I’ve heard it said that love is truly sacred but nowhere is it written that it’s guaranteed – 28th April 1994

These few days have been big big days, full of content and action (though not so thrilling to impart here).

Before leaving my sweetheart in the above section, we travelled London tubelike, drank coffee in an outdoor shopping mall and went through the science museum like butterflies on the wind. I was at a low ebb and still am today. Must be at the depths of my cycle currently but things have been on my mind. Things of much importance too.

While Bronwyn was away in Norwich we talked on the phone more about our wedding and each time Bronwyn cried on me. So difficult for us to find a compromise to suit all parties.

I’m also busy preparing for our stocktake at work which is causing me some frustration but fucked if I am going to write about work in here. Busy at home too with offers to buy my records now turned to pound notes and now in need of packing and sending. I’ll be glad when all this preparation is over because I feel like time is leaving me and I don’t have the freedom to relax and float around and say ‘Okay, I’ll go do that now.’

Reading Jack on the bus from London – what a great writer. A real poetic grasp on life. He reminds me of me – which could be just the sign of a good writer and I hope to emulate him one day. But my hand may not hold up to the pressure – back to the doctor next week I think.

And tonight restless too, more discussions about wedding and christening should we have the babies we desire. From frying pan to the fire. Sometimes it’s difficult to grasp the meaning of it all. Sometimes you just want to play games for the rest of your life. I wish Steve was here to talk to. I’ll miss my few friends when I leave here and my mum too. Such a big change in my life – I wonder if you can read it in my palm? I look forward to the other side of this weekend already (here’s me wishing away time!). Isn’t planning boring. Later dude!

Too smart to ask for more, this is all I’ve waited for – 24th April 1994

All I need is one true friend
I want total peace of mind
To leave the hurting world behind
I’m not scared; I swear I’m free
It may collapse the fear
That burns to bring the worst from me

(Lou Barlow)

Like sparks igniting the brush, we’re up and awake this morning. Last night saw me, Broni, David, Louise and Piers up at Uxbridge Road a jot, to a wild Greek restaurant with some old English fella singing English 60’s songs. The place packed out, with the restauranteur stomping around with his clipboard and shades like some guy out of the Comic Strip Presents. Real stereotypical big fat guy running a business, short and abrupt with people with London accent, though Greek descent.

A crowd of people walked in and he went up to them and said ”Oo uh you? You’re late should’ve bin ‘ere an ‘our ago! I’ll see what I can do fer you!’ Food was okay, especially the salad with coriander! Came back to David and Louise’s and drank champagne – did I mention it was David’s 30th birthday? – and I pondered how I’ve ended up here in the last two years and how I’ve changed to broaden my horizons.

We ate plum pudding with brandy and whiskey sauce and hours later arrange a bed on the floor to sleep. I wrote some, as you can see, and me and Broni talked a bunch before Sandman carried us away into our subconscious fantasy worlds.

This morning the sun shines and our souls are alive with adventure, waking us up and now sat waiting impatiently to leave, to discover new things in old museums. Live life, love life.

How to describe all my emotions as I leave my true sweetheart behind in wicked old London and I travel rapide back home to Poole. I wrote a poem in the few moments before the bus left, a poem for my Broni. We waved and blew kisses as the bus pulled out of the station. I remember how whenever Broni used to say goodbye to me that was it – no lingering around.

We really do feel madly in love with each other and I would die if anything happened to her. I feel a big sense of loss already, I hope she’s okay getting back to David and Louise’s. I nearly cried as I saw her sweet face for the last time today, a beautiful smile wishing me well. How love has taken me over once again but this time with my real soulmate, one true friend. How we ever survived being apart for five weeks last year I’ll never know (but I will because we have all the letters). Love to my Broni, my thoughts are with you always.

England’s green and pleasant land – 23rd April 1994

The 23rd already – time flies when you’re rushed off your feet what with sorting out records and replies, stocktaking at work (and being unusually busy) and going out (even on our slim budget). Lisa and Mick visited. Next night saw us totally exhausted and watching TV and reading papers! I hope that doesn’t become the norm.

Today we’ve just woken up and preparing to go to Milton Keynes and then London for luncheon appointments. This mad rush of life is busy snatching time from us and we run along playing catch up, apologising to those we forget in our panic, to whom we owe replies and responses.

Read more Jack in mum’s garden, glorious sun shining and cats playing – this in the 10 minutes I managed to grab for a lunch break yesterday. And my wrist is starting to hurt again.

Steve, old pal, I’m thinking of you and about you recently what with all the stuff me and Bronwyn are going through and what you got up to in the short time I knew you. Your marriage and the birth of Rebecca and the emotions you expressed in the lead up to her birth. Difficult problems you faced and we face similar decisions now relating to our future life. Us hoping our life may be longer than yours but who can predict such sad events. Let us hope they do not take us over. Life seems short and tinged with sadness but we (Broni and I) are happy chappies (I can’t really say what I mean here but I’m not unhappy with life or despondent in anyway but aware of its boundaries and unevenness).

As to today, we drove in what seems like the blink of an eye up to Bronwyn’s aunt once removed (Bronwyn’s dad’s cousin’s wife) Isabel, who is a glorious old lady living in a glorious old house in a glorious village that she knows all the history of, having lived there 20, nearly 30 years, raising Piers and Purdy (ex-punk I’ve yet met). As she showed us around she talked with excitement and enthusiasm about the village across the decades and how Milton Keynes has risen as a spectre in the distance, gaining ground ever nearer. And she remembers when that huge sprawling city was just a thought in some ministers pea brain all those years before.

Her house was beautifully old and full of old books and artefacts along with delicate glassware she collects. We saw a five-day-old foal on our walkabout too and watched mum (big as an elephant) guard her baby. So sweet young life starts. Big life.

From here, photos taken, goodbyes waved, we shot down Macadam in hairy-dicey-Indy 500 traffic to city of lights where traffic oddly quietened and we got to David and Louise’s on time for 6.30 (hand sore again and Broni requesting my company in bed – how could I refuse my nine-stone girl (she says fat, I think not) so better go and leave you to wonder about me – who I was – who I am).

I remember way back then when everything was true and when we would have such a very good time – sometime in April 1994

So now I’m taken to writing about this place that I live cos it’s meant a lot to me.* Let me describe some the two places me and my love shared before we came here, just to balance out the picture for you.

Well, December 92 saw me move away from mamas castle and seek out life on my own – find out what it’s all about and all that. Best way for my unsure legs to find some security was to live with people I knew so I prepared myself to live with mad Mick, a boyfriend of a friend that I’ve long known. Together we had to prepare his house for my arrival as there was already one other living there (drunk Rich) and not enough bedrooms.

Now, this house was mid-terrace in the centre of town (or near as dammit – just a spit from all facilities one could wish for, pub, chip shop, late corner store, town centre and hospital!) At the front was a main road, facing more houses and an old folks community Centre. At the rear a yard with a kind of singletrack service road and the backyards of the houses on the other side.

I was to have the big front bedroom that looked over the main road. Mick and Rich were not great housekeepers but that was fine with me. Many drunken nights had taken a toll on the house and its possessions – though plenty more were to come.

So it was Mick and I chop the living room in half by erecting a wall in the middle – a wall we were proud off because it stood and we didn’t believe it would! The kitchen and the bathroom both got our attention too though enthusiasm waned for DIY as time passed by and I moved in.

My room was the exception of the house tidywise as I cleaned it thoroughly before moving in and can sometimes be bothered to look after myself in that way. As the DIY got slated in favour of wild nights out some rooms became difficult to traverse. The Black & Decker workmate would often have to be negotiated to enter the kitchen or the bathroom. At one time the bathroom floor was awash with wood shavings and dust and even when clean and finished, the carpet held the dusty dullness. This was not a worry for us young active men who had no time to such activities as tidying up and our house (I could now call at ‘our’ house) was prone to the ‘let’s go to Mick’s’ after the pub closed syndrome i.e. it was a party house.

After only one month here I met my love (I knew I would) and after two more months (and a lot more story not yet wrote) she moved into my room. We were blissful and our surroundings did not bother us. Drunk Rich’s girlfriend moved in too.

As spring turned quickly into summer (I remember summer coming early) we’d all often sit outside for breakfast on any of the many cable drums I had deposited in the backyard as furniture. We’d chat lazily and plan the day in the hot sun. The summer wore on and my love and I made the decision to save up and leave the country – this we decided was not going to be an easy task in such a madhouse, and with that, with many other personal reasons, we up’d all our possessions into Pete and Catherine’s next door!

They both seemed reasonable people and not such drunken unreliable maniacs. This time we shared a back room a lot smaller and much of that taken up by a big double bed. This was luxury to us as we’d been squeezed into a single bed next door for several months. And so it was we slept most of the time on one side of the bed!

Not all our possessions would fit in the one room so we took up some of the spare too. This is where I think our first problem arrived. Most of my stuff was in that room and I’d spent much of my time there are my sweetheart would occupy herself in the bedroom. The kitchen too was small and the bathroom, though having the best show ever, being built as a downstairs extension, soon produced great mushrooms of mould. Though glad of a change in circumstance I felt this move may not have been a good choice.

Most nights we’d all sit together watching TV, eating our meals, drinking some beer and smoking some dope and as winter drew in, lit a cosy open fire. Though often interspersed by nights out or friends coming round we soon got bored with this and tried to occupy ourselves much more upstairs in our rooms but it wasn’t really working out. We soon got to the stage of going round to our friend’s (Kerry) house every night and spent a horrible chickenpox Christmas there.

We knew then that we had to leave so took to looking for flats or bedsits. Not cheaply priced in this area and not much for your money we were despondent of our situation until a longtime pal mentioned we could move into where he and his girlfriend were moving out from, as they were off to live in a house they’d just bought.

It looks like I didn’t actually get round to writing much about that house in the end. Just this:

*Blinding brightness descends from heaven across the viewpoint in my yard, as I sit here and ponder. Here I am surrounded by bricks and mortar, shining pinks and reds in the sunlight and I smile, a beam of happiness. Even though the buildings encroach my view I am here with the trees and the flowers, the grass, and insects buzzing wildly by on their own little lives of adventure. And with the people. Gentle wisps of cloud delicately float by then evaporate in the all-encompassing, unforgiving heat of the sun, our noon Moon. Children play and scream in the dirt road at the bottom of the garden, down a gentle slope.

Am I holding on, am I moving on? – sometime in April 1994

Eight years now, worked here more days than I care to remember. Started as a wide-eyed innocent boy, fresh from dole queues and eager to please. Here I rode or trod to drove my way to work and not even now do I notice my surroundings. Sometimes I wonder about the people in the building across – our only vision from our cramped tiny office and I only got to see out of the window after some five years.

On bright sunlit days, we’d still need all the lights on – tucked away we were and all the heat would rise and bake us if ever we were upstairs and sometimes I’d be on the top shelf cleaning up touching the asbestos roof as the sun beat mercilessly down on it and I’d be carrying a cooling fan with me, lead dangling all over the place as only one socket in office upstairs.

I remember the place as was all those years ago and now only me and one other remain of those nine who worked there then and soon I’ll be off leaving it all behind (did it take me this long to figure it out?). And work, we worked like crazy. Me young and eager to impress, I worked my coworker out of a job – lazy scuzzball he was (we are now pretty good friends). He spent most of his day lazing away as I’d already done it all, so quick was I and I loved it and they loved it too.

I don’t see that enthusiasm now in my co-workers and wonder if I’m being too hard on them and fuck it, I’ve damn near killed myself doing this and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone; so today I gets to thinking, it’s not work that’s so bad but business and the business of work. The endless emphasis on money and more money and the bloody mad dash for it and then us panting and dying in the race being knocked back by some young bureaucrat says you can’t do that. Bloods boil I’ll say.

Now I’m in a funny position, not to care, to look back and reflect. Someone turns to me and says ‘don’t you think this is bad and wrong?’ And I thinks ‘shit what do I care?’ I stopped myself and took some time and sat upstairs and looked out of the window. Saw the trees on the edge of this squabble of old factories and buildings – reminded me of good things, reminded me of freedom and I saw the freedom I’m about to gain. I looked at the cars across the way, remembered mine and Mark’s motorbikes getting run down by some mad driver who did a bunk from his job next door when the police came; remember all the pretty young girls who worked there too, who so astounding was their beauty to my keen young eyes that I failed to ever utter a word to them. The sunny days are still clear in my mind.

Kept in line with truncheons, rifle butts and truncheons – sometime in April 1994

Shorthaired Johnny was being as obnoxious as ever, talking dicks and innuendo, Mr Entendre. Stomping around in bovver boots and his white T-shirt freshly laundered tucked into his jeans, new tattoos still scabby and iridescent. His big grin splits his head in half like the smiley planet from Moonshadow, and always attached to one hand or the other a can of lager (sometimes substituted for Guinness, sometimes tequila).

His eyes wide in a mad amphetamine haze, brain desperately taking in information like a wide angle lens but concentration is still good, unlike wife Selena whose strange tangents I cant keep up with, and mouth in fast forward, all else too drunk to get their words in edgeways, so while pondering her last statement she’s off again on the next story (which, we all laugh, all start ‘one time, when I was drunk’). She’s in black I think, hair wild, rocky horror and while we slam tequila she fills her glass with it and pours in some wine for good measure and sips slowly between stories, my guess that one drink lasting all night.

Her friend Lisa, the spitting image, drunkenly believes everything she’s being told and confused sitting out the side for awhile. We’re round the dining room table within reach of the fridge for more beers, and the kitchen is right there too for food and coffees, Rich, sober Rich, sipping caffeine at the start of his straightedge kick, despite his sobriety he’s laughing and playing too, laughing at himself as he says ‘well at least you guys have got an excuse (for acting like we are) you’re drunk!’ This straight edge suits him but somehow seems out of place amongst this rabble of drunkenness.

Broni, sober till midnight, is ever smiling and laughing at the merriment, she sits next to Selena, so like the rest of us Selena is talking to, we don’t get words in. I sit there too with Broni, hardly saying anything, stoned as we are and getting immediately drunk with these slammers and beers now strewn across the table.

At the other end sit three guys out of the band that played in town that night, willing and capable comrades in this action. I know not their names but let me describe instead.

One is blonde and rough, hair stuck straight up in air, black denim dressed, drunk and with a broad Scottish accent, I have no idea what he’s saying but it’s fun watching him stumble round the room, confusing Lisa, but I see later they are talking more properly.

Another Scottish fellow has short cropped hair, an altogether more sensible looking man in jeans and T-shirt (probably), except that here we double-take, he lowers his head shaved into the crop is a question mark, which explains is great if anyone asks you a question you’re not sure how to answer, just lowering skull for the quizzer to make their own mind up, these amused our drunken minds immensely.

Last is an American guy who reminds me of American guys, only in looks not in actions, I talk with him some but now it’s gone to hangover land.

Finally Rob is flitting around the table making conversations with anyone and everyone, he sits and listens patiently and then talks directly back with earnest, occasionally lifting his finger to gently push his glasses back at the bridge of his nose, sliding down as they would in the heat of this madhouse. Rob has to be commended as we find out in the morning he was up talking with Selena, who is totally faced and he’s drunk at the start and sober by the end, he goes to sleep about 15 minutes before we wake him up again, willingly making us coffees.

And some tunes blasting out through all the madness, in the other room (into the hall and there) John is shouting out with his loudest three in the morning voice ‘kept in line with truncheons, rifle butts and truncheons, this is state control, this is state control’, no one else deigning to join in, but back in the kitchen we raise ourselves out to chair stupor to jive to the sounds of the Rocket from the Crypt, those guys know how to drink therefore they know how to make music for drunkers.

And it’s here and then, in this wreckage, I realise what great friends I have around me, from my beautiful sweetheart, gentle soul-searching Rob, sober Rich, whether you’re in trouble or just in need of a beer. My loss, and Broni’s too, will be great when we have to say goodbye to them as we leave for sunnier climes, but you can guess that on that last night is going to be one hell of a party!

You’re my only friend, and you don’t even like me – sometime in April 1994

I don’t like no-one, well except for you

A wild and willing 16-year-old, somehow I got into town and searched out like-minded comrades in teenage delinquency, knowing they would be gathering at Capones, a hotel room situated atop a dirty multi-storey car park in the centre, up from the church where you’d find green-haired youths sitting on gravestones with their bottles of Merrydown. Like joining any cult I knew no one but was accepted immediately as a member because I had already made the choice, they recognised the signs, the ripped clothes, the safety pins and messed up hair, so they joined me as much as I joined them.

So I talked to someone who had patches on their sleeves of names that I recognised and made friends. I told of my knowledge of American bands of this hardcore genre and this guy suggested I meet his friend and so started at long close friendship, that very night him being recruited to play bass guitar in the band Shock To The System and me later joining them when they changed their name to Atrox (shock); all through this friendship that started in that dim hall.

Young and rebellious we rejected the ways of our parents (ha!) and strove for a better world (in our ignorant teenage minds). Through dramas and drugs we were close in outlook and preferences, taking trips down to Bournemouth in the evenings of our early twenties to look back and wonder where this new new generation was going wrong. (I later realised it was us who were going wrong but that’s a longer story).

Proud and cynical we thrived off each other’s dark outlooks, revelling in the glory of life’s disaster. Myself the more adventurous of the pair I took initiatives when needed and we helped each other through several bands and a couple of publications. To look back now and see the tiny streams of change is easy, though I didn’t recognise them as such then, they soon turned into rivers which would not be turned back and this year would be the crucial year in our separation as friends.

The emotional heartache I went through was tough but I realised that by trying to remain friends was like paddling the canoe against the tide, no matter how hard I tried to make it up the river I was always pushed back, and what kind of friendship is that, when all effort is countered? I turned the canoe around and found myself in the vast oceans of love and warmth that others offered me. Myself as Mr Cynical was no more.

pic: screenshot from this video taken in January 1984 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNll6PtC9qM – where I bounce around in front of the band Confessions of Sin, proudly showing off my hand-made Better Youth Organisation t-shirt. I thought I was really something – I was really something else.

*Shutdown, Thirst!, Flaming Katie – Joiners, Southampton, Hampshire, UK – 16th April 1994

Rich Levine: This was an emotional night. Steve’s memorial gig (there was also another remembrance gig around the same time at our old school Alderman Quilley in Eastleigh) saw his old band THIRST! continue with Philip Beevers from CHICKEN-BONE CHOKED joining. If we didn’t love the SHUTDOWN guys (Neil Cox, Christian Burton) already then them coming from Worcs to play this benefit gig for pretty much nothing cemented that feeling. FLAMING KATIE (Russell Pataki) played too & it was a night of both tears but also togetherness in friendship when this very close-knit scene came out to show their love and commemorate. Prior to his passing, Steve had planned to put out a poetry zine. In the aftermath, Rob & Shaun put this out as a tribute to Steve under the name ‘40,000 Reasons For Living’ (the title came from a line in the R.E.M. song ‘Texarkana’ which was played at Steve’s funeral) & the cover of the zine used the burning house photo that was on the sleeve of fIREHOSE’s ‘Ragin’ Full On’ LP. The same photo was used as the backdrop for this gig flyer.

We could plant a house, we could build a tree – 15th April 1994

Next morning when finally awake we dithered and cleaned and a letter came through the door from Australia House with more forms for us to fill. And we duly got stressed out a bit on Sunday when it came to filling them in.

News today was that Kurt Cobain shot himself dead and that’s been on my mind through the week. Shocking news and, strangely, having a personal effect on me. The first rocker of my generation to suicide out of life!

My new forms required a medical examination which I went for on Tuesday at some posh hospital, X-ray and all! £130 for half an hours work! It seems I’m closer to getting to Oz now though.

Wednesday saw us with Rob, trek golden highway to Wales to see our gods Sebadoh and Lou Barlow. A night spoiled by some dicks dancing uncontrollably but Sebadoh’s majesty shone through in the end. The late drive home saw me with only 3 1/2 hours sleep but worth it to see Broni’s face light up after talking briefly to Lou.

We’re both stressed this week with this new lot of forms and all the questions they bring up, like about our wedding plans etc. So much going on at the moment so little time to relax. Broni thinks I’ll never relax but I intend to take it easy for awhile in Oz. Want to get there soon now and bring her the promise of babies!!

For you I’d waive expenses, to try and help you out, for your beauty influences the landscape hereabouts – 10th April 1994

So we walked around 18 holes in wind and light rain, laughing and playing. I got into the long shots, while Broni had better judgement on the greens. She had fun getting up one hill before despairing and throwing the ball. This took a few hours, slow that we were.

We went to pick up our new tent which these guys took down for us and then rushed down to the pub where beer promised to be 99 pence a pint. We got cleaned up and smellied up a bit but we only stayed for one drink, opting for takeouts and putting up the ‘Beaver Creek 3’ near the lake before dark and rain. We only just made it and looked out across towards the lights of Ambleside eating cheese and biscuits and drinking sparkling rose – we celebrated how far we’ve come in just seven short days. Not totally comfy but spacious as hell, our tent, we fell asleep in each other’s arms, once again to the sound of rain crashing down on our flimsy home roof.

Still cloudy in the morning, but not raining, I cooked up a pot noodle which we ate sat on tree stumps inches from the water. Ducks and swans came to investigate and we fed them cream crackers at our feet till we ran out and they got bored waiting.

Tent packed up in a jiffy we set off, confident our car would get us home if we took it easy. Petrolled up and close to the motorway that noise happened again. We stopped for a minute but drove on slowly till the noise got louder and the battery light lit. I pulled up, Broni ran to a house to phone our rescue people. Thankfully they came soon and the guy fiddled about a bit and then said to follow him back to the garage where he told us we needed a new alternator to the tune of £100! We rang Britannia who said they wouldn’t pay for any of it but we needed it, so resigned ourselves to pay it. While he was getting it ready though they phoned back and said they’d pay for half which was a light relief for us!

Some two hours later – much fiddling about we set off on our tiring journey home, stopping off to see Heather, Sheila and Hugh in Stoke-on-Trent (which was a good break for both of us). Onwards, and darkness descending we hit home about 9 o’clock. I unpacked the car while Broni cooked up a treat of a meal and we continued running around till we fell flat exhausted in bed.

Although upon reflection I’ve been a trifle green
I still think with affection on everything that’s been
So prepare that fatted calf
And string up the bunting gay
Your brisk and bonny ploughboy is coming home today