Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 13 March 2015
In 1971, I was just about to finish a sculpture course at art school, when I was riding down the High Street on a 1940s bicycle and a girl who I had never seen before stepped out into the street to flag me down.
"Do you want to come to see a film with me tonight?" she asked, without any pretence at preamble.
I just said 'yes', and we arranged to meet later that evening. I wondered how she had noticed me, but was a little flattered that she had. I was quite shy in those days.
She turned out to be a student of about 3 years my junior, and was beginning a course in ceramics which she would never complete.
The film was Ingmar Bergman's 'The Hour of the Wolf' - a dark, eerie and haunting psychological fantasy which has haunted me ever since.
After the film, we went back to her house and sat around drinking herbal tea and chatting, during which time I learned that she was a vegan, half French and spent quite a lot of her childhood in special schools for children with domestic problems. I later learned that her specific domestic problem was her father - an arrogant and authoritarian, self-centred bastard who thought of nothing but the clockwork way in which his household was to be run when he returned from his East London council panning job to his long-suffering but charming wife in the arse-end of the city - Wanstead.
When we had reached our own 'hour of the wolf' at around 4 in the morning, we went to bed. The only two things that stick in my mind about that night were the crudely-carved, wooden, Egyptian 'Ankh' symbol she wore round her neck on a piece of simple string, and the utter blackness of the room once the curtains were drawn and the lights were out.
There are two types of nocturnal people - those who like their rooms to be as dark as possible, and those who do not feel comfortable without whatever ambient light there is for spacial reference. More than once, she informed me that the Ankh symbolised 'life', and for this reason I do not believe there were any accidents that night, even though if any decisions were made, they were made unconsciously.
The following day I went home and I did not here a word from her for about 2 months. Then the phone rang and she told me that there was something she wished to discuss with me. I had a strong feeling I knew what it was.
So I found myself back in the kitchen drinking herbal tea and waiting for the hour of the wolf again, by which time we had decided that - because of our youth and poverty, she would book herself in for an abortion, despite my insistence that I would support her in whatever choice she made about the situation. I asked if she wanted me to come with her to the clinic, and she said that she did not.
On the day of her appointment, she had a last-minute change of heart and fled the clinic. She called me again to say what she had - or had not - done, and I went around to her house to continue the talk about the future of all three of us.
I could not have known at the time, that pregnancy affected her in a very negative way, causing her to be downright hostile to everyone around her, not least the father of her unborn child, and after ten or so attempts to visit her and have a rational conversation with her, I eventually gave up.
On the last visit, she told me to fuck off and not come back because I was only visiting because I felt guilty, and her flatmate of the time was shocked at the way she spoke to me and came to my defence - to no avail. The hormones had taken over and I was fed up with being told to go away.
So I kept away for the duration, and in the days immediately preceding the birth, I booked a one-way ticket to Copenhagen with the intention of never coming back. Christ knows why I chose Denmark, but by this time I had become a little imbalanced myself.
During this time I went slightly off the rails and ended up taking all sorts of drugs, drinking a lot (no change there, then) and finally being convicted of theft by stealing some burglar's tools from the college and trying to sell them to a shop which sold brand-new ones. It was bad luck that two plain-clothes coppers happened to be right outside the shop when the owner dialled 999.
A mutual friend came round to see me one day, to tell me that I was the father of a little girl, and that I should go round and see them both. I asked what the point of this would be, since she would only tell me to fuck off again, but my friend said that things would be different now, knowing as she did that the hormones had stopped kicking up a fuss, so I did.
"What are your plans?" asked the new mother, when the preliminary inspection of the child had been made.
"I'm going to Copenhagen tomorrow." Even as I said them, the words did not have the ring of truth about them, even though I could prove the intention with a plane ticket.
"Don't go. Stay with us," was her simple response. So I did.
I stayed for as long as I could before our diverging paths took us further and further away from each other, and the decision to live apart was a mutual one for fear of blighting the child's life with endless arguments about nothing big, or so big that it would seem like nothing to an outsider.
I used to have a recurring dream in which I would be paying for groceries in a supermarket, and when I had done this, the unknown girl at the till would look up and say, "What time are you coming home tonight?"
Within a year or two, she had married another vegetarian whose attitude to domestic life was very similar to her father's.
He used to visit me and my then girlfriend and proudly tell me the correct way to handle all women in general, and her in particular, as if he was the world's expert on woman-taming. Then she became pregnant by him and he visited me again - this time for advice.
"She keeps telling me to fuck off!" he cried, "How do you handle her when she is in this state?"
"I don't know. You're the expert. You tell me." Revenge was so sweet.
In a couple of years they had moved to the North of Scotland to run a small-holding, like puritanical settlers living the dream.
He began having an affair with a young girl working for them - for no money - and eventually made it official when the girl turned 16. I have my theories about how my daughter ended up in the mental state she is now - with three virtually disabled children of her own and never having had a job in her life - but to voice them here without proof would be a dangerous thing to do.
Her step-father moved to New Zealand with the young girl, and a couple of years after that, the mother of my daughter moved over there too - possibly to be closer to them - leaving my daughter on her own, as I seem to have done over the last 40 years.
For a very young man who was highly inexperienced in matters of the heart, this is such a massively high price to pay for a single night of muted passion, don't you think? The debt will never be written-off for the rest of all of our lives, and the benefits it has brought have been slender to say the least.