Richard Parsons

Breathe It In – Ambient Jazz Ensemble

6 February 2019

I love it when a musical connection is made! I’ve been banging on about Zero 7 and then their offshoot, Fragile State, on this curation and then what happens? I come across someone new with a name that sounds like I should like them – Ambient Jazz Ensemble – and who’s central to them? None other than Neil Cowley…

Big Time – Hardage feat. Peter Gabriel

30 January 2019

I can barely believe that I’ve let this curation go so long without more than a passing reference to the legend that is Peter Gabriel – though Genesis feature here with “Cinema Show” from “Selling England By The Pound” which has him on lead vocals…

The Suns of Afterlife – Bliss

22 January 2019

In keeping with the “world” themes of this curation, Bliss hail from Denmark, though their collective owes as much to influences from Guinea and Sweden! They first appeared in the early 2000’s which really was the halcyon period for ambient chill stuff it seems – a golden age? …

All Kinds – Kinkajous

16 January 2019

Bang up to date sounds of alt-jazz from this five piece outfit that hail from London. Travelling through places where borders disappear, Kinkajous give birth to an innovative sound that very much reminds me of another favourite band of mine that features on this collective; namely Submotion Orchestra…

Aphrodite’s Child – Aegean Sea

9 January 2019

A Greek band from the 60’s and 70’s with quite an antecedence – the keyboards man was “Chariots of Fire” composer Vangelis and their singer was “Ever and Forever” Demis Roussos…legends. This track is taken from their 1971 album “666” which is generally regarded as their best…

Elysian Fields – Minus 8

18 December 2018

This is one of those gentle tracks that repeats a subtle riff overdubbed with echoing voices and held together by cymbals and congas. Sounds all so simple but this one’s riff really infiltrated me…

Summertime – Angelique Kidjo

11 December 2018

OK I know there’s a myriad of covers of this Gershwin classic, and I already have featured Deep Dive’s version of it on this collection, but this puts a West African twist on the same song, and is beautifully different with its acapella style…

Nothing More – Fotheringay

4 December 2018

Fotheringay emerged from Fairport Convention in the late 60’s. “Nothing More” is from their one and only album, and is Sandy Denny’s attempt to reach out to her former bandmate Richard Thompson, quietly grief-stricken in the wake of the crash that killed his girlfriend Jeannie Franklin and Fairport drummer Martin Lamble…

Spanish Steps – Van Morrison

28 November 2018

If you’re expecting to hear the distinctive gravel sounds of The Man, well, unusually, this is an instrumental from him; a sweet sax piece with underlying piano and strings which then further develops into a piano solo. It comes from his lesser known 1987 album “Lesser Champions Compose”…

Aquarius – Boards of Canada

20 November 2018

Championed by John Peel, and often cited as one of the pioneers of electronica, BOC – a pair of brothers called Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin – hail from Scotland. “Music Has The Right To Children” from which this track comes was their album released in 1998 after sending out countless demos to labels…

Mother Nature’s Spies – Fila Brazillia

14 November 2018

A short-lived collaboration between two guys from Hull, Fila nevertheless were one of the new millennium electronica acts forging tongue-in-cheek stuff with wacky treatments and even wackier names – check out their albums “Maim That Tune” and “Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight”!…

Glistening Glyndebourne – John Martyn

6 November 2018

OK so most people know “Solid Air” and perhaps think of John Martyn as that rather gruff voiced dude who died (essentially) from consumption, having had a leg amputated along the way,…

Part 48 – Given Circumstances

5 November 2018

November 1982.

‘Be sorry to see you go.’ Biggles is fiddling with his ‘tache as we sit in the staff common room. ‘Are you sure you want to leave?’

‘It’s only an interview. No guarantee I’ll get the job.’

 ‘What are they looking for?’

 It’s a new post.’ I wave a piece of paper. ‘Director of Drama.’ …

As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls – Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays

30 October 2018

From the album of the same name, this twenty minute monster is a masterpiece; a musical narrative that might be a film score, but isn’t!…

Part 47 – Given Circumstances

30 October 2018

In the morning of the twenty seventh of August 1982, the phone ringing wakes me.

I’ve had a disturbed night, despite spending the evening at the Flyer – ‘Another pint!’ I pump money in the jukebox. Happy music only. Norma makes a comment. ‘You look like the cat what got the cream. You won the pools?’ Hands me her glass. ‘A G and T. Double.’…

Castellorizon – David Gilmour

23 October 2018

Is David Gilmour the “real” sound of Pink Floyd?

If, like me, you’re something of a Pink Floyd fan then no doubt you’ve already struck gold by listening to David Gilmour’s solo album from 2006 “On An Island” from which this track is taken…I guess if you haven’t then you’re in for a treat…

Part 46 – Given Circumstances

23 October 2018

I’m just staggering back from the Flyer one evening in the middle of August when the phone goes at Orchard Cottage. I briefly consider ignoring it but instead turn down Toto.

…it’s a feeling you never belonged to me…”

‘Hello?’ I grump.

‘Oh there you are…”

Part 45 – Given Circumstances

16 October 2018

May 1982.

A few more weeks of summer term and that’s it. Five years done. Where have all those years gone?

‘Fuck man, what you gonna do? Slit your wrists? Och. She’s all over you and she’s a real babe.’ …

Cleo – Fragile State

16 October 2018

Fragile State were another one of those short-lived electronica collaborations like Lemon Jelly that seemed to proliferate at the turn of the millennium – a golden age for sampling and downbeat. FS were formed by two guys, one from Zero 7 – Neil Cowley – and Ben Mynott…

The Cinema Show – Genesis

9 October 2018

Now this is the real McCoy, from Genesis’s best album (in my humble opinion) – “Selling England By The Pound” – released all those years ago (1973!) and featuring Peter Gabriel of course. They’d already broken new ground with “Foxtrot” and “Trespass” with their lengthy rambles into instrumental riffs allied to absurdist lyrics from Gabriel – have a listen to “Get Em Out By Friday” or “Supper’s Ready” if you want a real taste of that!..

Part 44 – Given Circumstances

9 October 2018

September 1981.

‘So. Inspection.’ The Big Cheese’s addressing the staff at the beginning of my fifth new academic year. In full swing.  

My own relationship with him has gradually morphed from outright fear to grudging respect. In turn, he even occasionally tries to share a joke with me nowadays as if somehow, I too have morphed from dangerous deranged specimen teaching an irrelevant subject to a young radical bringing in valuable and valued new pupils…

Part 43 – Given Circumstances

3 October 2018

The silence between Cher and I thickens; just the piped music insinuating.

“…sometimes I don’t know what I will find…” 

This is moving things on. Clive could be in here. Consenting adults. Like with the Femme Fatale. Is that what I want? Is that what Cher wants? Or will it just complicate things? Make things awkward after.

And then something clicks…

Daydream In Blue – I Monster

3 October 2018

This is one of those electronica songs I first heard quite by chance on a late-night radio show back in 2001…and was thoroughly annoyed that the DJ failed to give me a name check of either the track or the artist! Ah!!! Now what? How to find it?…

Part 42 – Given Circumstances

26 September 2018

I’ve lazed the early weeks of summer holiday 1981 away. Bit of cricket. Bit of social. Lot of thinking. Bought a copy of “Face Value” by Phil Collins which is welded to my turntable.

To my surprise, on the morning of summer school starting, I’m awake early, a stirring in my guts. Why?…

Finest Hour – Submotion Orchestra

26 September 2018

My second submission, after “Red Dress”, by this Leeds based band featuring the dulcet tones of Ruby Wood, and the lush pseudo-orchestration led by the trumpet of Tommy Evans. This is a seven minute build of electronica/jazz which pretty much sums up the musical style you can expect from each of their four albums…

Chariots – TransGlobal Underground

19 September 2018

Can their album “Psychic Karaoke” really be over twenty years old now? Released in 1996, I heard “Chariots” up first and was absolutely hooked by the depth of sound, the subcontinental/Arabian voice of Natacha Atlas (!) and the changes of rhythm and sounds. The super duper highway indeed!…

Part 41 – Given Circumstances

17 September 2018

Summer term. 1981.

I’m in my study listening to Pat Metheny on the cassette player, holding a letter from The Big Cheese, countersigned by the Bursar confirming a rise in salary next year. “In recognition of your contribution to drama at Fitzrovia.”

It’s warm June sunshine outside with the aroma of fresh mown grass through the open window; a presage to cricket nets in half an hour. At the sound of footsteps in the corridor I thrust the letter into my pocket…

People Make The World Go Round – The Stylistics

11 September 2018

In the early 70’s the sound of Philadelphia was all the rage and along with bands like the O’Jays, The Stylistics were at the forefront. They had a sugary sound that didn’t always appeal to me – songs like “Betcha By Golly Wow” for instance – but I absolutely LOVE this song – this full length version’s great!…

Part 40 – Given Circumstances

11 September 2018

Just before Christmas, “Bouncers” takes place.

‘Ticket sales are picking up,’ says Hovis Hair a few days before performance. ‘A slow burner.’ She purses her lips. ‘A friend tells me it’s quite violent. Bad language.’

‘It’s meant to be a comedy,’ I venture. ‘There’s an edge to it, but essentially it should be funny.’ 

She frowns. ‘My husband and I are coming on the Saturday. Is it suitable for children?’

‘I’d exercise some caution. Teenagers, fine. Younger than that probably not.’…

Part 39 – Given Circumstances

5 September 2018

“…innocence raped with napalm fire, twenty first century schizoid man…”

Next morning I’m in my study, still assimilating how I really feel about the previous evening with Miss Dazzle, when there’s a knock on the door. ‘Come in.’

It’s Fizz; flushed in the face; looks as if she might have been crying. Red eyed. Puffy. She should be in school uniform, ready for Sunday chapel, but isn’t.

What’s going on? I turn down King Crimson…

I Don’t Love You Anymore – The Young Rascals

4 September 2018

Late 60’s I was into The Young Rascals (later, just The Rascals) as they released a succession of singles that caught my attention – they weren’t necessarily hits, although “Groovin’” was a monster – but I enjoyed the philosophical lyrics allied to the sophisticated production elements…

Alone Again Or – Love

28 August 2018

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have a copy of the seminal psychedelic album, “Forever Changes” released first in 1967? Maybe it’s passed you by; if so, then this song should give you a flavour of what to expect with its gentle guitars, harmonies and orchestration…

Part 38 – Given Circumstances

28 August 2018

The White Horse Hotel, where I’m to meet Miss Dazzle, is on the outskirts of town. It has rooms, and a reputation for decent food. ‘Reassuringly expensive,’ says Biggles.

I’ve taken a ridiculous time getting ready, changing in and out of clothes, staring at myself in the mirror, before getting a grip. Does it matter what I wear? Why not just be myself? Like I said I would be. And just what am I expecting – hoping? – to happen? In truth, I’ve stopped pining for her. Barely give her a thought.

 And yet…over the past few days…

Pinzells – Joan Bibiloni

21 August 2018

Well, I do like a bit of laid-back acoustic guitar and when it’s allied to that oh-so-smooth Balearic background stuff….well, it HAS to make this curation! Don’t be fooled by the spelling of the Christian name – Joan is a guy!…

Part 37 – Given Circumstances

21 August 2018

September 1980.

It’s the start of a brand new academic year. My fourth at Fitzie’s. No more the new boy. Instead there are others who’ve arrived, fresh faced, new shoots, following more pruning by the Big Cheese. Out with the old; in with the new…

Part 36 – Given Circumstances

15 August 2018

 I’m considering tidying my study at the end of that summer term 1980. Three years almost done and dusted, it contains anything of my world that isn’t at Orchard Cottage. The detritus of school admin lies cheek by jowl with correspondence; lesson plans; old essays; class lists; mark books; cricket scorebook; paraphernalia. There are piles of play scripts, scattered across the floor. A box labeled “Mum.”

Simon and Garfunkel play quietly on the cassette…

British Summertime – Bent

15 August 2018

Well, with the UK in the midst of its best summer sun since 1976 – heatwave! – what could be better than a chilled song that radiates Englishness? Bent (Simon Mills and Neil Tolliday) are one of my absolute favourite downtempo mixers/samplers from the turn of the millennium…

Summertime (Sweat Mix) – Deep Dive-Corp

31 July 2018

“Summertime” from the musical “Porgy and Bess” must have been covered endlessly, but this version, which I first heard in Brazil on a mix album called “Emiliano 2” really hooked me…it’s different!…

Part 35 – Given Circumstances

31 July 2018

I’ve been home for Christmas. Mum’s feebler. Small voice. ‘Can you get your own tea tonight?’

The Lent term of 1980 starts depressingly. January blues. I can’t even bask in the reflected glory of “The Mikado.” Full houses, bursting. ‘More!’ Even buying a new album – “The Return Of The Durutti Column” – filled with optimistic spring sounds, can’t diminish my sense of loss.

I spend dank dark afternoons freezing on the hockey playing fields. I should be more motivated, but really I’m finding my concentration telescoping into two areas. Drama and cricket…

Part 34 – Given Circumstances

24 July 2018

The smoke from the encore of the opening night of “The Mikado” is still hovering. The auditorium’s gradually emptying. No sign of The Big Cheese.

‘Well done, sir.’ Someone from stage crew scurries by.

‘Thanks. And well done you guys as well. Very slick.’

‘We’ll get more encores tomorrow. And Saturday’ll be mental.’ He grins and hurries away….

Part 33 – Given Circumstances

17 July 2018

At half six on the opening night of “The Mikado”, I’m standing with my notes,  facing the auditorium which is filled with a kaleidoscope of Japanese, nervously chattering. The orchestra’s fiddling quietly. Tuning. Biggles is whispering to one or two. Is he nervous? Am I? Mrs Undercarpet’s making a song and dance about pinning something up. ‘Hold still.’

 Gandalf’s in his tightest shorts yet. He’s standing right next to me, centre stage, shielding his eyes up into the flies. He knows I want to start. Shouts. ‘Move that parcan a couple of inches to your left!’ High profile…

Part 32 – Given Circumstances

9 July 2018

Shortly after my first half term break in Uppers, I receive a hand written missive commanding me to appear in front of The Big Cheese for a Royal Audience.

Now what? More “restructuring”? What have I done wrong? Is he about to sack me after all? Last in first out. My chest thumps.

Can’t seem to get a song from “The Mikado” out of my head.

“…defer, defer to the Lord High Executioner…”…

Part 31 – Given Circumstances

3 July 2018

A few weeks into the new academic year, I’m still grappling with teaching Uppers English literature. Some of them catch me out. ‘What do you think Larkin means when he describes work as a “toad”, sir?’ Good question. Warty? Slimy? Buried under rocks? I’ve taken the idea of playing music in lessons into Uppers while they write. Have still to work out whether the older pupils find it a distraction – a snigger? – rather than a help. ‘It’s by someone called Michael Hedges.’…

Part 30 – Given Circumstances

26 June 2018

September 1979. Year three.

I’m at my first Staff Meeting in Uppers. There’s gentle idle chatter as we wait. I’m sat next to Biggles who leans in close. ‘Saw the Master earlier. Looked majorly stressed. We could see fireworks this morning.’

Oh? I peep down to the front of the lecture theatre, where the Big Cheese is checking his watch, eyes flicking to the door where the staff must enter. It swings open and BJ walks in.

‘Have you got a death wish?’ It’s The Big Cheese, shouting, red in face, eyes bulging. All conversation comes to an abrupt end….

Part 29 – Given Circumstances

19 June 2018

I’ve just returned from a cricket match at some school across the county. My team’s off to a bright start; two emphatic wins and a good draw.

I’ve overheard God Like Status talking to Biggles on the boundary at our last home match. ‘Some decent cricketers here. Well drilled and keen.’

Today’s been warm and sunny. Proper cricket weather. In an attempt to get over the terrible news of Keith Moon’s death, I’ve also been into town at the weekend and bought a new stereo system…

Part 28 – Given Circumstances

12 June 2018

The second half of Lent term starts with an Extraordinary Staff Meeting called by The Big Cheese. ‘What’s it all about?’ I ask Biggles when we meet up the night before at the pub.

He shrugs, poring over the jukebox. ‘Search me.’ Then punches buttons. ‘About time they refreshed this. Haven’t heard this for a while though. Happy music for Spring.’

We find seats as Sergio Mendes kicks in.

“…the moon is like a tangerine…”

Ha! They don’t write lyrics like that now!

Part 27 – Given Circumstances

12 June 2018

Over half term back at home, I receive a small package in the post.

‘Someone’s got nice handwriting,’ says mum.

Opening it, three recognisable letters fall out. There’s a message attached. “Thought you might like these back.” And a photo, of a tanned smiling Venus, under an umbrella, honey hair to her shoulders, in a pair of loose fitting black trousers, gathered at the ankle above high heels, bare brown midriff and plunge black top under a short red jacket, standing by a suitcase outside “The Acropolis Taverna.” On the wall, the clock reads nine o’ clock…

Part 26 – Given Circumstances

30 May 2018

February 1979.

“Darkheart” has come and gone. Cheers and whistles. ‘More!’ Miss Dazzle hugging me. Biggles all smiles. Matron ecstatic. Spicy red faced, pumping my hand.

‘Fuckin’ great,’ says BJ, loading the pipe back at Walnut Avenue. ‘Here. Got my girlfriend to send us some stuff. Put some music on then. Your choice.’

On with some Peter Frampton. “Do You Feel Like I Do?”…

Part 25 – Given Circumstances

22 May 2018

Before I know it, it’s the week of performances of “Darkheart.”

The Sunday before the Thursday opening night, I’ve spent the afternoon with Biggles and his band.  

‘They sound fab. Really professional. A bit loud perhaps?’

How could my youngsters compete? They’d surely be drowned out?

Part 24 – Given Circumstances

14 May 2018

Outside Walnut Avenue, there’s a watery October sun. A Sunday morning. A whole day off. I’ve got some Chicago playing.

‘Och. What’s this shite?’ asks BJ popping his head round my door. ‘Shall we go looking for mushrooms? Perfect day for it.’

I’ve been re-reading my little book on them. Hand drawn pictures of Liberty Caps. ‘Will you recognise them if we see them?’

BJ nods. ‘Come on. Let’s find some fields.’…

Part 23 – Given Circumstances

7 May 2018

Och. What’s your musical about then?’ BJ’s slurping some cereal at breakfast, milk dribbling down his chin. ‘Has it got a name?’

‘It’s called “Darkheart.”’

The plot itself is relatively straightforward. But more importantly, I want it to be on a grand scale, to involve as many pupils as I can; make the prep school buzz with it. That should show The Wife of Parse and help convince Spicy he’s not made a mistake trusting me. But how many pupils might be interested? What if none of them volunteered?…

Part 22 – Given Circumstances

30 April 2018

September 1978. Year two.

On the last day of the summer holiday, I’m whistling along to the radio; the Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”; a throwback to naive school days, when the phone rings at home. ‘Hello?’

‘Och. Is that Mister Hopebourne?’ A broad male Scots accent.

‘Speaking.’

‘Och. The school secretary gave me your number. I believe we’re sharing a house together at Fitzrovia.’

Are we? We talk briefly before he brings the conversation to a halt. ‘Och. Let’s get together over a beer tomorrow.’ A short silence. ‘You do drink don’t you?’

Part 21 – Given Circumstances

23 April 2018

‘Twenty overs gone, one hundred and nineteen for no wicket.’ St George’s scorer scurries off to the board rattling numbers. ‘Cruising it. All over soon.’

 Miserably, I peek at his scorebook. There are three red rings that indicate dropped catches. I’ve given up on humming “Riders on the Storm.” Can’t help feeling the melancholy of Roy Harper instead. 

“When the day is done and the ball has spun in the umpire’s pocket away…”

‘Catches win matches,’ remarks Giant Beard…

Part 20 – Given Circumstances

17 April 2018

I’m in a heightened state of nerves throughout my first summer term of 1978. Hasn’t Spicy appointed me to Fitzrovia to try and drag cricket up by its bootstraps? ‘We’ve fallen behind our competitors,’ he’d said at interview.

My side has taken shape over the season with Young Giles at the centre of things as captain. I take him to one side after an early match. ‘Well done. You handled the fielders really well. Good judgment.’…

Part 19 – Given Circumstances

10 April 2018

Lent term 1978 at Fitzrovia passes through the dark of January, into cold February, eventually punctuated by breezy interludes that lead to watery March sunshine. I meet up with Biggles intermittently to compare notes on our progress with “Darkheart.” One weekend, he plays some music he’s written and gives me tapes of other songs. ‘Maybe you can fit some words to them.’ He’s read the few lyrics I’ve had up my sleeve. ‘I can hear the beat and rhythm already. It’ll be fun trying to put a melody to them.’

Part 18 – Given Circumstances

2 April 2018

I make an appointment to speak to Spicy about “Darkheart” just before my first Christmas term concludes. He’s sat at his desk surrounded by a pile of reports on which he writes personally. I’ve had to write tons of the things too; days and nights of slaving. “He seems to enjoy the subject and his gregarious nature helps create character, but he might do well to occasionally consider thought before action.”

‘Come in, Robert.’ He waves something at me. ‘Just been reading some of your reports. Well done. Sounds like you’re doing a grand job.’ He smiles. ‘I like your style as well. Very positive, but with that turn of phrase that tells its own story.’ Our eyes meet…

Part 17 – Given Circumstances

26 March 2018

I’m up early on the first day of the new half term. Slam on my freshly purchased cassette at Maynard Road. More Steve Miller. An echo of Erotes.

“…in the winter time when all the leaves are brown and the wind blows so chill…”

The staff room’s busy. There’s the smell of coffee, small groups gathering to chat. ‘We hired a little place in New England. Beautiful in the Fall.’…

Part 16 – Given Circumstances

20 March 2018

‘How’s the hangover, lightweight?’ Adonis appears especially perky the next morning. Seems to have put on my cassette player. Loud. The Rolling Stones. My head’s hammering and there’s a faint taste of sick and liquorice in my mouth. ‘You look like shit.’

I manage to take a shower after gulping aspirin and water. Adonis pops his head round the shower curtain. ‘I’m off. See you later. Oh, and I might need the room later, OK?’

‘I’m not sleeping with the donkeys. Turn the music down on your way out.’..

Part 15 – Given Circumstances

13 March 2018

A four-hour flight from UK, Erotes turns out to be a picture postcard image of Greece. Two sandy bays, an ancient acropolis overlooking the village’s sugar cube houses, it’s bathed in hot sun. There’s the smell of lemon and olive trees, the sound of bouzoukis playing “Zorba the Greek”, cobbled streets with shops selling souvlaki, ceramics and silver. Blue, blue sky.

Cool beans…

Part 14 – Given Circumstances

6 March 2018

It’s only a quarter of an hour before curtain up, but the concert hall’s sparsely populated when I arrive with my train of boys from Cowdray House. In the foyer there are some simple posters advertising “The Winslow Boy” and some basic programmes printed on A4 sheets. A trickle of parents and other audience members wander in, including a smattering of boarders from Uppers. ‘Better than prep.’ Some classical style music is playing. Solemn. Barber’s “Adagio” according to the programme.

There are cast members milling about in costume, made-up roughly, beards and moustaches painted on, young kids trying to look grown up. Girls dressed as men. ‘Hello, sir.’

 Shouldn’t they be backstage?…

Part 13 – Given Circumstances

27 February 2018

‘There are one or two characters,’ I say to mum down the phone. ‘Every school’s got its fair share. I’m learning.’

‘And how are you getting on with Drama?’ asks mum. ‘Are you going to put something on?’

Despite my assertion at interview that teaching Drama would be easy peasy, the reality is rather different. For a start, there are no books to hand out.

‘There are single copies of Coward and Beckett in the store cupboard,’ says The Wife of Parse. ‘Or there’s always Shakespeare.’…

Part 12 – Given Circumstances

20 February 2018

It’s first lesson after morning break. I’ve been to the main common room hoping to spot Miss Dazzle, only to end up munching mournfully on bourbons as she and Chisel Face retreat to a corner in close conflab.

It’s an English lesson, teaching a class the apostrophe. ‘So, if that’s what one elephant’s ears looks like, what about the ears belonging to two elephants?’ I understand it’s a difficult concept; had found it a trial myself at school, so I’m trying my best to make it upbeat, though it means I’m backwards and forwards to the blackboard.

‘Where shall I put the apostrophe? If there is one.’…

Part 11 – Given Circumstances

13 February 2018

I stumble into a routine and round the campus until ditching the crutches, preferring to hobble in classes and wince during rugby practices.

I’m up before the others in Maynard Road, in the bathroom and out, dressing to whatever’s on the cassette from the night before. Steve Miller’s my go-to at the moment, so that’s often playing.

“…time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future…”

Most mornings start with some sort of religious service. ‘Thanks be to God.’ I try to keep a low profile so I’ve taken to bowing my head more during prayers and occasionally mouthing hymns. ‘We plough the fields and scatter…’ It’s all an act, but, hey; if it helps avoid attention…

Part 10 – Given Circumstances

6 February 2018

It’s the first Saturday of a term that’s just three days old. Five periods to teach up to lunch.

The Three Musketeers and Taff had met up the previous night at The Crown after duties and sunk several pints in a short time.

‘How are you coping?’ Taff had asked popping money into the juke box. ‘Do you like Queen, boyo?’

“…is this the real life, is this just fantasy…”…

Part 9 – Given Circumstances

29 January 2018

Break over I hunt out the Old Gym where I’m to teach my first drama lesson. It’s begun to rain, so find myself humming Carole King.

“…it might as well rain until September…”

The Old Gym’s an ancient shell of a building, cold and unwelcoming, smelling of damp and echoing to my footsteps. The walls are peeling paint and the wooden floor’s dusty. An old pommel horse is parked in the corner and ancient rusting basketball rings are at each end. Wall bars line one side. There are also several wooden benches stacked up. It’s heart-sinkingly dank.

 ‘Hi, sir. Are you our drama teacher?’…

Part 8 – Given Circumstances

22 January 2018

It’s the middle of term at Bishop Tennant’s Teacher Training College. I’m twenty years old.

I’ve been invited by Bungalow Bill, one of my English group, to join with some friends for drinks. ‘Cool guys,’ he says. ‘One’s just back from a trip on the magic bus.’ And winks at me. ‘I think you’ll like them.’

I’ve always admired Bungalow Bill, seeing him as the most witty and intelligent of our group. ‘I’ve been reading some Hunter Thompson. Pretty cool.’ He lives in a house rather than Halls. Very cool. And I’d like to be that. Cool. Whatever that is…

Part 7 – Given Circumstances

16 January 2018

Next morning I wake late, gulp water and hunt out some aspirin, before spending the afternoon finding my feet. Trying to think ahead. There’s a sports shop where I splash out on a new tracksuit to supplement my college gear. Royal blue. Three white stripes. The biz.

At practically every turn there are signs in the familiar blue and silver; imposing buildings. “Faraday Science Labs.” Every time anyone passes I wonder whether they work in the place.

At five o’ clock, I walk back into The Crown having changed. What exactly does “formal” mean? I don’t have any of that penguin suit stuff…

Part 6 – Given Circumstances

9 January 2018

After leaving the pub, instead of worrying about De Cock and his cronies, I hum “Isn’t She Lovely” and turn my mind to Miss Dazzle, daydreaming about meeting her again. Where? When? Tonight? I brush at my cricket sweater; scrape at a grass stain at the hem…

Part 5 – Given Circumstances

3 January 2018

I hear nothing from Fitzrovia for a couple of days so go to the newsagent to buy a copy of “The Times Educational Supplement” to scour the “Teacher Vacancies” section. ‘There’s nothing. I’ll have to wait till next year now.’

‘Why don’t you try ICI?’ asks mum. ‘There’s bound to be something there. Clerical work for instance?’

Glumly I throw the paper down. ‘I suppose.’

‘You never know,’ mum continues. ‘You might hear from them yet.’

Ha! No. Bugger them. I don’t want the job anyway. Do I? Stuck up bastards.

And then there’s a letter.

Part 4 – Given Circumstances

18 December 2017

Spicy peruses my CV, nodding from time to time, then fusses with the kettle that’s boiling.

‘The High Master passed me your application for the English post in Uppers.’

A priest? On drugs?

‘I’m afraid that’s been filled but we’re looking for someone down here.’

Down?

And out!’ suddenly from the radio.

Spicy reaches for a plate of custard creams. ‘They’re my guilty pleasure,’ he says offering them. ‘Whenever we get a wicket. Sounds like we’ve got the Aussies on the run.’

Part 3 – Given Circumstances

12 December 2017

The two chimneys belch smoke and the ICI building’s shrouded in smog as I try to start dad’s old Ford Anglia on the morning of the interview. The engine turns over several times before the spark fires; a cloud of exhaust from the back. The grimy terraces are still festooned with red, white and blue after the Jubilee celebrations and parties.

Mum’s getting ready for another day, tying her headscarf. ‘I wish you’d had a haircut; and allowed me to sew that badge on properly. It’s not straight is it?’ She shakes her head. ‘Put your headlights on then. Have you checked the oil?’…

Part 2 – Given Circumstances

7 December 2017

Days merge into weeks and I receive nothing except a printed acknowledgement of my application forcing me to scan adverts for other work. ‘Need to earn some money somehow. Can’t leave you with all the bills, mum.’

And then the phone rings. I turn down Alan Freeman who’s running through the Top Twenty on the radio. Outside the sun’s broken through.

‘Hello?’

A female voice honeys down the receiver. ‘Can I speak to Mister Robert Hopebourne?’…

Part 1 – In The Beginning

19 October 2017

‘There’s a letter for you, Robert.’ Mum’s thumbing through a glossy magazine from the dentist’s surgery where she works and nods towards the table. ‘Looks formal.’

Home from a match I plonk down my kit bag, aware my heart’s now begun to beat harder to the rhythm of Stealer’s Wheel on the radio. ‘Love this song.’

“…clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right here I am…”