I told myself, aged 5 or so: Ah well, everybody else seems so sure of things; I’ll just keep quiet about my needs. Which were – primarily – to be loved.

I remember once being at home, aged slightly older than was thought appropriate (maybe – gasp – 6!). I was tired and I wanted to be carried upstairs to bed. Whether I said ‘carry me, carry me’ or I had it said for me, ‘carry me, carry me’ became a joke at my expense. So I lay there on the floor downstairs, wailing, and everybody else went upstairs and ‘laughed’ about it.

And eventually I stopped crying, picked myself up, went upstairs and to bed.

So, that established a pattern – a pattern of not having emotional needs, which finally reached its conclusion in 2014 in the woods outside Mistley…

I had not less needs but MORE, after the stroke, and that was inadmissible.


Lexden Road

Had a sobering chat with a man on the bus up Lexden Road. He was homeless, living in a tent in Stanway. He was so depressed he’d pulled all his fingernails out. I’ve been depressed in my time but I’ve never done that. He was originally from Glasgow, had been in rehab in Plymouth and been resettled in Colchester because he had family here, he said. Whatever… It hadn’t been a great success. Evidently.

He was on universal credit, £250 a month, he said. Not a lot of people make me think: I’m glad I’m me.

But he did.

He said he was hungry. I gave him 16p in a Post Office see-thru plastic change bag – all I had in change. He took it, not gratefully but without complaining. Then a little while later he returned the empty change bag. You never know when it might come in handy.

Lindsay Anderson

Lots of his films are available on YouTube right now:
This Sporting Life (1963)
If…. (1968)
O Lucky Man! (1973)
Is That All There Is? (1992)

O Dreamland
Wham In China
The Whales Of August
Glory Glory

I’ve watched the 1st 4.
If…. 5*
This Sporting Life 4*
O Lucky Man! 2*
Is That All There Is? 2*

If…. still works exactly as if it had been made today (the cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek is particularly good). I’ve watched it recently with a 14yo and he loved it too. It’s like Harry Potter for him; for me, having been at Westminster only 9 years later, very real.

I 1st saw If…. when I was 14, an English teacher having told us to watch it (it was on the BBC). While I don’t think I was of a mass-murdering persuasion, I rehearsed in my mind the massacre at the end whenever (3 times a week) I came out of ‘Abbey’, down the cloisters. I would have been Johnny (David Wood); Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) would have been Tom Madge, the school rebel, who liked Millie Jackson at a time when we were just getting into New Wave, and who left Westminster to go to Pimlico for 6th form.

This Sporting Life is possibly the best British 1st feature ever made (tied with Sexy Beast?). Richard Harris is often criticised as being too Brando, but imagine if Brando had really been cast as Frank Machin, rugby league player? It would have been preposterous! So – at least in this film – Harris is so much better, surely? And Rachel Roberts is fantastic. But it is a bit long at 2 hours 14 minutes.

O Lucky Man has a few good bits but at 2 hours 58 minutes is MASSIVELY too long. Malcolm McDowell just grins his silly grin and Arthur Lowe wears blackface! Bizarrely, it gets 7.8 on IMDb while If…. gets 7.6! If anyone can explain this, please do.

I’ve also been reading Going Mad In Hollywood by David Sherwin, screenwriter of If…. An excellent and truthful If VERY depressing account of 30 years of scripting. What for? you may well ask. We have to do SOMETHING…

2 revelations: Jon Voight is barking mad; and Travis Bickle was named – Scorsese tells Sherwin – after Mick Travis.

Cy Endfield

I knew him as the director of Zulu, Sands Of The Kalahari and Hell Drivers, three of the best Stanley Baker movies. But Talking Pictures and Film On 4 together have increased my interest. Born 1914 Scranton PA. Died 1995 Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire. As interesting as Losey, as an American-born McCarthy-victim UK director (and South Africa). But MUCH MORE obscure. I didn’t even know what he looked like until just now, and I’ve never read a word of interview. (But I had a WHOLE BOOK of Conversations With Losey, until I gave it to Dermot…

I’d DEFINITELY recommend The Sound Of Fury (1950), a lynching tale that – if I’m right in taking he wanted an African-American protagonist, but was denied – would still be a talking point.

And of the UK titles, Child In The House (1956), Jet Storm (1959) and Mysterious Island (1961) are all worth sitting thru (MI has terrible SFX but a Bernard Herrmann score!).

Last but not least, I want to see The Underworld (1950), with Dan Duryea and – possibly – Universal Soldier (1972), with George Lazenby!

Football and Bjork

‘Football is a fertility festival. Eleven sperm trying to get into the egg. I feel sorry for the goalkeepeer.’

I remember Bjork saying that and it provoked thought. Imagine a village 5000 years ago: 50 ppl and a VERY LIMITED gene pool. You interbreed – not a great result in terms of the generations. Or the successful village is the one which goes out to other villages and gets its hands on other women. That was what the Rape of the Sabines was about, or any Viking raid.

As time went by, this becomes more of a ritual: a village team goes to an opposing village and plays a ritual game – football. The team who gets the most balls into the net – ie fertilises the most women – ‘wins’ and they’d take the allotted women back to marry and procreate. And the women are given a name which often shows what village they come from now.

This explains the ferocity of football fans’ feelings: the future of our village is at stake!

And it explains why the Women’s World Cup (specifically England v Scotland last night) was so poorly attended. Women are the GOAL, surely?

Memories of Northwick Park

At university I vaguely knew Matt Frei, later a Channel 4 newsreader. I saw him again in 2013 when I was on the 6th floor of Northwick Park Hospital having rehab for my stroke. I was sitting in my wheelchair, staring into space, when I saw him walk past in the corridor. In an example of what I came to know as ‘pre-stroke thinking’, I immediately thought: fancy that! Here of all places! I’ll find out what he’s doing…

And then – after a moment – I looked down and saw I was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t talk properly, either. In his job he’d met countless presidents and prime ministers, and he wouldn’t necessarily remember me – especially if I grunted. I stayed put.

He was coming to see a female colleague who was VERY angry. She couldn’t speak; she just SCREAMED. They’d put her in a room of her own with a nurse outside (whereas I was in a 4-person room). I saw her and her husband going for a walk in the corridor sometime later; he looked shellshocked, appalled – as my wife must have.

But at least I didn’t scream.


The Lakes was basically purgatory. You had to check in all leads to things like phones and iPods, in case you somehow hanged yourself. (It had once happened in the shower, a nice, northeastern nurse – also called John – told me. He played the guitar and wanted to do postgrad at Essex University, where my wife had just got work. He used to be in theatre, he said, with Toby Jones.) It was too much to think of going to reception (if that’s what they call it?) and waiting for them to raise the glass and glower at you as you said: can I have my lead? They had so many different ones… And I was so banjaxed with antidepressants, what would I listen to even if I had a lead?

But in purgatory there are a few bearable things. All the activities were basically no use for me: pottery needed 2 hands; a supervised walk in the woods, 2 legs. But the mindfulness course was ok – 15 minutes of listening to a tape, at 3.30 every afternoon. I’d done mindfulness before, pre stroke, trying to stop my brain overloading; now my brain had stopped altogether, so mindfulness was easy. It gave me a sort of satisfaction when everybody else, asked at the end whether it had worked, said: nah. For me it worked too well; I’d have done mindfulness till the cows came home…

But at 3.45 it was over.

There was a woman patient, about the same age as me, who always smiled at me and said: Doesn’t he look like James Blunt? The unintentional Botox-like effect of my right side freezing had a (sort of) compensation… She was always quite jolly but she was evidently pretending; she’d made umpteen suicide attempts.

A young woman cleaner from Eastern Europe used to look at me and half-smile, beneath her in-ear headphones, as she mopped the floor.

One patient with a shaved head looked alright. I wondered when he’d be going home. That’s when the problems start, he said. Neighbours! Playing music all night long… I asked him if he liked music. He said (and I always remember how specific he was): deep funk. I said: did he like Parliament? He’d never heard of them.

I could have asked about Funkadelic, but instead I ate my rice krispies.

I could either lie on my bed, walk around the courtyard (with the smokers) or watch tv. If I managed to get there alone, I’d put Film4 on – but inevitably someone would wander in and change it. My father had always liked ‘Allo ‘Allo, even in his non-dementia phase (along with M*A*S*H). I ended up watching a lot of it then, on UK Gold. I don’t know whether my father always liked ‘Allo ‘Allo or just liked it after he retired to a village in Suffolk. Herr Flick was a local celebrity and used to open the Barrel Fair on the green outside my parents’ house, complete with leather Gestapo mac. Real name (I’ve just found out): Richard Gibson.

Herr Flick! Such an 80s name…


My elder son was 64. My younger son, 37. My wife was 480. I was 510.

Counting months instead of years wasn’t a very good game but it kept the kids happy. (In those days I could do it in my head.) We’d rented Bruisyard Hall, a 12-bedroom house, for a week for my wife’s 40th birthday, which coincided with half term. But it rained every day, disappointing for May, and nobody got to sunbathe.

But it was better than my 40th birthday. We had a 6 month old and a 2 3/4 year old and we took a room at Ickworth House Hotel, nextdoor to the 18th-century rotunda. A photo in my phone wallet commemorates the day: my elder son leans in over the bed in foreground, while my younger, lying against a pillow, eats a specially made-present: just wrapping paper.

My wife just wanted to sleep.

⁃ Could you look after them in the afternoon? she said after lunch on my birthday.

Maybe it was just because I looked after them every morning that my heart sank. All day long, alone, as a special treat on my 40th? In that case, I probably said between gritted teeth, I’d probably have been better of going somewhere more suitable like Go Bananas!

As a ‘deal’, I got to look after the elder one; the younger one stayed in bed. We walked around the rotunda in the rain.

It was all an anticlimax after my 30th. On a weekend in Devon, we’d chanced upon Saunton Sands, where David Niven fell to earth in A Matter Of Life Or Death. At one end of the huge expanse of sand, on a cliff, was a huge Art Deco hotel. It was a bit faded – and that only added to the allure, in a Daughters Of Darkness sense. We filed it away and, on my 30th, drove down for a night of MDMA-fuelled ‘fine dining’ and f***ing.

My 50th, however, was bad. It was a Monday in November and 2 weeks earlier I’d been discharged from Northwick Park. I still had physiotherapy 5 days a week on the NHS. A few friends came – it was my first dinner in company since before the stroke. When more than one person talked at the same time, it was too much. Added to which was the fact that at lunchtime I’d had sex with my wife, to my pleasure and her enduring chagrin. I knew it wouldn’t happen again.

Ryan came because he was a good sport – but he didn’t bring his boyfriend. As soon as was polite, he caught the train back to London.