"The Trials of a Teetotaller" was originally published as "Release, Relapse and Restoration" at Blogster on the 9th of November 2006. In December 2007, a definitive version was published at FaithWriters.
A Teacher's Release
In the early part of 1994, I embarked upon the final stages of the Post Graduate Certificate of Education, FE, or Further Education, that I’d been working on since the autumn of ’92, and whose passing would have permitted me to teach French in further education establishments throughout the UK. As extensively detailed elsewhere, its progress however had been significantly hampered by my alcohol and prescription drug problems, which resulted in my postponing Teaching Practise, scheduled to have been completed in 1993, until the following year.
My own history includes three unsuccessful attempts at the PGCE. The first, mentioned in "A Cambridge Lament", took place at Coverton College, Cambridge, the second at the former West London College of Further Education (1990), and the last at the University of New Eltham (1992-1994). I quit both Coverton and the West London College immediately prior to TP. With regard to Coverton, TP had been due to begin in a secondary school in an inner city area of Cambridge where I had received a near-hysterical reception from the kids. There was a time when I would have gladly attempted to live up to this incredibly positive first impression, but at 30, I was already in thrall to the deep jadedness and self-suspicion of a man calloused by knowledge and experience despite an eerily youthful countenance.
My second attempt would have taken place in Hounslow, west London, close by to the West London College itself. This was based on two campuses in the suburbs of Isleworth, where I briefly shared a house, and East Twickenham.
I finally completed a full TP early in 1994 at a higher education school in the little village suburb of Thames Ditton, but had neglected to demonstrate sufficient authority in the classroom or something of the sort, according to the report I was given at my request. This understandably went on to jeopardise my final mark. As a result, despite my having passed every one of the requisite exams except the TP component, I failed the course as a whole. To be fair, my New Eltham tutors offered me the opportunity of retaking the section of the course I botched, but I chose to turn them down.
Flashes of Black Humour
The exact duration of the mood of disappointment to which I was undoubtedly subject, if only fleetingly, as a result of bungling a course which had cost me so much not just in financial terms but by way of time and effort I cannot say for certain. What is sure, however, is that within a short period of time of being informed of my fail, I successfully auditioned for a newly formed fringe theatre group known as Grip, based at the Rose and Crown public house in Kingston, Surrey. I did so for the main part of Roote in a relatively obscure play by Harold Pinter, the monumentally successful London-born dramatist, screenwriter, director, actor and poet. “The Hothouse” is perhaps not among Pinter’s greatest plays, but it is a superb piece nonetheless, and supremely Pinteresque, with its almost high poetic verbal virtuosity and inventiveness and dark surreal humour laced with a constant sense of impending violence. Penned in 1958, it was not performed until 1980, when it was directed by Pinter himself for London’s Hampstead and Ambassador Theatres.
From the auditions onwards, I established a strong connection with the easy-going American director, Ben Evans. Ben was very much an actor’s director, which I would define as one who delights in establishing close relationships with actors, out of a deep respect and affection for their art. As soon he informed me that the part was mine, I was genuinely excited about the prospect of working with him in interpreting Roote, the director of an unnamed government psychiatric hospital, the “Hothouse” of the title. My success rate when it came to auditions for the London fringe theatre had always been low, perhaps because so many of those I’d attended had involved me reciting pieces I'd memorised before what seemed to me to be an off-puttingly impassive panel of observers, which was why I felt so grateful to Ben. As an auditioner, he differed from the common run insofar as he had us reading in small groups from the play while inter-reacting with fellow auditionees. This system enables the actors involved to attain a basic feel for whichever character they might be interpreting at any given time, in other words to actually act for an audition.
Ben demanded from me an interpretation of Roote which was distinctly at variance with my usual highly Method-oriented, subtle, intense, introspective and yet somehow also emotionally hyper-vehement approach to acting, but his directorial instincts were immaculate. The pompous and eccentric windbag with the potential for sudden arbitrary brutality which he coaxed out of me was arguably the most successful role of my uneven career. It received glowing reviews not just in the local press, but also the London version of the celebrated international listings magazine “Time Out”, in which Kate Stratton described my performance as “flawlessly accurate” and “lit by flashes of black humour”, adding that the production faltered whenever I left the stage. This review created a real aura of excitement about the production, and especially its lead actor who for all the world looked set to capitalize on this unexpected success and become something of a West End star or something of that sort. One agent went out of her way to ask me to ensure my details reached her, And yet, having attempted to do just that, I never heard from her again. To this day I am uncertain precisely why, but it may have been something to do with my CV, which had been pretty shoddily produced if the truth be known.
Trials of a Teetotaller, Qualms of an Actor
Although I was nearly 40 years old at the time of "The Hothouse", I feel safe in saying that I barely looked more than 25, 30 at the very most, and so possibly struck others as an ingenuous young man at the start of a brilliant career, rather than one with some decade and a half of experience under his tightly knotted belt. Still, despite the aura of carefree youthfulness I projected, I was suffering within, sorely missing the escape alcohol once offered me, and the revels extending deep into the night that once used to follow my acting performances, and during which I’d throw my youth and affections about like some kind of maniacal delinquent gambler squandering his life’s savings at the poker table in the face of imminent insolvency. Years later, on the other hand, I had to make do with a sickly sweet soft drink to facilitate the socialising process in the vain hope that it would serve as a mild euphoriant. To further complicate matters, I started being subject during the run of “The Hothouse” to heavy spiritual problems related to my thought life, possibly connected to my pre-Christian existence which after all had only recently ceased to be. Within a year I would actively seek refuge in what is known in Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian circles as Healing Ministry, in consequence of these and other torments.
My faith didn’t violently clash with the contents of “The Hothouse”, although its unremitting sombreness of tone certainly caused me some qualms. Still, I had a high regard for the work’s artistic merits, and its unsavoury elements didn’t provoke revulsion in me, unlike certain plays I considered in the mid 1990s. I mention this to make it clear that fame as an actor, indeed as an artist or entertainer in general, was no longer the obsession it had once been for me. With regard to this, a person very close to me told me back in the late '80s or early '90s that it is possible to want something too much, perhaps implying that my thirst for renown or notoriety prior to my becoming a Christian was of such a pathological degree of intensity that it ultimately set about devouring me. Whether such a theory has any real basis in truth I cannot say. What is certain is that since coming to faith, my priorities had shifted, and I viewed worldly acclaim with a far more dubious eye than before. Perhaps that's why I failed to take fuller advantage of a late-flowering opportunity for success within my chosen craft than I should have done. Although I was pretty calm about this at the time, I now realise that if an opportunity carries within it the potential for future professional and social status, it should be unhesitatingly seized upon. To do otherwise is to risk a legacy of shame and remorse.
My First Relapse
Within a short time of “The Hothouse” reaching the end of its two week run, Grip’s easy-going artistic director Richard asked me if I’d like to audition for his forthcoming production of “Two” by the playwright Jim Cartwright, best known for the play and film “Little Voice”, to be directed by Richard, and produced by his fiancée Michelle. "Two", as the name suggests, is a two-handed play in which all the male characters are played by one actor, and all the female by another.
I of course answered in the affirmative and auditioned successfully, with the result that I found myself playing opposite virtuoso character actress Jean from Liverpool for a fortnight...and by the end of the run the houses were so packed that people were sitting on the side of the stage at my feet. In other words, the production was an unqualified success, gaining uniformly enthusiastic reviews, although sadly only in the local press. Still, while working alongside Richard, Jean and Michelle on "Two" was an unalloyed pleasure, I dreaded the end of each performance, seeking only to distance myself from the audiences who came nightly to see me do what I did best as soon as it was possible to do so without giving any great offence.
Sweet release from a prison of sobriety presented itself while I was attending some unrelated function at the Rose and Crown some days following “Two"’s final performance. What happened was a guy I was casually chatting to offered to buy me a drink, at which point rather than the soft drink I normally opted for, I hazarded a single glass of wine. It was the first alcohol to pass my lips since January 1993, that is, without taking into account an incident at my parents’ house when I took a large gulp of what I thought was water but which turned out to be vodka, or gin. Far from having an adverse effect, however, the wine made me feel wonderful, its intoxicating properties doubtless enhanced by the purity of my system. Cycling home that night I felt perfectly blissful, emancipated at long last, or so I thought, from the torturous shackles of sobriety.
From this single glass of red wine, my drinking escalated by degrees over the next few weeks, only to culminate in an evening in a Twickenham pub with an old university friend during which I boozed and smoked with all my old ardour. Cycling home afterwards, I came off my bike as I passed a bus shelter near Hampton Wick in Kingston, and dashed my head against it before falling flat on my back. I deserved to die there where I lay, and might have done had it not been for the mercy of God, and soon I was shakily resumed my journey home. However, weeks of controlled drinking, as well as one massive binge, possibly combined with the adverse effects of violently smashing my head against a bus shelter, resulted in my becoming ill and incapacitated for what might have been as long as as a fortnight. As I remember, there were times during this awful period When I'd awake in a frantic state, sickly pale and in a deathly faint, close (in my eyes) to blacking out, and fearful of death, but each time I felt God came to my rescue just when my situation seemed hopeless.
Chapter Nineteen The Twilight of an Actor
In the first place "The Twilight of an Actor" existed as nothing more than the poem "Such a Short Space of Time". In the winter of '06, I took out certain key portions of an unfinished autobiographical story penned almost certainly in early summer 1999 with the intention of transforming it into a workable piece of writing. This was the original "Short Space", and it was intended to evoke the sense of longing and melancholia with which I was afflicted as the decade, century and millennium were all three coming to an unquiet close. It was published at Blogster on the 19th of February 2006. I decided to flesh it out with some background information in the summer, and so the additional prose section of "From Lovelives to the Lost Theatre" came into being. In December 2007, a definitive version of the piece as a whole was published at FaithWriters, and then again with further very minor variations at Blog.co.uk.
From Lovelives to the Lost Theatre
Following my performance as the landlord, as well as all the other male characters, in Jim Cartwright's bitter-sweet two-handed play "Two", which I touched on in some detail in "The Trials of a Teetotaller", I performed in one final production at the Rose and Crown theatre, the character-driven comedy "Lovelives".
Written by the cast, "Lovelives" consisted of a series of sketches centring on the desperate antics of a group of singletons attending a suburban lonely hearts club. Perhaps then it chimed perfectly with the spirit of British post-war comedy and its characteristic celebration of banality and even failure. A great success at the R&C, "Lovelives" could have been developed into a television play or even series, but sadly, as is all too often the case, a brilliant cast dispersed after the final show.
In late September '95, at the Tristan Bates theatre in central London, I played two parts in a production of Euripides' "Iphigeneia in Taurois" (sic), directed by a longtime friend who also translated it. These were Pylades, boon companion of one of the main characters, Orestes, and the Messenger.
From January 1996 until the following summer, I served variously as actor, MC, script writer, singer and musician for Street Level, a Christian theatre company based at the Elim Pentecostal church in West Croydon, Surrey. A group of three, we toured several shows around schools in the Croydon/Norwood/Crystal Palace area of South London, and beyond. One of these, "Choices", was almost entirely written by me, although it had been based on an idea by the company leader Serena, who also heavily edited it for performance purposes. The kids were astonishingly receptive to our productions, and we were greeted by them with almost uniform enthusiasm and affection.
Towards the end of the summer, Serena asked me to write a large scale project for Street Level. She suggested a contemporary version of John Bunyan's classic allegorical Christian novel "The Pilgim's Progress". I duly spent several weeks labouring over the project until it had evolved into an unwieldy epic voyage to the end of the night punctuated by scenes of the blackest humour. Soon after handing it to Serena, weary of the long early morning train journeys to West Croydon station via Wimbledon, I left Street Level. Quite understandably, my version of "The Pilgrim's Progress" was never produced. I came ultimately to destroy all but a few pages of it, because although artistically it had its merits, spiritually speaking it was grossly immature. I don't have any regrets about my decision.
By early 1997 I'd vanished into the anonymity of office life, remaining there on and off for over three years. However, there was one final acting hurrah from me in the shape of the series of cameos I contributed to a production of the so-called "Scottish Play" at the Lost Theatre in Fulham in 1998. Despite these being praised by cast and audience members alike, I've barely acted since for a variety of reasons. While I'm still very much open to the possibility of film or television work, the likelihood of my appearing on stage in a play again is remote indeed because simply, the passion to perform in front of a live audience that once raged inside me to the degree that renown became a serious possibility more than once in my career has long been quieted.
Some months after appearing as Lennox, as well as other minor characters, in the "Scottish Play" at the Lost Theatre in the formerly working class West London suburb of Fulham, I wrote the piece featured below, "Such a Short Space of Time". As I stated in the introduction, in the first instance it was not a poem but part of an unfinished short story. My parents were on vacation during the period which inspired the piece, which is to say early in the summer of 1999. Hence, I spent a lot of time at their house performing various tasks such as watering my mother's flowers. As well as this, I took sneaky advantage of their absence to transfer some of my old LPs onto cassette, something that my own music system is incapable of doing, unlike theirs. It was an unsettling experience...to listen to songs that, perhaps in the cases of some of them, I had not heard for ten years, or even fifteen, or more, and which evoked with a heart-rending intensity a time when I was filled to the brim with sheer youthful joy of life and undiluted hope for the future. Yet as I did so, it seemed to me that it was only very recently that I'd heard them for the first time, despite the colossal changes brought about not just in my own life, but the lives of all those of my generation since I'd actually done so. Hence, I was confronted at once with the devastating transience of human life, and the devastating effect the passage of time has on all human life...
Such a Short Space of Time
I love...not just those...
I knew back then,
Who were young
But who've since
Come to grief, who...
Having soared so high,
Too dreadful to bear,
With my past itself,
Which was only
No...even less time...
A moment ago,
And when I play
Records from 1975,
Twenty years melt away
What is a twenty-year period?
Little more than
A blink of an eye...
Such a short space
Cause such devastation?
Chapter Twenty A Final Distant Clarion Cry
“A Final Distant Clarion Cry” consists of diverse unrelated writings which I painstakingly knitted together to make a suitably grand finale to my as yet untitled experiment in spiritual memoir composition. The kernel of the work was “Apologia for a Cyber Church”, a piece written specifically for a friend. Substantial portions of the apologia are still to be found within “The Perils of Church Hopping”. To the apologia I added a prose section from the former “Some Perverse Will”, originally published at Blogster on Christmas Day 2006, while the poetic soul of the piece was incorporated into another story. Also grafted onto “Final Cry”, and specifically “Waves of Bohemia” and “The March of the Modern”, were extracts from “The Redemption of a Rebel Artist”, initially published at Blogster on the 14th of September 2006. “Fireworks Frantically Exploding”, “The Dispersal of Clouds”, “The Wilderness Decade”, “The Summing Up”, and “Not by a Long Chalk” were all written specifically for “Final Cry”, which was first published as a whole at FaithWriters on the 13th of November 2007, and then again in December.
Fireworks Frantically Exploding
The troubled, turbulent 20th Century having ceded to the 21st to the sound of fireworks frantically exploding all throughout my neighbourhood, I discovered through a phone call to my father that my mother was desperately ill with flu. It was a harrowing start to the new century, but once again God poured blessings on my family, and she made a complete recovery. It’s crossed my mind since that she may have become susceptible to the flu virus partly as a result of stress caused by the fact that I'd latterly quit yet another course; this time an MA which was one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world.
I found the course fascinating, despite aspects of it that disturbed me, and which were likely to become increasingly so had I persisted with it. However, leaving the course on spiritual grounds as was indeed the case was a painful experience for me as I felt certain I was headed for a first class degree.
As if in consolation, I was appointed chief musician of the worship band of the Liberty Christian Centre, suburban satellite church of London’s Kensington Temple which I'd sporadically attended for a few months during the previous summer. Liberty’s Pastor Phil got in touch with me the previous summer through KT about joining a cell group at his home in the Surrey suburbs. This eventually mutated into Liberty, with which I forged very close ties from the outset, going on to serve in the Worship Group until well into 2001.
Once Liberty had come to a close in early ‘01, I returned to my first spiritual home of Cornerstone Bible Church, a fellowship affiliated to the Word of Faith Movement and specifically to Rhema Ministries of Johannesburg, South Africa. Before defecting to the Riverside Vineyard Christian Fellowship, I’d gone to Cornerstone for about two years from early 1993, in fact, had attended my very first service there even before becoming a Christian in ‘92. Drunk at the time as I recall, I'd sat next to a beautiful blonde woman of about 55 whom I later discovered to be a successful actress who at the height of her career in the sixties had appeared in television cult classics "The Avengers" and "The Prisoner". Apart from an elder from the Jesus Fellowship, who'd laid hands on me at a meeting of theirs in central London, she was my very first spiritual mentor. However, I was never to see or speak to her again as I didn't return to the church for several months, and by the time I did as a newly born again believer, she'd moved to another church. She subsequently came back to Cornerstone, but we kept on missing each other. Tragically, she went to be with the Lord in 2001.
The Dispersal of Clouds
Within a few months of having made the decision to abandon the MA at UCL I’d also quit my position as telecanvasser for an e-commerce company based in Surbiton, Surrey, thereby bringing a fairly lengthy period as an on/off office worker to an end. Since then I’ve worked only casually, rarely remaining in one menial employment or another for any length of time. However, if my job life has been in slow decline since the onset of the 2000s, my musical life has flourished.
By the end of ‘00, I was the lead singer for a band formed in that year by composer-musician Barrie Guard, who most recently worked with Indie Rock artist Lupen Crook. While after much prompting from members of Liberty and KT, I finally wrote a series of Christian songs in 2001 which I hoped would be played by Liberty's worship group, but sadly, the church folded in that year, much to the sorrow of all concerned, as we’d become very close as a fellowship.
I subsequently made a brief return to Cornerstone, before quitting once again in late ’02. I did so in consequence of a renewed desire to seek out churches lying beyond the Pentecostal/Charismatic family, this time born of internet research. By this time, disillusioned by nearly two years of sporadic gigging, the band too had called it a day. We disbanded in the wake of the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival held in St Mary's Church near the village of Shelton, Norfolk, which was a real shame in my view, because those who attended the festival were the audience we’d been searching for all along, evidenced by the passion with which they greeted our final performance.
The Perils of Church-Hopping
To return to my Walk with God, among the churches I visited after leaving Cornerstone for a second time in the autumn of 2002 were Wimbledon's Bethel Baptist Church, pastored by Bible teacher and writer Jack Moorman. Bethel is what is known as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, based on the US model, and therefore KJV only, which is to say using the King James Version of the Bible alone. I was quite happy there, that is, until one Sunday evening when my train home was severely delayed, and I found myself stranded at Wimbledon station for over an hour in consequence. Despite this, I fully intended to return the following Sunday to see a friend of Bethel's gracious pastor David Cloud of Way of Life Ministries, preach at the church, but for some reason never did.
I also attended Christ Church, Teddington, a Free Church of England fellowship whose rector, with whom I’ve had several long and interesting conversations is a tall striking man with the magnetizing voice and presence of a classical stage actor. The Free Church of England separated from the established C of E in 1844 in response to the High Church Anglicanism of the then Bishop of Exeter, Henry Phillpotts. It is resolutely Evangelical, as well as liturgical and Episcopal.
By the end of the year, my quest having reached a satisfactory conclusion, I'd begun to make a tentative return to the Pentecostal-Charismatic nation.
Given the restlessness I've just described, many might be forgiven for suggesting that my walk with God has not been an easy one, particularly since about 2000, and I'd be forced to agree with them. This may be at least partly attributable to the fact that I came to faith relatively late. The Bible warns that each person who rejects the sovereignty of the fleshly realm for Jesus' sake will undergo much tribulation and persecution. Perhaps this is especially true of repentant Christians who accept Christ following a relatively long period of time within the decadent heart of the world as avid flunkies of the Flesh. However, as comfort these late converts possess a true and infinitely worthwhile purpose in life. This was something that ever eluded me in my youth, for all the fierce, flaming fanaticism I lent my ideals, whether artistic, intellectual, political or whatever and yet which amounted in the end to precisely nothing.
The Wilderness Decade
As I might have already made clear, the new decade turned out to be something of a turning point for me, not just on the spiritual, artistic and vocational levels, but in terms of my entire personality, which has become more inward looking, even by the standards of the previous seven years, more of which later.
My entire presentation of self has changed since 2000. Sartorially it has become less soft, and reassuring, and closer to self-protective armour than the peacock feathers of a dandy. Significantly, the previous year had been the first since about '73 that I faced the world with my hair its natural medium brown, after having used bleach for close on to three decades. What prompted this was not a sudden loathing for the vanity of the bottle blond, but the increasingly violent effects the peroxide-based highlighting kits I favoured were having on my breathing. While I hated being a brunet at first, in time I came to relish the dignity darker hair lent my appearance, rendering it far more masculine.
The truth is that throughout my twenties and for most of my thirties, I saw the soul of the true artist as one wholly unbound by conventional notions of sexuality. In consequence, for most of my pre-Christian life, I took no real responsibility as a man in the purest sense of the word, which is to say as leader, provider, protector, and so on. Instead, I opted for a variety of marginalised male personae, punk agitator, insurrectionary artist, doomed poet, hell-raising libertine, man of learning and so on and so on and so on ad nauseam. I’ve jettisoned them all.
Images such as these have great appeal in the eyes of the young and disempowered, as do those veterans of outlaw lifestyles who’ve been burned out by taking them to their limit with only their cool to console them, but cool is a poor substitute for peace of mind. More often than not they prove ruinous to a person's healthy social and professional development, which is so vital to their well-being in the long run, to say nothing of their physical and psychological health. Still, they continue to be promoted as desirable through the media and that is especially true of Rock music, although needless to say perhaps not to the same degree as when I was a boy growing up to a frenetic Rock soundtrack in the earthshaking sixties. Out of the music and attitude of the first proselytizers of sixties Hard and Heavy Rock the entire Rock religion was constructed.
Waves of Bohemia
The tenets of the Rock and Roll belief system, with its exaltation of rebellion and excess of every kind, were hardly new in the '60s. Indeed, they can be traced back to Man's initial attempts at attaining spiritual ecstasy beyond the will of God. However, in terms of the Modern World, it could be said that the true ancestor of Rock culture was the great 19th Century artistic and cultural movement known as Romanticism. From the latter, the very notion of the Artist as tormented genius on the cutting edge of social revolution and eternally pitted against middle class respectability is widely believed to have emerged. If Rock culture is not the ultimate outcome of this persisting myth then what is?
It was the great English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley who might have first given expression to the notion of an avant garde by asserting that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Then, in the post-Napoleonic Paris of the early 1830s, a seminal artistic avant garde if ever there was one was born. They were the Jeunes-France, a band of turbulent young late Romantic writers allegedly dubbed the Bousingos by the press following a night of riotous boozing on the part of some of their number. Their leading lights, among them a fiery Théophile Gautier decades before he became an establishment darling, cultivated dandified and eccentric personae intended to shock the bourgeoisie, while inclining to political radicalism. Needless to say perhaps, they owed a colossal debt to the earlier English and German Romantics, as well as previous generations of dandies such as the Muscadins and Incroyables of the late revolutionary years.
The March of the Modern
The first wave of Bohemian avant-gardism ultimately produced the Decadents, and the great Symbolist movement in the arts, both of which came into being ca. 1880. However, the spirit of the avant garde could be said to have triumphed as never before through the Modernist movement which was at its level of maximum intensity from about 1890 to 1930. This extraordinary period birthed such hyper-innovative masterpieces as Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" (1913), T.S Eliot's "The Waste Land" (1922) and James Joyce's "Ulysses" (1922), as well as dozens of revolutionary art movements including Expressionism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism.
One possible definition of Modernism in an artistic sense is the avant garde removed from its true spiritual home of Paris, (via Germany and England) and then transformed into an international artistic and cultural movement of immense power and influence. Some thinkers trace the roots of the Modern to the so-called Enlightenment of the 18th Century, which produced great defiance of God on the part of lofty Reason, and so for them, Modernism is a precursor of the avant garde, rather than a spirit that arose out of it, while others go even further back into the depths of Western history, to the Renaissance and its revival of Classical Antiquity.
What is certain is that the Western world of today is one that stands at the very climax of the Modern Revolution; and one of its keynotes as I see it is the mass acceptance of iconoclastic beliefs once seen as the preserve of the avant garde, especially with regard to traditional Christian morality. This process could be said to have accelerated around 1955-‘56, when both the Beat Movement and the new Pop music of Rock ’n’ Roll were starting to make strong inroads into the mainstream. Some ten years after this, there was a further increase in momentum as Pop began to lose its initial sheen of innocence, and so perhaps evolve into the more diverse music of Rock. This eclectic art went on to run the gamut from the most infantile pop ditties to complex compositions owing a considerable debt to Classical, Jazz and other non-popular music forms, and so become an international language disseminating values traditionally seen as morally unconventional as no other artistic movement before it. As a result, certain Rock artists attained through popular consumer culture a degree of influence that previous generations of innovative artists operating within high culture could only dream of.
A Taste of Summer Wine
Given the facts outlined above, it's hardly surprising that Rock Music is a time-honoured bête noir of old-school evangelicals, and the internet duly teems with fulminations against it of varying degrees of insight. In 2003, a totemic year for me marked by a passion for doctrinal purity, I briefly declared myself its fiercest enemy, and set about destroying my massive collection of cassette albums. However, by the summer my attitude had softened to the degree that I was able to complete about an hour's worth of adult oriented Rock songs. Inspired by various melodic genres including Soul and Soft Rock, they ultimately defied classification. They were generally well-received, with a small minority declaring themselves to be devoted fans, even though they had been only very roughly recorded on an old-fashioned Sony CFS-B21L cassette-corder. Two of the songs went on to be more professionally recorded at the home of a friend of my father's from South Africa.
In the wake of this project, my father Pat began to plan the recording of an album of popular standards featuring myself and the harmonica virtuoso Jim Hughes. In the summer of 2007, the master was finally created, and the title of "A Taste of Summer Wine" awarded it in honour of the situation comedy "Last of the Summer Wine". This was due to the fact that Jim's playing had long been featured on "Summer Wine", as scored by Ronnie Hazelhurst, who sadly died in late '07.
This final section of this experiment in memoir composition sees me anticipating the eventual commercial release of "A Taste of Summer Wine", as well as the final editing of the first large-scale literary project with which I can say that I'm perfectly content. The fact is that within a short time of giving my life to Christ, I began to experience extreme difficulties when it came to writing creatively, as if the Lord was preventing me from expressing myself on a literary level. The outcome was that I eventually gave up writing altogether, although I kept on periodically attempting to do so, only to end up destroying the results. Precisely why it was that I became so burdened by a kind of forbidding leaden heaviness each time I tried to write for about ten years from the mid 1990s I can’t say for certain, but I have my theories. To begin with, my work back then reflected a continuing preoccupation with subjects that had held me spellbound prior to become a born again Christian. I glorified these despite a false admonitory tone which served as a cover for my true motives. Furthermore, some of my writings mixed truth and fiction to produce an unsatisfactory hybrid. God requires that all those who take the name of Christian adhere to absolute truth to the very best of their ability. Others contained passages manifesting a dangerous degree of disrespect for the holy things of God; and I thank the Lord he allowed me the opportunity of decimating these. Finally, in January 2006, God made it clear to me that I was sufficiently mature on a spiritual level to be able to write again.
There are those who might look at me and see an individual who treated some of the most precious gifts a person can be blessed with during the prime of their young life with a nonchalance so utterly cavalier as amount to blatant contempt. In terms of natural endowment, these would include the kind of intelligence that produced an articulate speaker at just two years old, as well as health so robust that all serious childhood sicknesses were kept at bay until I was 13, when I caught meningitis following a spell as a foreign exchange student in St Malo off the Brittany coast. As if these weren't sufficient, my father procured for me one the most sumptuous educations hard-earned money can buy. By my early twenties anyone who knew me then would be forgiven for believing that if anyone was destined for ultimate celebrity it was me, "le futur célèbre", as I was described in a letter in late ‘77 by a former friend from France…or something similar.
These theoretical critics of mine might make mention of the fact that for all my lavish good fortune, I’ve finished up in a small lower floor flat in a housing estate on the edge of Greater London, a lost soul haunted by the past, and tormented in the present by unfathomable regret. That is far, far from the way I view my situation. Some people in this city don't even have a roof over their head. As for my being a lost soul, nothing could be further from the truth. While I won’t deny that I'm inclined to the occasional remorseful mood, the fact remains that my soul has been salvaged not lost which means that one day all my tears will be wiped away for all eternity. At least, that is my hope.
I’m not the most social of beings I’ll admit, and yet paradoxically perhaps, I love to wander among crowds of people, gaining great comfort from doing so. The truth is that for one reason or another, I’m relatively incapable of pretending to be anyone other than myself in a social setting. This in marked contrast to the myself of thirty years ago who was a dangerously gifted social enchanter. That said, I consider myself to be a person of far greater integrity today by the Grace of God. At the same time, I've never been more aware of the necessity of my reliance on God, nor of the truth that He'll never leave me nor forsake me. When all’s said and done, therefore, I’m a deeply blessed man for all my superficial so-called woes. I have my faith, I have my family, and together they mean more, infinitely more to me than fame, wealth, and social status ever could. I'm not saying these latter wouldn't enhance my life because of course they would, but they'd serve as a bonus, nothing more, because my heart's desire has already been fulfilled. As for my supposed melancholia, this particular thorn in the flesh has been afflicting Christians for centuries. To cite some examples for the sceptical…Martin Luther suffered for much of his life from a tendency towards dejection of spirits which he attributed to a variety of causes including spiritual oppression in the realm of the mind, founder of the Quaker movement George Fox was a "man of sorrows" by his own admission in the early days of his walk with God, poet and hymnodist William Cowper was a lifelong depressive who endlessly doubted his own eternal salvation, Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon was prone to inexplicable anguish accompanied by lengthy bouts of solitary weeping and so on and so on. What though are the tears and trials of this brief life when compared to the fathomless joy that awaits the true Believer in Heaven?
Dear Friend I Salute You
Now that I’ve put the finishing touches to the very first large scale writing project of mine of which I'm pretty well 100% certain I'll not end up destroying, is it time for me to abandon creative writing altogether, in favour of music, an art I'm far more suited to than writing, or even acting, which is the one art I've never really had to work at, with the possible exception of singing? In reply, may I say that I've already started working out a second, more detailed autobiographical volume in my head. However, whether it ever gets written or not remains to be seen. So, for all intents and purposes, my literary career is at a close...for the time being anyway. If these writings have touched a single living soul, and there is some evidence they may have done, then my work has been worthwhile. For anyone still reading...thank you for your patience, dear friend, I salute you.
If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW
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