It was Four Tops all night with encores from stage right – 24th-27th February 2018

It’s becoming obvious that I’m not going to be able to keep up with regularly posting updates here as time seems to slip on by.  I’ll do my best to keep note of things and get to them when I can but not sure how I’m going to be able to keep them concurrent with events from 1994, of which there is still a mass of writing for that year in my diary.

If I just limit myself to a paragraph per note I’ve made this post is going to get quite long.  I’ll try and be more concise.

So, our final morning in Dorset sees me going through some boxes of things my mother kept over the years.  I’m interested in the photos more than documents such as birth and death certificates and old school reports.  In particular are a couple of school photos I’m guessing from when I was 12 and 13.  You can just see my hair starting to get more punked up, for which I got so much shit at school at the time, from teachers and older kids who nicknamed me Sid.  I never got on with that nickname as I was more into Johnny Rotten but it was difficult to tell kids that as they were kicking and punching me for their random pleasure.  The thing with these two photos is you can still see the light in my eyes, just starting to dull in the later one.  These years were the start of what later would be diagnosed as mild depression.  The transition from middle to high school was particularly traumatic as I had a whole new bunch of older kids to pick on me though I soon found some allies.

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Before we know it we’re up the motorway again, back to other old haunts in Southampton.  We’re staying with Amy’s cousin Ting, who has been in England so long she has the thickest English accent I’ve heard for a while – so much so that I barely recognise her on the phone sometimes.

Amy heads off with Ting to do some shopping as they are cooking together at a friend’s house that evening, whilst I head over to see my old pal, Chrissy.

Chrissy was the wife of Steve, whom, if you’ve been following so far, was the inspiration for writing the 1994 diary after his untimely death the previous year.  I caught up with her briefly in Sydney a few years before as she was attending someone’s wedding there, just a suburb or two away from where I was living at the time.  It was good to catch up again and talk shit like we did in the ‘good old’ days.

The afternoon is made more pleasant by the arrival of Steve and Chrissy’s daughter Rebecca, who was less than a year old the last time I saw her.  I am shocked at the resemblance to Steve and can’t stop looking at her face.  It’s like he’s right there again.

I also make quick friends with their dog who despite being somewhat shy took to me for some good pats, strokes and ear rubbing.  But soon enough it’s time to leave.

I head back to drop the car at Ting’s and get out the maps app so as to walk to the pub where I will meet more old timers and down a couple of pints.  The air is very cold but the exercise warms me and I look into people’s houses as I pass and wonder what their lives are holding for them today.

I stop off for some hot chips as I’ve not eaten much today and it would be preferable to line my stomach with something traditionally British and stodgy to soak up any alcohol intake.

There are some bands playing tonight, including some old friends but I’m not so interested in the music as I am in talking.  Rich introduces me to his partner Geraldine and later Rob and his partner Emily turn up.  A couple of other hopeful attendees find themselves busy elsewhere so they’ll just have to come and visit me in Thailand one day.

A jovial atmosphere and pleasant conversations quickly end this all to brief meet up but it’s much along the lines of that last night in Sydney, with certain friends you can just pick up on conversations with even years of interruption between.

The following morning we’re off to London.  Amy wants to go shopping.  I’m not particularly thrilled at that idea but I’ve set myself a task to track down a book I’m looking for.  We’re also booked for a dinner in the evening at the Shard near London Bridge.

I’ve always enjoyed London as a place to visit but never, when living in England, felt the urge to live there.  So, even rush hour tube trips have some sense of adventure to them.  I’m constantly reminded of the Clash as we pass by certain stations and wonder at the motivations they had as they went from small house suburban London city to mega hotel New York city.  Man, they wrote some tunes.

One thing I immediately notice is how much more multicultural London is than Sydney.  Although not so used to hearing the English accent anymore it seems that in many places we visit and pass by that people aren’t speaking English at all.  It’s a little unsettling and really cool at the same time.

This point is highlighted even more as we head for a pub lunch and I’m annoyed at myself for not understanding the bartender’s accent.  I forget to apologise for my difficulty as her’s is a Lubjiana accent, so I ask her more about her country.  She’s busy though but I think she wasn’t offended at my ignorance in the end.

We pop into Waterstone’s bookshop and finally I find the book I’m looking for, ‘Churchill’s Secret War’ and take this final chance to pick a couple of books about The Fall.  I wasn’t going to buy these originally as I figured I could find them digitally but they were there, I was shopping, this was possibly the last day I’ll ever be in England and so they ended up in my luggage.  Amy felt the same and bought a couple of massive cooking books which definitely means a rejig of our bags later tonight.

We’re starting to flag now and consider changing our plans for dinner tonight.  It’s another beautiful sunny cold day, particularly bitter when the wind rushes through small side streets.  We decide to head to the Shard early and see if we can just go up and take some pictures.  We end up on the 34th floor at the small bar there and decide to splash out on a bottle of champagne and 6 oysters.  These kinds of expenses usually bother me but I decided to relax again and enjoy this indulgence despite the fact the cost could probably build us a swimming pool in Thailand.

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We reflect on our lives as we stare out across this old city and talk about how people think we are lucky to be able to do this and that.  But we have worked hard, had a plan and always pointed our way towards it.  I guess those comments are somewhat driven by the social media construct where friends generally only see you having fun, what appears to be, all the time.  We know we have made the right choices along the way, the choices that have got us where we are now.

The following morning we are greeted with snow.  What a nice surprise.  The Mexicans we meet at the breakfast table in our guest house are equally thrilled and we watch them as they step out to take funny photos.  We do the same a little later as we stuff our suddenly heavier re-jigged bags into the car and head to the drop off point.  Unfortunately, our phone direction finder leads round in frustrating circles and we decided just to figure it out following the signposts instead.

Amy decides on one last shop at the airport, so I get in the mood and pick up another book about the rules of being English, something I mentioned to Amy when she smiled happily to the guy in the take away the previous night. I told her it was not usual for someone to smile at other people in England and the guy probably thought she fancied him.  This is overplaying it a bit and is also the exact thing that attracted me to Amy in the first place.  That was in Sydney though, where smiling is an everyday occurrence.  I’m sure the English can often go a whole week without a smile.

The English confound me more on the plane to Bangkok.  It’s another A380 but this time jammed with ‘bigger’ English people looking for thrills in the ‘land of smiles’.  Despite leaving at midday, it’s an overnight flight as we fight against earth’s rotation and the English are up and at the crew galley all night long refilling on free booze.  I did this once when the experience of flying was still new to me.  Free booze must not be missed but I found it impossible to get drunk and to drink enough to be able to sleep.  I would just end up with a frustrating headache at the end of the flight, so I never drink on planes now.

And then occurs the most English thing I can imagine.  There are two meatheads sitting directly in front of Amy and I and they were constantly bouncing in their chairs at every toss, turn and minor readjustment.  I glance the Sun in the lap of the one who is coughing consistently and roll my eyes.  Midway through the flight, Amy needs to get out to go to the toilet so I get up and step into the aisle.  Being half awake I was a little clumsy getting up and knocked the chair in front of me where the now angry boofhead looks around and proclaims, ‘Was that on purpose?  I think it was, wasn’t it?’

I’m perplexed.  My only reply is ‘Sorry?’ and I look behind me to consider if he’s actually talking to someone else because his words just don’t make any sense to me.  Amy is bewildered too but trots off to the toilet as I stand and wait.  The two meatheads decide that they’ll settle themselves down with more whiskey and the event passes.  I still can’t imagine what leads to the guy’s question, if I knocked his chair on purpose, what was the reason?  We’d had no previous interaction at all.  It just seemed a typically antagonistic English response, a show of never back down, one-upmanship.

Those two guys ended up rushing off the plane to get to their destination of my more booze, sun and you can guess what else.

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Our day has only taken 12 hours and we transfer at Bangkok for our flight home, finally my last flight for this period.  There has been so much travel and rush over this month that it has been almost impossible to sit and relax and reflect.  Probably for the best.  Even mum’s funeral seems like something surreal and dreamlike that perhaps didn’t even happen.

This final flight is curiously filled with French and various Middle Easterners and I watch on as people struggle to find their seats.  It’s a little strange really – it’s not that hard, is it?  The numbers ascend and the letters go across.  It seems to take an age for some people though.  I wonder if their brains are wired differently, something that will soon be confirmed as I adjust to life in Thailand.

 

 

Back in Chiang Rai, we rush to sleep, eat, advise our builders, eat and sleep again.  Another day disappeared into the mosquito-ridden night.

One of these days it’ll all settle down – 30th December 1994

We ring England to speak to Chrissie to find out if she’s ok and we find them in the middle of a party, just like we remember and we can’t really hear much of what’s being said with all the noise going on in the background but everyone was fine and in good health by the sounds of it.

It cheers us up each time we get to speak to people back in England despite pulling at our heartstrings to be back there with them.

At last, a day to settle into our home and sort things out and drive to the shops to pick up groceries and small household items and clothes for Broni’s new job which will be strange after the last four months or so hanging out together virtually every minute of every day, now she’ll be away and I’ll be playing house husband, it’s been a real test of our relationship and one that we’ve completed easily, easier than we expected. To be with each other all that time shows our devotion and love and willingness to learn and understand each other, to adapt to our changes, so today with a few more weeks ’til we get married, we love each other as much as when we first met and travelled England those couple of years ago when the future was uncertain because I knew she wanted to come back home to Australia.

It’s good to be back in a car and one with a stereo and we fall in love with Camper Van Beethoven whose music suits the surroundings with it’s lazy quirkiness and lyrics to match, “everything seems to be up in the air at this time, one of these days it’ll all settle down, but everything seems to be up in the air at this time” and “just get high while the radio’s on, adjust the lights and sing a song, drive your car up on the lawn, let me play your guitar!”

Something’s gonna crack on your dreams tonight – 16th November 1994

Woke up this morning all excited because last night was the first time since Steve died that I’ve dreamt about him. Not some mega fantastic meaningful dream with some deep message (well, maybe not) so this is what happened.

I’m in the front room of a wooden shack type house and the front wall isn’t there, it’s like a big verandah and immediately outside it’s like a BMX dirt track, all rolling mounds and hills and there’s Steve riding on his bike up and down and around. We say hello and talk to each other like nothing has happened and I’m really pleased to be able to talk to him again.

It’s time for lunch and I turn around and Chrissy and Broni are sat at the table with lunch all prepared so I go to sit down grabbing an extra plate for Steve on the way. Chrissy realises what I’m thinking immediately and says “Steve’s not really here, you know”.

I woke up then and thought about getting up and writing it all down but opted, in my laziness, to try and get some more dreams in, which I did but no more about Steve. It could mean something, it could mean nothing but it felt great just having a moving image of Steve in my mind again.

This was after an exhausting day yesterday which involved us going to the pool, which we found is only a quarter of a mile away, to practice that thing I’d vowed never to learn some years ago, thinking why would you need to know how to swim in England, not knowing then my future and heading towards such wild and pretty beaches and rivers and ocean in Australia.

So for an hour we swam up and down and under and round just having fun, getting our bodies slowly into shape, not some long haul 100 length job, god forbid, I can’t even manage one length in one go yet! But I will, just you wait. And maybe all that exercise jogged my subconscious that Steve used to play football and do some weight training and always looked incredibly strong. In fact I’ve got some lead for taking up indoor soccer (yes, it’s called soccer over here) which I may persue when I get a bit more stamina.

As we went warp factor two and I met all of the crew – 8th November 1994

Look in through my eyes. A story. A true story.

We ran down the hall to the front door, laughing and giggling. She collapsed in a ragged heap on her knees and hung like a floppy doll. I caught her and put my arms round her and she giggled some more. She looked up at me, our faces upside down to each other, and pushed the t shirt that she was holding in her tiny smooth hands into my face and once again giggled.

‘Where’s Gabrie gone’?’ I sputtered into the shirt in my half blindness. She laughed and took the shirt away and her face, still upside down, but closer, radiated happiness through her soft red cheeks, her lightly blond hair cushioning her beauty like a halo.

She looked up and into my eyes and fixed her stare, drilling into me. I was mesmerised and saw the pretty fractal patterns in her steely grey blue irises. For five long seconds, that lasted five long minutes, when the world stopped around us, we were both transfixed with not a blink, a flicker or even a thought until within a split second of each other we both fell about in a giggling heap and then we were off again, up and down the hall. Me and Gabrie.

Gabrielle is five years old, a real cute kid and as her name suggests, very angelic. She will, I’m sure break many hearts when she is older. She’s C_ and P_’s only daughter. C_ being the eldest of the Smith generation that Broni belongs to. Gabrie has four brothers and the story happened at their house. It was a weird feeling looking into those young child eyes, I wondered what was going through her head and I wondered what was going through mine.

It reminds me now of those episodes of Star Trek where Captain Kirk or Doctor McCoy would come across some human shaped aliens on some remote planet and they would say ‘no, no, don’t look into their eyes, they’ve got you if you look into their eyes!’

So, we ended up at their house like this. On Saturday we went to Libby’s and Doug’s, taking with us a spinach quiche and two bottles of champagne, as we always get well fed there we thought it only fair we bring some of our own. After they put little Reg and tall Gough to bed we set about eating, drinking, smoking and playing the night away, playing fun party games like we played in England at Chrissy’s place. At about half two and ten beers later we all collapsed to sleep.

Of course, just like at Chrissy’s, the kids woke us up early and jumped all over our hangovers. Very slowly we woke up, and woke up and woke up some more and then me and Bonz headed into Hyde Park where we watched the fountain water get swirled and thrown about by the high winds, which would later turn into gale force conditions causing much damage from Tasmania to Brisbane, which is a hell of a long way.

We knew C_and P_ would be in St. Mary’s church watching their second son, Michael singing in the choir. So, with about fifteen minutes of the service to go we walked over and round the side of this big old building, which lends itself to the old architecture that St. Pauls was designed by (not being big on architectural history you understand), in the side door where the ceiling rose into a cavernous gloom despite the odd floodlight here and there. It was indeed a very beautiful place and I wondered whether people felt closer to god the bigger the building they were in? Heavenly voices echoed around the room (is it called a room, it sounds too ordinary for the size and manner of this interior) coming from somewhere behind the altar (not big on church lay out either as you can tell!) where a choir in red and white robes stood, though we were too far away in this stadium (yes that’s a good word!) to see their mouths moving, the song they were singing was very beautiful and understated, a bit like a sighing Gregorian chant and well suited to these surroundings but not like a typical hymn idea which would’ve turned me off right away.

Broni laughed at the robes saying Michael probably had a t-shirt and beach shorts on underneath them and something that I have noticed here is a different kind of attitude in general by all the people living here but two things that centre around the church particularly highlight this.

First is something Broni said happened at her church when she was growing up was that they had a sweepstake for the Melbourne Cup horse racing (big event when all Australia stops to watch) which I couldn’t quite get to grips with the church okaying gambling, the second was just a small thing was that some kid in St. Mary’s that day was wearing a Dead Kennedys t-shirt which was a contrast of statements. So I guess it just means people are a bit more relaxed attitude wise, which is cool by me.

P_ was there with all the kids and this was my first encounter with little Gabrie as I carried her back to the car, she very politely told me she didn’t like my hat to which I promised to do something about! P_ offered us a lift to their house which was halfway to our goal of Ch_’s up on the Central Coast. And on the way they decided that they’d take us all the way and go and see Ch_ too.

So, we stopped off at their house (C_ had just gone to Indonesia the day before) and had some lunch before Space Cruising through the gale force winds up the coast. And at Ch_’s we had fun like you have to have fun when there’s six kids running round the house, Joel, Ch_’s son making up the six.

After doing that all day and my hangover getting worse and worse I opted for an early night after everyone left but instead of going to sleep i got engrossed in a book which kept me up far too long and then when Broni came to bed too we talked for about an hour like we would when we were lovers in our first few weeks, so joyed we were to be with each other that we often only slept for two or three hours a night, and though I don’t recall any of the conversation it was very important at the time. (each day we love each other a little bit more).

Photo credit: Neil Willsey

You see, you feel, you know – 5th September 1994

Change. All change involves a challenge. I remember when I lived with my mother I was content there, I was also fussy and finicky. A cup of coffee was only nice out of my special mug. I had particular knives and forks that I had to use, no others would do. Those two tiny things were barriers I had made to stop myself from leaving. Wrapped up in a golden blanket of security, I would dread the thought of having to use a different knife.

Then I left, scared of watching all that security get old and withered. I learnt how to use a washing machine and how to cook and I learnt that I didn’t have all the time in the world and started using my spare time to good effect instead of wasting it. I slowly discovered who I was and became content again.

Broni gets herself home from work early, now she’s finishing up things she’s on a self-admitted skive but remember back when I was telling you how hard she worked, now at last the slow down.

So with time on our hands (yes, time, that funny thing that you can never have enough of and when we feel so short of it all of a sudden we are presented with some) we take off on a whim down to Poole Quay and the aquarium which is full of fish on the ground floor, swimming around in their swimming round circles, round and round. Only the piranha seem to stay in some territorial still, and Broni sits and watches the silver dollar fish, light reflecting prism-like into her eyeballs, hypnotic, entranced.

Upstairs, crocodiles lounge like dead things in their 12 inches of water, not a blink nor a twitch, then Broni walks into a room where a man sits waiting to take your picture with a 20 foot python, 6 inches across. But Broni doesn’t see the snake until it’s rubbing her hand and she makes a quick exit! The rest of the snakes we watch through glass, most being lazy and restful. But beautiful, the nest of vipers all piled on top of each other like it was cold and were seeking warmth.

Snakes and spiders, then upstairs to a model railway which fascinates the child in me watching a little replicas stopping starting whistling shunting chuffing. A great place to go and visit despite the steep entrance fee, maybe Poole Aquarium is a bit of an odd description too.

By this time we are exhausted again and return home to comfy chairs and brief dreams for a half hour. Next on the agenda is a meal we’ve planned, so I goes with my sweet to pick up my mum and we drive with a remarkable sunset behind us up to Ringwood where we joined Kerry, Ron, Cath and Simon, drinks already underway. I wanted to come back to this restaurant, the India Cottage, as it is the first place I was introduced to Indian cuisine by my boss at the time, now some six or thereabouts years ago. We were served by two young beautiful people, both English but dark skinned. Him in bright white shirt and black trousers, the nervous and anxious to please gentleman, and her also, dressed in a tie-dye one-piece dress, dark and pretty as her skin. With seven of us all giggling away we took some time in there and the best thing was the slow service which gave us all plenty of time to digest one course before stuffing another and I, probably for the first time ever, managed to eat everything I ordered. So the atmosphere was nice and relaxed right through to the last Tia Maria.

So arrived the weekend, Broni off to get her haircut then us both over to Rosemary’s for lunch where we sit and play with Jade, kid cute, running around or having us to run around after her. I feel really good around kids, I enjoy the freedom they express and their ignorance of worry, real life giver.

Our joy takes us home for a brief encounter on the bed where we frenzy practice babymaking before diversion to Wimborne for pizza and then Southampton for our last gig there before we leave, now just three weeks away. Oh yes.

Atmosphere at The Joiners is, as ever, relaxed and exciting, but tonight tinged with some sadness for us as we say our farewells to some of the regulars, brightened up though by new people eager to get involved.

So at the end of the night, midnight we bring back Rob and Rich to Chrissy’s place, Chrissy out on the tiles but Sharon there to let us in. Rich soon leaves as the rest of us prepare to have a few drinks, Rich still on his straight edge kick and good luck to him if it makes him feel better about himself, which I’ve noticed it has.

We make an effort to wait up for Chrissy but all fall asleep dead drunk after playing every single kids game in the cupboard.

It’s light and Chrissy stumbles in, 7 am, she goes to bed and we get up and not only do we get up, so do Amanda, Luke, Sam and Rebecca, our company for the morning, four beautiful active screaming monster children. Rebecca amazes us as she is now walking herself about and saying ‘yeah’ whenever it takes her fancy. Snotty nosed Sam, quietly watching and wandering from here to here. Luke demanding to play Nintendo and demanding to play with me, and Amanda being unusually quiet and restrained today, possibly because mum is not there to antagonise, Chrissy now sound asleep oblivious to rowdy rabble.

After a while of preparation we all set off for the park, Amanda demanding piggybanks of me and Luke off Rob, Broni pushes Rebecca and Sharon looking after Sam. One child each, they will never beat us!

So how is it later on I get Sam on my shoulders, Amanda on one hand and Luke on the other and I’m sure if Rebecca could get out of her locked in pushchair she’d be demanding my affection too. But I know the kids see that I have lots of love to give them and I love ’em to bits. Sam called me dad, Luke kicked me till I wouldn’t play with him no more, Sharon then talking to him quietly and Luke coming back looking all forlorn and saying sorry under his breath, little beauty horror tike.

Amanda asked me if I remember when Steve and I took her tree climbing and I surely do, I remember it so well because it was then I realised I too, could look after kids, not be scared of that kind of future. It was something Steve showed me just by doing it and not by mentioning it. The only thing he ever said about kids was that he thought I would enjoy it, and as it made him so happy. Here I was, now free of all those old inhibitions about coolness and, ‘geez I wonder if anybody can see me?’ type thoughts that always entered my head when I was around children. My only regret is that Steve isn’t here to see that in me, because even though I realised it back then, I was still in a kind of awe of him because he was looking after Rebecca and Amanda so well.

When people die, you keep a little piece of them with you and it’s something I kept of Steve (amongst other things) and I find that particularly poignant as Chrissy said to Broni the night before that ‘Shaun is a good bloke, a lot like Steve in many ways.’ That kind of compliment makes me feel good inside, I really love all these people around me. Amanda surprised me by remembering that, maybe not sure how much a seven-year-old might remember about a year before, which is great.

I talk to her about the snakes we saw and carry her down to see the cygnets and the ducklings, then onto the swings and climbing houses where we try to wear the kids out but us with only a couple of hours sleep start flagging it instead.

Get back to Chrissy’s and cook some food, Chrissy now up and pale, looking barely alive as Amanda scoffs at her, her not liking her mum getting drunk because it makes her ‘smelly’. We force Chrissy to eat but she’s had it and at 2 o’clock or so heads back to dreamland. We leave around then too, dropping off Rob on the way, Sharon already gone with the kids to a party.

Broni sleeps in the car and I sleep on the sofa when we get back but only for an hour or so. The rest of the day slips us by slowly and gently as we slow down and let the love in ourselves roll around some and spread through our veins to our fingers and toes. We fall asleep with smiles on our faces and play with our friends in our subconscious.

It’s a new generation of electric white boy blues – 30th August 1994

I’m shattered, we’ve been at Reading Music Festival for the last four days. Tenting down in the dust and dirt, eating half cooked veggie burgers in a sea of tin cans and plastic food containers as a thousand people walk by you in the blink of an eye, on their way to getting pissed at eight in the morning or coming down off the previous night’s high.

Crusty scroungers push a pram full of puppies in search of free amber nectar or tar of any sort. A hundred young girls queued for the seven or eight toilets, from six in the morning, daring each other to go in the one second from the end. People slept where they fell and some fell in the bushes where people pissed. Some never slept and others slept through while their favourite band was playing.

In the arena was a comedy tent, the Melody Maker tent and the main stage and you’d be lucky if you could get anywhere near any of them. Well, we did get to see Sebadoh’s guitar breaking set which was about the most exciting thing all weekend. In fact time did seem to drag at certain points but we were kind of happy that we had nothing to do except drink and relax, and occasionally running across to the record fair to the nice clean toilets.

First thing to do when camping with 50,000 other people must find a decent toilet which other people don’t know about. Most people had to pay a pound to go in the record fair but we just slipped in each time claiming to work there. Of course, we had plenty of friends in there, Simon, Rich, Baz, Gaz, Mark, John and his wife; we even got roped in to do Simon’s stall for part of Saturday morning.

Anyway, on the campsite we came up with Rob, Rich, PJ and Warren, who none of us knew and didn’t hang around that much. On Sunday, joined by Chrissy, Sharon, Selena, John, Tina and Rob who out drank us as we slept through their insane partying; I wish we could’ve stayed awake on that last night but we’d just had enough by then.

We eventually left on Monday morning after a very nice man helped us get the car started. A beautiful bath and an hours sleep saw us into the evening but we exhausted of all energies and just kind of lazed on into bed, Broni reading me love poems as I drifted off once again into unconsciousness.

And then today is still slow as we clean up the house in preparation for David and Louise coming down soon and then Kerry’s return tomorrow. Things are starting to seem much bigger now as we have only four weeks to go before I leave – it’s scary. Yeah, it’s scary, kind of huge.

I was sat in PJ’s campervan drunk and stoned and it hit. These guys here, I’m going to miss them. Not so easy to just ring up and gossip, and I’ll miss out on the tiny stories, the little things that help you understand what people are like, the details, you know the bits between the lines. When you communicate over a great distance you feel like you just want to mention the really important things, big things, but I’ll be wishing to hear the other things too.

On Steve – 25th August 1994

The pub is vibrant, people are smiling and dancing. It’s New Year’s Eve 1992. I don’t recall the circumstances that took us there, where the place is or what happened there. Our circle of friends were gathering to welcome in the new year in style. Myself, Fatty and Paul Simmons, we were the outsiders travelling up from Dorset to join the Hampshire crew of Rich, Rob, Steve, Chrissie, John, Selina, Dave and Holty. Our connection was music, whether performing, promoting, or watching.

Tonight, however was a celebration of friendship. While everyone was rolling around drunkenly, at about 11 o’clock Steve and I agreed it was time to leave. We wanted to get away from the gaggle, have a quiet space in which to exchange ideas. We just said to each other let’s go back to the house and talk. We both knew what we meant. It was a poetic moment, we both wanted to thrash out ideas and ideals and open each other up in a way that I’ve never found with anyone else, lay ourselves bare, vulnerable, emotions visible.

So we walked back through the empty dark streets, each house and home having their own little private celebrations for the new year. We got to Holty’s house where everyone would be coming back to after the pub shut, we walked in to the living room, I sat on the sofa lounging back slightly drunk. Steve sat crossed legged on the floor, a fine upright muscular figure, I can see his silhouette now. He took out some hash and rolled up a fine joint of skunk weed as we set off on our journey into each others souls.

While not invasive or offensive, we voyeur each others thoughts. We find truth and beauty in what each of us has to say and our relationship develops into something special. He tells me how he used to look up to me when he saw me years ago at gigs and I say I can’t believe it, not understanding that I might affect people in that way. I don’t even remember him from then and even when we toured Europe together with our respective bands I didn’t get much chance to make friends, though I was probably too wrapped up in myself to have noticed anyone else.

I don’t recall the reasons that he looked up to me and they are not so important now anyway. But right then, right when he told me, the roles reversed and I started to look up to him. I loved his bright enthusiasm, the relentless energy, on later occasions at his house we’d talk everyone, to sleep, then sit up til 4am when I would protest that I needed rest but he said no, we must carry on talking. Sleep is the enemy, a favourite saying from Kerouac.

At midnight, we welcomed in the new year, I’d rifled Holty’s varied collection of CDs and played Madonna, Half Man Half Biscuit and Mud, me trying to convince Steve they were ahead of their time and probably one of the very first punk bands, it all seemed to make perfect sense at the time – hey, I was a little drunk and stoned!

A while later the rest of the circus came back from the pub in very high spirits, a party erupted around us and we gladly joined in. Paul was the first to puke (I’m not sure if anyone else did, and Rob eventually fell asleep under the chair of the three peice suite before everyone dumped him in the cupboard under the stairs (or did he go there of his own accord, I forget now?)), his socks left to turn to ice in the freezer (or were they Rich’s?).

One clear memory is Steve reprimanding me for being out of order when I must of said something insulting about someone, I was a very sarcastic son of a bitch back then and thanks to him I changed my ways slowly over the next year or so. I began to respect him even more.

His few letters to me reflected our conversations and I once wrote a six page letter of thoughts and ideas at his request, it was regarding an article he sent me from a newspaper. He was amazed at the huge amount of points I’d raised that he said he would never have thought of, from then we would make demands of each other, more and more, we had to know each other’s ideas and then bounce them around. We were grasping at life, getting a hold on it, looking for meaning, looking for happiness. Steve found it too a lot of the time and slowly I did as well, trying to emulate his outlook and zest for adventure. He loved and married Chrissie, took on the role of father to Chrissy’s daughter Amanda, and then to their daughter Rebecca. He was a real role model for me, changing over the years from a wild youth always in trouble to the most gentle, caring man who loved life to the full. And you know, that sounds just like me.


Steve is giving us a quick conducted tour of the bedroom. He’s keen to show off his pride and joy, daughter Rebecca, sleeping softly wrapped in blankets in the cot. Her 3 month old tiny lungs take short shallow restful breaths.

While Steve is pointing the camera at tiny Rebecca’s face, his hand comes into view and he points his 24 year old finger at her and then sticks his 24 year old thumb up. Proud father, lucky child.

The tour is a glimpse into a private life, not really a show for friends but the capture of a moment trapped in sound and vision for that old age memory loss time, a reminder of beautiful things that affect life profoundly.

Continuing on our tour, lots of short dialogues (excerpt ends)

He feels life his strongest connection, between the yelling and the sleep – 26th July 1994

Phew! I’m sat in our room, now bereft of most of the items one would consider creature comforts. TV, video, computer, stereo, table, chair etc all sold or packed up or returned to their rightful owners.

Today was the first day of rain for a couple of weeks I’d guess. Just a light drizzle on a grey day, the air now fresh and sweet with the scent of thirsty flowers. Myself, a flower child thirsty for the waters of life pouring all around me and, here and there, I dip my hand in making gentle ripples across my universe. Though the last few days seem like I’ve been jumping up and down in the puddles, splashing my way through the madness!

Oh yes! I drove across the farmland again last week, to the farm with the handsome farmhand and had to deliver some stuff into one of the chicken sheds as before. This farm is an egg farm and I’d guess in each shed were thousands and thousands of chickens crammed in, laying eggs for Joe Bastard to eat for breakfast.

So, the first time I’m in the shed I look around – it’s very dark, above is a floor with big slats and beyond, the roof. On the floor above are cages, the whole length of the shed (about 100 metres). I look up where we are and the cages are empty. The only sound to be heard is like a whistling of the wind. The stench is awful. I look across the width of the shed and see the floor stacked up to 6ft high in places, in chickenshit. Guess they hadn’t had time to clear it up yet. I left a bit wiser, a bit curiouser.

When I went the second time, I was alone and so I had a look about bit more. The whistling wind was a bit louder this time and I heard faint clucking noises. I approached the piles of shit and looked up and saw hundreds and hundreds of skinny featherless chickens crammed into tiny cages, for what I would guess would be their whole sorry lives. But what shocked me was the lack of noise. All those chickens and no noise! Are they bred without vocal glands, do they have them removed or have they resigned themselves to confinement and given up hope of freedom? Did they even know what freedom was? Wow – all that stuff going on in my head!! I wonder if Joe Bastard thinks about stuff like that when dipping his soldiers into the yolk?

Friday, we went barefoot for an Indian meal with Kerry celebrating the end of term and the six or seven weeks summer holiday. She got a ton of presents from her class too, which really pleased her. We had to take her to bed quite early though as alcohol took her over – this time for a happy pissed!

Saturday, Broni and I picked up our wedding rings, mine now looking great – I’m really pleased with it and will treasure it forever. We got a couple of hours packing in before shooting off to Southampton to Chrissy’s, picking up Rob on the way. Sharon was there with her kids too, but once the kids were out of the way we quietly drank and puffed on a peace joint and gladly relaxed to ‘The Terminator’. One by one, people faded and finally ended up with me and Rob having that great talk about life, the universe and everything, just like I used to with Steve (God, I miss you so much Steve). Knowing the kids were going to wake up early we called it a day at about 4:30 just as it was getting light! Sure enough a couple of hours later we were up again, though fairly relaxed as Chrissy and Sharon took off with the kids leaving us to bum around before Broni and I had to go to Portsmouth for Stephanie’s christening.

Stephanie is Joe and Stephen’s daughter. Joe being the first person Broni got to know here in Poole. And Broni to be godmother for the third time. I’ll finish this off later as another cup of coffee is required right now!

It was a stunningly hot day and with my lack of sleep I was feeling very faint – it was actually nice to go into the chapel where it was cooler. Stephen is a Navy diver so the christening took place on HMS Nelson naval base with pretty tight security. Not being into the religious bit I watched Broni holding the wriggling tyke still as possible and smiled as the guy (is he a priest or chaplain or something?) poured holy water from an upside down divers helmet (!) over her forehead (Stephanie’s, not Broni’s).

With that over all thoughts (of mine) were on my stomach and sustenance. We went out of the base and over into a big stately home type place (all this in Portsmouth city centre) guarded by some young army dude carrying a machine gun. It occurred to me that the boy may suffer a heat madness and go on a crazy killing spree but that’s my twisted imagination for you! This old place was breathtaking. Huge staircases and pictures of Nelson and massive solid silver statuettes of Queen Elizabeth the Second on her horse. It was pretty breathtaking. We enter the big room with a bar and all leather upholstery, like imagine the meeting rooms at the House of Lords or something like that. Champagne flowed and food eaten (we stuffed ourselves and quite rightly felt sick after!) and I was taking in the surroundings, being totally alien to them. I love these new experiences, I really enjoy things that I sometimes expect not to like. In another room the walls were painted with scenes from old battles like the Armada and Trafalgar. Huge detailed paintings faded with time but still glorious in their nature. Tired and exhausted we left for Southampton.

I have to stop again till tomorrow – I just can’t carry on – my mind is a-racing with a trillion different things.

This is an image that just won’t fade – 19th July 1994

Then up to Old Sarum, the old town of Salisbury in Roman times, with magnificent views, particularly of the Roman roads that met their 2000 years back. We sunbathed and slid down banks, climbed up them and avoided paying to get in. A way cool place – go see.

We videoed some wildflowers and wild insects and then headed home to Poole where Broni, Rob, John and I went down the pub for dinner and a couple of beers to celebrate/commiserate, before walking down to Kerry’s to watch a video. Unfortunately we picked Body of Evidence. What crap! Nuff said.

So’s, after watching a bit of the third-place play-off in the World Cup (Sweden well ahead though still don’t know the final score) we stumbled home drunkenly and guess what? I can’t remember anything else of that night. Ho-hum.

But Sunday, once again I woke wrapped in Broni and let’s just say we didn’t get up for an hour or two us being too interested in each other. But breakfasted on, then mad rushed us fab foul four again to the beach to meet Chrissy, Sharon (Steve’s sister), Amanda (Chrissy’s daughter), Luke (Sharon’s son – The maddest baddest little bastard ever! And of course exceptionally cute in his few years of age – totally lovable!) and Jennifer (Amanda and Luke’s friend). So for five hours, we played football, catch, volleyball, frisbee and Luke’s special game ‘knock you over and jump on top of you and throw sand in your face!’ We all spent most of the day laughing and playing and having good old-fashioned childish fun. You can’t begrudge that can you?

Exhausted we came home, Rob back up to Southampton, me and John to watch the football (sprawled out in the front room) and Broni upstairs to watch the film ‘She’ll Be Wearing Pink Pyjamas’. The football, the World Cup final, was a slight disappointment though reasonably entertaining and a shame to be settled on penalties at the end, sparking the age-old debate of how to settle a stalemate match. It being late and us exhausted we still found some enthusiasm for an idea would come up with holding a party on the Saturday before we are evicted. The cunning bitch Julie left on Saturday afternoon, thankfully, which is an immense relief all round – the last we hear from her I hope though we may have to chase her up for bills sooner or later.

And so it came to Monday – the day of little occurrence of note, save John and I playing frisbee up at the park, in the most delicate beautiful rain and humidity, till darkness swamped the evening. When I got back me and Broni played silly buggers till bedtime recharging ourselves with each other’s love and closeness.

We also, over the weekend, decided that if Rob comes to Oz for the wedding, he’ll be our best man. Hey man, cool – will ask him soon. And everything will be mad frenzy now, packing, sorting, writing letters, changing addresses, closing bank accounts and fucking partying. Go dudes! Oh yes, good can come from bad – just watch us prove it.

(Later) Phew. It’s scorching hot, preparation for the coming summer in Australia (destiny – what the card!) Drove across some wide-open land today, fields upon fields of corn and crops, cows and the bull. Down dusty tired tracks by dung heaps, open space is like…it’s like….freedom. At the end of that journey was a farm with a pretty farmer’s daughter and her way cute two-year-old (I’m guessing) and a handsome farm boy who would charm the undies off a nun if maybe he wasn’t the village idiot, knowing nothing else but muck and chicken shit. (This is all in my mind of course – who knows what these people may do by night. I could see this guy at some nightclub bar with a queue of girls lined up to caress his rippling muscles – like I said, who knows?)

And I’m out in the sticks now, driving through some sleepy village that even has two names, like one had forgotten and another thought up – and imagine the village war between the farmers and the petrol pump attendant families over which name to use (out here they may still have a say – imagine us try to change the name of Bournemouth to Old Bastard or something).

And I gets to thinking, seeing some old dude bent over double with age, where I might be in 100 years time. Hmm? And I was thinking of something Rollins wrote which I’ll write ye down when I get home and maybe I’ll find a connection. Anyway, think about where you will be every year for the next 100 years okay – see what you come up with (go for it I say).

It’s going to be a fine night tonight, it’s going to be a fine day tomorrow – look at the sky – 19th May 1994

Yum yum yum – life’s here for eating up. Not that I’d lost any faith in people but had I done so it would’ve been restored by last night’s events. Well, start at the beginning somewhere.

Last night was another trip up to the Joiners and this time we took John and Sarah and some records to sell. John was in particularly enthusiastic mood – jeez, that guy is enthusiastic about everything! Well, I was in a bouncing mood tonight that’s for sure and found it difficult to stand behind my records for long periods so hell, I didn’t.

The atmosphere reminded me of Green Day’s gig there a couple of years back. Everyone was happy and everything was cool. The Thirst single was here for sale too – great job Tony has done and a fine tribute to Steve. Chrissy was in cheerful mood too along with Selena etc and me in charge of photo opportunity (dropping it while pissing!).

Thirst played a great set and are coming on really well and I gave them not too much stick! Wow! There was lots of pissed French punks here too – where did they come from!? (France! – ha!) The Harries played of set of Ramones style riffing – fun but unexciting. Everyone was happy though – it was that kinds bouncy music. Much chat and record sales (!) later, Rhythm Collision played a reasonable set of hardcore tunes, the guitarist later buying a Lemonheads LP from me and then us having a way cool conversation, me telling him about Broni and our love affair and plans for Oz. He knows Greg from Spiral Objective in Adelaide too which was cool coincidence. This dude was way cool anyway which is what I’m trying to relate, ok.

Eventually we got away and home at 1.15am and all today I feel proud to be a part of such good, honest fun things that friends across continents can organise for each other and it really feels like one big family with all sorts of diverse influences and anything goes and respect comes first. Today I love life and remember where I am in this world.