One of the few trials of living on the road is the generator. I have spent a fortune on generators in my time. You would think that, given our dependence on the internal combustion engine, it would not be beyond the wit of man to build a reliable one. I look after my generators too. My latest version, bought this year; an electrical start Hyundai with a supposed excellent reputation has only the very best petrol, augmented with fuel improver. I have it serviced, in fact, it has only just returned from being serviced, but will it stay running? No. So, far from being able to spend my evenings while down at the Portsmouth Victorian Christmas, with the luxury of electric light and the joy of evening tv, I am reduced to candles and a tranny radio as I have to conserve the leisure battery.
There is something I like about not having electricity. A certain sense of solitude, amplified by the silence with only the occasional crackle of the fire. Candlelight is mellow and soothing, reflecting around the lorry. And I can charge up the laptop in the Dockyard during the day so I can write this blog and check my emails at night. So I shall survive and aim to thrive, as Maya Angelou (RIP) said, ‘with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style’
The Portsmouth Dockyard Victorian Christmas is supposed to be the largest Christmas event in Europe and my pitch there is lovely. With my back to the Second Sea Lord’s private residence and facing the Spinnaker Tower and the afternoon sun, it’s a splendid space for the show. Alongside Santa’s reindeer too, so there is a good footfall. The only downside is that dogs, apart from the working ones, are forbidden on the dock site so my two are not with me. I watched a VID (Very Important Dog) check my stage for explosives. Very serious worker and a joy to watch the bond between him and his handler. I hope he has some time off with rewards. A little break from my two is a good thing though and I am enjoying being completely alone.
I have always liked my solitude. Those following my ‘every other chapter’ stories will gain a flavour of the start of this from my next story. The experience of an 11 year old on his first day at Christ’s Hospital in 1961. For many years I have kept quiet about the CH experience but I feel now is the right time to tell a few of the stories. It really was a horrible place and it changed me forever. Some have said it was for the better, but I’m not so sure. I will never know of course, ‘what might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present’ (TS Eliot). The door I never opened may not have led to Eliot’s rose garden but may have opened to a life of petty crime with Geoffrey Monk. I am sure that’s what Pat and Richard thought in their worst nightmares, and as a believer in the power of education, Richard justified his decision to send me and my brother there by thinking of the possibilities that a good education could provide. I know he regretted the decision all his life and never really spoke of it. He wasn’t to know at the time that the education there, far from being good, was elitist, conservative and could be cruel. Apart from my occasional roles in school productions, it offered me little but hardship and pain, and taught me only the fact that I hated the place, hated the establishment and hated the people who ran it. There were three sorts of boys I met at CH. Those who accepted the system and blindly supported it, a few who rebelled against it and who grew with their belief that the system was wrong and that there had to be another way, and those who were crushed between the two. I had pity for the first and the third as I became a proud rebel. I have never regretted that.
So surviving on my wits alone has always been part of my life. Who’s complaining about a generator that refuses to start?
All the best from a road near you,