Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life 23 The Spawn of the Swinging Sixties Chapter Sixteen Lone Birthday Boy Dancing

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

From Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life Book Two. Edited 24/2/18.

The Petrified Fool

In early 1990, I lost my position as a teacher of English as a foreign language at the Tellegen School, where I'd spent almost two years...the concluding two of a decade perhaps somewhat redolent of the '20s and '60s in terms of its hedonism and glamour. It was a job I loved, for the social life it handed me on a plate, as well as sufficient money to finance the many 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 attempt at reviving my career as actor and entertainer.

I'd go on to plead for the return of my beloved job, 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 job I genuinely loved, I briefly revived my acting career by playing Feste the Jester in a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the 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 keeping with the spirit of the play its run was followed, and to a lesser extent accompanied, by bouts of revelry on the part of a very close cast.

As the final decade of the 20th Century dawned, I was finding my public image as much a source of terror as exhilaration, and possibly to a greater extent than had ever been the case. This may have been due to an imminent health crisis. However, such was my abiding need to be noticed that 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 male sartorial vanity, in London of course, but also in other major Western cities. Instead, I began to anaesthetize myself as never before against what I saw as London's foreboding aura, which may or may not have been more intense than a decade previously. For after all, I'd been attracting a degree of hostile attention for my flamboyant image since the early 1970s. What's more, years of dissolute living, and the diverse intoxicants I'd been ingesting since my early twenties or earlier including vast quantities of caffeine in both liquid and solid form, may have been starting to take their toll on my nervous system. To say nothing of my increasing enslavement to the tormenting neurosis Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

A Pair of PGCEs 1

In early autumn 1990, I began a course known as the PGCE or Post Graduate Certificate in Education at the West London College of Further 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 successfully completing it, and as might be expected, excelled in drama and physical education.

I rarely drank during the day, but at night I was sometimes so drunk I was incoherent. The following piece of verse amply testifies to this sad truth. It was adapted (edited, reassembled) in 2006 from a letter typed to a close friend in about 1990 about a series of accidents I'd recently suffered. However, it was never finished, nor sent. When it was recovered it was as a piece of scrap paper, a remnant from a long lost past.

A Letter Unsent



I haven’t been in touch

for a long time.


The last time

I saw you

was in

St. Christopher’s Place.

It was a lovely evening...

when I knocked

that chair over.

I am sorry.

Since then,

I’ve had not

a few accidents

of that kind.

Just three days ago,

I slipped out

in a garden

at a friend’s house...

and keeled over,

not once,

not twice,

but three times,

like a log...

clonking my nut

so violently

that people heard me

in the sitting room.

What’s more,

I can’t remember

a single sentence


all evening.

The problem is...


A Pair of PGCEs 2

Towards the end of my first term in Twickenham, I found myself in the situation of being far 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 five-year old career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams. 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 my very dear friend Maxie Coburg from the Manchester area of Northern England, whom I'd met through The Stage newspaper when he was looking for acts for a movable club he was getting together at the time. We remain close 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, meaning further education, and based at the University of New Eltham in 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 Ariana Hansen, who also happened to be a close friend of mine from Leftfield. As if all this weren't enough, I continued working with Maxie on our musical act which had so far 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.

The following piece serves to evoke this exciting but dangerous period of my existence. 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 man about town, far from it, for there is a twilight mood to the piece, with the birthday boy performing his fatuous solo dance in spite of the disaster he's so obviously 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...


Outro: The Reveller's Reckoning


In 2006, The Reveller's Reckoning, based on events that took place on what I believe to have been Sunday the 17th 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, possibly more than once, before being finally salvaged for Blogster, where it was published as Remnants from Writings Destroyed 1 on the 10th of March 2006. In July 2007, it was subject to further alterations before being retitled.

The Reveller’s Reckoning


It was late in the afternoon

Of the 17th 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...

Submitted: November 30, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Carl Halling. All rights reserved.

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