Childhood and Coming Out

SUFFOLK

I was born on the last day of January 1965 just before the Aquarius New Moon at the end of the Chinese Year of the Wood Dragon, entering into this life as the late ’60s surge of revolutionary, evolutionary, Aquarian thinking was brewing in the world. Not that that cultural edge was particularly noticeable during my childhood in my home town, Stowmarket in mid Suffolk. I was brought up in a traditional, working class, small country town scenario, with a population of 10000 souls at that time. The town has grown to at least twice that half a century later.

My birth-mother had, from what I can work out, married my father, a dashing airman from the local RAF base, on the rebound after the tragic death of her first husband, the father of her first two sons – two half-brothers that I have never met. Before I was even born the new marriage had failed, and even more tragically my mother died in childbirth. I spent some 9 days in a hospital ward before going home with Rona and Norton, an adoption arranged privately by my birth-mother’s first husband’s father, who was a manager at the ICI Paints factory where Norton was a warehouseman and who at some point was the local town mayor. He knew that Rona and Norton were a childless couple who had already been active as foster parents. They were already in their late 30s and had been married almost a decade, living in a tiny cottage with no indoor bathroom on the magical Thorney Green just up the hill from the town in the village of Stowupland. They kept chickens and even a pig in the back yard, keeping themselves in touch with their own upbringing on farms in the east of the county in the 1930s-50s. Norton was a natural with animals, especially horses, who trusted him instinctively. He would help out with his friend’s horses at the annual Suffolk show and after retirement kept his own at a farm nearby, hooking it up to a carriage and taking pony-and-trap rides around the country lanes. He was also a skilled gardener, in touch with the simple rhythms and truths of nature. My adoptive parents were not at all religious, but I believe they both carried great natural wisdom, demonstrated by their calm acceptance of life’s challenges, including the many shocks and surprises I was to bring into the narrow scope of their country lives.

I attended the local comprehensive schools, and was a fairly shy, bright kid – an only child, used to being alone, but good at friendships, as I particularly discovered from the age of 16 when I began to mix with a more ‘trendy’ set of people from more middle class backgrounds, after three years of being a repressed, spotty, lanky, misfit teenager (which I can relate to the fact I was hiding my rising sexual desires). I was 16 in 1981, the year TV pop shows seemed suddenly full of queers: the New Romantics had arrived, with flamboyant clothes and haircuts. At that period I was going regularly to the Ipswich Gaumont to watch heavy metal bands. I saw some of the greats – Motorhead, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Girlschool, Saxon, Judas Priest – but almost overnight I dropped my interest in hard rock music, cut my long greasy hair, and began to listen to Marc Almond, Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran. It was to be another five years before I dared to venture out of the closet, but this step at 16 was an important one, preparing me for new social sets and leaving home. There were times that I wished a man would appear and whisk me off my feet, initiate me in the gay pleasures I was fantasising about, but he did not. It would take several years and tons of courage to come out.

chapter continues in the book….

FROM AIDS TO ETERNITY, published on Lulu.com ON SALE SOON

CAMBRIDGE

In the Spring of 1986, bleaching my hair white and shaving it short – flat top style – was my coming out statement, which came in the last few months of my time as a history student at Cambridge University, Churchill College. This modern science-focussed college only took a handful of students each year in arts subjects – I was one of only six historians in my year. History had proven to be my favourite subject at Stowmarket High School, and although certain teachers attempted to talk me into pursuing science A-levels (because of the work opportunities that would bring me) I had stuck to my guns and studied German and Pure Mathematics alongside it. The teachers wanted me to take 4 A levels, but I was already working out for myself that all this hard study and work-focus was overemphasised. For this I thank Marc Almond and Dave Ball, from whose musical work as Soft Cell I received clear warnings not to get sucked into a dull, repetitive, debt-ridden existence built around a working life. Their albums also sparked the interest of many of my generation in society’s hidden sexual underworld, which seemed to offer a potential alternative and escape from the mainstream monotonous rat race.

chapter continues in the book….

FROM AIDS TO ETERNITY, published on Lulu.com ON SALE SOON

LONDON AND BRISTOL

It had taken some time to get there, but I left Cambridge with a new sense of who I was and a keen excitement about what lay ahead. I spent that summer of 1986 living in a house share in south London, forming a lifelong friendship there with Hilary, one of the Chelmsford crew living at the house. I had a great summer getting to know London, especially the Bell pub in Kings Cross. I had a job as a runner with the film production company of Don Boyd and through that got to meet Derek Jarman and his creative crew, who were making a section of the film Aria at the time, a film that feature pop-video style visuals to operatic music. I would get to work more with Derek in the following years, after I had spent 1987-8 in Bristol on a post-graduate film production course. I appear briefly in the video Derek directed for the Pet Shop Boys’ song Rent.

chapter continues in the book….

FROM AIDS TO ETERNITY, published on Lulu.com ON SALE SOON

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