I was born in 1953, in Surrey, England, the 3rd child of 4 and the only son of a Canadian father and an Irish mother. We lived at Belmont, which was then in Surrey and has since become part of London. The Borough of Sutton and Cheam. We lived in a council prefab. My dad was a boiler stoker at Belmont Hospital. I went to a little village primary school and then to secondary school in Cheam. I was treated like a little genius by the teachers in the former and like a little moron by the teachers in the latter. The combined effect of this was similar to tempering steel, where the steel is heated until it glows and is then plunged into a cold water bath. The steel thus becomes toughened.
I was a Sunday school boy. My parents weren't religious, in fact they weren't married to each other, but I took to religion with tremendous enthusiasm and became one of those oddly monklike children who always says their prayers to Jesus and will not ever tell a lie. I stayed like that for many years, only gradually deteriorating into a normal grown up human with an average amount of dishonesty.
At 15 I left school and went to work for Rupert Murdoch's "News Ltd. of Australia" in Red Lion Court, Fleet Street, London.
At 18 I left and did a bit of travelling around England.
At 19 I went to the town of Glastonbury in Somerset to experience the "spiritual atmosphere" the place was supposed to have.
There I met Wendy, who became my first ever girlfriend and first ever utterly miserable relationship. I also met Jim Kimmis, a lad from Southend-on-Sea, Essex with whom I formed a writing partnership which lasted for 2 years until I was hypnotised and brainwashed into a homophobic pseudo-religious cult called "The Emin Society". Ironically, the book Jim and I had been writing was a new age adventure in which the dynamic tension was provided by an evil Svengaliesque character who runs an apocalyptic pseudo-religious cult. Jim and I put ourselves into the story as comic relief characters, clown foils to the real heroes. Reality, unfortunately, imitated art and I was inducted into the same sort of cult thing as we'd imagined. I never thought it could happen to me.
During those years they brainwashed us with "healing through the aura", "world history through the meaning of colours", "getting an actual, physical, third eye to appear through your forehead" (!), and other rubbish which no-one would ever believe without hypnosis. I began to wake up from my trance state as various cracks appeared in the brainwashing. I began doing volunteer work digging gardens for old people because my childhood Christianity was coming through and I wanted to "do good works in the world" even though an Emin leader advised me "not to worry about things like that".
After six and a half years of being brainwashed with homophobia and all manner of weird ideas I managed to get away from the Emin and I then became worried that they may have placed some sort of hypnotic trigger in my subconscious mind, something designed to cause me to re-enlist in their cult. To prevent any such trigger from activating within me I determined that my best course of action was to do a protest march up and down outside their Putney base and thus become persona non grata to them. I made a placard which said "EMIN UNFAIR TO SEARCHERS". They would recognise the term "Searcher" which they use as their Tarot card number 9 instead of the more usual "Hermit" card. After a few days of peaceful protest, walking back and forth outside their centre, the so-called "Mixing Chamber" at Putney, they called the police. Two policewomen arrived and informed me that although, yes, I did have the right to protest, they nevertheless felt that my protest might cause someone from the Emin to come out and attack me and so, regrettably, they must ask me to go away or be arrested. That's how they get round the tricky issue of civil rights under British law. Ha!
Anyway, I felt that I had accomplished my purpose, i.e: made myself persona non grata and thus, free from any hypnotic triggers the Emin may have put into my mind. So I breathed a sigh of relief and set about trying to reconstruct my life after 6 and a half years of the most stupid theories and ideas any cult has ever come up with.
I had been under their control from early 1974, when I hadn't even reached my 21st birthday yet, until late in 1980, when I was 27.
During the 80s for several years I worked for a Glastonbury, Somerset based charity called "Children's World" which was the brainchild of Arabella Churchill, granddaughter of Winston Churchill. We created interactive drama sessions for children with learning disabilities in Somerset and Avon (Avon used to be an English county in those days). I also worked for Mendip District Council Social Services as an unpaid volunteer in my spare time working with adults who had learning disabilities and with children in a playgroup.
In those days I lived in a flat overlooking Glastonbury High Street, number 7a, upstairs from the "Gothic Image" shop. One time, in the mid-1980s Princess Diana came to Glastonbury to open a group of arts & crafts workspaces. As her motorcade was coming down the High Street I borrowed a record player with big speakers and arranged it in a bay window on the first floor, then I put on the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" at maximum volume and unfurled a large white bedsheet from the window. The bedsheet was inscribed with the words "Ban Foxhunting!" As Princess Diana's car passed she turned her head to see where the loud irreverent music was coming from, and thus the bedsheet was able to deliver its message.
Living in Glastonbury I used to get continually beaten up by drug dealers because I refused their mind-warping products.
I've always been a bit arrogant about stuff like that.
In early 1987 there was a murder in the flat next door to me. I was in a room on the second floor of the building, above Gothic Image and next door to the Glastonbury Tribunal. The room next door to mine was occupied by a couple, Steve and Tabby, who were into horror comics and heavy metal bands and took lots of drugs. They would sometimes have violent fights. One time after they'd been fighting I saw they'd dropped a large knife on the stairs. That was a prelude to the next big fight they had when Steve killed Tabby.
The first I knew about it was the following morning when I was down in the kitchen on the first floor, making a cup of tea for my breakfast. It was a Sunday morning and Steve came downstairs while I was making tea and said he had something "heavy" to tell me. I could tell from his expression that it was serious.
I made an extra cup of tea for him and we went upstairs to my room. He explained that he had woken up, thinking it had all been a nightmare, and had then realised that it was true and that he had actually murdered his girlfriend. He asked me to call the police.
Well, we didn't have a telephone in the building and no-one had a mobile cellphone (they existed in the 80s but were rare) so I walked with him to Glastonbury police station which, in those days, was in Benedict Street. When we got there the police station turned out to be closed on Sundays and there was only an emergency telephone on the front of the building. The phone got us through to the nearest active police station, which was in the nearby city of Wells.
After a short wait a police car came from Wells and Steve was taken into custody while I went with two of the policemen up to the flats to show them which flat was Steve and Tabby's. Then one of the policemen went into the room while I waited outside with the other man.
The first policeman emerged from the room nodding and telling us "Yes, there is a dead body there".
I compare these times with my first experiences of Glastonbury town. I went to the town of Glastonbury first in 1972. I was attracted there by the old legends of the place, stories of early Christianity, of Celtic paganism and of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. However, then some idiot decided to hold a festival a few miles away at a little village called Pilton and call the festival after the famous Glastonbury. Since then the area was turned into a haven for drug dealers and the result was increasing violence.
I moved away from the area, distressed that the place which had once symbolised the new age of enlightenment had instead become a place of drug dealing and murder.
Perhaps it's the curse of King Arthur. Swords and dark doings. Perhaps I was naive not to think of that aspect before. Still, at least I did some good work during those years, with Children's World and with Social Services.
Next, I went off to London and studied drama and movement therapy, Rudolf Laban, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson and myths, legends and fairy tales.
Then, having failed to become a drama therapist, I went to work in an animal sanctuary for a few years. Still following my religious idea of "doing good works" - which I like to call "Dharma-Mitzvah".
At the end of the 1980s I did the Mensa Intelligence Quotient test and found I had an I.Q. of 160, higher than 90% of the population. This result gave me the confidence I needed to begin studying towards getting a university degree.
Eventually I went to university as a mature student in the 1990s and got a good fine art honours degree.
During those years I was not only an art student but also a hunt saboteur, an environmental activist and a part-time cleaner. I was pretty exhausted most of the time.
After graduation I worked in a cyber-cafe (an important trend in the late 1990s). Gradually I began to make art for the internet. Which leads to here, and the links on this blog.