In the autumn of 1983, David took residence in a room on the grounds of the Lycée Jean-Paul Timbaud in Brétigny-sur-Orge, a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris some sixteen miles south of the city centre.
It was during those early days in Paris that he became infected by a serious sense of self-disillusion, as a new darkness spread over his mind.
This sea-change marked the onset of a real drink problem that went way beyond the usual student booze-ups into the murky realm of drinking alone by day, and which David would ultimately attribute to a conscience that was starting to become calloused through repeated defilement. His well-being, however, remained relatively unaffected, in fact, for those first few months, he was happy, blissfully happy to be a flâneur in the city which had inspired so many great poets to write classics of the art of urban idling. He wrote of his own experiences, usually late at night, in his room with the help of wine and cigarettes, and while few of these notes survived, some incidents that may once have been committed to paper stayed fresh in his mind.
There was the time he sat opposite a same-sex couple on the Métro when he was still innocent of its labyrinthine complexities. “She” was a slim white girl,dressed from head to toe in denim, who gazed blissfully, with lips coyly pursed, into some wistful middle distance, while her muscular black boyfriend stared straight through him with eyes in which desire and menace seemed to be mixed, until one of them spoke, almost in a whisper:
“Qu’est-ce-que t’en pense?”
He came to recall the night he took the Métro to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, where he slowly sipped a demi-blonde in a brasserie, perhaps of the type immortalised by Brassai in his photographs of the secret life of ’30s Paris. At the same time, a bewhiskered old alcoholic in a naval officer’s cap, his table strewn with empty wine bottles and cigarette butts, repeatedly screeched the name, “Phillippe!” until a pallid impassive bartender with patent leather hair filled the old man’s glass to the brim with a mock-obsequious:
“Voilà, mon Capitaine!!”
And then there was the afternoon when, enacting the role of the social discontent, he joined an anti nuclear march through Paris which ended with a bizarre street cabaret performed by a troupe of neo-hippies whose sheer demented defiance may have filled him with longing for a time when he treated his well-thumbed copy of the Fontana Modern Masters bio of Che Guevara by Andrew Sinclair as some kind of sacred text…
A day spent as a flâneur would often end with a few hours spent in a movie theatre, perhaps in the vast soulless Forum des Halles shopping precinct, and there was a point he started to hate the movies he chose, as he struggled more and more with fits of deep and uncontrollable depression. For the first time in his life, he was starting to feel worse after having seen a film than before, the result perhaps of creeping anhedonia, which is a reduced ability to enjoy activities found pleasurable by the majority.
He grew bored of watching others perform. What joy, he reasoned, was to be found in watching some dismal movie, when there was so much to do in the greatest city in the civilised world?
He’d never really been any kind melancholic up until this point but this situation may have started to change in his first few months in Paris. If his travels failed to produce the desired uplifting effect, he’d fall prey to a despair that was wholly out of proportion to the cause.
As a means of protecting himself, he started squandering his hard-earned cash on endless baubles and fripperies. These wholly pointless trinkets included a gaudy short-sleeved shirt by Yves St Laurent, a retro-style alarm clock with the loudest tick in Christendom , a gold-plated toothbrush which he never actually used, a black and gold cigarette holder and matching slim fit lighter, a portrait drawn of him at the Place de Tertre which made him look like a cherubic 12 year old and a black vinyl box jacket procured from the Porte de Clignancourt flea market.
Mention must also be made of the many books he bought, such as the three Folio works by Symbolist pioneers, Barbey d’Aurevilly, Villiers de L’Isle Adam and Joséphin Péladan; as well as the second-hand books of poetry by such obscure figures as Trakl and Deleve…part of Seguer’s Contemporary Poets collection.
Could the kids who loved to wave and coo at him from all corners of the Lycée have guessed that their precious David who looked like a lost member of Wham or Duran Duran was a secret dark depressive?
“I love you, David!”
“David, I want to kees you…”
Could they ever have known he was a collector of the literary works of late 19th Century decadents…and a social discontent given to recording snarling rants against the callousness of Western society on a cheap cassette tape recorder?
The simple answer is not in a thousand years…for he was leading a double life, perhaps even a multiple one. Little wonder, therefore, that he was starting to drink to try and make sense of what was happening to him, which was something akin to the fracturing of the personality.
It wasn’t long before he tired of the solitary existence of the flâneur, but then becoming more sociable may have simply been the result of being in one place for a significant length of time and nothing more meaningful than that. In fact, he’d befriended twenty year old Theresa “Tessa” Evans, English assistant in the neighbouring town of St Genevieve des Bois, while they were both attending classes at the Sorbonne intended to prepare them for the year ahead; and they went on to see more and more of each other as their Parisian sojourn proceeded apace.
She’d been a close girlhood chum at convent school of his own great Westfield friend, Ariana Hansen…in fact, one of the first times they met up was with Ariana, when they saw “Gimme Shelter” in some dinky little art house theatre; this being, of course, the documentary of the Rolling Stones 1969 American tour which, culminating in the infamous Free Concert at the Altamont Speedway in northern California, marked the end of the Hippie dream of peace and love.
Another close friend was Jules Cendrars, a maths teacher at the LEP who was the rebellious son of an army officer, and a furious hedonist who worshipped the Rock and Roll lifestyle of Keith Richards and other British bad boy musicians. There was a vision that never left him…of Jules, tall, thin, dark, charismatic, with his head of wiry black hair, dressed in drainpipes and Cuban heeled boots, playing the bass guitar – but brilliantly- at some unearthly hour with friends following a night’s heavy partying before rushing to be with a girl friend as the dawn broke.
His best male friend was Milan Curkovic, another teacher at the LEP. He was the son of Yugoslavian parents from the suburb of Bagneux, whose impassive manner belied the exorbitantly loving and unstable soul of a true poet. He fell in love with Tessa at first sight, and spent the whole night on a train bound for the south of France in a romantic delirium singing the songs of Jacques Brel. He referred to David’s and Tessa’s elegant swan necks as being typical of what he called “le charme anglais“.
So many of the people of Bretigny went out of their way to make David feel welcome and content from the headmaster all the way down to the kids, some of whom staged near-riots in the classroom whenever he appeared. He felt so unworthy of their kindness, of the incredible hospitality that is characteristic of ordinary French people.
However, if he was much loved in the warm-hearted faubourgs, in Paris itself he was at times as much a magnet for menace and hostility as approval. In fact, he was hysterically threatened in the streets of Pigalle only days after arriving in the city; and then verbally assaulted later in the year, this time on a RER train by some kind of madman or derelict who’d taken exception to his earrings and was furiously urging him to go to the Bois de Boulogne, but what he suggested he do there is too obscene to print.
He spent an entire train journey from Paris-Austerlitz to Bretigny with a self-professed “voyou” with chilling shark-like eyes, who nonetheless made no attempt to threaten him. He even gave him his number, telling him that unless he phoned him as promised, he was merely what he termed “un “anglais c**”.
Mention must also be made of the sinister skinhead who called him “une tapetteanglaise” for trying on Tessa’s wide-brimmed hat while travelling home by train after a night out with her and Ariana. After they’d gotten off at St Genevieve, David was left at his mercy on the train, and then afterwards, as he made his way alone to his room in the insanely driving rain; but by then, the skinhead had vanished into the darkness. Once again, he’d been mysteriously spared a beating against all the odds.
David left Bretigny without saying goodbye to so many people that it was painful to think of it afterwards, but frenetic last hour socialising had left him exhausted and demoralised. However, there was one final get-together, organised by Tessa and a few other friends. Milan was there of course, as well as well as several mutual friends of Tessa’s and his. Sadly though, Jules wasn’t, although he bumped into one of his girl friends, who, her voice dripping with incredulity, asked:
“Ou est Jules?”
Seized by guilt for having failed to invite him, David phoned him at his home to ask him to make a last minute appearance, but in a muted voice, he told him:
“Nah, I’m in the bath, man, it’s too late…”
It was the last he ever heard of him. As for Milan, he was to phone him in London a few months later, but he never saw him again. On the other hand, Tessa and he stayed friends until the early ’90s, by which time she’d got married to a fellow church-goer and former Cambridge University alumnus called Peter, who also became a good friend.
His parents stopped by that night to pick him up on their way to La Ribera where they were due to stay for a few weeks before returning to the UK, and after a day or so spent sightseeing, they set off. Soon after arriving, it became clear to David that eight years after Franco’s death, with Spain’s beatific innocence long gone, his beloved pueblo had changed beyond all recognition.
In Murcia, while quietly drinking in a night club with some very dear friends of his from La Ribera’s golden age, he found himself in the surreal position of being visually threatened by a local Punk who clearly objected to the bootlace tie he was wearing which immediately identified him as a hated Rockabilly. Such a thing would never have happened ten years before; or perhaps even five.
As for the youth of La Ribera itself, where once they’d been so endearingly naive, now they seemed so worldly and cool that David was in awe of them, as they danced like chickens with their elbows thrust out to the latest New Pop hits from the UK, such as King’s “Won’t you hold my hand now, these are heavy times…”, which David endlessly translated for them.
He returned to Westfield in the autumn of 1984, and it may be that it was soon after this that his recent past started haunting him for the first time. After all, was it not only a few years previously he’d known legends of sport and the cinema, mythical figures of the theatre, blue bloods and patricians, and they’d been kind, generous of spirit to this nonentity from the outer suburbs. Now he was nearly 30, with a raft of opportunities behind him, and a future which looked less likely than ever to provide him with the fame he still ached for with all his soul.
At first he lived off-campus, thinking it might be fun to coast during his final year as some kind of enigma freshly returned from Paris; but before long, he desperately missed being part of the social hub of the college, even though this was a virtual impossibility for a forgotten student in his fourth year.
His time as one of Westfield’s leading prodigies had long passed, and other, younger wunderkinder had come to the fore since his departure for Paris, They included the handsome young blond whom his long-time friend and champion Ariana described as being some kind of new edition of himself, due perhaps to the incredible diversity of his gifts. The first David saw of him, he was playing Gorgibus in Moliere’s “Les Precieuses Ridicules”, a part Ariana had originally earmarked for David, but he turned it down. The young man who ultimately find superstardom as comedian and character actor, and far more besides, while David persisted in the sweet, safe obscurity where he remains to this day.
He read incessantly throughout the year for the sheer pleasure of doing so. For example, while Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” was a compulsory part of the drama course, there was no need for him to wade through “O’Neill”, the massive two-part biography of the playwright by Arthur and Barbara Gelb, but that didn’t stop him.
He made this descent into the depths of O’Neill’s tortured psyche at a time when he himself was starting to drink during the day at Westfield. While his first can of extra strong lager would often be opened at breakfast time, he’d wait until lunch to get seriously hammered in the company of friends such as Paul, from “Playing with Fire”, and Adrian, a computer programmer who shared his passion for the dark romanticism of the Doors and Peter Gabriel.
Paul was still trying to persuade him to join forces with him against an indifferent world, he with his writing and David with his acting, but for reasons best known to himself, he wasn’t playing ball. Paul had always sensed something really special in David, which was variously described as energy, intensity, charisma, but for all the praise he received from Paul and others, he didn’t seem to have a very high opinion of himself.
It’s possible that while he possessed the vast ego of the narcissist who requires constant attention and approval, he somehow also suffered from low self-esteem, which might indicate that he was a sufferer from actual Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Whatever the case, he was going through one of his showily perverse phases, affecting a world weariness he simply didn’t have at 30, but which upset and alienated a really good friend; and it wasn’t long before Paul was out of his life forever, leaving him to stew in his precious pseudo-cynicism:
“What an appalling attitude,” he’d told him, and he was right on the money.
His principal final year tutor was his beloved Dr Elizabeth Lang with whom he would study the works of French Protestant writer Andre Gide.
He thrilled to the perverseness of Gidian characters such as the urbane Menalque from “The Immoralist” (1902), who awakens the Nietzschian superman in the novella’s protagonist, Michel, the feral Lafcadio from “The Vatican Cellars” (1914), who commits a crime of terrible cruelty simply for the sake of doing so, and the demonic Passavent, from “The Counterfeiters” (1926), his only novel according to his own definition of the term. While figures of such unmitigated depravity are commonplace today, in countless novels, plays, films, videos etc., when Gide created his monsters, they still had the power to shock.
On a lighter note, a special favourite of his by Gide was the novella “Isabelle”, which appealed to his softer, more romantic side. Written in 1911, it’s the tale of a young student, Gérard Lacase, who stays for a time at a Manor house in Normandy inhabited by two ancient aristocratic families in order to look over their library for research purposes, and while there, becomes bewitched by the portrait of the mysterious “Isabelle”, only to discover that the real-life Isabelle is a hard, embittered young woman entirely distinct from the lovely vision in the portrait.
By the same token, his favourite ever play by O’Neill was another story of hopeless love, “A Moon for the Misbegotten”, written in 1947.
Its leading character is based on Eugene’s tragic yet infinitely romantic elder brother Jamie, who also dominates the . David became fascinated by him; and read all about him in the massive biography by the Gelbs.
Blessed at birth with charm, intellect and beauty, he was one of Father Edward Sorin’s most favoured princes while part of the Minim Department of Notre Dame University, Indiana, and destined for a glittering future as a Catholic gentleman of exquisite breeding and learning. He was also potentially a very fine writer, although he only left a handful of poems and essays behind, and the owner of a beautiful speaking voice which ensured himwork as an actor for a time alongside his father James. His one true legacy, however, is Jamie Tyrone, the brilliant yet tortured charmer who haunts two of his brother’s masterpieces with the infinite sorrow of promise unfulfilled.
David left Westfield for good in the summer of 1985, and discovered soon afterwards that he had achieved a lower second BA degree in French and Drama.
His first employment was as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, a job which brought him into many potentially hazardous situations, but which for him, was worth the risk, as he was getting well paid to show off and party, two of his favourite occupations at the time…but it was an unusual way of life for a man of thirty.
What he really wanted was the immortality provided by fame, and he didn’t care whether this came through acting, music or literature, or any other means for that matter, but until his big break came, he was content to feed his addiction to attention through the novelty telegrams industry. He evidently had no deep desire to leave anything behind byway of children, nor for any career other than one liable to project him to international renown.
How then did he end up as a PGCE student at Homerton College, Cambridge in the autumn?
The truth is that once again he’d yielded to family pressure to provide himself with the safety net that’s been dear to the hearts of parents of struggling artists since time immemorial, and yet despised by the artists themselves.
For David’s part, he was so unhappy about having to go to Cambridge that just days before he was due to start there, he arranged to audition for a Jazz Funk band, and was all set to sing “The Chinese Way” by Level 42 and another song of its kind, but never made it, because, late, and desperately drunk on the afternoon of his audition, he simply threw in the towel and resigned himself to Cambridge.
From the time he arrived in the beautiful medieval university city, he was made to feel most welcome and wanted by everyone, and he made some wonderful friends at Homerton itself.
These included Donovan Joye, a poet and actor from the little town of Downham Market in Norfolk, Dale Slater, a singer-songwriter of dark genius from Yeovil in Somerset who eventually went on to become part of London’s psychedelic underground, and stunning redhead, Clarissa Catto, whose beauty and charm belied the fact that she hailed from Slough, a vast sprawling suburb to the west of London most famous for having inspired a notorious screed by the poet John Betjeman.
When he made his first appearance at the Manor Community College in the tough London overspill area of Arbury where he was due to begin his period of Teaching Practice the following January, the pupils reacted to him as if he was some kind of visiting movie or Rock star. His TP would have been a breeze. Everything was falling into place for him at Cambridge, and he was offered several golden chances to succeed as an actor within its hallowed confines.
Towards the end of the first term, the then president of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club had gone out of his way to ask David and Donovan to appear in the sole production he was preparing to mark his year-long tenure. He was a Homerton man, and so clearly wanted to give a couple of his fellow students a break after having seen them perform a couple of Donovan’s satirical songs for the club.
This was a privilege almost without measure, given that since its inception Footlights has nurtured the talents of Cecil Beaton, Jonathan Miller, Germaine Greer, David Frost, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Hugh Lawrie and Sasha Baron Cohen among many others. David could have been added to that list.
As if this opportunity weren’t enough to persuade him to stay put, a young undergraduate, renowned for the high quality of the plays he produced personally asked him to feature in one of his productions during the Lent Term after seeing him interpret the part of Tom in Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” some time before Christmas. Someone then told him that if this young man took an interest in you, you were pretty well made as an actor at Cambridge. What more did he want? For Spielberg himself to be in the audience and discover him?
In his defence, though, he did feel trapped by the course, and was finding it heavy going. In order to pass, you had to spend a full year as a teacher after completion of the basic PGCE. That meant it would be two years before he was free again to call himself an actor and work as such. It just seemed an awfully long time, when in fact it wasn’t at all, and two years after quitting Cambridge he was even further away from his dream than when he’d started off.
The truth is he left Homerton for no good reason, and the decision continued to pain him for the rest of his life, and these words from from Whittier’s “Maud Muller” to tear him to shreds of utter nothingness: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen,The saddest are these: ‘it might have been'”. Still, within a matter of hours of the start of the Lent Term of 1987, he had vanished, disappeared into the night in the company of a close friend he’d wheedled into helping him out.
Once he was free, he started to furiously audition, commuting to London from a little village in rural Hampshire just a stone’s throw the coast near Portsmouth, where he was resident at the time.
It was music rather than acting he was interested in at the time, not that it ever really mattered to him how he became famous, just so long as he did. He promptly auditioned for a series of bands for which he was hopelessly unsuited. These included a Jazz-Funk outfit from the massive urbanised suburb of Croydon in Surrey, and a Rock ‘n’ Roll revival band from Pompey itself; but none of them took to him for obvious reasons. He was usually tanked up to start with, and then there was the question of his image: it’s safe to say that highlighted hair, dinky gold ear studs and skin tight jeans were not guaranteed to win friends in the places he chose to audition.
However, he returned to London in the summer of 1987 to a minor flurry of creative activity.
First, he took part in a rehearsed reading at Notting Hill’s justly reputable Gate Theatre of a Japanese play directed by Ariana. Then, at her behest, he served as MC for a week-long benefit for the Gate called “Captain Kirk’s Midsummer Log” in the persona of one Mr Denmark 1979, a comic monstrosity created for him by Ariana. Among those appearing on the bill were comedienne, Jo Brand, in her then incarnation of The Sea Monster, comedy satirist, Rory Bremner, and Renaissance Man, Patrick Marber, initially a stand-up, but best known today as an award-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter.
The Denmark character went down so well at the benefit that he wrote an entire show around him on the premiss that winning a Scandinavian male beauty contest in 1979 had so altered the balance of his mind that he’d since convinced himself he’d been at the forefront of pretty well every major cultural development since the dawn of Pop, only to be cravenly ripped off by Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Punks, Rappers and so on. It premiered a few months after the benefit at a new variety venue called Club Shout, again to great success.
Later in ’87, he started rehearsals for Ariana for a Catalonian play – to be directed by Ariana – apparently set in pre-revolutionary France, although Ariana updated it to the late 19th Century, with a setting reminiscent of Wilde’s “Dorian Gray” or a Parisian equivalent, perhaps by Lorrain. It received some good reviews, and David was singled out for some praise by the press.
He should have capitalised on this modest success, but decided to start work as a teacher at the Callan School of English in Oxford Street instead. The fact is that Huw Owen, a close friend from the Guildhall who’d served as the model for Robert Fitzroy-Square in Z Cars, but who was now working as a Callan teacher, had urged David to join him prior to his agreeing to appear in “The Audition”. Thence, he’d already trained with them and been offered a job.
Being a teacher at the Callan School of English was a dream job for David. It provided him with a social life on a plate, as well as enough money to finance the hours he spent each evening in the Champion public house in Wells Street, where some time after 7.30pm, after the final class had ended, student and teacher alike would meet to drink and talk and laugh and do as they wished until closing time. He’d usually leave at about 10.30 to catch the last train home from Waterloo, although, sometimes he’d miss it and have to catch a later train. At other times, there’d be a party to go to, or the Callan Disco, held on an occasional basis in Jacqueline’s Night Club in nearby Soho.
Most of the teachers socialised with their own kind, while David preferred the company of the students, although this situation was to become modified by 1990, when his friends were being chosen from among both the teaching and student bodies.
At night, it would be almost impossible to extricate him from his circle of favourites from Italy, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Poland, France…fact which proved irksome to his good friends, Stan and Noddy, at a certain stage in his short-lived Callan career.
Stan, a Callan teacher and resting actor, and Noddy, a young student from the great city of Sao Paolo in Brazil, were trying to organise rehearsals for a band they were supposed to be getting together, but thanks to David’s dilatory attitude, this never happened despite some early promise, as Noddy was a gifted guitarist, and Stan a potentially good front man.
As well as the perpetual party lifestyle, He spent his spare cash on clothes, cassettes, books, and of course, rent, that is, during those brief few months he spent as a tenant in Hanwell, West London at the house of a friend of his fathers’ from the London session world, Richard Thomas. Rich was a small, dark, bearded, always nattily dressed Welsh fiddler, whose life, lived close to the edge, but with the absolute minimum of effort, incarnated a kind of preternatural Celtic cool that was deeply charismatic, yet ultimately tragic.
He also spent several hundreds of pounds being initiated into the art of self-hypnosis by a Harley Street doctor who specialised in hypnotherapy and nutritional medicine…this, in the hope of finding a solution not just to his alcoholism, but the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to which he was increasingly prey in the late 1980s.
Yet, despite the drinking and the OCD, his primary emotional condition was one of utter exaltation and enraptured joy of life, which was what made it so hard for him to accept that he wouldn’t be returning to Callan’s in 1990, after he’d left without warning early in the year, and then later decided he wanted to return, despite having earlier refused an offer to do so from the school itself.
So, reluctantly delivered from a job he genuinely loved, he revived his acting career thanks once again to the influence of his dear friend Ariana.
She suggested he might like to play Feste for a production of “Twelfth Night”, to be staged in the summer at the Jacksons Lane theatre in North London, and so after a successful audition for the director, Sandy Stein, he set about re-learning Feste’s lines, and arranging the songs according to the original primitive melodies.
His hyperkinetic performance was well-received, and one well-spoken Englishwoman even went so far as to tell him that he was the finest Feste she’d ever seen. It’s a pity she wasn’t a passing casting director, but once again, the Fool of Illyria had served him well…and in keeping with the festive spirit of the play, rehearsals and performances were accompanied by some serious revelry by himself and other members of the cast, until the inevitable sad dispersal.
Yet, if the play itself was pure joy to be involved in, the same can’t be said for the train journeys to and from Highgate for rehearsals and performances, for it was during these lengthy trips across the capital that David started feeling the need to inure himself as never before against what he saw as nocturnal London’s ever-present aura of menace.
It’s likely that years of hard living were finally starting to take their toll on his nervous system, for in addition to alcohol and nicotine, he’d been ingesting industrial strength doses of caffeine for years, initially in tablet form, and then in the shape of the coffee cocktails he liked to swill one after the other before afternoon classes at Callan’s. This may go some way towards explaining the sheer paranoia which ultimately caused him to start drinking on the way to rehearsals, and then for the first time in his life as a professional actor, during rehearsals. However, he’d promised Sandy he’d not touch a drop for the actual performances, and he was as good as his word.
Later in the year, he began another PGCE course, this time at the West London Institute of Education based in Twickenham, taking up residence in nearby Isleworth.
He began quite promisingly, fitting in well, and making good friends, and as might be expected, excelled in drama and physical education. He was abstinent by day, and on those rare occasions he did drink, it was just a question of a pint or so with lunch. He’d mentally determined to complete the course, and yet on the verge of his period of teaching practice, he found himself to be desperately behind in his preparation, and so provisionally removed himself in order to decide whether it was worth his staying on or not.
In the event he chose to quit, but rather than return to his parents’ home, he stayed on in Isleworth to rekindle his five-year old career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, while continuing to work as a walk-on artist. He also became half of a musical duo formed with a slim young man from the north of the land with short reddish blond hair and brilliant light green eyes who rejoiced in the name of Simon de Wynter, although his true surname was a tad more Mancunian.
They began as buskers in Leicester Square, before settling down for rehearsals in the hope of getting some gigs, their repertoire a mixture of Rock and Roll and Motown classics, as well as a host of originals, mostly written by Simon, but with one or two contributions by David. He wanted to call the band Venus Xtravaganza, but in the end, they settled for Simon’s choice of The Unknowns, if they ever called anything at all.
Then, early in 1991, David took off to the seaside town of Hastings for a month or so to attempt to pass a course in teaching English as a foreign language in a beautiful old town that’s since become a major London overspill area.
To this end, he worked like a Trojan but he was struggling terribly, tormented by OCD and its endless demands on his time and energies in the shape of rituals both physical and mental, and while he didn’t drink at all during the day, at night he was sometimes so stoned he was incoherent. Predictably perhaps he was failed. He asked the authorities if they might reconsider, but their decision was final. It was a bit of a let-down for him for sure, but he’d loved his time in Hastings, even while continuing the search for some kind of spiritual solution to his mental troubles…this leading him to a “church” in Claremont Road, which was far, far from the kind he’d come ultimately to seek out.
At least part of the reason for his torment may be provided by the following extracts from a letter his mother wrote him during a fascinating but fruitless sojourn:
“…I had a chance to look at your library…I could not believe what I saw. These very strange books, beyond my comprehension, most of them, and I thought what a dissipation of a good mind that thought it right to read such matters…I feel very deeply that you have up to your present state, almost ruined your mind. Your happy, smiling face has left you, your humorous nature, ditto, your spirited state of mind, your cheerful, sunny, exuberant well-being, all gone. Too much thought given to the unhappiness and sad state of others (often those you can not help, in any way)…I’ve said recently that I am convinced that anyone can get oneself into a state of agitation or distress or anxiety by thinking or reading about, or witnessing unpleasant things, and the only thing to do is to, as much as possible, avoid such matters, to not let them get hold in the mind. Your fertile mind has led you astray. Why, and how?”
How many millions of mothers over the course of the centuries have asked this of offspring who’ve been inexplicably drawn to the shadowlands of life only to lose their way back to sanity? Only God knows. Most of course, successfully make the journey back before settling into a normal mode of life, but the danger of becoming lost is always there, especially for those who remain in the shadows far beyond adolescence. Eternal adolescence is arguably one of the prime features of our era, facilitated by its exaltation of youth. And while there are those who’d insist that far fewer young people today are in thrall to the dark glamour of self-destructive genius than in previous Rock eras, the worldview still very much exists.
For David’s part, he came ultimately to view Rock as more than just a simple Pop music derived from various Folk genres, so much as an enormously influential subculture, even a religion, and to contend that those who grew to maturity in the sixties were spiritually affected not just by the music but the cultural changes brought about by the Rock revolution. He would insist that from quitting formal education aged 16, he was in thrall to a cult of instant gratification that had been growing progressively more powerful throughout the West since about 1955.
After all, he’d contend, he failed to build a future for himself, in terms of a profession, a family, financial security, and so on, having once viewed all these with an indifference verging on contempt and it hurt him deeply to realise the extent to which he’d sabotaged his life with such a negative identity, so in his despair, he cast the blame on Rock.
The following summer of 1992, he made another attempt at passing the TEFL course, this time at Regent’s College named after the famous north London park.
However, by this time he was drinking all day every day, and the course was a disaster as a result, even though he worked hard and even gave some good classes. It was a fabulous summer, and much of it he spent in a state of manic hyperactivity. Bliss it was to stride in the warm suburban evening sun to his local station of Hampton Court with the Orb’s eerie “Blue Room” throbbing over and over in his head on my way to yet another long night of drinking and socialising to the point of ecstatic insensibility. He could have passed out on any one of these wild nights and awoken again in Hell, but that didn’t concern me. The romantic decadence associated with the eighties was no longer even remotely current, and there was a new spirit as he saw it, a mystic techno-bohemianism which appeared to him to be everywhere in the early nineties. He sought to visit as many clubs and venues as he could where it was being celebrated, but as things turned out, only ever went to one, Cyber Seed in Covent Garden, which was poorly attended and only lasted a short time.
Later on in this final beautiful lethal summer of intoxication, soon after appearing as Stefano in “The Tempest” at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, he set out on yet another PGCE course, this time at the University of Greenwich in south east London. Bearing the suffix fe for Further Education its purpose was to train himself and his fellow students to teach pupils in sixth form colleges and other further education establishments. On top of this, there were the gigs with Simon, the novelty telegrams, and who knows what else, and he loved every second of a frenetic lifestyle lived in total ecstatic defiance of the wholesale ruin of mind, body, soul, spirit…