In days of yore, when I was young, I tried my hand at verse rather than prose. This was not a good idea. I do not have a poet’s sensibility, although I am not entirely sure what that means. I recall with fondness a handful of the verses I wrote. There was one in particular, in which I alleged that I was sitting in a room with massive shutters and had brilliantine in my hair, that nudges at my memory. Thirty years or more have passed since I wrote it. If I recall correctly, I was sitting in a room with massive shutters, and I did have brilliantine in my hair. But of course my recollections are all askew. I barely recall last week, let alone the early years of the Thatcher administration. It may be that the debaucheries of my Wilderness Years frazzled certain circuitry in my bonce. That would account for my imperfect memory.
Yet I know there were a few occasions when I slathered my hair in brilliantine, though I am no longer clear why I did so. One such occasion was New Year’s Day 1980, which I spent in a holiday cottage on the south coast owned by the parents of a friend of mine. This friend was a big-brained intellectual with an alarmingly high-pitched voice who went on to become a successful television producer of mindless tat. Even at that young age, he did not have enough hair on his head to slather it with brilliantine. He was prematurely bald. But I was not, and I had brilliantine in my hair.
Were there massive shutters in that holiday cottage? I do not remember any, but then I have never had much of a mind for architecture. This is a failing, akin to my failure as a poet, but I lose no sleep over it. I do not dream of a parallel world in which I roam through buildings spouting expert knowledge of them in rhyming couplets. Perhaps I would be a better person if I did. But I doubt it.
It has suddenly occurred to me that I posted that poem at Hooting Yard ten years ago. I mistakenly attributed it, then, to Dobson,
There were massive shutters in that room, and I had never left it. Ah, I had brilliantine in my hair. There were roses, there were lockets, I was lacking something, so unnerved – but for my hatred she’d’ve seen it, even eaten it, got it on her eyelash, crushed it, broken it, eked it out of someone’s purse or loved it, lusted after it. So here’s my signifier – you can read it, you can keep it. You’re so fucking thick you don’t even know what to do with it. Well … eyebrows, hair, my pastels, then breakfast and a lover. Oh come on, you must be guessing. Or maybe you’re just so fetching. I’m done with fleshing out my lying. My hair is in a tangle and I haven’t paid the rent. But I had brilliantine in my hair, and yours were better shutters. Damn it, I couldn’t even see your rubbish, but I had brilliantine in my hair.
What is all that about, apart from shutters and brilliantine? It sounds peevish to me. I note that, ten years ago, typing it out, I typed it as prose rather than verse. It makes little or no difference. Either way, it is a fragment of the past, of a different time, when I stood on a south coast beach on New Year’s Day and posed for a photograph, black and white, remembered but lost, with brilliantine in my hair.