Wise Men Say…

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My childhood was dominated by memories of The King. Elvis Presley, Aaron to be more precise. My mother was in love. She was smitten with this hip-shaking, breath-taking, king of Rock and Roll. We were the family from The Commitments who could not conceive that there was anything better than the lip-curling kid from Tupelo, Mississippi, the voice of a generation before us and one that could not be beaten. Our commitment to The King was complete and it was cemented with our mother’s undying love.

At that point, we never realised that she had another love, one that could never be requited; Rock Hudson. 

I had a particularly bad singing voice. People would stop me in the street just to complain to me about it. You see I loved singing, but singing didn’t love me. Unless I did Elvis Presley songs. Elvis and I, I like to think, were joined at the spiritual hip. We were both working class lads whose middle name began with A (mine was for Andrew not Aaron). For some reason, and this may have been only me who heard this, we both sounded like each other. I would practice at night upon going to bed. It would start with something rocky like King Creole and then move into a couple of love songs, Love me Tender and Only Fools Rush In. that helped to set the scene. With each hip-rolling lyric I was being transformed into The King. I even learned to roll my lip the way he did.

In the sixties, Elvis started to become a little uncool. He started making excrutiatinlgy unbearable films (movies to my American cousins) such as Kissin’ Cousins and Clambake. Regardless of being an Elvis Presley devotee, I kept it quiet if I ever watched these on Saturday afternoons. I did like Flaming Star, a decent western in which he showed a little acting ability and obviously Jailhouse Rock, King Creole and…the list is not endless. Still, I believed that I was becoming Elvis.

My mother loved Elvis whilst my father mocked him a little. Dad was a Frank Sinatra fan and, possibly like me, saw much of himself in his idol. He would never admit that he followed Frank, it was not manly and was certainly not the done thing in working-class West Yorkshire. I tried to keep my Elvis to myself. My mother swooned when one of his songs would be aired on the radio. She positively melted when he was on TV.

“He can only sing certain songs,” my dad would goad.

“Shut up, you. you’re only jealous!” She would snap back.

On those bitterly cold winters nights, I would retreat to the relative comfort of my bedroom, pull an extra coat on the bed, leave my socks on, roll my head to accompany the rock that was to come, and then sing my heart out.

“Shut up!” The chorus would come, “Shut up and go to sleep before your father gets back from the club.”

My singing would then take a downturn into the hardly-audible. I was praying the words, offering up myself to a greater power, the living god of Rock n Roll.

Getting older meant that certain songs could not be sung. The seventies brought Glam Rock, Prog Rock and then Punk Rock. The King must have seen it coming and decided to make himself less and less visible. Ironically, during this time, he was becoming more and more visible through his love of all food bad. His weight shot up as his fame dropped   down. I still managed a neat impersonation of him singing, In The Ghetto. That was a rather socially aware number that I believed was socially acceptable, As The Snow Flies. I have never seen snow flies, but I think that they must be rather hardy little pests.

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On August 16, 1977, The King died.

I was in bed, drifting off to sleep. Too old to sing his songs without my parents considering the option of sectioning me in our local lunatic asylum. I could hear the TV from downstairs. Mum was watching it whilst my dad shared a few pints with his mates at the club.

I heard a long drawn-out, “Oh, no.” Quickly followed by, “No. Please, no.”

I knew he was dead. I went downstairs and found my mum in tears.

“He’s dead, Mike. Elvis is dead. It’s not fair.”

My sisters were both downstairs at this point and they joined he in the ritual shedding of tears. Even my father was sad when he returned. The King was dead.

That night, I tried to summon up his spirit and channel it within me. I could think of no better use for my defunct voice box than to become the conduit for King Creole’s magnificence. It didn’t happen.

My mum got over her infatuation and moved on. She was never the same with her affections and never openly declared her love for icons until later when her somewhat secret love was no secret any more. Rock Hudson, dashingly handsome and quirkily funny in his outings in Pillow Talk with Doris Day, died on October 2nd 1985. He died of Aids related illnesses after hiding his sexuality for al of his movie-star career. My mother sobbed. My father shrugged his shoulders.

“If only he had met me. I could have cured him,” she declared.

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In those days, they had no cure for homosexuality.

Nor for unrequited love. 

 

 

 

Dildos and Stockings To The Rescue!

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A ray of sunshine has fallen across our Saturday morning. Outside is dull and damp, but in doors there is a spot of hope.

Saturday morning started off as all Saturdays tend to do. Lucy, our cat, came gently meowing into our bedroom. The weather is grim out there, but that didn’t stop her from wanting, nay insisting, on going out. I crept out of bed, descended the stairs, opened the front door, and she was gone into the gloom. I went back to bed; it was five o’clock.

Later, we were awoken by the sound of our middle daughter moving around. We ignored this and feigned sleep. After about half an hour, my wife’s phone started to do the buzzing thing that has replaced the traditional ring. It could only be one person, our eldest daughter in France. I listened for a short time to the conversation and then went to make the mugs of tea that are so much a part of our awakenings.

Saturday mornings always follow their own traditions. Tea, talk, sample the news, and the porn; property-porn.

Property-porn has been part of our lives for over twenty years. In the early days it meant leafing through the Yorkshire Post property pages. Then it progressed to the internet where property porn is tailored for everyone’s predispositions and quirks. We originally went the French way as old houses and gardens were still the norm for most people’s tastes. After that, we went Spanish: new-builds, sea-views, and pools. Spanish properties are plentiful, although sometimes they tend to lack the aesthetic.

We can spend up to an hour luxuriating in this debauchery until the real world calls us back. The real world needs finances and I have managed to spend the main part of my life avoiding this hefty consideration. My pension-pot is puny as I thought that I would be a famous writer by now. I am not. And the wife is not overly impressed. Therefore the morning, that started off so well, the porn not the cat, started to slide downhill a little.

“Why can’t you write a bestseller?”

“I know. I wish I could.”

“But it would have to be something that people would want to read.”

“I know.”

It was still slipping downhill and towards a precipice when my wife suggested, sex.

“Sex sells.”

“Perhaps I could write some erotica?”

“I don’t really think it’s you.”

“Cheers.”

So, I am officially a sad old git who can’t get it up for a swift chase of chapters that would titivate the secretly saucy.

“Dildos and Stockings!”

The morning was starting to look up again.

“Why don’t I set up an internet shop and sell dildos and stockings? Buy a pair of stockings and get a dildo, of your choice, free.”

She had my attention.

” I think that you have something there.”

The idea had begun to harden in our minds.

Dildos and Stockings. It’s great name.It could just work.

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At last, things are looking up.

Property-porn, here we come.  

A Life In Cars

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I would be lying if I said that this was my first car. I wish it had been. But my car was a Ford Escort Mark 2 and, for a time, it was my stallion of the roads.

Coming from a non-car owning family meant that I was not accustomed to the ease and freedom four wheels could provide. As a family, we would only have days out if a bus-route passed somewhere near there. In actual fact, we rarely had family days out; well, not the full family.

I was the first person in my immediate family to learn to drive. My father gained his licence some years later. I was the pioneer of this new found freedom. I took my driving lessons with a company called Impact. It didn’t bode well and I did need two goes to pass, but when I did, the world opened up. London was my place of learning to drive and its roads provided a steady stream of traffic and potential mishaps, but I was never involved in an accident on those roads. Indeed, I have only ever been involved in one collision in my life and that was when a bus shunted me up the rear. I got whiplash and the car needed to have the back-end looked at. A public vehicle up one’s rear is not a pleasant experience, but I survived.

“Once I was afraid

I was petrified

Believing I could never live

Without a bus inside.”

 

My wife, who is now auto-correcting me from over my shoulder, has had plenty of experience in the realms of accidents. She is reading my blog now and accusing me of telling her a lie for over twenty-five years. The ‘little white lie’ is concerning my recent admission that it took my two attempts to pass the test. Nit-picking, I call that. I had forgotten that I had uttered a minor mistruth all those years ago.

 

Back to my first ‘motor’. I bought it off another copper while in London. He was upgrading to a Ford Granada, a dream of a car. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It was a burnished gold colour and was part of the top of the range Ghia models that Ford were so very proud of at the time. He had been driving for some time and considered himself an expert in this field of pleasure along with other fields of pleasure that his dashing vehicle permitted him to indulge in. Cheap hotels and their nightly rooms were not in abundance then, so one’s mode of transport had to suffice. Granada’s had more leg-room than Escorts and the burnished-gold paintwork was suggestive of opulence and sophistication. It had leather seats.

My Escort had been purchased before I gained my right to drive. I sat it in the communal carpark of the section-house where I lived and took the opportunity to drive it slowly around that area when others were not there to see. Reversing became my thing. When I did pass my test, it was no time before the Escort was on the roads of Brentford and Chiswick, transporting me in the style and confidence of my latest achievement. It had a leather covered steering-wheel.

In latter years, I have bought automatic cars. They make sense and demand less. Back then, every single vehicle seemed to be manual. Those in the states must have marvelled at how us Brits were able to drive using a gear shift (Gear Stick in English). The very fact  that we saw this as normal must have planted seeds of doubt in our capacity to be seen as the other partner in a ‘Special Relationship’. I would go so far as saying that some may have gone so far as to believe that such approaches to personal transportation smacked seriously of socialist tendencies. That and driving on the left. The Cold War was at a particularly precarious impasse.

It took me a number of weeks to get-up the nerve to take to the motorways. The M1 was the fastest route home. I was about to leave the relative safety of the capital where the number of cars on the road make driving oddly safer. The reasoning behind this is that moving about London, in persistently heavy traffic, is akin to putting one’s car on a conveyor belt; you just get into a space and keep a safe distance from those fellow road-users in front and behind. Also, the traffic creeps along at such a sedate pace that it’s difficult to work up the enthusiasm to drive recklessly. I was a graduate of the Impact School of Driving, but not an advocate. I could not wait to arrive back in my hometown, back up in The North, and show off my acquisition, leather steering-wheel et al.

Motorway driving is a very different proposition from driving on crowded roads. It was a different age and traffic was much less; meaning that average speeds could be more. My approach to driving was one in which I wanted to remain safe. I wanted to avoid accidents. I wanted a long and happy life at the wheel. Unfortunately, lorry (truck) drivers did not share my enthusiasm enlightened travel. The big bastards just sat on the arse-end (tailgate) of my precious Escort in a continued attempt to shunt some more speed out of her. When that didn’t work, the tag-team approach came into play. One in front and one behind. I was the sardine in the middle. It didn’t take long for me to discover the thrill of a foot-down approach to the whole business. That was the beginning of my speedy years which were accompanied by my equally speedy gear changes. A rally-driver was born. The leather steering wheel came into its own.

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Back home, I hoped to be the talk of the town. Back home was a two and a half hour journey.

Now it is a lifetime away. But I can still smell the leather. 

Selling Like Hot-Cakes?

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL Read After Burnout.

It makes no sense. 

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The Prelude

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“Several years ago, when the Author retired to his native mountains with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far Nature and Education had qualified him for such an employment.

“As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them.

“That work, addressed to a dear friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the author’s intellect is deeply indebted, has been long finished; and the result of the investigation which gave rise to it, was a determination to compose a philosophical Poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society, and to be entitled the ‘Recluse;’ as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement.

“The preparatory poem is biographical, and conducts the history of the Author’s mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he had proposed to himself; and the two works have the same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the Ante-chapel has to the body of a Gothic Church. Continuing this allusion, he may be permitted to add, that his minor pieces, which have been long before the public, when they shall be properly arranged, will be found by the attentive reader to have such connection with the main work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices.”

 

And so it was. And so it must be that a teacher of literature should venture out one afternoon into the choppy waters of GCSE revision. After stealing a boat before lunch, he feasted before returning to the lake.

The students were bloated from their own repast of fizzy drinks, crisps and other such snacks, and bone-melted candy. Nevertheless with a wind in behind him, he set off on the guilty adventure of rowing this group through the last waters of their preparation for the next day’s examination.

The lake of tumultuous despair had already quietened. It was flat as glass, straightforward, nothing that could challenge his recently found boatmanship. And, I hear you think, there would be catch, the vault-face, the moment when the teacher’s vain-glorious nature would be sunk.

And in the other world of words, that is what should have happened.

In my classroom, on that sunny afternoon, with no sight of overbearing peaks, or undue currents, and with the aid of a four-wheeled swivel-chair for a boat, he rowed up and down, the classroom door to his back then the windows, and his lesson ended with a note of things having reached their natural end, and he being able to square himself with what had gone before and what was still waiting for him. 

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That was The Prelude to his next chapter. 

 

Another Breakout Looming…

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What can teachers do to escape the yatta tat tat of the classroom?

I have made a number of escapes throughout my life, both literal and metaphorical. I have never raced a motorbike up an Alpine slope and attempted to jump over ten feet of barbed wire, but it is safe to say that I once had the tee-shirt, and the chinos.

 

My greatest escapes have been to foreign lands.

London, although not another country, was an alien environment. My love of Hemingway had led me to believe that experience was essential for understanding who you were and what the world was made of. The industrial landscape of West Yorkshire had not prepared me for the vastness of what lay beneath Watford. London, in the early eighties, was not the place it has since become. Back then it was shrouded in a greyness that sat upon its citizens like a weight from the past. Blair Peach, a New Zealand teacher and left-wing activist, had been killed by the Metropolitan Police’s Special Patrol Group. It had happened close to Southall police station during a protest march. Southall was a Sikh area that had experienced its fair share of racial incidents. There was little doubt that many of these incidents had been fuelled by a repressive police force. After Sixth Form, I joined the Met in a vainglorious attempt to put things right. Three years later, found me retreating back north and regrouping.

 

My memories of the Met are like pages that I have read from a book; long, long ago…

There was the initial interview at Scotland Yard in which a medical involved bending over and having your backside inspected. This had nothing to do with concerns about northern cleanliness but they were bothered about unauthorised entry. At Hendon training school, we learnt to march. We exercised and expended ourselves to the state of exhaustion under the neo-sadistic eyes of our instructors. We learnt to understand the salvo of barks and orders that were constantly fired at us. We pressed uniforms and shone boots to mirror-like quality and we studiously digested each page of the police instruction manual. We played at being policemen in mock-ups. I began to understand how stupid my accent appeared to others and started to smooth it down. More than any other thing, we were slowly being inducted into an order of authoritarian, misogynistic, racist, rightwing and wrong-minded Visigoths from another era. Life on Mars got it spot on with its depiction of characters who belonged to that time.

I use my experiences in the police as anecdotes that are rolled out on different occasions to shed a little more light upon my past. I try not to embellish these tales but am well aware of what time does to ancient events. Playing the role of storyteller amuses me. It’s a story, my history, an evolving narrative that has been changing and adapting; at both chronological ends for some time. The further I get away from the opening, the closer I get to it. This is the paradox of time that shortens the lens of experience and changes horizons and limits. The defeats I suffered during my earnest spell in the Met should have set me up for the rest of my life, but I was always an optimist who thought that things would definitely get better. Like Santiago, the old man of the sea, I have the worst type of bad luck; never knowing when I am beaten.

 

A fellow whom I met when my wife and I worked in the Basque Country of Spain once noted that we were always striving to better ourselves, always talking about the future as if it was a world waiting to be shaped, never sitting back and letting the tide do the work. It was perhaps easier for him as he was of the upper-middle classes and had chosen to slum it as a teacher of English as a foreign language. He couldn’t ever understand the need to make things better. He could not contemplate the desire to build defences for that time in the future when outrageous fortune might wash against them. Jacob (double-barrelled surname) had a pile to fall back on and could therefore fail in comfort. For us, failures howled in our dreams and shook us from sleep with the cold sweat of realisation that it would be like this for life. So, every day became a battle to hold our ground and to move forward, inches at a time. Stoicism can get ever so dull.

Sophie takes charge of our operations on the battlefield.

My wife is tough, resilient and generally forgiving of my escapist nature. Life has been very difficult for her with almost all of her original family now dead. Ironically, the only one still living is her natural mother. The clue lies there in so much that the woman gave birth to her, looked after her for several months, brought her to a state of malnutrition, and then handed her over to her own mother and her step-dad. My wife was adopted and then grew up wondering why her parents were so old compared to those of her school mates. There is a stagnant sea of loathing that now stretches between Sophie and her birth-mother and it is safe to say that we will never cross that vast expanse any time soon. Whatever life throws at her, she continues. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to throw it back, slam the door open and start again.

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All of our escapes had been prompted by me. 

I am thinking about the parachute and the German airmen in that garden all those years ago. There is me, tail-end smoking, guns stuttering and half a squadron of enemy planes swarming. I have my parachute and am pressing the ejector button.  Soon only the air will be between me and the freedom of the ground. Sometimes however, they attack a helpless escapee and, when they come again, there is nowhere to hide and nothing to hide behind.

 

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via Great Escapes…xxx

The Royal Weeding…

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The most unusual thing is happening today.

As we are out in the garden, mowing the lawn, tidying the borders, and pulling up the  weeds, the church bells are sounding as if in recognition of our travails.

The sun is shining, my wife is smiling, our youngest daughter is watching some state event on TV as she is totally unaware of what moment of significance is taking place at the rear of the house.

Together in matrimonial splendour, me and the important She are making sure that the future of our great garden is protected for another year and that upon the union that we have formed, peace and harmony will rule alongside justice and intolerance for flowers and weeds alike.

And now I must be off as I hear the sound of trumpets hailing my reappearance on the lawn.

The Missus is now sitting with the youngest watching some reality TV thing on the old Goggle-Box. 

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God Save The Green (Lawn)!