Wednesday 29 March 2017

An Encounter

I once made love in a forest at twilight.  It was October and it was cold with a light drizzle in the air.  We were camping nearby so we could have just gone back to the tent, but we were young and passionate and now meant now and not in fifteen minutes' time.  There was never enough time to wait for things then, sometimes I wish I could recreate that sense of urgency, but it seems lost.  He was very chivalrous; he arranged his jacket carefully on the shrubs and tree roots for me to lie on and he was very gentle.  I can't remember much about the actual sex, it was probably not that great, we hadn't yet had much practice - but the setting was magical.  I remember a strong smell of green, of moss and bark and earth and leaves.  I remember the damp air on my face and legs.  I remember an intensity of feeling, of being in the moment and of feeling a connection with everything around me that would rarely return again.  It wasn't even that comfortable, I had a tree root digging in my back and a scratchy plant attacking my leg, but I didn't care.  Afterwards we went back to the tent and made a fire and drank cheap cider and I kept looking at the forest in the distance thinking: we were there, we made love there.

A House

(This isn't my house; it's one of Seven Answers).

I had a log house at the back of our property that my father built for me.  It had three rooms over three stories so felt quite grand and special.  It was a place to hide out in, have snacks, run away from home to and have hours of fun with friends in different adventures playing all sorts of roles (cowboys and Indians, Germans and Allies, space explores (the house could fly)).  The structure and architecture of the house stands out.  The top floor was pretty high and was a good lookout point to steer the spaceship or keep on a look-out for Germans or Indians.  The middle floor served as a place to eat, discuss plans, draw maps... and the lower floor was a place for captured prisoners, storeroom, engine of the spaceship.  And as I write this it occurs to me for the first time that this place was built out of the love my father had for me.  It was a great and terrific gift, this house in the woods.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

An Experience

The most pivotal experience which changed my outlook on life entirely was when my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Where previously I had normal career and life ambitions and made plans for the future this made me much more aware of how easily we take things for granted and how easily things can change.  Not necessarily through illness but jut as easily through accident.  It brought into focus how important it is to make the most of each and every day and really concentrate on getting the most out of life, enjoying what I have today to the maximum and changing things that are not quite right rather than bemoaning what I don't have and wishing for things to be different.

Thursday 23 March 2017

A Dream

y head was in the jaws of a crocodile and there was enough pressure to stop me taking it out but not enough to cause me harm.  I lay in its jaws without fear or worry.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

A Memory

One of my earliest memories is watching my mother make a snow woman in the garden while my brother and [I] watched from the warmth of the kitchen table looking out to the snow.  She kept trying to put breasts on the snow woman but they kept falling off.  I would have been three or four at the time.

A House

(This isn't my house; it's one of Seven Answers).

When I was six, our family moved [...] to the Kent countryside on a brand new housing estate.  For the first time we had a garden although as the house was new it was mainly full of builders' rubble apart from a couple of apple trees, one of which was easily climbable.  At the end of the garden was a railway line that provided a regular backdrop of noisy trains but none of us cared; we were in a house, not a flat, and I could go to a school without constant playground scraps.  The house was a three bedroom semi-detached and my uncle, aunt and grandmother had moved into the attached property.

I shared a bedroom with one of my brothers, we had bunk beds and I had the top bunk.  Dad built some units which incorporated a desk and I remember feeling really grown up as I sat there playing Spirograph.  Our curtains were a pattern of old infantry soldiers and at night they looked a little spooky.  I was scared of the dark then and would lie in bed trying not to breathe in case someone or something would discover me.  My bunk bed became my safe house where I couldn't be touched.

Whilst Dad set about laying lawn and flower beds, my brother and I would play amongst the half-finished houses at the end of the estate, running in and out pretending to shoot each other.  We would pick up any junk left by builders that resembled a weapon and on one occasion managed to procure a new pick axe handle for Dad.  As more families moved in, our circle of friends grew ever larger and before long we were playing cricket in the street, breaking a few windows in the process, and organising marathon bike tournaments around the crescent.  Some of us even rode around hands-free, frequently coming off and grazing exposed body parts.

There seemed to always be people coming in the back door which was invariably open, our friends as well as neighbours that my parents had got to know.  One couple had a garage stuffed full with chocolate bars and biscuits.  He was a sales rep for Nestle and would often let us go into the garage and choose what we liked, our very own Willy Wonker!

After we'd been there for a couple of years there was a really bad flood that came up to the ground floor windows of most of the houses although it only managed to lap at our doorstep as our end of the estate was on a slight incline - I remember wading to school with my uniform in a plastic bag!

Thursday 16 March 2017

A Dream

Blood everywhere, possibly from a body.  I worry how I'm going to get it off the carpet.

A Fear

(This is one of Seven Answers).

Deep water.  It's not the fear of having nothing beneath you, but the fear of having EVERYTHING beneath you, and the fear of the totally unknown.  I had a discussion about this with my best friend when I was about 17.  She agreed with me.  She thought about it for a while and then described how she felt about it.  She told me to look at the ceiling. We were in the sixth-form common room at the time.  I looked up. Then she said to imagine I could see just the legs of an Action Man doll, protruding from the ceiling.  I pictured them, very small and a long way up.  Then she looked around the room.  She said, 'Now imagine all this room is full of water and it's really dark down here - think about being that action man.'  We both shuddered.  Not everybody gets it, and that's fine, but I still have trouble with ferry crossings and I can't ever imagine myself on a cruise liner.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

A Crime

When I was fourteen I broke into BBC Television Centre.  More than once.

I was the quiet friend of a group of bold girls.  I loved it.  Being quiet didn't mean I was less naughty though.  We were all odd in our own way.  Growing up in London was both exciting and very scary.  It was my time of racing hormones and thrills to be sought out.

One of the things that thrilled us most was music, all sorts, goth, punk, pop, we listened to it all and we fancied everyone in the bands.  We heard that one of the bands we liked was going to be on Top of the Pops, so we decided to take the tube to White City and hang around outside to see if we could catch anyone going in or coming out.  We waited there for ages in the cold.

Then we saw two girls being escorted out by security, two girls about our age being shown to the gate and told never to come back.  Grumpily [the girls] shunned them and walked by.  Jodie (the boldest [of our group]) caught them up and asked them if they were ok and what happened, and then we found out...

The BBC building is a massive place.  If you go around it, down one of the side streets, quite a way, there is a park, Hammersmith Park.  If you cross this park swiftly to the back, there are (well there was) tall bushes and trees which hide a very tall spiked fence and directly on the other side are humongous storage containers, the kind that would store a small house, all hidden by the bushes.  To this day I have no idea how I got my chubby body up and over the fence, aided by trees as none of us were good in P.E. but I did, we did.  Up and over and slide down the 15" gap between the fence and the containers until our feet found the fence footings which was a handy wall to walk along.  Squeazing along we could cover quite a distance without being seen, back to the BBC building.  Once we had reached the end of the containers there was a matter of one security post.  A uniformed man, with his peeked cap, in his little box, with a walkie-talkie, waiting.  But the box wasn't really pointed towards where we were hiding, so it was a short time before his head was turned and one by one we legged it to the circular-shaped building.

We were in.  The building was sectioned off into four colours.  It didn't take long to work out we needed the green section and that's where we headed.  Passing through corridors filled with doors, all with names of presenters or TV shows or administration-type titles on them, the Saturday morning kids shows, news readers, Blue Peter presenters.  We passed one that said Andy Peters, [then] Philip Schofield and again as Jodie was the boldest she tried the door.

It was open.  It was empty.  We all had a look.  Not a big room, a desk chair and lots of paperwork and books.  Sitting on a shelf was Gordon the Gopher.  We hatched a plan to take the puppet and leave a funny ransom note.  We did and we thought it was hilarious.

Passing people we recognised from TV, we did stop and ask Harry Enfield for an autograph.  He did, but quickly, he didn't really like it.  I learnt that day that even though you can be on the telly or on stage and put yourself in a position where everyone will laugh at you, privately you can be the shyest of them all.

Being interested in costume I was delighted to find rooms with rails and rails of costumes and accessories, a costume department.  Some of them we recognised from Blackadder.  One of Queenie's beautiful head-dresses for instance, with its jewels and pearls that was almost heart-shaped with its droplet in the middle that sits on the forehead.  Holding it was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.

It was also parallelled with [the] anticipation of getting caught, which eventually we did.  The closer we got to the Top of the Pops studio the more security was pacing the corridors and we just couldn't dodge all of them.  They knew Thursday night would mean chasing the pop cravens out of the place and it looked like they hadn't worked out yet how we all got in.  We were all under sixteen and harmless really, so I guess it was worthless calling the police and probably made the security look lame.  We didn't run.  It was getting time to make the long journey [back] anyhow before we were really late home and got the bollocking we deserved.  And we didn't want to climb the fence again to get out.

We didn't get to see the band, and I can't even remember who it was we went to see.

On Saturday morning we kept an eye on the TV show Going Live and felt sure it would be mentioned that Gordon was gone.  Not a mention of a ransom note, its demands and Philip didn't swear on kids' TV as our demand stated.  Our Gordon was obviously one of many Gordon puppets and he appeared, as his squeaky normal self on the show.

Friday 10 March 2017

An Experience

(This is one of Seven Answers).

As a teenager, I would not/could not admit that I was gay.  I transferred the urges which I felt for certain teachers and classmates into 'wishing I could be them,' wishing I could magically inhabit a bigger/stronger/handsomer/more mature man's body, escaping my own which I felt to be small/weak, unattractive/immature.  None of this was true, of course, but one makes 'deals' with one's inner voices when one is learning how to be an adult human being... Then at the age of eighteen, during my first month of my first year at university, I met a man - no, this isn't that sort of story.  He was a floor captain of my dormitory, and all he did was help me get back into my room one morning when I was accidentally locked out.  But he was tall, handsome, bearded, funny, smart... only two years older than I was, but I automatically filed him in the 'adult' category (as opposed to me in the 'boy' pigeonhole).  And yes, I would have liked to have (somehow, magically) inhabited that big golden body... but that evening, while working myself up to my usual pleasurable nighttime experience (ahem!), I found myself not wanting to be him but to be in bed with him... making love with him.  It was the first moment when I realised that I was gay, and that such things were open to me.

An Encounter

found myself in the first few weeks of a new relationship, but with someone I'd known for a very long time who had a difficult end to her previous relationship.  We went out for dinner... no attention paid to food just the rapt dance of listening and talking, sharing and choosing that begins a love affair.  As she got into a taxi at the end of the night we fell into a kiss... I had truly forgotten what it was to be sixteen again, kissing desperately as the taxi driver taps his steering wheel.

Thursday 9 March 2017

A crime

Can't think of a crime unless you count picking flowers from a garden and selling them for 1p to a lady in the street.

A Memory

(This memory isn't mine; it's one of Seven Answers).

My earliest memory is bathing - being bathed, really by my mother - at my grandmother's house.  It's an old house and the water is heated with a coal-fired boiler.  I clearly remember smelling the smoke of the fire and the sweet bubble-bath soap, a combination I don't think I've ever smelled since.  I am not yet three.  The reason I know this is that in the tub with me is a small plastic doll, a crying negro baby with pearly-white hair; I lost this doll shortly after my third birthday, throwing it overboard off a ferry.  The memory is pure perception, I don't associate any good or bad feelings or thoughts with it.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

A Fear

Growing old alone.  I'm useless, no pension, no mortgage, no investment in my future except - until recently - the love of a man who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  I can deal with the poverty, the uncertainty and the insecurity of finances and property - but I hate silence.

I have no friends living nearby any more - they all moved out of [...] and established families, etc.  My job is real demanding - I love it - but I work a lot - weekends, evenings - so I rarely get to see people.  At least I always had my man - but very recently we broke up.

I had a week off work a few weeks back - I stared at the wall for most of it or sat in the pub drinking. Once work has gone, I'll not interact with anybody on a daily basis - so this is something I fear most - the deafening silence, the sense of loneliness - and I know I won't feel the total clout of it until I retire.

An Encounter

We were on a train from Val D'Aosta to Turin.  We had been teaching children at a school run by nuns in the mountains.  We were to spend a weekend in Turin before flying home.

As the train jostled our knees touched.  His knees were sun-kissed brown with tiny golden hairs on them.  He was tall and well built and his legs enclosed mine.  As the sunny hills and fields of Italy went by I felt shots of excitement and knew myself to be completely happy.

Friday 3 March 2017

A House

(This house is one of Seven Answers).

We moved a lot when I was young and I have patches of memory from some places, but the house where my first memories were really formed was a Victorian semi on the outskirts of a village.  The memories are still patchy and I don't remember clearly all the rooms, but they still form a map of the house.  The memories are centred around events but inconsequential ones; walking along a roll of lino in the front room, walking into my parents' east-facing bedroom in the morning and seeing the dust floating in the light; the metal framed doors in the back room that led out onto the patio and the stained glass windows in the front door.

The house was big and quite empty.  I'm not sure if a lot of my memories were of when we had first moved in or because my parents didn't have enough furniture to fill it.  The rooms seemed dark and oppressive.  The attic room on the third floor was completely empty so we played up there, and we had some giant cardboard cut-outs of pantomime characters that acted as props for numerous plays.  I can't picture the furniture in the rooms, I remember the layout of our bedroom and eating gingerbread in bed.  We had Disney character toothbrushes and Matey bubble bath mixture in the bathroom.  We had smelly gas fires in the fireplaces and I remember eating baby food out of a tin and watching TV, that can't be right though, I can't imagine my mother letting me eat out of a tin!

I have strange memories from that time about a bizarre incident on the upstairs landing in the middle of the night where marbles are rolling around on the floor.  I have a rather sinister, unsettled feeling.  I'm not sure if it was part of a dream I have always remembered, or if I woke up in the night and got disorientated wandering around.  It has just remained one of those abstract memories in my head that I can't quantify or fully explain.  Most of my memories of that house are quite abstract.  We have a lot of photos from that time and I think my memories are mixed up with images from photos, memories and things that I was told that have all formed and woven together and are now inseparable.

An Experience

I'm not sure I'd choose to describe anything as pivotal, simply because that infers that everything else isn't.  Life works in weird ways, and the big events aren't always the most meaningful.  Cobwebs covered in dew.  School kids singing 'Morning Has Broken.'  Pixar films.  The sudden loss of people I thought would be there forever.  The gleeful, wide-eyed curiosity of small children.  Sunrises and sunsets.  That feeling of being in the right place at the right time.  Getting the giggles over something daft.  It's all important, all pivotal.  But at the same time viewing everything as a Big Deal destroys the magic, I think.  Even matters of life and death are best approached with a knowing smile, and how can anything else exceed the significance of those?

Thursday 2 March 2017

A Dream

(This isn't my dream; it's one of Seven Answers).

sit tight on a slightly damp wooden bench.  I am holding a quilted bag the colour of dry blood.  The birch tree growing beside the bench is coming into leaf; covered in raindrops.  The sun is out.  My face and hands are warm.  I am contented and uneasy.  Three men walk past.  Two of them walk swiftly, with easy confidence.  The third hangs back a little, hands in pockets, head bowed and looking at the ground.  I hear him say, 'I did not go.  I stayed.  The river told me to and I obeyed.'  Then I see the river, quite close by, and I wake up.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Seven Answers XXVIII: A Crime

(Read more about Seven Answers).

When I was on holiday at a coastal town where we usually went every year I really wanted a chocolate peppermint patty, so I stole one from the convenience store - something about which I still feel guilty.  The only other thing I've stolen was a lip-ice lip moisturiser from my cousin's pharmacy, again when I was a child.  When my mother asked me where I had got it from I said I'd found it.  Again, still guilty.

Seven Answers XXVII: A Memory

Having stitches put in the back of my mouth.  I was crawling up the staircase with a plastic trumpet in my mouth, which caught on the next step and pushed the mouthpiece into my mouth and cut the back of my throat.  The next thing I remember is lying down with a nurse above me.  My parents say I was three-ish when it happened.