Memories of a failed radical
If art college wasn't bad enough I went back a second time. This time just for one year in 2006, to do photography. It was actually one of the best courses I did as we were taught (shock horror!)...SKILLS.
This kind of learning suits me anyway. This is a Mamiya RZ67. This is how it works. This is how you put film in. This is how you take film out. Go and hire one and have some fun.
Thing is, I was 37 when I started that course. I think the age range was about 21 to late 50s. Made a lot of friends there.
There were some 'types' there. Some really talented snappers actually. I did it for a while but just ended up doing corporate events and that's not where I wanted to go.
One guy was an archetypal radical. He was about 24 - his dad was a senior person in the EU and his kids got free and unlimited education throughout Europe. That's a thing.
Pete had a house and cameras which his dad gave him. He'd hang around the student bar. Us oldies would buy a couple of rounds.
"Pete - your round. Pete?"
He was either nowhere to be seen or he'd shout:
"I DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY!!"
But u have a house and 8 cameras. Why don’t you get a part time job?
"What and give in to the bourgeois hegemony and exploitation of the proletariat? Fuck off!"
He didn't actually say that bit. But words to that effect. He reminded me of Reggie Perrin's son - too lazy to get a job, always moaning at his father's selling-out and then asking for a loan to keep himself going.
This guy was a professional student.
The house owning euro-student.
A stereotyped middle-classed armchair radical.
The nearly arrested.
The fully trust-funded.
A typical walk with the dog
Snippets of life played back to me on random every morning. No chronology - and the links from one to the other are probably too embedded in my unconscious to ever know.
I'm a toddler at Bristol zoo. A giraffe cranes its neck down to examine me; its face in mine as I'm being carried. I burst out crying at the innocent animal as it invades my personal space.
Crossing Cenarth falls - I'm scared but my Dad's hand is there. It's so sunny and deafening with the crashing water.
After tobogganing my wellies are full of snow and my feet are freezing. I'm crying in pain. Why can't I have snowboots?
Charles Hawtrey as Private Dibble. Terry Scott admonishing him.
|"It keeps my dangler warm!"
Random snippets of comedy sketches in my head. Harry Enfield saying "Faster you bitch!"
Fish and chips. Extra scraps please. Looks awful tbh.
Tan Ford Cortinas with a brown vinyl roof and square lights. 2000E. Coolest car ever.
|Sexier than a Chrysler Avenger or a (splutters...) Vauxhall Viva!
Me copying Richard Ireland as he does the penny organ round the classroom and thinking I'm just as funny. No one laughs.
Blue Tupperware full of old pennies.
Mint gravy with a cube of chocolate sponge. Yum!
|Oooh, you little minx!
Plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Crunching through the crisp grass on frozen mud in the shade of a hedgerow. Not a cloud in the sky: long shadows and golden, blinding light..
Oh! I'm back in the real world.
(Pat myself on the shoulder for being back in the present moment. Thank you Mindfulness!)
Tomos is over there.
No one's around. Fairweather dog walkers.
Grumble. In the distance I hear:
Some miserable Uncle Monty-alike in Nigel Farage burgundy cords bellowing at his dog who is 200 metres away and understandably ignoring him.
Also can't believe his dog is a Saluki - you'd think it would be a pug or a bulldog.
Damn. Was that monologue in my head or broadcast?
I see an obviously schizophrenic man talking to himself. At least we have strength in numbers.
Pleasant small-talk with multiple dog owners. Can they tell I'm a demented?
Tomos loves me.
Lower your expectations
I'm sure I've let people down. I know I've let people down. I've also helped a lot of people too.
It's nice when people acknowledge it. It's very nice when it's reciprocated, or you get a gift.
But since I've retired I've passed jobs on and got nothing back. I'm stopping as of now. These jobs were worth thousands.
I realise people help me. Tolerate me. My Dad is the most generous person I know. He's helped hundreds of kids get jobs, driven people to airports (even if they didn't want to go) and used to cut the grass for the neighbours, amongst myriad other things.
In short he'd go out of his way to help people he barely knew.
Then he got too old and there was the pandemic and lockdown.
The grass-cutting wasn't reciprocated.
Back in the day that would have been socially unacceptable - that would have set tongues wagging. But the pendulum has swung the other way.
You do a good turn - like when I had the van and a neighbour asked if I could deliver a couch to her son in Chelsea. Yup - gave up my Sunday morning to do that.
"Oh you must come round for dinner."
Well, lucky I didn't hold my breath.
It's easy to blame Margaret Thatcher for the selfishness phenomenon, but it was the 1970s (when I was a kid) that was known as the 'selfish' decade. Of course I was too young to notice. It must have been a cultural offshoot from the hippy movement - a movement I felt kinship with in my youth but one I've come to despise.
Proto-eloi most of them.
Anyway, 40 -50 years ago everyone on our road - and probably your road - knew each other.
That's a distant memory now.
People started to put up their barriers and isolate themselves from everyone else. Buy a property, do it up so it's almost unrecognisable, put gates and high fences everywhere to keep out the zombie hoards but only the hedgehogs were affected.
After the country of Iceland became bankrupt I listened to a documentary about it on Radio 4. Icelanders observed that when neighbours became super-rich they isolated themselves, and that a good thing about being poorer is that people were at least talking to each other again.
People are just selfish.
If we acknowledge that we should lower our expectations.