I was born in Scotland in 1954, the year the Bilderberg Group began their quiet and subtle machinations. My mother, was Lancashire-Irish-Scottish and loved rock climbing, singing and poetry. My father is a Yorkshireman, and was an engineer, an airman and longterm member of the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue service.
Being out on mountains in inclement weather was a normal part of life in my family, and I perversely longed for a book by the fire and being able to get some rest. The best of it, the very wildness itself was so full of indescribable presence, bringing all kinds of tumults within, the fabric of the soul addressed directly by the wind. Those who do not have some understanding of these things are capable of phenomenal destruction, as they are showing in the continuing onslaught of concrete and machine and chemical upon the earth.
As an armed forces family, we went here and there, either living in camp or finding somewhere nearby. In the first three years of my life we moved seven times, living in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, and luckily landing in Cyprus for the next four years. Hurrah. We rented a small bungalow on the Acropolis in Nicosia.
I remember lots of my blood in the sand after being stoned by my brother's friend for fun (a direct hit right between the eyebrows), and telling the truth when they said say "Six Greek boys did it." They didn't. I didn't say it. And there was that monk who's dark outline turned into a safe place when I was running away from the noise, and I drew barbed wire to remember how unexpected people can be.
But one of the best things about Cyprus was those nights when the mountain rescue team came round and we went to sleep to the sound of their laughter.
We moved to Salford one grey rainy day just before my seventh birthday. Then Cottesmore, a base for V-bombers, carriers of Britain's nuclear deterrent. My father was at that time a ground engineer on the Victor bombers. They remain a haunting presence, the thoughts that began to circumnavigate my understanding of the meaning of peace and the meaning of war, and all those prayers while the sound of aircraft roared through the night, their engines tested and tested. I remember the terror of the bomb and hedges full of fat hairy caterpillars.
After a false start with film and photography (too many bastards), I eventually (pausing to do this and that for several years) studied art at St Martins School of Art and West Surrey College of Art & Design, where I was pretty consistently failed and even marked down for plagiarism, having used the phrase "Guilty of innocence", as Kafka had before me. Well, it's the same old story.
I am the wrong kind of person, so I've been told, and find that saying the wrong thing comes naturally. Like many of my compatriots I find that we have been overtaken and are being crushed by a regime of spontaneity-defying bureaucracy that is smothering everything worthwhile like bindweed, and sapping our strength, coming between us and the natural light of the sun.
I live in a country famed for her eccentrics and freedom and justice, yet now pinned down on every side with forms to fill in and criteria to fulfil, while she fights beside the evil Emperor whose words are so insincere and whose clothes reek of blood. Well, we shall see how the fluctuations in the nature of matter play out this time.2009.
That was a long time ago, and I am still entirely out of step with the art world and most of the rest of things too, always pulled out of time by long thoughts and stares that open into the kind of daylight where words become insufficient and enchain .
Hamish's body was embalmed within a few hours of his death and placed in the coffin of a Dutch banker, sent to the Netherlands and entombed there. The eleven month struggle to find his body and persuade the authorities to give him back to his family, brought deep disillusionment with mechanisms of the state, and dismay at a peculiar lack of basic compassion and decency too many steps of the way and deep down. Except for Mr Dodoo, who seemed as naive as we were ourselves, and he was kind.
My father's website (he endorses none of my views), contains this account of the "rescue":
20. Day 7. Mr Mau Quoc Tan and five others left early, found wreckage at around 10.00. and stopped for lunch. Then Mr Mau Quoc Tan and one other ran back, reporting to the District Militia Unit, and SAR team at 16.30. Whether they were specifically ordered not to disturb the site, or were acting on their own initiative not to search for survivors at this stage, is not stated.
21. Day 8. Mr Mau Quoc Tan led the SAR team to the site, arriving at 14.00. They found one survivor. 1.16.1. According to the reports of the Criminology Institute it was not until 16.15., that on hearing a groaning, the survivor was found.
30 hours 15 minutes after the site was first reached.
3 to 5 days after the near location had been positively identified.
8 1/2 days after the witnessed crash.
On the day they were found the man on the phone from the Foreign Office told me that "two people have been removed from the wreckage". Not bodies, people. One of those people is alive to this day, a Dutch woman, the only survivor. It seems to me that my brother must have been the other 'person' still alive at that point, and that he died on the way down the mountain. This because it was a tropical climate and his body was embalmed within a few hours of his death. The pathologist told me about this swift embalming, immediately after he completed his examination of the body upon repatriation.
My father has fought for over 16 years to gain a proper understanding of the events, and been obliged to struggle mightily with obfuscations. Because of his work, the airport is no longer in use for such flights, having been most unsuitably situated, so that many aircraft and lives had been lost in that place.
The surprisingly nasty treatment we received from the Police Family Liaison Officer and other parties, caused a radical shift in my already shaken set of delusions about the way the world worked, and somethings fell apart again, rolling away, catching the light, so that I cannot forget they are there, winking at me in the corners. And that's another story.
After four years I wrote a poem "It was not a taser" about the policeman who's unexpected attitude woke me up to a very different world.. A few weeks ago I was at New Scotland Yard on my father's behalf, and I gave a copy of the poem to Lord Falconer. I wonder if he has read it.
It seems to me that the treatment I took so personally is meted out quite liberally to many of us. It undermines and crushes, and it really will not do.
12th May, 2009.
Years ago I was published in little magazines, and had a play on at the Lancaster Festival when I was seventeen. I worked in publishing and "the print", in small and insignificant roles. I deeply appreciate peace and solitude and am a reluctant and reclusive kind of nonconformist.