The Purifying Flame: A War Priests of Andrak Story

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The Sagas tells of the mysterious Apprentice and of his Masters from the illustrious College as they delve into ancient things best left forgotten. And now, Arnulf and his guardsmen must confront the dead and unravel the riddle of events they find befalling their homelands. There are other threads that entwine to tell this first volume in The Dead Sagas. In the south, death has come to Arnar from far across the seas. The townsfolk of the capital watch as death spreads amongst them, their only hope a plea to their gods to deliver them from a grisly demise. Meanwhile Bjorn, the famed huntsman, is sent out to find the truth of the rumours spreading throughout the towns of the frontier, rumours of disappearances, rumours of a beast.

But what he discovers is much more terrifying than he could have possibly imagined. This dark fantasy epic combines dark malign horror and epic fantasy adventure, as The Dead Sagas unfold in a world where honour and renown is all, where beasts and savages lurk in the wilderness, and where sword, axe and shield is all that stands between the living and the grasping hands of the dead. Lee C. Conley , July Prepare for a unique coming of age tale.

Highly recommended. Ayden finds himself held captive by his former friend, Phillip. Phillip believes Ayden holds the key to finding Ginger, his missing girlfriend. This shocking claim forces Ayden to revisit the adolescent world he shared with his older brother, Everett. It is a world where truth is uncertain and dreams and imagination blur with reality.

Everett insists Ayden possesses powers of clairvoyance and has the ability to conjure entities from his mind. As Everett pushes Ayden into increasingly darker territories, events turn deadly. Digging into this murky past, Ayden and Phillip awaken old demons they must face as they race to find Ginger. Where the Cats Will Not Follow is a strange journey into the mind of a troubled young man who may be delusional—or may in fact possess the extraordinary abilities he was believed to once hold. Does Ayden actually possess the ability to dream the future, or is his older brother, Everett, just a master of manipulation?

I wanted to capture the emotions of someone resisting the transition into adulthood so vehemently, so keen on staying in the past and attempting to relive it, that he is practically kicking and screaming against growing up. I recommend this website highly.

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Rosie Chapel. Circle of Books. Primary Menu. Tag : dark fantasy. But their strength wanes and evil spreads. A Word from the Author Children are missing. A Ritual of Bone by Lee C. Conley Know More Arnar is a land of warriors, its people as stalwart as the stones themselves. A Word from the Author Many threads entwine to tell this Saga, interweaving the tales of those who played their part in the search for answers and ultimately their fight for survival.

Conley , July Get It Amazon. Follow CircleofBooks. Latest Interview. Customer Reviews One of the greatest challenges writers face is making their books discoverable. It was a lucky day when Circle of Books found my books on twitter and began to promote them. I love the images that are created for books by Sandro. Thank you Circle of Books. Keep up the good work. I am happy to recommend their services for authors.

Tony Riches, Historical Fiction author. Circle of Books is very supportive of Indie authors. It is nice to have a place that welcomes you with open arms. I am thrilled to see my pages done so professionally on the site and even more excited to see my book and name making the rounds across social media.

Dad plays amateur-league football and enjoys a laugh, whereas Mother does neither, yet her glamor stops traffic whenever she walks me to school. Wolf-whistles follow us as we walk through Hulme, past the fastidious little BBC where Billy Fury and the Beatles have played, and past the Hulme Hippodrome where Mother will work for a while — a hall of theater cocktails and glamorous speculations. Around the flashy library, the cobbled streets of terraced houses are dark cabins with their lights out, with windows like eyes facing downwards, awaiting the chop.

Asphalt, dust and diesel fuel wrap around the dismal Victorian grandeur, for someone in a distant place has decided that this close-knit community must be dispersed, and that the wishes of the hard-working elderly, who would much rather remain where they have always been, must be ignored. Bonsal Close and Burchill Close are both encroaching, and Hulme is set to be re-made with curved Bath-style crescents, the like of which we puddle-doused pygmies are certain to enjoy. We small kids see no warm lights to welcome, and no hope in the literal darkness. The flashy new maisonettes that elbow their way across Hulme are tatty and stained within their first year.

Winding our way around them, we are scuttled off to Leaf Street Public Baths, so thankless and cold and pitifully cheap; the chlorinated stench turning the stomach. It is here we shall be taught how to swim — in ice-cold water where shadowy old Manchester once allowed its street-traders a sanitary dip in a slipper bath, or use of its crack-tiled showers.

Now lifted out of humiliation by the Manchester Education Committee, the authoritarian and patronizing attitude frightens all of the children, who see the experience as excessively destitute. Leaf Street Baths opened in as the first public baths in England to house a Turkish bath. Its iron columns and exposed drainpipes dripping with condensation proved fully resistant to heavy bombing in , and its foot pool and public wash house scrubbed and soothed the Hulme poor until , when, surrounded by sunless derelict streets, there were no longer any rain-sodden locals to take the icy plunge, and the tired doors bolted their last.

At Trafford Park Baths I had gone to watch my father swim. Whilst cheering from the sides, I am pushed into the deep end by a brutally sallow teenage boy, whom my father then neatly chinned. This ringing hum of panic returned at Leaf Street Baths on our induction day, and I refused to jump into the pool. Ever-present Miss Dudley made no effort to understand the secret agony of a troubled child, and I was lifted up and thrown into the water in an act that, these days, would count as extreme physical and psychological assault.

In the great public buildings of Lancashire there were few rights for children, and there was thought to be no need to protect children against violence or assault from educators since such things were not thought likely to take place, and human history moves along. The industrial city has a teeming imagination, and Manchester was rife with what were known as tramps.

Of these, too, most small children were frightened. The tramps were always men, usually in de-mob suits, no longer required as World War Two cannon-fodder, they have survived the manic eccentricities of Churchill and Hitler and are now untreated sewage of the urban dark, throwing strange shadows in city squares. They always approach children and they always ask for money, their faces discolored with dirt and their clothes brewing with meth-stench. In the midst of their wretchedness it is said that such tramps are happy only in the company of men, and in seeking such an impossible domestic arrangement they gather with their like under battered roofs in deep cellars, huddled around low fires, awaiting the rise of the bolt on the bath-house door.

It is said that tramps are allowed use of Leaf Street Baths, where I and others float in dismal dignity. As each member of the family leaves the school for standardized secondary placings — Jeane first, and then Mary, then Rita, followed by Jackie — I am the last of the flock, further alone in an area now bereft of its narrow and once-crowded streets, and stripped of its maze of illuminated corner-shops. Dark crimes return to a wasteland where there is now no street lighting since there are now no streets.

There is no street traffic, and the hum of Stretford Road is distant. It has all been wiped away, and the church once pressed upon by houses now looks like a pathetic creature of pointless endurance. There is a sense that something terrible has happened to this district even though they of scant resources welcome the promise of luxury — miles away from the knots of houses and narrow passageways of old. See the slums and the tramps and read of murdered children — beyond, where the bleak moor lies.

An ultraviolet magnetic shock goes through the blood as the parents of the missing children over-hope. A swarm of misery grips mids Manchester as Hindley and Brady raise their faces to the camera and become known to us all; nineteenth-century street life right here and now, with but a spit away. It is factual Hindley and Brady, and not our spirited Lake poets or cozy tram-trammeled novelists, who supply the unspoken and who take the travelling mind further than it ever ought to have gone, sealing modern Manchester as a place of Dickensian drear.

Of Hindley and Brady there would be nothing to give you heart in their complicity, as children of the poor, who had lived short and shaky lives, were led away to their tortured deaths, and the social landscape of Manchester warps forever with further reason to cry. Tormentedly, everyone appears to know someone who knew Myra Hindley, and we are forced to accept a new truth; that a woman can be just as cruel and dehumanized as a man, and that all safety is an illusion.

Nannie rails against Hindley and Brady with a hatred skirting terror, and our thunderclouds part only for the obsessive details of football results and the success stories of our world-famous local teams. Arbitrarily illiterate, football players remained in the stuckness of their own dull social units until George Best spoke and teased and joked and made sense. Best was clever and witty, and he had found a variety of ways to make his life glamorous. The old mold of the at-home regular fellow smashed forever as Best diversified the image of the football player, now suddenly capricious and disorderly but led by no one.

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Demonstrating the life of success, Best is of course penalized for enjoying too much, yet he is a revolution effecting overwhelming change on how sport is viewed because he is blatantly contemptuous of the press and of governing sporting associations whilst also, incidentally, being an extraordinary player. Catch him if you can. It is the physical and facial glamor of George Best that gains him so much love and hate, for everybody wants what he has. My father takes me to see George Best play at Old Trafford, and as I see the apocalyptic disturber of the peace swirl across the pitch, I faint.

I am eight years old. Another form of church, football was all that stood between earth and God. But I? Am I to be saved? And, if so, for what reason? Watches and clocks are set to mark the sound and vision of ice-cream vans, whether Gerrards or Mr Whippy. This is still the old and weathered Manchester where people carry deep bowls to ice-cream vans, and load them with scoops, or carry dinner-plates to fish and chip shops where their supper is dumped onto their own trusted china which is then covered by a tea-towel for the walk home.

All that you consider hip and happening will also tumble into nostalgia just at that moment when you finally come to realize where everything is, and how things ought to be. It is a race to the grave. These small black discs are the first things that are truly mine; my choice, paid for with my own scraps of cash, reflecting my own stubbornness.

In a dream, I watch them spin and spin, calling out, pointing the way. These are the days when very few people collect records, so therefore whatever they might buy defines their secret heart. This becomes irrelevant in the s when the value of records is beginning to be understood, and any defacing will reduce trading prices. In our abyss, Jeane falls in love with Johnny, who is teenaged and tattooed and dispossessed. One bright Saturday afternoon I patrol Alexandra Road with Nannie and Jeane, and here comes Johnny in the oncoming traffic, hands in pockets, tattooed neck and Rat Pack sunglasses.

We are within their high, spiked walls, and a slum nun greets us but blocks the doorway with her overfed bulk. Imprisoned in her own clothes, the nun knows only the world of make-believe, and she slams the door in our faces. In fear and trembling, Nannie leads us back home through a maze of mean and narrow streets, paralyzed by the thought that Johnny might strike again. In the dark November air his eyes close for the last time, his still body discovered by Jeane. Grandad is called Esty and is loved by all, now as then. Leaving his office job around the Tib Street area, Ernie heads for home only to collapse and die in the street, and we are all lost, faith denied, but with no one groping for an answer.

The deaths of Grandad and Ernie are so keenly felt that no one can mention their names for the ten years that follow. Mother turns against the church as her father and her last surviving brother are lowered into the same grave in gravely unpleasant Southern Cemetery. Life is now beyond logic, and a new nightmare fleshes out against the commands of the church.

Mother screams loudly at an immobilized priest, and all of our lives thus far are lost in the lap of memory. In one photograph because this is what people become , he cuts a warm figure as he holds up a picture of James Dean. Throughout his short and angered life he ached, like most people, to find something of value to do, and he cursed Manchester, and he cursed England through mists of pain, and he cursed the Christian Brothers who had blackened his eyes once too often in the name of heavy-handed holiness.

Ernie sank into the army for identity, but lost his, and returned home to Manchester, unhappily. How do these things happen? Was this ? Patrick is ill and cannot be left to walk by himself. I return to school and Mr Coleman seeks me out for a full medical prognosis. I explain that Patrick is now home and seemed very well.

Why did you leave him alone in that house? I am eleven years old and had crossed many main roads and junctions to ease the journey to Duke Street, but in the fashion of the day, the fault of desertion was all mine, without my own safety being an issue. The duty forced upon me, and the rocketing hysteria of Mr Coleman, both answered a vital question, and I would never again assume that any figure of authority automatically held any intellectual distinction.

I am unafraid. Minus her husband and her son, Nannie settled into 10 Trafalgar Square even though the local council had already chalked it off as unfit for human habitation. Every house has a face, and the eyes of 10 Trafalgar Square were already closed.

The square itself was not unattractive, and prior to the seething rot of it surely sheltered the faithful very pleasantly. Backing onto the lodging houses and breweries of Moss Lane, events piled up around the Trafalgar Square house — in which we all somehow lived, or passed through, as the family began to fray and snap. On a driving jaunt to Liverpool with Dad at the wheel, we are smashed into by an amber-gambler, and passenger-seat Mary has her face shattered with glass.

The oldest of the Dwyer sisters is Dorothy, and she works in central Manchester and has a life. She is generous and vocational and dances whenever she can — making the first flutter to virtuous and green Stretford, where real air might be breathed. Number 17 Norwood Road is a house of distinction, leading to Edge Lane, so prim and unhurried all those years ago. Friday evening always brings Dorothy to Trafalgar Square, and never is she without an imaginative gift or goody bag that will amuse me for days.

Teenaged Mary stands with the back of her legs to the open fire, balancing on the hearthstone, the fireguard folded away. Her blonde teased hair is part-beehive, and, as the second youngest, she, too, is led by music and makeup and the itch of life beyond. In the half-light, I follow Mary out of the square as she meets whomever it is she meets, and I do the same secret-agent undercover work with Rita as she slips out at darkening 6 PM to a youth club on Bangor Street, where the untamed restives smoke cigarettes and flirt their fractious proposals.

Here, the local scruffs loiter to amuse themselves in youth club fashion, bursting with the secrets of yearning maturity and rough serenade. All Manchester boys are mad, and they shout, and they laugh loudly, and courtship is a question of aggression rather than gallantry. I am unwanted at the youth club — being far too yearling young, and Rita orders me home.

Luring me is the advent of a new crowd who have no connection to school, and who frighten and fascinate me in equal measure. Who is this gang, known only to Rita, who shout as they bolt into the blackness of sleeping Tamworth Street? I return to Trafalgar Square, to Nannie and the central focus of the television set, under which sits the cat with her litter of newborns. But already the houses on the square are being abandoned. With parlor-leaks and darting mice Nannie will hold on, fuming and fussing at the fractured lives of her six daughters, and cursing my mother for working and buying glamorous clothes.

Nannie bricks together the traditional Christmas for all to gather and disagree. My sister and I head out to the Pot Shop and the Jubilee Shop, both crumbling and cluttered corner shops wheezing their last goodbyes to an indifferent world, their elderly and bluntly rude shopkeepers plagued and tormented by the lengthy time it takes my sister and I to methodically choose our sweets.

Rita now works at Seventh Avenue in Piccadilly and buys expensive Planters cashew nuts. Mary works at a Granada showroom, but is ready to leave it all behind. Crumlin summers of childhood are spent on Clonard Road, fagged out on the beach and dead beat by 5 PM. Safe and wide, the dry streets of Crumlin are empty of cars, and the houses cackle with the droll of the extended family.

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Bustle and fluster pad out these Dublin days, but as each year passes my sister and I are less willing to leave Manchester. Ireland is our soaring past — ruddy and cheerful, yet somehow the past. My parents will never let it go, and it is not difficult to understand why. Dublin kids are active and animated, quick and streetwise, and always in force. A nearby sweet kiosk is operated by a man who is blind, and we watch in awe as his hands follow each request.

Dublin Catholics are spiritual but not saintly, faithful but not strict, godly but not exact. Devout and good, they are also loosely at large with a blunt and sincere grasp of what the human frame requires. I feel no pull towards the church, but I understand that there is nothing else. Here in Stretford we are the young intruders against the settled late-middle-aged Mr and Mrs brigade — each gentle and smiling long-standing residents for whom the war was just yesterday. In the background, Old Trafford factories hoot their salutes, for people were thankful to have made it through.

Sometimes Jackie and I are the refugees, as Rita flits in and out with her secretive social whirl. There is only ever a sense of change and of slipping away, but never a sense of security or stability. Tomorrow is already a jigsaw. He is another pleasant slice of yesteryear Dublin, a lifelong bachelor who will propose marriage to Nannie without regard to the ancestral bloodline. Even during the day we are surrounded by the dark. Nannie is alarmed because, hearing a scuffle in the abandoned house next door, she has unwisely investigated and discovered a man standing naked before her — the sight of which delivers a knockout blow of senselessness, leaving Nannie tranquilized with gibberish for the rest of the day.

Our lifeblood Alexandra Road is also now boarding itself up, so that we now rely exclusively on the gasping Off Licence — a beacon of bacon with the wonder of Wonderloaf. It is important never to walk by the forsaken houses lest a strong arm should pull you in and you become minced meat. When Nannie is offered a flat in Gorse Hill, it is Minnie, a mousy Victorian woman in her eighties who will now be the very last lone resident of Trafalgar Square. I, of course, stand alone with Nannie as she says her goodbyes, and it is too much to bear as the small and shrunken Minnie waves us off from her cramped corner-house, to return within as the last lit lightbulb of life in this already forgotten corner, where she will climb the darkened stairway to rest her head — not from the whirring day, but from a lifetime now closing, all the madcap marriages and births of Trafalgar Square now gone, the swirl of life now meaningless in the friendless dark.

The only tap running is hers, and the awaiting move is to a new flat that time or fatigue will scarcely allow her to enjoy as history overtakes her. It is with the wave that she gives on that day to Nannie and I that her light fades, and even though I hardly know her, I am in tears at the pitifully wizened figure giving a salute of good luck, all life spent, with nothing remaining but the brusque knock of a stranger intruding with instructions of where to go, how to sit, and how to die.

Absurdly, Nannie has placed Blackie the cat in a brown paper shopping bag with string handles in readiness for the bus journey to Gorse Hill, which is possibly thirty minutes away. I am explaining to Nannie that this idea will not work, but she looks away each time I protest. On Cornbrook Street, Blackie leaps from the bag and tears her way back down the street in the direction of the junkpile scrap heap of written-off Trafalgar Square. I am, once again, fraught with shock, but Nannie marches on. Minnie will feed her. It is kitchen-table mourning for time gone, and for people of hushed scandals half-forgotten.

Jody and Nannie are the last of the old crowd, and guardians of morality. Inside, Jody is dark and unhappy. At 11 years old, her only son Billy had accidentally set fire to himself in the backyard of their doleful terraced house in Rye Street in Chorlton-on-Medlock. Crime historians would later name Rye Street as having been patrolled by Hindley and Brady, and although Billy had escaped them, his remains now lay in Southern Cemetery close to those of Ernie and Grandad , beneath a featureless stone inscribed Our Billy. The magical properties of recorded noise had trapped me from onwards.

Song made a difference to everything, and permitted expressions that otherwise had no way through. Nothing else could be worth knowing, and the whole world fell away as I surrendered to the words on the page and the voice that sang. Paul Marsh is a small shop with exposed wooden floorboards; pop singles lodged upright in pigeon-holes behind the counter and LPs conveniently racked for small boys to study in occultish ways.

In this duet between Bill and Bobby, the language of despair becomes beautiful, and the final forty-five seconds hit such call-and-respond excitement that I am now in danger of feeling too much. Suddenly everything else in life is in question. How is the voice imprinted on the cheap plastic? Paul Marsh is revelation and prophecy, and every effort is made to evoke enough pity from anyone with cash to take me along Alexandra Road and to pause at this temple.

My very first disc had been Come and stay with me by Marianne Faithfull, acquired after howls of insistence from beneath the kitchen table. The howls worked and my parents gave in, and the five-and-six eased my soul like God could only know. All human activity is fruitless when pitted against the girls and boys singing on pop television, for they have found the answer as the rest of us search for the question.

I will sing, too. If not, I will have to die. I cherish each glimpse that television allows — so unrepeatable, and God forbid that anyone should talk too loudly or meddle with the sound. Yes, there he goes again — Cherub Bobby swooping up into a female scream, and visual art unravels before me. At a crofted fairground on Stretford Road the sights and sounds and smells are alive with harm and hellborn pleasures. Smiling Billy returns this duty some weeks later at school when I find myself singled out for a ferocious whack in the yard. And the world turns. Before leaving for America, Mary had once again escorted me to Paul Marsh, where I had chosen Rainbow valley by the Love Affair, a group led by impish Steve Ellis, who has a mannish voice.

I am thrilled to death whenever the Love Affair appear on television, as I am with the Foundations, who are led by Clem Curtis in cheap-looking high-waisted trousers, smiling all the way through Back on my feet again with a chorus that never ends. Sandie Shaw had a vacantly indifferent expression, not especially willing to please. She, though, is almost lifeless — a Saturday afternoon girl at Marble Arch.

Mary and Rita own the most entrancing single in Heart by Rita Pavone, a boyish Italian girl with a rising belt of vocal power. The room spins and spins. The self-help manual passed around to all is The Best of Timi Yuro , a long-player in a black sleeve from which the New York-Italian singer glares with petite toughness. I scramble from cheap record player to cheap record player.

It is considered odd that a boy so young should care so much. Here and there my eyes and ears are caught only by the solo singers; town-crying to all people at all times, television troubadours minus jingle-jangled nodding musicians. The song bears witness, the body weaves, and there are no camera cuts to blandly smiling session-players when all we want to see is the sculptured singer — alone, carrying all, sub-plot and sub-text, the physical autobiography; simultaneously, subjectively and objectively at the same time.

There is no way out for the solo singer; introduction, statement, conclusion, quick death — all conveyed in the pop sonnet, with no winking glance over to guitarists in order to ease the setting. I am caught and I am devoted to a fault. Snobbery jumps in. If I can sing, I am free, and no legislation can stop me. Sacha Distel, of course, has everything except a strong voice, whilst Matt Monro has a propelling voice, but not the physical poetry.

Shirley Bassey fires a certain bolstered timbre that lifts her out of the Rose and Crown, and the Maria Callas history-of-human-torture facial expressions certainly appear to be additional value for money even if, during brief interviews on television, she is unable to relax, as if desperate to conceal an extensive lack of personality. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, and no singing artist seems to be in possession of the complete bundle. Even the royal Elvis Presley does not write the songs that he sings — not that this matters much, yet it is noted how someone with such masterly vocal direction must await the patchwork and paste of songwriters in order to alight the gift.

Loudly and wildly the music played, always pointing to the light, to the way out, or the way in, to individualism, and to the remarkable if unsettling notion that life could possibly be lived as you might wish it to be lived. Top of the Pops makes the inevitable journey to London, where it stays forever. I rage with jealousy at the disembodied audience of zombies who show unearthly indifference in the presence of Shocking Blue.

No illness of any ferocity could sway my interest during Top of the Pops , a rare flash of glamor in our oh so very pale lives, a heart-stopping rundown of the Top 30, followed by jaw-dropping paralysis as our personal favorites step into view. What was that? Eat it up and dream about it later, or wake up and dream as the years shuffle like cards. Facts blur with hallucination as T. Rex edge in from somewhere interplanetary, giving an elbow thrust to Pickettywitch and the galvanizing Tom Jones. Rex are a question I had been saving up for a long time, and the singer is of pleasantly soft speaking voice, and my little radio crackles with interference regardless of where the station happens to be.

The year is loutish stoops in studlike gear, shuddering catchphrases and racist television comedies of half-wit mispronunciations; Ruffle Bars and T-Bars, and my parents are neither friends nor lovers to one another, and nothing in our lives is tidy or designed. With a detachable head, I paddle my own way through it all. As my parents clash on every subject, Jackie takes sides and cries in between. I make several bolts for freedom clutching only The Otterbury Incident. First, I run to Lostock, where Jeane and Johnny now have their own flat, but I am in the way here, too, and Johnny promptly hitches me onto the crossbar of his bicycle and takes me back home — all along Barton Road, a journey of days, and how I sat there throughout can only indicate the hardiness of the times.

I also make a midnight dash to Nannie, who whacks me across the head and then asks questions.

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No multinational menus were yet on the Manchester horizon, and anything with a hint of flavor was considered exotic. In the mids my parents would quietly divorce, Dad having disappeared two days before Christmas amidst loud assumptions that he has other lives elsewhere. Throughout these years I am a largely bedridden child unwilling to keep death at bay. Hope remains only via television, which shows me what might happen to me should I manage to live to be fully grown. Lost in Space offers the full flavor of studio-bound American allure as a handsome and well-balanced family hurtles through an extensive range of hostile planets in search of Alpha Centauri.

The Robinsons are never short of food or hair products, and, whereas the family is gratingly sane, they are offset by Dr Zachary Smith, who is waspish and wicked and full of childish snips and snaps — each rapier rejoinder accompanied by arched brow and Ah! Wilderness eyes slung to the gallery.

It is to the fourth wall audience or camera that actor Jonathan Harris plays, each startled reaction given directly to the unseen viewer. I would much rather be Major Don West Mark Goddard , who is of track and field physical, but who is a juvenile groundling compared to the Elizabethan riches of Dr Smith, who, in his maggoty bitterness, provides all of the fun, and whose command illuminates the very smallest of actions. The masculine man hates the feminine man because soft is the enemy of hard.

Major West, on the other hand, will kick to kill. My notepad resting on my lap takes the scribbles of unspoken truth: effeminate men are very witty, whereas macho men are duller than death. At 30, the prematurely grey Richard Bradford is the star of Man In a Suitcase , a discredited CIA agent now loitering about London waiting for the phone to ring usually from a youngish blonde female whose father, The Major, is under shocking duress. As McGill, Richard Bradford mumbles his lines, is never witty, and gets by purely on the red-blooded toughness of his Tyler, Texas door-ramming physique, which provides all answers and never once fails him.

Bradford is a figure of glamor, although his girlfriends are infrequent or short-term. He rests his cigarette down by placing it upright like a pencil, never slanted into an ashtray, and his charging physicality renders sparkling wordplay unnecessary. He lives alone, unexcited, disinterested, world-weary and ungiving, yet it is this dry-as-dust approach that makes him fascinating.

Men, you see, are either one thing or another, but never both, and the world loves a man who can fight. Suddenly, Department S comes close to the unthinkable; a witty Sebastian Melmoth who is also swift to deploy expert judo at the drop of a Ming vase. King is Beerbohm Tree smoking Sobranie, because Wyngarde is legitimate theater whom television is lucky to have, and whose techniques and intentions are infallibly precise although the exact style of his delivery is by no means conventional. Wyngarde might occasionally rush into a following line without punctuated pause enjambement?

Completing the TV team is Annabelle Hurst played by Rosemary Nichols , a most correct and well-educated computer-whiz British bird of polite wit; a tea-room and commando-trained lacrosse champ whose sexuality is only a detail. Of course, such women did not exist then, or now. By the grace of God I am a part of the local gang whose spearhead and protectionist is Lillian, who is all funfair worldliness at Touch her and you might not get your hand back.

Yet Lillian is all heart and love, but fearless in the face of foe. Gangs are fashions passion in ragamuffin , and some out-of-towners invade our untouchable Longford Park patch. Lillian warns a buckish bully that she can finish him off without actually touching him. Laughing at her, he opens his wastrel mouth wide, and with expert aim Lillian unleashes a wad of phlegm that scores an impressive bullseye in the back of his throat. Shaken and repulsed, he and his teen firebrands turn tail into the Chorlton mist.

Thin and lively, she will take a stand against any boy bigger or older, and never once would she hesitate. For what will be the second time, I floor Leslie, he all bluff and little-man threats, yet soft to the touch in the heel of the hammerlock. I do not know where my uppercuts come from, but there they are, an orbit of finishing blows rising from somewhere deep within, overtaking the final push that panics the body into do-or-die strength.

It is a vigorous high, but it is not my sphere, and nor do I want it. Alas, it is not. No rampantly challenging mind could overlook the lost cultures as mapped out in British film, wherein the restricted horizons of the expendable working-class thrillingly show us how British life got to where it is now — in your private modern cuckoo-land.

A gas-lit hallway in a tired lodging house and I am pulled in, with Mum forever fussing about the table setting tea. Distorted by nostalgia, we see in the family and in the local community everything an honest soul might need in order to live out their time on the human gridline, and we see the obvious punishments for anyone who would insist upon more than their lot.

In my favorite films of the s, s and s, the working class are usually portrayed as children enacting pointless working-class crimes. We always see the police as adults, representing a conscience for the daft scrubbers in pubs and dance halls — who are not rich, and therefore cannot behave themselves. Decent folk always allow themselves to be controlled by the police, because the police are never known to be either devious or wrong.

The laboring-class boys of grey flannel are instinctive in their behavior because they are, in fact, in possession of nothing at all other than instinct; science and diplomacy are tools unused. In The Painted Smile , the statuesque womanhood of comely Liz Fraser attempts to frame an uncomplicated Tony Wickert for the murder of her boyfriend in the recurring British theme of happiness not to be found. They will not accept conservative limits, and their selfish motivations or their crude nerve are both justified by the fact that they give nothing but look everything.

By contrast, a Shakespearian saint with a disjointed face is never thought interesting enough for film. Calling on friends, their back doors swing open with a swoosh of smells. The tangs of the unfamiliar are the malodorous hallmarks of the humans within — no scented candles yet, although the rarity of air fresheners can be found somewhere in the newly landed supermarkets of Maypole, Seymour Meade or the Co-op.

Putrid smells reduce me to a pitiful pile, and none are more vomitarian than school dinners. All foods of miasmic fragrance disturb me, and the mere hint of garlic induces the shakes, as fish cooked or uncooked causes gut-wrenching panic. This boy of has an abnormally limited palate — a working-class host of relentless toast, and the inability to expand beyond the spartan.

Somewhere, Tin Tin sing Toast and marmalade for tea — which certainly suits me. I remain bedevilled by a dangerously sparse intake of food until my late thirties, when pasta and pizza throw the line. In place of food, my senses existentially turn to old high walls of red brick, and I lie awake at night weighing the fascination. There will never be an end or a conclusion to this dazed attraction, and even now, decades on, I cannot find any written acknowledgement of the trance such things pull me into. Whatever detains the eye is understood by no one, least of all me.

My eleventh year brings my becloaked stage debut at the local community center. In the play On Dartmoor I am Ulrick, a sulky child with a stupid voice. Unseen, I persistently shout down from an imaginary bedroom. The audience laugh, but my father does not. Two years on, at Stretford Stadium I represent the school in the meters dash of sorts , legs muddied, face wet with rain, I clamber in at fourth place. My father is standing by the finishing-line. Barry Ryan sings Eloise and rises to number 3 with a song that is five-and-a-half-minutes long — an eternity in radio space.

It is an overly dramatic epic of clash and plea, a piece orchestra wrapped in cliff-bound sirens, racing to an out-of-my-mind screaming vocal. None of the family had passed the Plus exam, and henceforth cannot be saved, our futures doomed by an undotted i. If, like Oliver Twist, I had known, I would have screamed all the more louder, and not even Something here in my heart by the Paper Dolls could save me now.

Vincent Morgan is the Headmaster whose voice is a sigh, whose carriage is militantly empirical, and although a spectacle of suffering, he is mysteriously tuned in to God. Well past middle-age, he is rigorous in grey suit and gleaming black shoes, the sag of cruelty in his face a clue to the torrential capacity for violence.

Sealed up like an envelope, he is unable to act with kindness or humanity, for he has neither, and there is evidently nothing to humanize him. For five years I witness the monumental loneliness of Vincent Morgan as he busies himself day after day with the beatings of small boys. And it goes on, and on, and on, and on — leading nowhere, achieving nothing.

As Vincent Morgan concludes his morning prayer in assembly — in which he gives thanks — he will then point to up to twelve boys seemingly at random, who must step aside and prepare to be lashed, such being the heart of a man of Christian forgiveness. In its motive and conclusion, it is pathetic. Yet it never subsides.

Undersized and freshly plucked from junior school, these boys are still children and are no match for the satanic attack launched by this heaving and burning artilleryman. What could it possibly all be for? My only possession is a brave front, since I have never known how to fight, and even as Vincent Morgan whacks and whacks and swings that leather belt with the full and mighty force of his entire body, something in his face tells me that he alone pays for all of this misery.

Marooned, Vincent Morgan walks to and from school every single day by himself, an umbrella neatly propped on an arm that crosses the front of his body with marksman preparation. He has no friendship with the other teachers, and is only ever visible as the one of perpetual flogging. The fruitlessness of such overactive repulsion, in modern times, would of course suggest the starkest sexual overtures What job did he think he was doing? At last, an individual! Handsomely G. He works on the bread vans each Saturday morning, and entices me to give it a go, rising as I must at 6 AM to be poetically active by — an experience so frightening as to not be tackled twice.

In my short conversations with Vincent Morgan I am struck by his game of persuasion, trying to convince me that whatever I say to him by way of reply has no value. The words are a trick to make the victim passive. Once the dinner vans arrive, the school corridors are polluted by floating venomous toxins, unbearable to inhale so surely deadly to consume, and by late afternoon the leftovers will splodge and stink and spill and surge from huge bins awaiting collection.

Yet it is uncivilized to complain, and a Mr Bumble always hovers somewhere, and although you pay for your dinner you are not invited to shape the menu. The condition of England at the time was such that supported the predicament of taking whatever is dished out, whether this be food or violence. In order for there to be winners there needed to be losers, and the winners were already seated at fully heated Stretford Grammar. Somebody, it had been ordained, must be available to bang nails into wood for a living, and here we were.

By their unlucky presence, the teachers surely felt a similar way about themselves. Injuries of time marked the school as tired and tatty, yet trying to be technical. Exactly why I am here, and what it is I am meant to do, is beyond me. Each day is an array of invectives, thrown at the boys who are united in their understanding that they have been dumped, and are being dumped upon. Each day is Kafka-esque in its nightmare, and the school offers nothing at all except a lifelong awareness of hate as a general truth. Encouragement is not on any curriculum, its place filled by the shit-without-wit repartee of such as Mr Kijowski, physical education instructor ostensibly, yet whose constant stream of hate suggests that if he is not frightening someone then he is nothing.

Young and unmarried, he is obsessed with homosexuality — that it should be traced and uncovered, named and shamed. This tirade goes on and on for more years than could be thought possible, and I am not surprised that I am regularly the butt of his bombast, and yet the most obvious homosexual behavior reveals itself in Mr Kijowski himself, as each PE lesson closes and the obligatory communal showering is enforced. Mr Sweeney is also a physical education teacher, and unmarried, but is less obsessively homosexualist, although it is commonly noted how he stands and stares and stands and stares at showering boys when neither standing nor staring is necessary.

One day during five-a-side, I flip forwards and crash down on my right hand. This stirs a blip of compassion from Mr Sweeney, who then takes me into his private office, whereupon he proceeds to massage my wrist with anti-inflammatory cream. At 14, I understand the meaning of the unnecessarily slow and sensual strokes, with eyes fixed to mine, and I look away, and the moment passes.

Air from hangs in the school stockrooms where outmoded textbooks stockpile against unwanted plaques anointing proud achievements of boys long-since gone, like a roll-call of the war dead. The slowness of days drills the brain, especially around in the afternoon, when time never seems to move, and the bell hangs lifelessly until the last drop of nausea has been wrung from the brow. Chalk and stale sweat catch whatever air escapes into these barren vaults, and a yellowing world map is all that the eye can rest upon, with not one continent available to you or meant for you.

It is impossible to imagine a time when we shall feel free of all of this dissonance, and it is impossible to meet the situation halfway. Sadly, it is also impossible to simply just get on with it. My eyes lock permanently on the view from the windows, as I long to the point of tears to be released from this prison maze, or this maze prison, where I am ridiculed simply for just turning up. Mr Pink is reading aloud a story entitled Boris the Wig-maker. He stops suddenly and burns in my direction as my eyes watch the black rain banging against feeble windows.

Stand up!! I am then ordered to sit down, and, his turbulent rush fed, he continues to read to the class. I return my gaze to the rain. It is all so utterly stupid. I am at this point struck by the understanding that this freakish use of the leather strap is the answer for all teachers who find themselves in a situation that they simply cannot deal with, or answer. It is their weakness, not ours. Simply because I quite honestly admitted to having no interest in Boris the Wig-maker , how does a violent charge with a leather strap provide an answer?

Occasionally we suffer the disdainful presence of a local priest, young and patronizing, with a name never to be recalled. Oddly, he seems to fix his curiosity upon me, possibly because I sit aloof, possibly because I do not contribute to polite laughter, possibly because of the newly tended weave in my hair. The Catholic priest looks to the rest of the class having given them their cue for courteous laughter.

But no laughter comes, and the priest looks back at me with his face of hate — as if to warn me that there will come another time when he shall score. The topsy-turvydom of had brought an explosion of music and art and newness into my life and I was now in full self-development mode and desperate to be free of censure. I had bought the Starman single by David Bowie, which had climbed to number 42 in the chart, and I catch this epoch of self-realization for the first time on television as the exotic and shapely Ayshea Brough celebrates newly distributed color television with her show Lift Off with Ayshea.

As David Bowie appears, the child dies. The vision is profound — a sanity heralding the coming of consciousness from someone who — at last! David Bowie is detached from everything, yet open to everything; stripped of the notion that both art and life are impossible. He is quite real, impossibly glamorous, fearless, and quite British. How could this possibly be? Again, it is pathetic to witness, and pathetic to endure. An excitingly arch London magazine called Film and Filming has versed me in the Warholian, with all of its guiding principles of self-determination and autonomy.

I cried for poetic language and I cried out to find those who were unafraid, those free agents, unbigoted and unshackled. I knew then that life could only ever be changed for the better because somebody somewhere had taken a risk — often with their own life. Look for one boy who left the place feeling spiritual and complete. You will never find him. My face had by now taken on the demeanor of continual deep regret, which only music could soothe.

The new poets were not by the Lakes, but suspending disbelief in recording studios where words and sound mix the literal with the perceptual and the conceptual. In I had watched helplessly as Buffy Sainte-Marie made her debut on Top of the Pops singing her own composition Soldier blue ; a mannish white working shirt, and what were surely blue jeans, dogged determination in her brownish face, and the truth of it all in her eyes.

Or so I assumed. Serious artists rarely make the stages of Top of the Pops because the show is essentially light entertainment, yet this song of great depth has risen to number 7, and, light or not, the BBC are duty-bound as a public service to air any song elected by the public. In the market-driven mush of British pop, there is no continual place for Buffy Sainte-Marie with her carrion calls of loss and injustice.

But there she is, and here am I, and the secret of song unravels. Trojan Records had also presented the Pioneers with Let your yeah be yeah , attempting to match the impassable scatology of Double barrel by Dave and Ansell Collins, or the freeing stringed swoop of Young, gifted and black by Bob and Marcia. It seemed to me that it was only within British pop music that almost anything could happen. Every other mode of expression seemed fixed and predictable and slow. Sportsmen used the same seven words in every interview, and were largely incapable of surprise Cassius Clay and George Best the eternal exceptions.

From nowhere comes the California cobra chords of Run run run by Jo Jo Gunne and Heaven must have sent you by the Elgins — wide variables on an open pitch, all adapting to different listeners — the well and the ill. All of this starts me, and I cannot stop. If I can barely speak which is true , then I shall surely sing. Rex had raged into perfection with their trio of Jeepster number 2 for six weeks! On earlier records, Bolan sounds as if singing in Olde English — incomprehensible to the modern ear.

Certainly, politicians cannot. Rex are my first concert and my dad and sister drop me off at daunting Belle Vue on June 16th , watching me waddle away alone in my purple satin jacket — a sight ripe for psychiatric scrutiny. The face is damned-soul-as-savior-of-society, preacher and reformer, now free of his own unhappy childhood and willing to help you through yours should Black Sabbath and Deep Purple prove insufficient. I crawl from the cultureless world to Stretford Hardrock in September , where David Bowie is showcasing the venue.

At mid-day he emerges from a black Mercedes, every inch the eighth dimension, teetering on high heels, with all the wisdom of our ancestors. Smiling keenly, he accepts the note of a dull schoolboy whose overblown soul is more ablaze than the school blazer he wears, and thus I touch the hand of this inexplicably liberating reformer; he, a Wildean visionary about to re-mold England, and I, a spectacle of suffering in a blue school uniform.

I creep into the soundcheck quite easily, since the obscurity of the band does not necessitate any form of security , and I speak to saxophonist Andrew Mackay as he plays a pinball machine in the Hardrock lobby. It is a netherworld encounter for Mackay, but a great joy for the pesky boy. There is new meaning to everything as Roxy Music inexplicably jump to number 4 with their first single, Virginia plain , a pursed-mouth whirl of low noise and words used for sound value only.

There is no chorus and nothing is repeated. The song is madcap in construction, and singer Bryan Ferry is an honored northern guest — escapist but shy, a slither of glamor rippling like the sea. Roxy Music are resolutely odd, and Agatha Christie queer; the smile of Ferry is Hiroshima mean, as he shuffles crab-style from stage right to stage left I eagerly catch his first Radio One interview wherein he falls asleep at the drone of his own replies. Eno, on the other hand, uses words that no one else can spell and is wrapped in so much sexual allure that Top of the Pops cameras avoid him for fear of frightening the frighteningly drab majority.

The technical detachment of Roxy Music is, briefly and possibly accidentally, a radical experience, one that they swiftly dispense with once they establish a large audience. But before they lose their strangeness they are magnificent, and the drabness of true artifice comes alive.

Also billed for this night at the Hardrock are the New York Dolls, who have yet to make a record, but about whom the press had already written so much. Bumped up against the front of the stage, I, and others, sigh heavily as it is announced that the New York Dolls will not appear due to the sudden death of their drummer three days earlier in London. In these limping, impeded days of there is no way that such news could reach our social quarter, since our houses and our lives are shut down from instant communications. Lou Reed is unimpressed by applause, and lives a life detached from custom.

His stare is cold and his romanticism is brutal. His songs are half-sung melodies of menace. He might drop dead any second, and is therefore the real thing.

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Examined ravenously like a museum exhibit, Lou Reed is evidently spiked to excess, and strangely loveable. This feared raggle-clatter of pop species is changing everything. An even darker force controlled the personalities of the New York Dolls, who are younger than Bowie and who are more-or-less transgender in appearance. On face value, the Dolls are menacing rent boys who are forcing the world to deal with them. Their arms drape lovingly around one another in photographs at a time when young men are assumed to want to look like Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves or Terry Venables.

The suggestion that your sons rather than your daughters might need to be protected from a male rock band had never previously been considered. The Dolls meet with all of the obvious condemnations, for this is still an era of darkness and drowned dreams. What seems like promotion is actually a Mayday bleep. With relief, I catch the Dolls on their now-famous Old Grey Whistle Test television appearance, and whereas both of my parents watch unimpressed, pride and joy electrify my body as the revenge motif dates every other modern pop artist in an instant.

Snarl matches visual art and the Dolls were mine. I heard and saw a high-wire act of tough noise and fantastic pop lyrics, and I heard an invitation to anyone man enough to challenge them. In comparison, everyone else suddenly seemed like a travelling salesman. The Dolls were a social unit, great fun, grave fun, salty and completely off the deep end. How could people like the New York Dolls even exist?

And as a musical unit! And where exactly did this leave Dr Hook and the Medicine Show? At last I am someone! The 45 purchased has the middle section of the song cut out and fades quickly, in an arrangement I have never since discovered on any pressing of this record. The confusion with the Dolls is that their scumsucker rough-trade drag contrasted with the truth of their wise-guy personalities. The Dolls were actually the toughest band on earth, and their appearance proved it.

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Pomp-rock had degraded everything and left audiences immobilized and horizontal in trench coats and woolly sweaters. The Dolls were the slum of all failures, had nothing to lose, and could scarcely differentiate between night and day. For the Dolls, it could never be dark enough.

Their raw existence vibrated with expectations of disaster, yet their organs are not tormented. On an infinitesimal scale, Dolls songs are about life happening against us — never with or for us — and as agents of their own troubles they relate everything to themselves. Their eyes are indifferent. They have left the order of this world. Jerry Nolan might even kill you. Because they feel excluded they have no reason to account for their own actions.

Trash scorches the skin.