William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Tuesday 5th January 2010 -- 10:00 pm
Woke up to even more snow this morning. We're in the middle of one of the longest and most newsworthy cold snaps for several years. 1995 was, apparently the last time anything of this severity occurred...'Snow on snow' as the old carol 'In The Bleak Midwinter' would have it.
Actually, now I come to think of it, that's one of my all-time favourite carols. A lovely melancholy melody and beautiful, poignant lyrics. It takes me right back to my earliest schooldays when I was a five-year old, wide-eyed, shy pupil at the Wakefield Academy, (also known, at that time, as 'The Collegiate School').
The school was located in a lovely old building known as 'The Orangery,' which was situated in Back Lane in Wakefield, just across from Westgate Station.
Westgate Station had a gothic clock tower then, with a face that seemed to me not unlike 'Big Ben' in London, ('though I'd never been to London and only had picture books to inform me).
Steam trains would huff and puff their way across the bridge and viaduct above the school's playground, leaving sooty clouds hanging in the frosty winter air.
'The Orangery,' even in December, looked more like a garden house than a school and the small grassy area at the front of the building was dotted with trees and bushes. (And ancient gravestones too as it was connected by a tunnel, running mysteriously under Back Lane, to the nearby Unitarian Chapel.)
Despite the architectural vandalism of modern-day Wakefield, The Orangery still stands,only slightly altered in outward appearance, although it is now used as a sort of arts centre.
I'm thankful that the building has been spared the heartless demolition that befell my later places of education: The Wakefield Tutorial School in Southgate, Saint John's Junior School in Kilby Street, Ings Road Secondary Modern School in Ings Road and Wakefield Art School off Wood Street have all long vanished from the city's architectural scene. The latter's demise is of particular regret to me as I spent four very happy years there when beatnik-dom gradually gave way to proto-psychedelia.
But 'The Collegiate School' is fondly remembered as my very first experience of formal education and I retain vivid images of my time there. We'd always sing carols in assembly at Christmas and if snow fell during lessons, the entire class would rush from our wooden desks to gaze excitedly through the tall windows at the swirling whiteness. Our tutors didn't seem to mind this disruption and seemed as eager as ourselves to witness the dancing snowflakes.
The school was a small, privately run establishment with very few pupils but there was a genteel, enlightened approach to teaching, (or so it seems to me now, looking back). Classes included ballet and music appreciation and, yes, I took the ballet classes in my stride and actually enjoyed them despite never being an athletic sort of child. I was far less fond of the physical education lessons though...Vaulting horses and rubber mats were destined to become objects of fear for me.
My parents were working class and lived on a council estate whereas the other pupils at the school came from what would now, I suppose, be considered an upper middle class background.
It must have been financially difficult for my parents to send me to a private school as the fees per term would have been almost beyond their modest reach.
I once asked my mother why they chose to send me there for my infant education instead of to an orthodox state school. She replied: "your father thought you were too sensitive to go to a state school and a private school seemed more suitable for your temperament."
It must have been in 1953 or thereabouts that I was a pupil there...
Now it's 2010 and we're living in the distant 'future' I once read about in the 'Eagle' comics my dad used to bring home for me every Friday night in the 1950's. Unfortunately, today's future has little in common with artist Frank Hampson's wonderful Dan Dare imaginings and I'm sure many post-war boys have felt disenchanted with the way things eventually turned out.
Nevertheless, snow remains snow, and it looks quietly beautiful from the windows of our house...the horizon and the sky blending together into a seamless frosty grey. Snow in the unfenced front garden flows uninterupted into the lane and the big field beyond. Charcoal trees and hedges, fading to feathery sketches as they recede into the distance. Silent, still, and minus 3 degrees.
Today we took down the Christmas decorations. A not insubstantial job as we always make an effort to ensure our home appears festive at this time of year and there are lots of trimmings around the house. This afternoon Emiko and I packed away the sparkling lights in the dining room, living room, kitchen, upstairs corridor, landing, and outside in the back garden. (Two sets strung like jewels across the branches of two fruit trees.)
We also stripped the Christmas tree of its garlands and baubles and tinsel and packed it all away until next year. Our Christmas tree is an artificial one that Emi and I bought when we first lived together in England, at a rented property in Gateforth, near Selby. Must be 15 years ago now. We've hung on to it for nostalgia's sake, although it's beginning to look its age.
Our collection of Christmas tree decorations, (or 'Wescelcups' as my mum used to call them in the 1950's), is rather special. Some beautiful items that will only increase in nostalgia value as the years go by, all chosen for their particular resonance with my own childhood Christmases. I guess they're potential heirlooms.
Taking them down and dismantling the tree brought back the faint sadness I used to feel as a young boy when '12th night' finally came around. Christmas seemed so magical then and its symbolic packing away left a void. Even throughout Christmas itself, all those distant years ago, I would feel stupidly sorry for the tiny Christmas lights that blinked on and off constantly. For some reason, I associated their intermittent flickering with an infinite, heartless succession of little deaths, as if the bulbs were somehow, cruelly, made to suffer by being switched on and off with such rapidity. Perhaps my father wasn't too shy of the mark with his notion that I was a 'sensitive boy!'
Today, I ventured away from the house only briefly. Risked the icy, snowy, slippy lane to drive to our local supermarket, intending to buy all-weather screenwash for the car but became wrapped up in conversation with Johnny Moo who happened to be shopping there too. (Johnny was monitor sound engineer on my 'Be Bop Deluxe And Beyond' 30th anniversary tour in 2004 and is a veteran crew member of several Nelsonica fan conventions.) I haven't seen him since Nelsonica 09 so we did a bit of catching up. By the time I got back to shopping, I'd forgotten several items I was supposed to buy and returned home only to slap my forehead in desperation when I realised how my memory had failed me. 'Senior moments,' I think these things are called...
Here's another memory lapse:
In my previous diary entry, I'd meant to mention a very generous Christmas gift given to Emi and myself by a certain fan. He didn't want his name revealing so I have no idea who he is, (he dealt with two good friends of mine to bring this about), but his gift was to arrange a pre-paid meal for Emiko and myself at one of our favourite restaurants, (in this instance, 'San Martino's' in Harrogate). Emi and I are really looking forward to enjoying his generous gift and will be arranging to go there soon...once the winter weather allows us to travel sensibly to Harrogate!
Whoever he is, we are both extremely grareful for his kindness and will raise a glass of thanks to our unknown benefactor when we dine at San Martino's!
Another loyal and generous fan sent me a wonderful seasonal gift of two books: 'The Hollywood Eye' by John Boorstin and 'Times Square Spectacular. Lighting up Broadway' by Darcy Tell.
In this instance, I know exactly who my benefactor was but won't mention his name here in case I cause him unwanted embarassment. Nevertheless, these books are not the first gifts he's sent me over recent years. This kind person has a knack of locating books and items for me that suit me to a 'T' and I'm extremely grateful for his thoughtfulness and generosity.
I've mentioned it before in my diary entries but I'm blessed with some extremely dedicated and kind fans. My website enables me to interact with them in ways that, in past years, would have not been possible. The internet, despite my aversion to aspects of it, has some benefits after all.
Soon, I must try to make some sonic marks on the digital hard drive recorder, here in my tiny, snow-bound music studio. I'm still wrapped up in the grey cotton-wool of winter though and have yet to muster the warm glow of inspiration. It will come, in its own time.
Meanwhile, I have two albums awaiting release from last year and artwork still to conceive for them. And time ticks on...
The images accompanying this diary entry are as follows:-
1: A view from a window of Nelson Acres.
2: A Japanese-styled area of Bill 'n' Emi's garden.
3: Kitchen window lights at Nelson Acres.
4: A potted bush by the front door.
5: Detail of Xmas tree in front room.
6: A view thru' a window of Castle Howard. (Pre-snow.)