Confessions of a Turncoat

As a boy I liked to read Tin Tin. Actually, I would borrow my brother’s books and read them. Although, truth be told, I did not read very much when I was a young lad. (It baffles me to this day.) There were 2 exceptions, though. And they were Smash Hits and Fungus the Boogey Man by Raymond Briggs. My interests lay elsewhere. I would spend hours alone in the woods behind our house, playing games like cowboys and Indians or soldiers or reenacting Biblical tales, or else building dens out of ferns like a wild animal. And I was able to say well before Wordsworth at 24, “I have been doing nothing and still continue to be doing nothing, what is to become of me I know not.”

And my other interest was girls. I’d do odd jobs for my grandparents and their friends just so I could earn some pocket money to buy boxes of Milk Tray. Then I’d go on desultory wanderings to woo my love interest at the time with chocolates (it was so easy then!). In one week, I’d asked every girl in Burry Port, my hometown, out and had moved on to, Carmarthen, Kidwelly, Llanelli, Swansea. I was unstoppable. And to this day there are parts of Wales where you can come across my empty choc boxes. I alone kept Cadbury’s going.

And did it pay off? Hell no. I never got to indulge. It was all just chocolaty smiles and a broken heart. And so I took to throwing bricks into sweet shops. I took to stealing and selling imported Scottish Toffees and English hard-boiled candies. And for a handful of gummy worms I’d kiss the ugly sister. I’d buy fake cigarettes and pretend to smoke them on street corners, dressed in my American Pie jeans, waiting for any young thing to walk by. Dogs stopped, mostly, and I’d dip into my candy bag and give them something chewy. But I longed for the sweet and sour drops of love. But would it come? No. So I turned to After Eight mints. To lingering outside pubs with my bag of treats. And then I’d end up going home with one of my friends’ mothers. And they liked the more expensive chocolate, like Black Magic.

Here’s a poet I’d like to read more of: Tomas Tranströmer:

“The divine brushes against a human being and lights a flame
but then draws back.
Why?”

Why indeed?

And now I must go in search of a Pantisocracy like Coleridge. And why is it, I wonder, that some creative geniuses must lose it to drugs and drink? Coleridge was ruined by opium. And since I’m reading Blake, it’s remarkable how he resisted these temptations even though he was struggling in darkness. He was able, somehow, to preserve his genius even when things got bad for him, and they did, the least of which was the cry of sedition against him. And he even had his Great Fear, the fear that he was being forced to betray his own gifts by working as an engraver for others. But, thank Orpheus, he did not have the Romantic notion that he should be poor in order to be an artist. He understood rightly that penury does not help the creativity of a writer. It simply complicates it. And so he worked. And his genius got richer.

Well, Fill a pottie, fill a pannie, Fill a blin’ man’s hannie.

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