John Close - life / middle eight

I was born in Stanmore, Middlesex in September 1947. Yes, it's going to be one of those résumés, I hope you're sitting comfortably. My parents were keen to get out of post-war London so they left the basement flat in Willesden and moved out to live in an ex-army camp at Dorchester near Oxford. We lived in a Nissen hut and I began gathering memories of my achievements - setting fire quite deliberately to an Indian headdress of mine for no reason, pouring salt down my throat in the canteen at school for a dare and getting sent home because of it. The family graduated to a caravan and finally to a house in Garsington. We had moved up in the world and in terms of acreage made the quantum leap with the house. The total width of the garden was only forty feet or so but there was half a mile of it! The final section before a (usually) ploughed field was called "the jungle" and it was my job to take the machete to it sometime during summer and make it passable. Why I'll never know since no-one, not even me, wanted to examine the field and if they did it could be seen far more easily from the road that lay at the far side.

It was in Garsington that I first got interested in music and my first faltering attempts at playing the piano. The first record I ever bought was Humphrey Lyttleton's "Bad Penny Blues". Even though my father staunchly believed then as now that music as a creative popular medium ended with the breakup of The Squadronaires in 1942 he grudgingly bought home some Bill Haley (bearable) and some Goons (bizzare).

The mortgage couldn't be kept up on the house since my father didn't earn that much money as a lorry driver and we moved to cheaper quarters just about the time I changed school. We moved to Twyford which people swear to me is in Berkshire or New Zealand or just outside Pittsburgh PA, but every time I go through Winslow to a village seven miles either way from Bicester and Buckingham that's where my parents still live.

And so it was, gentle reader, that I entered the Royal Latin School at Buckingham. Boy, did I waste my time there! Still, it gave me a good grounding in time-wasting which has stood me in good stead ever since as far as having a wonderful capacity for idleness, for prevarication is concerned. It may have even been the case that while there I learnt the art of pompous verbosity, though this has never been proven. Of my scholastic achievements I shall say nothing, which is what they were. I dyed my hair at one stage, I always came last in the cross-country and loathed rugby and cricket as well as French, Maths, Geography, Art, Woodwork… Music seemed to consist of remembering how many children J.S. Bach had (answer - lots) but English was OK, thanks to the teacher we had.

Finally I was escorted to the gate and told to go to training college. All too clearly, since I had failed to learn anything at school, I would be an ideal teacher.

And so it was etc, that I went to Trent Park Training College, now part of The North London Polytechnic, and serve them right, too. I learnt the art of putting the world to rights whilst holding a cup of coffee, I was the cornet player in a sort-of-jazz band, I finally got into the business of tying together poetry and music (and guess what? it was a song!), I dropped out.

The hippie days may have been over in Haight Ashbury but in London they were still in full swing. I doped and dropped and drank my way through London like there was no tomorrow. There wasn't and with Thatcher in power there seems even less tomorrow now but it doesn't matter any more than it did, so.

What DID I do? Quite honestly, as little as possible. I worked in furniture stores, in warehouses full of valves, full of cassette tapes, in hospitals as a porter, in an off-license. I went to the Edinburgh Festival with a fringe show and did two songs a night, I was involved in a theatre group which made more and more of a hole in our organizer's pocket, I lived in increasingly awful squats in Paddington, Hampstead, Clapham etcetera. I almost became indistinguishable from the bricks in the walls I propped myself up against while waiting for the construction site van that never turned up, only it did one morning and we went out to Bracknell and I hated the job so much I walked back to the station and caught the train back to the squalor.

So finally I came to live in Milton Keynes. I stayed with a mate who had the idea that we should be rock stars so I played bass and he played lead and we got a drummer. It didn't last long, but in the meantime I'd got a job of sorts with British Rail in Wolverton and a house all of my own, with real curtains and a separate bedroom, in Bradville M.K. I spent a year at the Rail, a year on the dole, then wandered into the OU one day to meet a chap who needed some bog-standard clerical assistance for a month. That was 1978 and I've been here ever since. During this time I've moved house a few times and been married but not divorced, but really I've just held down a job, that's all.

Yes, in the last ten years I've actually had a worthwhile, developing job for the first time in my life. Sometimes I think I'm just playing around, then what I'm doing gets very serious and everybody's either in on it or been forced to get into it to keep up. Well, the obvious example is computers, isn't it? There I was pounding away on the Electron's keyboard at 3 in the morning trying to sort out my Procedures and my For...Next loops and thinking "This is great fun, pity we don't do this kind of thing at work" when suddenly it's all Macintoshes and everyone's running round asking "What's an icon?" and ole bright eyes here has got the answer, sometimes.

It's difficult to know where it's all headed at the moment. CoSy and the kind of system it represents is obviously important to /distance/ education so maybe I'll hang around here until they call's been a nice evening, you've been a great audience, I'd like to say thankyou on behalf of the band, and I'll try and get a look at your resume sometime.