Monday, 26 September 2016

Random access memory # 57. (1984)

During my last year in my hometown, when I was desperate to get away from the Fat Controller's house, DG offered to rent me the spare room in the flat he shared with his girlfriend. As it was, I already had a solid plan in place for moving to London so there didn't seem much point taking up the offer just for a few months.
Not long before, he'd invited me to join his band on second guitar even though I couldn't play well.
He was part of a social set I'd previously gone round with, but with whom I'd severed contact following a drug-fuelled freak-out.
I began having guitar lessons with a failed musician on Hendford Hill and I guess DG had seen me walking through town with my guitar, on the way to these.
DG invited himself round one evening and I showed him a couple of songs I'd written. That was probably the first time he'd been round that house even though I'd known him since I was five.
I'm not sure why he was so kind to me about the flat and the band, as we'd never particularly got on. There may have been an element of pity involved, perhaps because I was seen by that group of acquaintances as having gone mad, or perhaps because of the state of the Fat Controller's house, which, thinking back, wasn't far off being a slum.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Lifetime underachievement award # 16. (1992).

In my late teens I made a couple of faltering attempts at playing music with other people but it wasn't until I was about thirty that I plucked up the courage to try again. As I had few friends, and none of those musical, I answered an ad in Loot magazine. One of these resulted in me playing with a covers band which would rehearse ad infinitum in the drummer's Hither Green council flat.
There was never a serious intention to gig live but it was fun, and useful experience. I'd get the train down to Hither Green for rehearsals. One time I bumped into Mark the drummer at the station. He was running late and was on his way home. He'd been eating some sort of pie. His face was covered in flaky pastry debris.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Random access memory # 56. (1982).

When I still lived in my hometown we'd travel great distances to reach any entertainment on offer. One weekend a couple of carloads of us trekked about 30 miles to an open air gig on a clifftop just above Seatown. The gig was arranged by one of the two bands; The Lusty Romans. They'd rigged up a makeshift awning from a tarpaulin in case of rain, and got hold of a generator.
We gathered first in the pub in the bay. I remember the beer being terrible, flat and badly kept as it often was in those days. We then headed up to the windswept cliffs. I forget what the music was like in detail – fairly standard homegrown, ham-fisted local punk I suspect. The Lusty Romans' bassist had a Rickenbacker bass. It may have been a copy but I thought it looked fantastic regardless.
Proceedings were curtailed by a middle-aged bloke turning up to announce that we were on National Trust land and that we 'couldn't do that there, here' or something to that effect. I assume he worked for the National Trust thought it seems odd that he was on duty at that time of night. It's possible he was just some zealous member of the citizenry.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Welcome to the working week # 16. (1992).

While I was working at the homeless persons' unit there was an acrimonious strike over discriminatory treatment of its black workers.
I joined my workmates on picket duty, which I always try to do during strike action.
Of the few people who tried to go into work, most were non-union staff. The exception was one union member who insisted on crossing the line. Andy, the shop steward, pointed out the strike had been called democratically. This character then stated that 'Democracy led to Dachau' before turning his back and walking into work, leaving Andy spluttering in disbelief.
I'd worked with the character in question for some time. He'd always struck me as an opinionated, condescending dickhead.
Not long afterwards I left to do an MA. I got a studenship from the British Academy, which I later discovered was highly sought after and hard to get. As soon as the bloke heard about this his attitude to me changed completely. He started brown-nosing round me, saying his son had applied for the same funding unsuccessfully, and I'd done well to get it. I thought his change in attitude towards me spoke volumes about him, and not in a good way.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Lifetime underachievement award # 15. (1991).

After completing my degree I tried to settle to writing my novel. Notionally, I set aside the evenings to write. It was my habit at the time to buy two cans of Holsten Pils on the way home. I'd start writing and start drinking, supposedly so I could relax enough to write.
Because of the alcohol, each evening, sooner rather than later, my mind would become sufficiently absent to make writing an impossibility. My thoughts would wander and I'd just end up staring into space.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

If you're so clever... # 25. (1995).

When I was doing stand up comedy I became friendly with a woman comic who was on the same open-mic circuit. We didn't see each other socially but would always chat when we played the same gigs.
I arrived at one gig to find her stood at the bar putting in her contact lenses. I greeted her and said, 'That's what you need in this business -contacts!' She seemed impressed.
She was beautiful, had been to Oxford or Cambridge and had quite a prestige job on a national newspaper. She once rang me at home for a chat, while she was bored at work and her colleagues were in an editorial meeting. It seemed clear that she liked me. It was only a few years later that it occurred to me she may have possibly fancied me.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Family business #21. (1975)

Brother M left home when he was eighteen and I was eleven. He managed his first supermarket in Wareham, Dorset. He'd come home at weekends to see his mates and get his washing done. On these return visits he'd complain about how boring Wareham was. He'd joke that the locals would watch the traffic lights change for entertainment.
I think those early years away may have been quite lonely for him, reading between the lines. Although he's a sociable person his work meant he moved often, in the early days, sometimes staying in some fairly bleak accommodation.
Perhaps one of the decisive differences between him and me is that I spent ages pining for the things my family weren't able to provide. He, perhaps sensibly, went out and looked for them elsewhere the first chance he got.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Family business #20. (1987-1990).

I don't think I spoke to any of my family about my dad's suicide until I was about thirty. But I did at least mention it to a few friends, especially after I moved to London.
Their responses varied wthin a fairly limited range, but I think I was glad for almost any response as an indication that I hadn't imagined it all. They confirmed that something had happened, while, to me at least, my family acted as if nothing had occurred.
When I told my friend P he said I was remarkably well-adjusted. I'm not sure anybody would say that about me now.
When I told Mary she said, 'That's quite serious,' which I welcomed as recognition of what it meant to me.
After I split up with La Scala I went to see the student counsellor at Goldsmiths' for an initial assessment as I was feeling low. When I mentioned my dad's suicide to the counsellor she actually winced. I thought she would have heard it all before, but any professional inscrutability dropped clean off her face.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Random access memory # 55. (1993)

Some while after I'd split up with La Scala and she'd got her own flat nearby, she locked herself out by mistake. She came round to use the phone to ring a locksmith. While she waited she pointed out the dirty state of my flat. She said, 'Why don't you clean? Then you could invite somebody back here.' She pretty clearly meant a woman. And not her. She always seemed keen for me to meet somebody else after we split up. I'm unsure how much of that was out of concern for me and how much was to make sure I was properly over her and off her hands.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Random access memory # 54. (1968).

For some of my childhood I shared the upstairs bedroom with my two older brothers. I loved the lino in that room. The pattern consisted of Jackson Pollock style dots in regular diagonal blocks. I was intrigued and attracted by the way the pattern repeated.