The following piece has been adapted from a page of diary notes, or unfinished and unsent letter, dating from pretty well exactly twenty years ago, which is to say Christmastime 1986, and composed during my brief tenure at Homerton College, part of the University of Cambridge, and whose campus was at Hills Road just outside the city centre.
I fashioned it by cutting selected sentences from the original script, and then pasting them together, not exactly randomly but then not entirely sequentially either, before subjecting it to versification and alterations in punctuation as a means of rendering it easier on the eye than it would otherwise have been. Moreover, one word (and one word only) was wholly and deliberately supplanted by another.
It may strike many as a strange means of creation, to wit, concocting poetical prose pieces from long rejected writings, consigned to boxes, drawers and so on and then, after somehow surviving decades of residential moves and purges, being posted onto the internet in their definitive form for people from all over the globe to read at their leisure.
That said, it accurately conveys much of the mood which inspired it in the first place, namely the pathological romantic restlessness to which I was subject aged 31, and which manifestly refused me peace or stability, this indicative as I see it, of a general malaise which drove me inexorably on, causing me to mine and squander precious life opportunities as if they constituted an inexhaustible supply.
a state as this
I could fall
to the ball
I wanted to be
of ev’ry one
But I didn’t want
to lose her.
I’ll get over
I feel now,
And very soon.
I’ll freeze again,
An extra layer
To get out
Quite why I was so doggedly determined to effectuate a flight from Hills Road is something of a mystery to me more than two decades after the delinquent act in question.
I had every reason on earth to relish my time at Cambridge, given that I’d been made to feel most welcome and appreciated, not just by my tutors and fellow students, but others, including a student director, renowned throughout the university for the high quality of his theatrical productions, who singled me out to feature in a play he intended putting on during the Lent Term, after seeing me interpret the leading role of Tom in Tennessee Williams’ autobiographical “The Glass Menagerie” soon after the end of the Michaelmas Term.
Furthermore, Tim Scott the then president of the massively influential Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club, for which I twice appeared, the first time in a sketch penned by my friend and comedy partner the actor and writer Jonathan Toye, and the second, to perform one of the latter’s satirical songs, had gone out of his way to ask both myself and Jonathan to appear in a Footlights production taking place during his year-long presidency of 1986-’87.
Since the the late 1950s Footlights has played host to the diverse geniuses of among others, Jonathan Miller, Peter Cook, John Cleese, David Frost, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Stephen Fry, Hugh Lawrie, Emma Thompson, and more recently, Sasha Baron Cohen.
It will be obvious to any half-way sensible reader of this piece that had I remained at Cambridge for the brief three terms required of me by the dictates of my course, which included teaching practise at the Manor Community College in Arbury, a deprived London overspill area north of the River Cam, I would have been primed for success in an area in which I excelled, namely comedic character acting with a satirical edge. Not only that, but I would have passed my Post Graduate Certificate in Education through Cambridge University, as part of a course intended to produce a veritable pedagogic elite.
As if all the aforesaid weren’t sufficient to retain me at Homerton, when I made my first appearance at the Manor Community College on the Arbury estate, I was subject to an ecstatic reception by the pupils, almost as if I was some kind of visiting idol of popular music or the cinema.
Which brings me back to my initial question. Why in the name of precious reason itself was I so determined to put such a blatant act of self-sabotage into practise?
There are a handful of possible explanations, and in due course of time, I shall submit them all, but not at this precise juncture.
As a born again Christian, my faith helps me to withstand the pain of knowing all that I have lost. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that without my faith I would find my memories almost too painful to bear. My faith protects me from the full furious ferocity of my follies past, and without it, I would be at their mercy, and they would rend me to shreds of utter nothingness.