In early 1990, I lost my position as a teacher of English as a foreign language in an Oxford Street language school where I spent almost two years, the concluding two of a decade somewhat redolent of the 20s and the 60s in terms of its glamour and profligacy. I spent these last few months of the ’80s in a job I loved for the it afforded me, as well as enough money I needed to fuel my bacchanalian existence the latter including hours and hours of frenetic socialising in the Champion public house in Wells Street where both teachers and students would congregate each evening of the week after lessons, and to squander on 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 with the senior teachers to return my position to me, in person, through a friend, even as I recall via the epistolary medium, 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 attitide to work, they were more than justified in doing so.
Thence, reluctantly delivered after two years from the shackles of a job I genuinely loved, I briefly revived my acting career thanks to the influence of a close friend, the stage director Astrid Hilne. I did so by playing Feste the Lord of Revels in Shakespeare’s dark comedy masterpiece “Twelth Night” at the famous Jacksons Lane theatre in Highgate, north London, in a production directed by Lesley Wake. 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 mulishly 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 theretofore. 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 circa 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.
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 period of Teaching Practice, and so removed myself from the course on a temporary basis, and set about deciding whether I wanted to resume my studies or not. In the event I elected not to, but remained in Isleworth in order to rekindle my on-off career as a deliverer of novelty telegrams, the latter initiated as early as 1985. I also continued to work as a walk-on artist for the first-rate television police series “The Bill”, based in the downmarket London suburb of Merton, Surrey. While at Isleworth furthermore, I became half of a sporadically gigging musical duo with Mark a young Mancunian actor who went on to become a very close friend, remaining so 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 London. Additionally, I was still working as a sporadic deliverer of novelty telegrams, 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, and continuing to work with Mark on our musical act which thus far had yielded the occasional restaurant and pub gig, some 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 voluble by nature. Finally, on the 16th of that month, my health subsided with terrifying consequences after years of resilience borne in the face of defiance on the part of a purported artistic maverick, apparently at war with the dictates of bodily health as so much else besides.
Speaking as a Christian, I can only warn of the dangers of a immersing oneself in the kind of art, whose practicioners I have no desire to cite, nor their works, for fear of embarking on an interminable inventory, alluded to in the above piece, and from which I have detached myself since 1993, the year I came to faith. It is now August 2006; and I sit here in my poky little lower floor typing this epilogue as a man long freed from a lifestyle and identity that came close to entirely destroying him. I thank God I was delivered, for God alone can effect such beautiful miracles.