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?
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.’…
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?…
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.
‘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?’
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…
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.’…
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.’
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…
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.’…
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.’..
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.
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?…