 was one of the most blissful lifelong loser David Cristiansen ever spent at the beautiful little former fishing village of Santiago de la Ribera; and there were a good few of those.
    Each afternoon, he'd meet up with friends both male and female on the jetty facing his apartment on the Mar Menor, which was more or less deserted after lunch, where they'd listen to Bowie on cassette, or Donny keening "Puppy Love" on a portable phonograph, and generally enjoy being young and carefree in a decade of endless possibilities.
    To some youthful Spanish eyes back in '74-'76, David was an almost impossibly exotic figure from what was then the most radical and daring city in Europe, and he played his image up to the hilt. In truth, though, he was barely less sheltered and innocent than they, and how wonderful it felt for him to bask in their soft Mediterranean loveliness for a few brief seasons.
    However, a change came over Spain with Franco's passing, and the birth of the so-called "Movida", which could be said to be the Spanish equivalent of London's Swinging Sixties revolution. So that, by David's last vacation in La Ribera in the summer of '84, it was he who was in awe of the local youth rather than the other way around. For they seemed so cool to him, dancing their strange jerky chicken wing dance to the latest New Pop hits from Britain.
    By then, of course, most of his old friends had vanished into their young adult lives, and his time as the undisputed English prince of La Ribera long passed.
    He returned to London in late summer '74 with a deep tan and his long hair bleached bright yellow by the sun.
    Only days afterwards, he found himself on HMS Ministry, moored then as today on the Embankment near Temple station. This involved his passing through Waterloo mainline station, which wasn't tourist-friendly as it is today, with its cafés and baguette bars, but a dingy intimidating place complete with pub and old-style barber.
    There, he was approached by an old sailor who kept going on about how good looking he was; but he was no predator, just a sweet lonely old Scotsman who wanted someone to talk to for a few minutes, and David was happy to oblige.
    He even went so far as to agree to a meeting with him the same time the following week, but he had no intention of keeping it. Besides, it wasn't long before HMS Thamesis was on its way to Hamburg, second largest city of Germany and its principle port.
    Once they'd arrived, one of the CPOs warned David not to wander around Hamburg alone, for fear he might end up being ravaged and dumped in some back alley, or worse.
    He duly joined up with a group of about three or four other ratings on his first night ashore, and they headed straight for the Reeperbahn in the bewitchingly vicious St Pauli red light district, which was in such stark contrast to the leafy outer suburbs, where David found himself, possibly a day or so later, through a specially organised coach trip.
    A gang of them ended up in a park where David had his picture taken on a bridge by a reporter for the Surrey Comet, before a group of breathless tittering schoolgirls asked him to join them in some photos.
    On the way back to the ship, one of the sailors announced he'd been quite a hit with the Hamburg teenyboppers, while another wryly opined:
    "It's cos 'e's blond, innit..."
    Whatever the truth, their simple unaffected joy of life must have seemed so touching to David, especially in the light of what girls barely older than they were subjecting themselves to a mere few miles away.
    Some months later, in what was by then '75, David became a student at Prestlands Technical College which lay, then as now, on the fringes of Weybridge, an affluent outer suburb of south west London.
    In semi-pastoral Prestlands, as in his beloved La Ribera, he learned to be a social being after years of near-seclusion, first at Welbourne and then as a home student. So, attention came to be a potent narcotic for him in the mid 1970s.
    However, despite constant displays of flamboyant self-confidence, those who tried to get to know to know him on an intimate level found themselves confronted with a paradoxically inhibited individual.
    The regular Prestlands Disco was a special event for David. And on one occasion early on in a Disco night, he got up in front of what seemed like the whole college and delivered a solo dance performance, possibly with white silk scarf flailing in the air, to a fiery Glam tune by Bebop Deluxe to frenzied cheers and applause.
    On another, a trio of roughs who may have gate crashed the Disco only to see in David the worst possible example of the feckless wastrel student strutting and posturing in unmanly white, took him aside at the end of the night, doubtless intent on a touch of the old ultra-violence:
    "Oy you, we bin watchin' you, you're a poof, ain'tcha..."
    But David stood his ground, insisting that despite what they may have thought about him, he was just as straight as they. Apparently convinced, they then vanished into the departing crowds after muttering a few dark threats.
    '75 again, and David's music, swimming and Martial Arts sessions were no more. But the private lessons continued with Mark, a slim young academic with long darkish curly hair who lived alone but for several black cats in long time Rock star haven Richmond-on-Thames. For as well as being a private tutor, he was a successful session musician.
    Specialising in the French Symbolist poets, he exerted a strong influence on David in terms of his growing passion for European Modernist art and culture. However, it was the less well known literature of Spain they studied together, from the anonymous 16th Century picaresque novel "Lazarillo de Tormes", and embracing Quevedo, Galdós, Machado, Dario and Lorca.
    Mark was also an early encourager of David's writing, a lifelong passion that would degenerate in time into a chronic case of cacoethes scribendi; or the irresistible compulsion to write. As a result of this, he became incapable of finishing a single cohesive piece of writing until well into the eighties when he managed to complete a short story and a novel, both of which he went on to destroy but for a few fragments.
    It was significantly through Mark that David came under the spell of the Berlin of the Weimar Republic of 1919 to 1933:
    After he'd expressed interest in a copy, conspicuously placed in front of him on the desk they shared, of one of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin novels, "Mr Norris Changes Trains", Mark told him in animated tones that it had inspired the 1972 movie version of the Kander and Ebb musical, "Cabaret". In fact, while a work of art in its own right written for the screen by Jay Allen, and directed by former dancer Bob Fosse, "Cabaret" had been largely informed by Isherwood's only other Berlin story, "Goodbye to Berlin".
    Seeing "Cabaret" later on that year was a life-transforming experience for David, one of only a handful brought about by a film, and the beginning of a near-obsessive preoccupation with the Berlin of the Weimar era.
    So much that has become familiar to the West and beyond in the last half-century, from the deconstructive philosophies that dominate our academia, to the theatre of outrage that is the essence of Rock music, pre-existed in some form in the Berlin of the Golden Twenties, during which she existed as the undisputed world epicentre of the Modern impulse.
    Under her auspices, great artistic freedom thrived in the shape of the painters of the New Objectivity movement, such as Beckmann, Dix and Grosz, the staccato cabaret-style music of Kurt Weill, Fritz Lang's dystopian "Metropolis", and the provocative dancing of Cabaret Queen Anita Berber, and her epicene companion, Sebastian Droste. And then there's the notorious sexual liberalism, which, through pictorial depictions of her cabarets and night clubs, has carried a power to shock even as far as the jaded 21st Century.
    But beneath the glittering carapace, she bore within her the seeds of her own ruin, for despite the genius that flourished alongside the licentiousness, she was operating largely in defiance of the Judeo-Christian moral values that have long formed the basis of Western society. Given that several other European and American cities were hardly less hysterically dissolute than Berlin, it's little wonder that the key Modernist decade of the twenties has been described by some critics as the beginning of the end of Western civilisation.
    In its wake came the Great Depression, the unspeakable horrors of the Second World War, and the collapse of the greatest empire the world had ever seen, all of which were succeeded in turn by the dawning of the Rock and Roll era, and its quasi-religious exaltation of youth, which some critics see as the very triumph of Western decadence.
    Decadence...that loaded word had a very special meaning and power for David Cristiansen in the mid 1970s ever since his mother had used it, in fact, in reference to a series of photos of Germany's Weimar era featured in an edition of the Sunday Times magazine:
    "Why do people want to be decadent?" She'd asked, as if genuinely concerned for those featured, which of course she was, having been raised in a Salvationist home in the idyllic Vancouver of the 1920s, and therefore imbued for life despite herself with a Christian worldview.
    But to David Cristiansen, the answer was obvious, because in his Rock and Roll eyes, decadence was so heavy with the mysteries of the most forbidden sins that he could scarcely wait to become its incarnation; and while he would fall far, far short of his goal, he'd almost die trying to attain it.

    David made no less than three sea voyages in '75, two as a civilian and one with the RNR, as well as spending a week with them docked at the Pool of London.
    The first of these was to Amsterdam, via Edinburgh and St. Malo, on a three-masted topsail schooner TS Sir Francis Drake of the Society for the Training of Young Seafarers.
    Among his shipmates were his 17 year old brother Dany, several young men from Scotland and the north of England, some recent recruits to the RN, and a handful of older "mates" who'd been given authority over the rank and file of deck hands.
    In overall charge, though, was the suave Ship's Captain, who also happened to be an alumnus of David's own alma mater of Welbourne.
    It was an all-male crew, and David was well-liked at first, even if his popularity faded in time, with a few good pals remaining him, such as the small cherubic southerner with long dark hair worn shoulder length like the young Jack Wilde, who stayed loyal to him after they'd tried to impress a couple of girls together during a brief stay in St Malo, France.
    He got on fine with a few of the others, but Jack was a true prince who'd helped him out in his time of need:
    What happened is that David had fallen hard for one of the girls, Solange, and was wandering around in a mournful daze after having failed to pluck up the courage to ask her for her address:
    "Oh, I really like Solange," he whined, over and over again, but his misery was genuine. That is, until Jack handed him a piece of paper containing Solange's address. It transpired she'd scrawled it down just before leaving them, and for a time, David was drunk with relief at the news, just walking on air, because there was the danger of his coming down with a serious case of lovesickness had she become lost to him forever, but thanks to Jack, he'd found her again.
    There were heavy storms, and on at least one occasion, the crew were ordered out of their hammocks in the middle of the night to help trim the sails, and while David took no part in this, he did climb the rigging once, just before the Sir Francis Drake docked at Amsterdam harbour.
    Dozens of boys manned the yard arms, to which they were attached by their safety belts alone. David had been determined to make the climb, even though the experience made his legs shake throughout.
    The Dutch capital was marked by the same kind of open sexual licence he'd witnessed only the year before in Hamburg, although it seemed to him to lack the German city's sinister vibrancy. Then - just as today - the sad De Wallen red-light district was filled to the brim with hundreds of little illuminated one-room apartments, each with a single woman sitting in clear view of onlookers plying her lonely trade.
    As for Edinburgh, just before setting foot in the city for the first time, one of the lads, dressed to the nines himself in the trendiest seventies gear, warned David not to go strutting about Edinburgh town centre in a flashy boating blazer with his long white socks tucked into the same blue jeans he'd worn for sailing. But having only packed a handful of clothes, David was forced to ignore his advice, and, waltzing some time later into an inner city pub in broad daylight, a grinning hard man with long reddish curly hair asked him:
    "Are you frae Oxford, son?"
    Perhaps he was aware of the great university's reputation for producing flaming aesthetes like Brideshead's Anthony Blanche, and if so, it may have been touch and go for a while as to whether he was going to inflict some serious damage on David's angelic English face, but in the end he left him be. He may even have admired his chutzpah. But there was just something about David, something that repelled physical violence, some mysterious protective force.
    Within a few weeks of returning to London by train from Edinburgh, David and Dany were off to sea again, this time as part of the Mariners' Club of Great Britain, bound for the Baltic coast of Denmark by way of Germany's Kiel Canal. And while they were once more supervised by "mates" under the command of a Ship's Captain, the Mariners' utilised modern yachts rather than traditional tall ships.
    The Cristiansens were quick to recruit a good looking young guy called Cy from Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire as their best pal and confidante for the trip. It turned out they'd actually met him some ten years previously while passing through Calpe, Spain, either on their way to or from their grandmother Mary's home on the Costa Brava.
    Soon after setting foot on Danish soil they got talking to a couple of girls who, as might be expected, had natural golden blonde hair, but their efforts at romance were wholly innocuous, despite the reputation Scandinavians had in those days for progressive sexual attitudes.
    A less pleasant romantic episode took place towards the end of the trip, which saw David in pursuit of a pretty German girl called Ulrike. He was crazy for her, and she made it pretty clear she liked him too, and yet he'd senselessly sidelined her for the sake of a night of drunken idiocy with his brother and Cy, perhaps expecting her to run after him or something.
    Suddenly, overtaken by sickly pangs of remorse, he set out to find her, and at some point during his quest, while walking along some kind of wooden pontoon, he lost his footing and fell fully clothed into the waters of what must have been the Kiel Canal.
    He was a pathetic figure the next day, with his fancy dandy clothes all laid out on deck.
    "What happened last night?" the captain breezily asked him.
    "Well," he hazarded in response, "I was looking for this girl and"
    "You live in a dream world, David."
    Indeed he did, and self-sabotage was fast becoming one of his specialities.
    Also during that summer, David attempted to pass what is known as the AIB - or Admiralty Interview Board - with a view to qualifying as a Supply and Secretariat officer in the Royal Navy.
    Up to this point, he'd not had any ambitions beyond becoming a celebrity, or rather major Rock and Roll star. And to this end, he'd made countless recordings of himself singing and playing his own simple songs on a series of portable cassette tape recorders. And all too often, these sessions culminated in a full-on tantrum, such as the time he hurled a newly purchased machine against his bedroom wall, totalling it instantly.
    So he took the train from Hampton Court to London Waterloo; and thence to the south coast of England, to spend three days within the gates of HMS Stirling, a shore-based specialist training centre in Gosport, Hampshire, attending various examinations and interviews intended to assess his potential as a future naval officer.
    His father was delighted at this unexpected turn of events, little suspecting that in his desire to join the Senior Service, he was driven not by any selfless instinct to serve, so much as a vision of a privileged existence of refinement and elegance. And if this sounds distinctly Wildean for a mid 1970s youth, then it was perfectly in keeping with what we've learned of David so far.
    For as stated earlier, he'd never been anything other than a typical scruffy, sporty, ruffianly male until around about his 17th birthday, when he fell under the spell of Glam Rock.
    And about a year after that, he started to move away from the gaudiness of Glam towards a fascination for those artists whose rebellion against middle class respectability manifested itself as dandyism, or the tendency to ostentatiously over-dress. And this they invariably combined with that typical corollary of dandyism, decadence.
    They included poets Charles Baudelaire, who affected dandyism in the Paris of the 1840s, Jean Cocteau, whose playground was the Paris of the so-called Belle Époque, and the aforesaid Oscar Wilde, whose delight it was to scandalise the late Victorian bourgeoisie of the London of the 1880s and '90s.
    Thence, David arrived at HMS Stirling as an immaculate aesthete. Doubtless complete with foundation style make up and some blusher and eye shadow, where most of the other candidates might have favoured standard issue jumbo collared shirts and great billowing flared trousers.
    His foppish attire was compounded by a face that would have made him a perfect choice for a casting director scouting around for someone to play Dorian Gray in yet another celluloid version of Wilde's only novel. By the same token, he could have played Waugh's Sebastian Flyte with no less facility...or Highsmith's Dickie Greenleaf...or any number of kindred idle male beauties. But the role of a naval officer was clearly way beyond him, and it wouldn't be long before he'd provoked someone of a more serious cast of mind to intense irritation.
    The "someone" in question turned out to be a northern lad with a little hint of a moustache who, finding David putting the final touches to his toilette before some assignment or another in front of a handy looking glass, felt moved to remind him:
    "Its not a fashion parade, mate"
    He wouldn't be joining David at the disco that night, or any other night for that matter; but you couldn't fault his dedication, nor his powers of observation.
    Two guys were eventually persuaded to keep him company, but their hearts weren't in it, and they sensibly returned to base for an early night, leaving David alone at the disco, where he befriended a shy young woman with short golden curls by the name of Shirlee, with whom he spoke about the AIB, and his fear of failing.
    "Oh, you'll pass," she told him with a reassuring smile.
    But if she'd looked a little closer at his wardrobe, with its boating blazers and striped college ties, and shoes fit for the Charleston rather than the Latin Hustle, she might not have spoken so confidently. For, far from bespeaking the status of the perpetual high achiever, they may have constituted a disguise, distinctly overdone, and donned daily by an individual who'd tasted failure too many times for one of such tender years.
    When David finally returned to Stirling himself, he was shocked to discover that her main entrance had been locked and was now being manned by an armed guard.
    As the young man set about trying to make contact with his superiors, he must have wondered what kind of person returns to base in the small hours, dressed to the nines, while in the midst of three days of tests and interviews that were supposedly vital to his future career. But he gave no indication of it.
    And in time, his efforts were successful, so that shortly afterwards, a sheepish David Cristiansen was forced to pass through an officer's mess in order to reach his room. And after briefly exchanging pleasantries with its airily affable occupants, he retired for the night.
    As might be expected, David failed in his noble attempt at passing the AIB, and never did get to wear a naval officer's uniform.
    Perhaps he'd have stood a better chance if just for once he'd done the right thing and gone to bed early rather than rave it up at the disco in all his finery, but then again perhaps not. For after all, few if any naval officers have been historically selected on the basis of how good they look in a well-cut uniform.
    Like all dandies he could be said to have partaken to some degree of the nature of the infamous Biblical character Absalom, about whom it was said in 2 Samuel 14: 25:
    "But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him."
    And yet, Absalom's flawless beauty was ill-matched by a vain and reckless character which ultimately secured his ruin. As to David, despite exceptional artistic gifts, he'd spend much of his early adult life trying to find a place for himself in the world with little real success. And on those precious few occasions when those gifts came close to fulfilling his lifelong dreams of fame and glory, all too often, he mysteriously sabotaged his chances. It was as if despite his endless self-promotion, he felt that failure was all he deserved; and so failure became his destiny.
    The summer of '75 also saw David spending a week with the RNR in the Pool of London, a stretch of the Thames lying between London Bridge and Rotherhithe.
    Halfway through the week, he decided to attend a nearby club known as the Little Ship, which he knew for a fact to be hosting a discotheque. For oh how he loved to dance - quite alone - to the sweetest Soul music, for Soul it was still known in '75, as opposed to Disco.
    And Disco he came to associate with a commercialised form he saw as closer to pure Pop than Soul. And which was epitomised at its best by the Bee Gees' soundtrack to "Saturday Night Fever", for which he had a lot of respect, and its worst by the infamous Disco novelty song.
    And so dressed in a white open neck shirt worn sporting style with striped boating blazer and white trousers and shoes, he made his way to the Little Ship alone.
    Once he'd had a drink or two, and the Soul had seeped through to his bones, he hit the dance floor possibly with a cigarette smouldering elegantly in his hand, and he was in his element. But within a short time of his having done so, the up tempo songs gave way to a long series of slow tunes, and he began to scan the departing dancers for a partner.
    Soon his unfeasibly long-lashed blue eyes fell upon a slim girl with a head of bobbed curls of a striking yellowy blonde, who was frantically shooing her friend away in order to make room for David; and he walked up to her and asked her to dance. She agreed, and they danced, wordlessly, for what must have been a full half hour, until, exhausted, David's new found companion informed him she had to rejoin her friend, which she did, leaving David at a loss as to what to do next.
    The bond had been broken. But then, as they'd not exchanged a word despite having been intimately locked together for aeons, there'd barely been one to begin with. And then he spied her at the bar, conversing with her friend, and he acted cool towards her, as she did him, and they made no effort to approach each other, and the moment was gone for good.
    Perhaps David then returned to the floor to dance alone as he'd done earlier, like some kind of Mod, lost in a narcissistic reverie.
    But David was no refugee from an age when peacock males were supposed to have been more interested in their beautiful images than any romantic experience with a woman. For later that night, while a power boat was ferrying him out to his ship in the glittering Pool of London, he announced to one of the officers onboard:
    "I'm in love!"
    At which point the officer, a tall languorously elegant man with a charming, approachable manner, graciously replied:
    "That's good news."
    But if he'd divined the condition of the handsome sailor's soul, he'd have spoken differently. Yes, David was in love, but his love was nowhere to be seen, and he'd returned from his night of dancing desperate to be reunited with the slim blonde angel he'd held so close for a blissfully brief thirty minutes or so, only to lose her forever.
    But that was David, and he'd be back on that disco floor again before too long, risking his heart again before too long, dying a little of his solitude again before too long. And oh how he loved to dance.

    Since 1974, David had worshipped at the altar of those artists who had either immediately predated the age of Modernism or been part of its Banquet Years, and beyond into the Golden Twenties and so on.
    However, in '76, a gaudy new era started to influence the way he dressed and acted, and for much of that year, he dressed down in a workmanlike uniform of red windcheater, white tee-shirt and cuffed jeans as worn by '50s icon James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause".
    Dean had died a week to the day before David was born in late 1955, and the 20th anniversary of his death appeared to exert a strong influence on rising Pop stars such as John Miles and Slik's Midge Ure.
    Slik were one of the biggest bands in Britain in 1976 with an image straight out of "Rebel" or a dozen lesser fifties delinquent movies. Sadly for them, though, and for many other bands who'd surfed the Glam Rock wave or emerged in its wake, they would be unjustly ousted by the Punk uprising.
    As entranced as David was by the fifties, there were still times when he reverted to the old escapist dandy image he'd adopted in defiance of what he saw as the leaden drabness of post-Hippie Britain, while discovering Modernist giants such as Baudelaire, Wilde, Gide, and Cocteau for the first time.
    One of these occasions came during the dying days of a famous long hot summer, when he wore top hat and tails and his fingernails painted bright red like some kind of hellish vision from Weimar Berlin to a party hosted by a friend from Prestlands.
    It was mid-September, and David would have been at sea at the time, serving as Able Seaman David Cristiansen on the minesweeper HMS Kettleton.
    A day or so afterwards, there was an accident involving Kettleton and a far larger ship, which resulted in the loss of twelve men, most of whom he knew personally. Of the twelve who didn't survive, David knew three quite well, and they were all men of remarkable generosity of spirit and sweetness of disposition, and it broke his heart to think of what happened to them.
    He so wanted to comfort his shipmates for their loss, to bond with them and be part of what they were going through. He wanted to have survived like them; and he went over it all again and again in his mind, until he was driven almost insane with regret and grief. But he'd taken the easy way out, and this time it wouldn't be so easy for him to forget or explain away.
    And the world took a darker turn for David Cristiansen, as the following year was marked by the irruption into the British cultural mainstream of Punk.
    From its London axis, it spread like a raging plague, even infecting the most genteel suburbs with an extreme and often horrifying sartorial eccentricity, which, fused with a defiant DIY ethic and a brutal back-to-basics brand of hard-driving Rock produced something utterly unique even by the standards of the time.
    David was assaulted for the first time by the monstrous varieties of dress adopted by the early Punks while strolling along the Kings Road the morning after a party in what may have been January 1977, and it would only be a matter of time before he too hoped to astound others the way they'd done him.
    However, for most of '77, he dressed in a muted form which first took shape as a pair of cream brogue winkle pickers. And which he went on to supplement with black slip-ons with gold side buckles, mock-crocodile skin shoes with squared off toes, and a pair of black Chelsea boots. All perilously pointed; in fact so much so that within a year or so, they'd finish up being jettisoned into the murky black waters of the Thames.
    His new look evolved by degrees at the endless series of parties he attended as one after the other of his old Welbourne pals celebrated their 21st in houses and apartments in various corners of trendy West and Central London.
    Of all of these, he was perhaps closest with future oil magnate Chris, who was still finding his feet in London's most exalted social circles. These included Adrian Proust, a friend of Chris' from the north of England who forged cutting edge images for some of the most powerful trendsetters in Rock music.
    David joined them a couple of times at Maunkberrys in Jermyn Street; and apart from the Sombrero in High Street Ken, it was the classiest club his suburban eyes had ever seen.
    Being the rube he was, he thought the style that dominated London's club land was somehow Punk-related, but he was way off the mark. While it was the antithesis of the hippie look that was still widespread throughout the UK, it was deployed not as a gesture of violent social dissent, but for posing and dancing to the sweetest Soul music.
    It was partly the realm of the Soul Boys, whose love of Black Dance music was a legacy of the Mods and Skins that preceded them.
    Yet while the Soul Boys were largely working class hard nuts from various dismal London suburbs, some Soul lovers were in fact not Soul Boys at all, so much as elegant trendies. But with a penchant for floppy college boy fringes, plaid shirts worn over plain white tee-shirts, straight leg jeans, and the by now obligatory winkle pickers. And these were the kind to be found at such sumptuous places as the Sombrero.
    The Soul Boys also favoured the wedge haircut, which could be worn with streaks of blond or red or even green, brightly-coloured peg-top trousers and winkle pickers or plastic beach sandals.
    Speaking of the wedge, it was taken up at some point in the late 1970s by a faction of Liverpool football fans who'd developed a taste for European designer sportswear while travelling on the continent for away matches. Thence, the Casual subculture was spawned.
    And its passion for designer labels persisted well into the 2010s, being manifest in every small town and shopping mall throughout the land.
    By the summer, David was working as a sailing instructor in Palamos on Spain's Costa Brava, although he lost his job after only a few months. But instead of heading straight back to London, he chose to stay on in Palamos, parading around town by day, while spending most of his evenings at the Disco dancing to Donna Summer's "Love Trilogy".
    As much as he loved the party life, what he wanted most of all was to enjoy it as a successful working actor like golden boys Peter Firth and Gerry Sundquist, both of whom found fame on the stage before branching out into movies and TV, although Firth had begun his acting life as a child star.
    The problem was, he wasn't really cut out for the task. Granted, he had the pretty boy looks, but very few actors, or even musicians, become truly successful on the strength of looks alone, and this was especially true of the seventies, an age without MP3s or My Space or endless TV talent showcases.
    He'd had no acting experience to speak of, except a handful of roles at Welbourne, all but one of which involved him wearing women's clothing.
    The first was in Max Frisch's "The Fire Raisers", which saw him standing stock still as an old woman for a few brief minutes without uttering a single word.
    The second, in a short play by George Bernard Shaw called "Passion, Poison and Petrifaction", saw him clomping around as a household maid in dress and studded military boots, and each time he spoke in the falsetto he'd selected for the part, the house erupted.
    A third garnered some praise from one of the cadets for a convincing performance as a Holly Golightly style socialite; while his only male role was as psychopath Alec in a little known Agatha Christie one-acter called "The Rats", one of whose key lines was:
    "Darlings, how devastating!"
    And if the praise of the college nurse was anything to go by, it showed real promise:
    "What are you going to do with your life, David? You're a good actor"
    But when all's said and done, he was hardly a National Youth Theatre wunderkind. And in terms of his other "talents", he'd written a few simple songs on the guitar, but he still couldn't play bar chords. Although he managed a passable take-off of Sinatra.
    While as a would-be writer, he'd filled countless pages with endlessly corrected notes, but there was nothing tangible to show for it all. It could hardly be said then that his future positively glittered before him.

    Minor edit: 7/3/13.



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    Sun, Oct 9th - 5:13AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life 2



    Soon after returning from Spain in the summer of 1972, David Cristiansen was launched by his dad on an intensive programme of self-improvement. 

     Through home study and with the help of local private tutors, he set about making up for the fact that he'd left school at 16 with only two General Certificate of Education passes to his name, where a respectable amount would be no less than five. 

     He took Karate classes in Hammersmith, and among his fellow students were hard-looking young men – some of them flaunting classic ‘70s feather cuts - who may have been led to the dojo by the prevailing fashion for all things Eastern, such as the films of Bruce Lee, and the “Kung Fu” television series.

     And while he enjoyed them for a time…in fact, far more than the swimming classes he attended weekly in Walton on Thames close by to his own little suburban village of West Molesey, they were destined to be short-lived.

     This possibly due in part to his growing fascination with an androgynous way of life inspired by Glam Rock, which was yet quiescent in late 1972. While Classic Rock was still foremost in his affections if the earliest long players of his nascent record collection were anything to go by.

     And he was successfully initiated into the basics of the Rock guitar solo by a shy and sweet-natured man of about 45 by the name of Gerry Firth, who gave lessons from a tiny little abode down an alley in the Walton. For it was there that he lived in apparent content with a much younger wife and golden-haired infant daughter.

      While his profound love for the rebel music of Rock and Roll was wholly belied by an appearance which was almost militantly square, even by the standards of middle-aged men in those days. For he wore his salt and pepper hair in a severe short back and sides style, which he supplemented with shirt and tie and sleeveless sweater, and great baggy grey flannel trousers.

     Was every inch the typical British seventies dad in other words; that is, on the surface of things, for the truth was infinitely different.

     And on one memorable occasion, David tried to persuade him of the superior merit of Classical music on the basis that it’s “well-played”, which Gerry countered with:

     “Well, isn’t Rock Music well played?”

      David was baffled by his argument, because despite his own preference for Rock, he had no great belief in its artistic merits.

     Another thing that bewildered him about Gerry Firth was his admiration for Marc Bolan of seminal Glam Rock band T. Rex, a man he’d always derided as much for his androgynous appearance as his simplistic three-chord Pop.

     As to Glam, while it was a genre that veered wildly between Pop chart stompers by Bolan, and the more sophisticated decadence of major talents such as David Bowie and Todd Rundgren, it was yet to make any kind of impression on David. For he still favoured the hirsute macho men of the Heavy Rock movement.

     “Don’t you find him effeminate?” David once asked him of Bolan, fully expecting Gerry to express due horror at the thought of Bolan’s startling choirboy looks, while continuing to enjoy his catchy tunes. But Gerry trumped him with an answer that caused his adolescent jaw to drop:
     “Not as excitingly so as Mike Jagger!”

     “Mick Jagger”, said David, correcting the older man as if in a trance.

     “Mick Jagger”, Gerry conceded, still with the same stubborn fixed smile on his face.

     By the following year, he’d become a massive Bolan fan himself. But at the time he was aghast at what he saw as the older man’s defence of what was still to him the indefensible.

     Sadly, Bolan died in a car accident close to his home in Barnes, West London at just 29 years old. Yet, following his premature quietus, he underwent something a transformation both in terms of his persona and his music, both attaining classic status where they remain to this day.

     For after all, he must have had something to have so delighted Gerry Firth…to the extent of making a sixteen year old look square for detesting everything he stood for. Quite a blow struck on behalf of the old hipster guard in the generation wars that were still being fought back then.

     Late in the summer, David signed up for five years service with the Thames Division of the Royal Naval Reserve based on HMS Ministry on the Embankment near Temple station. And not long afterwards, it became clear to him that he was attracting some attention by virtue of his looks. But far from being offended by this development, he found it strangely flattering…as if a seed of vanity had been implanted within a boy who’d spent the last few years as a swaggering lout.

     To a degree then, it was a case of an ugly duckling suddenly finding themselves to be a swan, and enjoying the resultant notoriety, such as that latterly conferred on the young Spaniard of the Bar Castilla.

     Not that he’d ever been ugly…in fact, several of his mother’s female friends had already commented on his looks; but he’d never seen himself as any kind of Adonis. In fact, with his twitching head, greasy lank hair, bony round shoulders and splayfooted walk, he was more like the adolescent from Hell.

      Having said that, though, he had nurtured a sentimental streak throughout his teens that placed him somewhat at odds with his peers.

      It also made him susceptible to such notorious tear-jerkers as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "South Pacific”, whose movie version, which he saw at the flicks with his mother at about 15 years old, had a life-changing effect on him.

     And the same applies to John Schlesinger's stunning screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s "Far from the Madding Crowd", which may have initiated a lifelong love affair on his part with hopeless love and high romantic tragedy.

    Yet, the softening process that took place in the closing months of 1972 was unprecedented in its sheer intensity, and can be at least partly attributed to the spirit of the times. For popular culture was changing, and hirsute Rock and Roll stars in scruffy denim flares were no longer the last word in cool. While the cinema was producing a new breed of film idol who was a far cry from the he-man of old.

     It received a further boost when, towards the new year, he saw former Bubblegum band the Sweet on an afternoon Pop programme called "Lift off with Ayesha".

     The Sweet had once incarnated all he detested about commercial chart Pop, yet, watching them prance around in high heels and make up, pouting and preening like a quartet of hysterical transvestites, he underwent what was little short of an epiphany.

     Then, several months later, veteran hopeful Rock star David Bowie appeared on the chat show “Russell Harty Plus” with his eyebrows shaved and a glittering chandelier earring dangling from his left ear, and so David’s devotion to Glam became total.

     Even David’s mother was charmed by Bowie, when, towards the end of the interview, after Harty had made a joke about his dainty strap-on platform shoes, he referred to the chat show host as “silly”, before flashing an impossibly innocent smile:

     “Aww, he’s sweet,” said Miss Ann, who was also enchanted by the wit of Elton John when he appeared on Harty's show a short while later. But when she caught sight of the cover of the first New York Dolls album, which David had latterly ordered by post through his usual outlet, she told him that apart from the hardest hard core pornography, she couldn’t imagine anything quite so repulsive to the eye.

     Yet, Bowie’s sphinx-like charisma was so potent that even some of the most unreconstructed of macho men were drawn, irresistibly, to his art, which combined the most seductive melodies with complex, deeply literate lyrics.

     For the cult of androgyny was a powerful force in Britain in 1973, having been earlier incubated by both Mod and Hippie culture, and musical acts as diverse as the Stones, the Kinks, Alice Cooper, the Stooges and T. Rex.

     Furthermore, it was reinforced in the cinema by several movies featuring angelically beautiful men.

     And yet, you still put yourself in danger if you chose to parade around like a Glam Rock star in the mean streets of London or any other major British city in the early 1970s; and therefore few did.

     But David fantasised about fame and adulation as never before throughout the Glam era, and he built an image based on his idol Bowie, spiking his hair like him, and even peroxiding it at some point. 

     And there will surely be those students of human psychology who will wonder precisely what effect the gender revolution exerted on young men such as David who came to manhood at a time many of the foremost male heroes of the culture resembled beautiful women.

     And they did so of course in direct defiance of strict Biblical commands concerning sexual appearance.

     Yet David had initially resisted the seductions of Glam, while continuing to see the hirsute macho men of Hard and Heavy Rock as his role models.

     But in time, the exquisites of Glam came to represent something quite deliciously taboo to him. And he sought to emulate them, resenting his adolescent stubble, which he smothered with concealer along with unsightly acne spots, and which he would soon enhance with subtle application of rouge.

     And quite understandably perhaps, he didn't entirely fit in in his blue collar surroundings, unlike his brother who wasted little time in becoming part of a local youth scene centred mainly around football, traditional sport of the British working classes.

     As to David, he came into his own in La Ribera, and it was towards the end of the summer of ’73 that he finally started being noticed in a big way by the local youth, most of whom were from either Murcia or Madrid. He’d croon for crowds of La Riberan boys and girls, who’d make requests for their favourites:

     “Oye, David, canta la de Gilbert O’Sulliban!”

     “Conoces Cat Estebens?”

     “Canta como Sinatra!” 

      An ever-evolving group forged an incredible closeness that summer that lasted for a full four years, and oh what magical summers they were for both Dany and David. They’d never forget them, nor be able to fully recapture the purity of the joy they knew in the still so innocent Spain of the immediate pre-Franco years.

     

    Even later in ‘73, the minesweeper HMS Thamesis set out for Bordeaux in Gironde in the south west of France. It was David’s first voyage as an Ordinary Deckhand with the RNR, and he was just seventeen years old.

     He struck up a friendship with the most unlikely pair of bosom buddies he ever came across in the RNR or anywhere else. .

     One half was Micky, aged about 23, and rumoured to be a permanent year long resident of HMS Thamesis. The other was just as much of a lad as Mick even though he boasted the patrician manner of a City of London stockbroker or merchant banker.

     Mick took David under his wing with a certain intimidating affection:

     “We’ll make a ruffy tuffy sailor of you yet,” he once promised him, even though both men knew he'd never be anything other than the most useless mariner in the civilised world. And there was one occasion when, during some kind of conference being held below deck, he was asked by an officer what he thought of minesweeping, and he replied:

     “It’s a gas!”

     On another, after the ship had been prepared for a major manoeuvre, and every hand was in their respective allotted position, he was found wandering about on deck in a daze, and when asked what he thought he was doing, he casually told them:

     “Just taking a stroll…”

      And it was incidents like these that made him the object of much good-humoured banter onboard the Thamesis, where he served as a kind of latter-day Billy Budd. Although without a tithe of the young foretopman’s seamanship.

     Its crew spent its final night in a club in the southern port of Portsmouth , though it might just as easily have been Plymouth.

     The main event was a hyperactive drag artiste who tried desperately to keep them entertained with cabaret style numbers sung in a high woman’s voice, and bawdy jokes told in a deep manly baritone, but he was way out of his depth and the Thamesis salts subjected him to a savage barrage of heckling for his pains.

     At one point - perhaps in the hope of seeing a friendly face – he turned towards David, and excitedly trilled:

     "Ooh...you look pretty, what's your name?"

     “Skin!” the sailors bellowed back, as in “a nice bit of skin”, which may have referred to David’s appearance.

     A little while later, the tar with the beard who’d been seated next to David all night asked him to hold the mike for him while he performed Rossini’s “William Tell Overture “on his facial cheeks. And he ended up passing out on the table in front of him after having collapsed face down with an almighty CRASH! 

      But he wasn’t the only one to suffer such an undignified fate that bacchanalian night. 

     And speaking of bacchanals…as soon as he was back onshore, David resumed his growing passion for all that was louche, bizarre and decadent in music, art and culture.

     However, increasingly from ‘74 onwards, he turned away from what he now saw as the old hat tackiness of Glam Rock, convinced that Modernist outrage had nowhere left to go. Instead, his devotion started to centre on the more refined corruption of the golden age of Modernism of ca. 1890-1930, and especially its leading cities, in terms of their being beacons of revolutionary art, and of luxury and dissolution. They included the London of the Yellow Decade, Belle Époque Paris, Jazz Age New York, and most of all, Weimar Republic Berlin.

     At some point in ‘74, he started using hair oil or brilliantine to slick his hair back in the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald, sometimes parting it in the centre just as his idol had done. And to build up a new retro-style wardrobe.

     This went on to include a Gatsby style tab collar, which he wore either with striped collegiate tie, or cravat or neck scarf. Over this, he might wear a short-sleeved Fair Isle sweater, a navy blue blazer from Meakers, and a belted fawn raincoat straight out of a forties film noir. His grey flannel trousers from Simpsons of Piccadilly typically flopped over a pair of two-tone correspondent shoes.

     There were those artists in the Rock and Roll vanguard who appeared to share his love affair with the languid cafe and cabaret culture of the continent's immediate past. Among these were established acts, such as David Bowie and Roxy Music, and newer stars such as Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel, Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe and Ron and Russell Mael from L.A band Sparks. Some of Roxy’s followers even went so far as to sport the kind of nostalgic apparel favoured by Ferry himself, but they were rare creatures indeed in mid-seventies London.

     As for David, he wore his bizarre outdated costumes in arrogant defiance of the continuing ubiquity of shoulder-length hair and flared denim jeans. And in 1975, he even went so far as to attend a concert at West London's Queen's Park football stadium in striped boating blazer and white trousers like some refugee from a Cambridge punting party.

     While all the while he was surrounded by hirsute Rock fiends, including his professor friend Jim, who felt moved to enquire of him:

     “You’re just taking the mickey, aren’t you…”

      But he was deadly serious. And even though the headliners were his one-time favourites Yes, whose "Relayer" album he'd bought the previous year, his passion for Progressive Rock was a thing of the past.

     And he'd moved on since '71…towards a far deeper love of darkness and loss of innocence.

     But there was nothing even remotely dark about the time he fell in love with Marianne, a Dutch girl while sitting Spanish "O" level in June 1974 in Gower Street, Central London. Although she didn't look Dutch; in fact, with her tanned complexion and long dark brown hair, she was Mediterranean in appearance.

     It was probably she who approached David, because he'd have never made the first move, and in all the time he knew her, he didn't have the guts to tell her how he felt. So, once they'd completed their final paper, he allowed her to walk away from him forever with a casual "I might see you around", or some other cliché of that kind.
     For about a week, he took the train into London and spent the days wandering around the city centre in the truly desperate hope of bumping into her. One time he could have sworn he saw her staring coolly back at him from an underground train, possibly at South Kensington or Notting Hill Gate, just as the doors were closing. But he was powerless to act, and simply stood there as the train drew away from the station.

     In time, his infatuation faded, but certain songs – such as "I Just Don't Want to be Lonely" by The Main Ingredient, and "Natural High" by Bloodstone – would continue to recall for him those few weeks in the summer of '74 which he spent in hopeless pursuit of a woman of whom he knew quite literally nothing.

     It wouldn’t be long before he’d forsaken his twenties style image; nor started to wonder whether Marianne had been slightly repelled by the vast expanse of white forehead that had been revealed by his slicked back hair, slicked back with hair oil or brilliantine.

     Once he stopped styling his hair like Valentino, his romantic appeal started to swell by degrees…but this didn’t return Marianne to him. She was lost to him forever, and whether he ever fully recovered from her loss is open to debate. The chances are…he never did.

     

    In July, David’s father decided that a week-long yachting course in the little village of Lymington on the south coast of England might help him develop some sorely needed moral fibre.

     He was to reside for this period in a guest house owned by one Mrs Edith Drummond-Smith, whom David came to see as belonging to a type of quintessentially English upper class widow native to the sailing-besotted villages and hamlets of England’s south coast. To him, they were all charming if slightly aloof, immaculately spoken, kind, calm and considerate, and blessed with the most beautiful manners imaginable; although for the little Shane knew about them, she may have been the only one.

     For he knew little of the arcane secrets of heartland or rural England, his father and mother having originated from the commonwealth nations of Australia and Canada respectively, while his earliest months were spent in a tiny little workman’s cottage in London’s Notting Hill. His veins could boast English, Scottish and Scots Irish, and possibly also Danish and Irish blood. Yet, he dressed as a perfect English gentleman, or rather how such an individual would have dressed several decades theretofore, which rendered him an unusual figure in a Britain still dominated by long hair and flared trousers.

     Also resident with Mrs Drummond-Smith were Gilles, a Belgian boy of about twenty, and Mr Watts and his teenage son Dylan, and while all were on the same course as David, they had different sailing instructors.

     For example, David had been allotted the course director, Captain Peter St Aubyn, which was propitious, as he was an alumnus of his own alma mater of Welbourne College, a private school of military stripe situated in the wealthy county of Berkshire near London.

     All four became firm friends, David and Gilles becoming especially close. As to Dylan, he liked to listen to David’s theories on music and fashion, and was fascinated by his use of brilliantine, even going so far as to dab some in his own hair on one occasion. He did so in the hope it would make him resemble the man who was for him, an icon of “smoothness”, a synonym for cool in those days. This being singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry who was also a favourite of David’s; in fact, David’s twenties-inspired wardrobe was remarkably similar to Ferry’s.
     On the first day of the course, David discovered who would be sailing with him for the duration of the week; namely Corin, a cool, tall, dark, somewhat laconic young man of 28 who sported a fashionable moustache and spectacles combo, Tom, a genial old boy of about sixty or seventy, and Simon and Peg, a deeply pleasant young married couple. To say nothing of the skipper, a charismatic man whose wryly solemn countenance concealed a warm heart and “pythonesque” sense of humour.

     That evening, David dined in what may have been the clubhouse of that bastion of Englishness and English privilege and English exclusivity, the Yacht Club…perhaps even the Royal Lymington Yacht Club itself.

     He did so in the company of Corin, who informed him of his humble origins and the fact that through natural resourcefulness and sheer hard graft, he’d ascended to a managerial position within his chosen profession. They’d become good friends despite David’s bizarre affectations, and Corin’s suspicion thereof…but Corin couldn’t help but warm to the kid despite himself.

     But uncompromisingly masculine men such as Corin were always a little perturbed by David, as Hemingway had been of his friend and fellow writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom he met in Paris in 1925. And in the essay collection “A Movable Feast”, he describes Fitz as having “a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty.”

     David loved to play the clown for those who both liked and despaired of him; and Corin certainly fell into this category, but then so did Captain Peter St Aubyn, as he was to discover once they’d finally set sail.

     “Take the helm, David, steer 350,” he ordered, and David duly did as he was told, before settling himself comfortably at the helm as the yacht meandered peacefully through Hampshire waters under a balmy midsummer sun.

     "Mmm, “ he cooed, perhaps a little like the youthful Kenneth Williams, “this is nice…”
     "Oooh, you thing," said the skipper, causing David to lash out with a sneaker-shod foot, much to the good captain’s amusement.

     And then there was the time Corin goaded him for having wrongly plotted a course, and he snapped like a petulant schoolboy.
     "Oh shut up,” he hissed, “let's see you do better!"
     And once again, the skipper came up with his catchphrase, but with even more glee than the first time:

     “Ooh, you thing!”

     On the second or perhaps third evening of the course, there was a large informal get-together at the clubhouse which included David, Corin, Gilles, Dylan and four or five other yachtsmen, the course’s acknowledged wunderkind Daryl among them.
    "He comes alive in the evening, this boy," Corin told the assembled yachtsmen, clearly referring to David’s propensity for getting tight each night, and the shenanigans that inevitably ensued.
    "I'm not an alcoholic,” said David.
    "You drink three pints to my one," Corin countered, "so you've certainly got potential."

     At this point, David decided for reasons best known to himself to have a dig at easy-going course whiz-kid Daryl:
    "Daryl,” he said, “how long have you had long hair?"
    "What...long hair?” said Daryl, “what's that got to do with anything...is my hair long...I don't know anything about that."
    "Do you realise that twenty years ago with your hair as it is, even though it's only a little below your ears, you would have been hounded, persecuted, beaten, for being a deviant, a freak, are you trying to ignore that?”
    "And you would have been accepted?" said Daryl.
    "Oh yes, " David replied, looking over his attire, "knife edge pressed flannels, blue blazer, white V neck pullover, open neck shirt and cravat, a bit sporty, I suppose, but utterly acceptable."
    "How safe!" scoffed Daryl.
    "Safe?”said David incredulously, “that's something I never am, safe."
    "Well, quite frankly, I think you look ridiculous!"
     Following this last statement of Daryl’s, David could no longer contain his hilarity…but his laughter was like no other his new friends had ever heard, nor would hear again. For it assaulted the soft-carpeted clubhouse’s quiet and respectable clientele as if it had proceeded from the depths of Hell themselves.

     Daryl, struggling gamely to control his own mirth, had gone a redder shade of tomato, while Corin, quivering with glee, hid his face in an attitude of mock-mortification.
    "I disown him," he gibbered, "he's insane, insane."
    Gradually the hysteria subsided, and Corin decided it was time David had a taste of his own medicine.
    "How do you get those bracelets on your wrist?" he queried, referring to the four or five bangles David liked to wear on one wrist in those days:

     “Easily”, David languorously replied, displaying his remarkably slender wrists,  “I have very graceful wrists.”

    “Let me see,” said Corin, almost in a whisper, and David duly handed him one of his bangles, before it was passed around the entire group, each member attempting, with considerable difficulty, to put it on his own wrist. Presently, it was back in David’s possession, but rather than express his relief, he cried out in his distress, having discovered it had been cruelly mutilated by one or another member of his party.
    "My bracelet,” he hollered, “look what you’ve done to it…I entrusted it to you and you've gone and twisted and bent it."
     The group stared as one at David, not knowing whether to look sincerely sorry for what they’d done, or merely laugh at his distress, and so settled for a nervous cross between the two. After several uncomfortable moments, Gilles broke the silence by requesting to see the injured bracelet.
    "Let me see eet," he said, "I weel try to feex eet."
      Everyone was hushed as the Belgian contemplated the bangle, touched it, turned it round and rattled it, and finally, with considerable calm, placed it on the floor. He scratched his head, as if trying to settle on a decision, and ended up extricating one of his shoes.

     David looked a little concerned at this turn of events, but in a desperate attempt to preserve his cool, lit a cigarette, which promptly fell from his slim white hand when a terrible crack like a tree hit by a sudden flash of lightning echoed throughout the clubhouse.

     Gilles was attempting to persuade the bracelet to revert to its original shape by raising his shoe, profuse with studs, before repeatedly bringing it down on the trinket with all the strength he could muster. 
     "Oh come on, it's not funny," David protested, reaching out to retrieve his precious bauble, which a grinning Gilles now held out for him, but which, far from being shattered beyond repair, was barely altered from its original slightly misshapen state.
     "Ees all right, Shane," Gilles chuckled, "I was eeteen’ zee floor wiz my shoe, not your brezlet."
     David looked at Gilles, then he looked at the other lads, then his eyes began to sparkle, his throat to gurgle, before it all came out at once, that terrible infernal laugh:
     "Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi hi..."
     "I'm not with him!" cried Corin
     "We'll get thrown out!" said Daryl.
     "He's insane...in-sane!"
    "Come on, drink up, lads,” David barked suddenly, having made a rapid recovery from his latest paroxysm, “let's go where the action is, let's go and find a party or something!" "No, it's not worth it," said Daryl, "we're having a good time here. You're a real laugh, David, just so long as you don't go too far. We might as well stay."
    "Not me,” David announced, “I'm getting out of here. I need a change of atmosphere. Who's coming?"
    "Yeah, might as well," Corin volunteered
    "Yah, me too,”the boy from Belgium followed suit.

    So, the trio left the clubhouse, and before long, they were heading along a main road, although to precisely where they hadn’t the slightest notion. David performed his manic laugh to each passing car, sometimes even going so far as to stand in the road as he did so, before fleeing at the final second. After a time, though, he tired of this lethal activity and took to chatting to Gilles, with whom he felt such a strong rapport
     "That Belgian girl in your group is nice, isn't she?" he said
     "Oh yes," said Gilles, "eef only 'er farzer wuren't weez 'er all zee time."
     After a time alone, they found themselves being trailed by two pretty teenage blondes; and perhaps urged by Corin or Gilles, David turned around to confront them with an unlit cigarette in his hand. 
    "Can I have a light, please?" he said, looking intently at one, then the other of the two young women, one of whom was slim and petite, the other, far taller, and yet with the same long blonde hair. After he’d succeeded in getting his cigarette lit, he made an effort at conversation.
     “So, what shall I do, stay here with you, or go back to my friends?”
     "Stay ‘ere," one of the girls mumbled, almost inaudibly, in a strong London accent.
     "Pardon?" said David, and both girls answered him by smiling, so David bid them goodbye, and the trio then continued on its way, with the two girls in hot pursuit.

     "Why don't you turn around?" Corin suddenly said.
     "Why?" said David.
     "They like you,” Corin announced.
     "Really?"
     "Course they do. If you can't see that, you're more short-sighted than I thought you were."
     So David returned to his admirers.
     “What are your names?” he asked them.
     "My name's Julie," said the smaller of the two, "and this here’s Sue...what's yours, baby?"
     "Why do you call me baby?" asked David.
     “Because you look like one," said Julie.
     "I happen to be all of eighteen years old,”said David, feigning indignation.

     “We thought you was abaht twen'y,” said Sue.
     "Really? Well I'm eighteen and my name's Shane.”
     "Wha's your name?" said Julie, gesturing towards Gilles.
     "My nem eez Gilles,” he replied.
     "Where are you from?" Sue asked David.
     "London. Why?"
    "You sahnd Ameri'an or somefing."
    "Well, I am half-Canadian."
    "Oh, that would explain it," Julie resolved.
    "Why," David went on, "where do you girls come from?"
    "We come from London an’ all, sarf, “ said Sue.
    "What are you doing down here?"
    "We're spendin' a few days on 'er dad's boat," Sue went on, pointing at Julie.
    "Has your dad got a boat?" Shane asked, as if amazed that these two cockney waifs should be associated with the super-posh world of yachting.
    "A yacht!” cried Julie, “not just a boat. Don' come from any old family, I don'."
     For reasons best known to themselves, the three young men set on their way once again, and once again, they were followed by the girls, who took to kicking a stray tin can around to make their point.

     "I weesh Coreen were not 'ere," Gilles whispered into Shane's ear.
     "Why?" said David.
     "Eez prezence eez deesconcertin’ zem."
    As if to confirm what Gilles had just said, the girls suddenly turned a corner and left their half-hearted suitors to their own devices.
    "See ya, then!" they cried.
    "Bye, girls!" said David.
    "Bye, David darlin’!"

     And with that, they disappeared, doubtless feeling, quite reasonably, that they’d given David and Gilles every opportunity to demonstrate their romantic interest in them.
    "I wonder where zey went?" Gilles wistfully enquired.
    "I shouldn't worry about it,” said David, “you've got your Belgian girl, haven’t you?"
    " ‘Ave I?" said the forlorn Belgian. Perhaps he couldn’t understand why David had behaved in such a cavalier fashion towards two girls who’d clearly been besotted with him on sight. But then Gilles was a normal young man, devoid of the loser gene that causes those such as David to waste and squander every good gift that comes their way. 

     It’s as if they don’t have enough to fight against, or fight for…perhaps a little like WASP prince Hubbell Gardiner, as played by Robert Redford in the romantic movie masterpiece “The Way We Were”. For at the beginning of the film, a short story of Gardiner’s, “An American Smile” is read out in class by his college professor in which he describes himself as “in a way…like the country he lived in; everything came too easily to him.”

     

    The Isle of Wight is separated from the mainland by a strait of the English Channel known as the Solent, and on David’s penultimate day, a trip to this island county lying to the south of Hampshire took place, and the entire course was involved.
     Lunch was in a public house in the port of Yarmouth to the east of the island, where tall, slender English gentlemen of the old school, clad in double-breasted reefer jackets and flannels or white duck trousers, were apt to take a tincture or two between sails. Some sported bow ties, and others, magnificent handlebar moustaches which appeared to betoken a former membership of the Royal Air Force. Their wives favoured large navy-blue pullovers, silk scarves and slacks, although by nightfall they’d be in full evening dress.
     Back in Lymington for tea, David happened to bump into Sally, a fresh-faced young sailing ace, possibly in her early 20s, who typically scorned the use of beautifying products, but for whom David had a soft spot nonetheless.

     "Hello," he said, “where are you going?"
     "Back to my room,” Sally replied.
     "Oh”, he went on, “hey, apparently there's a get-together of all the crews on the course tonight, you know, a few drinks, a bit of dancing, a lot of laughs, are you going?"
     "I don't know, I..."
     "Oh, go on,” he urged, “I’m going.”
     "Well...okay," she said, "I suppose I'll go...uh...this is where I turn off."
     "Oh. Well..."
     "See you tonight then."
     "Yes, bye...hey wait! Do you know my name?"
     "Yes, of course I do, David, bye!"
     "Bye, Sally!"

     Back at the guest house, the clock struck five to find David dressed to the nines as was his wont, and taking tea with Mrs Drummond-Smith, who’d have been scandalised had anyone suggested he was anything other than a deeply likable young man with a single, glaring fault: forgetfulness.

     She had a duty to charge her guests for the packed lunch she made for each of them every day, even if they forgot to take it, but never did in Shane’s case, even though he was the only one of her guests to routinely leave his lunch behind.

     The truth is she had more than a soft spot for him, as he may have reminded her of the bachelor dandies of her youth. 
     A little later, David, Corin and Gilles set out together for the dance, briefly stopping off at a pub for some much needed Dutch courage, although David’s was the greatest need by a hectare or three.
     "Half of bitter, please," Corin ordered.
     "Half a shandy, pleez,” came Gilles’ modest request.
     "Double scotch for me please,” said David…and a mere ten minutes later, he was ordering a second one, while Corin wisely passed, and Gilles ordered his usual half of shandy. Some ten minutes after this, David started up on the pints.
     "Come on, David,” said an exasperated Corin, “let's go”.
     "We mus' go," Gilles agreed.
     "Drink up!" Corin went on, "we don't want you in a disordered state before the dance, now, do we?"
     David swallowed his pint and the three departed the pub. Shortly afterwards, they arrived at the site of the evening’s festivities which was a large hall filled with tables and chairs with a space left for dancing. But David’s first concern was locating Sally. 

     He saw her sitting next to a slim, smart, casually dressed young man with fashionable light blond collar length hair and a neatly trimmed beard, and promptly approached the apparently happy couple, perhaps half-expecting she’d quit her date just to be with him.
     "Hello, Sally," he said.
     "Hello," she replied.
     "Do you want a drink?" he asked.
     "Er, no thanks," she said, "but I will have one later on."
     "Okay then," he agreed, before making his way to the bar.
     "Double scotch!" he ordered…and then some ten minutes later, he ordered a second one, soon after which, things went a bit hazy for him; and he had no

    further recollection of the remainder of the evening. However, one thing is certain…it ended with his jumping fully-clothed into the filthy waters of Lymington harbour.

     What happened is that Corin and Gilles had spent some time wrestling with him, pretending that they were about to throw him in, and then relented as if exhausted by their efforts, at which point, to their amazement, Shane launched himself in by his own volition, before spending some time in his soaking wet clothes discussing music with a coterie of hippies encamped nearby listening to “The End” by the Doors.

     

    The final day of the course was a melancholy one for David. For someone had told him it was possible to catch a deadly disease from swimming in the waters of Lymington harbour.

    Sun, Oct 9th - 4:56AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life 6.



      photo

      David Cristiansen returned to Leftfield College, London in the autumn of 1984, and it may be that it was soon after this that his recent past started haunting him for the first time. After all, was it not only a few years previously he'd known legends of sport and the cinema, mythical figures of the theatre, blue bloods and patricians, and they'd been kind, generous of spirit to this nonentity from the outer suburbs. Now he was nearly 30, with a raft of opportunities behind him, and a future which looked less likely than ever to provide him with the fame he still ached for with all his soul.

       At first he lived off-campus, thinking it might be fun to coast during his final year as some kind of enigma freshly returned from Paris; but before long, he desperately missed being part of the social hub of the college, even though this was a virtual impossibility for a forgotten student in his fourth year.

       His time as one of Leftfield's leading prodigies had long passed, and other, younger wunderkinder had come to the fore since his departure for Paris, They included the handsome young blond whom his long-time friend and champion Ariana described as being some kind of new edition of himself, due perhaps to the incredible diversity of his gifts. The first David saw of him, he was playing Gorgibus in Moliere's "Les Precieuses Ridicules", a part Ariana had originally earmarked for David, but he turned it down. The young man who ultimately find superstardom as comedian and character actor, and far more besides, while David persisted in the sweet, safe obscurity where he remains to this day.

        He read incessantly throughout the year for the sheer pleasure of doing so. For example, while Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" was a compulsory part of the drama course, there was no need for him to wade through "O'Neill", the massive two-part biography of the playwright by Arthur and Barbara Gelb, but that didn't stop him.

       He made this descent into the depths of O'Neill's tortured psyche at a time when he himself was starting to drink during the day at Leftfield. While his first can of extra strong lager would often be opened at breakfast time, he’d wait until lunch to get seriously hammered in the company of friends such as  Paul, from “Playing with Fire”, and Adrian, a computer programmer who shared his passion for the dark romanticism of the Doors and Peter Gabriel.

       Paul was still trying to persuade him to join forces with him against an indifferent world, he with his writing and David with his acting, but for reasons best known to himself, he wasn't playing ball. Paul had always sensed something really special in David, which was variously described as energy, intensity, charisma, but for all the praise he received from Paul and others, he didn't seem to have a very high opinion of himself.

       It's possible that while he possessed the vast ego of the narcissist who requires constant attention and approval, he somehow also suffered from low self-esteem, which might indicate that he was a sufferer from actual Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Whatever the case, he was going through one of his showily perverse phases, affecting a world weariness he simply didn't have at 30, but which upset and alienated a really good friend; and it wasn't long before Paul was out of his life forever, leaving him to stew in his precious pseudo-cynicism:

       “What an appalling attitude,” he’d told him, and he was right on the money.

       His principal final year tutor was his beloved Dr Elizabeth Lang with whom he would study the works of French Protestant writer Andre Gide.

       He thrilled to the perverseness of Gidian characters such as the urbane Menalque from "The Immoralist" (1902), who awakens the Nietzschian superman in the novella's protagonist, Michel, the feral Lafcadio from "The Vatican Cellars" (1914), who commits a crime of terrible cruelty simply for the sake of doing so, and the demonic Passavent, from "The Counterfeiters" (1926), his only novel according to his own definition of the term. While figures of such unmitigated depravity are commonplace today, in countless novels, plays, films, videos etc., when Gide created his monsters, they still had the power to shock.

       On a lighter note, a special favourite of his by Gide was the novella "Isabelle", which appealed to his softer, more romantic side. Written in 1911, it's the tale of a young student, Gérard Lacase, who stays for a time at a Manor house in Normandy inhabited by two ancient aristocratic families in order to look over their library for research purposes, and while there, becomes bewitched by the portrait of the mysterious "Isabelle", only to discover that the real-life Isabelle is a hard, embittered young woman entirely distinct from the lovely vision in the portrait.

       By the same token, his favourite ever play by O'Neill was another story of hopeless love, "A Moon for the Misbegotten", written in 1947.

       Its leading character is based on Eugene's tragic yet infinitely romantic elder brother Jamie. And David became fascinated by him; and read all about him in the massive biography by the Gelbs. 

       Blessed at birth with charm, intellect and beauty, he was one of Father Edward Sorin's most favoured princes while part of the Minim Department of Notre Dame University, Indiana, and destined for a glittering future as a Catholic gentleman of exquisite breeding and learning. He was also potentially a very fine writer, although he only left a handful of poems and essays behind, and the owner of a beautiful speaking voice which ensured him work as an actor for a time alongside his father James. His one true legacy, however, is Jamie Tyrone, the brilliant yet tortured charmer who haunts two of his brother's masterpieces with the infinite sorrow of promise unfulfilled.

       David left Leftfield for good in the summer of 1985, and discovered soon afterwards that he had achieved a lower second BA degree in French and Drama.

       His first employment was as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, a job which brought him into many potentially hazardous situations, but which for him, was worth the risk, as he was getting well paid to show off and party, two of his favourite occupations at the time...but it was an unusual way of life for a man of thirty.

       What he really wanted was the immortality provided by fame, and he didn't care whether this came through acting, music or literature, or any other means for that matter, but until his big break came, he was content to feed his addiction to attention through the novelty telegrams industry. He evidently had no deep desire to leave anything behind by way of children, nor for any career other than one liable to project him to international renown.

       How then did he end up as a PGCE student at Coverton College, Cambridge in the autumn?

       The truth is that once again he'd yielded to family pressure to provide himself with the safety net that's been dear to the hearts of parents of struggling artists since time immemorial, and yet despised by the artists themselves.

        For David’s part, he was so unhappy about having to go to Cambridge that just days before he was due to start there, he arranged to audition for a Jazz Funk band, and was all set to sing "The Chinese Way" by Level 42 and another song of its kind, but never made it, because, late, and desperately drunk on the afternoon of his audition, he simply threw in the towel and resigned himself to Cambridge.

       From the time he arrived in the beautiful medieval university city, he was made to feel most welcome and wanted by everyone, and he made some wonderful friends at Coverton itself.

       These included Donovan Joye, a poet and actor from the little town of Downham Market in Norfolk, Dale Slater, a singer-songwriter of dark genius from Yeovil in Somerset who eventually went on to become part of London's psychedelic underground, and stunning redhead, Clarissa Catto, whose beauty and charm belied the fact that she hailed from Slough, a vast sprawling suburb to the west of London most famous for having inspired a notorious screed by the poet John Betjeman.

       When he made his first appearance at the Cambridge Community College in the tough London overspill area of Arbury where he was due to begin his period of Teaching Practice the following January, the pupils reacted to him as if he was some kind of visiting movie or Rock star. His TP would have been a breeze. Everything was falling into place for him at Cambridge, and he was offered several golden chances to succeed as an actor within its hallowed confines.

       Towards the end of the first term, the then president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club had gone out of his way to ask David and Donovan to appear in the sole production he was preparing to mark his year-long tenure. He was a Coverton man, and so clearly wanted to give a couple of his fellow students a break after having seen them perform a couple of Donovan's satirical songs for the club.

       This was a privilege almost without measure, given that since its inception Footlights has nurtured the talents of Cecil Beaton, Jonathan Miller, Germaine Greer, David Frost, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Hugh Lawrie and Sasha Baron Cohen among many others. David could have been added to that list.

       As if this opportunity weren't enough to persuade him to stay put, a young undergraduate, renowned for the high quality of the plays he produced personally asked him to feature in one of his productions during the Lent Term after seeing him interpret the part of Tom in Tennessee Williams' “The Glass Menagerie" some time before Christmas. Someone then told him that if this young man took an interest in you, you were pretty well made as an actor at Cambridge. What more did he want? For Spielberg himself to be in the audience and discover him?

       In his defence, though, he did feel trapped by the course, and was finding it heavy going. In order to pass, you had to spend a full year as a teacher after completion of the basic PGCE. That meant it would be two years before he was free again to call himself an actor and work as such. It just seemed an awfully long time, when in fact it wasn't at all, and two years after quitting Cambridge he was even further away from his dream than when he'd started off.

       The truth is he left Coverton for no good reason, and the decision continued to pain him for the rest of his life, and these words from from Whittier's “Maud Muller” to tear him to shreds of utter nothingness: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘it might have been'”. Still, within a matter of hours of the start of the Lent Term of 1987, he’d vanished, disappeared into the night in the company of a close friend he'd wheedled into helping him out.

       

      Once he was free, he set about the task of resuming his career, sporadically commuting to London from a little village just a stone’s throw from the coast near Portsmouth where he was resident at the time, although most days he achieved little.

       What’s more, he was hopelessly unsuited for the bands for which he chose to audition, whether the Jazz-Funk outfit from the massive outer London suburb of Croydon, or the Rock 'n' Roll revival band from Pompey itself, and mainly because of his ultra-cultured image, which jarred with the toughness of everyday working class life in Britain in the mid 1980s.

       And highlighted hair and dinky twin ear studs hardly did him any favours, although he did try and tone down his image, which had become defiantly out of touch with the prevailing youth fashions by about ’86. For he’d latterly favoured such bizarre sartorial items as a gold lame waistcoat, skin tight drainpipes and black suede winkle pickers with side buckles.

       But within a year he’d adopted a two-tone hooded jacket, which he wore with tight grey corduroy jeans in an attempt to better blend in with his surroundings, but he remained a fish out of water sustained by industrial strength dosages of alcohol, beloved by some, contemned by others.

       However, he returned to London in the summer of ‘87 to a minor flurry of creative activity.

       First, he took part in a rehearsed reading at Notting Hill’s justly reputable Gate Theatre of a Japanese play directed by Ariana. Then, at her behest, he served as MC for a week-long benefit for the Gate called "Captain Kirk's Midsummer Log" in the persona of one Mr Denmark 1979, a comic monstrosity created for him by Ariana. Among those appearing on the bill were comedienne, Jo Brand, in her then incarnation of The Sea Monster, comedy satirist, Rory Bremner, and Renaissance Man, Patrick Marber, initially a stand-up, but best known today as an award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

       The Denmark character went down so well at the benefit that he wrote an entire show around him based on the premise that winning a Scandinavian male beauty contest in 1979 had altered the balance of his mind.

       Thence he’d became convinced he’d been at the forefront of pretty well every major cultural development since the dawn of Pop, only to be cravenly ripped off by Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Punks, Rappers and so on.

       And in its modest way, it helped to fuel the thriving comedic school of self-delusion which could also be said to include Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge and Ricky Gervais’ David Brent.

       Later in ’87, he started rehearsals for Ariana for a Catalonian play – to be directed by Ariana – apparently set in pre-revolutionary France, although Ariana updated it to the late 19th Century, with a setting reminiscent of  Wilde’s "Dorian Gray"  or Lorrain’s “Monsieur de Phocas”.

       And it received some fair reviews…with David being singled out for modest praise in the London Times among other periodicals, but rather than capitalise on this modest success, he decided to start work instead as a teacher at the Tellegen School of English in London’s Oxford Street.

       He did so at the behest of his closest friend, Huw Owen, the Swansea native who’d served as the model for Robert Fitzroy-Square in their Silverhill band, Z Cars, but who was now working as a Tellegen teacher. Besides which, he’d already undergone a week’s training with them and been offered a job.

       And for David, being a Tellegen teacher was the perfect dream job…providing  him with a social life on a plate, as well as enough money to finance the hours he spent each evening in the Champion public house in Wells Street.

       There, some time after 7.30, once the final class had ended, student and teacher alike would meet to drink and talk and laugh and do as they wished until closing time; and he’d usually leave at about 10.30 to catch the last train home from Waterloo, although, sometimes he'd miss it and have to catch a later train. At other times, there'd be a party to go to, or the Telegen disco…which would take place at Jacqueline’s Night Club in nearby Soho.

       Most of the teachers socialised with their own kind, while David preferred the company of the students, although this situation was to become modified by 1990, when his friends were being chosen from among both the teaching and student bodies. But at night, it would be almost impossible to extricate him from his circle of favourites from Italy, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Poland, France…fact which proved irksome to his good friends, Stan and Noddy, at a certain stage in his short-lived career at Tellegen.

       For Stan, a Tellegen teacher and resting actor, and Noddy, a young student from the great city of Sao Paolo in Brazil, were trying to organise rehearsals for a band they were supposed to be getting together, but thanks to David’s dilatory attitude, this never happened despite some early promise, as Noddy was a gifted guitarist, and Stan a potentially good front man.

       But David continued to discard precious opportunities as if it were so much stinking refuse…little suspecting that he was shoring up the kind of heartbreak that stems from unfulfilled promise, and which caused Jamie Tyrone to quote from Dante Gabriel Rossetti in  “A Long Day’s Journey into Night”, while clearly describing himself:

       “Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;

       I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell;”

        As well as the perpetual party lifestyle, He spent his spare cash on clothes, cassettes, books, and of course, rent, that is, during those brief few months he spent as a tenant in Hanwell, West London at the house of a friend of his fathers’ from the London session world, Rich Evans.

       Rich was a small, dark, bearded, always nattily dressed professional fiddler, whose life, lived close to the edge, but with the absolute minimum of effort, incarnated a kind of preternatural Celtic cool that while alarming was yet deeply charismatic.

       He also spent several hundreds of pounds being initiated into the art of self-hypnosis by a Harley Street doctor who specialised in hypnotherapy and nutritional medicine…this, in the hope of finding a solution not just to his alcoholism, but the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to which he was increasingly prey in the late 1980s.

       Yet, despite the drinking and the OCD, his primary emotional condition was one of utter exaltation and enraptured joy of life, which was what made it so hard for him to accept that he wouldn’t be returning to Tellegen’s in 1990. But it was his own fault, because he’d left without warning early in the year, and then later decided he wanted to return, despite having earlier refused an offer to do so from the school itself.

       So, reluctantly delivered from a job he genuinely loved, he revived his acting career thanks once again to the influence of his dear friend Ariana.

       She suggested he might like to play Feste for a production of "Twelfth Night", to be staged in the summer at the Jacksons Lane theatre in North London, and so after a successful audition for the director, Sandy Stein, he set about re-learning Feste's lines, and arranging the songs according to the original primitive melodies.

       Yet, if the play itself was pure joy to be involved in, the same can’t be said for the train journeys to and from Highgate for rehearsals, for it was during these lengthy trips across the capital that David started feeling the need to inure himself as never before against what he saw as nocturnal London's ever-present aura of menace.

       It’s likely that years of hard living were finally starting to take their toll on his nervous system, for in addition to alcohol and nicotine, he'd been ingesting industrial strength doses of caffeine for years, initially in tablet form, and then in the shape of the coffee cocktails he liked to swill one after the other before afternoon classes at Tellegen’s.

       This may go some way towards explaining the sheer paranoia which ultimately caused him to start drinking on the way to rehearsals, and then for the first time in his life as a professional actor, during rehearsals. However, he promised Sandy he’d not touch a drop for the actual performances, and was as good as his word. Although each performance was succeeded by some serious partying on his part…with most of the cast members joining him in the revels.

        And his hyperkinetic performance was well-received, with one well-spoken Englishwoman even went so far as to tell him he was the finest Feste she'd ever seen…and what a pity she wasn’t a passing casting director; but then serendipitous incidents of this kind may have happened to other people…but never to poor David Cristiansen.

       Later in 1990, he began another PGCE course, this time at the former West London College of Further Education based in East Twickenham, taking up residence in nearby Isleworth.

       He began quite promisingly, fitting in well, and making good friends, and as might be expected, excelled in drama and physical education. And he was abstinent by day, while on those rare occasions he did drink, it was just a question of a pint or so with lunch.

       He’d mentally determined to complete the course, and yet on the verge of his period of teaching practice, he found himself to be desperately behind in his preparation, and so provisionally removed himself in order to decide whether it was worth his staying on or not.

       In the event he chose to quit, but rather than return to his parents' home, he stayed on in Isleworth to rekindle his five-year old career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, while continuing to work as a walk-on artist.

       He also became half of a musical duo formed with a slim young Mancunian with reddish blond hair and brilliant light green eyes who rejoiced in the name of Simon de Wynter, although his true surname reflected his roots in northern England.

       They began as buskers in Leicester Square, before settling down for rehearsals in the hope of getting some gigs, their repertoire a mixture of Rock and Roll and Motown classics, as well as a host of originals, mostly written by Simon, but with one or two contributions by David. He wanted to call the band Venus Xtravaganza, but in the end, they settled for Simon's choice of The Unknowns, that is if they ever called anything at all. And unknown is what they remained which for poor David was simply business as usual.

       Then, early in ‘91, he took off to the seaside town of Hastings for a month or so to attempt to pass a course in teaching English as a foreign language  in a beautiful old town that's since become a major London overspill area.

       To this end, he worked like a Trojan but he was struggling terribly, tormented by OCD and its endless demands on his time and energies in the shape of rituals both physical and mental, and while he didn't drink at all during the day, at night he was sometimes so stoned he was incoherent.

       Predictably, perhaps, he was failed, and when he asked the authorities if they might reconsider, he was informed that their decision was final. It was a bit of a let-down for him for sure, but he'd loved his time in Hastings, even while continuing the search for some kind of spiritual solution to his mental troubles which led him to a "church" which was far, far from the kind he’d come ultimately to seek out.

       At least part of the reason for his torment may be provided by the following extracts from a letter his mother wrote him during a fascinating but fruitless sojourn: 

       "...I had a chance to look at your library...I could not believe what I saw. These very strange books, beyond my comprehension, most of them, and I thought what a dissipation of a good mind that thought it right to read such matters...I feel very deeply that you have up to your present state, almost ruined your mind. Your happy, smiling face has left you, your humorous nature, ditto, your spirited state of mind, your cheerful, sunny, exuberant well-being, all gone. Too much thought given to the unhappiness and sad state of others (often those you can not help, in any way)...I've said recently that I am convinced that anyone can get oneself into a state of agitation or distress or anxiety by thinking or reading about, or witnessing unpleasant things, and the only thing to do is to, as much as possible, avoid such matters, to not let them get hold in the mind. Your fertile mind has led you astray. Why, and how?"

       How many millions of mothers over the course of the centuries have asked this of offspring who've been inexplicably drawn to the shadow lands of life only to lose their way back to sanity? Only God knows. Most of course, successfully make the journey back before settling into a normal mode of life, but the danger of becoming lost is always there, especially for those who remain in the shadows far beyond adolescence. Eternal adolescence is arguably one of the prime features of our era, facilitated by its exaltation of youth. And while there are those who'd insist that far fewer young people today are in thrall to the dark glamour of self-destructive genius than in previous Rock eras, the worldview still very much exists.

       For David’s part, he came ultimately to view Rock as more than just a simple Pop music derived from various Folk genres, so much as an enormously influential subculture, even a religion, and to contend that those who grew to maturity in the sixties were spiritually affected not just by the music but the cultural changes brought about by the Rock revolution.

       He’d insist that from quitting formal education aged 16, he was in thrall to a cult of instant gratification that had been growing progressively more powerful throughout the West since about 1955.

       After all, he’d contend, he failed to build a future for himself, in terms of a profession, a family, financial security, and so on, having once viewed all these with an indifference verging on contempt and it hurt him deeply to realise the extent to which he’d sabotaged his life with such a negative identity, so in his despair, he cast the blame on Rock.

        The following summer of 1992, he made another attempt at passing the TEFL course…this time at a beautiful college set in the middle of a central London park…but he was drinking all day every day, and even though he worked hard and even gave some good classes, there was not way on earth he was going to pass.

        Still, it was a fabulous summer, and much of it he spent in a state of manic hyperactivity. Bliss it was to stride in the warm suburban evening sun to his local station of Hampton Court with the Orb's eerie "Blue Room" throbbing over and over in his head on my way to yet another long night of drinking and socialising to the point of ecstatic insensibility. He could have passed out on any one of these wild nights and awoken again in Hell, but that didn't concern him.

       The romantic decadence associated with the eighties was no longer even remotely current, and there was a new spirit as he saw it, a mystic techno-bohemianism which appeared to him to be everywhere in the early nineties.

       And he sought to visit as many clubs and venues as he could where it was being celebrated, even though in the event he only ever went to one, a club called Cyber Seed in Covent Garden, which was poorly attended and only lasted a short time.

       Later on in this final beautiful lethal summer of intoxication, soon after appearing as Stefano in "The Tempest" at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, he set out on yet another PGCE course. This one bore the suffix “fe” for Further Education, and its purpose was to train himself and his fellow students to teach pupils in sixth form colleges and other further education establishment, while his studies were divided between the University of New Eltham in the tough outer suburbs of south east London and Twickenham college in the leafy Royal borough of Richmond on Thames.

       While on top of all this study, there were the gigs with Simon…the novelty telegrams…and who knows what else…and he loved every second of a frenetic lifestyle lived in total ecstatic defiance of the wholesale ruin of mind, body, soul, spirit…

       

      The period embracing the autumn of 1992 and the first few weeks of winter may well have been the most debauched of David’s entire existence.

        He'd get up early, possibly about six, and then prepare himself for the day ahead with a bottle of wine, usually fortified, then he'd keep his units topped up throughout the day with vodka or gin, taking regular swigs from the miniatures he liked to have with him at all times. Some evenings he'd spend in central London, others with his new friends from the college, and they were a close and pretty wild crowd for a while. There were times in town when he couldn't keep the booze down, so he'd order a king-sized cola from MacDonalds, which he'd then lace with spirits before cautiously sipping from it through a straw.

       He was a euphoric drunk and so almost never unpleasant...but he was unpredictable...a true Dionysian who'd cry out on a British Rail train in the middle of the afternoon, causing passengers to flinch with alarm...or perform a wild disjointed Karate kick into thin air on a crowded London street. One afternoon he tore his clothes to shreds after having arrived too late for an audition and a barman who served him later on in the day asked him:

       “You bin in a fight then?”

        And then there was the shameful night at Waterloo station - or was it Liverpool Street? - that he was so incapacitated by drink that he had to be escorted across the main concourse to his train by one of a colony of rough sleepers that were a feature of mainline stations in those days.

       However, all these insane incidents came to a head one night in early 1993 in an Indian restaurant in Hampton Court close to the Surrey-London border. He'd been dining there with two female friends when, suddenly feeling like pure death, he turned to the lady who was next to him and asked:

       “Do I look as bad as I feel?”

        As soon as she’d told him that indeed he did, he got up from the table, walked a few paces and then collapsed as if stone dead in the middle of the restaurant. He was then carried bodily out into the fresh night air by two or three Indian waiters, one of whom set about shocking some life back into him by flicking ice cold water in his face.

       "Don't give up,” he pleaded, his voice betraying true concern...and in time thanks to him some semblance of life returned, and David was well enough to be driven home.

       Yet, within two days he was drinking as heavily as before, continuing to do so virtually around the clock until the weekend. He then spent Saturday evening with his close friend from the restaurant, and at some point in the morning of the 16th, after having drunk solidly all night, he asked her to fill a long glass with neat gin and each sip took him further and further into the desired state of blissful forgetfulness.

       He awoke exhilarated, which was normal for him following a lengthy binge. It was his one drying out day of the week, and so he probably spent it writing as well as cleaning up the accumulated chaos of the past week. One thing he definitely did was listen to a radio documentary on the legendary L.A. Rock band the Doors which he'd taped some weeks or perhaps months earlier.

       He especially savoured "When the Music's Over" from what was then one of his favourite albums, "Strange Days" released in the wake of the Summer of Love on my 12th birthday, 7 October 1967. This apocalyptic epic with its unearthly screams and ecstatically discordant guitar solo seemed to him about living in the shadow of death, beckoning death, mocking death, defying death.

       He powerfully identified with the Doors' gifted singer Jim Morrison...who'd been drawn as a very young man to poets of darkly prophetic intensity, such as Blake, Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Artaud, as well as the poets of the Beat Generation, who were themselves children of the - largely French - Romantic poètes maudits, whose works have the power to change lives, as they surely did Morrison's.

       His philosophy of life was clearly informed by Blake, who wrote of "the road of excess" leading to "the palace of wisdom", while his hell raising persona came to a degree from Rimbaud, who extolled the virtues of "a long, immense and systematic derangement of all the senses" as an angel-faced hooligan in the Paris of the early 1870s.

       After having spent the day revelling in his own inane notion of himself as a poet on the edge like his heroes, at some point in the early evening he got what he'd been courting for so long...an intimation of early death, when for pretty well the first time in his life alcohol stopped being his beloved elixir and became a mortal enemy, causing his legs to lose sensation and his life force to recede at a furious and terrifying rate.

       In a blind panic, he opened a spare bottle of sparkling wine he had about the house even though he'd hoped not to have to drink that day. Once he'd drained it, he felt better for a while, in fact so much so that he took a few snaps of myself lounging around looking haggard and unshaven, with freshly cropped hair.

       Soon after this macabre photo session he set off in search of more alcohol. Arriving at a local delicatessen, the Asian shop keeper nervously told him that the off-license wasn't open for some time yet. There was nothing for him to do but take refuge on a nearby green, where he lay for a while, still dressed in the shabby white cut-offs he'd been wearing earlier. Finally, the offie opened and he was able to buy more booze.

       In years to come, one of the last things he remembered doing on Sunday evening was singing hymns in a nearby Methodist church as the tears flowed...tears of remorse, tears of fear, tears of desperation.

       He had no further memory of what happened that hellish night, but there were many such nights ahead. At least one of these saw him endlessly pacing up and down corridors and stairs in an attempt to stay conscious and so - as he came to see it - not die...and each time he shut his eyes he could have sworn he saw demonic entities beckoning him into a bottomless black abyss.

       He set about ridding his house of artefacts he somehow knew to be offensive from the night of the 16th or 17th onwards. Many books were destroyed...books on astrology and numerology and other mystical and occult subjects, books on war and crime and atrocity, and books about artists some call accursed for their kinship with drunkenness and madness and death.

       He genuinely came to believe that for all the horrors he underwent, it was during that first night he came to accept Christ as his Saviour, and that had his violent conversion not come about when it did, he might have been lost forever, although whether one agrees with him or not depends on where one stands on the issue of predestination versus free will.

       But he'd have surely immersed himself further in the new Bohemianism of the 1990s, which of course was not new at all, simply a revival of the adversary values of the sixties. Far from vanishing around ’73, these values had merely gone back underground, where they set about fertilising new anti-establishment clans such as the Anarcho-Punks and the New Age Travellers who quietly flourished throughout the '80s.

       Around '92, some kind of amalgam between these tribes and the growing Rave-Dance movement produced yet another great counterculture, and he was ready…ready as he’d never been before to take his place as a zealot of the New Edge, only to be delivered from its seductive grasp by a violent "Road to Damascus" conversion to Christianity.

       However, if he'd been reborn against all the odds, he still had to suffer in the physical, if only briefly.

       On the morning of the 17th of January, he somehow made it into New Eltham for classes at the University, but by evening he felt so ill he started swigging from a litre bottle of gin in the hope this would improve his condition. He also phoned Alcoholics Anonymous at his mother's request, and agreed to give a meeting a shot.

       Next day, on the way to Twickenham, he got the feeling that his heart was about to explode, not just once but over and over again. Then, after that morning’s classes, he tried taking a stroll around town but couldn't feel his legs, and was struggling to stay conscious, so he ended up ordering a double brandy from the pub next door to the Police Station. He was shaking so much the landlord thought he was fresh from an interrogation session.

       Later, he was thrown out of another pub for preaching at the top of his voice, and, walking through Twickenham town centre he started making the sign of the cross to passers-by, telling one poor young guy never to take to drink like some kind of walking advert for temperance. The fellow nodded in assent before silently scurrying away.

       Back home, in an effort to calm himself down, he dug out an old capsule of Chlomethiazole, a sedative commonly used in treating and controlling the effects of acute alcohol withdrawal, but dangerous, in fact potentially fatal, when used in conjunction with alcohol. He still had some capsules left over from about 1990 when he'd been prescribed them by his then doctor, which meant they'd long gone beyond their expiry date. For a time he felt better and was able to sleep, but soon after waking, felt worse than ever.

       Later, at an AA meeting, he kept leaving the room to douse his head in cold water, anything to shock some life back into me, to the dismay of his sponsor Dan who wanted him to stay put, for the purported healing effects of doing so:

       “What do you think I come here for,” he asked him, “the free cups of tea?”

       Wednesday morning saw him pacing the office of the first available doctor, who seemed at a loss as to what to do with him, but then it may have been touch and go as to whether he was going to stay on his feet or overdose on the spot and die on him. It was he who prescribed him the Valium which caused him to fall into a deep, deep sleep which may have saved his life, and from which he awoke to sense that a frontier had been passed and that he was out of danger at long last.



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    Sun, Oct 9th - 4:22AM

    Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser's Life 1.



     

    Sometime in the early 21st Century, it occurred to David Cristiansen, and not for the first time, that he was a loser. In fact not just loser but a king-size loser, a loser among losers, a loser supreme.

     The contemplation that he was the best at what he did afforded him some consolation at those times of the day when his status in life meant the most to him; such as in those last few hours before he turned in for the night.

     Yet the fact remained he’d failed in almost every conceivable area of life. And so ended up living alone in an apartment adjacent to his parents’ suburban home at the advanced age of 55, unmarried and childless, and without fortune, profession or vehicle.

     As to the areas in which he hoped to succeed since he was a teenager with the world at his delicate feet, he had precious little to show for his labours but for a few baubles of which he was unfeasibly proud. But in the end, they amounted to very little; and deep down inside he knew that all too well, despite the swaggering attitude he affected.

     And it hurt him terribly to realise he wasn’t a genius after all, so much as a regular sad sack with delusions of grandeur; as actor, musician and writer.

     “I’m not done yet”, he’d boast to himself, or to anyone else who might listen, and to look at him, you might think he had a point. For despite his age, he still possessed a remnant of what was once a truly remarkable physical beauty; as well as a magnetic charm that drew others to him irresistibly.

     Yet, many would insist David was foolish to lament all he had lost in terms of opportunities for fame, status and glory and all the wondrous things that accompany these. For after all, these are things one cannot take with us when we quit this earth, and life is short, so terribly short that it is described in the Bible as a “vapour”.

     And there were times his still handsome eyes failed to see this truth, as if they’d become clouded o’er by the tears he often shed at night for his wasted past, and for the pain he felt when he thought of all he had lost. While at others, it became manifestly clear to him, and he rejoiced as the most fortunate of men. Yet, it could have all been so different.

     He'd been born at the tail end of the Goldhawk Road, a lengthy street within the limits of inner West London, and his first home, a little Victorian cottage in the long-demolished Bulmer Place in Notting Hill. And you’ll search in vain for it in any London map, although you’ll still be able to locate a Bulmer Mews tucked away some yards away from the main road of Notting Hill Gate.

     His brother Dany was born two and a half years later, by which time his parents had been able to afford their own house in Bedford Park in what was then the London Borough of Acton.

     During David’s boyhood it was still demographically mixed, yet well on the way to becoming completely gentrified.

     Future Who front man Roger Daltry had relocated there from nearby Shepherds Bush when he was 11 years old in 1955 or '56.

     And a few years later, he formed a group in the Skiffle style called The Detours, which would go on to shape-shift into The Who, whose furiously  hedonistic music and philosophy would go on to make a permanent impression on the Western psyche; and help fuel the British Invasion of the American Pop charts.

     David’s father Pat had been born Patrick Clancy Cristiansen in Rowella, Tasmania, and raised in Sydney as the son of a Danish father and English mother.

     At around eight years old, he won a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatory of Music, soloing for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on a single occasion shortly afterwards.

     And soon after his father’s death on the eve of the second world war, he set off with his mother and two siblings for Denmark, his father having expressed a wish to be buried in his native land. And then on to London where he studied both at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

     He joined the London Philharmonic 0rchestra while still a teenager during the Blitz on London during which he served in the Sea Cadets as a signaller, seeing action as such on the hospital ships of the Thames River Emergency Service.

     While David’s mother had entered the world as Angela Jean Watson in the city of Brandon, Manitoba on the 13th of November 1915. However, while still an infant she'd moved with her parents and four siblings to the Grandview area of East Vancouver.

     Many of Grandview's earliest settlers were in shipping or construction work, and largely of British origin. Indeed, Angela's own father was a builder and electrician from the little town of Castlederg in Tyrone, Ireland. While her mother hailed from the great industrial city of  Glasgow.

     At high school, she came into her own in the Glee Club, thanks to a singing voice of rare beauty and quality. And in time she was able to make her living exclusively as a soprano singer, and many of her greatest triumphs took place at Vancouver’s famous Theatre Under the Stars, which officially opened on August the 6th 1940.

     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, ultimately opted for England, a ticket to sail having become available to her.

     And so she set off for the country of her forefathers laden with letters of recommendation from her singing teacher, as well as numerous press cuttings from her brilliant Canadian career.

     And within a short time of doing so, she met Pat Cristiansen through their shared profession, and they married in the summer of 1948.

     Seven years later, they decided to have their first child, but Angela was repeatedly informed by her doctor she might miscarry. In the event, David breathed his first on the 7th of October 1955.

     While his first school was a kind of nursery school held locally on a daily basis at the private residence of one Miss Henrietta Pearson, and then aged 4 years old, he joined the exclusive Lycée Francais du Sud Kensington, where he was to become bilingual by the age of about four years old.

     Almost every race and nationality under the sun was to be found in the Lycée in those days... and among those who went on to be good pals of David's were kids of English, French, Jewish, American, Yugoslavian and Middle Eastern origin.

     His first two closest playground pals were Esther, the dusky scion of a successful Norwegian character actor and a beautiful Israeli dancer, and Craig, an English kid like himself, and for a time, they formed an unlikely but inseparable trio:

     “Hi kiddy”, was Esther’s sacred greeting to her beloved blood brother, and David would respond in kind.

     While not a typical Lycée father in his patched canvas trousers, David’s was determined Dany and he enjoy the best and richest education imaginable, and to this end, he worked, toiled incessantly in the tough London session world.

     And so that they be distinguished from the common run of British boys with their short back and sides they were dressed in lederhosen with their heads shorn like convicts. These boys would be different. And David certainly set himself apart himself from the outset not least though his physical appearance, whose remarkable thinness was enhanced by long-lashed blue eyes so enormous as to verge on the alien.

     He was also the kind of child who'd remove a paper from a neighbour's letter-box on Esmond Road, and then mutilate it before re-posting it…donate a loaf of ancient green bread to another by posting it over the wall…and destroy still another’s brand new balsa wood fence while trying to retrieve a stray ball, going through one rung after the other with a sickly dull thud…thud…thud…much to the hilarity of his close pal Jacko. But the neighbour couldn’t see the funny side.

     The era’s famous social revolution kicked in in about 1963, and yet for all that, seminal Pop groups such as the Searchers and the Dave Clark Five - even the Beatles themselves – were quaint and wholesome figures in a still innocent England. They fitted in well in a nation of Norman Wisdom pictures and the well-spoken presenters of the BBC Home or Light Service, of coppers, tanners and ten bob notes, sweet shops and tuppeny chews.

     It was in ’63 that Beatlemania invaded David’s world, and he first announced his own status as a maniac at the Lycée in that landmark year; but within a short time, a single new group had started threatening the Beatles' position as David's favourite in the world. They were the Rolling Stones; although an initial reaction to what he saw as a rough and sullen performance of Buddy Holly’s "Not Fade Away" on TV, was one of bitter disappointment.

     But before long, he'd become utterly entranced by these martyrs to the youth movement, and during a musical discussion he had in about 1965 with some of the new breed of English roses, who may or may not have been flaunting mod girl fringes and kinky boots, David proudly announced his undying fealty.

     One of the girls was a Fab Four loyalist and had the requisite seraphic smile, while another preferred a certain Geordie combo, and acted cooler than the rest, as if these British Bluesmen were somehow superior to mere Pop acts like the Beatles and the Stones. While David felt compelled to ask her a question about her favourite band, while casting aspersions upon the physical loveliness of one of their number, which provoked a flustered response from the apoplectic Pop fan.

     

    During this golden era, David divided his time between the Lycée and his West London stomping ground, and from a very young age, took Judo classes in South Kensington.  And it was there that one of his teachers, a former British international who’d fought in the first ever World Judo championships in Japan, once despairingly confessed:

     “I always know it’s Saturday when I hear Cristiansen’s voice.”

     Later, he took classes in the somewhat rougher London suburb of Hammersmith. But if he thought he was going to raise Cain there he had another thing coming, given that its owner was a one-time captain of the British international team who'd served as an air gunner with No 83 Squadron RAF during World War II. He later held Judo classes in Stalag 383.

     David resumed his Karate classes with him in the early ‘70s, until he got it into his head that he no longer wished to have anything to do with anything martial, precious blooming aesthete that he was.

     For all that, though, he was rarely happier than on those Wednesday evenings he attended the 20th Chiswick Wolf Cub pack.

     Memories such as the solemnity of his enrolment, and being helped up a tree by an older cub to secure his Athletics badge remained with him for many years afterwards. As did the times he won his first star, and his swimming badge, with its peculiar frog symbol, as well as the pomp and the seriousness of a mass meeting he attended, with its different coloured scarves, sweaters and hair.

     And then there was the Saturday afternoon when, following a soccer match between rival cub teams during which David dirtied his boots by standing around in the mud and his elbow by tripping over a loose bootlace, an older cub offered to take him home. So they made their way to the bus stop through underground passageways teeming with rowdy kids, both white and West Indian, all shod in black plimsolls with elastic side strips.

     "Shuddup!" shouted David’s new protector, 

    “Where exactly are you taking me?” David queried anxiously.

    "The bus stop at Chiswick 'Oigh Stree' is the best plice, oi reck'n. You be awroigh’ deah, me lil' mite."

     David became convinced he’d never see his home again, and so started to loudly wail, his cherubic little face contorted into a hideous mask of anguish ; and as they mounted the bus, faces both white and black suddenly turned towards him in concern, and what a strange sight he must have made, this tyke in distress, surrounded by a bevy of older wolf cubs.

     After a few moments, David’s new found friend, his brow furrowed with concern, as if he’d done his frail young charge some unspeakable wrong, assured him:

    "Oim gonna drop y’orf where yer dad pu’ y’on."

      Then, David saw a street he recognised, and promptly left his seat, grinning uncontrollably:

    "This'll do," he announced.

    "Wai', Dave!” his friend cried out, “are you shoa vis is awroigh'?”

    "Yup!" David replied, as he stepped off the bus, which then moved on down the street and out of his life forever.

     There was a point in the mid 1960s when David was dubbed "Le Général" by his form teacher, by which time he’d be found barking orders in the playground to a tight circle of friends. While in the classroom, he’d sit at the back, leaning against the wall with his cronies, while pretending to smoke a fat cigar like a Chicago tough guy.

     Certainly he was not above organising elaborate playground deceptions; and one of these involved his pretending to banish one of his best friends, Bobby, from whatever activity they had going on at the time.

     Bobby played along by putting on a superb display of water works, which had the desired effect of arousing the tender mercies of some of the girls. They duly rounded on him for his hard-heartedness, but he refused to budge, and of course it was all a big joke, and Bobby and he had never been closer.

     If he was "Le Général" at the Lycée, back home he saw himself as the leader of the kids whose houses backed onto the dirty alley that ran parallel to his side of the Esmond Road.

     One day, he crossed the road to announce a feud with the kids of the clean alley, so-called because it was concreted over rather than being just a dirt track.

     Soon after the feud had thawed, Dany and he went over to pal around with some of the clean alley kids who he now saw as his allies, but there must have still been some bad blood because before long, a scrap was under way and he was getting the worst of it.

     “Hit him, David,” his brother urged above the chilling din of the clean alley loyalists baying for his hot young blood to flow, but the best he could manage was to briefly get his antagonist into a headlock. Finally he agreed to leave, and as he cycled off, one of the clean alley kids kicked his bike, so that it squeaked all the way home in unison with great heaving sobs.

     If David’s good mate Paulie had been with him on that afternoon in the clean alley, it’s unlikely he would have had to suffer as he did. He lived virtually opposite the Cristiansen family in Bedford Park, but he was from another dimension altogether, a skinny cockney kid with muscles like pure steel who seemed to have been born to wage war on the bomb sites of post-war London.  Their wicked cahoots included howling at the top of their lungs into random blocks of flats, and then running away, as their echoed screams blended with incoherent  threats of:

    "I'll call the Police, I'll..."

     And when he’d made his first personal appearance in the dirty alley on someone else's rusty bike, screaming along in a cloud of dust it rendered all the denizens of the dirty alley speechless and motionless. Yet, David’s mum made a point of liking him, and he was always welcome to come to tea with the Cristiansen family at five twenty five:

     "Davy", he'd always cry when he wanted his friend's attention, and he'd always be welcome at the Cristiansen household, even though this brought them some condemnation within the neighbourhood.

     And one of his mother's closest friends expressed concern over David’s association with Paulie, as if he might end up going to the bad. And incredibly, she was not alone in thinking this. For far from being some latter day Jack Dawkins, David was just a lovable little imp causing mayhem in a leafy London suburb…wasn’t he? And he had such a tender side; in fact, he was one of those prematurely romantic kids who never go through a phase of detesting the fair sex. To say the least…he adored them from the outset.

     And if ever proof was needed that puppy love can be as agonisingly painful as its adult counterpart it came in the shape of his adoration, as a fantastically skinny nine year old, of a young blonde girl of about his age with a strong London accent whom he met through no fault of his own in the midst of that most mythologized of decades of recent times.

     It was the year of ’65; and he knew this to be an absolute fact thanks to certain songs which, even when played in the early 2010s, took him violently back to the time of his love for little June Cassidy.

     And each and every one of these tunes, such as the Fab Four’s “We Can Work it Out” and Pet Clark’s strangely bitter-sweet “My Love”stemmed from that most totemic of years when Pop started mutating piecemeal into Rock; and London was in mid swing with Carnaby Street as its trendy epicentre. 

     She announced herself to him with a radiant smile one afternoon while they were both attending classes at their local swimming pool soon after asking him whether his name was David. After he’d confirmed to her that indeed it was, she confessed her reason for having so unexpectedly entered his world:

     “My mum knows your mum”, she chirpily informed him, before explaining that her mother Maryanne had become friendly with David’s own mother through their mutual attendance of a sewing class in what would have been a local education centre. She then turned to her friend and, still smiling, more or less reiterated what she’d told David:

     “My mum knows his mum”.

     But if she was overwhelmingly friendly during that initial meeting, she was never so pleasant again, but the more David was ignored, the more he adored. And on one occasion, he may have tried to attract her attention by swimming ever so close to where she was sitting on the edge of the pool with a friend, only to get caught up in the splashing of her feet; but he could have sworn she smiled to her friend at this point, and he clung to the hope that this smile indicated some kind of affection for him.

     But such hope was forlorn, for she never spoke to him again, and he was driven to distraction by her indifference, even to the point of looking up her mother’s name in the telephone directory. And oh with what joy he saw it clearly written there, Maryanne Cassidy, and it restored some kind of control to him, so that the intensity of his love was somehow mitigated thereby.

     In fact, it consoled him to realise that should he so desire, he could call her, and speak to her, but what would he say? After all, they weren’t friends; in fact, she didn’t even seem to like him, so he let it go, and in time, his love receded.

     Yet he carried its memory far into adulthood, despite the fact that were she still alive, she might have grandchildren of the same age she’d been when she’d so enchantingly introduced herself to David in that totemic year of ’65:
     “My mum knows your mum!”

     

    He left the Lycée in the summer of 1968...before spending a few months at a crammer called Davies so as to become sufficiently up to scratch academically to pass what is known as the Common Entrance Examination.

     Taking the CE is a necessity for all British boys and girls seeking entrance into private fee-paying schools, including those known as public schools, which are the traditional secondary places of learning for the British governing and professional classes.

     And the vast majority of those who go on to public schools begin their academic careers in preparatory or prep schools, and so for the most part leave home at around eight years old.

     The school his father had selected for him was the Nautical College, Welbourne, and somehow, he managed to pass the CE, so that at still only twelve years old became Cadet David Cristiansen 173, the youngest kid in the college, and an official serving officer in Britain's Royal Naval Reserve. 

     Founded at the height of the British Empire, Welbourne still possessed her original title in ’68, while her headmaster, a serving officer in the Royal Navy for some quarter of a century, wore his uniform at all times.

     However, in ’69, she was given the name Welbourne College, while the boys retained their officer status, and naval discipline continued to be enforced, with Welbourne serving both as a military college and traditional English boarding school.

     The Welbourne David knew had strong links to the Church of England, and so was marked by regular if not daily classes in what was known as Divinity, morning parade ground prayers, evening prayers, and compulsory chapel on Sunday morning. 

     Later in life, he felt indebted to her for the values she’d instilled in him if only unconsciously, even though, by the time he joined Welbourne, they were under siege as never before by the so-called counterculture. While failing to fully understand the implications of the cultural revolution of the late 1960s, David was to passionately celebrate its consequences, and take to his heart many of its icons, both artistic and political.

    Yet, from the outset, he desperately wanted to distinguish himself at Welbourne...and especially at sports, starting with the great ruffianly game for gentlemen of Rugby Football...and oh with what longing he gazed at the sight of colours on the blue blazers or striped blazers of those who'd earned them on the playing fields of Welbourne.

     Traditionally awarded in public schools and universities for sporting excellence, colours weren’t everything David desired; but for a few years they came pretty close.

     But he’d not been born into a typical British family, and so attended a prep school…as has ever been the case for the vast majority of those destined to pass into the public school system.

     Although, it would be false to assert that Welbourne was exclusively composed of the sons of the privileged, because she wasn't. And neither was she a narrowly Anglo-Saxon institution, because during David's time, he knew American, West Indian, Middle Eastern and South African cadets as well as British ones, and several of these were close friends of his.

     What's more, she was supplemented in the autumn of '68 by cadets from a recently dismantled training ship, founded in 1885 by a wealthy businessman and keen yachtsman for the rescue of London slum boys who would then be trained for service in the Royal and Merchant Navies. 

     Most fitted in well, as indeed did David, but he was never going to be one of Welbourne’s wonder boys…despite his having been kept back an extra year in the third form, which should have put him at an academic advantage; but didn’t. And he may have done so partly in response to the meningitis he succumbed to in Spain during his first summer vacation. And which necessitated his being hospitalised for a time in Zaragoza, where he became the white-haired boy of several of the medical students, who hailed from such diverse regions of the Spanish-speaking world as Peru and Puerto Rico.

     Yet, there were those teachers and pupils who insisted that while criminally idle, he was also intelligent…a bit of a fraud then, or what the French call a fumiste; but for all that, his behaviour did sometimes verge on the medically alarming.

     On one occasion, for instance, he went for an eye test in the village, only to return to college without having taken it, before announcing that he’d forgotten why he’d gone into town in the first place. As for his hygiene, at one point it was so minimal that the bottoms of his feet were literally as black as soot, as if someone had painted them:
     “Talk about ‘Paint it Black’, Cristiansen…”

     “When did you last wash your feet?”

     But he never stopped longing to be recognised as being good at something, even going so far at one point as to become a member the college boxing team. As such, he suffered punch-drunkenness at Eton at the hands - or rather fists - of an elegant young adonis with a classic Eton flop. He later commented on an especially cruel blow he'd inflicted on David with a certain degree of remorse…and how deceptively graceful he was, this flower of Eton...king of all public schools.

     However, around ‘69, some time after having seen a TV programme about young revolutionaries who idolised Che Guevara, David became a Che acolyte himself, and one of the greatest accolades he ever received while at college came in consequence of a short story he wrote about a young man who becomes involved with Che in his revolutionary activities in South America.

     And following on from his infatuation with Che, he came to fancy himself as a full-blown Communist, covering various items with the hammer and sickle, including at various times, a school notebook, and his own hand, which provoked an older, far larger boy into setting about him in a spirit of mock-outrage...but he'd fallen hard for the Hard Left and that was that.

     In fact, his time at Welbourne coincided with the counterculture being at its point of maximum intensity, which is to say between the infamous year of rioting and street fighting of 1968, and that, four years later, when the sixties really and truly came to a final close and which was defined in Britain at least by the artifice and decadence of Glam Rock.

     And one sweet afternoon, David found himself longing to join the Hippie throngs he saw flocking in all their ragged multicoloured glory to the Reading Rock Festival from the window of a college coach. For rebellion was everywhere in a desperately imperilled West, and several of David's circle dreamed of a world of Bohemian freedom lying only just beyond the confines of their college, while intensely close friendships were forged in secret wooded places where they were united by a love of Rock music and its icons with their defiantly androgynous clothes and floating, flouting hair.

     Yet, by the early 2010s, David would 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 this blessing to his education. Within this sphere, he’d place the four years he spent at Welbourne, whose authorities extended him a fair and decent report following his premature departure in the summer of 1972.

     They also gave him a good send-off in the college magazine, mentioning his time in the Boxing and Swimming teams, and his tenure as 2cnd Drum in the college band. And so he’d bless his old friend and sparring partner, and wish her long life in her sylvan sanctuary deep in the Arcadian heart of the English countryside.

     

    But some forty years theretofore, he moved back into his parents’ home in West Molesey, a small industrial suburb close to the Surrey-London border where they’d relocated from Bedford Park at the start of the decade.

     Their own street was quite gentrified, and their two closest neighbours, businessmen with roots in inner West London…Jack at number 12 being the son of a former boy soldier during the Great War; while Johnny at number 16 was the product of what he proudly called “abject poverty” in Shepherd’s Bush.

     He was still a hippie at heart; and yet 1972 could be said to be the year in which the androgynous seventies really began, as the excitement surrounding the alternative society and its happenings and be-ins and love-ins and free festivals and so on started to fade into recent history.

      The golden age of the long-haired boot boy had lately come to pass, and every street seemed to David to be pregnant with menace in the Glam Rock nation he’d returned to, while so many of the songs were like football chants set to a stomping Glam Rock beat. It was as if the spirit of Weimar Berlin with its unholy mix of violence and decadence had been resurrected in stuffy old England.

      Such a terrible time to be young; but for better or worse, it would be David’s era, and he’d come to love it, lap it up…

     And a change came over him in the summer of ‘72, which may have been caused to some degree by the prevailing zeitgeist, but which can also be traced back to a single defining incident.

      This took place in a bar in the little former fishing town of Santiago de la Ribera, close to the Mar Menor, a large coastal lake of warm saltwater off Murcia's Costa Calida in southeastern Spain, where he'd been vacationing with his family since about 1968.

     It involved a young man he'd idolised for several years, and who incarnated a kind of old-school Iberian macho cool. He was quite fair of complexion, as opposed to swarthy, as might be expected, and stocky, with muscular arms. And if he'd worn a medallion and identity bracelet, he'd have been typical of his kind.

     By that summer, he was sporting collar length hair, which was still quite rare among Spanish men, as well as large-collared shirts, which he elected not to tuck into his trousers. The style of these meant that his hair would occasionally get caught between neck and collar, which necessitated his flicking it out with a sweep of his hand, and coquettishly tossing his head. This he did one evening in full view of Castilla's clientele.

     While these gestures seemed perfectly in keeping with his swaggering machismo in David’s besotted eyes, there was another of Castilla's patrons who was less impressed, and he duly muttered his misgivings. But rather than put David off, he came to covet the notoriety that had suddenly been afforded the young Spaniard.

     Yet while this incident may have marked the beginning of the end of his identification with undiluted masculinity, his interest in the opposite sex was no less forceful than that of any other male in late adolescence. And if an attractive female happened to speak to him in a public place, he'd be in acute danger of falling in love on the spot. In fact, he didn’t even have to be spoken to:

     It was on the ship Patricia while travelling back from vacationing in Spain late in the summer of ’72 that he fell in love by sight with a fellow passenger… a young Spanish girl he saw several times about the ship but was too frightened to approach. So he became obsessed by her, even to the point of roaming the streets of London for several days in succession in the vain hope of somehow bumping into her.

     Two songs especially served as the soundtrack to this irrational spell of romantic insanity; and these were “Betcha by Golly Wow” by the Stylistics, and “Last Night I Didn't Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension. And like all the loves he’d ever lost, they’d remain with David for the rest of his inchoate life.

     As would the vision of a seventeen year old, sauntering late one afternoon in the receding sun, his quest in tatters, yet, who is suddenly drawn to a girlish voice floating downwards from an apartment of a lofty dwelling in the heart of the ancient city of his birth, causing him to ponder, if only fleetingly…”could that be she?”

     

    Chapter Two

     

    Soon after returning from Spain in the summer of 1972, David Cristiansen was launched by his dad on an intensive programme of self-improvement. 

     Through home study and with the help of local private tutors, he set about making up for the fact that he'd left school at 16 with only two General Certificate of Education passes to his name, where a respectable amount would be no less than five. 

     He took Karate classes in Hammersmith, and among his fellow students were hard-looking young men – some of them flaunting classic ‘70s feather cuts - who may have been led to the dojo by the prevailing fashion for all things Eastern, such as the films of Bruce Lee, and the “Kung Fu” television series.

     And while he enjoyed them for a time…in fact, far more than the swimming classes he attended weekly in Walton on Thames close by to his own little suburban village of West Molesey, they were destined to be short-lived.

     This possibly due in part to his growing fascination with an androgynous way of life inspired by Glam Rock, which was yet quiescent in late 1972. While Classic Rock was still foremost in his affections if the earliest long players of his nascent record collection were anything to go by.

     And he was successfully initiated into the basics of the Rock guitar solo by a shy and sweet-natured man of about 45 by the name of Gerry Firth, who gave lessons from a tiny little abode down an alley in the Walton. For it was there that he lived in apparent content with a much younger wife and golden-haired infant daughter.

      While his profound love for the rebel music of Rock and Roll was wholly belied by an appearance which was almost militantly square, even by the standards of middle-aged men in those days. For he wore his salt and pepper hair in a severe short back and sides style, which he supplemented with shirt and tie and sleeveless sweater, and great baggy grey flannel trousers.

     Was every inch the typical British seventies dad in other words; that is, on the surface of things, for the truth was infinitely different.

     And on one memorable occasion, David tried to persuade him of the superior merit of Classical music on the basis that it’s “well-played”, which Gerry countered with:

     “Well, isn’t Rock Music well played?”

      David was baffled by his argument, because despite his own preference for Rock, he had no great belief in its artistic merits.

     Another thing that bewildered him about Gerry Firth was his admiration for Marc Bolan of seminal Glam Rock band T. Rex, a man he’d always derided as much for his androgynous appearance as his simplistic three-chord Pop.

     As to Glam, while it was a genre that veered wildly between Pop chart stompers by Bolan, and the more sophisticated decadence of major talents such as David Bowie and Todd Rundgren, it was yet to make any kind of impression on David. For he still favoured the hirsute macho men of the Heavy Rock movement.

     “Don’t you find him effeminate?” David once asked him of Bolan, fully expecting Gerry to express due horror at the thought of Bolan’s startling choirboy looks, while continuing to enjoy his catchy tunes. But Gerry trumped him with an answer that caused his adolescent jaw to drop:
     “Not as excitingly so as Mike Jagger!”

     “Mick Jagger”, said David, correcting the older man as if in a trance.

     “Mick Jagger”, Gerry conceded, still with the same stubborn fixed smile on his face.

     By the following year, he’d become a massive Bolan fan himself. But at the time he was aghast at what he saw as the older man’s defence of what was still to him the indefensible.

     Sadly, Bolan died in a car accident close to his home in Barnes, West London at just 29 years old. Yet, following his premature quietus, he underwent something a transformation both in terms of his persona and his music, both attaining classic status where they remain to this day.

     For after all, he must have had something to have so delighted Gerry Firth…to the extent of making a sixteen year old look square for detesting everything he stood for. Quite a blow struck on behalf of the old hipster guard in the generation wars that were still being fought back then.

     Late in the summer, David signed up for five years service with the Thames Division of the Royal Naval Reserve based on HMS Ministry on the Embankment near Temple station. And not long afterwards, it became clear to him that he was attracting some attention by virtue of his looks. But far from being offended by this development, he found it strangely flattering…as if a seed of vanity had been implanted within a boy who’d spent the last few years as a swaggering lout.

     To a degree then, it was a case of an ugly duckling suddenly finding themselves to be a swan, and enjoying the resultant notoriety, such as that latterly conferred on the young Spaniard of the Bar Castilla.

     Not that he’d ever been ugly…in fact, several of his mother’s female friends had already commented on his looks; but he’d never seen himself as any kind of Adonis. In fact, with his twitching head, greasy lank hair, bony round shoulders and splayfooted walk, he was more like the adolescent from Hell.

      Having said that, though, he had nurtured a sentimental streak throughout his teens that placed him somewhat at odds with his peers.

    Sun, Oct 9th - 4:02AM

    Bouzingo and other Versified Remnants



    File:Courbet - Paul Verlaine.jpg

    1. Bouzingo – The Gathering of the Poets

     

    The boy was aged about eighteen,

    Pale and pensive,

    Weary and frail in appearance.

    He could have been

    Goethe’s Werther,

    Senancour's Obermann

    Or Chateaubriand's melancholy hero,

    Embraced by a generation

    And about whom Sainte Beuve said:

    " René, c'est moi.”

    Tortured by a new mal du siècle,

    He sought refuge

    In the Club Bouzingo.

    Two young poets,

    One dark, the other fair,

    Drifted past. The first,

    Whose black hair

    Hung in ringlets over his shoulders,

    Wore a small pointed beard,

    Black velvet tails,

    A white linen shirt

    Loosely fastened at the neck

    By a thin pink taffeta tie;

    The second wore a tight coat

    That opened onto a silk crimson waistcoat

    And a lace jabot, white trousers

    With blue seams,

    And a wide-brimmed black hat, and

    In one of his hands

    He carried a long thin pink-coloured pipe.

    They were soon joined

    By some of their dandified companions.

    The music had stopped playing, and

    The poet-leader in cape and gloves,

    Dark and pomaded

    With a Théophile Gautier moustache,

    Took to the stage,

    Where he proceeded to declaim

    Selections from his subversive verses

    To delirious cheers,

    As if sedition was imminent;

    Only the boy-poet remained silent,

    His pale cheeks

    Soak’d by the freshest tears.

    “Après nous le déluge,”

    He said under his breath,

    “Our leader preaches revolution

    But provides no solution

    As to the fate of coming generations,

    Should the infant be cast out

    With the bath water that is so filthy

    In his sight

    That, intent on doing right,

    Gives no thought to the future,

    Nor to what might supplant

    The society he claims to despise.”

    The boy was aged about eighteen

    Pale and pensive

    Weary and frail in appearance.

    He could have been

    Goethe’s Werther,

    Senancour's Obermann

    Or Chateaubriand's melancholy hero,

    Embraced by a generation,

    And about whom Sainte Beuve said:

    "René, c'est moi.”

    Tortured by a new mal du siècle,

    He sought refuge

    From the Club Bouzingo.

     

    2. Oh My My My (Call the FBI)

     

    Couldn’t b’lieve my peepers

    When I first saw you

    Couldn’t b’lieve the beauty

    Of your baby blues

    I knew I had to ask you if you’d

    Like to dance

    I knew I had to take heart and to

    Take that chance

     

    First you resisted me you said

    You couldn’t leave

    Your friends alone

    But after our first dance you said

    You thought they would be

    Ok to find their own way home

     

    Oh my my my

    Call the FBI

    I think I lost my pride

    I think I found my bride

     

    Couldn’t b’lieve I’d ever

    Find a girl like you

    Couldn’t b’lieve we’d bond

    As if by superglue

    I knew I had such tender feelings

    In my heart

    I knew that I could fix it so we’d

    Never part

     

    First you resisted me you said

    You weren’t ready

    To fall in love

    But after our first dance you said

    You thought you’d give

    This crazy swain another chance

     

    Oh my my my

    Call the FBI

    I think I lost my pride

    I think I found my bride

     

    3. Some Romantic Afternoon

     

    Some Romantic Afternoon

    I will hear that haunting tune

    The one that I would softly croon

    By a lagoon

     

    We’d go sailing to Cadiz

    For a while it seemed like bliss

    Now it alls seems just a myth

    Like Brigadoon

     

    Took a boat to southern Spain

    Just to see her face again

    She had gone forever

    Not to return there

    I could not control the tears

    How they burned my eyes

    As I look’d back at those lost years

     

    Some Romantic Afternoon

    I will hear that haunting tune

    The one that I would softly croon

    By a lagoon

     

    4. For More than a Million Dreams

     

    Keep on chipping

    Right away at my heart

    Because you touched it

    Right from the start

    If you were to leave me

    And then

    We were to part

    It would really tear me apart

     

    Don’t stop now,

    Darling you’re getting to me

    Don’t quit now

    That you’re ahead

    Don’t stop now

    You’ve made an impression on me

    Now there’s no getting you out of my head.

     

    Keep on tearing

    All my defences down

    Because I feel that

    They’re all going to fall

    Keep on keeping up with

    All of your charms

    Because I feel

    I’m going to give you my all

     

    Don’t stop now,

    You lit such a fire in me

    Don’t quit now

    Because that would be  cruel

    Don’t stop now

    Darling, don’t tire of me

    I’d feel such a fool and so confused

     

    You’re the one

    I have longed for you

    For more than a million dreams

    You’re the one

    I have been strong for you

    You don’t know how hard it’s been

     

    Don’t stop now,

    Darling you’re getting to me

    Don’t quit now

    That you’re ahead

    Don’t stop now

     

    5. Melancholy Girl

     

    Melancholy Girl,

    With your pre-Raphaelite curls

    You don't seem quite of this world

    Such a strange and a sad-eyed girl

     

    What happened to your smile

    How came you to be so full of guile

    Your eyes seem to stare for miles

    For such a sweet and a tender child

     

    There's someone you've got to meet

    The truth can set you free

    Eternally

    Enigmatic babe

    The way you live is a shame

    Life is more than a game

    Freedom's found in just one name

     

    I'd like to show you another way

    Where the dark can't harm you

    Night or day

     

    Melancholy Girl,

    With your pre-Raphaelite curls

    You don't seem quite of this world

    Such a strange and a sad-eyed girl

     

    6. My Travels

     

    My travels start

    Right here

    Deep in my mind

    My travels take me just where

    I please I don’t have

    To leave my warm room

     

    My travels start

    Sixteen sun

    Beating down

    Sinatra’s crooning Jobim

    And I’m just dreaming of my

    Great romance to come

     

    I don’t need a little ticket

    Tells me I can take the train

    I don’t even to risk it

    There’s no blistering sun

    Or driving rain

    And it’s here that I remain

     

    My travels end

    With a sweet

    And peaceful time

    I’ve found such sense deep within

    No more will I feel

    The need to go travelling again.

     

    7. Some Sun Drunk Day He Said

     

    Emotions war against sense

    And his mind remains

    A pot pourri

    And thoughts in his head

    When he lies in his bed

    Would make Dorian Gray

    Appear pristine

    He wishes to moralize

    On a corrupt example

    Yet from the wicked cup

    He hath supped a sample.

     

    He appears to think in extremes

    He is beau-laid and realist

    Whose inspiration stems from his dreams.

    “Life is a beautiful strain for me”,

    One sun-drunk day he said

    But I pray I say what my soul needs to

    Before the heavens decide me dead.

    But his mind is a disorderly drawer

    Full of confused categorizations

    He has that Scott Fitzgerald illness

    For dates, times, rhymes and quotations.

    “I have a clear flowing mind

    but I cannot foretell

    When the clogging black clouds will arrive

    For they will arrive

    Live with the love, then bear the pain

    Recurrent like the monsoon rain.

     

    He is afraid of happiness

    For the inevitable despair that must follow it

    Afraid of happiness

    For its cruel impermanence

    Like Zola, the seasons in life, for him

    Are inevitable.

    “All artists,” he says, “are at once alike and unique

    One day, it’s clear,

    The next, hazy, like a beery vision

    The fulfilment that they seek.

    Misty dreams of sweet-smelling roses

    And swaying streams

    Bring him chills and pains in his soul and being.

    He lives his life through a melancholy tragedy

    And has an ever-yearning mind.

     

    8. Gallant Festivities

    It was my evening, that’s
    For sure

    “It’s your aura…”

    For sure  -
    At last I’m good
    At something
    “Spot the Equity card…”
    “When are you going
    To be a superstar?”
    Said Sara
    That seemed to be
     

    The question

    On everyone’s  lips.
    At last, at last, at last
    I’m good at something…


    And so the party…Zoe
    called me...I listened…
    …To her problems…
    References
    To my “innocent face”…
    Linda said:
    “Sally seems Elusive
    But is in fact,
    Accessible;
    You’re the opposite -
    You give to everyone
    But are incapable
    Of giving in particular.”


    Madeleine was comparing me
    To June Miller…
    Descriptions by Nin:
    “She does not dare
    To be herself…”
    Everything I’d always
    Wanted to be, I now am…
    “…She lives
    On the reflections
    Of herself in the eyes
    Of others...
    There is no June
    To grasp and know…”


    I kept getting up to dance…
    Sally said: “I’m afraid…
    You’re inscrutable
    You’re not just
    Blasé,
    Are you?”
    I spoke
    Of the spells of calm
    And the hysterical
    Reactions
    Psychic Exhaustion

    Then anxious elation…  

     

    9. The Wanderer of Golders Green

     

    I awake each morning
    With fresh hope
    And tranquility
    I might go for a saunter
    Down quiet London backstreets
    Soon my aimlessness
    Depresses me,
    And I realise
    I'd been deceiving myself
    As to my ability
    To relax as others do.


    I decided on a Special B
    Before the eve.
    I bought a lager
    At the Bar
    And chatted to Gaye.
    Then Ray
    Bought me another.
    I appreciated the fact
    That he remembered
    The time he,
    His gal Chris,
    And Rory Downed
    An entire Bottle
    Of Jack Daniels
    In a Paris-bound train.

     

    A tanned cat
    Bought me a (large) half,
    Then another half.
    My fatal eyes
    Are my downfall.
    I drank yet another half...

    My head was spinning
    When it hit the pillow
    I awoke
    With a terrible headache
    Around one o'clock.
    I prayed it would depart.

    I slowly got dressed.
    I was as chatty as ever
    Before the exam...
    French/English translation.
    Periodically I put my face
    In my hands or groaned

    Or sighed -
    My stomach
    was burning me inside.

     

    I finished my paper
    In 1 hour and a half.
    As I walked out
    I caught various eyes
    Amanda’s, Trudy’s (quizzical) etc…
    I went to bed…
    Slept ‘till five…
    Read O’Neill until 7ish...
    Got dressed
    And strolled down
    To Golders Green,
    In order to relive
    A few memories.
    I sang to myself -
    A few memories
    Flashed into my mind,
    But not as many
    as I'd have liked -
    It wasn't the same.
    It wasn't the same.

     

    Singing songs brought
    Voluptuous tears.
    I snuck into McDonalds
    Where I felt At home,
    Anonymous, alone.
    I bought a few things,
    Toothpaste and pick,
    Chocolate, yoghurts,
    Sweets, cigarettes
    And fruit juice.

     

    Took a sentimental journey
    Back to Powis Gardens,
    Richness
    And intensity,
    Romantic
    And attractive…
    Sad, suspicious and strange.
    I sat up until 3am,
    Reading O’Neill
    Or writing (inept) poetry.
    Awoke at 10,
    But didn’t leave
    My room till 12,
    Lost my way
    To Swiss Cottage,
    Lost my happiness.
    Oh so conscious
    Of my failure
    And after a fashion,
    Enjoying this knowledge.


    Comment (0)

    Sun, Oct 9th - 4:02AM

    Bouzingo and other Versified Remnants



    File:Courbet - Paul Verlaine.jpg

    1. Bouzingo – The Gathering of the Poets

     

    The boy was aged about eighteen,

    Pale and pensive,

    Weary and frail in appearance.

    He could have been

    Goethe’s Werther,

    Senancour's Obermann

    Or Chateaubriand's melancholy hero,

    Embraced by a generation

    And about whom Sainte Beuve said:

    " René, c'est moi.”

    Tortured by a new mal du siècle,

    He sought refuge

    In the Club Bouzingo.

    Two young poets,

    One dark, the other fair,

    Drifted past. The first,

    Whose black hair

    Hung in ringlets over his shoulders,

    Wore a small pointed beard,

    Black velvet tails,

    A white linen shirt

    Loosely fastened at the neck

    By a thin pink taffeta tie;

    The second wore a tight coat

    That opened onto a silk crimson waistcoat

    And a lace jabot, white trousers

    With blue seams,

    And a wide-brimmed black hat, and

    In one of his hands

    He carried a long thin pink-coloured pipe.

    They were soon joined

    By some of their dandified companions.

    The music had stopped playing, and

    The poet-leader in cape and gloves,

    Dark and pomaded

    With a Théophile Gautier moustache,

    Took to the stage,

    Where he proceeded to declaim

    Selections from his subversive verses

    To delirious cheers,

    As if sedition was imminent;

    Only the boy-poet remained silent,

    His pale cheeks

    Soak’d by the freshest tears.

    “Après nous le déluge,”

    He said under his breath,

    “Our leader preaches revolution

    But provides no solution

    As to the fate of coming generations,

    Should the infant be cast out

    With the bath water that is so filthy

    In his sight

    That, intent on doing right,

    Gives no thought to the future,

    Nor to what might supplant

    The society he claims to despise.”

    The boy was aged about eighteen

    Pale and pensive

    Weary and frail in appearance.

    He could have been

    Goethe’s Werther,

    Senancour's Obermann

    Or Chateaubriand's melancholy hero,

    Embraced by a generation,

    And about whom Sainte Beuve said:

    "René, c'est moi.”

    Tortured by a new mal du siècle,

    He sought refuge

    From the Club Bouzingo.

     

    2. Oh My My My (Call the FBI)

     

    Couldn’t b’lieve my peepers

    When I first saw you

    Couldn’t b’lieve the beauty

    Of your baby blues

    I knew I had to ask you if you’d

    Like to dance

    I knew I had to take heart and to

    Take that chance

     

    First you resisted me you said

    You couldn’t leave

    Your friends alone

    But after our first dance you said

    You thought they would be

    Ok to find their own way home

     

    Oh my my my

    Call the FBI

    I think I lost my pride

    I think I found my bride

     

    Couldn’t b’lieve I’d ever

    Find a girl like you

    Couldn’t b’lieve we’d bond

    As if by superglue

    I knew I had such tender feelings

    In my heart

    I knew that I could fix it so we’d

    Never part

     

    First you resisted me you said

    You weren’t ready

    To fall in love

    But after our first dance you said

    You thought you’d give

    This crazy swain another chance

     

    Oh my my my

    Call the FBI

    I think I lost my pride

    I think I found my bride

     

    3. Some Romantic Afternoon

     

    Some Romantic Afternoon

    I will hear that haunting tune

    The one that I would softly croon

    By a lagoon

     

    We’d go sailing to Cadiz

    For a while it seemed like bliss

    Now it alls seems just a myth

    Like Brigadoon

     

    Took a boat to southern Spain

    Just to see her face again

    She had gone forever

    Not to return there

    I could not control the tears

    How they burned my eyes

    As I look’d back at those lost years

     

    Some Romantic Afternoon

    I will hear that haunting tune

    The one that I would softly croon

    By a lagoon

     

    4. For More than a Million Dreams

     

    Keep on chipping

    Right away at my heart

    Because you touched it

    Right from the start

    If you were to leave me

    And then

    We were to part

    It would really tear me apart

     

    Don’t stop now,

    Darling you’re getting to me

    Don’t quit now

    That you’re ahead

    Don’t stop now

    You’ve made an impression on me

    Now there’s no getting you out of my head.

     

    Keep on tearing

    All my defences down

    Because I feel that

    They’re all going to fall

    Keep on keeping up with

    All of your charms

    Because I feel

    I’m going to give you my all

     

    Don’t stop now,

    You lit such a fire in me

    Don’t quit now

    Because that would be  cruel

    Don’t stop now

    Darling, don’t tire of me

    I’d feel such a fool and so confused

     

    You’re the one

    I have longed for you

    For more than a million dreams

    You’re the one

    I have been strong for you

    You don’t know how hard it’s been

     

    Don’t stop now,

    Darling you’re getting to me

    Don’t quit now

    That you’re ahead

    Don’t stop now

     

    5. Melancholy Girl

     

    Melancholy Girl,

    With your pre-Raphaelite curls

    You don't seem quite of this world

    Such a strange and a sad-eyed girl

     

    What happened to your smile

    How came you to be so full of guile

    Your eyes seem to stare for miles

    For such a sweet and a tender child

     

    There's someone you've got to meet

    The truth can set you free

    Eternally

    Enigmatic babe

    The way you live is a shame

    Life is more than a game

    Freedom's found in just one name

     

    I'd like to show you another way

    Where the dark can't harm you

    Night or day

     

    Melancholy Girl,

    With your pre-Raphaelite curls

    You don't seem quite of this world

    Such a strange and a sad-eyed girl

     

    6. My Travels

     

    My travels start

    Right here

    Deep in my mind

    My travels take me just where

    I please I don’t have

    To leave my warm room

     

    My travels start

    Sixteen sun

    Beating down

    Sinatra’s crooning Jobim

    And I’m just dreaming of my

    Great romance to come

     

    I don’t need a little ticket

    Tells me I can take the train

    I don’t even to risk it

    There’s no blistering sun

    Or driving rain

    And it’s here that I remain

     

    My travels end

    With a sweet

    And peaceful time

    I’ve found such sense deep within

    No more will I feel

    The need to go travelling again.

     

    7. Some Sun Drunk Day He Said

     

    Emotions war against sense

    And his mind remains

    A pot pourri

    And thoughts in his head

    When he lies in his bed

    Would make Dorian Gray

    Appear pristine

    He wishes to moralize

    On a corrupt example

    Yet from the wicked cup

    He hath supped a sample.

     

    He appears to think in extremes

    He is beau-laid and realist

    Whose inspiration stems from his dreams.

    “Life is a beautiful strain for me”,

    One sun-drunk day he said

    But I pray I say what my soul needs to

    Before the heavens decide me dead.

    But his mind is a disorderly drawer

    Full of confused categorizations

    He has that Scott Fitzgerald illness

    For dates, times, rhymes and quotations.

    “I have a clear flowing mind

    but I cannot foretell

    When the clogging black clouds will arrive

    For they will arrive

    Live with the love, then bear the pain

    Recurrent like the monsoon rain.

     

    He is afraid of happiness

    For the inevitable despair that must follow it

    Afraid of happiness

    For its cruel impermanence

    Like Zola, the seasons in life, for him

    Are inevitable.

    “All artists,” he says, “are at once alike and unique

    One day, it’s clear,

    The next, hazy, like a beery vision

    The fulfilment that they seek.

    Misty dreams of sweet-smelling roses

    And swaying streams

    Bring him chills and pains in his soul and being.

    He lives his life through a melancholy tragedy

    And has an ever-yearning mind.

     

    8. Gallant Festivities

    It was my evening, that’s
    For sure

    “It’s your aura…”

    For sure  -
    At last I’m good
    At something
    “Spot the Equity card…”
    “When are you going
    To be a superstar?”
    Said Sara
    That seemed to be
     

    The question

    On everyone’s  lips.
    At last, at last, at last
    I’m good at something…


    And so the party…Zoe
    called me...I listened…
    …To her problems…
    References
    To my “innocent face”…
    Linda said:
    “Sally seems Elusive
    But is in fact,
    Accessible;
    You’re the opposite -
    You give to everyone
    But are incapable
    Of giving in particular.”


    Madeleine was comparing me
    To June Miller…
    Descriptions by Nin:
    “She does not dare
    To be herself…”
    Everything I’d always
    Wanted to be, I now am…
    “…She lives
    On the reflections
    Of herself in the eyes
    Of others...
    There is no June
    To grasp and know…”


    I kept getting up to dance…
    Sally said: “I’m afraid…
    You’re inscrutable
    You’re not just
    Blasé,
    Are you?”
    I spoke
    Of the spells of calm
    And the hysterical
    Reactions
    Psychic Exhaustion

    Then anxious elation…  

     

    9. The Wanderer of Golders Green

     

    I awake each morning
    With fresh hope
    And tranquility
    I might go for a saunter
    Down quiet London backstreets
    Soon my aimlessness
    Depresses me,
    And I realise
    I'd been deceiving myself
    As to my ability
    To relax as others do.


    I decided on a Special B
    Before the eve.
    I bought a lager
    At the Bar
    And chatted to Gaye.
    Then Ray
    Bought me another.
    I appreciated the fact
    That he remembered
    The time he,
    His gal Chris,
    And Rory Downed
    An entire Bottle
    Of Jack Daniels
    In a Paris-bound train.

     

    A tanned cat
    Bought me a (large) half,
    Then another half.
    My fatal eyes
    Are my downfall.
    I drank yet another half...

    My head was spinning
    When it hit the pillow
    I awoke
    With a terrible headache
    Around one o'clock.
    I prayed it would depart.

    I slowly got dressed.
    I was as chatty as ever
    Before the exam...
    French/English translation.
    Periodically I put my face
    In my hands or groaned

    Or sighed -
    My stomach
    was burning me inside.

     

    I finished my paper
    In 1 hour and a half.
    As I walked out
    I caught various eyes
    Amanda’s, Trudy’s (quizzical) etc…
    I went to bed…
    Slept ‘till five…
    Read O’Neill until 7ish...
    Got dressed
    And strolled down
    To Golders Green,
    In order to relive
    A few memories.
    I sang to myself -
    A few memories
    Flashed into my mind,
    But not as many
    as I'd have liked -
    It wasn't the same.
    It wasn't the same.

     

    Singing songs brought
    Voluptuous tears.
    I snuck into McDonalds
    Where I felt At home,
    Anonymous, alone.
    I bought a few things,
    Toothpaste and pick,
    Chocolate, yoghurts,
    Sweets, cigarettes
    And fruit juice.

     

    Took a sentimental journey
    Back to Powis Gardens,
    Richness
    And intensity,
    Romantic
    And attractive…
    Sad, suspicious and strange.
    I sat up until 3am,
    Reading O’Neill
    Or writing (inept) poetry.
    Awoke at 10,
    But didn’t leave
    My room till 12,
    Lost my way
    To Swiss Cottage,
    Lost my happiness.
    Oh so conscious
    Of my failure
    And after a fashion,
    Enjoying this knowledge.


    Comment (0)

    Sun, Oct 9th - 3:25AM

    An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 2. (cont.)



    The Compensatory Man Par Excellence

     

    I seldom indulge in letter writing

    Because I consider it

    To be a cold and illusory

    Means of communication.

    I will only send someone a letter

    If I’m certain it’s going to serve

    A definite functional purpose,

    Such as that which I’m

    Scrupulously concocting at present

    Indisputably does.

    It’s not that I incline

    Towards excessive premeditation;

    It’s rather that I have to subject

    My thoughts and emotions

    To quasi-military discipline,

    As pandemonium is the sole alternative.

    I’m the compensatory man par excellence

     

    Deliberation, in my case,

    Is a means to an end,

    But scarcely by any means,

    An end in itself.

    This letter possesses not one,

    But two, designs.

    On one hand, its aim is edification.

    Besides that, I plan to include it

    In the literary project upon which

    I’m presently engaged,

    With your permission of course.

    Contrary to what you have suspected

    In the past,

    I never intend to trivialise intimacy

    By distilling it into art.

    On the contrary, I seek

    To apotheosise the same.

     

    You see…I lack the necessary

    Emotional vitality to do justice

    To people and events

    That are precious to me;

    I am forced, therefore,

    To at a later date call

    On emotive reserves

    Contained within my unconscious

    In order to transform

    The aforesaid into literary monuments.

    You once said that my feelings

    Had been interred under six feet

    Of lifeless abstractions;

    As true as this might be,

    The abstractions in question

    Come from without

    Rather than within me:

     

    My youthful spontaneity

    Many mistrustfully identified

    With self-satisfied inconsiderateness

    (A standard case of fallacious reasoning),

    And I was consequently

    The frequent victim

    Of somewhat draconic cerebrations.

    I tremble now

    In the face of hyperconsciousness.

    I’ve manufactured a mentality,

    Riddled with deliberation,

    Cankerous with irony;

    Still, in its fragility,

    Not to say, artificiality,

    It can, with supreme facility,

    Be wrenched aside to expose

    The touch-paper tenderness within.

     

    With characteristic extremism,

    I’ve taken ratiocination

    To its very limits,

    But I’ve acquainted myself with,

    Nay, embraced my antagonist

    Only in order to more effectively throttle him.

    Being a survivor of the protracted passage

    Through the morass of nihilism,

    Found deep within

    “The hell of the inner being”,

    I am more than qualified to say this:

    “There is no way out or round or through”

    The prison of ceaseless sophistry.

    There many things I have left to say,

    But I shall only have begun to exist in earnest

    When these are far behind me,

    In fact, so far as to be all but imperceptible.

     

    I long for the time

    When I shall have compensated to my satisfaction.

    I never desired intellectuality; it was thrust upon me.

    Everything I ever dreaded being, I’ve become…

    Everything I ever desired to be, I’ve become.

    I’m the sum total of a lifetime’s

    Fears and fantasies,

    Both wish-fulfilment

    And dread-consummation incarnate.

    I long for the time

    When I shall have compensated to my satisfaction.

    I never desired intellectuality; it was thrust upon me. 

    I’m the sum total of a lifetime’s

    Fears and fantasies,

    Both wish-fulfilment

    And dread-consummation incarnate.

    I’m the compensatory man par excellence.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    ‘Strange Coldness Perplexing was forged

    Using notes scrawled

    Onto seven sides of an ancient

    Now coverless notebook,

    Possibly late at night

    Following an evening’s carousal

    And in a state of serene intoxication.

     

    The original notes were based

    On experiences I underwent

    While serving as a teacher

    In a highly successful

    Central London school of English,

    Which I did between the spring,

    Or summer, of ‘88 and the summer of 1990.


    It gives some indication

    Of my emotional condition at the time,

    Including a tendency, as I see it,

    To wildly veer between

    The conscious effusive affectionateness

    I aspired to, and sudden irrational

    Involuntary lapses of affect.

     

    It also bespeaks the intense devotion

    I manifested towards my favourite students

    And which was reciprocated by them with interest.
    All punctuation was removed around 2007,

    And extracts tacked together,

    Not randomly as in the so-called cut up technique

    But selectively and all but sequentially.

     

    Strange Coldness Perplexing

     

    the catholic nurse
    all sensitive
    caring noticing
    everything
    what can she think
    of my hot/cold torment

    always near blowing it
    living in the fast lane
    so friendly kind
    the girls
    dewy eyed
    wanda abandoned me
    bolton is in my hands

    and yet my coldness
    hurts
    the more emotional
    they stay
    trying to find a reason
    for my ice-like suspicion
    fish eyes
    coldly indifferent eyes
    suspect everything that moves

    socialising just to be loud
    compensate for cold
    lack of essential trust
    warmth
    i love them
    despite myself
    my desire to love
    is unconscious and gigantesque

    i never know
    when i'm going to miss someone
    strange coldness perplexing
    i've got to work to get devotion
    but once i get it
    i really get people on my side
    there are carl people
    who can survive
    my shark-like coldness
    and there are those
    who want something
    more personal
    i can be very devoted to those
    who can stay the course

    my soul is aching
    for an impartial love of people
    i'm at war with myself…

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1990s

     

    In the early part of autumn 1990,

    I began a course known as the PGCE

    Or Post Graduate Certificate in Education

    At a school of higher education

    In the pleasant outer suburb of Twickenham,

    Becoming resident in nearby Isleworth.

    I began quite promisingly as I saw it

    Even though my heart

    Was not really in the course

    But I genuinely saw the benefits

    Of successfully completing it,

    And as might be expected,

    Excelled in drama and physical education.
    I rarely drank during the day,

    But at night I was sometimes so drunk

    I was incoherent.

    The following versified piece

    Serves a testimony to this sad truth.
    Its original was a letter

    Typed to a close friend in about 1990,

    Some three years or so

    Prior to my coming to saving faith

    In the Lord Jesus Christ.

    And concerning a series of accidents

    I'd recently suffered.

    However, it was never finished, nor sent.

    When it was recovered,

    It was as a piece of scrap paper,

    A remnant from a long lost past.

    It was subsequently edited and reassembled,

    Before being subject

    To some kind of versification in 2006.

    And then some half decade later,

    Further work was performed on it,

    But it was still pretty threadbare for all that.

     

    Incident in St. Christopher’s Place

     

    Dear, I haven't been in touch
    for a long time.

    Sorry.

    The last time I saw you
    Was in St. Christopher's Place.
    It was a lovely evening...
    when I knocked that chair over.
    I am sorry.

    Since then,
    I've had not a few accidents
    Of that kind.

     

    Just three days ago,
    I slipped out in a garden
    At a friend's house...
    And keeled over, not once,
    Not twice, but three times,
    Like a log...clonking my nut
    So violently that people heard me
    In the sitting room.

    What's more,
    I can't remember a single sentence
    spoken all evening. The problem is...

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1990s

     

    Some months after appearing

    In the "Scottish Play" at the Lost Theatre

    In the onetime working class

    West London suburb of Fulham,

    I wrote the piece featured below,

    "Such a Short Space of Time".

     

    But in the first instance

    It was part of an unfinished short story,

    Not a poem at all.

    My parents were on vacation

    During the period which inspired it,

    Which is to say early in the summer of 1999.

     

    Hence, I spent a lot of time at their house

    Performing various tasks,

    Such as watering my mother's flowers.

    As well as this, I took sneaky advantage

    Of their absence to transfer

    Some of my old LPs onto cassette.

     

    It was something my own music system

    Was incapable of doing, unlike theirs.

    And it was a profoundly unsettling experience.

    To listen to songs that, perhaps in the cases

    Of some of them, I’d not heard

    For twenty years, or even twenty five, or more.

     

    With a heartrending intensity,

    Doing so had the effect

    Of evoking a time

    When I was filled to the brim

    With sheer youthful joy of life

    And undiluted hope for the future.

     

    Yet as I did so, it seemed to me

    That it was only very recently

    That I'd heard them for the first time,

    Despite the colossal changes

    Brought about not just in my own life,

    But the lives of all those of my generation.

     

    Hence, I was confronted at once

    With the devastating transience

    Of human life,

    And the cataclysmic effect

    The passage of time exerts on all human life,

    And it was a profoundly unsettling experience.

     

    Such a Short Space of Time

     

    I love not just those
    I knew back then
    But those who were young
    Back then,
    But who’ve since
    Come to grief, who,
    Having soared so high,
    Found the consequent descent
    Too dreadful to bear.


    With my past itself,

    Which was only yesterday,
    No, even less time,

    A moment ago,

    And when I play

    Records from 1975, Soul records,

    Glam records, Progressive records,
    Twenty years melt away

    Into nothingness.


    What is a twenty-year period?
    Little more than
    A blink of an eye.
    How could
    Such a short space of time
    Cause such devastation?

    I love not just those

    I knew back then

    But those who were young back then.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 2000s

     

    To be continued with further layers and additions. Minor edit: 7/3/13.



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 11:28AM

    An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 2 (cont.)



    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    'Verses for Tragic Lovers

    Adolphe and Ellénore'

    Is based on an essay I wrote

    Around 1983

    For a former mentor at university,

    Who sadly died in 2008,

    And who features

    As Dr Elizabeth Lang

    In various autobiographical

    Writings of mine.

     

    It concerns the protagonist

    Of French writer Benjamin Constant’s

    1816 novel “Adolphe”,

    (Which its author emphatically insisted

    Was not autobiographical;

    Nor a roman a clef),

    Who is a prototypal victim

    Of what has been termed

    Le Mal du Siècle,

    Or the sickness of the century...

     

    Which, born in the wake of the Revolution,

    And arising from a variety of causes,

    Political, social, and spiritual,

    Depending on the sufferer in question,

    Produced such qualities as

    Melancholy and acedia,

    And a perpetual sense of exile, of alienation,

    That found special favour within

    The great Romantic movement in the arts.

     

    Although as a phenomenon,

    World pain was hardly a novel one,

    For after all, does the Word of God not say

    That there is nothing new

    Under the sun?

    But it was possibly unprecedented

    In terms of pervasiveness and intensity

    At the height of Romanticism

    And I’d have no hesitation

    In labelling it tragic as a result.

     

    In terms of my own pre-Christian self,

    It was almost overwhelmingly powerful,

    And so believer that I am, I feel compelled

    To expose it as potentially ruinous,

    For after all, is it not still with us

    In one way or another,

    Having been passed on by the Romantics

    To kindred movements coming in their wake,

    From the Spirit of Decadence

    To the Rock Revolution?

     

    And could it not also be said

    That the peculiar notion

    Fostered by Romanticism

    Of the artist as a spirit

    Set apart for some special purpose,

    Of which pain is so often an essential part

    Is also still among us?

    Of course it could,

    And I'd have no hesitation

    In labelling it tragic as a result.

     

    This Mal du Siecle of which I speak

    Is surely especially melancholy

    In the case of tragic lovers,

    Adolphe and Ellénore,

    For it results in Adolphe effectively

    Drifting into a romance

    With another man’s mistress,

    A young mother, Ellénore,

    Who sacrifices everything for him

    Only to discover he no longer loves her.

     

    For “Adolphe” is in some respects

    A work within the tradition

    Of the libertine novel

    Of the Age of Enlightenment,

    And yet at the same time,

    By no means an endorsement of libertinage.

    Is rather perhaps, in many respects,

    A powerful indictment of this tendency,

    And thence as much a reproach

    To the tradition; as a late addition to it.

     

    And the forlorn figure of Adolphe

    Was ultimately to prove influential,

    Notably in Mother Russia,

    Where he allegedly served in part

    As model to Pushkin’s fatal dandy,

    The Byronic Eugene Onegin,

    And if Tolstoy’s Count Vrosnky

    Was also partially based on Adolphe,

    Then there is of course a marked kinship

    Between Ellénore and Anna Karenina.

     

    In the end, though, one can only weep,

    At the tragedy these eminently romantic

    And sympathetic figures

    Made of their lives. And I speak as one

    Who was once in thrall to the tragic worldview,

    But who came to view life

    As something infinitely valuable,

    To be lived fully under the guidance of God,

    And not sacrificed like some beautiful bauble

    For the bitter-sweet pleasures of the world.

     

    Verses for Tragic Lovers Adolphe and Ellénore

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love.

     

    We know little of the physical appearance 

    Of Adolphe, but in all probability

    He possesses the youthfully seductive charm

    Of Romantic heroes,

    Werther, René and Julien Sorel.

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love.

     

    Adolphe is preoccupied with himself

    In the classic manner

    Of the contemplative, melancholy,

    Faintly yearning, hypersensitive,

    Isolated, perceptive Romantic hero.

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love.

     

    Perhaps he is somebody who believes

    That self-interest is the foundation

    Of all morality, but then, he announces:

    “While I was only interested in myself,

    I was but feebly interested for all that.”

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love.

     

    There is much genuine goodness

    In Adolphe,

    But much of it is subconscious,

    Surfacing only

    At the sight of obvious grief.

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love.

     

    The cause of this inability to feel

    Spontaneously, is very probably the result

    Of the complex interaction

    Between a hypersensitive nature

    And a brilliant if indecisive mind.

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love. 

     

    By reflecting on his surroundings

    To an exaggerated degree,

    Adolphe feels a sort of numbness,

    A premature world-weariness…

    Lucid thoughts and intense emotions confused. 

     

    Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances

    But after a great deal of persuasion,

    Agrees to see him on a regular basis,

    And soon falls in love.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    “The Bitter-Sweet Fruits of Andre Gide” was based on an essay, probably written in my final year at Westfield College, University of London, where I studied the works of Andre Gide with the aforementioned Dr Mein.  It was photocopied so badly I was barely able to decipher what I’d originally typed, its original having vanished; yet, as is my wont, I’ve made minor grammatical adjustments and heavily edited it, a necessary process given the darkness of the work involved, the ecstatic prose poem, “Les Nourritures Terrestres”, or “The Fruits of the Earth”.

     While dating from 1896, at the height of the Franco-British literary decadence, it was evidently rediscovered in the 1920s, an era very similar to the Yellow Nineties in so many respects, and to some extent also, the Swinging Sixties.

     It’s clear from the tone of the essay, although not so much from the sanitised version it has to be said, that I at least partly approved of the work’s subversion of traditional Judaeo-Christian morality, while the same could by no means be said of Gide, the product of a deeply pious Huguenot Protestant upbringing.

     And the “Fruits” stood in marked contrast to his first published work, “The Notebooks of André Walter”, for both the latter and the later “Straight is the Gate” are anatomisations of Christian self-abnegation, specifically with respect to his troubled love for his devout Christian cousin Madeleine, who went on to become his wife, and perhaps the one and only true love of his life.

     The character of Ménalque, who acts as a mentor to the protagonist Nathanael in “The Fruits” was allegedly based on Oscar Wilde, whom Gide first met, in the company of his companion the poet Lord Alfred Douglas, in Paris in 1891. And while he is relatively sympathetic in the earlier work, when he reappears in “The Immoralist” in 1902, he is infinitely less so. This is significant given that the latter was written by Gide as a warning against the excesses extolled in “The Fruits”.

     “The World of Subjectivity” consists of a series of unconnected fragment salvaged from a teeming nightmare of “diary entries” I made in a school notebook throughout 1986. While more or less verbatim, some very minor corrections may have been made.

     

    The Bitter-Sweet Fruits of Andre Gide 

     

    The keynote to Andre Gide’s “The Fruits of the Earth” is the unfettered cultivation of the ego, related to the Nietzschian doctrine of the Will to Power, in contradistinction to the self-abnegation of his Protestant upbringing.

     This gospel of pagan energy has always contained within it a distinctly sadistic element, conscious in Ménalque, unconscious in the Gidean protagonist who carried it to its disastrous extreme, Michel in “The Immoralist”, specifically written in order to warn against the dangers of excessive “disponibilité”.

     However, there is no direct evidence of such criticism in “The Fruits”, which makes it all the more intriguing to the reader, who can interpret the work according to his own nature.

     With the inspired ecstasy of a fasting prophet, he embarked upon a work of such sensuous intensity that the very pages suggest the North African villages, parched by the blinding sun. Evil lurks in every corner of every page, where no noble, lasting values are left intact and one after the other, selfishness, infidelity, duplicity and fornication are extolled. By the end of the volume, the narrator’s senses have been worn to the bone. For his final message, he stresses the importance of other people. The reason for this is ambiguous, and it is up to the reader to interpret this altruism as he chooses.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    Thanks to the large quantity

    Of notes I committed

    To paper while at Leftfield,

    My beloved college can live again

    Through writings

    Painstakingly forged out of them,

    Such as the poetic piece below,

    Based on several conversations

    I had with my good friend Jez,

    A tough but tender Scouser

    With slicked back rockabilly hair,

    Who’d played guitar in a band

    At Liverpool’s legendary Eric’s

    Back in the early eighties,

    When Liverpool post-Punk

    Was enjoying a golden age.

    These took place at Scorpio’s,

    A Greek restaurant situated in

    North West London

    Following a performance at college

    Of Lorca’s “Blood Wedding”

    In which I’d played the bridegroom.

     

    One of the Greats Who Never Was

     

    ‘I think you should be

    One of the greats,

    But you've given up

    And that's sad.

     

    You drink too much,

    You think, ____ it

    And you go out and get _____,

    When I'm 27 I'd be happy

    To be like you.

     

    In your writing,

    Make sure you've got

    Something really

    Unbeatable...

    Then say...'Here, you _______!'

     

    You've got the spark of genius

    At sixteen, you knew

    You were a genius,

    At nineteen, you thought

    What’s a genius anyway?’

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

    ‘A Cambridge Lamentation’

    Centres on my brief stay at Homerton,

    A teaching training college

    Contained within the University of Cambridge,

    With its campus at Hills Road

    Just outside the city centre.

    A fusion of previously published pieces,

    It was primarily adapted

    From an unfinished and unsent letter

    Penned just before Christmas 1986,

    And conveys some of the fatal restlessness

    Which ultimately resulted

    In my quitting Homerton early in 1987.

    In its initial form, it had been forged

    By extracting selected sentences

    From the original script,

    And then melding them together

    In a newly edited and versified state,

    Before publishing them at the Blogster weblog

    On the 10th of June 2006.

     

    A Cambridge Lamentation 

     

    This place is always a little lonely
    At the weekends…No noise and life,

    I like solitude,
    But not in places
    Where's there's recently been
    A lot of people.

     
    Reclusiveness protects you
    From nostalgia,
    And you can be as nostalgic
    In relation to what happened

    Half an hour ago

    As half a century ago, in fact more so.

     

    I went to the Xmas party.

    I danced,

    And generally lived it up.
    I went to bed sad though.
    Discos exacerbate
    my sense of solitude.

     
    My capacity for social warmth,
    Excessive social dependance
    And romantic zeal
    Can be practically deranging;
    It's no wonder I feel the need
    To escape…

     

    Escape from my own

    Drastic social emotivity…

    A devastating capacity

    For loneliness.
    I feel trapped here,
    There's no

    Outlet for my talents.

     

    In such a state as this…
    I could fall in love with anyone.
    The night before last
    I went to the ball
    Couples filing out
    I wanted to be half of ev'ry one…

    But I didn't want to lose her. 
    I’ll get over how I feel now,
    And very soon.
    Gradually I’ll freeze again,
    Even assuming an extra layer
    of snow. 

    I have to get out of here.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    Both ‘The Destructive Disease of the Soul’

    And ‘The Compensatory Man Par Excellence’

    Possess as their starting points

    A novel written at an estimate around 1987,

    With one Francis Phoenix as chief protagonist.

     

    Its fate remains a mystery,

    But it may well be it was completed,

    Only to be purged soon after

    I became a born again Christian in 1993,

    With only a handful of scraps remaining.

     

    The versified pieces below

    Were forged out of these scraps

    In September 2011, although initially,

    They’d taken shape as prose pieces,

    Only to be edited and versified at a later date.

     

    The Destructive Disease of the Soul

     

    No amount of thought

    Could negate

    Suffering in the mind

    Of Francis Phoenix.

     

    That much he had always believed,

    That humanity is a sad, lost

    And suffering race. 

    Sometimes he felt it so strongly

    That the worship of a Saviour seemed

    To be the only sane act on earth,

    And then it passed…

     

    It was not increasing callousness,

    But an increase in the number of moments

    He felt quite intoxicated with compassion

    That had soured Frank’s outlook.

     

    During those moments, he wept

    For all those he’d ever been cruel to.

    He could be so hard on people,

    So terribly hard.

    To whom could he ask forgiveness?

     

    It was his sensitivity

    That bred those moments of Christlike love,

    When he cared so little for himself,

    For his body, even for his soul…

    When it was the soul of his father,

    The soul of his mother,

    The souls of his friends and relatives

    And everyone he’d ever known

    That he cared about.

     

    That was truth, that was reality,

    That was the purpose of all human life,

    That love, that benevolence,

    That absolute forgiveness. 

    Otherworldly love is painful,

    But it is the only true freedom known to Man.

    Too much thought eventually produces the conviction

    That nothing is worth doing.

    Thought is a destructive disease of the soul.

    Minor edits: 7/3/13



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 11:05AM

    An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 2.



    photo

    ‘Snapshots from a Child’s West London’

    Serves, as did its predecessor,

    ‘Born on the Goldhawk Road’

    As a fitting preface

    To a second long autobiographical piece

     

    Consisting almost entirely

    Of versified prose, and linear in nature,

    Which is to say,

    Beginning with my birth

    And leading all the way to the present day.

     

    In its primordial form,

    It knew life as spidery writings

    Filling four and a half pages

    Of a school notebook

    In what is likely to have been 1977.

     

    And these were edited in 2006,

    Before being tendered a new title,

    Subjected to alterations in punctuation,

    And then finally published at Blogster

    On the 10th of March of that year.

     

    Some grammatical corrections took place,

    Which were suitably mild

    So as not to excessively alter the original work,

    From which certain sentences were composed

    By fusing two or more sections together.

     

    Ultimately, parts of it were incorporated

    Into the memoir, ‘Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child’,

    And thence into the first chapter

    Of the definitive autobiographical piece,

    ‘Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser’s Life’.

     

    But recently, it was newly versified,

    With a fresh set of minor corrections,

    Although as ever with these memoir-based writings

    The majority of names have been changed,

    And they are faithful to the truth to the best of my ability.

     

    Snapshots from a Child’s West London

     

    I remember the 20th Chiswick Wolf Cub pack,

    How I loved those Wednesday evenings,

    The games, the pomp and seriousness of the camps,

    The different coloured scarves, sweaters and hair

    During the mass meetings,

    The solemnity of my enrolment,

    Being helped up a tree by an older boy,

    Baloo, or Kim, or someone,

    To win my Athletics badge,

    Winning my first star, my two year badge,

    And my swimming badge

    With its frog symbol, the kindness of the older boys.

     

    I remember a child’s West London…

     

    One Saturday afternoon, after a football match

    During which I dirtied my boots

    By standing around as a sub in the mud,

    And my elbow by tripping over a loose shoelace,

    An older boy offered to take me home.

    We walked along streets,

    Through subways crammed with rowdies,

    White or West Indian, in black gym shoes.

    ‘Shuddup!’ my friend would cheerfully yell,

    And they did.

    ‘We go' a ge' yer 'oame, ain' we mite, ay?’

    ‘Yes. Where exactly are you taking me?’ I asked.

     

    ‘The bus stop at Chiswick 'Oigh Stree'

    Is the best plice, oi reck'n.’

    ‘Yes, but not on Chiswick High Street,’

    I said, starting to sniff.

    ‘You be oroight theah, me lil' mite.’

    I was not convinced.

    The uncertainty of my ever getting home

    Caused me to start to bawl,

    And I was still hollering

    As we mounted the bus.

    I remember the sudden turning of heads.

    It must have been quite astonishing

     

    For a peaceful busload of passengers

    To have their everyday lives

    Suddenly intruded upon

    By a group of distressed looking Wolf Cubs,

    One of whom, the smallest,

    Was howling red-faced with anguish

    For some undetermined reason.

    After some moments, my friend,

    His brow furrowed with regret,

    As if he had done me some wrong, said:

    ‘I'm gonna drop you off

    Where your dad put you on.’

     

    Within seconds, the clouds dispersed,

    And my damp cheeks beamed.

    Then, I spied a street I recognised

    From the bus window, and got up,

    Grinning with all my might:

    ‘This'll do,’ I said.

    ‘Wai', Carl,’ cried my friend,

    Are you shoa vis is 'oroigh'?’

    ‘Yup!’ I said. I was still grinning 

    As I spied my friend's anxious face

    In the glinting window of the bus

    As it moved down the street.

     

    I remember a child’s West London…

     

    One Wednesday evening,

    When the Pops was being broadcast

    Instead of on Thursday,

    I was rather reluctant to go to Cubs,

    And was more than usually uncooperative

    With my father as he tried

    To help me find my cap,

    Which had disappeared.

    Frustrated, he put on his coat

    And quietly opened the door.

    I stepped outside into the icy atmosphere

    Wearing only a pair of underpants,

     

    And to my horror, he got into his black Citroën

    And drove off. I darted down Esmond Road

    Crying and shouting.

    My tearful howling was heard by Margaret,

    19 year old daughter of Mrs Helena Jacobs,

    Whom my mother used to help

    With the care and entertainment

    Of Thalidomide children.

    Helena Jacobs expended so much energy

    On feeling for others

    That when my mother tried to get in touch

    In the mid 70s, she seemed exhausted,

     

    And quite understandably,

    For Mrs O'Keefe, her cleaning lady

    And friend for the main part

    Of her married life

    Had recently been killed in a road accident.

    I remember that kind

    And beautiful Irish lady,

    Her charm, happiness and sweetness,

    She was the salt of the earth.

    She threatened to ca-rrown me

    When I went away to school...

    If I wrote her not.

     

    Margaret picked me up

    And carried me back to my house.

    I immediately put on my uniform

    As soon as she had gone home,

    Left a note for my Pa,

    And went myself to Cubs.

    When Pa arrived to pick me up,

    The whole ridiculous story

    Was told to Akela,

    Baloo and Kim,

    Much, much, much to my shame.

     

    I remember a child’s West London…

     

    The year was 1963, the year of the Beatles,

    Of singing yeah, yeah in the car,

    Of twisting in the playground,

    Of ‘I'm a Beatlemaniac, are you?’

    That year, I was very prejudiced

    Against an American boy, Robert,

    Who later became my friend.

    I used to attack him for no reason,

    Like a dog, just to assert my superiority.

    One day, he gave me a rabbit punch in the stomach

    And I made such a fuss that my little girlfriend, Niña,

    Wanted to escort me to the safety of our teacher,

     

    Hugging me, and kissing me intermittently

    On my forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks.

    She forced me to see her:

    ‘Carl didn't do a thing,’ said Niña,

    And Robert came up an gave him

    Four rabbit punches in the stomach’.

    Robert was not penalized,

    For Mademoiselle knew

    What a little demon I was,

    No matter how hurt

    And innocent I looked,

    Tearful, with my tail between my legs.

     

    I remember a child’s West London…

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1970s

     

    ‘The Athlete, the Poet and the Reprobate’

    Was based largely on writings

    Created possibly as early as 1976.

    And as such, it’s been reproduced

    More or less word for word

    Despite having been recently edited

    And subject to basic versification.

    And in its original form,

    It constituted some kind of

    Unfinished fantastical novel

    Centered on the titular

    Athlete, Poet and Reprobate,

    An absurdly self-exalting

    Version of the original.

    For within less than two decades

    Of penning these self-same words,

    I’d come to saving faith in Christ Jesus.

     

    As to novels reflecting the luxurious lifestyle

    Of a bygone age,

    None had been even remotely completed

    By the time of writing,

    And unless I’m grossly mistaken,

    I was several years shy of becoming an actor.

    That said, the timidity described

    Is at least partially accurate,

    And I did feel the need to provide

    An outward show of my significance

    Through a peacock display of dandyism,

    Which included

    Some wildly idiosyncratic behaviour,

    As well as the subtle deployment of cosmetics.

     

    The Athlete, the Poet and the Reprobate

     

    I can’t decide, she said,

    Whether you’re an aesthete

    Or an athlete

    A poet or a reprobate.”

     

    ‘Even when I’m a lout,

    I’m an aesthete, he answered,

    I lure, rather than seek.’

     

    ‘So why do you

    Need to dress up?’

     

    ‘Like Ronald Firbank,

    I suffer from a need

    To give an outward show

    Of my significance.

     

    His lifestyle is an uncanny

    Parallel

    To my own young manhood

     

    I alienated people

    Through a crippling shyness

    Which I disguised

    With my violently idiosyncratic

     

    Behaviour, wore cosmetics

    And wrote novels

    That reflected the luxurious

    Lifestyle of a bygone age.

     

    The sensation

    Of never quite belonging

    Lingered about me always

    That’s why

    I became an actor.

     

    Through heavy experiences

    I have built up

    A stoned wall

    Resistance

    Against arrogance and aloofness

     

    I am a sophisticated cynic

    With a kind heart

    And a tendency towards regret.’

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    The origins of ‘An Actor Arrives’

    Lie in the barest elements

    Of a story started but never finished

    In early 1980,

    While I was working at the Bristol Old Vic

    Playing the minute part

    Of Mustardseed the Fairy

    In a much praised production

    Of Shakespeare’s celebrated

    ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

     

    It was originally rescued in 2006,

    From a battered notebook in which I habitually scribbled

    During spare moments offstage

    While clad in my costume

    And covered in blue body make-up

    And silvery glitter. And while doing so,

    Some of the glitter was transferred from the pages

    With which the were stained

    More than a quarter of a century previously

    Onto my hands…an eerie experience indeed.

     

    An Actor Arrives (at the Bristol Old Vic)

     

    I remember the grey slithers of rain,

    The jocular driver
    As I boarded the bus
    At Temple Meads,
    And the friendly lady who told me
    When we had arrived at the city centre.
    I remember the little pub on King Street,
    With its quiet maritime atmosphere.

     

    I remember tramping

    Along Park Street,
    Whiteladies Road and Blackboy Hill,
    My arms and hands aching from my bags,
    To the little cottage where I had decided to stay
    And relax between rehearsals,
    Reading, writing, listening to music.
    I remember my landlady, tall, timid and beautiful.

     



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 10:48AM

    Verses That Fell Far Short of the First Team



    photo

    The Playwright Eugene O’Neill

     

    The playwright was most effective

    As the dramatic illuminator

    Of his own tristful destiny

    As well as those of his kinfolk.

    And of the two plays that treat

    Of the tragic Tyrones

    One features James,

    His wistful pheere Mary,

    And his two troubled offspring

     

    A quartette of characters

    Based respectively

    Upon O’Neill’s father James,

    His mother Ella,

    O’Neill himself,

    And his elder brother, Jamie

    Who had he not sought

    Such fatal Lethe

    Might have evolved into

    A great actor like his father,

    Or a writer like his brother,

    Such was the luminous

    Brilliance of his early promise.

    How richly blessed he'd been

    At birth with charm and intellect.
    While part of the

    Minim Department

    Of Notre Dame University,

    He was a favoured prince

    Destined for a future

    As a Catholic gentleman

    Of exquisite breeding

    And learning; and then

    A prize-winning scholar

    At Fordham, from which

    He came to be expelled

    For a foolish indiscretion.

     

    While the other is an account

    Of poor Jim Tyrone's

    Last attempt at securing

    Some kind of earthly felicity,

    Through his love for a

    Hoyden with a heart as vast

    As his implausible life,

    "A Moon for the Misbegotten".

     

    So Lovelorn in London Town

     

    From morn to friendless night

    He tramps the streets

    Just in case he might

    Come across her he's a tragic sight

    But he don't care

    Love gives him might

    He haunts the cafes and the discos

    And the bars so lovelorn

     

    He knows that he won't find her

    But he's got to keep on trying

    It gives some meaning to his life

    It gives some substance to his time

    It is his motive and his project

    An his plan so lovelorn

     

    He only met her once

    But it changed his life

    And it changed his type

    And it changed his mind

     

    They say he once was

    A successful man

    But he threw it all up

    As if he'd gone insane

    And he took to the streets

    And another man was born

     

    They say love comes but once

    For some but when it does

    It's like a mighty

    Atom bomb inside

    A disease that seizes

    A gentle soul

    And when it comes for him

    He'd better try to hide

     

    From morn to friendless night

    He tramps the streets

    Just in case he might

    Come across her he's a tragic sight

    But he don't care

    Love gives him might

    He haunts the cafes and the discos

    And the bars so lovelorn

     

    O Lover Mine, Where are You Going?

     

    O lover mine, where are you going?

    O lover mine, where are you going?

    Look, see the signs of summer coming,

    You can’t leave me at this time.

     

    O lover mine, did I not please you?

    O lover mine, did I not please you?

    I tried so hard, tried hard to reach you,

    Hoped that we were doing fine.

     

    O Lover mine, I’ll always love you,

    O lover mine, I’ll always love you,

    No matter where, how far you’re roaming,

    I’ll be here when you return.



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 10:37AM

    A Hundred and Thirteen Carl Halling Lookalikies



    Introduction

     

    The following list was compiled piecemeal between early 2006 and late 2011, but consists of comparisons dating back decades. Some of these same comparisons are dubious for one reason or another, such as being made between some purported Carl Halling lookalikie and a mere photo for instance; or fleetingly or half-heartedly. And in certain cases, I find the supposed similarity little short of laughable. Nonetheless, all 114 have been made at various stages of my existence by parties other than myself, the only obvious exception being Halling himself, included for humorous purposes. Which begs the question, how original are my features anyway? Not very being the obvious reply; although one of the advantages of increasing age has been looking like few people other than myself for better or worse. But if any kind soul feels moved to add to this list, then perhaps they might message me. All the information supplied is accurate to the best of my knowledge.

     

    A Hundred and Thirteen Carl Halling Lookalikies

     

    Kingsley Amis. English writer. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 16 April 1922. Died 1995.

    Martin Amis. English writer. Born Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom, 25 August 1949.

    Göran Bror “Benny” Andersson. Swedish musician. Born Stockholm, Sweden, 16 December 1946.

    Prince Andrew, Duke of York. English Prince of the Royal House of Windsor. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 19 February, 1960. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, German, Danish.

    Anthony Andrews. English actor. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 8 January 1948.

    Tony Blair. English politician. Born Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, 6 May 1952. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Scots-Irish.

    Dirk Bogarde. English actor and author. Born Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde, London, England, United Kingdom. Died 1999. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Dutch, Flemish, Scottish.

    Reinhard Bonnke. German Evangelist. Born Königsberg, East Prussia, 19 April 1940.

    David Bowie. English musician and actor. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 8 January 1947. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Irish.

    Jacques Brel. Belgian musician, actor and director, born Scharbeek, Brussels, Belgium, 8 April 1927. Died 1979. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Flemish.

    Beau Bridges. American actor and director. Born 9 December 1941, Los Angeles, California, United States.

    Robbie Burns. Scottish poet. Born 25 January 1759, Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom. Died 1796.

    Ali Campbell. English musician. Born Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Scottish.

    Ian Carmichael. English actor. Born Kingston upon Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom, 20 June 1922. Died 2010.  

    James Earl “Jimmy” Carter. American politician, 39th President of the United States of America. Born Plains, Georgia, United States, 1 October 1924. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    Dana Carvey. American actor. Born Missoula, Montana, United States, 2 June 1955.

    David Cassidy. American musician and actor. Born New York City, New York, United States, 12 April 1950. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish, German.

    Andrew Castle. English tennis player and television presenter. Born Epsom, Surrey, United Kingdom, 15 November 1963.   

    Maxwell Caulfield. English actor. Born Duffield, Derbyshire, United Kingdom, 23 November 1959.

    Richard Chamberlain. American actor. Born Beverley Hills, California, United States, 31 March 1934.

    Richard Clayderman. French musician. Born Paris, France, 28 December 1953.

    Montgomery Clift. American actor. Born Omaha, Nebraska, United States, 17 October 1920. Died: 23 July 1966.

    Sean Connery. Scottish actor. Born Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, 25 August 1930. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Scottish, Irish.

    Kevin Costner. American actor. Born Lynwood, California, United States, 18 January 1955. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, German, Irish.

    Russell Crowe. New Zealand-Australian actor and musician. Born Wellington, New Zealand, 7 April 1964. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Scottish, German, Norwegian, Māori.

    Tom Cruise. American actor and producer. Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, Syracuse, New York, United States, 3 July 1962. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Irish, German.

    James Dean. American actor. Born Marion, Indiana, United States, 8 February 1931. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    John Denver. American musician and actor. Born Henry Deutschendorff, Roswell, New Mexico, 31 December 1943. Died, 12 December 1997. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: German.

    Leonardo DiCaprio. American actor and producer. Born Los Angeles, California, United States, 11 November 1974. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: German, Italian, Russian.

    Jason Donovan. Australian musician and actor. Born Melbourne, Australia, 1 June 1968. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish.

    Michael Douglas. American actor and producer. Born New Brunswick, New Jersey, 25 September 1944. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Jewish, Bermudian.

    Paul Draper. English musician. Born Wavertree, Liverpool, United Kingdom, 26 September 1970.

    Sergei Esenin. Russian poet. Born St Petersburg, Russia, 3 October 1895.

    Died 1925.

    Adam Faith. English singer, actor and businessman. Born Terence Nelhams-Wright, London, England, United Kingdom, 23 June 1940. Died 2003.

    Bryan Ferry. English musician. Born Washington, County Durham, 26 September 1945.

    Peter Finch. English-Australian actor. Born Frederick George Peter Ingle Finch, London, United Kingdom, 28 September 1928. Died 17 January 1977. 

    F. Scott Fitzgerald. American writer. Born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, St Paul, Minnesota, 24 September 1895. Died Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish.

    Glenn Ford. Canadian-American actor. Born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford, 1 May 1916, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Scottish, Welsh.

    Edward Fox. English actor. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 13 April 1937.

    Michael J. Fox. Canadian-American actor, producer and author. Born Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, June 9 1961.

    Jonathan Franzen. American writer. Born Western Springs, Illinois, United States, August 17 1959. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Swedish.

    Billy Fury. English musician and actor. Born Ronald William Wycherley, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom, 17 April 1940. Died 1983.

    Peter Gabriel. English musician. Born Chobham, Surrey, United Kingdom, 13 February 1950.

    Ricky Gervais. English actor, writer, director and musician. Born Reading, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom, 25 June 1961. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, French-Canadian.

    Andy Gibb. English musician. Born Manchester, England, United Kingdom, 10 March 1988. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    Barry Gibb. English musician. Born Douglas, Isle of Man, 22 December 1948. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    Bobby Goldsboro. American musician. Born Marianna, Florida, United States, 18 January 1941.

    Bruce Greenwood. Canadian actor. Born Naranda, Quebec, Canada, 12 August 1956.

    Bobby Gee. English singer. Born Robert Gubby, Epsom, Surrey, United Kingdom, 23 August 1953.

    Carl Halling. English writer, actor and musician. Born London, England, United Kingdom. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Scottish, Scots-Irish.

    Mark Hamill. American actor. Born Concord, California, United States, 25 September 1951. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Swedish.

    Noel Harrison. English actor, musician and athlete. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 29 January 1939.

    Lawrence Harvey. English actor. Born Zvi Mosheh Skikne, Joniškis, Lithuania, 1 October 1928. Died 1973. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Jewish.

    Justin Hayward. English musician. Born Swindon, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom, 14 October 1946.

    Louis Hayward. South African actor. Born Johannesburg, South Africa, 19 March 1909. Died 1985.

    Nick Heyward. English musician. Born Beckenham, Kent, England, United Kingdom, 20 May 1961.

    Ernest Hemingway. American writer, born Oak Park, Illinois, 21 July, 1899. Died 1961. Ethnicity: English.

    Benny Hinn.  Palestinian-Canadian Evangelist. Born Toufik Benedictus Hinn, Jaffa, Israel, 3 December 1952.

    Billy Idol. English musician. Born William Broad, Stanmore, Middlesex, United Kingdom, 30 November 1955.

    Elton John. English musician. Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, Pinner, Middlesex, England, United Kingdom, 25 March 1947.

    Brian Jones. English musician. Born Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom, 28 February 1942. Died 1969. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Welsh.

    Christopher Jones. American actor and painter. Born William Frank Jones, Jacksonville, Tennessee, 18 August 1941.

    Jon Bon Jovi. American musician. Born John Francis Bongiovi, Jr., Amboy, New Jersey, United States, 2 March 1962. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Italian, Irish.

    Stephen King. American writer. Born Portland, Maine, United States, 21 September 1947.

    Alan Ladd. American actor. Born Hot Springs, Arkansas, United States, 3 September 1913. Died 1964.

    Peter Lawford. English-American actor. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 2 September 1924. Died 1984.

    Nick Leeson. English financier. Born Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, 25 February 1967.

    Matthew Lillard. American actor. Born Lansing, Michigan, 24 January 1970.

    Limahl. English singer. Born Christopher Hamill, Wigan, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom, 19 December 1958.

    Rob Lowe. American actor. Born Charlottesville, Virginia, 17 March 1964.

    David McCallum . Scottish actor. Born Glasgow, Sctoland, United Kingdom, 19 September 1940.

    Patrick McGoohan. Irish actor. Born New York City, New York, United States, 19 March 1928. Died 2009.

    Paul McCartney. English musician. Born Liverpool, England, United Kingdom, 18 June 1942. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish.

    Peter McEnery. English actor, born Walsall, England, United Kingdom, 21 February 1940.

    Ewen MacGregor. Scottish actor. Born Perth, Scotland, United Kingdom, 31 March 1971.

    George Michael. English musician. Born Bushey, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom, 26 June 1963. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Greek, Jewish.

    Roger Moore. English actor. Born London, England, United Kingdom, 14 October 1927.

    Vic Morrow. American actor and director. Born New York City, New York, United States, February 14, 1929. Died 1982. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Jewish.

    Audie Murphy. American soldier, actor and songwriter. Born Kingston, Hunt Country, Texas, United States, June 20, 1924. Died 1971. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish.

    Sam Neill. New Zealand actor. Born Omagh, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 14 September 1947. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Scottish.

    Mike Nolan. English-Irish musician. Born Dublin, Ireland, 7 December 1954. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish.

    Ian Ogilvy. English-American actor, novelist and playwright. Born Woking, Surrey, England, United Kingdom, 30 September 1943.

    Ryan O'Neal, American actor. Born Charles Patrick Ryan O’Neal Jr., Los Angeles, California, United States. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish, Jewish.

    Richard O'Sullivan. English actor. Born 7 May 1944, London, England, United Kingdom.

    Peter O’Toole: English-Irish actor. Born Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom, or Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, 2 August 1932. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish, Scottish. 

    Simon Pegg. English actor, writer, film director and producer. Born Simon Beckingham, 14 February 1940, Brockworth, Gloucerstershire, England, United Kingdom.

    George Peppard: American actor. Born Detroit, Michigan, 1 October 1928. Died 1994.

    Gerard Philipe. French actor. Born Cannes, France, 4 December 1922. Died 1959.

    Brad Pitt. American actor and producer. Born Shawnee, Oklahoma, 18 December 1963. Certified/Alleged Ancestry: English.

    Dick Powell. American actor. Born Mountain View, Arkansas, 14 November 1904. Died 1963. Certified/ Alleged Ethnicity: Welsh.

    Ronald Reagan. American politician and actor, 40th President of the United States of America. Born Tampico, Illinois, United States, 6 February 1911. Died 2004. Certified/Alleged ancestry: English, Irish, Scottish.

    Robert Redford. American actor, director and producer. Born Santa Monica, California, August 18 1937 . Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English, Scots-Irish.

    Cliff Richard: English musician and actor. Born Lucknow, India, 14 October 1940. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    Jean Paul Sartre. French writer and philosopher. Born Paris, France, 21 June 1905. Died 1980. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: French, Alsatian.

    Friedrich Schiller. German poet, playwright, philosopher and historian, born Marbach, Germany, 10 November 1759.

    Frank Sinatra: American musician and actor. Born Hoboken, New Jersey, 12 December 1915. Certified/Alleged Ancestry: Italian.

    David Soul: American-English actor and singer. Born David Solberg, Chicago, Illinois, 28 August 1943. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Norwegian.

    David Spade: American actor. Born Birmingham, Michigan, July 22, 1964.

    James Spader. American actor. Born Boston, Massachusetts, 7 February 1960.

    Sting: English musician and actor. Born Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, United Kingdom, 2 October 1951.

    Andy Summers: English musician. Born Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, England, 31 December 1942. 

    Gerry Sundquist: English actor. Born Manchester, England, 6 October 1955. Died 1993.

    Kiefer Sutherland. English-Canadian actor. Born London, England, 21 December 1966. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Scottish.

    Richard Thomas. American actor. Born New York City, New York, United States, 13 June 1951.

    Josh Turner: American musician and actor. Born Hanahan, South, Carolina, United States, 20 November 1977.

    Bjorn Ulvaeus.  Swedish musician. Born Gothenburg, Sweden, 25 April 1945.

    David Van Day. English musician. Born Brighton, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom, 28 November 1956. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Jewish.

    Jon Voight: American actor. Born Yonkers, New York. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: German, Slovakian.

    Christopher Walken: American actor. Born Queens, New York City, March 31, 1943. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: German, Scottish.

    Scott Walker: American musician. Born Hamilton, Ohio, United States, 9 January 1944. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: German.

    Tom Watt: English actor, broadcaster and journalist. Born London, England, 14 February 1956.

    Orson Welles: American actor, writer, director and producer. Born Kenosha, Wisconsin, May 10 1915. Died 1985. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    Andy Williams: American musician. Born: Wall Lake, Iowa, December 3, 1927.

    Tennessee Williams: American writer. Born Columbus, Mississippi, March 26 1911. Died February 25 1983. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: English.

    Brian Wilson. American musician. Born Inglewood, California, June 20 1942.

    Owen Wilson: American actor. Born Dallas, Texas, November 18 1968. Certified/Alleged Ethnicity: Irish. Minor edit: 7/3/13.



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 10:16AM

    The Man Who Came from Contact for Christ



                                                            photo

      Early in January 1993, while still attending meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I received a call from a man who told me he was from an organisation by the name of Contact for Christ based in the South London suburb of Selsdon near Croydon in Surrey.

       He'd got in touch with me in consequence of a card I'd filled in on a British Rail train some months previously. I tried to put him off as I recall but somehow he got round me and before I knew it, he was at my door, a neat, dapper man called Spencer with a large salt and pepper moustache and gently penetrating deep brown eyes, whose youthfully slender frame belied the fact that he was probably already in his 70s, although looking at least ten years younger.

       He wanted to pray with me, so I ushered him into my bedroom, where we prayed together at length.

       At some point…perhaps that very afternoon, in fact…he invited me to his home for further counselling, with the result that shortly after our first meeting, I found myself as a guest at his large house deep in the south western suburbs where he asked me to make a list of sins past requiring deep repentance.

       Once I’d done this we spent a few hours in his living room praying over each and every one of the sins I made a note of, and there were a good few, and any one of them would have seen me damned to hell for eternity had I never come to saving faith.

       It transpired that Spencer was a Pentecostal of long standing, Pentecostals being those Evangelical Christians who - along with the neo-Pentecostals of the Charismatic and Apostolic movements - maintain that the more supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as Tongues and Prophecy are still available to Believers.

       In this capacity, he introduced me to the magazine “Prophecy Today”, then edited by the Reverend Dr Clifford Hill, through which I came to be in contact with another contributor, the late Frank Wren of Trumpet Sounds Ministries. I wrote to Frank soon afterwards concerning various issues including my spiritual condition. The upshot being that in the summer of 1995, he invited me to his home in the little Devon village of Crediton for what is known as Deliverance Ministry, which he felt I might benefit from.

       Spencer also introduced me to the conspiratorial view of history through his recommendation of the works of the late New Zealand Evangelist and writer Barry R Smith, and specifically "Final Warning" by Smith, which I subsequently bought.

       I should say he re-introduced me, because I'd already learned something of the conspiratorial weltanschauung through my reading of various books purchased in the years immediately prior to my becoming a Christian. Indeed, during this period, I was actively, not to say, contemptuously opposed to Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and other aspects of the then Religious Right, especially when it embraced theories concerning the End Times, or Last Days prior to the Second Coming of Christ. In this respect  - as a rabid persecutor of the Saints - I was somewhat in the mould of Saul prior to undergoing a Road to Damascus conversion and having the scales fall from my eyes.

       But I'd have to wait until 2003 before fully exploring the labyrinthine world of conspiracy theories.

       How long these have proliferated within contemporary Christianity and elsewhere I'm not qualified to say but what is undeniable is that it wasn't until the internet revolution that they started disclosing their secrets to countless millions of hitherto unsuspecting web users.

       Despite the fact that they vary wildly in terms of credibility and are subject to enormous distortion and disinformation, I’d nonetheless be slow to automatically discount every single conspiracy theory, although I have no further desire to investigate them in search of an absolute truth that is of necessity unattainable.

       It also transpired that Spencer was a member of the Guildford branch of the Full Gospel Businessman's Fellowship International, founded by an Armenian-American, Demos Shakarian in 1952.

       Shakarian had left his native country in 1905 as part of a small group of Armenian believers, and arrived in Los Angeles a full year prior to the famous Azuza Street Revival which ignited the worldwide Pentecostal movement. 

       They'd done so in response to an 1852 prophecy on the part of a godly child of Russian origin by the name of Efim Gerasemovitch Klubniken, which warned of a coming cataclysm for the Armenian people, and when Klubniken warned that the latter was imminent in 1905, many left Armenia for Los Angeles.

       Shakarian founded the FGBMFI a full century after the original prophecy with only 20 fellow believers, by which time he was working as a dairy farmer, and yet today, it's active in some 150 countries across the world, and can even boast a rival organisation, which came into being following Demos' death in 1993, at which point his son Richard took over as leader. This being  the Business Men's Fellowship.

        The Full Gospel is that upheld by Christians within the Pentecostal family of churches which includes the Charismatics, in the understanding that the Gospel is made more complete through emphasis on the more overtly supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. 

       One of the family's forefathers was the famous English divine John Wesley, who while never disassociating himself from either The Church of England nor the Reformed tradition, went against the grain of both in certain extremely vital respects. 

       His emphasis on personal Holiness went on to exert a colossal influence on the evolution of Pentecostalism, and of course the Holiness movements that preceded it. These included the Salvation Army and the lesser known Church of the Nazarene.

       Both are spiritually Wesleyan in so far as they uphold such doctrines as Conditional Salvation, or the ability of the Believer to make a shipwreck of his faith and so lose his or her salvation...which runs contrary to traditional Reformed or Protestant theology; and by Wesleyan, I mean Arminian, after the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. And few men in history have done more for the Arminian cause than England’s own beloved John Wesley.

       But rather than any lukewarm variant, Wesley's was a truly Biblical Arminianism with a powerful emphasis on personal Holiness, the very type, in fact, that was bequeathed to several generations of churches up to and including the early Pentecostals.

       It lives on to this day among Classical Pentecostals of every stripe, not least those of the Alliance of Biblical Pentecostals...as well as various fundamental Arminian groups including the Fundamentalist Wesleyan Society, and the Society of Evangelical Arminians.

       At the same time, like Arminius, John Wesley never saw himself as anything other than Reformed, a word now almost completely associated with Calvinist Christians, which is to say whose who've traditionally subscribed to what is known as the Doctrines of Grace - or Five Points of Calvinism - which stem from the Protestant Reformation. And according to which God predestined a limited Elect of men and women to be saved and that this election is unconditional, given Man's total inability to respond to the Gospel without Grace, which is irresistible, and that salvation is irrevocable.

       

      Healthwise, I was in fairly good shape throughout the early part of '93, although if my memory serves me well, there was a distinct lack of sensation in my legs, and for a time I was subject to terrifying panic attacks which seemed to me to anticipate impending unconsciousness and even death, and which would be triggered simply by leaving the confines of my house. I controlled these with diazepam.

       When I suddenly and for no good reason switched from the latter to a powerful sedative known as heminevrin within a few weeks of attaining sobriety, I felt quite inconceivably awful for a few hours and seriously thought I might collapse at any moment and die, but in time these deathly sensations subsided. 

       Soon after weaning myself off the valium, I lost my taste for cigarettes, with the result that I've barely smoked in 17 years. Was it a coincidence that one of the issues addressed during my initial prayer time with Spencer was my continuing addiction to nicotine? Perhaps not.

       Spencer wanted me to join himself and his wife Grace at their little family church in West Byfleet, but realising that it would probably be too far for me to travel to each Sunday, he gave his blessing to one based in nearby Esher, also in Surrey. This was Cornerstone Bible Church, affiliated to the famous Word of Faith movement, and specifically Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church based in South Africa, which has since been renamed Cornerstone The Church. But by ‘96, I'd moved from Cornerstone to the Thames Vineyard Christian Fellowship at the behest of a passing acquaintance who’d spoken highly of the level of spiritual giftedness found therein.

       Also in that year, I served as an actor, script writer and musician with a Christian theatre company by the name of Street Level, based in the tough multicultural district of Croydon on the borders of Surrey and South London. And during my time with them, the panic attacks briefly returned, possibly in consequence of my tendency to work all day without taking any food. This alarmed my fellow workers to the degree that at one point they felt compelled to drag me to a fast food restaurant, in order to try to tempt me to eat.

       I was the ultimate baby Christian, and I accepted everything blindly until 2002, when I underwent a long voyage into the heart of the faith, as well as the myriad conspiracy theories flourishing at the time both within Christianity and beyond, significantly perhaps as a result of the proliferation of knowledge and information occasioned by the rise and rise of the World Wide Web.

       But in the ten years or so preceding this period, I was as trusting as an infant. This naivety reached an apex around about the turn of the decade and I can recall one evening when there was a storm raging outside, and yet I was convinced that unless I turned up for band practice for the Sunday morning service I'd be in danger of losing my salvation. 

       Within a few months of the beginning of 2001, however, I started feeling I could no longer maintain the high standard of church attendance - which also included a weekly House Group and music practice - I'd set for myself, and so to stay away on occasion from Sunday church meetings. Then, my beloved church folded, and I made a brief return to Cornerstone, remaining there until about September 2002.

       It was in the summer months of that year, when, suffering from quite extraordinarily low levels of energy, I started visiting multiple Christian websites, only to discover for the first time since my conversion that some believers see themselves as Calvinists or Arminians, while others still refuse all such labels.

       I also discovered that while some Christians subscribe to Covenant Theology, others incline to Dispensationalism, and that while some are convinced the Saints will be caught up in the air with Christ prior to what is known as the Great Tribulation, others are convinced this event will succeed the tribulation. And are thence believers in the Post-Tribulation Rapture, and so on.

       What’s more, I became increasingly apprised of the nature of Conspiracy Theory through such authors as Frank Wren, founder of Trumpet Sounds Ministries, and New Zealand author and evangelist Barry R Smith.

       But I feel no further need to venture into this tortuous labyrinth in which so much contradiction and misinformation exists, although that does not mean I automatically discount all Conspiracy Theories, far from it.

       In a message recently posted by a listener to the Sermon Audio website regarding a study by erstwhile broadcaster Scott A Johnson, he described one aspect of Conspiracy Theory related to the identity of the Antichrist as a "mind trap".

       And while I'm inclined to agree with him to a degree, as so much contradiction, misinformation and plain absurdity exists as I see it within its tortuous confines, I’d in no wise automatically discount every Conspiracy Theory, given that the Bible clearly states that in the Last Days, perilous times will come. And there is sufficient evidence in terms of contemporary world events for me to propose the possibility that these are indeed the last days prior to the Second Coming of Christ.

       What's more, among those Believers currently endorsing a conspiratorial view of history and culture from a Biblical perspective, there are many for whom I have the greatest regard.

       For instance, I greatly admire those who have been called to be Watchmen in these perilous times, although I do not consider myself to be sufficiently mature in a spiritual sense to be named among them.

       

      Once released from the aptly named Liberty Christian Church, I rejoined my first congregation of Cornerstone the Church…and remained with them until the end of 2002 when, in consequence of internet research related to the origins of both the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, I decided to explore churches existent beyond the latter’s confines.

       But by the end of the year I'd returned to the fold, determined to start attending services at my local Church of God.

       This was in consequence of several e-mail conversations I'd enjoyed with an ordained minister of the Pentecostal Church of God (Cleveland) whose online ministry is committed to discernment in a dangerous age. And in my view, his is one of the soundest of the many Discernment Ministries I encountered during that year of non-stop research. Although sadly, I never made it to my local Church of God. 

       Instead, I bounced from one church to another, beginning in '03 with Bethel Baptist Church, situated in Wimbledon, West London, and affiliated to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, which I came across through the Sermon Audio website, and specifically Pastor David Cloud of Way of Life Ministries.

       I didn't officially become a member of any church, however, until early 2009, when I was granted membership of Duke Street Church, a Grace Baptist fellowship situated close to Richmond Green in the picturesque south western suburb of Richmond-on-Thames.

       The Grace Baptists, who are quite generously represented in the affluent suburbs of SW London such as Richmond, Twickenham and Teddington subscribe to the Five Points of Calvinism, unlike their Independent Fundamentalist counterparts, who tend to be passionately opposed to Calvinism, while refuting the Arminian label. And justly so, given that a key IFB tenet is a belief in Eternal Security which doesn't square up with classical Arminianism.

       Yet, by the time of the completion of this piece, I’d been attending services at a large Church of England fellowship in east Twickenham, which also happens to be strongly Evangelical and Charismatic…and therefore far from the common run of Anglican or Episcopalian churches.

       Furthermore, I’ve no intentions of doing any further church hopping. So…could I have found my spiritual home at long last? Time alone will tell.

      Photo: Jane Whitton, 1993.



      Comment (0)

    Sat, Oct 8th - 10:13AM

    An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 3.



     

     

    "You were frightening, sinister,

    You put everything into it

    I took a step back

    You get better every time

    How good can you get?"

     

    People are scared of fish eyes

    They confuse, stun, fascinate

    Coldly indifferent

    Fish eyes

    Sucked dry of life fish eyes...

     

    Sabrina was unselfish,

    Unselfconscious,

    Devoted, unabashed,

    Spontaneous,

    A purring lioness:

    "Yes, she said,

    I can imagine people

    Wanting to possess you."

     

    People are scared of fish eyes;

    They confuse, stun, fascinate;

    Coldly indifferent

    Fish eyes;

    Sucked dry of life fish eyes...

     

    Sabrina said: "I’m sorry;

    I’m just possessive

    I’m frightened of my feelings

    You’ll miss me a little,

    Won’t you?

    You should read Lenz.

    I’m sure you’d

    Identify

    With the main character."

     

    People are scared of fish eyes;

    They confuse, stun, fascinate;

    Coldly indifferent

    Fish eyes;

    Sucked dry of life fish eyes.

     

    Have I written about the

    Crack-up?

    When I came home

    Empty-handed

    And I just couldn’t

    Articulate

    For latent tears.

    But am I so repelled

    By intimacy?

    When will someone

    Get me there (the solar

    Plexus) as Sabrina said.

     

    People are scared of fish eyes;

    They confuse, stun, fascinate;

    Coldly indifferent

    Fish eyes;

    Sucked dry of life fish eyes.

      

    "You look beautiful;

    I wish you didn’t,

    Malignant

    Flim Flam Man."

    "I like it when you really feel

    Something;

    But then it’s so rare."

     

    People are scared of fish eyes;

    They confuse, stun, fascinate;

    Coldly indifferent

    Fish eyes;

    Sucked dry of life fish eyes.

     

    She Dear One Who Followed Me

    It was she, bless her,
    who followed me...
    she'd been crying...
    she's too good for me,
    that's for sure...
    "Your friends
    are too good to you...
    it makes me sick
    to see them...
    you don't really give...
    you indulge in conversation,
    but your mind
    is always elsewhere,
    ticking over.
    You could hurt me,
    you know...
    You are a Don Juan,
    so much.
    Like him, you have
    no desires...
    I think you have
    deep fears...
    There's something so...so...
    in your look.
    It's not that
    you're empty...
    but that there is
    an omnipresent sadness
    about you, a fatality...”

     

    I Hate Those Long Long Spaces

     

    I hate those long, long spaces

    Between meals and drinks

    Specifically the afternoon

    And after midnight.

     

    I hate mornings too

    Until I can smell the bacon

    And coffee. I cheer up

    Towards the end of the afternoon,

     

    But my euphoria stops short

    Of my final cup of tea.

    I sink into another state of gloom

    Until my second favourite time of the day.

     

    My favourite is that of my

    First drink and cigarette.

    I hate those long, long spaces,

    Specifically the afternoon and after midnight.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    ‘An Aphoristic Self-Portrait’

    Was expeditiously versified

    In September 2011,

    Using a series of teeming

    Informal diary entries

    Made in various

    Receptacles in the late 1980s.

    And as such may provide

    Some kind of indication

    As to my psychological

    And spiritual condition

    Some half a dozen

    Or so years prior to my

    Damascene conversion.

     

    An Aphoristic Self-Portrait

     

    As a writer, people are my vocation.

    As for humanity, men, women

    And other abstractions,

    Their interests constitute little more

    Than my hobby; I can only deal in people.

    As soon as I start dealing in sects

    And sections, I am either an insider

    Or an outsider, and I feel lost as either…

    And as soon as I feel lost,

    I make no attempt to find myself,

    But simply retrace my steps

    And return to the people.

    You can call me detached if you like,

    But you see, the only way

    I can remain sane as a person

    With such an all-consuming instinct

    For attachment, is to be detached…

    The world of subjectivity

    Holds no sway over me,

    Because it is paradoxically impersonal,

    Being affiliated to partisanship,

    Sentimental causes and other such abstractions.

    I couldn’t possibly belong

    To a school of orthodox thought

    That accepted me as a member.

    I don’t believe in myself

    Other than as a crystal clear container

    For the freshest cream of human individualism.

    When I was younger,

    I ached to be famous for the sake of it,

    But now it occurs to me

    That anyone can be famous

    Provided they are sufficiently audacious

    And thick-skinned, and I desire fame

    Not so much for the vain satisfaction

    Of being seen and known and heard,

    But in order to guide others

    Towards a happier way of being,

    The only precept for celebrity,

    Indeed for being in general, as far as I can see.

    Adversity seems to be my fate,

    As well as fortune.

    The meek ones gravitate to me.

    I’m the prince of the hurt ones,

    The damaged ones.

    I resent all success and authority.

    I’m so affectionate one moment,

    So icy and evasive the next.

    I’m in love with many people at present.

    I over accentuate my individuality,

    Because sometimes I look at myself

    In the mirror and I say:

    ‘Who’s that pathetic wreck?’

    The more complex you are,

    The less you like yourself,

    Because you frighten yourself.

    The more I find myself liking someone,

    The more I doubt us both.

    Liking someone negates them for me.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1990s

     

    ‘The Loonie’s Last Reckoning’,

    Based largely on events that took place

    On the 16th of January 1993,

    Was initially an adaptation

    Of an autobiographical fragment

    Possibly penned around 1996,

    Which was then edited, reassembled

    And versified for publication

    As ‘Remnants from Writings Destroyed 1’

    At the Blogster website

    On the 10th of March 2006.

    While in time, it was incorporated

    Into an early version of the memoir,

    ‘Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child’

    Known as ‘Spawn of the Swinging Sixties’.

    Only to be unearthed in late 2011,

    And wedded to a versified translation

    Of notes made probably around 1992,

    Shortly before the events

    In question took place,

    And then awarded a striking new title.

     

    The Loonie’s Last Reckoning

     

    It was late in the afternoon
    Of The 16th of January 1993
    That my whole
    Intoxicated universe
    Finally exploded

     

    Drink me one day = 10 vodkas 

    7 1/2 pints 14 wines

    Sat, Oct 8th - 10:10AM

    An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 2.



    For all the Beatniks of San Francisco

     

    Shirley Brown was a very beautiful girl

    And her brunette hair

    Hung down her back

    And as the wind blew thru the window,

    It waved around. It waved around.

    She was making sandwiches

    And was packing them with fruit

    And two massive bars of fruit

    And nut chocolate.

    She lit a cigarette, picked up the basket

    And with a nod of her head,

    Waved her hair backwards

    And walked out the back door

    Into the alley where,

    Propped up against a fence

    Was a blue mini-moped.

    She mounted the bike

    And with a little trouble, started it. 

    And the rider made a sudden jump

    As a horn blew behind her

    And a leather jacketed youth

    Sped by on a butterfly motor-cycle.

     

    People turned away

    And the music blared on

    And the youths talked on.

    Then, a park keeper came

    But the youths took no notice.
     “What are you kids doing,

    The keeper shouted,

    I’ve had complaints from all over,

    Clear off, wilya,

    This is a park

    Not a meeting place

    For all the Beatniks in San Francisco.

     

     John Hemmings started dancing:

     “Cool it, grandpa, get on,

    Get going, don’t bug me!”

    The kids had gone too far

    And they knew it.

    Some of them turned away,

    As the radio blared even louder,

    Litter was scattered everywhere.

     I ain’t chicken of dying,

    John Hemmings then said,

    We’ve got to go on,

    ALL RIGHT! Who are the crumbs

    Who want to chicken out at this point,

    Just take your bikes and go. 

    We’re free people now.

    Nothing can stop us,

    We’ll rule the streets,

    The young people will triumph.”

    He was perspiring wildly

    And his black hair

    Hung down his back.

    It waved around. It waved around.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s

     

    This jackadandy’s original title was

    “An Essay Written by a Guy

    Who Was Too Lazy to Finish It”

    And it dates from

    My college days, ca. 1971,

    At a time I was yet enamoured

    With the hedonistic

    Hippie way of life.

    It’s been reproduced more or less

    Verbatim, notwithstanding

    Some minor editing,

    And versification. 

    And I don’t think it’s necessary
    To add there is no such cologne

    As Monsieur de Gauviché.

    As the first title implies,

    It was never finished,

    But I’ve taken the liberty

    Of belatedly turning the protagonist

    Into a dandified danger man

    Somewhat in the mould

    Of Peter Wyngarde’s

    Stylishly overdressed secret agent

    From the classic television series,

    “Department S” and “Jason King”.

     

    Englishman, Jackadandy, Spy

     

    He made no move at all

    As the alarm clock went off.

    But ten minutes later,

    It was obvious he was awake.

    He lifted himself out of bed

    And went towards the bathroom.

    He shaved himself

    With a Gillette Techmatic

    After having sploshed himself

    With a double handful

    Of icy cold water.

    He washed again, dried his face,

    Put on some Monsieur de Gauviché

    And got dressed.

    He wore a Brutus shirt,

    A Tonik suit and a pair of

    Shiny brown boots.

    He was six foot two

    And he smoked sixty Players

    Medium Navy Cut cigarettes

    A day and he lit each one

    With a Ronson lighter.

    His name was Titus Hardin,

    And he had the biggest

    Wardrobe in London.

     

    He was a fair-haired man

    And very good-looking.

    He was thirty two years old

    And a bachelor,

    And lived near Richmond, Surrey.

    He was immaculate,

    Wore long sideboards

    And a long moustache,

    And his hair was shortish

    And well-combed.

    His shirt was light blue

    And he wore a dark blue tie.

    He wore two rings on each hand.

    He washed himself

    After his usual breakfast

    Of toast, black coffee and health pills. 

    He cleaned his teeth thoroughly,

    Put some more cologne on

    And then went to do

    His isometrics.

    His name was Titus Hardin,

    And he had the biggest

    Wardrobe in London. 

     

    He was born in London in 1940.

    He went to Eton and Oxford,

    Had taught at Oxford for eight years

    But was sacked.

    He had been an Oxford Rowing Blue

    And got a degree in English, Art and History.

    His father was Lord Alfred Hardin, M.P.

    Titus loved teaching

    And not many people know the reason

    For his dismissal at the age of thirty one.

    He was nearly expelled from Eton

    For smoking, drinking,

    And being head of a secret society

    With secret oaths, but he was

    Too promising a sportsman

    And all the boys respected him

    As a prefect.

    He was a fair-haired man

    And very good-looking.

    He was thirty two years old

    And a bachelor,

    And lived near Richmond, Surrey.

    His flat was beautifully furnished.

    His name was Titus Hardin,

    And he had the biggest wardrobe in London.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative 4: 1970s

     

    ‘To See You at Every Time of Day’

    Is a song lyric, penned in 2003,

    But heavily based on one composed

    Almost certainly in 1974,

    And which I originally sang

    In a voice I stole from Bryan Ferry,

    Who’d begun his career

    As a conventional Glam Rock icon,

    But who by ’74,

    Had reinvented himself as an old-style

    Crooner cum matinee idol,

    And it was his eccentric version of

    ‘These Foolish Things’

    That was the direct inspiration

    For the lyric in question

    Indeed the song as a whole.

     

    To See You Every Time of Day

     

    To see you in the morning

    Be with you in the evening

    To see you here

    At every time of day

    Such a simple prayer

    To see you at every time of day

     

    To hold you when you’re laughing

    Console you when you’re crying

    Take care of you

    At every time of day

    Such a simple prayer

    To see you at every time of day

     

    So tell me why you push me away

    When I’ve sworn to be forever true

    When I’ve pledged

    My pure and simple heart to you?

    How can you be so cruel?

     

    To see you in the morning]

    Be with you in the evening

    To see you here

    At every time of day

    Such a simple prayer

    To see you at every time of day.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    Nineteen Eighty Tell Me’

    Has been reproduced more or less

    As it was originally scrawled

    In a red Silvine memo book

    In the very summer of 1980

     

    Almost certainly as I was waiting

    To go on as Mustardseed the Fairy

    During the London run of a much-praised

    Bristol Old Vic production

    Of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

     

    Nineteen Eighty Tell Me

     

    Nineteen Eighty, tell me,

    Where are you?

    What are you trying to be?

    This week, you’re 1963

    And there’s even

    Talk of a rebirth of ‘67

    But that’s next week.

    Nineteen Eighty, tell me,

     

    When will you be mine?

    A little bit ’59,

    I’ll not share you with a Beatnik

    Take a rest after the exertions,

    Punk revolutions,

    Before our old friend,

    Sweet nostalgia,

    Goes round the bend.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

     

    1.

     

    Thanks to the large quantity

    Of notes I committed to paper

    While at Leftfield College, London,

    My beloved college can live again

    Through sundry writings

    Painstakingly forged out of them,

    Such as the poetic pieces that follow,

    Which is to say, ‘Some Sad Dark Secret’,

    ‘Sabrina’s Solar Plexus’,

    ‘She Dear One that Followed Me’

    And ‘I Hate Those Long, Long Spaces’.

    And as in the case of all

    My memoir-based writings,

    The names of people and institutions

    Have been changed

    In the solemn name of privacy.

     

    2.

     

    ‘Some Sad Dark Secret’ was inspired

    By words once spoken to me

    By a former tutor and mentor

    Of mine at Leftfield in around 1982 or ’83.

    And which then ended up

    As informal diary notes

    On a piece of scrap paper,

    Consisting of both

    The words themselves,

    And my own perhaps

    Partly fantastical

    Reflections on them.

    Some quarter of a century later,

    They were edited and versified,

    And then the process was repeated

    A half decade or so after that.

     

    3.

     

    'I Hate Those Long, Long Spaces'

    Was recently conceived

    From thoughts confided to a notebook

    Sometime between 1981 and '83

    While I was a student

    At the University of London.

     

    As I see it, they betoken

    An undiagnosed depressive condition

    Which ultimately led to my contracting

    A serious drinking problem,

    And ultimately some kind of crack-up,

    From which I emerged while not unscathed

     

    Another man entirely,

    And while I'm still the victim

    Of a depressive condition, it's not as it was,

    Which is to say, one alleviated

    By spells of great elation,

    And yet fundamentally rooted in desperation.

     

    Today, it's seen by its sufferer as long term

    Yet temporal, to be dispelled,

    Once he comes into a new glorious body,

    Which is his hope and his prayer,

    So all the sicknesses of the old,

    Will be a thing of the past, never to return again.

     

    Some Sad Dark Secret

     

    ‘Temper your enthusiasm,

    She said,

    The extremes of your reactions;
    You should have

    A more conventional frame
    On which to hang

    Your unconventionality.’

    ‘Don’t push people,
    She said,

    You make yourself vulnerable’.

     

    She told me not to rhapsodise,
    That it would be difficult,
    Impossible, perhaps,
    For me to harness my dynamism.
    The tone of my work,

    She said,

    Is often a little dubious.
    She said

    She thought

    That there was something wrong.

    That I’m hiding

    Some sad

    Dark secret from the world.

    ‘Temper your enthusiasm,

    She said,

    The extremes of your reactions;
    You should have

    A more conventional frame
    On which to hang

    Your unconventionality.’

     

    Sabrina's Solar Plexus

     

    "You were frightening, sinister,

    You put everything into it

    I took a step back

    Sat, Oct 8th - 9:56AM

    An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 1.



    File:CheHigh.jpg

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s

     

    ‘Born on the Goldhawk Road’

    Provides a fitting preface

    To a long autobiographical piece

    Consisting almost entirely

    Of versified prose, and linear in nature,

    Which is to say,

    Beginning with my birth

    And leading all the way

    To the present day.

    Whilst dealing with my earliest years,

    It was fashioned only recently.

    Although ‘An Autobiographical Narrative”

    Has been composed not solely of

    Stray pieces of prose

    That failed to make the first team.

    For it includes

    Further versified phenomena,

    Such as refugees from the memoir,

    ‘Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child”,

    Which has itself been all but shelved.

    The piece itself is a versified version

    Of one much reproduced

    In various forms throughout my writings,

    Although it bears little resemblance

    To its original, which first glimpsed

    The light of day in around 2002,

    As a meagre and mediocre slice of prose,

    And while it can still be read

    On the World Wide Web,

    It’s undergone much modification since then,

    Including the alteration

    Of all names of people and places

    For the solemn purpose of privacy.

    Although it was first published

    In a form resembling that found below

    At the Blogster website,

    On the 1st of February 2006,

    Born on the Goldhawk Road

    I was born at the tail end of the Goldhawk Road

    Which runs through Shepherds Bush

    Like an artery,

    And in the mid 1960s

    Served as one of the great centres

    Of the London Mod movement,

    But I was raised in relative gentility

    In a ward of nearby South Acton

    Whose vast council estate

    Is surely the most formidable

    Of the whole of West London.

    Although my little suburb

    Has since become

    One of its most exclusive neighbourhoods.

     

    My first school was a kind of nursery 

    Held locally on a daily basis

    At the private residence

    Of one Miss Henrietta Pearson,

    And then aged 4 years old,

    I joined the exclusive

    Lycée Francais du Sud Kensington,

    Where I was soon to become bilingual

    And almost every race and nationality

    Under the sun was to be found

    At the Lycée in those days...

    And among those who went on to be good pals mine

    Were kids of English, French, Jewish, American,

    Yugoslavian and Middle Eastern origin.

     

    While my first closest pals were Esther,

    The vivacious daughter

    Of a Norwegian character actor

    And a beautiful Israeli dancer,

    And Craig, an English kid like myself

    Who became a lifelong friend.

    For a time, we formed an unlikely trio:

    “Hi kiddy”, was Esther’s sacred greeting

    To her blood brother, who’d respond in kind.

    But at some stage, I became a problem child,

    A disruptive influence in the class,

    And a trouble maker in the streets,

    An eccentric loon full of madcap fun

    And half-deranged imaginativeness.

     

    And my unusual physical appearance

    Was enhanced by a striking thinness

    And enormous long-lashed blue eyes.

    Less charmingly, I was also the kind of

    Deliberately malicious little hooligan

    Who'd remove some periodical

    From a neighbour's letter-box

    And then mutilate it before reposting it.

    The sixties' famed social and sexual revolution

    Was well under way, and yet for all that,

    Seminal Pop groups such as the Searchers

    And the Dave Clark Five;

    Even the Fab Four themselves,

    Were quaintly wholesome figures.

     

    And in comparison to what was to come,

    They surely fitted in well

    In a long vanished England

    Of Norman Wisdom pictures;

    And the well-spoken presenters

    Of the BBC Home Service,

    Light Service and World Service,

    Of coppers and tanners

    And ten bob notes;

    And jolly shopkeepers

    And window cleaners.

    At least that’s how I see it,

    Looking back at it all

    From almost half a century later.

     

     My third and final school

    Was the former Nautical College, Welbourne,

    Where at still only twelve years old

    I became the youngest kid in the college,

    And an official serving officer

    In Britain's Royal Naval Reserve. 

    Founded at the height of the British Empire,

    Welbourne still possessed her original title in ’68,

    while her headmaster,

    A serving officer in the Royal Navy

    For some quarter of a century,

    Wore his uniform at all times.

    However, in ’69,

    She was given the name Welbourne College.

     

    While the boys retained their officer status,

    And naval discipline continued to be enforced,

    With Welbourne serving both

    As a military college

    And traditional English boarding school.

    The Welbourne I knew

    Had strong links to the Church of England,

    And so was marked by regular

    If not daily classes

    In what was known as Divinity,

    Morning parade ground prayers,

    Evening prayers,

    And compulsory chapel

    On Sunday morning.

     

    Later in life, I felt grateful to her

    For the values she’d instilled in me

    If only unconsciously, even though,

    By the time I joined Welbourne,

    These were under siege as never before

    By the so-called counterculture.

    And in the early 2010s,

    I’d insist if I possessed

    A single quality that might be termed noble,

    Such as patience, or self-mastery

    Or consideration of the needs of other people,

    Then I'm at least partially indebted

    For such a wonderful blessing

    To the four precious years I spent at Welbourne.

     

    The previous piece is a versified version

    Of a kindred piece yet published at Helium,

    And yet improved; and supplemented

    By further verses, to the extent that

    It bears little resemblance to its original,

    Which first glimpsed the light of day

    In around 2002,

    As a meagre and mediocre slice of prose,

    And while it can still be read

    On the world wide web,

    It’s undergone much modification since then,

    Including the alteration

    Of all names of people and places

    For the solemn purpose of privacy.

     

    An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s

     

    'For all the Beatniks of SF' consists of

    Edited and versified extracts

    From one of my earliest

    Existent pieces of fictional writing.

    Dating at an estimate from about 1970,

    It reflects the spirit of the times,

    Even though it’s been sanitised

    For online publication.

    In the years immediately following

    The revolutionary events of ‘68 

    I was deeply in sympathy

    With the West’s prevailing

    Adversary culture

    Or alternative Society

    Sat, Oct 8th - 9:48AM

    Thomas Stearnes' Pilgrimage to East Coker



     

    The great Anglo-American Modernist poet TS Eliot (1888-1965) had strong links to the East Coast, and specifically New England, that most spiritually English of American regions, a distinction it shares with the South, with which Eliot was linked through his mother the poet Charlotte Champe Stearns, originally from Baltimore in Maryland. Although he was actually born in St Louis, a Midwestern city in which it could be said that the wildly divergent cultures of the North and South, Midwest and East Coast are somehow mysteriously fused.

     He was a scion of the famous Eliots, a family of Brahmins, or top families of largely Anglo-Saxon extraction, based in Boston, but originally from the little Somerset village of East Coker, subject of one of Eliot’s most famous poems, and who came to dominate the American education system. And after graduating from the exclusive Milton Academy, Eliot himself attended Harvard between 1906 and 1909, earning his B.A. in what may have been Comparative Literature by his third year and his M.A., in English, by his fourth. 

     He also discovered Arthur Symons’ “The Symbolist Movement in Literature”, which introduced him to the French Symbolists and Decadents, such as Verlaine, Rimbaud and Laforgue, all of whom went on to exert a profound impact on his work, as did Symbolist founding father Charles Baudelaire, more of whom later.

     After Harvard, he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he attended lectures by Henri Bergson, to whose philosophical ideas he was drawn, as he was to those of the ultra-conservative writer Charles Maurras. And he came to know Alain-Fournier, ill-fated author of a single much loved novel, “Le Grand Meaulnes”, and Jean Verdenel, a brilliant medical student with whom he forged an exceptionally close friendship, cut short by the latter’s death in the First World War.

     But it was when he was awarded a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford in 1914 that his artistic life could be said to have truly begun, almost as if, by arriving in England, he came home in a spiritual sense. Yet he quit Oxford after only a year, and this academic restlessness persisted into 1916, when after having completed a PhD dissertation for Harvard, he failed to return to the college to defend it; and so never received his doctorate.

     However, by this time, he was already a published poet, “The Love Song of J Arthur Prufrock” having been published in Chicago in 1915 at the behest of his soon-to-be mentor, fellow Modernist titan Ezra Pound, and dedicated to Verdenel.

     “Prufrock” has been cited as the point where modern poetry begins, and its famous third line, in which the night sky is likened to “a patient etherised on a table”, remains a startling and even disturbing image to this day. However, the literature of shock was hardly new in 1914, possessing as it did multiple precedents among the French Symbolist and Decadents, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Lautréamont foremost among them.

     Eliot had a special admiration for Baudelaire…Symbolist forefather and first great poet of the modern urban landscape Baudelaire…as he did for Rimbaud, the angel-faced enfant terrible whose ferociously beautiful free form verse contained in his last two volumes, “A Season in Hell” and “Illuminations”, exerted an influence on the evolution of 20th Century poetry that exceeds even that of Eliot. While their ecstatic, visionary quality is an obvious precursor of Eliot’s own poetic vision.

     However, with its doleful emphasis on regret and frustration, failure, exhaustion and decay, “Prufrock” could be said to have to some degree anticipated Camus’ Theory of the Absurd, as well as the theatre that came in its wake, which attained its possible apotheosis in the shape of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” from 1955.

     Although needless to say the Absurd was nothing new, having pre-existed for example in French literature in the shape of the vast array of Decadent sects that proliferated in the second half of the 20th Century.

     He was also a married man, having wed the attractive and vivacious Vivienne Haigh Wood in June 1915, a move which evidently dismayed his family, who expected him to make an imminent return to the US in order that me might take up his rightful place as a Harvard professor.

     Instead, after a brief period spent teaching at various academic institutions, he embarked upon a successful eight-year career as a banker for Lloyds of London, working on foreign accounts. And it was during his tenure at Lloyds that he wrote some of the most earth-shaking poems of the 20th Century, which have caused his name to become almost synonymous with Modernism, which begs the question, what precisely is Modernism?

     

    One possible definition of Modernism is the avant-garde…but the avant garde translated into a worldwide artistic movement which lasted for some half a century from about 1880. 

     However, there are those cultural critics who’d insist that Modernism is far more than a mere artistic phenomenon…is in fact a spirit…with roots in the Enlightenment, the great 18th Century during which age-old conceptions specifically related to the Divine origins of Creation were being questioned as never before.

     For them, the Modern embraces all aspects of human endeavour…the arts, religion, philosophy, science, politics; while others would assert that the Modern lives on, confounding the notion of a Post Modern age in which the pursuit of the absolutely modern has exhausted itself beyond recovery.

     But whatever the truth, few would disagree that of all the masters of literary Modernism, Eliot remains the most famous and most quoted.

     And all thanks to a mere handful of masterpieces…starting with “Prufrock”, which in 1917 became the title piece of “Prufrock and Other Observations”, and going on to include “Gerontion” at a time when our own time could truly be said to have begun.

     Published in 1920 as part of a collection variously named “Poems” and “Ara Vos Prec”, it contains the first of the so-called Sweeney poems featuring a character called Apeneck Sweeney. And opinions vary as to the identity of this figure, with some critics insisting that he represents all that is coarse in modern Man, and others that he is in fact some kind of Rousseauian noble savage admired by his creator for his Boeotian simplicity.

      And “Gerontion” contains one of Eliot’s most famous and desolate lines in the shape of “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” which has been sporadically referred to since by writers seeking to convey the utter enormity of Man’s inhumanity to Man.

     While the third of these, “The Waste Land”, was published in 1922, a year which has been cited by at least one cultural critic as the very acme of the Modern, as it produced not just "The Waste Land", but James Joyce's equally seismic "Ulysses”. 

     It was received by the youth of the inter-war years as some kind of clarion call to arms…a cry to the young to rise; and as such, could be likened to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, which ignited the Beat Generation in 1955, that totemic year in which Rock started to make serious inroads into the mainstream for the first time. And James Dean took his place as the prototype of youth in revolt for the entire late 20th Century simply by dying while still young and beautiful at the flaming height of his fame.

     While the following year of ’56 witnessed the onset of Britain’s Angry Young Men, led by playwright John Osborne, among whose manifestos could be said to have been “The Outsider” by Colin Wilson, which included several quotations from Eliot’s poetry.

     And Eliot himself was perceived as “wild” according to fellow poet Stephen Spender, which of course could not have been further from the truth, for all throughout the ‘20s, he faithfully worked from 9 to 5 as if he were the very epitome of middle class propriety.

     Yet, he became an idol to a wild generation of gilded privileged youth…sonnenkinder such as Harold Acton, who famously declaimed “The Waste Land” from the balcony of his room at Christ Church, Oxford, an incident which Evelyn Waugh included in his much loved elegy to his own generation at Oxford, “Brideshead Revisited”.

     However, according to Waugh, the novel’s chief aesthete, Anthony Blanche was based not on Acton, but another of Waugh’s contemporaries at Oxford, that Bright Young Thing par excellence, Brian Howard, whose single published volume of verse revealed exceptional poetic gifts. Although unlike Eliot, he remained in decorous obscurity.

     As a poem it remains quite inscrutable, although rightly or wrongly, it conveys a powerful sense of disgust with the Established Order latterly responsible for sending millions of young men to their deaths in a pointless conflict, with its unforgettable opening lines starting with “April is the cruellest month…”

     

    Eliot’s next major poetic work, “The Hollow Men” was from 1925, also the year of the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, the quintessential Jazz Age novel which serves as an exquisitely wrought evocation of the despair that underlay its frenzied hedonism. Little wonder that Eliot admired it so much.

     “Hollow” contains lines which are if anything even more mythically desolate than those of “The Waste Land”, such as, “We are the Hollow Men / We are the Stuffed Men, “ which opens the poem, and “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper”, which closes it.

     Many are familiar with the former through their inclusion in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam-era version of Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness”, “Apocalypse Now”, in which they are recited by the character of Captain Kurtz, which is apt, given that Eliot’s original poem was prefaced by a quotation from Conrad’s novel, “Mistah Kurtz – he Dead”.

     But this is just one of the seemingly endless allusions to “The Hollow Men” that have haunted the arts and popular culture since the midpoint of what Fitzgerald famously called “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history”. In fact, references to the poem, not just in literature, but music, the cinema, television, even video gaming, etc. are so numerous as to verge on the plethoric.

     Yet, it boggles the mind that that the most influential poet of modern times was such an unlikely revolutionary, was in fact the most impeccably respectable of men. For also in ’25, he left Lloyds of London to begin a new career as a publisher for Faber and Gwyer - later Faber and Faber - where he remained for the rest of his professional life, eventually becoming one if its directors. 

     Two year later, he joined the Anglo-Catholic communion, so that thereafter, his work was informed by his deep Christian faith, and he became a British citizen in the same year, ultimately declaring himself to be “classicist in literature, royalist in politics and Anglo-Catholic in religion”.

     His next major work was his first long poem published since his conversion, “Ash Wednesday” (1930), which, while being almost entirely devoid of the darkness and cynicism of its better-known predecessors, deals with the struggle of one who, hitherto lacking faith, strives to move closer to God.

      Also published that year were Eliot’s contributions to Faber and Gwyer’s “Ariel Poems”, a series of pamphlets containing illustrated poems by Eliot and several other poets.  But after 1930, rather than the poetry that made his name, he’d devote himself to a sporadic succession of plays, from “The Rock”, which was first performed for churches of the diocese of London in 1934, to his final play, “The Elder Statesman” from 1959, via “Murder in the Cathedral” (1935),  “The Family Reunion” (1939), “The Cocktail Party” (1949), and “The Confidential Clerk” (1953).

     In 1932, he accepted the Charles Eliot Norton professorship for the 1932-‘33 academic year that had been offered him by Harvard, and when he returned he formally separated from his wife. In 1938, she was committed to the Northumberland House mental hospital, Stoke Newington, where she died at the tragically early age of 58 in 1947.

     A year later, a collection of comical poems about cats written by Eliot throughout the decade was published under the title, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, while also in ’39, he contributed two poems to “The Queen’s Book of the Red Cross”, sponsored by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Consort, these being  “The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs” and “Billy M'Caw: The Remarkable Parrot”.

     To say nothing of “The Idea of a Christian Society”, for Eliot’s greatness was tripartite, being rooted not just in his poetry and his plays, but his essays and other non fiction works of which he published many between 1920 and 1957, with one being published posthumously. And together with “Notes Towards the Definition of Culture” it sets forth Eliot’s conservative Christian world view, which while unfashionable among intellectuals at the time, is even more so today and on a far wider scale.

     For to Eliot, modern Britain was what could be termed Laodicean, or lukewarm, a society which while tolerant of Christian principles, yet fell lamentably short when it came to living by them, and if that was true in 1939, it’s even more so today.

     

    By the beginning of the Second World War, Eliot had already begun work on his final poetic masterpiece, “Four Quartets”, another markedly Christian work centring on various phenomena related to Eliot’s belief in the necessity of Christian faith.

     The first of these, “Burnt Norton” was named after a manor house in the Cotswolds, and published as part of his “Collected Poems 1909-1935” in 1936. The second, “East Coker”, took its name from the little Somerset village whence Eliot’s ancestors, a father and son named Andrew Eliot, emigrated to Beverly, Massachusetts, between 1668 and 1670, and was published in The New English Weekly. As was the third, “The Dry Salvages”, written in 1941 at the height of the Blitz on London, and named after a rock formation known to Eliot. While the fourth, “Little Gidding”, owes its title to a former Anglican community in Huntingdonshire established by the scholar and courtier Nicholas Ferrar.

     And the remainder of Eliot’s life saw him being showered with honours for his services to literature, such as the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, the Legion d’Honneur in ’51, the Hanseatic Goethe Prize in ’55, the Dante Medal in ’59, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in ’64, as well as honorary doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and the Sorbonne, and nine other universities.

     On the 10th of January 1957, at the age of 68, he married the 32 year old Esmé Valerie Fletcher, his secretary at Faber and Faber since 1949, and the marriage brought him much happiness, lasting until his death from emphysema in 1965.

     Since that totemic year, in which Pop music started to mutate piecemeal into Rock and disseminate the Modernist world view throughout the world as never before, a development one can’t help thinking would have appalled the ultra-conservative Eliot, Valerie Eliot has devoted herself to her husband’s legacy, which, by any standards known to Man, has been phenomenal.

     For Eliot has haunted contemporary culture to a degree surely unparalleled by any other 20th Century poet.

     Yet, some would argue that Dylan Thomas is the supreme poet of our age, and while he’s undoubtedly a more colourful figure than Eliot, his cultural influence is surely but a fraction of Eliot’s, and the same could be said of Sylvia Plath’s…although many would disagree.

     And there seems to be no end to its depths, leading one to come to the conclusion that he’s one of the greatest icons of our culture, taking his place as “the poet” alongside fellow giants…such as Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, JFK, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Princess Diana. But what would Eliot make of such a list?

     One can’t be certain…but after surveying it, he might have wondered, “Where’s Groucho?” For if the portraits on the wall of his London home were anything to go by, there were few icons Eliot himself rated higher than his beloved Groucho Marx, the only man Eliot ever deemed worthy enough to ask for his autograph. Ridiculous? Not to Thomas Stearnes Eliot it wasn’t.



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 9:41AM

    Alfred de Musset and the Myth of Young France



     File:Alfred de musset.jpg

    It was in the glittering Paris of the 1830s that a certain French Romantic poet, playwright and novelist of noble birth by the name of Alfred Charles de Musset-Pathay came close to having the exorbitant ambition of one who didn’t want to write without aspiring to the greatness of a Shakespeare or Schiller fulfilled.

     But then he’d been a brilliant student, the son and grandson of writers who’d published his poem at just 16 in 1828, and a translation of de Quincey’s “The Confessions of an English Opium Eater” in the same year.

     While his first works, which included the “Contes d’Espagne et d’Italie” were published at the dawn of that decade which he entered blessed with every great gift a gilded young genius might hope to possess. Being tender as well as elegant, beautiful as well as brilliant, and an irresistible enthusiast of the most exorbitant passion and sensibility. But he’d have to wait a few years before real artistic success came his way.

     And his was the era in which the Romantic movement came into full flower in France. And he revelled in it as the so-called Phosphorescent Prince, his sphere, the dandified café society of the Parisian Right Bank, his closest friend, fellow dandy Alfred Tattet.

     For the Paris of the 1830s was the very cradle of the nascent Modern impulse, the leading world incubator of the most charismatic originality of thought and behaviour, in which such distinctly Modern phenomena as Bohemianism and the avant-garde came into being more or less for the first time. And the Gothic tendency flourished as never before in the hands of such proto-Bohemian bands as the Bouzingots and the Jeunes-France.

     It was a uniqueness, moreover, that has tended ever since to verge on the downright aberrant when manifested by some of her most gifted citizens, such as her celebrated poètes maudits…llong the apostles of the avant-garde par excellence.

     And it could be said the first generation of these were numbered among the young men who in the wake of the July Revolution of 1830 congregated about such wild and brilliant youth as Pétrus Borel and Théophile Gautier, two writers of the so-called frenetic school of late Romantic writers.  And these seminal avant-gardists have become known as the Bouzingos, although little distinguished them from the earlier Jeunes-France.

     Originally members of a Romantic clique known as le Petit Cénacle, their role in the infamous Battle of Hernani at the Comédie Francaise theatre in February 1830 was paramount.

     And this took place on the opening night of Hugo’s play, “Hernani”, and was marked by violent scenes involving defenders of the Classical tradition, and Hugo’s supporters, who flaunted long hair and flamboyant costumes in defiance of everything the bourgeois held dear.

     In addition to Gautier, they included Pétrus Borel, Gérard de Nerval, Philothée O’Neddy and Augustus MacKeat, all of whom went on to be numbered among the Jeunes-France.

     According to one theory, the first Bouzingos were a band of political agitators who took part in the July Revolution in wide-brimmed leather hats. While their artistic equivalents were so named by the press following a night of riotous boozing which saw some of them end up in prison for the night.

     However, they too embraced radical political views; for the artistic avant-garde has mostly inclined to the left, while containing an ultra-conservative element. 

     Needless to say, they owed an enormous debt to the earlier English and German Romantics, who did so much to promote the myth of the artist as tormented genius ever-existent on the fringes of respectable society. A Bohemian in others words.

     And akin to the Bohemian was the Dandy; and of the poètes maudits of mid 19th Century Paris, several were both Bohemians and Dandies, depending on their circumstances at the time.

     They included Charles Baudelaire, whose essay “Le Dandy” (1863) is one of the defining works on the subject.

     And the same could be said of his forefather Musset, whose tormented relationship with fellow Romantic George Sand, born Amantine Lucile Dupin in Paris in 1810, had much of the Bohemian about it. That is, in terms of its turbulence and debauchery, which left the former golden boy of French letters a prematurely broken man at just 24, spurring him to pen his hyper-emotional “Confession”. And this was as much about his failed love affair with Sand as the disenchantment of the generation that had come to maturity in the wake of the Revolutionary Age.

     Sand, born Amantine Lucile Dupin in Paris in 1810, was clearly a woman of quite extraordinary magnetic power…and by the time of her affair with Musset, she was a divorcee with two young children, and a baroness to boot, even though her own roots were only partly aristocratic.

    For her effect on Musset was little short of cataclysmic, inspiring much of his finest work; and not just the “Confession”.

     For the famous series of poems known as “Les Nuits”, composed between 1835 and ’37, also spring from his unhappy relationship with Sand, and they are rightly considered to be among the unimpeachable masterpieces of French Romanticism. Indeed of French literature as a whole.

     Yet it could be argued that Musset is best known for his theatrical writings, which began as early as 1830 with “La Nuit Venitienne”. And of which “Lorenzaccio” from 1833, and “On Ne Badine Pas Avec L’Amour” from ’34 are among the most celebrated.

     Having said that, it’s the true life romance at the heart of the “Confession” that most inspires contemporary creators

     And the motion picture “Les Enfants du Siecle”, which was directed by Diane Kurys in 1999 with Benoit Magimel as Musset and Juliette Binoche as Sand, was directly inspired by these. While a version of the “Confession” itself is purportedly in the pipeline.

     And certainly it’s a glamorous tale, while Musset’s life itself is the stuff of legend.

     Yet despite the fact that like Gautier, he became a deeply respectable figure in late middle age, receiving the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 1845, before being elected to the French Academy in ’52, his was an ultimately tragic life, blighted by alcoholism. Which together with the condition known as aortic insufficiency, it brought about his demise from heart failure at just 46 years old.

     An age which appears to be a common one for the deaths of great poets whose flaming, beautiful youths were garlanded with the most magnificent promise imaginable. For as well as Musset…Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde died at 46, and together they might serve as a testimony to the awful truth of the brevity of even the most glorious of youths.

     As well as the ruinous nature of youthful self-indulgence which so often leads ultimately to what is described in 2 Corinthians 7:10 as “the sorrow of the world”, and of which Musset’s own heartbreaking poem “Tristesse” is a pre-eminent expression. As opposed, that is to “godly sorrow”, which “worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.”

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    Sat, Oct 8th - 9:34AM

    Beyond the Borderlands of Scotia



    File:Newrivergorgebridge.jpg

    It’s estimated that some 27 million Americans are of Scots-Irish descent, making it one of the largest ethnic group in the country, although the vast majority of these would consider themselves simply to be ethnically American.

     And among those sons and daughter of the US who’ve been able to boast of Scots-Irish origins have been many of the nation’s most legendary figures. Such as Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Kit Carson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Andrew W. Mellon, George S. Patton, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Jackson Pollock, Ava Gardner, Audie Murphy, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain.

     In addition to the US, people of Scots-Irish descent are to be found in all other parts of the Anglosphere, including Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, and of course Britain.

     Indeed, the people whence they directly emerged are still to be found in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. While living Britons of Scots Irish lineage include composer and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, much-praised Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh and Hollywood movie star Daniel Radcliffe. As well as all those Northern Irish men and women who identify as British, of which there are allegedly 37%.

     To say nothing of your humble author who, while proud of his Scots Irishness, nonetheless maintains that there is no justification for claims of superiority on the part of any ethnic group, given we are each of us subject to sin from birth.

     This is a concept which will hold great appeal to many of those of Scots-Irish origin, given their longstanding affiliation to that form of Christianity which is predicated on a belief in the literal truth of the Bible, and which has become known as Fundamentalism. All of which begs the question… just exactly who are the Scots-Irish?

     Well, contrary to what might be believed, the Scots Irish are neither strictly Scottish nor Irish. In fact, their origins as a distinct group lie in what are known as the Ulster Plantations, which came into existence in 1609, in the wake of the Nine Years War, a bloody conflict fought largely in the province of Ulster, Ireland, between its chieftains and their Catholic allies, on one hand, and the forces of Elizabethan England on the other. The latter’s decisive victory led to the end of the Gaelic Clan system, and the colonization of Ulster by English and Scottish Protestants; hence, the Ulster Plantations.

     Many of these planters had been inhabitants of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands, and so, hailing from northern English counties such as Cumberland, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Yorkshire and Lancashire, and counties of the Scottish Lowlands, such as Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Roxburghshire, Berwickshire and Wigtownshire.

     According to many sources, Lowlanders are distinct from their Highland counterparts by being of Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic ancestry, although how true this is it’s impossible to say. Certainly, the region straddling the Scottish Lowlands and Anglo-Scottish Borderlands is one traditionally perceived by Highlanders as Sassenach, which is the Gaelic term for a person of Anglo-Saxon origin.

     Whatever the truth, the sensible view is that 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 partake of a fairly homogenous ancestry, which certain contemporary experts are claiming to be more Iberian than anything else. Again, this is open to conjecture.

     These 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 Ulster-Scots, origin. Today, many of them describe themselves as merely “American”, while others continue to claim either English or Ulster-Scots ancestry.

     In America, they are known as the Scots-Irish, although a far better name for them would be the British Irish, or Ulster British, given that they are mostly of Anglo-Scottish stock, with alleged soupcons of Irish, Flemish, French and German . However, Scots-Irish is the name by which they are most famous, so from this point on, they will be referred to exclusively as such. 

     In the early 1700s, some 50,000 Scots-Irish men and women left the ports of Belfast, Larne and Londonderry for the New World. They came as a fiercely independent people, complete with Bible and musket, and mostly as skilled workers, filled to the brim with the Protestant work ethic, and desperate for religious freedom.

     Having had a negative experience of gentry-dominated societies in both Britain and Ireland, the freshly arrived Scots-Irish were understandably keen to steer clear of similar regimes in the US. So at first, they avoided Virginia, which had been settled during the English Civil War and its aftermath by Royalist Cavaliers of gentle birth, as well as the Carolinas, as all were under the sway of the plantation system and the Church of England; while Maryland had been established for the Catholic nobility. 

     Their first part of call was the Pennsylvanian backcountry, and from there, they moved further down into the Southern hinterland, to Virginia and the Carolinas; and following the war of independence, and together with fresh immigrants, they set about the population of Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, and so the rest of the South. At the same time, many remained in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, while others moved further west, so that parts of Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma went on to become culturally British, and specifically Scots-Irish. The same could be said of the southernmost parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. 

     They formed the dominant culture of the Appalachian mountains from Pennsylvania to Georgia, and featured strongly among those who tamed the West in the wake of the American War of Independence.

     In time, they largely forsook their Calvinist roots to adopt the fervid Evangelicalism for which they are renowned throughout the world, as they are for their unyielding allegiance to God, nation and family.

     In time, their influence grew to the extent that they became part of America’s ruling elite, with no less than a third of all American presidents having ancestral links to Ulster, these reputedly including FDR, Truman, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, both Bushes and Obama.

     Thence, this remarkable little race made the voyage all the way from the borderlands of Scotland, where they existed as the lowliest and most oppressed of peoples to the highest political office in the world…an incredible testament of the resilience of the fighting Scots-Irish.

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    Sat, Oct 8th - 9:24AM

    Werther and the Rise of Romantic Melancholia



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    Most students of world literature would surely agree that Goethe’s famous epistolary novel, “The Sorrows of the Young Werther” has exerted a quite incalculable influence on the evolution of the Western mind from the date of its publication in 1774. And that it did so principally through Romanticism, that great movement in the arts of which it was a prime antecedent, would be disputed by few.

    And while the notion that melancholy is a feature of sensitive and creative youth was not new at the height of Romanticism, it attained a credence within it that was possibly unprecedented, at least in its intensity. The name mal du siècle becoming attached to it, although some may refer to it as weltschmerz, which literally means world pain.

    Such a development can be at least partly attributed to “Werther”, whose forlorn hero has served as the forefather of succeeding generations of melancholy youth.

    And then there are the countless scions of Romanticism within the Decadent and Symbolist Movements, Expressionism and Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism and the Beat and Rock Generations, who by pursuing tragic, tormented existences and dying while yet young and preferably beautiful, have become the favoured artists of the Modern Age.

    Surely, all who remain unconvinced by the romantic and avant-garde persuasions will view this development as not just tragic but horrifying. For while old age is all too often a source of deep regret for follies past, youth, precious youth, provides a person with almost unlimited opportunities for the eradication of this outcome.

    Which is not to mitigate genuine depression, of which there are sufferers in all age brackets, and to which youth can be singularly susceptible. For to do so would be not just cruel but dangerous.

    But most people in the privileged West, no matter how exorbitantly romantic in youth, yet survive into late middle age. And all that remains for them to do is find a place for themselves in the world, but without the advantages of youth and beauty and endless reserves of time.

    So, what precisely was it that possessed Goethe to write a novel that at least partially caused an entire movement in the arts to be birthed in his wake. And what was it about the work that was so inflammatory?

    In order to answer this question, it’s necessary to examine certain events from Goethe’s own young manhood.

    For in 1770, at the tender age of 20, Goethe found himself in Strasbourg in order to complete a law degree he’d previously abandoned while at Leipzig. And while there, became a close friend of future fellow polymath Johann Gottfried von Herder, who introduced him to Shakespeare, then allegedly barely known in the German speaking world.

    And by the following year, he was working as a licensee in Frankfurt, although he soon lost his position, at which point he set about attempting to make his living as a writer for the first time, publishing the drama, “Goetz von Berlichingen” in 1773.

    By so doing, he’d provided the first classic of the Storm and Stress movement which also included his one-time mentor Herder, as well as an example, in the shape of the drama’s hero, of what is known in German as “das Dämonische”. Which is to say a type of genius of overpowering will and energy who could to some degree be said to be a precursor of the Byronic Hero.

    And in this, he was powerfully influenced by Shakespeare, whose age he evidently saw as being in marked contrast to late 18th Century Germany in all its sedate respectability.

    In 1772, he resumed his legal career in Wetzlar on the river Lahn, and it was in that city state that he met the woman who would inspire him to write what remains his most famous work apart from “Faust”.

    The woman in question was Charlotte Buff, who by rejecting Goethe in favour of the civil servant Johan Christian Kestner provided the model for Lotte in Goethe’s famous novel. Yet while he suffered from her repeated rejections of his love, his friendship with Charlotte was far less intense than “Werther” suggested. While the titular hero himself was based not just on the youthful Goethe, but the German-Jewish philosopher Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem, who committed suicide following an unhappy love affair.

    “ Werther” perfectly captured a nascent restlessness and passionate extremism among the youth of Europe in the later years of the Enlightenment that would ultimately culminate in the Romantic revolution. In fact so much so that in some quarters its depiction of suicidal despair was condemned for flouting the traditionally Christian view of the sanctity of all life.

    Although to be fair, it was hardly new, having played its part in tragic literature since time immemorial. And there is no hard and fast evidence for the existence of copy cat suicides, which have come to be known as the Werther Effect, in the wake of the novel’s publication.

    But the fact remains that “Werther” helped to develop the notion of the hero as rebel against all constraints.

    And Werther’s rebellion even extends to his dress, which is to say the famous blue coat and yellow breeches, which were inappropriately proleterian for the bourgeois society of the day. And which serve to make him a remarkably contemporary figure, for in the days leading up to the sartorial revolution of the ‘60s, male clothing had been of a near-universal drabness for several decades.

    While at the height of the Swinging Sixties, hordes of educated young people on both sides of the Atlantic elected to grow their hair and sport dandified outfits like the Rock acts and artists who were seen as vulgar and low class by many from among their parents’ generation.

    Other facets of Werther’s rebellious uniqueness include his emotionalism, seen at the time as ill-befitting an educated male, but which went on to become an important part of the artistic armoury in a brave new aeon in which the Artist served as High Priest. Or to paraphrase Shelley, the unacknowledged legislator of the world.

    And a certain wandering quality which results in his accepting a mission to go in search of a family legacy, and then feel no overwhelming desire to either return home or seek a job in the rural region to which he has been sent. An idleness in other words…possibly born of a rebellious distaste for the puritan work ethic that has long been one of the key foundations of European bourgeois society.

    A distaste which has persisted since among Bohemian artists, but which is usually transcended beyond a certain age, as in the case of Goethe, who mutated into the most industrious of men. But Werther never matures beyond a state of infantile dependence, and for a time is content to do little other than socialise with the local peasant folk, or read Homer beneath the linden trees.

    And when he does finally find himself in work, his employer’s fastidiousness drive him to distraction, and he quits in disgust, only to drift to the nearby town of Wahlheim in search of a local girl by the name of Charlotte, with whom he’d earlier become infatuated.

    This despite the fact that Lotte is as good as engaged to be married to an older man called Albert, who befriends the lad, so that a kind of love triangle comes into being. And it could be said that Lotte is tempted by Werther, as the essence of proto-Romantic Bohemianism.

    However, Werther ultimately leaves Walheim to find work, only to return after quitting his job; while Albert and Lotte have since married and settled into domestic contentment. Yet Werther is warmly welcomed by the couple in his new capacity as a family friend.

    But he becomes increasingly de trop until Lotte is forced to become firm with him and tell him to stay away until Christmas Eve at which point, he reveals his true feelings to her. Not that she’d ever been in doubt about these. But of course, she rejects him, and the following day Werther kills himself by shooting himself through the head.

    And so…après lui, le déluge…which is to say of the Romantic Revolution, although it would be unjust to suggest that Goethe was its only forefather. For Goethe himself was responding to revolutionary ideas that were already very much in existence, such as those of Rousseau for example. And it would be equally unjust to over-emphasize the movement’s negative aspects.

    For it could be said that Romanticism was a reaction to the stultifying rationalism of the Enlightenment, and thence in some respects a step in the right direction in terms of renewing interest in the spiritual side of life.

    But at the same time, it ushered in this notion of the artist as set apart from the common run, and inclined to all manner of excess in terms of intuition and sensibility, of seditiousness and eccentricity, of mental and emotional instability, which is surely absurd. Or rather should be seen as such by anyone of a responsible cast of mind.

    For in its wake there arose a series of artistic movements or avant-gardes which fostered the most aberrant behaviour on the part of some of its participants. And presumably they acted as they did because they felt they had the right to as artists.

    And yet it could be said they were more inclined to do so than previous generations by virtue of the tenor of the times. Which is to say an age in which the Judaeo-Christian values on which the West had ever relied on for its foundations had already begun to decline in the wake of the Enlightnment, and so given birth to a spirit which has come to be known as Modernism.

    But it would be altogether wrong to suggest that Werther is responsible not just for Romanticism but its protracted decadence…which could with some justification be said to still be in operation.

    For there were were many Romantic precursors, and in comparison to some of these, Goethe’s breakthrough novel was the soul of innocence. And what’s more, in the wake of its phenomenal success, its author distanced himself from the nascent Romantic movement which caught fire first in Germany and then in Britain.

    And he did so for the sake of a form of Neoclassicism which has become known as Weimar Classicism, whose minute number of participants included, in addition to Goethe himself, his close friends Schiller and Herder, as well as the poet and novelist Christoph Martin Wieland.

    Yet, some half century after the publication of the book that made him world famous, Germany's greatest poet, and the equal as such of his one-time idol Shakespeare looked back on the time of Werther’s sensational impact on a restless, passionate generation of youth. And he described it as “a spring, when everything was budding and shooting, when more than one tree was yet bare, while others were already full of leaves. All that in the year 1775!”

    One can't help thinking there are many of the so-called Baby Boomer generation who view such totemic years as 1965, or '67, or perhaps even '77, in much the same way as Goethe when he was inspired to write these lines about his own wild youth. But then is that not the way for all generations of youth now grown old?

    Of course...but then perhaps it's especially true for the generation who didn't so much invent the madness of youth, as incarnate it as never before within living memory.

    And for my part, without sacrificing a tithe of what I've learned and achieved up to this point, I'd dearly love to make a return to a time when life seemed like some kind of eternal spring when everything was possible, nothing too much trouble. And this time around, youth would not be wasted on me, no not one delicious drop of it.



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    Sat, Oct 8th - 9:05AM

    Luke the Drifter and the Secrets of Country



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    Luke the Drifter and the Birth of Country

    It’s widely accepted that singer and songwriter Hank Williams is Country Music’s single most revered figure, and among the most influential popular musicians of the 20th Century.
     And as such he incarnated many of the key elements of this most American of arts, having been born poor in the rural South of the United States, for notwithstanding its Canadian and Australian variants, Country is quintessentially the music of the working people of the American South.
     These allegedly originally consisting of southern English emigrants from rural East Anglia, Kent and the West Country, who settled largely on the coastal regions, but had reached the Appalachian Mountains by the 18th Century. While Appalachia and the Piedmont was significantly colonised by Northern English and Lowland Scottish peoples, as well as the Protestant Scots-Irish from Ireland’s Ulster province.
     And the great majority of white Southerners continue to be of English and Scots-Irish origin, notwithstanding the sizable amounts of Southerners who don’t share these ancestries. Such as the French Americans of Louisiana for example; and the Irish Americans of South Georgia; as well as the German Americans of the Texas Hill Country and borderland areas of the upland South.
     But Hank Williams was of English-American ancestry, like so many of those who bequeathed the South its distinctive culture, which includes its famous conservatism and patriotism, themselves the result of deep-rooted Christian foundations. And a culture of honour…born perhaps of the clannishness of herders from Western and Northern England, Lowland Scotland and Ireland’s Ulster province…and resultant fiery sense of protectiveness.
     As well as the time-honoured mistrust existent between the rural poor and wealthy elite, such as those of the coastal areas, who were traditionally of English Episcopalian origin. While those of the hill country were mainly of mixed English and Scots-Irish ancestry.
     And of course its music…and while it’s known as Country today, this has not always been the case.
      For its roots lie in the Folk Music of emigrants from Britain and Ireland, as do the Square and Clog dancing that flourished alongside it; although while the fiddle came from the British Isles, the banjo was African-American in origin. While the Mountain Dulcimer was native to the Appalachians.
      Known today as Old Time music, it was first commercially recorded in the early 1920s.
     While among the earliest acts considered Country per se were Jimmie Rodgers from Mississippi; and the Carter Family from Virginia, whose music was marked by the Evangelical fervour that would go on to be one of the defining hallmarks of early Country.
     And other early superstars included Uncle Dave Macon, son of a Confederate Captain, Country Gospel pioneer Roy Haxton Acuff, and harmonica master DeFord Bailey, self-styled purveyor of Black Hillbilly music. For at the time, Country was still described as such, with Acuff being known as the King of the Hillbillies (some time before he became the backwoods Sinatra).
     All three were early performers at the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly stage event instituted in 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee, which has since become established as the spiritual capital of Country Music. But which was originally but a one-hour barn dance featured on local radio.
     And if Acuff represented the family values that have always been part and parcel of Country, then Western Swing, a fusion of Country and Swing which took root in Texas and Oklahoma in the late 1920s, was infinitely less spiritual. Although by contemporary standards, it was the soul of romantic innocence.
     And in time it mutated into Honky-Tonk, which was variously fuelled by Country fiddle and steel and electric guitars, as well as the Boogie Woogie piano style of artists such as Moon Mullican. While Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You” is widely considered to have launched the genre in 1941, which at the hands of Floyd Tillman, produced songs of great beauty which inclined as much to Traditional Pop as Country.
     While Mullican’s music was incredibly influential, providing much of the groundwork not just for Rockabilly, but Rock and Roll itself.
     Although its dominance was seriously challenged by the birth of Bluegrass, which harked back to the classic Folk of yore, its founding father, Bill Monroe from the Bluegrass State itself. While other masterful acts within the tradition included the Stanley and Louvin Brothers.
     If Honky-Tonk provided the essence of modern Country, then Bluegrass was the keeper of the classical tradition; and it could conceivably said Hank Williams stood at the crossroads of both. That is, if his dual inclination to the spiritual fervour of Southern Gospel and the out and out hedonism of Honky-Tonk were anything to go by.
     And perhaps it’s partly because he was such a divided spirit that he stands as Country’s single most revered figure, and not just in terms of his music - Country of course having served as one of the prime components of primordial Rock and Roll - but his wild and colourful lifestyle. For there are those who'd insist this was perfectly in keeping with the Rock and Roll ethos that came in the wake of his untimely death in 1953. Although such a theory is only partially true at best.  
     For far from being some kind of conscienceless libertine, there’s evidence he was conscious of the necessity of repentance all throughout his life. And in this respect, anticipated the tortured relationship with Christ enjoyed by several of his progeny within Rock and Roll, such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis himself.
     There’s also evidence he made his peace with His Saviour immediately prior to his terrible lonely demise, which while indisputably hastened by long- term alcohol abuse, was ultimately the result of a heart attack. While mention must be made of the morphine and chloral hydrate he’d been latterly taking as a means of controlling his chronic back pain.
     And could it be said his longstanding pain was ultimately spiritual, as well as physical…born of a conviction on his part he’d neglected the kind of faith that inspired several of his early songs, such as “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul” from ’47, and “I Saw the Light” from a year later? And that he’d allowed himself to be blinded by worldly ambition?
     Whatever the truth, it seems apparent this failed to provide him with any true long-lasting happiness. Or indeed the mainstream success for which he clearly so longed for a time. But if he died a saved man, in the final analysis, was this really such a great loss ?

    Luke the Drifter and the Life of Hank Williams

    He was born Hiram King Williams in Mount Olive in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, on the 17th of September 1923, to Elonzo Williams, a World War One veteran of English ancestry known as Lon, and his wife Jessie Lillybelle Williams - née Skipper - known as Lillie.
     Lon Williams’ working career had included time spent as a waterboy on logging camps, while he was ultimately destined to ascend to the lofty status of engineer for a prestigious logging company. But he’d more recently opened a small store with his wife adjacent to their cabin in Mount Olive. And their first child, Irene, had been born on the 8th of August 1922.  
     Young Hiram was a frail and slender boy seemingly bound for a lifetime of suffering, and most of all from a mild undiagnosed case of the spinal disorder, spina bifida occulta.
     Then, in 1930, when he was only seven years old, his father was diagnosed with a brain aneurism related to a fall he'd suffered during his wartime service, and he was hospitalised for eight years.  Which resulted in a lengthy peripatetic period for the Williams family, with Lillie finding work wherever she could.
     And it was during a brief sojourn in Georgiana that Williams' musical career is believed to have come about, when Blues musician Rufus Payne, known as Tee Tot, provided the young Hank with guitar lessons in exchange for meals prepared by his mother. The upshot being he came to develop a unique musical style consisting of elements of Country, Folk and Blues which presaged the eventual birth of Rock and Roll.  
     And while still only a teenager he was already hosting his own show on a local radio station in Montgomery, Alabama, as “The Singing Kid”, while touring beer joints and other venues with his band, which he dubbed the Drifting Cowboys.
     So that by the early ‘40s he was a regional star attraction, coming to the attention as such of various influential members of the music business, even while seeking the alcoholic self-medication that took a serious toll on his reputation for reliability.
     And then, with America's entry into World War II in 1941, the band was virtually decimated, although Williams himself was exempted from active service by dint of his medical condition.
     Two years later, he met Audrey Mae Sheppard, a beautiful divorcee from a farming family from Banks, Alabama, and they wasted little time in getting married, with Audrey becoming his manager a short time before their wedding. And in 1946, he and Audrey visited Nashville with a view to meeting music publisher Fred Rose, one of the heads of Acuff-Rose Publishing with one of Hank’s idols, Roy Acuff.
     He promptly went on to record two successful singles, which resulted in his signing a contract with MGM Records with Rose as his manager and producer.
     “Move it On Over”, released in 1947 was Williams’ first single for MGM, and while it went to number four on the Billboard Country Singles chart, it failed to make a dent on the Pop mainstream. Although its uncanny resemblance to “Rock Around the Clock” makes it one of the most influential records of the 20th Century.
     However, by this time, his problems with alcohol were in constant danger of sabotaging his ascent to national celebrity. And far from contributing to these, it’s believed Audrey was indefatigable in her efforts to keep him from the booze and encourage his rise to the top, notwithstanding the turbulence of their relationship.
     But these were such that Fred Rose, who evidently loved him as his own son, gave up on his in despair, while in April 1948, Audrey filed for divorce.
    However, after having reconciled with both his manager and the love of his life, his career was once more on track. And in August, he appeared on the Louisiana Hayride radio show, which would play host to one Elvis Presley just a little over a half dozen years down the line.
     Then in 1949, his son Randall Hank Williams - who would go on to great success in his own right as Hank Williams Jr. - was born on the 26th of May. While his cover of “Lovesick Blues”, a Tin Pan Alley song written by Cliff Friends and Irving Mills in 1922, became his first number one on the Country chart, while crossing over into the Top 25 at number 24.
     And when he performed it at the Grand Ole Opry in June, he received no less than six encores, which was unprecedented at the time, and had the effect of turning him into a true star at long last.
     With success came the creative freedom to create an enigmatic alter ego, which he did in 1950. And under the name of Luke the Drifter, he recorded a series of recitation-based recordings with a powerful Christian theme.
     But 1951 was a year of terrible trial for Hiram King, and his final separation from Audrey came in May when they were divorced for a second time. While in August, his uncontrolled alcoholism saw him fired from the Grand Ole Opry.
     Although his career proceeded apace, and he placed no less than five singles in the Country top ten in that year, including two number ones in the shape of “Hey Good Looking”; and “Cold Cold Heart”, which the great vocal stylist Tony Bennett took to number one on the national chart.
     But in the fall, he suffered an accident during a hunting trip on his Tennessee farm which exacerbated his already chronic back problems, while allegedly causing him to resort to a variety of painkillers including morphine.
     While in ‘52, he scored as many successes as the previous year, including “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”, which reached number 20 on the national chart, making it his greatest ever hit.
     His personal life received a shot of good fortune in October when he married another Southern beauty Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar in Minden, Louisiana. And it’s she who has publicly testified to his reconciliation with Jesus shortly before his death on New Year’s Day 1953, while it behoves all Christian men and women to maintain its sincerity. For when all’s said and done, a person’s salvation is in the hands of the Creator, and the Creator alone.
     What is certain is that his death came some time after midnight on the 1st of January 1953, in the back of a Cadillac convertible in which he was being driven to a series of concerts by a college student called Charles Carr,
    and was in consequence of a heart attack. And it’s been called the first great tragedy of Rock and Roll.

     But were it still up to Williams, would he truly care to be identified with such an ecstatically sensual music form?
     That is, in the light of the Luke the Drifter recordings; and his professed belief in the vital importance of repentance, as expressed through several of his earliest songs. To say nothing of the high poetic quality of his lyrics, which have caused him to be dubbed “The Hillbilly Shakespeare”.
     Although to be fair, Rock wasted little time in becoming a bona fide art form, with Bob Dylan injecting voluminous quantities of high culture into the music once he’d crossed over from Folk in 1965. While the Beatles were among the first of the initial wave of sixties Rock groups to be powerfully influenced by the fledgling art form’s first true intellectual.  
     And would it be too fanciful to suggest that Williams’ considerable poetic gifts partially anticipated this development? For Dylan has included the Hiram King among his foremost artistic mentors. While his musical progeny have also included the greatest Rock star of them all, Elvis Presley…the man who effectively birthed an entire era. Albeit unwittingly.

     For Elvis was initially seen as a Country artist, performing on the Grand Ole Opry for the first and only time on 2 October 1954, and on the Louisiana Haywire a fortnight after that; and then all throughout the following year. Although in truth, his music subsumed the rougher elements of both Country and Rhythm and Blues to create an entirely new music genre, Rock and Roll.

     And seminal Rock and Roll inclined more to Country or R&B depending on the artist creating it at any given time.

     But whatever it was known as, it took the Pop world by storm around 1955, while fomenting a cultural and moral revolution whose repercussions continue to be felt in the West and beyond to this day.

    Luke the Drifter and the Future of Country

    It could conceivably be said the means by which Country survived the Rock and Roll revolution was to distance itself from the very earthiness that had inspired it. And which was pre-eminently associated with Country music’s single most revered figure, the Hiram King, who is also among the most influential popular musicians of the 20th Century.

     So while the smooth musical genres of Soul and Tamla-Motown emerged from the far rougher sound of primal R&B, the Nashville Sound was born from a co-mingling of Country and Tin Pan Alley style Pop in the city that tendered it its name.
     While its earliest proponents included Jim Reeves, who sang with the finesse of a great song stylist…a Sinatra or a Como…and Patsy Cline, who had something of the Jazz chanteuse about her. But while the Nashville Sound saved Country Music in commercial terms in around 1958, a major creative backlash came courtesy of the Southern Diaspora city of Bakersfield, whose Bakersfield Sound, forged in the mid 1950s, started infiltrating the mainstream a few years later.
     For during the Dust Bowl period of the early 1930s, this small conservative town in California’s San Joaquin Valley had been subject to a massive influx of migrants from several southern states including Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. And when they came, they brought their music and culture with them, with the result that Bakersfield became a Southern city in all but name.
     And if the Nashville Sound was born of a harmonious merger between Country and Tin Pan Alley, that of Bakersfield harked back to the pre-Rock age, while ultimately co-opting several key ingredients of this upstart art, its first major figure the Texan Buck Owens, who settled in the town in 1951.
     While his first number, “Act Naturally”, from 1963, was later covered by the most successful Pop act of all time, the Beatles…who were allegedly influenced by the Bakersfield Sound; and certainly the distinctive twang of many of their earliest recordings has a powerful Country feel about it.

     Although unlike the superstars of the Nashville Sound, Owens never had a top ten record on the Billboard Hot 100.
     While Country Pop thrived throughout the ‘60s in the shape of such massive crossover hits as Jim Reeves’  “He’ll Have to Go” from 1960; “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee, also from ’60, “Make the World Go Away” by Eddie Arnold from 1965; and the poignant “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell from the year of non-stop protest, 1968.
     But it was also in the ‘60s, or rather the late 1960s at a time when Rock was in the midst of its Golden Age, that new earthier forms of Country could be said to have set about the task of challenging the Nashville mainstream. Such as the first major Bluegrass Revival; as well as the increasing popularity of Progressive Bluegrass.
     While Country Rock became an international sensation thanks to such albums as the Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”, spearheaded in ’68 by tragic wunderkind Gram Parsons, who more than anyone was responsible for introducing the Rolling Stones to his beloved music.
     While it had been Bob Dylan who’d been its foremost pioneer by dint of incorporating elements of Country into his ground-breaking 1966 double album “Blonde on Blonde”; with “John Wesley Hardin” from ’67, and “Nashville Skyline” from ’69 serving as full-blown Country Rock artefacts.
     But it wasn’t until the ‘70s that the genre truly came into its own, when the Eagles emerged as the most successful Country Rock act of all time. Although their powerfully melodic sound was indebted to a classic Pop sensibility. And specifically that of the Beatles, whose “Beatles for Sale” from 1964 showed a marked Country influence.
     Among the other artists successfully operating within the Country Rock genre in the ‘70s were Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and John Fogerty, whose Creedence Clearwater Revival had been instrumental in bringing about the birth of Southern Rock in the late 1960s. This a form of music forged from elements of Rock and Roll, Country and Blues, whose most beloved exponents remain Southern legends the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynrd.
     While concurrently with the coming of Country and Southern Rock, Outlaw Country, inspired by the spirit of Hank Williams, started making modest inroads into the mainstream. And it was Willie Nelson, ironically responsible for one of the most beautiful crossover ballads in Country Music history in the shape of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” who stood at its centre.
     But he was aided and abetted in this respect by other veterans from the ‘50s, such as Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. While younger more troubled outlaws came in the shape of Townes Van Sandt, very much part of the pantheon of tortured prodigies that reached an apogee with Hank Williams, as well as Williams’ own son, Hank Jr.
     Although Country Pop with its roots in the Nashville Sound continued to dominate the Pop charts in the ‘70s, providing such diverse figures as Anne Murray, Olivia Newton John, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton with massive crossover hits. Even if by the mid 1980s, it had begun to be challenged by the New Traditional and Alternative schools, with Lyle Lovett widely considered to be the supreme pioneer of what has become known variously as Alt-Country and Americana.
     While in the ‘90s and ‘00s, mainstream Country music experienced an explosion of popularity which propelled certain figures to levels of international pre-eminence previously unprecedented for Country artists.

     And these included Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks, but most of all, Garth Brooks, who stands as the third most successful act in the history of recorded music in America.  Even if in terms of international record sales, he is nowhere near as prolific as his closest rivals in the US, the Beatles and Elvis Presley.
     And if mainstream Country in the new millennium is closer to teeny bop Pop than ever before, then there are those who’d insist that much contemporary alternative Country is Rock in all but name, with little of pure Country remaining. But if this is so, then at its most progressive, it’s produced some truly exalted art.
     Such as from native New Yorker Gillian Welch, who more than anyone since the end of the last millennium has forged fresh territory for Country Music, by fusing Old-Time music not just to the sombre mysteries of Alternative Rock, but the beautiful melodies of Classical Pop.
     While the Hiram King’s own grandson, Hank Williams III, serves to disprove the fact that the spirit of traditional Country has been entirely lost to the upstart art of Rock. Even if his lyrics are informed by such quintessential Rock and Roll subspecies as Heavy Metal and Punk.
     And what would his granddaddy, Country Music’s single most revered figure, and among the most influential popular musicians of the 20th Century, have to say about the state of Country Music were in a position to say anything at all?
     One can’t help thinking he’d be urging those with the requisite talent to return to songs of repentance pure and simple. And that wherever he may be now…he’d be devoutly wishing he devoted more of his life and career to songs bespeaking the seeing of the light and the subsequent preparedness for a time about which he once so fervidly sang…“When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels”.



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    Name: Carl Halling
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    About Me: Born Again Bible Believing Christian Writer, Actor, Singer, Songwriter. Born London. Born Again 1993.

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