Tell A Tale
Music to Tell A Tale is a new concept which combines a soundtrack with a serialised story set in the 70’s
featuring artists like
Simon & Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, Stealers Wheel, Alessi Brothers, Supertramp, Bloods, Sweat & Tears, Supertramp
Musicto Tell A Tale is a new concept which combines a soundtrack with a serialised story set in the 70’s.
Entitled “Given Circumstances” and echoing the golden age of literature, the story will be serialised over 40+ weeks in bite-sized chunks around 2,000 words.
Accompanied by its soundtrack, (The Back Story) recording why author, Richard Parsons, chose the music, it offers a double whammy of classic 70’s music and accessible modern literature. Fancy an easy read? Like 70’s music? Then this is definitely for you.
5 November 2018
‘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.’ …
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.’…
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…”
16 October 2018
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.’ …
9 October 2018
‘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…
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…
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?…
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…
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.’…
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…
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…
21 August 2018
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…
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…
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…
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….
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…
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…”…
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.’…
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….
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…
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!
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…
30 May 2018
“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?”…
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?…
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.’…
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.’…
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…
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…”…
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?’…
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.’
‘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.’
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?’…
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.
A female voice honeys down the receiver. ‘Can I speak to Mister Robert Hopebourne?’…
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…”