Posted by: Michael Holliday | April 13, 2012

Te Deum

Martin Sheen hangin' in Port Talbot

Les Mis. certainly lived up to its title – everybody dies, most upsetting. But it was clever stuff, worthy of Sondheim, the cast (all students aged seventeen or eighteen) were excellent and there were some catchy tunes; I particularly enjoyed the snappily lyriced, jolly drinking song Master of the House[1]as a bit of light relief – I’m still humming it. I’ve also enjoyed lazy Sunday afternoon jazz at Harry’s Place and a Recorder Ensemble lunchtime recital at the local church, charmingly pleasant, never knew there were so many types of recorder including the great bass – the biggest peppermill you ever did see, but I prefer the didgeridoo.Now when I was a little idler Good Friday was a total misnomer, it was an awful day: church both before and after breakfast and again before supper, the Te Deum and total tedium. It didn’t get much better when I swopped the church for the pub, for our then ridiculous licensing laws classed the day as a Sunday meaning that permitted hours were from noon till two and from seven till ten-thirty only, clubs had to close by midnight; puritanical or what? So it was a most naughty Michael that, last Friday after an earlybird swim, spoiled himself with a nine o’clock Wetherpoons’ large veggie breakfast and a couple of  pints. I was then dragged off to a church of consumerism (Bicester shopping village) and got bored watching people queue up to buy high-end branded and overpriced threads, tat and trinkets with a 10 or 20% discount.

For respite, I popped into Bicester itself – run down like Hinckley and obviously seen better days. And it was off to an outlaw gathering in Eynsham – good grub, conversation and fizz before a late night pub crawl. The next morning saw us all in Witney (Posh Boy Dave’s pretty posh constituency) and their fancy Wetherspoon’s for another large veggie breakfast and beer – shocking. Then a tour of the fairly cool town and off home via Banbury it too, like Hinckley, run down and obviously seen better days. On Sunday night I watched one of my fave films: Strictly Ballroom followed by a very moving Passion by Martin Sheen which was filmed live last year over the Easter weekend  in Port Talbot, good to see that someone felt it to be about more than chocolate eggs and bunnies. Talking of TV, I saw Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel the other night, a magnificently obscure statement on upper class morality in a time of enforced total tedium, naturally ending in a Te Deum.

A good friend of mine recently mentioned my old diaries (I’ve a full set dating back to the seventies, man) and it got me thinking of the time that we first met: when I turned up on her doorstep in Clacton on the 24th August 1980. We’d been writing to each other since early  July when she’d replied strangely to a strange ad. I’d put in a strange mag – I was bored and desperate to escape from a most uncomfortable period of my life. We became great friends and continue to write, albeit far less frequently these days – I blame technology (we’ll always have Facebook) or perhaps it’s that we’re both more settled. I’ve just been rereading those letters, some fifty between 1980 and 1982 alone, and have been totally bombarded with memories and the picture of a naive, precocious and pretentious, cold but sharply dressed, little boy. Uhm… It’s been a moving experience and one of the best reads I’ve had, or am ever likely to have – ‘cos it’s mostly about me? And it got me thinking, what should I do with those letters? Publish? Burn? Return? Or put them back in the filing cabinet for another thirty years?

After chatting about Tibet and my next trip, another friend of mine gave me a copy of T

Ignore the last few chapters

Lobsang Rama’s The Third Eye. This book, first published 1956, formed my earliest picture of that fascinating country and, despite the fact that Rama was reported to be a fraud[2], gives a good introduction to Tibet and its culture – just ignore the last few chapters which sound total bollocks – but, whilst starved of oxygen, I too feared the Yeti up in the Himalayas[3]. Om Mani Padme Hum. I’ve also read Anthony Powell’s final novel: The Fisher King, not up the standard of his magnificent A Dance to The Music of Time[4] series, I use the title of one of those books to explain the state of every house I’ve ever lived in: Books do Furnish a Room. So there.Anyway, gotta’ go – off to Leamington and then to celebrate mighty Moseley’s Championship survival

[1] An example:

Master of the house? Isn’t worth me spit!
`Comforter, philosopher’ and lifelong shit!
Cunning little brain, regular Voltaire
Thinks he’s quite a lover but there’s not much there
What a cruel trick of nature landed me with such a louse
God knows how I’ve lasted living with this bastard in the house!

[2]Heinrich Harrer was unconvinced about the book’s origins and hired a private detective from Liverpool named Clifford Burgess to investigate Rampa. The findings of Burgess’ investigation were published in the Daily Mail in February 1958. It was reported that the author of the book was a man named Cyril Henry Hoskin, who had been born in Plympton, Devon in 1910 and was the son of a plumber. Hoskin had never been to Tibet and spoke no Tibetan. In 1948, he had legally changed his name to Carl Kuon Suo before adopting the name Lobsang Rampa’. I pinched this from Wikipedia, the debate about Rampa continues.

[3] I wrote of this and much more in an account of my travels of 2007, which is still available @

[4] ‘This twelve-volume sequence traces a colorful group of English acquaintances across a span of many years from 1914 to 1971. The slowly developing narrative centers around life’s poignant encounters between friends and lovers who later drift apart and yet keep reencountering each other over numerous unfolding decades as they move through the vicissitudes of marriage, work, aging, and ultimately death. Until the last three volumes, the next standard excitements of old-fashioned plots (What will happen next? Will x marry y? Will y murder z?) seem far less important than time’s slow reshuffling of friends, acquaintances, and lovers in intricate human arabesques.’

[Robert L Selig; Time and Anthony Powell, A Critical Study]

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