Swappers' Review of the Year!
Well it’s been an odd year, quite weird all round really. Since my accident last September this year I have not been at all well. Strange symptoms and endless tests at the doctors and then the hospital all thus far to no avail. All seem to think there is something wrong with my endocrine system which is helpful as up till now I didn’t even know I had one! This has affected my work rate and I am lucky to have been needed to fill posts as a locum throughout the city where people know they could rely upon me to turn up to work in the social care field and be . . . . well reliable!
This year saw me turn 60, which is weird also! Hope the coming year is better for all of us but . . well, me too!
Deaths – those we lost this year
It had been expected of course and the hullabaloo was all to be celebrating the man who got apartheid shifted in South Africa. Some of the hypocrisy was a tad strong. Current politicians who believed Thatcher when she told us he was a terrorist! She was a liar! The one thing Madiba did try to teach us was the power of forgiveness and if I can’t forgive Mrs Thatcher then I will try to forgive this current lot! I said I’ll try! If I wish to remember him, I put on Jerry Dammers’ ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and dance around the living room with joy.
Heaney’s death affected me curiously more than I imagined. I have always had a soft spot for him and whilst I don’t believe I own any books of his, I always enjoyed his poetry when I read it and his readings when they were broadcast. However to find myself moved to write a poem for him myself surprised me and though I am quite pleased with the outcome, it’s still a little like reading a piece by someone else. Which used to be why I wrote in the first place! To give myself something else to read.
An Irish master gone
JJ passing saddened me and since buying the first album [with a lifelong favourite song in ‘Clyde’ about a bass playing dog!], I have been a fan. I also recall the excitement of hearing another hero in Captain Beefheart cover Cale’s ‘Same Old Blues’ and don’t ya just love it when you discover your heroes like each other!? JJ much missed and not least for his introducing me to Harmony guitars and my small collection of their acoustic range. Check out what he did to his electric! Call me The Breeze!
For me David Jacobs was simply the first voice of popular music. He always seemed a true gentleman with a natural dignity but as ‘straight’ old society went, we admired him too and he was always a voice of authority that we loved.
Pin your ears back pop pickers!
Ray, Ray! What does one say about Raymond Daniel Manzarek. It was he who first heard the Dionysian lyric poetry of Jim Morrison on the beaches of LA and thought there’s something going on here. Let’s set it to music! Mystic and keyboardist extraordinaire, I had a love hate relationship with him, as I just wish he hadn’t sung!
I have finally got to that age where all my heroes are dying off where once I thought they would live forever but then I thought that about my brother, my father and lastly my mother!
Lou I knew could not die! He was too curmudgeonly! How dare death come and take the old rock n roll grumpy bastard hisself. Again another love/hate relationship with his pro needle heroin shite! Mock (allegedly) shooting up on stage is wack, Jack! Lost too many to the vicious sludge that is and will ever be Sister DiaMorphine. But ‘New York’ is a timeless classic for me and always fairly close to the turn table (what’s a turntable?! ED) The work with John Cale, another true poet hero, is tireless also! Songs for Drella I defy anyone with artworld pretensions not to adore!
I met Iain Banks at a Book do (The Nibbies way back) and he was a delight to meet and unerringly kind and solicitous to a mere bookseller. I admired everything he wrote and The Wasp Factory remains a favourite along with several others. Curiously I have never read any Iain M Banks and perhaps I should do so now in memoriam to a thoroughly decent fellow and fine fine writer
I met Sir Anthony through my work at MOMA in Oxford and as for gentlemen and thoroughly decent chaps, he was right up there in the pantheon of people solicitous of the wellbeing of lowly folk such as I. This was true of many great artists, John Piper, David Hockney, R.B.Kitaj etc but sadly not true of so many burgeoning fame monkeys playing the ‘Don’t You KNOW who I am?” card it was laughable. Sir Anthony was invariably kind, gentlemanly and interested in others. I find my interest in his sculpture whilst not one naturally drawn towards, always fascinating and aesthetically pleasing.
Ever ‘Uncle Monty’ to those of us obsessed with the Bruce Robinson film ‘Withnail and I’ I ws saddened to hear of Richard Griffiths passing. I enjoyed his History Boys to his Harry Potter’s unspeakable dad, from his cop turned chef, Henry Crabbe, in TV show ‘Pie in The Sky’ to his King George in Pirates of the Caribbean part 127 but it was as the raging thespian ‘Uncle Monty’ we adored!
“Oh, you little traitors. I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium. The carrot has mystery. Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees. There is, you'll agree, a certain 'je ne sais quoi' oh, so very special about a firm, young carrot.”
Withnail: MONTY, YOU TERRIBLE CUNT!
What to add about the passing of Peter O’Toole one of my favourite drunks and exquisite actor who it will always be said didn’t live up to his early promise. How many of us has THAT been said!? Too busy living to make our sad lives more palatable to worry about something as vulgar as ambition! The stories about O’Toole are legion, more so than the parts he portrayed and this is in part why we loved him so. His Lawrence of course too pretty not to be famous but his ‘Venus’ too in late life I adored. The Ruling Class remains a perennial favourite and of course my hero Dylan Thomas’ 1972 film and radio broadcast of ‘Under Milk Wood’ in which O’Toole personified Captain Cat. I enjoyed The Stunt Man and the self parodying ‘My Favourite Year’ and even fripperies such as the delightful cartoon Ratatouille. In drink he hung out with Richard Harris, Richard Burton, Peter Finch, and classmates Alan Bates and Albert Finney and inlaer life TV presenter and radio DJ Chris Evans even regales when in his drinking days about finding Peter knocking at the door of his house and the next three weeks being a blur! THREE weeks mind!
Lawrence Of Arabia occupied O'Toole for two years, filming in seven different countries.
By the end of it, he'd lost 2st, received third-degree burns, sprained both ankles, torn ligaments in both his hip and thigh, dislocated his spine, broken his thumb, sprained his neck and been concussed twice.
But his extraordinary performance made him a star. Lawrence Of Arabia was a world-wide smash when it opened in 1962 and was hailed as one of cinema's true masterpieces.
"I woke up one morning to find I was famous," he said. "I bought a white Rolls-Royce and drove down Sunset Boulevard, wearing dark specs and a white suit, waving like the Queen Mum. "Nobody took any fucking notice, but I thoroughly enjoyed it."
The drink finally took it’s toll and he was hospitalised. There was so little of his digestive system left that any amount of alcohol could prove fatal. Having come so close to death, O'Toole was determined to live each day to the full.
"The time has come to stop roaming," he said. "The pirate ship has berthed. I can still make whoopee, but now I do it sober." He was in his forties!
For ‘Venus’ playing opposite the mesmerisingly wonderful Jodie Whittaker (Attack The Block) O'Toole notched up his eighth Oscar nomination for his performance, the story of an almost wholly platonic romance between an elderly thespian and a 21-year-old girl.
O'Toole was delighted at the script and at his casting.
"No one better for a dirty old man who falls for a sluttish young woman," he said.
So O'Toole was known s the Last Man Standing of a generation of hard drinking thesps, the last surviving British reprobate. "The common denominator of all my friends is that they're dead," he said.
"There was a time when I felt like a perpendicular cuckoo clock, popping up and down in pulpits saying: 'Fear no more the heat o' the sun.' They were dying like flies."
But like all the other hellraisers, he has never once regretted the mistakes he made.
"I loved the drinking, and waking up in the morning to find I was in Mexico," he said.