childhood


Pryor is a sad case, constantly harping on about his famous forbears; almost as though he can’t exist on his own, by and for himself. (Joe Alterego, in his Review of the Life of William Pryor). But what can I do? It is of some significance, positive and negative, to me and to you, my being born into this empire of the mind.

To quote from my own book The Survival of the Coolest:

[My mother’s] parents were Jacques and Gwen Raverat. Jacques was a French painter who died aged just 40 from MS. Gwen was a granddaughter of Charles Darwin and a woodcut artist of some repute. They were on the edge of the Bloomsbury phenomenon, counting Eric Gill, Rupert Brooke, Stanley Spencer, Virginia Woolf, cousin Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as Andre Gide, among their friends. Towards the end of her life, long after Jacques’ death, Gwen wrote a memoir of her Cambridge childhood, Period Piece, first published in 1951 and still in print. Her grandfather, Charles Darwin, was already akin to a god: Of course, we always felt embarrassed if our grandfather were mentioned, just as we did if God were spoken of. In fact, he was obviously in the same category as God and Father Christmas.

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wpchristiansm.JPGI was born in 1945 in Farnborough, Hampshire, England, where my father was inventing a new glue to stick Mosquito aeroplanes together. Once Oppenheimer had perfected his atomic bomb, we moved back to Cambridge, to the bosom of the Darwin-Bloomsbury nexus. (My grandmother, Gwen Raverat was a friend of that paragon of Bloomsbury, Virginia Woolf.)

Being the only boy-child with three sisters, I had to succeed and join the ruling class and was packed off to Eton. By my 16th birthday I had escaped and was hanging out with beats, GI’s, Jamaicans, jazz musicians and those that would be the Pink Floyd: the now mythic Syd Barrett with his architectural student friends, as I studied for my A levels at a crammer.

wpheadswedensm.JPGOne day I packed up my belongings in a spotted suitcase and went to seek my fortune as a beatnik in Paris. I chewed and retched morning glory seeds for their crude LSD. I hung out with Daevid Allen of Gong, American Beat poets and assorted bohemians.

My visions of myself grew to such an extent that I rushed back to Cambridge to tell family and friends that I was a genius, next to Samuel Beckett. “How interesting!” they said.

I was depressed. I didn’t know that’s what the persistent knot in my belly was called, but it stopped me being fully, fully being. When I drank a whole bottle of Dr Collis Browne’s Chlorodyne, the opium and chloroform it contained answered my lack of definition. The love affair, the intoxication that manifested as poet and ’pataphysician had begun. All my pain was soon subsumed into the pain of being a junky.

But I still managed to pretend to be a student getting into Trinity, Cambridge, to read Moral Sciences, as philosophy was strangely called.

After many cultural and other adventures and happenings (read a free chapter of the book), where I forged my own whirlwind through the more extreme edges of the sixties cultural revolution, I found myself floundering along the sewer of addiction. A sewer used to drain away society’s and my family’s denials, rejections and embarrassments.

greencataloguecover.jpgHere I skip lightly over the years and the detail of my addictions. Suffice it to say that circumstance supplanted drugs with alcohol for the last few years, but you really will have to read The Survival of the Coolest to discover how far down I went and how I eventually skidded to a low from which change was the only answer. The addiction was no longer useful.

Since that rebirth, I have spent a good deal of time exploring the mythologies of business and busy-hatsmaller.JPGness. I started what became Airlift Book Company, the Green Catalogue, Bath.co.uk and a pioneer Internet music business, Floot.com, but 9/11 put paid to that.

And now, when not out on MediaStores, Unhooked or Survival of the Coolest Movie business I sit in my log cabin on the edges of Bath, having views, writing, improvising cadenzas to the concerto of the living.