My Future Positively Glittered consists of two previously published pieces in slightly modified form, these being My Future Positively Glittered, now divided into two sections (Global Village Soul Boys and Hardly a Wunderkind), and Summer's End, whose first drafts were published at Blogster on, respectively, May 26 and May 29, 2006. In September of the same year, a further piece, An Evanescent Friendship, which had been first published at Blogster on the 10th of June 2006, was added. Final corrections were made in December.
An initial draft of Gilded Youth was published at Blogster on the 1st of July 2006, since which time it's undergone considerable modification. The inclusion of the second versified section of Woodville Hall first published separately and in longer form at Blogster on the 18th of February '06, is a fairly recent development. It had been based on the bare essentials of an autobiographical short story written in 1978 or '79. A definitive version of Gilded Youth was published at FaithWriters in December 2007.
1976 was the year in which I came increasingly under the influence of the decade of Brando, Presley and Dean which at the time was less in tune with my tastes than the stylish 1920s but I was keen for change and was a massive James Dean fan. So by degrees throughout the year, I replaced my old foppish wardrobe with the classic Rebel uniform of red windcheater, white tee-shirt, straight leg jeans, and loafers.
On occasion, however, I reverted to my old image such as the time towards the end of the legendary long hot summer of '76 that I wore top hat and tails and reddened nails to a party hosted by a friend from Prestlands. This took place in September. I know this to be an absolute certainty because I should have been at sea at the time, on the minesweeper HMS Kettleton. I think it was only a couple of days afterwards that Kettleton capsized and sank to the bottom of the North Sea following a tragic accident involving another larger ship while engaged in a Replenishment at Sea exercise. It resulted in the loss of twelve men most of whom I knew personally, given that only weeks earlier I'd spent a few days on Kettleton with more or less exactly the same crew.
An impression I can recall having at the time at the time with regard to those who didn't survive was that they were all natural-born gentlemen. I knew three of them quite well, and they were men of marked generosity of spirit and sweetness of disposition. That is not to say that the survivors weren't, far from it...many of them were good friends of mine. My point is that there was a deep gentleness about those who didn't make it, according to how I saw them at the time. It broke my heart to think of what happened to them.
Global Village Soul Boys
It may just be my imagination but 1977 was a far darker year than those that came before it. It was after all marked by the rise of Punk, a musical and cultural movement which could be said to have fatally disabled Rock's uneven progress as an art form by virtue of its DIY ethic, underpinned by a mood of raw rebellious fury. These elements combined with an extreme and often grotesque sartorial eccentricity to produce something utterly unique, and it spread like a raging inferno, deep into suburbia from its London axis, and so to other major British and international cities.
If by the end of the year I'd been caught up in Punk like thousands of others, at first I was relatively unmoved by it all. I preferred what could be called the trendy London club look, whose key elements included floppy college boy wedge, straight leg jeans or slacks, winklepicker shoes or boots, and baggy shirt worn with small collar archly upturned often over a plain white T-shirt.
Having recently renewed friendly relations with my old Welbourne buddies, I began attending a lengthy series of parties in various part of fashionable West and Central London as one after the other of them hit 21. Of them all, I was perhaps closest with Chris who shared my passion for the London party life and clubs filled to the brim with the fashionable and the beautiful.
Together we set about attuning our tired old images to what we saw as the coolest look of the day. Shortly after the start of the year, I'd purchased my first pair of winklepickers which was an essential acquisition for any self-respecting trendy. They were cream-coloured lace-ups if I'm not mistaken. I went on to acquire something of a collection of them for myself, including black shoes with sidebuckles, imitation crocodile skin shoes with squared off toes, and black Chelsea-style boots, all painfully pointed. By the spring of '78 or thereabouts I think I'd junked the lot as a means of sparing my poor feet.
This trendy London look might have been confused by some with Punk. For certainly like Punk it was adopted in reaction to the once ubiquitous hippie look, but it was married to a love of Soul music rather than primitive three-chord Rock. It was common among working class Soul Boys, although I was not to discover this until later in the year when I started hanging out at the Woodville Hall in Gravesend, Kent, while at Merchant Navy college in nearby Greenhithe. Through one of the guys at college I found out about the Global Village night club under the Arches near Charing Cross. The Global in '77 was something of a magnet for working class kids from various London suburbs who favoured the Soul Boy look which then consisted of such elements as the wedge haircut, often streaked with a variety of tints, brightly coloured peg-top trousers, and winklepickers, or beach sandals.
When the Soul Boy wedge was married to a passion for European designer sports clothing, it mutated into the so-called Casual style which exploded in the late '70s and early '80s on the football terraces, first allegedly in Liverpool, and then nationally, going on to influence a passion for casual sporting attire on the part of the youth of Britain and beyond that persists to this day. For the greater part of '77, it was the Soul Boy look I aspired to rather than that of Punk, although I started to flirt with Punk once I'd become aware of the monstrous vagaries of attire that were regularly on display on Chelsea's Kings Road and elsewhere in the early part of the year.
By the summer, I was starting to as much resemble a Punk as a Soul Boy, squandering my youth like a profligate in night clubs and bars in Palamos on Spain's Costa Brava, while working by day as a sailing instructor. After a few weeks I lost my job, but stayed on for a time on a caravan site to pretty well just enjoy myself, notably at the disco where I spent many a night, with Donna Summer's A Love Trilogy a very special favourite.
Yes, I would have made a good professional playboy...but what I really wanted to be was an acting sensation such as charismatic wunderkind Peter Firth, who like fellow golden boy Gerry Sundquist was a Northerner who found success on the West End stage in the mid-1970s; although Firth had also been a child star. While in '77, he was the quintessence of the beautiful young actor of infinite promise. And if not an actor, then a Rock star...I just wanted to be famous.
Hardly a Wunderkind
In that selfsame year I was still ill-equipped for my ambitions, given that few if any actors become truly successful on the strength of their looks alone, which is surely why there are so many more pulchritudinous male models than actors. I had not yet appeared in a single play, except a handful at Welbourne which had provoked more hilarity than praise. My roles there consisted of two elderly women, a beauty with Mia Farrow hair conducting some kind of illicit liaison as I recall, and a posturing psychopath called Alec, this in The Rats, a little known Agatha Christie one act play. In short, I was hardly a National Youth Theatre wonder kid. I had written a few songs, but my guitar playing was yet threadbare and weak, even though I already had a good baritone singing voice. My future positively glittered before me.
An Evanescent Friendship
I underwent my final RNR voyage, destination Ostend in Belgium, towards the end of the summer of 1977. My best RNR pal Lofty was sadly not on board, but other friends were, among them, Damon, a tall and elegant red-haired man a little in appearance as I recall like the charismatic British actor Edward Fox, with a trace perhaps of Damian Lewis. If Lofty was of the type of the warm, bluff working class Londoner, then Damon appeared to be every inch the classic English gentleman, although altogether without coldness, being in his own way as warm as Lofty.
His family background was almost inconceivably tragic, and his soft and courtly manners masked a troubled inner life which he kept almost entirely to himself, as well as considerable physical courage. Yet I can imagine that back in '77 there must have been those who wondered why two such apparently educated sorts as Damon and I chose to serve as Ordinary Seamen.
I'm thinking in particular of some of the young guys of a certain RNR Division liaising with us to and from the port of Ostend in Flanders, Belgium. There was one incident I can recall quite clearly now when some of these feisty kids were grouping in an Ostend street intent on defending their honour for some wrong committed against them by some local youths. Damon and I made it clear that we had no intention of taking part, with the result that one of their number, a waiflike young salt of about 16 or 17, previously a pal of ours, turned to look at us with a look of sheer uncomprehending contempt on his beardless face and uttered: “What's wrong with youse guys?”, before dashing headlong into the melee. He was of course, implying that we were deficient in courage and manliness, but as I've already stated, Damon was the least cowardly of men. Moreover, according to what I observed and what he himself told me, he was more thanaveragelysuccessful with the opposite sex. Yet, for his own reasons he chose to conceal his extreme personal toughness beneath a display of aristocratic refinement and reserve. While I was no less robustly heterosexual than he, I did not share the inner fortitude which would eventually see him assuming the uniform and calling of a naval officer. It had of course been his destiny all along. But not mine. My tenure with the Thames Division, RNR came to an end in late 1977 with an incredibly positive character report. However, I would never wear a military uniform again.