Friday, 23 December 2016

Season of Good Will?

Last week, at around 11.30pm, a neighbour in my tenement block made it to but not through her front door. She’d got into the close, but was slumped in the stairwell; the remnants of the Office Party were regurgitated over the bottom step. I felt uncomfortable about dealing with this young woman who I didn’t recognise, but luckily an upstairs-neighbour arrived.

“Oh dear,” we both said to each other. My neighbour prodded the woman into consciousness, and we ascertained that she stayed in the flat opposite. We extrapolated keys from her. After getting the woman through her front door, my neighbour went up to her own flat leaving me to deal with the leftovers. “Do you have bleach?” she checked.

“I have bleach.” I assured her, and set about boiling a kettle and sourcing a mop. Half an hour later, having shovelled what amounted to barely-digested bruschetta swimming in prosecco into a plastic bag, doused the steps in bleach and boiling water, swept, scrubbed and mopped the whole ground floor, I felt an odd mixture of irritation and  self-satisfaction.

The following morning, the upstairs-neighbour emailed me to say what a good job I’d done. “I hope she's not feeling too rough this morning,” she wrote, adding, “I'd be mortified!” Of course, she may not remember a thing about it. I was not expecting a thank-you from her, for either or both of those reasons. My work-colleagues had a different take on the incident.

“You should send her the bill,” they said: “Labour, equipment, anti-social hours – charge her double.” Oh, please. How miserable and selfish, to respond with base greed after having helped someone in need. I don’t care whose fault it was that she’d over-indulged at the Office Party (except that I suspect her colleagues cared less for her safe journey home.)

The so-called ‘season of good will’ brings out the worst in people.

When someone is in a mess, no matter what the reason, no matter what they’ve done, no matter who they are or where they’re from, if you fail or neglect to help them it makes you the weaker person. Compassion is not a quid pro quo arrangement either. It is simply shows the Golden Rule, to treat others as you expect to be treated yourself. If you only help others expecting a reward, you shouldn’t hope for charity in return when you are down or out.

In my youth, I was scraped up from the pavement in a state of inebriation on two occasions. Once, by the Met Police who took me to Paddington (not the train station) for the night; another, when I was 17, by a neighbour who took me to hospital and called my parents. They were firmly instructed not to give me a hard time over it. One of the nurses knew who I was, and was telling everyone, “Oh, but he’s got such a beautiful singing voice.”

Neither my voice nor I felt beautiful for a day or two. My parents never got to the bottom of why this drunken spree was a cry for help... but at least they didn’t punish me.

During this festive period, whether you helped the homeless or supported refugees, visited someone in prison or hospital, or spent time with friends, family, or insufferable relatives, was it out of compassion alone? You won’t be rewarded in heaven: there’s no such place. On earth, you only have one chance to do Good. And if you fuck it up, let’s hope someone will hear your cry for help and come to your aid – even if just to mop up the detritus.

Meanwhile, here’s a piece of doggerel about doing good deeds... and some of the modern martyrs on the front of Westminster Abbey.

Saints for a Day; Martyrs for What Cause?

Sometimes I wonder if the sanctity
of Saints is best remembered
among more secular hagiography,
rather than for what they did.

In January, Saint Kentigern is celebrated.
Better known in Scotland as Saint Mungo,
since his beloved relics are now consecrated,
buried below his own cathedral in Glasgow.

Saint Valentine is patron of love and romance –
though proving this connection’s pretty hard.
Yet retailers of tat snap up the main chance:
If you love someone, why not buy them a card?

Saint David, likewise, is popular with florists
and vendors of leeks. But who’d have thought a
country would commemorate, by getting pissed,
a man who lived off vegetables and water?

The Irish, on the other hand, have quite a lot
to thank Saint Patrick for, not least, explaining
impossible doctrines with a three-leaf shamrock:
Now that makes Guinness worth draining.

England’s megalomartyr of Gregorian Sacramentory,
George, slayed what didn’t exist in the first place.
That dragon, like most legends, was imaginary  –
the English really are an inventive race.

Saint Andrew, an Apostle, became a fisher of men.
But, as a Martyr, was crucified askance;
his grisly saltire now turned national emblem
allows us Scots to celebrate his death with dance.

Saint Nicolas – now also known as Santa Clause –
has become a patron for the spendthrift greedy.
But he used his bags of gold for a good cause,
to rescue the destitute, pickled, and needy.

Illuminating Lucy with her candlelit corona
lends to Sweden’s darkest day a lurid light:
This stubborn virgin takes on the persona
of a girl with cinnamon buns, dressed in white.

King Wenceslas looked out on Boxing Day
for the feast of Stephen who was stoned.
Not that sort... people are still stoned today
for acts that don’t need to be condoned.

Ever since Mary Magdalene was pardoned
by the man who said: let the one without sin
cast the first stone, men’s hearts hardened
against justice, equality, liberty and pacifism.

Two millennia later, another set of martyrs
came to challenge those who judge, condemn
or silence: here’s a handful, just for starters;
none were ordinary women, nor ordinary men.

A Grand Duchess called Elizabeth, in the grips
of Tzarist Russia, sold her opulent possessions
to care for the poor. Unfortunately the Bolshviks
took care of her through state-endorsed execution.

In 1940s Auschwitz, among the genocide of Jews,
a priest called Maximilian Kolbe gave his own life,
not for the sake of his religious influence or views,
but for another man’s life: a selfless sacrifice.

Manche Masemola, of the Transvaal Pedi Tribe
refused to marry for any other reason than love.
Her parents brutally killed her and dared to ascribe
their motive to her belief in a God above.

Another, placing grace above religious ideology,
Bonhoeffer, daring to stand against the state
of Nazi rule with a seemingly simple theology –
The Church exists only for others – met his fate.

And how to precis Romero’s state-led execution
In a quatrain? In a country led by corruption and lies,
He was a catalyst for moral prophecy: a notion
to which our ‘post-truth’ culture may become wise.

A woman known as Esther John turned her back
On her homeland to teach other women to read.
But her folks disagreed with her mission, tracked
her down, murdered her as she lay in her bed.

Martin Luther King Jnr refused to keep silence
in the face of oppression and racial segregation.
Challenging the existing order with non-violence,
His birthday’s now an annual, national celebration.

Yes, there are many modern saints and martyrs
Who have died defending basic human rights.
They may not feature in liturgical calendars,
But remember them as you turn on your Christmas 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Childless by Choice

Last week, I was in a short documentary about sperm donation. Regular readers of this blog, and those who know me well, will be aware of the irony behind this. A few years ago I found myself to have been an unwitting, involuntary donor of sorts. Whether anything ‘came’ of this, I’ll never know.
Some time ago I was engaging in pub-chat when someone asked the question, apropos of nothing in particular: “What do you regret most about your life?” A carefully-worded question that somehow avoided the obvious reaction, to say what you regret having done, one friend answered with something he hadn’t done.

“What do I most regret?” He answered: “Easy. Not having children.”

As the conversation continued, we discovered that he and his wife had not been able to have children; adoption wasn’t an option for them, and sperm donation was inconceivable. Now in his fifties, it remains, and always will remain, an aching lacuna. Nothing we could do would placate him over this regret of absence.

I heard a similar tale on the radio recently when jazz pianist, Bill Evans, was the featured composer of the week. We heard the story that he and his partner, Elaine, were unable to have children. It seems that the problem lay with Elaine, so Evans left her for another, apparently fertile woman. His desire to procreate seemed more important than his commitment to love.

In fact, it overruled life itself: Elaine was so devastated by the situation that she threw herself under a train. When Evans’ new partner gave birth to a son, they named him after his father’s surname: Evan. He may have been the ‘Chopin of Jazz’ and a ‘Poet of the Piano.’ But he was also a selfish git.

On the flip-side, there are people who actively decide not to have children. I spoke to a couple of friends earlier this year who had sealed their commitment to one another with marriage, and their agreement not to procreate with an operation. Tying one knot, while snipping another cord!

It is easy enough to reverse a vasectomy, of course, but that’s a bold decision to make at the start of a life-partnership. For the record, I’m pretty sure that very few men, outwith a life-long relationship, would voluntarily vasectomise. This is why I greeted the question (following ‘that’ sexual encounter) if I had had ‘the operation’ with suspicion and surprise.

There is yet another side of this coin (since humans do not fit into a simple head-or-tails binary) for same-sex partners. Two men have no choice than to have children through a surrogate route, but for women in this situation, at least one of them may bear a child, having procured the means.


This documentary was a good-humoured look at the search for a suitable sperm-donor, which was not without difficulties. The film-maker and her partner who wanted to have a child described sperm-donors as being like flats: if you don’t snap them up, someone else will get there first. The voice-over was addressed to the unborn child, or perhaps, unfertilised seed, with some amusing lines... “Soon you will splash into our world.”

The key part of the film was to do with choosing the ‘right’ donor. The two women looked through hundreds of profiles, with only pictures of the donors as babies or infants to go on. In the hope of finding the perfect match they read details on personality, DNA profiles, and testimonies about the donors’ reasons for donating. It was not unlike certain dating websites.

My part in the film, with other random men, was to provide an infant picture, do a bit of voice-over, and have a bunch of close-up shots that formed a montage of possible donors. Seeing my ears far larger than they are in real life on the big screen of my favourite cinema was a scary thing! But it was, I suspect coincidentally, a defining factor.

How did the women choose? They agreed that you’d want the baby to look like you. They arbitrarily rejected an infant with a squint, and at one point – much to my amusement – cried out: “Check out those ears!” Another salient point was, “God forbid it has asthma.” My mother and I both suffered horrific asthma as children. It is not something I’d wish on any infant.

When I spoke to the film-maker after the screening, I told her that although it is focused on the LGBTQ+ community, the film had broader, universal themes. It raised questions about our desire to widen the gene-pool, the reasons to donate sperm, and a woman’s urge to create a life. Above all, it was a touching, personal journey about two women, living and loving.

In October this year, the NHS sperm bank in Birmingham closed due to lack of donors – only eight men came forward in the two years since being set up – and even one of those pulled out. Perhaps a Roman Catholic. I suspect his excuse was a limp one, yet a more serious issue lurks.

Since 2005, a change in law means that, on turning 18, people have the right to discover their natural father, which may explain the lack of donors. It is no longer anonymous, unless you donate to an unregistered service overseas, which is not without ethical issues.

Even a single woman can request IVF, although it seems a pretty bloody selfish thing, to bring a child into the world without any wish to give it two parents, no matter their gender. Children of single parents start asking questions as early as three years old, but I doubt the single mother’s answer will be, “Daddy was a convenient £950 transaction from a ‘bank’ in London.”
 The duplicitous person with whom I was in a fraudulent relationship told me that she had wanted to purchase sperm and bring up a child alone. I should have heard a warning bell, but – hey – ‘love’ is blind. Not that it was love. It was lust, and greed; theft and deception. She was callous and unhinged.

On our final tryst, days before I discovered the truth about her, we met (ominously) in a graveyard. She pressed her body into mine, saying, “I’m so sexually attracted to you,” then added, casually laughing, “We even look like each other!” She had clearly chosen me. Should I feel flattered?

Or should I feel used – and abused – for saving her the trouble of searching for a donor using the honest, difficult method told in the documentary. I suspect she and her fiancé – about whom I knew nothing – were exploring those very options; clearly, the problem wasn’t with her fertility.

As I’ve said many times, short of reverting to the Courts or Jeremy Kyle I’m unlikely to find out the truth. Without DNA proof, how would I know? One friend said to me, “Just by looking at the thing!” I suspect he was referring to my ears (scroll down for the ear-story...) but of course, I’m hardly likely ever to see this child.

Perhaps I should name-and-shame the parents? That would be retaliation; a petty reaction, stooping to their level. Their subsequent behaviour towards me has proven their complicity. The real victim in this is the child, for whom out of pity I ought to show compassion.

Whether or not I’ve been denied the right to be childless by choice, I still have integrity and dignity.


Thursday, 27 October 2016


Back in August, I was wandering along the path in London Road Gardens, running through one of the stories I’d memorised for the various Fringe performances I was giving. In my own (or characters’) little world, I passed by a bench where a bunch of lads were sitting. One of them called out, ‘Like your ears, pal.’ Knowing that my slightly protuberant ears can be a source of mirth to some, I thanked him and continued on my way.

Then I thought, no: sod it. I turned back and said, ‘Thanks for the “compliment.” I’ve been a musician for 25 years, so my ears have served me well, and in this way given pleasure to a great many people.’ He looked non-plussed. ‘Tell me,’ I asked him: ‘What part of your anatomy has given pleasure to many people; what bit of your body defines who and what you are?’

I think he got the joke, as he grinned. But before he was able to answer, I pointed at his crotch and cut him off. ‘I expect you’ll say, “my cock.” Which would be right, because that is exactly what you are.’  I walked off and, unlike Orpheus, knew not to look back as I resumed my inner monologue of imaginary people.

For years I eschewed the Welsh bit that makes up my DNA, but last year I wrote a poem for my mum (who perhaps feels her heritage is side-lined by the stronger pull towards the Scots that I have followed physically, or better put, geographically since I came to live in the land of my father.) Here then is the poem, dedicated to my mum on her birthday, which fell yesterday.

Welsh Ears
You get yours from the Welsh, my mother said.
It was a meagre consolation to
a boy, self-conscious and embarrassed, who
attempted to disguise protruding ears
behind a mop of fine white silky hair.
They stuck out as an easy target for
the other kids to flick or tease. For years
I blamed the Welsh for my deformity.
In time, I learned my other Celtic trait
was based on my ability to talk.
My god, those cousins, uncles, aunts knew how
to hold a conversation lasting hours!
My uncle, Howard, loved a good debate,
and Grandma prattled on about her state
of health, while cousin Bill would reminisce
about the good old days of male voice choirs.
And then l found I had another link to this
strange land of valleys, music, mines and sheep:
I could sing. Except, my voice was deep.
At least my musicality allowed
me to acknowledge that I could achieve
a skill to make my ears feel justly proud.
So with my new-found vocal aptitude,
attending a family funeral of some
relation (was it dear old Uncle Tom?)
for the singing of the final hymn
(Cwm Rhonda, I imagine) I joined in
with my young baritone, stentorian.
And as we left the crematorium
my ears, so sensitive, pricked up to hear
a lilting accent marvel at ‘that voice.’
I waited for the compliment to come,
but no: I was denied of such a thrill.
The voice they meant was my old cousin, Bill.
He was a tenor: naturally his tone
would overpower my adolescent baritone.
For once, I held my tongue. And being young
I hoped that age, experience, and time
would give me opportunity to hone
my hearing and my voice as only mine
and not a garrulous extension of
a heritage I never knew as home.
And now my brother’s daughter is in Wales,
learning music like a mother tongue,
but not because it comes from national pride,
genetics, education, or the blood
of those who came before. If this were true,
our progeny would be assured.  It hails
from something deep inside our heart or head
or gut – it makes no difference if our blood’s
from England, Scotland, Ireland or from Wales.
It isn’t what, it’s who we are. Yet so,
I wonder if my child would have Welsh ears.
I guess I’ll never know – or never hear.
Here's another poem, which is sort-of related... at least, it might be. When it comes to poetry, you’re allowed to question its pedigree. But when it comes to parents, it’s good to know who you’re related to.
In Years to Come
You kept it hidden from me; even so
I sensed it long before you knew.
My chief regret: I never saw you grow,
I never saw when you started to show;
never got to paint the nursery blue.
You kept it hidden from me; even so
you told me. Exactly why, I’ll never know.
Left to my imagination, naturally I grew
my chief regret: I never saw you grow.
My banishment from you, a heavy blow,
yet separated, still I felt a part of you:
you kept it hidden from me; even so
I suspected you would bloom and glow
and so as time ticked on, each day renewed
my chief regret: I never saw you grow
or got to choose a name but, even though
I had no choice, I saw it as a gift to you;
you kept it hidden from me, even so.
My chief regret: I never saw him grow.

Finally, a poem about death, or the legacy that we leave. Sometimes poems go on a journey, and this one - although written some years ago - seems to get dug out for perusal more often than most. In its published form, it is as it was written. But when I perform the poem live, I am at liberty to change the odd word. I'll take that liberty now. Answers on a postcard if you know which word has been altered.
(But first, a picture of a Welsh poet whose lines I steal from time to time, along with Joni Mitchell's!)

It’s not the dying that bothers me
but the death I want to get right.
I don’t want to be hit by a bullet or bus,
or slip peacefully away in the night.
I’d rather be surrounded by friends
and loved ones when it happens,
to cheer my achievements, clap
or commiserate, curse or bless,
forgive, or perhaps make amends.
To go gentle into that good night,
not greeted by the kiss of death
but the releasing caress of life laid on mine:
the inquisitive lips of the child I never knew;
intoxicating tongue of an un-savoured wine;
the familiar touch of a lover;
palliative hands of a nurse.
I don’t want a frog to wake me, or God,
a pope or a judge, a prince, a priest or worse –
I’ll leave all that shit to the living
to haply remember or haply forget.
When it comes I want to embrace death,
as the cherishing earth takes me, since that –
and these lines from time to time –
is all that I have, all that I leave
and, in dying, all that I’m giving.

All poems © J. A. Sutherland; picture credit, Paul Montague, © 2014

Friday, 30 September 2016

Laid Bare

It’s been over a month since the end of Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, and I’m still experiencing that ‘never again’ hangover feeling. This year was one of my most stressful festivals, but there were many worthwhile moments that leave me wondering if ‘never’ really means that.

One of my friends, who wrote and performed in her own play about homelessness, said to me after, “Why do we do this to ourselves?”
Good question!

Having produced, presented, and performed in two shows – one, a single-shot, the other, a 22-night run in a theatre, plus a bunch of one-off appearances – I was physically, financially and emotionally exhausted. 

As my friend put it, we “underestimate how vulnerable we make ourselves when producing our own every single way.”

I’ve been performing for many years, mostly as a musician, and I’ve also had my own work – words, and music – performed. In the past six or so years I’ve focussed on performing my writing, which has been a very different experience. In the last year, I’ve pushed myself well out of my depth.

A year ago, one of my photographs (from my sequence called Walking on the Water) appeared in an exhibition in an abandoned train tunnel: possibly the most ‘public’ exposure my art has had, outwith the internet (which is a nebulous measure of publicity, especially since no-one reads this blog anyway.)

Then the full set of photos, with the accompanying poems, was hung in an exhibition in a local Gallery. Although I have often performed Walking on the Water, and have exhibited the pamphlet with the photos at many art fairs and festivals, having my work on the walls of a fine art exhibition was a different thing.

I felt denuded, seeing people peer at my pictures and poems while I stood buy, watching them pocket the pamphlet (ignoring the £5 sign,) pondering over what they thought of my ‘art.’

It was like being back at Music College, at the student composer concerts, where we had to answer a barrage of questions and criticism after having our pieces performed. It took a thick-skinned student to take the Pontius Pilate approach and say, “What I have written, I have written.”

Composers, like playwrights, have to ‘let go’ of their baby if someone else is to perform the work. But writers, once the page is printed, have to live with whatever the public make of their published piece.

Art that is ‘live’ exists in a very different way, as I discovered at this exhibition. There was a strong emphasis (especially on the opening and closing nights) on ‘performance’ art, and on the quiet afternoons, when I assisted as an invigilator, the life-drawing sessions had an aura of serenity that transcended the vulnerability that I supposed the models might have felt.

Or was I projecting my own anxieties?

I was particularly struck by the work of one artist. Among the various portraits was a painting of herself, nude, aged 23 years minus 8 hours 17 minutes, and pictures of her friends, family, lovers, flatmates, each of which had a scribbled note underneath describing her relationship with that person. Intensely personal to the point of voyeurism. Yet this artist seemed to have no foibles over making herself vulnerable though her art.

Her part in the life drawing sessions and performance elements demonstrated how she was prepared to – literally and physically – bare all. This might have been an exhibition, but she was no exhibitionist. With this artist’s name being a semi-precious stone, I was inspired to write a poem based on all she gave to the exhibition, which was called, Shapes That Shift Desire.





You bare your soul.

   In every portrait that you paint

I see your face –

   not a physical reflection

   but a subtle illustration

through which you bare your soul.


You bare your life.

   As you share your relationships

on scribbled scraps

   beneath each drawing –

more than just a simple caption

   but, revealing with the action

of a surgeon’s knife, you bare your life.


You bare your body.

   You portray yourself but hours

and minutes prior to your turning 23;

   balancing maturity with this naïve

depiction of what you are about to be –

   or are already, possibly –

for now, you bare your body.


You bare your all.

   Wholly, fully comfortable, at one;

contented with the skin you’re in.

Let others take the shapes that shift

   desire or lust, envy or temptation:

you are a precious celebration

   of the ever-changing gem

whose coloured light, ephemeral,

   is captured and reflected

when you bare your all.


You bare your soul, your life,

   your body, and your art

– your all –

   and in doing so, you bare your art,

your body, and your life:

   you bare your soul.


Less than a year later, preparing to perform Walking on the Water for one of the shows I was producing in the New Town, the influence of Topaz – and various other artists – came into focus. A friend of mine (I’ll refer to her as ‘Rachel’) who had contributed to my Charlotte & The Charlatan project in more ways than one had expressed a desire to perform in our production. But with a twist.
She wanted to sing her songs naked.

This request wasn’t about exhibitionism either. Besides being a great singer-songwriter (her songs are open, honest, and sometimes, painful expressions of vulnerability) ‘Rachel’ is also an artist who uses naked self-portraiture to express what it is to be human, with all its flaws. She has performed her songs un-clothed before, so this was nothing new (to her.)

Yet I needed more reason, in the context of our show, to have a nude performer. I figured how my Walking on the Water sequence is based on statues of a naked man: the Antony Gormley statues that once stood in the Water of Leith. In one of the poems, a woman comes to view one of the statues every day, and one day, does something extraordinary.



LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back

Guilty of dust, and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.

                                    (George Herbert)


5.  Love Forbad

(Figure V - LEFT)



I called her Dawn –

although her name was Maudlin.

Every day she greeted me; 

as the morning-star twinkled

she sprinkled the waters

with the ointment of her eyes.

The wind whipped through her skirts,

making havoc of her hair.


I fixed my stare to where she stood,

up on the walkway by the railings,

lone voyeur to her solitary stance. 

She ebbed towards the bridge,

climbed over, picked along the nettled bank.


In the corner of my eye I saw her

stripping silently, slip into the silken stream,

then behind my back, draw nearer to me.

I asked myself: what is this thing I lack? 


I could hear the plop of pebbles

as her tears dropped in the pool;

the first stone, then another,

until my feet were blessed with

the precious unction of her heart,

the perfume of her penitence.


Wrapping her pale arms around my chest,

I felt her thighs lash like willow-switches

up against my legs, she pressed her soft breasts

into my unyielding frame; her long hair flicked

and wiped away the moisture from my eyes.


Still blind, I asked myself again:

was this the thing for which the Seraphim

stood guard, hard against the garden gate?

She drew back, no longer full of dust and sin.


So I invited ‘Rachel’ to re-enact this scene theatrically during my performance of the sequence, and after that, to come back on stage and perform a set of songs as she was, au naturel, as a natural segue. She agreed. After getting the go-ahead from the theatre, we spent a considerable amount of time discussing, interpreting, and rehearsing in preparation for the piece.

Being a late-night show, advertised as ‘containing nudity,’ there was a rowdy element at the rear of the auditorium. The show began with our host singing a song that we figured would be an appropriately thoughtful. After he introduced my act, I walked barefoot through the audience reciting the epilogue, aware there was an ‘atmosphere.’

When I sang the first part of the psalm that weaves though the sequence, in Gregorian plainchant, the ‘lads’ at the back began to giggle like silly school boys. Though fully focused on my performance,  I saw the guy from the sound-desk go up to them and say, “shut up, or fuck off.”

Since they were there for only one thing, they chose the former option. But they didn’t realise they were, unwittingly, immersed in what was happening on stage. My poetry was all about them. During the sequence, the narrator tells how he is abandoned and mocked; how he has to accept that his ‘self’ is more important than the shadows and reflections that surround him.


The central poem is about how repentance, love, forgiveness, and self-acceptance set you free. As I introduced the character, ‘Dawn’ (although her name was Maudlin) ‘Rachel’ walked out of the wings and, with our eyes fixed, she moved downstage, across the audience, then walked up behind my backed and stripped. After embracing me from behind as I continued reciting the poem, she then drifted silently off stage.

I completed the sequence with the final poem, about the way that, despite all the shit, we are all part of creation and are loved. I delivered the lines, I heard my maker’s voice, and he was pleased, right at those people who, because they didn’t know what to expect, or how to deal with their discomfort, had giggled like children.

It was one of the most daring, edgy, and engaging performances of spoken word that I have ever participated in. I suspect that the rabble at the back, nor the stunned audience at the front, had seen anything like it. Whatever they thought, I only hope that it did, indeed, make them think.

When ‘Rachel’ then came on stage with a guitar slung across her naked body, she performed the most intimate song-set imaginable. Despite her self-deprecating humour, I couldn’t have staged this without her intensely serious participation. Nor without the influence of Topaz and all other artists who dare to bare their all.

But more persuasive than anything else was a short video by David Bowie. Click on this link, and think...


Had I not seen this, I don’t think I would have dared to wade far deeper into the water than ever before. Walking on the Water may not be everyone’s sort of thing, but that doesn’t matter. I wrote it as much for myself as for those who see fit to judge and ridicule me, my work, and my life.

To return to my friend’s question, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” the answer, I think is this: Honesty. I have often cited “Art is a lie that helps us to understand the truth.” I could get into deeper waters by asking Pontius Pilate’s question, “What is Truth?” Instead, I’ll use his other famous line...

“What I have written, I have written.”

This is only a blog, but I must press the ‘publish’ button. Once the page is printed, you can make of it what you will.