I got buckets full of time, I got nothing but time – 26th May 2018

“Time is such a deceiver.”

So, it’s been a while.  Who knows where the time goes? That was the original tagline but I got sucked in by the Leaving Trains instead.  In fact, there’s any number of songs that could be quoted for this post because… it’s been a while!

After the mad rush of Songkran, sobriety took hold out of necessity.  It wasn’t that I wouldn’t like to have had a drink it’s just that there wasn’t time.

I was secreted off to a rural location on the outskirts of Chiang Mai for a month of intense training in the arts of teaching English (CELTA – look it up).  Of course, being entirely ignorant of the subject, beyond speaking it for the past 49 years or so, I arrived early to get a little refresher on the witchery that is English grammar.  It was not nearly enough preparation.

I had been put to sleep many a time whilst opening a grammar book or watching videos on the subject.  Luckily we had a teacher who was a female version of my old pal back in Southampton, Rob Callen.  She was precise and accurate and even modelled some of the lessons that we would end up learning in the coming weeks, without realising it of course.

So, I said we.  I was joined by Tom, a recently retired American looking to support himself a little beyond what the pension there pays so he could spend six months living in his new house in Portugal.  Tom was also from an IT background so we bonded quickly enough around the bullshit that that involves.  We were both concerned about our abilities to be able to complete the course, knowing how intense we heard it would be.  Along with us was Victoria, from London, whose grammar knowledge shone in comparison.  Mid-30s, deciding on her future possibilities, whilst travelling to vacations and friends’ weddings around the world, she was a bright and bubbly counter to the two old blokes.

And so it was for the first 3 or 4 nights as we did a couple of days of grammar refreshing, in which I was mostly bewildered but also provoked.  English grammar does seem like the kind of thing I could get deep into and become the ‘grammar nazi’ amongst my friends.  Though considering we are about to learn how to teach English as a second language in a foreign country though, my relaxed attitude is more inclined to take precedence.

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Location, location…..

Our facility is structured like a resort hotel.   There are teaching rooms, a reception and a restaurant.  More importantly, our personal rooms are cleaned daily, there’s a laundry service and outside my balcony, there is a 50-metre swimming pool.  Oh yeah, there’s aircon too.  For some reason, the keycard in my room didn’t work properly so the aircon stayed on even when I wasn’t there.  What a blessing.

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With no pressure and performance ratings around the grammar refresher – we studied, we learned, we swam and we ate.  It was the calm before the storm.  Our little world was about to be shattered when all the other students would arrive.

And talking of storms.  One arrived about five minutes after I made it to my room on that first day.  There was a lot of damage to the surrounding gardens and it took the internet out for a while too.  Both storms and internet outages would become regular occurrences during my time there.

I guess the grammar refresher paid off a little as I can recognise myself switching in and out of different tenses as I write this but they seem to make more sense to me as I write them.

Anyway, the quiet was broken as other students started arriving, as well as our teachers too.  And this is where things sometimes got confusing as we were students, and we would be teachers so we had students as well.  On top of all the learning our brains were being jammed with, it was sometimes confusing to be calling home and talking about teachers (teaching us), teachers (us), teachers studying (many people on the course were already teachers), students (us) and students (who we were teaching)!

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Confused? You will be!  In the next episode of….. (Prizes for knowing where this quote comes from*)

* there are no prizes.

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.

Give me some gas and the open air – 18th October 1994

So, early a.m. we catch the commuter train with the suits and the smart dressed young ladies into the city to pick up a hire car. Broni handles the controls, this being our first Oz car driving experience together. It’s already a blistering hot day at 9am. Slowly but surely we make it across the city to Wendy’s (Broni’s oldest sister) to pick up some stuff, then on out of the city, where suburbia ends and turns into farms and small town communities.

In the distance we can see the Blue Mountains beckoning us. We stop off for some salad, watching big carrier planes taking off from the army base close by and yippee, I get to take over the controls and charge us through the countryside, to the bottom of the mountains, slowly up, twisting turns, the smell of gum invading our nostrils, sun blazing in blue, oh blue sky faint whisper of cloud.

Not my picture…

We catch a brief glimpse from hilltop back to where we came, a breathtaking spectacle but we are still onwards, upwards, through orchard country and then into the real mountains with burnt scrub bushland, crickets screaming out their mad calls deafeningly loud in unison, cancelling out the radio. Road still twisty we balance on the edge of precipices looking into long deep vale valleys covered in black eerie gum tress caught in last years fires, for all the eye can see everything burnt, charred, like a graveyard to the flora, to nature and it’s wonder, each tree stood like a monument proud into the sky, now beginning to show signs of growth again.

For some half an hour we carry on through this beautiful landscape before descending down into the old coal mining town of Lithgow, and from here we drive for another hour across plains and farms to our destination, Bathurst, Australia’s oldest inland city. And here, at Broni’s parents, we make a brief stop before we head out to some places to look at with the intention of finding some place to get married and as usual, with our positive outlooks and thinking we find somewhere quickly that is an ideal place for marriage ceremony and reception so then we high tail round town to try and find a priest who might marry us outside, something which they are not known to do.

Again, not my picture

We run out of time doing that but not before a quick run up Mount Panorama round the race course there, where some guy got himself killed in the Janes Hardie 1000, going much faster than us I might add. During the rest of the year the course is open like a normal road, with a picnic stop at the top. Weird driving round roads with tyre barriers and red and white caution markers on the corner bumps.

Back to base we lazy away the rest of the evening in conversation and old photographs.

P.S. The crazy natural amphetamine of youth! Ya!

  • Main picture taken on top of Mount Panorama with my best man, Rob, March 1995.

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.

Now I can’t show you all the things I’ve seen and I can’t make you feel anything, certainly not what they meant to me – 2nd September 1994

It’s an exciting life. When Broni gets home I have a delicious meal prepared for her and sit yummying as we talk about our day.

Broni has been very busy at work and soon falls down dog tired but after some rumination we take a gentle stroll into the park as the sun slowly descends somewhere behind some cloud or other. We sit and watch the ducks and swans and talk about belief and good things. We realise how lucky we are, to have each other, to have this adventure and to have the future.

When I get back I have a long chat with Rob on the phone, which involves more shit flying in the Fatty department, which will bore me to death to repeat here and particularly as I am making great pains to forget all about that sad part of my life and to look towards brighter things. It is sad for me to carry a thorn in my side but now I feel able to let it go (haven’t I said this before?) Now feels different though and my future is absolutely soaring away from everything I know here, all the things I like but all the things I dislike too.

Later Broni and Kerry are talking and I join them in the bedroom, Kerry is talking like a maniac, high on life, full of herself because she finally feels comfortable with who she is and recognises her place in the world and realises her worth. She says it’s taken ten years but if you could see her bright chirpy cherub face you can see ambition and content. It was so good to hear her talking positively about life especially after my talk with Rob which dealt more with clearing out negative emotion.

So the cloud over me soon disappeared and I felt a wave of enthusiasm for life come over me and a little bit of loss for not having Steve around to talk to. Broni has me sussed pretty well though and reflects all my good points which make me feel much better and soon we are wrestling and playing in our makeshift bed on the floor.

Before we know it we are awake again, missed our dreams and she is off to work as I get up and cycle around the harbour taking video memories every now and then, through the park to the quay and back along the circuit, catching glimpses of beauty and depths through the cameras eye and hell, I feel so good inside myself today.

It is so easy to forget just how lucky you are to be alive and mornings like these bring it home that no matter what goes wrong, will still be okay.

Now is what’s happening, now is real, live for the now. I will see the sunset over a beautiful peaceful world.

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)

Society’s glue bag smothers – 23rd August 1994

The alarm goes off every three minutes, this morning we listen to it for an hour. Broni eventually getting out after a quick roll around and as she spreads the curtains open I simultaneously hide my head under the pillow to block out the light and go back in search of the Sandman. I play in my dreams for a half-hour or so til I stir to the smell of coffee, I sit up in bed and watch Broni get dressed. Soon she’s whirlwinded off for her last day before a week off and I sip my coffee and read another chapter of Burroughs. I don’t have half a clue as to what’s going on in the book but it’s strangely addictive. Each paragraph or sentence provides vivid imagery for the mind to play with and the story kind of develops in a series of snapshots. Unusual.

I’m disappointed this morning that the sun isn’t shining and as I write, now afternoon, it’s only just starting to peek through the clouds. With plenty to do, I ride on up to the post office, over the small park that is surrounded by busy roads, to be honest, this park offers no peace from the bustle and taking a picnic there would be ludicrous.

Next, down to the bank to deposit more money and I dodge in and out of the traffic, jumping on and off the pavement to avoid parked cars, needless to say, I make it down into town as quick as any of the cars.

The slight drizzle obscures my sight through my glasses but it’s neither cold nor really that wet. Back across Poole Park, now empty of tourists, the place looks tragic, reliant on sunshine for business, England’s tragedy (or maybe saving grace).

Back home Broni rings to tell me that our tickets are ready for collection at the travel agent. Back in town. Without complaint I, this time, just walk back through the park. A few more people now as the rain moves on, but no one out on the boats yet. I imagine rolling out into the middle of water and just floating, free. Read a book, read it aloud so the sky can hear.

On Sunday when Broni, Rob and myself came through the park we saw in the distance some kites in the sky, except one didn’t have the normal kite shape and from where we were stood it looked to me like someone had ripped a hole in the sky and the more I looked at it the more real it seemed. I was expecting time travellers to fall through the rip and bring us news of the future, but shit, it probably wouldn’t be great news would it? Or maybe they would tell us of a new life, a separate existence where things are good in people did coexist happily. I guess that theory is just a bit harder to imagine. See how poisoned our minds are by today’s bullshit. I can see it and I hope everyone else can but I think I probably credit people with too much intelligence. Still, the people I have time for are those that can see it (should I make time for the others?).

So I picked up the tickets and read a few magazines and pondered whether it was worth buying a huge box of chocolates, opting not to in the end when realising what other things you can buy for the same price. Our groceries for a week cost less than the box, but hell they also cost less than a bottle of good wine!

Back across the park, now warmer and brighter and therefore busier. I rode over the other side of the lake yesterday looking for good shots with the video and beautiful though the park is, from that angle the park is dwarfed by the high-rise blocks of the hospital and the nursing home and a million other buildings towering over the trees. Of course, on that side where most of the people gather you’re looking the other way, over the railway line and out into the harbour. And today as I walk over I suck back and choke on leaded octane sputtering out from some tourists car. Can’t someone come up with a better way to travel? And then try to sell it to the English public, hah! And back home the trains still roll by.

Hope is such a desperate emotion to cling to. But I wonder if there is any hope for the future. Not for my future, I have clear ideas about my future. For the future of the world? How long before God puts an end to the insanity rife in mankind? Armageddon is promised by most religions – can you say you will survive the cleansing?

Are you good at heart? Do you believe in yourself? Why do I ask?

Two men kidnap a 15-year-old female German student, drive her at knifepoint to an industrial estate where they both rape her, knife to the throat. You know the story, we’ve all heard it. It makes me hate. It makes me hate being a man, male, macho. I want to reject my sex. I want to cut the dicks of every one of those scumfuck rapists and molesters, tear out their burning eyes and wrench out their perverted thoughts, suck out their chemical imbalance, and I don’t want to see them in jail – I want them dead.

I want women to rule the world, no woman thinks with a dick. It seems like no hope for the future, will the rapists, the robbers, the killers, the connivers rule the world? I think they already do, the rule of fear, born in the 20th century. Armageddon seems appropriate.

What strength we need now, to show our children a better way. We all think we know best and sometimes you should listen to that advice your enemy might be giving you. They may have a point. What strength then to shoulder criticism. What insight to point our way towards the light. We can do it. We know we can, we’ve been programmed to forget how. Mickey Mouse told you to forget, Coca-Cola too. Now is the time to remember.

The Hope Conspiracy

If hope was a bottled tonic
It would be made illegal
“Got any hope, mate?”
Someone would be making a tidy sum
Selling it on street corners
To consumers ready to buy
In need of that fix to get high
And soon people would be stealing
Off each other, smashing piggy banks
For every last cent
Just to get some hope
Killing each other in the queue
Lining up for another fix of hope
Hope – sinister
Hope – deadly
Hope – death

All you fellas better change your ways, yeah, leaving this town in a matter of days – 8th August 1994

After feeling a bit rough in the stomach department and then stuffing a huge pizza on Thursday, there was nothing for it ‘cept to take Friday off! So I spent a lazy day ambling about in Poole, Just a walk away across the park from where we live now. The park is full of mad ducks and geese and swans all crowing about looking for food off the tourists. And when Broni returned from her work (she’s now winding down too, thankfully!) we set off on the buses for Bournemouth back to good Chinese food and then a dash down to the beach at 10pm, through all the crowds, to catch a firework display. We got to the beach as the last rocket exploded! Luckily we’d been able to see all the aerial light show high in the sky. We were pretty drunk by this time and I guess we got home on the bus somehow!

Saturday was spent lazily too and in the evening we went up to Consumers Paradise to see ‘The Flintstones’. I enjoyed it greatly thanks to a few puffs of magic smoke. We attempted a walk in the park on our return but we got too paranoid with all the dimly lit paths and alleys and ominous shadows of trees. We had to crash out early to get up at half five to catch the early bird bus up to London. And so we trekked back across the park in the early dawn, both still sleepy-eyed.

On the bus, we spread out, my back with an aching hurt making me sit bolt upright and I read William Burroughs and Broni read Roddy Doyle. In the blink of an eye we’re off the bus to a quiet sunny Sunday in central London. First stop for refreshments at the Fountain Cafe, and then into the tube across town to Islington to Piers at Mildmay Grove (now made famous (of sorts) in a poem, to Piers’ amusement).

Soon after arrival, Piers’ Orstraylian friend, Andrew, turned up with enthusiasm for our ‘freeways’, “strewth, knocking on the ton most of the way, just to keep up with people!” He assured us I’d have a great time in Sydney, “Bedder then heya, thet’s fer shore!” Soon he dropped us off near Euston after a 100mph car ride through London’s busy streets. “Oi luv those corners, especially with the four-wheel droive.” and some off the cuff remark while we were talking about money he noted about a fellow car driver “that blek fella’s dun awright fer ‘imself droiving a rolla, must be a drag ranner!” No sign of irony, sarcasm, hatred or even ignorance. Beyond ignorance!

Piers took us to Chutnie for Sunday lunch. An Indian restaurant with a three pounds ninety-five, all you can eat menu. OK food, but no popadoms! Piers then took us to various parts of London, all on foot, which was good but after a while, in the wrong places, we got fed up with the people everywhere.

Piers left us to it as he had to dash off to some BBQ and soon after Broni and I lost our rag, poisoned by the city I’m sure. After making up we started to realise just how tired we were and how fed up with all the tourist traps we were. Things got worse as we searched for food nourishment around tea time. My back pain had transferred to chest pain and as we sat drinking an orange juice and water I got scared and cried at the memory of Steve saying “could be the grim reaper for me” after seeing the doctor about chest pains, just days before his death. Then, frustrated, we found an American diner in Leicester Square with the vague hope of getting well-fed but all we got was fed up with shitty garlic bread and nachos with no guacamole – what the fuck! Totally overpriced too for the tourist boom – it was here we started to hate London and it’s consumer nightmare. Buy or die. Charging over a pound for a coffee is just pure rip-off and taking advantage of people – I can’t believe people are sucked in so easily but you are constantly bombarded by it.

We tubed over to Victoria to prepare to leave and things got decidedly evil. I paid 20p for a piss and approached the urinal thinking to myself, stand at the opposite end to the drain hole so you don’t have to smell everyone else’s piss. I’d done the wrong thing as I was thinking that, of course, but made a mental note to do that next time. As all that was going on in my head I became aware of some dude stood two booths away. Looking down I saw no signs of piss flowing down the drain and realised this guy was jerking himself off as he looked over at me. I quickly finished up and fled feeling a bit flustered. Not sickened but saddened by this behaviour. I felt strange for several minutes and as I walked up the stairs at Victoria I saw the shadow of Satan’s angel cast on the ground. I turned and looked up but, nothing! A very real experience probably easily explained but in my emotional state, very believable. And suddenly the city seemed insidious, dirty, depraved and evil and as we begged to leave, our coach was delayed. Only memorable point was while we were waiting, catching a girl’s eye by chance and her smiling at me!

Bussed home eventually, me looking after Broni as her health deteriorated by the poison of the day until she puked as we walked back across the park, now shrouded in darkness, ‘cept sky lit up by wandering searchlights touching the low-level cloud with fingers of fire.

Back at work today, still sad inside with thoughts of the dead city and Broni coming home ill after half a day’s work. I went to the doctors about my wrist again, where I was palmed off with the same old rest and recuperate rubbish. I think there’s more to it and have booked to see another doctor tomorrow. This has been very painful to write I’ll remind you – sympathy, please!

I’m getting excited about leaving now and frightened too but not so much as I’d expected. It seems like I’m just moving house – difficult to explain. Hey – had a great long cool chat with Rob on Saturday night – one cool dude is our Rob. Remember, Rob is God.