You don’t have to be mad to work here…


Yes, I know, possibly the most irritating ‘saying’ (how does one categorise a ‘saying’…I guess many are of Billy Boy’s origin but stuff involving birds and bushes (I don’t suppose that would pass any political correctness test these days) who is the sayings Meister?) and one that is nearly always said by the the most irritating, straight person whose own personal saying (there it is again) is ‘I’m mad me’ whilst raising their eyebrows to the sky like ‘Why-Bird’ from ‘Playdays’.

Idioms, we love ’em.

I use it as an opener ironically, but what I am really referencing is a lifelong interest in eccentrics, and, in truth, it should more correctly probably be you don’t have to be mad to LIVE here, for this sceptered isle (Shakespeare, Richard II, point made, thank you) does have more than it’s fair share of eccentrics.

I muse thus as at the moment I am reading the official biography of Francis Bacon (the figurative painter, as opposed to the 17th century philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, author and alleged ‘father of empiricism’). It’s fair to say that he led a bit of a life, much of which is best not repeated for fear of who might be reading this, but then anyone who has seen his work would not be surprised to hear of it. as it is certainly striking, regardless of whether you think it’s any good or not. Personally I find it it …well for once I am struggling for the right word, I guess magnetic is the closest I can get, possibly fascinating, but it is a looking glass into a vision that is pretty much horrifying but nonetheless engaging, a bit like staring at a road crash even though you don’t want to or not being able to put down a Bret Easton Ellis novel or the Red Riding Quartet..

What went through his mind?

In between creating these paintings he just drank himself into oblivion on a daily basis in a soho society that included Jeffrey Barnard, Dylan Thomas, Lucien Freud, Graham Sutherland…the list is pretty much endless and becomes a list of our eccentrics on its own, but my interest in eccentricity started in early years as I started reading books by Spike Milligan whose, shall we say ‘individual’ behaviour (Sherlock Holmes would say singular) was exacerbated by a serious case of ‘shell shock’ brought on in World War 2 by a near hit. How often eccentricity begats genius – I laughed, cried and grieved with Spike and his incredible take on the world.

Perhaps it’s because eccentrics see the world differently to the rest of us that they can be creative and capable of art, music, writing etc…that the rest of us can only appreciate but not emulate.

Wealth and fame often go hand in hand with eccentric behaviour, a fact recognised by Keith Moon (an A- Lister in eccentricity) who once claimed it was a ‘polite way of saying I’m (expletive deleted) mad’.

From mutilated faces and bodies, I travel seamlessly to my mood today, not helped by Chelsea’s exit from the Champion’s League last night and seriously compounded by Question Time from Dundee. I listen on the radio, it’s easier for me to lock myself away in my office and scream at it than deep within the family bosom and let’s face it, it is bad enough listening to these clowns without having to look at them as well.

The glorious image in mind of Dundee (almond topped fruit cake, ‘life’ size statue of ‘Desperate Dan’ and hideously orange shirted footballers sponsored by ‘VG’) is smote a terminal blow as a range of our Scottish Chums use every topic as an excuse to return to the debate about independence, one I am sure that they lost 18 months ago (sadly, I would happily take on the contract to drill along the border line and have them dragged out to sea right next to the oil and gas they continuously harp on about)…still I shouldn’t be surprised as they’re still singing about a battle in 1314.

Which brings me nicely on to Saturday’s rugby and the fact that I am already pacing the floor and saying ‘I Needa  da space’ like the Brazilian puma in the Creature Comforts film. You see, in spite of the horrendous disappointment of the World Cup and determining not to get carried away, here I am once more, nervous and keyed up up for the match 72 hours before it even starts!

And whilst we’re on the subject of getting worked up, I sat through ‘Crimewatch’ tonight and to say that I find  a request for help in finding the killer of John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer a joke and a waste of public broadcast time and money, unless of course we are trying to catch the assassin to pat him on the back, is to understate by no small amount.

Meanwhile, the ‘Theme from Mahogany’ keeps interrupting my mental jukebox (I’ll tell you about it some other time!) and the radio ramblings suddenly give way to the latest news of the USA Primaries and I realise that we are not alone in engendering eccentrics as the Trump lurches into view on the mental horizon (and that horizon truly is becoming more and more MENTAL in the 1970s non-politically correct context), as sleep begins to beckon, his hair distorts and distends, Bacon-like…hold on, that IS his hair and the nightmare is becoming real, what would Francis make of it? I wonder if it works the other way, he would take the bizarre hair and normalise it? That said, if he was painting what he saw inside the sitter, what on earth would Trump come out like?

I’ll never sleep tonight, I have the ramblings of Milligan fading in and out (“My Father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic”) and the curiosity  of Brian Blessed discussing smoked salmon and black bread with a clearly distressed taxi driver during an advert for mayonnaise suddenly hoves into view, amusing and alarming both at the same time.

It’s all a bit like a Tony Soprano dream scene – what you gonna do?!!