This Charming Man


“Punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate”
(Morrissey and Marr)

Salford in the late 1950’s formed a landscape of entrapment. Back to back houses confined back to back people to a life filmed in black and white. There were no intermediate shades. One either was good or bad, right or wrong, a working class hero or a self-aggrandising snob.

Geoff pushed his ailing bicycle down the hillside. Flatter than Jo’s bosoms, its front tyre flopped against the rough terrain. It was nearly 5 miles home and Jo would be waiting for him to cook dinner. “Bugger me,” he swore under his breath. He was hungry and anticipating the long walk home made him feel even more dreadful than the inevitable and unenviable task he faced, mending his punctured bike.
Making his way to the road, Geoff stumbled over a stone and landed on the ground with an embarrassing thud, his bike crashed on top of his skinny legs. “Ouch.” Geoff pushed aside the bike and clung to his right knee. Oblivious to the figure who sauntered behind him, he imagined blood seeping from the wound beneath his trousers and felt quite faint.
“Poor boy, you look quite ruffled down there,” Said the stranger. Surprised to see the elegantly dressed older man peering at him, Geoff looked down at his feet and screeched,
“And I’ve scuffed me Italian Casuals.”
“Let me help you up,” Said the man. His strong arms reached out to Geoff and he gripped his shoulders. The man’s masculinity merged with his own fragile form, their muscles straining in unison to secure Geoff’s safe ascent.
“Thanks ever so much,” Said Geoff, now erect. He looked up at the stranger’s handsome face and felt his cheeks flush.
“Can I offer you a lift…anywhere?” The man’s offer was tempting. “I am staying at a nearby hotel. I could take you there and tend your wounds.” Geoff could hear his heart beat inside his ears. The beats reminded him that not only was he alive, but that he was free to do what he chose. He briefly thought of Jo and the dinner he had offered to cook for her.
“That would be lovely,” He replied.
The man, who claimed to be named, Rex supported Geoff to walk to his car, which was parked nearby. Once again, Geoff felt giddy. He had never ridden in a Jaguar before. Rex opened the passenger door and Geoff crumpled inside. The seats were made of mahogany coloured leather. His fingers caressed them, eager to experience sensuous pleasure.
The hotel was situated only a few minutes away. It was the one where all the swanky people stayed. When Geoff walked in he looked at the floor, afraid of suspicious stares. Rex, however, seemed unrepentant, gaily abandoning any fear of others’ disapproval he might have possessed. Rex’s room was suitably grand and his bed as appealing as the silk pyjamas that were folded beneath his pillow.
“Would you like a drink, Geoffrey…a little something to calm your nerves?” Before Geoff could answer, Rex picked-up the phone and requested a bottle of champagne. Geoff had never tasted champagne before…but there was a first time for everything.
Whilst they were waiting for the drink to be delivered, Rex offered Geoff a cigarette. He did not smoke, but failed to inform Rex. Gauloise were very sophisticated and now that he was on the threshold of sophistication, Geoff felt that he should prove himself a man.
“Thank you ever so,” He spluttered to his companion.
When the champagne had been delivered, Rex poured 2 drinks and sat on the bed. “Why don’t you come and sit with me, my boy. You look awfully lonely over there.” Geoff summoned every ounce of courage he possessed and sat beside his new friend. They both drank quickly. Rex looked at Geoff in a way no one had ever looked at him before and said, “Take your trousers off. It’s time to tend your wounds.”
2 hours later Geoff arrived home in a large red Jaguar car. Jo had tired of waiting for him and eaten over an hour earlier. “Where have you been?” She asked, as he entered the house carrying a shiny new bicycle.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” He replied. Though his body hurt inside, his spirit felt feather light, for his nature had finally, transformed him from nervous boy into a man, who would one day have charm on his side

Morrissey’s ill: Why I Care


I learned a few days ago via The NewYorkerTimes on twitter that pop laureate of the welfare generation, Morrissey had cancelled his U.S. tour. Subject to bouts of ill health, he had been denied insurance to continue his onstage performances. It is not without irony that a music icon famed for his vegetarianism and anti-drug stance is confronting a physical demise, when other musicians, like the Rolling Stones, who have embraced a more traditional rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, are blossoming, even, into old age!
Before becoming immersed in the works of Woolf and Joyce, I discovered the lyrics of Morrissey and a human truth; that the pen is a sharper tool than the knife. In the Thatcherite 1980’s, when British popular culture was ruled by the escapism of the new romantics and the ideology of greed, Morrissey represented an attractive “other.” He was an anti-hero, whose counter-cultural credentials reached beyond his sartorial inelegance to the cultural references presented in his lyrics and “The Smiths” record covers. Like his shirt, his image did not quite fit. I was a teenage outsider with only my imagination and a record player for friends and, when I heard Morrissey sing I felt less alone.
I saw Morrissey perform in 1991 and although it was not a classic performance, the image of him trying to sing whilst drenched in the bodies of boy fans eager to touch genius, will always remain for me a definitive statement about the life I lived at that point; a symbol of willowy beauty destined to fade. Get well soon, Morrissey and I shall watch you perform again, zimmer-frames ready!