The weekend was a great deal of fun.
On Sunday I went hiking in Ojai with Anna and her friend Marge. We found a wonderful trail by the Matiliga creek and hopped from boulder to boulder along the river bed. It was extraordinary to see how the Little Dog learned to negotiate what at first perplexed him. The first time we crossed the river he waded through the water, the second time he followed me jumping over the rocks, the third he found his own path, from then on he would guide me.
We explored the town of Ojai which is pleasant enough although a little heavy with craft/art shops and white people. We counted only two black faces. No Asians, no Indians, no Afro-Caribbean. Just white, hippy looking rich people.
Had lunch at Farmer and the Cook as per Jen’s recommendation. A shack on El Roblar Drive which reminded me of The Goods Shed in Canterbury. The Mexican food was a little bland but the produce looked spectacular. The staff were lovely. Big crush on Brandon the red-head,
To tell you the truth, I am not a great fan of Mexican food. It is always so stodgy but, I suppose, good pre hike fuel.
On Monday I stayed with the Piettes and my God Daughter Lily. We attended the Malibou Mountain Club soft ball match. I looked after the children whilst Jason played soft ball. Jennifer had her Out of The Box orders to attend to. It was a simple and lovely day.
The twins picked me up late last night.
You know how much I love Whitstable? That would be one of my ‘weak tea‘ successes: my relationship with Whitstable.
I love it there. I know everyone. We really know each other. For good and for bad.
Well, today I received some very, very sad news. My Mother’s friend Carol who owns the Tudor Tea Rooms on Harbour Street…well..and this is terrible…her son Tony died.
Known affectionately as Wally to everyone who knew him, he was only 40 years old, tall, gentle, ran his mother’s business with aplomb.
When you order a pot of tea at The Tudor Tea Rooms you get a pot of tea made with loose tea and a strainer. Quality.
We used to say that they served school dinners at the Tudor but we loved going in there. Fire burning in the hearth all winter. Closed on a Wednesday. Real steak and kidney pudding with a thick suet crust.
Wally was killed during the day on the train tracks at the end of Glebe Way. Struck by the coast-bound 11.22am Victoria to Ramsgate train just before 1pm. I have no idea if he committed suicide or not. That’s what people are saying but I really don’t want to believe it.
He was such a nice man. Wally and his sister Sue had run that Tudor Tea Room since they were kids. Since we were all kids. Serving Steak and Kidney Pudding…opening the tea garden. He was the sort of bloke you’d see in Prezzo Pizza Place with his young family.
As every Whitstable pub and every other shop front became yet another super chic gastro pub or seasonal/organic eaterie…the Tudor kept the same decor, the same menu, serving the same Whitstable us who didn’t want the bother of seared scallops or poached samphire.
My Mother and I saw Wally just a few weeks ago when I was home for Christmas. He served us a good old-fashioned English roast. My mother mocked me for drinking tea with my lunch…like ‘some one from a council house‘ she said.
He stood at the till and asked after my life in LA. I felt embarrassed to tell him what my life was like in California. What he didn’t know…what he could never have known…was what I was thinking that cold December day a week before Christmas: that I would have quite easily traded my life in Malibu for a chance at running the Tudor Tea Rooms.
From where I was standing…his life looked perfect.
Poached eggs on toast. Every day.
My mother accidentally pushed Peter Cushing off his bike one day when she was getting off the bus from Canterbury.
Anyway, Wally was killed on the railway lines. The third person killed in the same spot in less than two months. What’s happening? What a waste of a good life, a sweet family man. I feel for his wife and children, his sister Sue and his lovely mum Carol.
If you get the chance listen to this Jellybotty’s track, Peter Cushing Lives in Whitstable.
It mentions the Tudor Tea Rooms.
My father was his hero. His description of Kuros almost perfectly matches how I have heard myself described. He cut quite a dash, he was impeccably dressed and when he entered a room people took notice, he could also be very, very bad-tempered.
Not many people have very nice things to say about my father. My mother, his business colleagues, some of my brothers and sisters and their mothers all of them seem a little too ready to condemn him yet, strangely, I am not. Even though he wanted nothing to do with me and treated my Mother very badly I am still willing to forgive him. It is touching that he had such a profoundly positive effect on Sebastian.
We are without doubt very similar in temperament but unlike when I die…when he died he died very, very rich.
He was without doubt a colourful/controversial figure.
Sebastian’s father owned a restaurant in London where my father met all of his wives. I still don’t know a great deal about him but I know for sure that his second wife disappeared one night with her children never to see him again. I know that his third wife had a terrible time with his temper and cavorting. I know that he loved backgammon and opium. I have been told, although these might be myths, that he was thrown out of a second floor window by the notorious gangster Kray twins causing him to have a life long limp? That he wrapped a sports car around a lamp-post severely damaging his eye? That he was implicated in a massive robbery but never formally charged?
He certainly owned a restaurant and an antique shop and his big break came when he met a profligate Saudi Prince who bought everything my father could lay his hands on and sold to the Prince at exorbitant prices.
Isn’t it odd that whilst he owned an antique shop in London (only feet away from where I would one day live with JBC) I was trawling through the antique/junk shops in Whitstable and Canterbury. That his restaurant was only a block away from where I would settle with Phil. That we may very well have passed each other in the street and never known who one another was.
I met a man on the train to Shrewsbury I was convinced was my father.
He was not my father.
I felt as if I were not allowed to ask Sebastian questions about my father, as if the topic were still off-limits, disallowed, forbidden. There is still a huge amount of shame surrounding his name. As if even the barest mention of him a terrible catastrophe would somehow happen.
Yet, there is nothing more I need to know about him. I know that I am his son, that we are cut from the same cloth and that it scares me to hear about him because in some way I am forced to accept my own flaws/defects/shortcomings.
That, my friends, is incredibly uncomfortable.
My father died in 1998 of pancreatic cancer. I never met him although I feel as I have. A protracted and messy financial battle ensued after his death. There are all sorts of stories about who stole what from whom but my four younger siblings seemed to do OK. He left at least 8 children behind, two ex-wives (did he ever bother getting a divorce from any of them?) and a widow.
It was a pleasure discussing him with Sebastian because Sebastian has fond memories and…I believe him.
Perhaps I should not have eaten so much cheese at the Mercantile? My grandmother Margie who died last year often warned me that too much cheese before bedtime causes nightmares.
My chest tightened. My heart beat faster. My mouth dried. I tried to sleep. I could not sleep. I could no longer employ any one of the very many coping skills I had learned during the past 13 years when the panic comes. I lay down in fear. I woke at dawn with the dawn chorus. Not birds in the palm trees outside my window but to a miserable conference of those self hating voices that used to wake me every day of my life. These episodes are so rare nowadays that when they come upon me I get very scared..terrified.
These are the lies I tell myself:
“Being in love tends to make one feel vulnerable and foolish…and, as we all know, there’s no fool like an old fool.”
“I know that I am loved. I believe it. I know that I can love. But, when more is required-what then? You got to give the man hope.”
I suddenly felt, I suddenly knew, I was being lied to. I was convinced.
I said, “I became aware. More was revealed. You can’t con a conman.”
I felt violently sick, I began to dry heave: I said out loud, “My desire for authenticity isn’t being honored.”
The voice I heard was a child’s voice. He said,
“I understand that it takes a very long time to acquaint yourself with the truth; when a lie comes so easily to your lips. When a lie is easier than the truth, when deception is in your nature then rigorous honesty is something to be feared.”
I said, “But I had had to train myself to be honest.”
When I tried to defend myself the child impersonated my very own voice.
“I am sick of making excuses. I am sick of trying to see it from the other side when my side of things is simply ignored. I am tired of supporting and encouraging and making excuses when it turns out-I am the object of deception and not affection.”
I said, “When the other changes before your very eyes?”
The child laughed out loud and wanted to know who exactly I was kidding.
“I don’t take drugs, I don’t drink, I try and tell the truth, I don’t act out sexually…therefore I never have a day off from myself. I am always here, present, in my own body. I never have an excuse for bad behavior. Ever.”
I could hear other children, laughing..at me.
“When you drink and you take drugs and you look at pornography you are taking time off from yourself. I would love to do that-take time off from myself.”
By being present 24 hours of every day for nearly 13 years I thought that I had evolved.
Remember that stuff I wrote about self-love? That the choices I made had to reflect the respect I had for myself?
The first gay men I ever saw in film were Farnsworth and his boy friend being thrown out of their high rise apartment windows, begging for their lives, by the FBI in The Man who Fell to earth. I must have been 13 years old. I watched it with Linda my house mother from school, Canterbury. She vomited on me after seeing the film.
That’s what’s going on.
So, what’s it all about?