A Most Amazing Experience – A True Story

Well, let me begin by saying that all stories are true – it’s just that some of them haven’t actually happened – so, if you don’t mind. I will leave you guessing.

The first time that anything happens is usually pretty amazing – and not always for the right reasons, but new experiences seldom fail to leave their mark.  That first hesitant kiss, the soft almost not-there touch of her lips, the guilty look in your eyes, you glance sideways to see if she has read your thoughts – but no, her eyes are closed in blissful anticipation so you move in and let the gliding edge of your tongue slide over her gorgeous plump lips.

Ah, enough of this mundane stuff – we have all kissed – but I suspect none of you can quite remember that first time.  Anyway, not in the graphic detail I can.

And that of course has always been my problem.  I remember everything.  Each falling leaf as it begins its downward spiral to earth is captured in my memory.  Each handful of silvery sand I let slip through my fingers – just like the women I discarded; so many fallen petals, faded flowers, wilting and clogging up the drains after rain.  All there – my memories; lined up in their little white boxes, sublime treasure-chests of remembrance, just waiting for the lid to be prised open and re-lived.

Just like the first time I killed a woman.  Oh, I had no intention before it happened.  This was not pre-meditated.  Honestly.  Thoughts of death had never crossed my mind.  Seduction, persuasion, a little light tussle maybe – but not killing.  Besides this was my first time; my very own virgin murder and I was hardly prepared.   For anything, I might add.

The blood – of course.  And how could anything, any degree of premeditation prepare you for the blood, that metallic aroma that fills your nostrils, the bright red pulsing colour of it, the stickiness – no matter how you try to wipe it away it clings to your fingers; you glance in the mirror and there are spots on your face, your glasses splattered, it even gets in your hair.  Your clothes are ruined, of course; they will have to be burned – and if you are stupid enough to kill her in your own rooms you have to use gallons of bleach to eradicate the stains that seem to lurk, like shadowy reminders of the woman she once was.  And the screams, those piercing high-pitched screams go right through you, yet in a way they simply encourage you to keep on stabbing, to stifle, to silence her, to extinguish the very air in her lungs.  And then the body limp and collapsing around you; as you reach for an arm her leg flops out of your grasp.  The weight of them too, who would have thought something so light on its toes, so sprightly, so energetic one moment – could be so unresponsive, so inert, so – well, dead, to put it bluntly.  And the disposal of the now completely distasteful body presents a whole new set of problems.  And I mean it when I say distasteful.  Please do not mistake me for some sort of pervert.  A dead thing is simply that, there is no sexual attraction in a corpse, even less than in a living being I might add.

But like everything in life, I have found, the first time is always the hardest.  After a while you develop strategies for dealing with these issues.

But the first time was I must admit quite an amazing experience.  As I said I had no idea of killing the woman at all.  It had all started so innocently; a date – innocuous in itself, though I am sure a suspicion must have been lurking somewhere in her consciousness.  Surely, she must have known that my intentions were not exactly honourable.  Possibly she knew all along that we would end up entwined in a passionate embrace.  Isn’t that what the game is about, after all?

Anyway. Let us not preach semantics.  How we got there is unimportant suffice to say – there we are wrapped in each other’s arms and kissing, quite torridly as I recall.  Then, all of a sudden she pushes me away saying “No.  I really shouldn’t be doing this.  I have a boyfriend already.  I have to leave.”

How irrational, I can’t help but think.  I feel like saying “My dear, if you were already committed to someone else what the hell were you doing with your tongue halfway down my throat?”   But of course, you only think of these witticisms after the event – never at the time.  In fact, as well as being completely taken by surprise I am actually quite annoyed.  I had not forced her to come back to my squalid little bedsit, I had not even plied her with drink, my usual desperate ploy.  She had seemed quite keen.  And yet, unbelievably here she is protesting some sort of innocence.  I couldn’t quite believe how stupid she must think me.  Stupid enough to just smile and order her a cab I suppose.  No – my lovely, no cab for you tonight, you are going nowhere.

I push her back on the sofa and grab both her wrists in my left hand while my right undoes my belt.  She is kicking quite furiously now and screaming at me.  This only serves to make me angry – and yet, even despite the initial rage, a strange calmness descends on me. I tie her hands and reach for her cardigan (discarded, just like her morals, on the floor).  I manage to get her legs tied too, and then a tea-towel wrapped over her obscene mouth.  I can barely believe the filthy words spilling out of her. “Shut up woman.”  I command, but she stupidly continues, her body bucking under my strong grip.  Suddenly I feel I have had enough of this nonsense.  You see, I simply want her to stop screaming and shouting at me.  If she had stopped her foul-mouthed abuse none of what followed would have been necessary.

It was in every way an amazing experience.  Looking down at her, I can picture her now, writhing like some captured beast, or a fish hauled out of the river and squirming on the bank.  I was disgusted both at her and at my own ridiculous desire.  How could I have ever found her attractive.

Suddenly I know I have to kill her, to bring both of us out of this ridiculous situation.  I mean, I can hardly simply untie her, apologise, and let her go.  Things will not end there; no doubt she will involve the Police, or worse still her boyfriend, if indeed he exists (she may well have made him up just to satisfy her own guilty conscience). I can see no alternative but to kill her.

I grab a cushion and try to suffocate her, but no matter now hard I press against it she still manages to turn her face away, and despite the gag to gasp for air.  This was taking far too long, so I reach for a kitchen knife.  There is a little resistance I must admit, though that may be the layers of fabric around her chest, but eventually the knife sinks in all the way to the hilt.  She stops her writhing and stares at me, as if in disbelief.  I will never forget that look, pleading and helpless, and yet defiant at the same time.  I pull the knife out and am covered in huge spurts of blood.  She is gushing like a fountain.  So, I stab her again a few more times and the flow of blood slows to a trickle and then a slow ooze.  But oh, how good I feel, how completely in control at last.  ‘That will teach you a lesson you little minx’, I think, ‘You won’t be teasing another man like that for a while, will you?  In fact, you won’t be teasing anyone ever again.’


Okay, so now I had to get rid of the body.  But a second-hand rug and a tarpaulin and she is stuffed at three in the morning into the boot of my car, then down to the coast and off the end of the pier.  And no-one ever suspected me.  It had been a blind date, she hadn’t told any of her friends.  It was a couple of weeks before her body was washed up.  Another unsolved murder I am afraid.

An amazing experience – to have killed someone, to have felt the life seep out of them. And best of all to have gotten away with it.  It felt like a drug, and I must admit I had dabbled with those too in my dubious past.  And just like drugs it is so amazing you want to try it – again and again.


As I said at the beginning all stories are true – it is just that some haven’t actually happened.  I should have completed the sentence though.  All stories are true – it is just that some simply haven’t actually happened…. yet.

My Record Collection 68

Curved Air – were just one of many early seventies prog-rock bands who attempted, and succeeded in combining Classical and Rock instruments and songs.  The incredible voice of Sonja Kristina meant that they kept bubbling under in the charts.  I only have their first two albums – I sort of lost interest, and besides there were so many other incredible albums in the early Seventies. Air Conditioning was their debut in 1970. The opener ‘It Happened Today’ was a minor hit single; apart from that the album is rather overblown with ridiculously fast violins racing to…well, nowhere special.  Better was the follow-up Second Album, maybe because the vocals were higher in the mix and the violins reined back a bit – and for me, the best thing about Curved Air was Sonja’s remarkable voice.  Just a word about this (continuing) attempt to mix rock and classical – the mistake is to imagine that there is any difference at all; it is all music – but the best at combining two different streams were Barclay James Harvest (see B). Anyway, this record was pretty good – best rracks ‘Young Mother’ and the big hit ‘Backstreet Love’ – a few other tracks hit the mark too; ‘Jumbo’ and ‘Bright Summer Day’ are all great too.  A delightful record.  And now I ask myself why I stopped at record number two?  But all decisions, especially which album to buy with limited resources, are arbitrary in the end.

Daddy G – I may have mentioned it before, but my daughter Laura is just as obsessed with music as I am (well almost).  But she loves Dance Music – the disease started with her with Madonna (who I have never really got).  Anyway, she regularly buys me CDs of her favourite artists (trying to convert me no doubt).  Some I really love but some not so.  This one is DJ Kicks – and it is a reggae dub album, quite reminiscent of Bob Marley (see M) and it is pretty good really.  The thing about Reggae is the infectious beat; it just takes you over.  But as you know I am really a wordsman, and unfortunately most ‘Dance Music’ pretty well dispenses with words, or they are so unimportant and repetitious. Anyway, unfamiliar as I am with the genre – I didn’t understand that this was a ‘remix’ album.  Daddy G has taken tracks from Tricky, Massive Attack and a few others and has changed them by remixing and adding beats or whatever.   The whole thing hangs together quite well really, though it does get a bit boring over time.  The thing about music is that so much of it is about the time and place when you first heard it, when you were receptive to it, when you felt part of the culture of it all.  This album is quite pleasant to listen to now and then, but only now and then really.

Roger Daltrey – only the one album, self-titled.  I never had this on CD, but did manage to copy it (poorly) from the album.  I remember it was quite good, lots of Leo Sayer (who was then unknown) written songs on it.  Actually, I fell in love with the cover photo of Roger with full afro curly hair.  I had mine permed because of it.  I never looked as good….hahaha.

Alun Davies – Now this is a real rarity.  As far as I can ascertain he only made the one record on his own; Daydo – but what a record.  Alun was Cat Stevens (see S) guitarist on all those early Seventies albums of his. He came form a folk background and Daydo is very folky – not a bad thing. The record has a charm all of its own; a pleasant voice, great playing and a good choice of songs.  I have always loved it.  Best songs – the first three; ‘Market Place’, ‘Old Bourbon Street’ and ‘Portobello Road’ but ‘Vale of Tears’ is excellent too.  A lovely rarity – not easily available – in fact I’ve just bought it as a German import on CD.  My record was a scratchy copy from record to LP – so nice to have it properly, even if – like most of them -it will only be played rarely.

Ray Davis – the Kinks front man.  An undoubted great songwriter and singer – and I did love the Kinks as a teenager – but somehow in my buying choices they have always slipped through my greedy little fingers.  Just one from Ray; Working Mans Café – a free CD with Daily Mail I think, from early this Century.  And it is good – in places, and yet it still fails to really grab me.  A shame as re-playing it I like the lyrics and the arrangements and his voice.  Oh Well.



The Duty Of An Artist

A real artist I mean – not some dilettante, dabbling and decorating – why, you might as well still be doing ‘Colour by Numbers’.  No, a real artist is always striving for something, some elusive emotion, some new way of portraying beauty, of making a mark.  But life makes us all complacent.  We are constantly reward for conforming.  It begins at school when you get gold stars for the right answers.  As you get older you begin (at least some of us do) to understand that there are no right answers.  We should be rewarding kids for originality, for ripping up the text-books, for questioning all accepted wisdom, for thinking for themselves rather than for the teachers (or Ofsted).

And it is the same as you get older.  At work, if you keep your head down and do as you are told you get promoted.  If you ask awkward questions you get the sack.  No-one likes a smart-arse.  But really, we should.  It is those who break down the barriers who are the real progressives.

And in Art – be it music, drama, or the visual arts – we are taught how to see things.  The way they always have been seen.  But all the great artists saw things differently; the Impressionists saw photography as a threat – they realised that they had to paint in a different way, literally creating an impression of reality rather than a photograph of real life.  Every real Artist, be they Musician, Actor or Writer, has a duty to strive for something unattainable.  Each new creation must attempt (and almost every attempt will fail) to create something new.  I’ve just been re-reading a book about Joni, and how she turned her back on the mainstream in order to pursue her muse, how she was always striving to create something different.  Her record company begging her for another ‘Blue’, for another ‘Court and Spark’ – and yet she refused, she was a real Artist, always trying to discover that elusive yet vital spark of originality.

And so, as I continue my sporadic and sometimes half-hearted career as a writer, I try to write a different thing every time.  I too am striving to show in my inadequate way – a different way of seeing.   And it isn’t a choice – it is a duty, a necessity, to break all the rules, to do it differently, to try to show beauty in a different light.



My Record Collection 67

Crowded House – let me ask you…do you believe in love at first sight?  Because this was a case of exactly that.  Or not really.  Because Crowded House grew out of Split Enz (see S) who were one of my favourite bands in the late Seventies.  Neil Finn had joined his big brother Tim’s band and wrote their biggest hits.  But along came the Eighties and the band struggled and eventually Tim went to Hollywood to be a solo star (see F).  Neil joined forces with Guitarist Nick Seymour and Drummer Paul Hester, who sadly killed himself after album number 3.  They were instantly famous and had over a decade of success before splitting only to reform over a decade later.  But it was the first 11 years and four great albums that were by far the best.  In fact their debut Crowded House was possibly their finest; it simply brims over with enthusiasm and joie de vivre, rare indeed in 1986.   There isn’t a weak track on it, in fact they never recorded any weak tracks at all.  From opener ‘Mean To Me’ to riotous closer ‘That’s What I Call Love’ they just sound wonderful.  Everyone’s favourite is ‘(hey Now) Don’t Dream it’s Over’, which has become a staple of radio-play and has been recorded by many.  This album too is short, just 39 minutes long, in an era of 70 minute dole-fulls of boredom.  I managed to see them quite a few times and it was always a joyful sing-along.  Two years late and Temple Of Low Men came out.  Another good record, though it sold less well (the title incidentally being a reference to the place men tend to worship at).  The album itself seems a bit more introspective, less ecstatic – but with great songs nevertheless; ‘Into Temptation’, ‘Sister madly’ and ‘Better Be Home Soon’ are probably my very favourites.

Three years later and Neil Finn, the songwriter, wasn’t too happy with his next batch of Crowded House songs.  He had recorded an album with brother Tim called Finn (see F) and invited Tim to help him write some new songs.  The collaboration was so good that Tim temporarily joined the band for the album Woodface and subsequent tour.   This was their most successful record and for a couple of years the band were on top of the world and could do no wrong.  And the album is a joy, from the opener ‘Chocolate Cake’ to closer ‘How Will You Go’ it is splendid – so many great songs – most famously ‘Weather With You’, ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ and ‘Italian Plastic’.  And then – disaster struck, just after recording their follow-up, the drummer Paul Hester left the band, depressed he later killed himself.   Writing in 2010 Neil Finn said, “When we lost Paul it was like someone pulled the rug out from underneath everything, a terrible jolt out of the dark blue. He was the best drummer I had ever played with and for many years, my closest friend.”      The band carried on and recruited a new drummer and keyboardist Mark Hart, who had helped in recording Together Alone (1993).  Tim had by now moved on but the album was another triumph.   Best songs  – ‘Private Universe’, ‘Distant Sun’ and ‘Catherine Wheels’ – but really hard to make a choice form such a great selection.

And that was that really – at least for a few years.  A few weeks after Together Alone came out and I saw them at The Fleadh in Finsbury Park with my daughter Lydia.  I later saw and couldn’t resist buying the bootleg CD of the concert – one of their best, and listening now to the exuberance of the crowd and I am saddened by memories and hearing Tim Finn slightly ridiculing drummer Paul Hester for leaving the band at the last minute.  He was to commit suicide a few years later.

Then came the obligatory double greatest Hits album Recurring Dream, which as well as re-enforcing what a brilliant band they were contained tow new songs; ‘Instinct’ and ‘Not The Girl You think You Are’ – both pretty good.  (side 2 was mostly live, but excellent too).  A year or so later came ‘Farewell to the World – a live double, recorded mostly in Australia.  Then Neil, never the most comfortable of men, decided to go solo (see F).  Maybe he thought he could present his songs better on his own; there was always some friction with Nick Seymour, his guitar player.  Anyway, Neil broke up the band.   One more album slipped out Afterglow; which was a bunch of ‘b’ sides and album rejects.   I really like them, often little more than demos, especially ‘Recurring Dream’ and ‘I Am In Love’.  A nice addition to the pretty small catalogue.  As a sidenote, I have quite a collection of CD singles of Crowded House – and if I live long enough to get there I will include them and the hundreds of others at the end….hahaha

The band officially broke up in 1996.   But, as so often happens, they reassembled with a new drummer.  The tracks that Neil had recorded for a third solo album with old partner Nick Seymour (and four new ones) were released under the Crowded House name as Time On Earth.  Well, of course I haven’t listened to this half or even a quarter as much as their earlier albums – but somehow the songs seem to wash over me without settling anywhere near my brain.  I am sure they are perfectly good, but somehow all the excitement has gone.  There is a momentum when a band is young, a vibrancy, an excitement – but when they are well-established and making the occasional album and tour, they may still be great live but somehow it is just treading water.  Anyway, just one other album so far – 2009’s Intriguer.  I am not even sure if the band is still together as Neil occasionally knocks out a solo album and they don’t appear to be touring now.  The album itself is very quiet, in fact it is really a Neil Finn solo album with the members of Crowded House playing in the background.  A lovely record and it is growing on me slowly; best songs ‘Elephant’ and ‘Twice If You’re Lucky’.

For a while there Crowded House were my favourite band; in fact they are probably the last of my favourite bands as none this century have grabbed my attention that much.

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Letter to Theresa

Dear Theresa….oh no, in my wildest dreams I cannot begin with that.

Listen.  Please listen, where you have refused to listen to, well – practically everyone over the last two or three years.  How to begin what even you must in your heart of hearts know is the truth.  You have taken us, the whole country, all 70 million of us, whether we ever voted for you, or Brexit, or were too young to vote, or chose to vote for others or even those too disillusioned to vote at all – down a very dangerous road which you must have known long ago was a cul-de-sac, a wrong turning, a decidedly bad deal -however it turns out.

And yet you had it all, an election for Leader of your party which must have surprised even you.  Either you bought off Boris or possibly ha had more sense than you, and then the surprise second choice of M.P.s, the lightweight Mrs. Leadsom, took fright and left you the only candidate standing.  And instead of trying to unite our deeply divided country by trying to reassure both Remainers and Leavers that you would seek the best compromise that most of us might be able to live with – you came out with the nonsense that “Brexit Means Brexit, and we are going to make a success of it.”

Surely you had read your own Government’s analyses; you must have been in meetings when the Governor of the Bank of England warned of the disaster ahead; you must have known that Brexit was a delusion cooked up by foreign owners of Newspapers, Billionaires and Con-men.  Why, you even declared yourself a Remainer.

Admittedly it was a poisoned chalice that dropped into your hands but did you have to drink so greedily, bathed in the (somewhat dubious) glory of being the Prime Minister who took us out of Europe.  Your first mistake was not to consult widely, not to take your time, not to be so damned righteous and zealous a convert.  Your second was to appoint Boris as Foreign Secretary, (and of course to refuse to sack him as he blundered around the globe); and then in spite you sacked Osborne and even the few half-sensible ministers and replace them with Gove the Snake, smiley-face but dumber than dumb David Davis, and serial idiot Fox.  You sold your soul early on to the Hard Brexiteers, neglecting to understand that whatever red meat you tossed them they would bay for even more, until in the end they wanted yours too.

You lost two Brexit Secretaries through your intransigence; it must have been blindingly obvious back then when you forced your Cabinet to swallow what became known as Chequers that you were on to a loser – but you still drove your wretched ‘deal’ forward.  As resignation followed resignation you simply dug your leopard-skin high-heels in ever deeper.  From the start you tried to deny parliament any say in affairs, you lost court case after court case in your desperation to have it your own way.

And now we are in the sorry state of it all spiralling out of control; defeated twice by huge majorities you still insist it is your deal (even if the Speaker allows it) or no-deal.  And even the EU, who despite the Newspapers cries of Betrayal, have bent over backwards to save your miserable skin have had enough of you.  Seven days to go before the Iceberg hits us; I feel it is almost certain that now we will leave with no deal and all the chaos that will follow.  And all you can bleat is that it all those nasty M.P.s faults.  Oh, the Opposition who had the audacity to oppose you; the Scots who voted overwhelmingly to Remain, the Liberals who always wanted to Stay, the dirty dancing DUP who, despite having cash shovelled down their greedy throats, still hate you.  But of course, the ones you must hate most are the ones you tried so desperately to indulge – your very own Mad Brexiteers.  And you bleat that the M.P.s must tell you what they want…..

Whisper the words quietly, because shouting them has failed.  They want you to go away Theresa.  In fact we all want you to go away.  Just slink out the back door. And ask Mrs. Windsor to relieve you of the burden you have mostly created for yourself.  You have failed us, abysmally – so just pack up your few grubby ornaments and leave.  You won’t be missed.  Let someone else, in fact almost anyone else, clear up your mess.

Yours Sincerely – the whole country

The Recalcitrant Teaspoon

I have been meaning to write this for ages and am reminded of it a few times a day when I do the washing up.   Because I find it amazing that inanimate objects can appear to have a mind of their own; cups that you place firmly on the shelf somehow manage to launch themselves into the air and have the knack of avoiding your grasping fingers trying to catch them; keys that you always place on the shelf by the front door somehow contrive to wriggle off and hide themselves in a coat pocket; your mobile phone, as well as turning itself on to silent so that you miss calls, has a habit of hiding itself (along with your spectacles) in the most absurd of places.  Now, you may argue that in fact some, or indeed all, of these movements by inanimate objects are somehow my own responsibility – or that I may have somehow encouraged them in their errant behaviour.  There is no excuse however for the recalcitrant teaspoon.

I do a lot washing up, both at home and in the Café. And there is a certain satisfaction in finishing, reaching for the tea-towel, wiping up and putting away.  But how come, almost every time, despite a thorough search, when you tip away the bowl and as the dirty water swirls on its spiral journey to the plughole – there, yes there it is, the recalcitrant, the disobedient teaspoon, which has been lurking beneath the suds, cleverly avoiding your hand as it searches for it, knowing it must be there somewhere, but resisting contact – until it appears smiling back at you in the sink.

And, so it is with life.  We all make lists, some on lavender scented notepaper (for all you older readers) and like me, some in your head.  And you tick them off as the day wends on, (some may of course be relegated to tomorrow’s list – and some will remain on the back burner until they fade from the list completely) – but there is a certain satisfaction in having ticked them all off.  And then just as you sit down to watch telly, tea in hand, you realise that the recalcitrant teaspoon of life has struck again, – and you have forgotten something, usually very obvious too.  There it is, smiling away like a Cheshire cat in your brain – the ever-present recalcitrant teaspoon of life.

My Record Collection 66

Sheryl Crow – It is quite rare for an Artist to appear fully formed with a brilliant hit album, as if out of nowhere.  But it seemed at the time that Sheryl had done just that.  Her debut album Tuesday Night Music Club was an instant success, and it really sounded as if she had been singing for years.  Which isn’t so far from the truth; she graduated as a music teacher and began recording radio jingles which was quite lucrative.  She was a backing singer with Michael Jackson for a couple of years on tour, and recorded backing Stevie Wonder and Don Henley – but she had higher ambitions.  She recorded a debut album but felt it wasn’t strong enough and she scrapped it (although some of the self-penned songs were recorded by other artists).  Then she met and dated a musician who belonged to a loose collective calling themselves the Tuesday Night Music Club – hence the name of the album.  They had written songs but had no decent singer until Sheryl came along and sung with them.  The rest, as they say is History.  That album (1994) was huge and sold over 7 million copies.  It just seemed to hit he spot, great songs, a mixture of laid back Americana and occasional heavy guitars and oh, that voice.  That gravelly lived in drawling American voice was wonderful.  I loved this record – best songs ‘Leaving Las Vegas’, ‘Can’t Cry Anymore’ and ‘All I Wanna Do’.  Possibly one of the greatest debut albums ever.

Two years later and she almost repeated the trick with her self-titled Sheryl Crow second album.   Again a very confident set – best songs ‘If It makes You Happy’ and ‘Every Day Is A Winding Road’.  And although the album is very good somehow, for me, it doesn’t quite work like the first one did.  This release also included a 6 song live album, which was really excellent.   I only have one other record of hers, though she has continued releasing them every year or so.  This is The Globe Sessions (1998) and again it is perfectly acceptable, well sung, well-written songs – and yet…somehow it was just too samey.  The trouble is that nowadays both Artists and Record Companies seem content to simply repeat the formula and sell a slightly diminishing piles, but still piles of records.  There is nothing wrong with that I suppose, but I grew up in the Sixties and Seventies when musical progression was the norm; I like my artists to develop, to move on, to explore new sounds and styles.  Still – not a bad artist – and she has gone on an on, making more records and more millions too I expect, it is just that I hopped off the bus after record number three.

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Truth, Fake and Fiction

Truth is a slippery one where it really shouldn’t be; but the trouble is that we are humans, not machines.  Most of what we say when we ‘tell the truth’ is from our memory.  And our memories are conditioned by our emotions.  Very few of us like to hear or even admit ‘home truths’; we prefer a slightly sanitised version of ourselves.  Self-justification which is a facet of self-preservation is one of our primary instincts.  But some things are surely un-deniable truths – aren’t they? Having always loved History I have noticed that revisions (of even recent History) are constantly happening so we cannot even be sure of Historical facts, current values seem to affect the past.  But being truthful, or as truthful as you can allow yourself to be, is obviously a good thing – but the most important is to be true to yourself, no matter how hard that can be.

Fake however is far more sinister.  The deliberate alteration of photographs and videos to present a ‘different’ truth is like a cancer in our society.  There is barely an image in ‘style’ magazines which is untouched, presenting impossible ikons for our youngsters to both try to emulate and feel depressed when they cannot achieve the impossible.  The internet, unfortunately, is full of ‘fake’ news purporting to be real.  And we, the uninformed public become more and more confused as the likes of Trump accuse the ‘official’ media of themselves peddling fake news.  Another aspect of fake I have always been interested in is ‘fake’ Art.  Much of which is incredibly well executed and as beautiful and interesting as the original might have been.  To my mind it simply exposes the nonsense ‘values’ put on Old (and many newer) Masters, many of whom died without being rewarded for their skills. The whole ownership of Art is ridiculous.   If something is beautiful does it matter if it really was by Cezanne or Monet, or if it is simply a beautifully painted ‘fake’.

Fiction is the most interesting.  I write fiction and to me nothing could be nearer the truth.  By wrapping my words in the voice of ‘made-up’ characters and narrators I can actually lose my own, sometimes guilty, conscience.  I can then tell the truth.  I have read ‘fiction’ all my life, and have learnt far more about human nature, love and desires and emotions and our frailties than from ‘real’ life.  I have never read a really truthful autobiography, it is almost impossible to separate the truth from our connection to events, we always try to paint a better picture.  For me, fiction is simply a device for telling the truth.


My Record Collection 65

Crosby, Stills, Nash – and Young

David Crosby, founder member of the Byrds, and Stephen Stills – ex Buffalo Springfield met Graham Nash at Joni’s.  Apparently they jammed all night and became friends and Graham decided to move to L.A. and they formed the band.   They released their first self-titled album in 1969 and played Woodstock – and they were instantly famous.  Their first album is very gentle and lyrical with some great songs – ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes’, ‘Marrakesh Express’ and ‘Wooden Ships’ and my favourite ‘Long Time Gone’.  The harmonies are beautiful and seem so effortless and free – as if the three of them had just sat down in your front room and started to play and sing.  Lovely.

Then Stills persuaded the other two to let Neil Young join them.  Initially this made them even more successful, as he was a brilliant singer and song-writer.   But….he was the grit in the oyster, the awkward one who thought (quite rightly) that he was bigger than the band,  But to begin with it was a great success, and the resulting album Déjà Vu (1970) was even bigger than its predecessor.  And a great album it was.  David’s ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ – a spaced out masterpiece.  Graham Nash contributed ‘Teach Your Children’ and ‘Our House’ Stephen Stills a couple less memorable and Neil the brilliant ‘Helpless’.  And they were on top of the world, anything was possible.  But this group was never an easy alliance and solo projects started to take over.  The band toured extensively in 1970 – and a live album, 4 Way Street, ensued, but it was already clear that the band was in danger of disintegrating, almost half the songs featured are from solo albums – although brilliantly sung here.  Anyway, as a record of how great they could be  it is brilliant.      Almost better is a recent concert release, by Crosby Nash and Young this time, from 1974; this is almost acoustic and very nicely sung; no new songs though.

The only other CSNY album I have is Looking Forward (1999) which so far has also been their last record together.  It got slated by the music press but I really like it actually.  There is an optimism about the record, it is mostly gentle and lyrical and has some of their best songs on it – ‘Out of Control’ ‘Slowpoke’ (both from Neil) and ‘Someday Soon’ Graham – but my favourite is the closer ‘Sanibel’.  A nice record.

Well, this Century has seen the band split and spray venom over each other, almost every member saying they will never record again with the others (so expect a re-union and money making tour soon….hahaha).  I also have a very good retrospective double album Carry On.  which has all theri best stuff on it.

A strange band really, one never felt they were totally together – but together they did create some beautiful music.

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Blood Is Thicker Than Water

Blood is thicker than water, they say.  And yes – water will slip off a duck’s oily feathered back where blood clings, cloying and dark, viscous and crimson, hard to remove, a forever-stain.

But what they mean is the shared blood of family; though for all I know we may be different blood types and as un-transfusable as love or trust.  And there was precious little of either in our family.

You see, our Dad left when I was seven, my brother twelve and my sister barely five.  I can only guess if we had the same father.  All I do know is that my mother cared as little for us as our absent Dad.  She was simply never around, we were left for hours to our own devices, while she partied.  Or even worse.  Who knows?  I can only guess from the succession of men she brought back for weeks at a time.  God knows how many ‘Uncles’ we learned to despise. We mostly fended for ourselves, crisps and coke and microwave chips.  Television the only adult voice in the flat.

It was here, among the unwashed dishes, the filthy bedsheets and the fetid and dangerous kitchen that I learned to hate my brother.  Shouldn’t I have loved him, you ask?  Well, you didn’t know the bastard, did you?  No.  But I did.  My sister and I were the victims of his own particular misery.  He was the oldest and in our mother’s absence he ruled our lives.  And he was clever where we, well at least I, was stupid.  He was handsome where I was ugly.  He was tall and I, almost two feet shorter, never attained his lofty heights.   He became the father I couldn’t remember – and wished I hadn’t either.  He was out most evenings, just like our mother, though he was supposed to be looking after us.  Out with his gang, robbing and drinking and smoking dope, while I shivered in the flat, waiting, terrified of his return.

And with good reason.  You see, he was always angry, was our brother.  I can only imagine why.  Maybe the alcohol, maybe the life he felt forced to lead, maybe he hated our long-gone father, more likely our mother who screamed and bawled him out when she came home and found him pissed or stoned.  But I think the real reason he was angry was ‘cos of me.  He hit me constantly and called me all the names under the sun, and even when he had beaten me black and blue, he was still angry.  But what had I done?  What had I ever done but idolise the bastard?

So why didn’t the school teachers notice my bruises?  Why didn’t the Social Workers intervene?  Because we kept it all well hid – that’s why. Our Mum would threaten us with all sorts of trouble if we ever told anyone. Teachers were not to be trusted, and the very few visits we had from the Social. we were on our best behaviour.  Oh yes, our Mum was very good at twisting those idiots round her fingers; she knew the benefits system and how she might lose the flat if we were taken away.  Even when my brother kept getting into trouble with the cops, she cried and begged them to give him another chance.  And they did.  They gave him lots more chances.  Chances to hit me, chances to stub his fags out on my arms, chances to punch me in the stomach, to kick me in the balls.

I don’t know when it started, I only know when it ended.

And still I never hated him.  That was the trouble really.  He couldn’t stand the fact that I still worshipped him.  No, I never hated him then.  In fact, the belts, the whacks, the clumps round the head, were for me (I now realise) some sort of comfort, some acknowledgement that I mattered.  Because without him, without my big clever handsome brother – who was I?  My brother was somebody on the estate.  All the other boys looked up to him, the girls idolised him.  He had the pick of them all.  Nobody would have ever looked at me, or even spoken to me – if I wasn’t his brother.

So, what changed?  When did I begin to hate him? When did he become my nemesis?  Big word that.  I learnt it at school.  I didn’t learn that much at school really; except to avoid the teachers.  You know, the creepy ones who pretend they care.  Women mostly – they try to make you cry by being kind.  I never cried at school.  I kept that for home, under the covers where my brother couldn’t see or hear me.  That’s where I did my crying.

No, I learned to hate my brother for what he did to my sister.  Ah, my poor little sister.  She didn’t deserve to be treated like that?  Me?  I was nothing, a stupid little bastard; I deserved all I got.  But not her.  Not little Jenny.

I don’t know when it started.  I only know when it ended.

My sister never told me what was happening, but I knew it was something bad.  You see, she never used to cry, did our Jen.  She was the happy one in the family. My Mum used to bawl and shout at us all the time.  She must have been unhappy.  My brother used to lash out at me.  He must have been unhappy.  And of course, I was unhappy – because I wasn’t as clever and good-looking as him, useless runt that I was. But Jenny was the happy one.  She never minded the dirt or the crappy food we ate, or the hand-me down clothes she wore.  She was in a world of her own.  She had her dollies and used to talk to them all the time. It seemed that nothing could make her unhappy like the rest of us.

But then, something did.

At first, I thought it might have been our Mum.  Or one of the men she brought home; the succession of Uncles we knew wouldn’t last, but had to pretend to like. But no, it wasn’t them either.  Maybe it was me who was making her unhappy.  But no – it was my brother, wasn’t it?

You see, in a way I knew if he was angry with me, if he was hitting me – then I might be taking the bruises for Jenny.  She would be safe if he took all his anger out on me.  And that sort of worked.  What I didn’t know was he was taking something else out on her.

I don’t know how it started but I know how it ended.

I ended it.  And I had to.  She was only eleven when I found out, when I heard her crying that night.  As I crept out of my bed and stood outside her room and heard her crying.  And then my big brother’s voice telling her to shut up.  Telling her what to do.  And I wet my pants then.  Outside her bedroom door I pissed my bloody pants.  Thirteen years old and there I was shivering and peeing myself.  I was shaking with fear and anger and the knowledge that this had all gone too far.  My mother, the Uncles, the beatings, my brother’s drinking and his gang.  All of that I could take, but not this.  Not little Jenny.

And that’s when I decided to hate him.  That’s when I knew I had to stop him, to end it all.  And if I have learned nothing else in my short pathetic little life it is this; love and hate are the same thing really.  I used to love my brother despite all he did to me, but just like turning on the light switch, it was the work of a moment to hate him.  You see, I knew that the reason I let him hit me, that the justification for his beating me up – was that I deserved it.  It was no wonder he hated me.  My father must have hated me or he wouldn’t have walked out.  My mother hated me, that much was certain too.  But the person who hated me most was me.  And as the light switch went on in my head, I realised that the only way I could stop me hating myself was by saving my sister.

So – I killed him.  My lovely clever brilliant bastard of a brother.  I simply waited till he was stoned and asleep on the sofa and I stuck the bread knife into his guts.  Jenny was safely asleep.  My mother – out as usual.  We were alone in the flat.  My pissed-up sleeping brother and me.  And I stabbed him. Over and over.  Again and again.

And yes, I know now that blood is much thicker than water.

‘Cos, I never told them. the cops or the social workers.  I never told them why.  I never betrayed my sister – or my brother, and I never will.  No matter how long I rot in this detention centre I will not tell on them.  And yes, I no longer hate myself now.  For once in my miserable little life I done something good.