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Final Stand of the Advance Guard

Short story By: Carl Halling
Poetry



The Reveller's Reckoning...and more...


Submitted:Jul 28, 2007    Reads: 109    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


The Petrified Fool

In early 1990, I lost my position as a teacher of English as a foreign language in an Oxford Street language school where I'd spent almost two years, the concluding two of a decade somewhat redolent of the '20s and '60s in terms of its glamour and profligacy. It was a job I loved, for the social life it handed me on a plate, as well as sufficient money to finance the innumerous hours I spent each evening in the Champion public house in Wells Street where teacher and student alike would congregate some time after 7.30pm, and to spend on alcohol, tobacco, clothes, books, music and so on, as well as the occasional ill-fated attempt at reviving my career as actor and entertainer.
I pleaded for my job with some of the senior teachers, in person, through a friend, even by letter, but they refused to be swayed by my entreaties and given that I'd taken repeated advantage of their extraordinarily long-suffering attitude to my cavalier attitude to punctuality, they were more than justified in doing so.

Freed from the shackles of a teaching job which I adored despite the fact that it had interfered with the progress of my acting career, I briefly revived the latter by playing Feste the Jester in a production of Shakespeare's dark comedy masterpiece "Twelth Night" directed by Lesley Wake at the famous Jacksons Lane theatre in Highgate, north London. I also wrote most of the music for Feste's songs, and received praise for this, as well as for my acting. In concordance with the spirit of the play its run was succeeded and to a lesser extent accompanied by most enthusiastic bouts of merrymaking on behalf of myself and the members of the cast, which had been an exceptionally close one, and for a time the festivities persisted, before petering out in time as these things are inclined to do.
As the final decade of the 20th Century dawned, I was finding my public image as much a source of terror as exhileration, possibly to a greater extent than had hitherto been the case, and this may have been due to an impending health crisis. However, such was my abiding need to be noticed, I stubbornly refused to moderate my image although to be fair it was tame in comparison to what it had once been, and the recently departed 1980s had been a decade notorious for peacockish attire on the part of Western males, in London of course, but also in other major occidental cities. Instead, I began to artificially inure myself as never before against what I perceived to be London's foreboding aura, which may or may not have been more intense than a decade previously. For after all, I had been attracting a degree of hostile attention for my flamboyant presentation of self since the early 1970s.
Surely it would not be misleading to suggest that years of dissolute living, and the diverse intoxicants I had been ingesting since my early twenties or earlier including perilously large quantities of caffeine in both liquid and solid form, were starting to take their toll on my nervous system. In order to accurately divine my psychological condition in about 1990, a person would have to take into account, in addition to everything else, an entrenched passion on my part for the cutting edge in art and especially literature. The following piece gives some indication as to its nature. It was compiled in the spring of 2006, using, as raw material, a few hastily scrawled notes commemorating a birthday recently celebrated in the early '90s and possibly dating from the 8th of October 1992 or '91 or even earlier, I cannot be certain. What is certain is that it has been reproduced word for word, although slightly edited, and of course subject to free versification. It is no tale of a carefree Corinthian, far from it, for there is a distinctly twilight mood to the piece, with the birthday boy blithely performing his fatuous solo dance in the teeth of the disaster he is so clearly courting.

Lone Dance of the Birthday Boy

Yesterday for my birthday,
I started off
with a bottle of wine...
I took the train
into town...
I had half a bitter
at the Cafe de Piaf
in Waterloo...
I went to work
for a couple of hours or so;
I had a pint after work;
I went for an audition;
after the audition,
I had another pint
and a half;
I had another half,
before meeting my mates,
for my b'day celebrations;
we had a pint together;
we went into
the night club,
where we had champagne
(I had three glasses);
I had a further
glass of vino,
by which time,
I was so gone
that I drew an audience
of about thirty
by performing a solo
dancing spot
in the middle
of the disco floor...
We all piled off to the pub
after that,
where I had another drink
(I can't remember
what it was)...
I then made my way home,
took the bus from Surbiton,
but ended up
in the wilds of Surrey;
I took another bus home,
and watched some telly
and had something to eat
before crashing out...
I really, really enjoyed
the eve, but today,
I've been walking around
like a zomb;
I've had only one drink today,
an early morning
restorative effort;
I spent the day working,
then I went to a bookshop,
where, like a monk,
I go for a day's
drying out session...
Drying out is really awful;
you jump at every shadow;
you feel dizzy,
you notice everything;
very often,
I don't follow through...

A Pair of PGCEs

In early autumn 1990, I began a course known as the PGCE or Post Graduate Certificate in Education at a school of higher education in the pleasant outer suburb of Twickenham, becoming resident in nearby Isleworth. I began quite promisingly as I saw it even though my heart was not really in the course but I genuinely saw the benefits of succesfully completing it, and as might be expected, excelled in drama and physical education.
However, towards the end of the first term, I was less prepared by far than my fellow students for the forthcoming Teaching Practice period, and so removed myself from the course on a temporary basis in order to set about deciding whether I wanted to carry on or not. In the event I decided not to, but remained in Isleworth in order to rekindle my on-off career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, the latter begun as early as 1985. I also continued to work as a walk-on artist for the TV series "The Bill", based in the London suburb of Merton, Surrey. Still in Isleworth, I became half of a musical partnership formed with a young Mancunian actor-musician by the name of Mark C., whom I'd met through the Stage newspaper. He remains a close friend to this day.
By the middle of January 1993, I was attending yet another PGCE course, my third in fact, this one bearing the suffix fe, signifying further education, and based at the University of Greenwich in Eltham, south east London. Additionally, I was still working as a sporadic deliverer of novelty telegrams, as well as rehearsing for the play "Simples of the Moon" by Rosalind Scanlon, based on the life of James Joyce's daughter Lucia, in which I had two small parts thanks to the director Astrid Hilne, a close friend of mine since university days. As all this weren't enough, I continuing working with Mark on our musical act which thus far had yielded the occasional gig in a pub or restaurant, some home recording, some busking, and countless hours of socialising and partying that typically extended far into the small hours, both Mark and I being nocturnal and garrulous by nature.
Finally, on the 16th of that month*, my health subsided with terrifying consequences after years of resilience born in the face of defiance on the part of a self-styled artistic maverick, apparently as much at war with the dictates of bodily health as so much else besides...

Outro: The Reveller's Reckoning

In 2006, "The Reveller's Reckoning", based on events that took place on Sunday the 16th of January 1993* was adapted from an autobiographical work or rather works with various titles dating from the mid 1990s, edited, reassembled, versified. The original work, which has now vanished, was written and destroyed, re-written and re-destroyed innumerous times before being finally salvaged for the Blogster.com website, where it was published on the as "The Reveller's End". In July 2007, it was subject to further alterations, punctuation and so on, before being retitled and tacked on to the end of "Tales from a College that Disappeared".

It was late in the afternoon
Of The 16th of January 1993
That my whole
Intoxicated universe
Finally exploded.
With etiolated face...
Tremulous hands, Broken at last
After so many years
Of semi-Icaran hubris.
And yet it had all been
So unexpected;
Because although
I'd felt dreamy and disconnected
Earlier in the day,
As if I was no longer
Quite of this earth,
I was in good spirits, even euphoric,
So there was no reason at all
For me to start fearing
that I wasn't entirely indestructible,
let alone suspect
That I was destined
For an out and out "crack up"...
And the most fearful ordeal so far
Of my stormy, chaotic,
Almost inchoate existence...




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