A friendly missive arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago. It was from friend and poet, Michael Pedersen.
Michael Pedersen and I have history.
Michael Pedersen has a book coming out. It has the title Boy Friends.
Boy Friends was written in response to the death of Michael Pedersen’s best friend Scott Hutchison. Much of Boy Friends was written while Michael Pedersen was doing time in The Curfew Tower, back in 2018.
I also have history with The Curfew Tower.
Deeper in the strata of the book there are many other connections. Ones I think you might connect with.
In the friendly missive, Michael Pedersen asked me if I could paint one of my text paintings with just the words BOY and FRIENDS on the canvas. And he asked me if it could be painted in time for us meeting and talking at The Social in London on Wednesday the 6th of July 2022, as in a week today. It was a Yes Day* so I said “yes”.
But then I changed my mind.
We all change our mind sometimes.
What I changed my mind to was…
It should be you Dear Reader and not just me holding the brush and applying the paint to this planned text painting. That is, you and everyone else that has had a boy friend that has died before their time. And to be clear, when the words ‘boy’ and ‘friends’ are used here, it does not specifically mean a boyfriend in a holding hand sort of way, but a friend who was a boy – of any age and of any gender.
What I will have with me at The Social on the evening of the 6th of July 2022 is a brand-new canvas, freshly stretched and primed and ready to be painted on. Thus not one of The 25 Paintings that have had on-going issues in my life over the past decade or so. On this freshly stretched and primed canvas I will have outlined in pencil the words BOY and FRIENDS. I will be on hand with a pot of yellow paint and a pot of black paint. And I will invite anyone else in The Social that evening who has had a boy friend that has died before their time, to paint a bit of the freshly stretched and primed canvas.
After that night at The Social, the BOY FRIENDS painting can progress through its’ life and be added to by all those that come across it. And everyone who does can, using a paint brush and pot of black paint provided, add the name of their boy friend on the back of the canvas followed by their name and the date they added their bit to the painting. And this can go on for years. Maybe even hundreds of years until there are no more boy friends left on earth to die before their time.
The Elderly Gentleman
I have just read through what I have written and found myself changing my mind again. Instead of it just having the two words BOY FRIENDS on the painting, it should have four words – THE BOY FRIENDS’ PAINTING.
*I am trying out having Yes Days and No Days. I wake up in the morning and toss a coin. If it is heads, it is a Yes Day and if it is tails, it is a No Day. On Yes Days, I say yes to things and on No Days, I say no to things. But most days I leave the coin un-tossed and make a pot of tea instead.
A LIGHT SHINING BRIGHT
July 4, 2022
Monday the 4th of July 2022
Dear Members of The Seventeen,
As the 9:15 train to Corby is pulling out of Saint Pancras…
I am once again confronted with the oh so entitled London-centric world that I am part of. The billions of pounds that have been spent on this less than square mile that Saint Pancras and King’s Cross are part of. But in moments we are clear of Granary Square world and into the Somers Town world you might know via Shane Meadows’ depiction, and I cannot stop myself celebrating the work of fellow vandalisers of walls with crude and less crude tags and scrawls. And then of course are the Buddleia growing out of the cracks in man’s crumbling dominion. Can’t be long now before Her work is done.
But before She does, and it is done, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the members of The Seventeen, for taking the risk and your outstanding inaugural performance of the tribute version of the score SURROUND.
And the suburbs give way to Duncan Sandys’ pleasant fields of the Green Belt.
And in minutes, as the train is rolling into Luton…
I can see the home ground of the first English football team I ever followed – Kenilworth Road. My Uncle Bill had moved down from Scotland after the war. He set up home in Luton. I couldn’t understand a word my Cousin Kathleen said, and she couldn’t understand a word I said. My Uncle Bill was a regular at Kenilworth Road. This was decades before Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon got his season ticket. And I imagine The Seventeen chanting “Come on You Hatters” on the terraces of Kenilworth Road in some sort of rage at everything Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon might stand for.
And as the train pulls out of Luton, I am thinking about The Luton Girls’ Choir (1936 – 1977) and I am wondering if they ever had a tribute version of themselves. They were always one of my favourite choirs. Far better than the Vienna Boys.
I will grab the next passing moments of this Monday morning and attempt not to be distracted by the vanishing world outside the carriage window, so I can list all your names, as in the names of those who of were passing members of The Seventeen this vanished Saturday evening…
1: Gordon 2: Sam 3: Andy Gell 4: Simone Stokes 5: Paul Locker 6: Tim Widdows 7: Liz Widdows 8: Ailsa Charter 9: Lon McCall 10: Stephen Dorphin 12: 11: Richard Groves 13: Philip G Paterson 14: Lizzie Paterson 15: Kay McGinley 16: 17: Sam Lunnon 18: 19: Karen Rust 20: 21: 22: 23: Charlie Davies 24: 25: 26: El Clayton 27: 28: 29: 30: Annie Tappenden 31: Agris Krumins 32: Dinah Kazakoff 33: 34: 35: 36: 37: Donna Canale 38: Ade Cartwright 39: Amanda Cartwright 40: Bill Drummond
Due to the latest wave in the Global Pandemic, not all forty of those who had booked a place to be a member of The Seventeen made it to Corby. Other names are missing from this list that should not be. If your name is one of the missing names, please let me know in whatever way you can, and your name will be added. Thank you and sorry for the oversight on my part.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Lizzie & Philip Paterson for baking and bringing the bread to have with the soup. I had some that was left over toasted with Marmite on it this morning.
I had planned to take a photograph of all these Day One members of The Seventeen in front of the WE LOVE YOU WALL, but I forgot. My mind by then was too concerned about the possibility of soup burning in the pan. So instead, I have used a photograph of the cover of The Luton Girls Choir’s ground-breaking album A LIGHT SHINING BRIGHT IN THOSE DARK WAR YEARS.
And as the train rolls into Bedford…
My mind shifts back to almost four hundred years. And I am thinking about The Ranters across the land, unfocused, unorganised, chaos meets crusty, but challenging those whose hands were on the levers of power back in the days. And then that tinker by trade but revolutionary by nature, John Bunyan imprisoned here in the town jail for twelve years (1660 – 1672) for being part of the Nonconformists spreading The Ranters words across the land…
And him in there behind the bars writing his Pilgrim’s Progress, and the influence those words have had on several centuries of life, but I guess that was before your time. John Bunyan makes Johnny Rotten seem like the pampered son of the more equal than others, that he may have been.
And as the train pulls out of Bedford…
I can hear in my head The Bedford Messiah Choir performing Handel as the Rose Bay Willow Herb are bursting into bloom all along these rail embankments.
And as the train rolls into Wellingborough…
I think about the rise and fall of The Doughboys and less than a stone’s throw away The Nag’s Head, Woolaston. It was there after climbing the single file and ramshackle wrought iron staircase on the outside, John Peel would stamp our tickets as we entered, before he manned the decks. It was there we witnessed The Liverpool Scene sometime in 1970, with Adrian Henri performing The Entry of Christ into Liverpool – which was enough for me to think if Liverpool is good enough for Christ to enter, then it is good enough for me to apply to do painting at the Liverpool School of Art (yeah, that and input from The Plastic Ono Band).
And then its Kettering. And if you come from Corby, it is always difficult being in Kettering as soon as they hear your accent.
And again, as the train is now pulling out of Kettering, where the home of The Poppies once was, I can almost see The Tin Hat, where all the greatest R&B bands of land and beyond played during my teenage years.
And on over the River Ise, where in a hedge row by its’ banks I first discovered one of the most beautiful things in all of Creation – the nest of a Wren with thirteen tiny eggs waiting to hatch. Those that might know how a Wren’s nest is constructed might doubt how I knew there were thirteen eggs in the nest. I embrace your doubt, and I feel shamed in letting you know that I pushed my middle finger into the entry hole and touched and counted each-and-every-one of those thirteen eggs.
And on as the train pulls into Corby Station where I caught my last steam strain in the January of ’66. That was just before Beeching closed the station down on the 18th of April that same most swinging of years. The very month that Somebody Help Me by The Spencer Davis Group was at number one in the singles charts.
And I step down from the train…
And I begin my walk from Corby Station to the Rooftop Arts Centre, maybe for the last time ever. There is always a last time. And I don’t just mean maybe the last time, I don’t know… But a Green, green grass sort of last time.
I stand looking through the tunnel under the rail tracks – l love this tunnel. Don’t we all love a tunnel. The second time I walked through this tunnel back in March or April, I sort of imagined The 25 Paintings being exhibited in there. And as people walked through this tunneI into town, they would have had to squeeze past all 25 of them.
This morning I am not thinking about what a missed opportunity that was. What I am thinking is, what a missed opportunity that I did not do a different score with The Seventeen and whatever that score was should have been performed down here in this tunnel, with its concrete reverb and unwanted smells and unseen threats and “What the fuck are those people doing in the tunnel making all that noise?” of it.
So, instead, I just take out my phone and take a photograph looking down the tunnel that I might never walk through again. And while I do so I imagine a future version of The Seventeen doing a performance here. You got to imagine these things, or maybe nobody else will ever do it. It is what imagining is for.
And when I get through to the other end of the tunnel, I take another photograph looking the other way. Then I celebrate by picking some of the Feral Raspberries that are growing there in the unkept hedge. This is where the Elder Trees had been in bloom only two weeks ago, willing me to pick their fronds for my Corby’s Finest Elderflower Cordial (blended from five different Corby Elder Trees).
I would also like to take this further opportunity to thank The Corby Latvian Choral Society for their influence on me in my early choral years in the mid-to-late-sixties.
Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou.
The Elderly Gentleman
The station in Corby re-opened in April 1987, and closed again in June 1990, and re-opened again in February 2009.
July 3, 2022
Sunday the 3rd of July 2022
The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre first came into existence yesterday on the 2nd of July 2022.
The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre exists to celebrate the plays written by Tenzing Scott Brown.
Tenzing Scott Brown wrote forty plays; from 2015 until he was killed in early January this year.
The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre exists at night within The 25 Paintings, after The 25 Paintings have closed their Tea Rooms for the day.
The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms exists wherever a Cosy serves you tea, while The 25 Paintings display themselves for your admiration.
A Cosy is the name used to describe a person serving tables at The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms. You will recognise them as they will be wearing a tea cosy on their head. Thus, the word Nippy has been dispensed with.
The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre is commonly known as The Tenzing.
The Elderly Gentleman
July 2, 2022
BEFORE YOU COME
July 1, 2022
Friday the 1st of July 2022
Before, During, After is a play by Tenzing Scott Brown which will have its world premiere at The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre tomorrow, as in on Saturday the 2nd of July 2022.
BEFORE is Act One of the play Before, During, After by Tenzing Scott Brown.
BEFORE is performed by Anyone* wishing or willing or coerced to witness a performance of the play Before, During, After. It is down to Anyone to actually perform Act One of this play by either having been a member of the choir The17 (which existed between 2003 – 2013) or read the book 17 by Bill Drummond (published in 2008), or watched the film Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and All Music Has Disappeared (released in 2015).
DURING is Act Two of the play Before, During, After by Tenzing Scott Brown.
DURING is to be performed tomorrow in The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre in The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms in Corby. It will be attended by an audience of no more than forty people. These forty people are made up of forty Anyones.
The opening lines of Act Two are “Good evening, I am The Elderly Gentleman, or someone playing the part of being The Elderly Gentleman. I am also an Anyone. Although Before, During, After was conceived by Tenzing Scott Brown before he was killed in early January 2022, it has been left to me to make this play a reality. As such I will be the only member of The Penkiln Burn Players** on this stage for Act Two of this play.”
AFTER is Act Three of the play Before, During, After by Tenzing Scott Brown.
AFTER is to be performed tomorrow by members of The Seventeen on the streets of Corby. The Seventeen are a tribute choir. They are a tribute to The17.
If you are one of the forty Anyones attending the performance of Acts Two & Three of Before, During, After tomorrow, but were not a member of The17, or have not read 17 by Bill Drummond or have not watched the film Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow Morning and All Music Has Disappeared you can either feel guilty or read the words on the following photographs and pretend to yourself you know all there is to need to know about Act One of this play before attending Acts Two & Three.
The Choice is yours.
The Elderly Gentleman
*Anyone is you, me or anyone else that might be thinking about attending a performance of Before, During, After.
**The Penkiln Burn Players are a touring troop of players who existed to perform the works of Tenzing Scott Brown.
Post Script to the Post Script:
What I forgot to say at the beginning of this letter, I need more time to do the washing up between the closing of The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms and getting the chairs out for the opening of The Tenzing Scott Brown Memorial Theatre. Thus the theatre will not be opening until 5pm. Thus Before, During, After may not finish until about 7pm.
June 30, 2022
Wednesday the 29th of June 2022
You might think it is just my paranoia but while I am working as a Nippy in their tea rooms, as in the tea rooms belonging to The 25 Paintings, it’s as if I can hear them whispering behind me.
Then there are times that I almost trip over the feet of their easels. This is while I am carrying a kettle of boiling hot water or plate with a dozen or so freshly baked scones. Maybe I could not prove this scientifically, but you know what it is like when the paranoia starts to bite.
And all their whispering is getting louder and louder.
And I know what it is they want.
They want to get rid of my name, or at least the name of “Bill Drummond” from this whole thing.
For the past few years, The 26th Painting, as in like The Fifth Bunnyman*, has been the one that has the words BILL DRUMMOND at the top and THE 25 PAINTINGS at the bottom. And each year of the twelve year world tour I change the middle bit so it has the name and dates to reflect where my exhibition is that year.
Well in these past few days with my paranoia about what The 25 Paintings whispering about me and how they try to get their easels to trip me up, has reached such a fever pitch, I have had to do something. And the usual forms of self-harm weren’t working.
What I have done is repaint The 26th Painting. And in doing so, remove my name from it completely. It now reads THE 25 PAINTINGS’ at the top and TEA ROOMS at the bottom. In between it still has the venue and dates information.
This seems to have worked. My paranoia has receded. I even think it looks better. Takes the pressure of me. If things go wrong, if it all turns out shite, and it gets bad reviews on TripAdvisor, I can blame The 25 Paintings.
Time to get my phone out and take a photograph of what it looks like now.
The Elderly Gentleman
THE PIED WAGTAIL
June 26, 2022
Friday the 24th of June 2022
Today is the day that THE PIED WAGTAIL by Tenzing Scott Brown is being officially published.
There is also a letter to you Dear Reader, to be published not here but via Caught By The River. This letter relates to my ongoing tempestuous relationship with a certain Pied Wagtail. And her complete obliviousness to my advances.
The Elderly Gentleman
LOVE ISLAND 2025
June 24, 2022
Friday the 24th of June 2022
Regarding the photograph above this letter to you Dear Reader:
I doubt very much that The 25 Paintings even know who you are let alone LOVE YOU.
From my almost lifelong experience of paintings and the way they behave, paintings would do almost anything to get you to look at them and for you to give them all your attention, thoughts and studies. At the same time, paintings wouldn’t give a shit about you or any of the tribulations in your life.
Do you think The Scream cares what angst and existential dread you are going through? At the same time, The Scream wants you to think that he is the ultimate angst-ridden painting of the 20th century! There he is being flattered with praise like “The Mona Lisa of modern art” on his Wikipedia page.
Same goes for Guernica… Do you think Guernica cared about how many souls were killed in the Spanish Civil War or who in fact won that war back in 1937? Guernica just wants to revel in the fact that she is “regarded by many art critics as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history” again clearly stated on her Wikipedia page.
If you can detect a stain of jealousy on my part in the above paragraphs – I won’t deny that I think The 25 Paintings look brilliant in the photograph above this.
I would also like to put forward the case…
It is as much, or even more down to the way they have been portrayed in the photograph above, taken by Tracey Moberly (whose birthday it is today), that shows The 25 Paintings in such a good light. It is as much down to Tracey Moberly’s talent and inspiration, as it is down to The 25 Paintings innate power as paintings.
I know I have to accept that The 25 Paintings seem to garner more depth and vibrancy with age, whereas I just garner more aches and pains. As for memory… They remember everything little thing, whereas I have even forget who won in the last season of Love Island.
As to the whiff of bitterness that seems to be hanging around me this morning…
It is because of the following…
Last night, I had long planned to celebrate Līgosvētki into Jãni by sleeping out under the gathering storm clouds of doom and yes, with The 25 Paintings – as depicted in the accompanying and stunning photograph above. I had got a brand-new sleeping bag and my heterodyne bat detector was primed, so I could listen out for the Serotine Bats. And in turn compare and contrast with Bettina Heick (see previous letter to you Dear Reader).
Just when I was about to bed down for the night and wait for the Serotine Bats to welcome me to their world, the head of security for the crumbling former shopping centre arrived to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I could not sleep rough in this vicinity. He also let me know that he had slept rough for over twenty years, and me doing one night of it, as some art related thing, was insulting to him and everyone else that has ever had to sleep rough in their life. I did not try and explain about the urban Latvian version of my Līgosvētki into Jãni celebrations. So, I nodded to his authority and packed away The 25 Paintings back into the gallery.
My Līgosvētki into Jãni celebrations will have to wait for another day.
Right now, I need to get 32 scones baked before The 25 Paintings Tea Shops open.
The Elderly Gentleman
Regarding the Love Island reference:
As much as my son was relieved that his aging father was not going to be sleeping out under those “gathering storm clouds of doom”, he was totally pissed off that I was going to have to sleep on the couch in his room at the Premier Inn (yes, there were no more rooms left at the inn). As in my son had been planning on watching Love Island but felt that he could not do this while his father was snoring on the couch in the same room as him. Maybe The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms should visit Love Island for the 2025 season.
ALL CHANGE! ALL CHANGE!
June 17, 2022
The separate sittings thing isn’t working.
From now on at The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms, if you book a sitting you can have it all the way from 2 to 4pm. Or you can just turn up at 5 to 4 and have just five minutes, and still be entitled to your two scones and all the tea you can drink in five minutes.
What this does mean is that we can only have 16 bookings per day and not the 32. But we are dealing with that.
And of course, we are now doing weddings as well.
The Elderly Gentleman
And oh yeah that strap line that The 25 Paintings were wanting to use WHERE FUTURES HAPPEN has been thrown out. Sounds like some desperate start up in the City of London circa 1998.
June 17, 2022
Thursday the 16th of June 2022
I won’t deny the logistics have been an influence…
Not being in my prime (unlike Miss Jean), I don’t think I should be running naked through the fields and forests this coming of Līgosvētki / Jāņi, as in through the evening of the 23rd to the early dawn of the 24th. I should leave that running naked to the likes of you.
To get back to the logistics. I was going to bribe 25 volunteers with ‘free’ posters, to help me carry The 25 Paintings from their place in their Tea Rooms, in the Rooftop Arts Centre via the lift, the half mile or so, to then hang them from The Corby Oak Tree. And in that way celebrate Līgosvētki / Jāņi. And spend the night there listening out for the Serotine Bats.
Now that I have developed this relationship with “the wild glamour of the derelict and crumbling brutalist architecture just waiting to be demolished” that the Rooftop Arts Centre is housed in, I have decided to celebrate the night of Līgosvētki and into the morning of Jāņi (23rd into the 24th), on the rooftop of this place, before it gets demolished. The fact that the lift has broken has also been an influence. The Corby Oak can wait as it has been for the past three hundred years or so.
All I have to do is take all The 25 Paintings and their easels out of the arts centre and up onto its roof. And that is where I will spend the night under the stars, or the pouring rain. As for the Serotine Bats, I am still hoping they will still pay me a visit.
If I am lucky the family of Pied Wagtails will welcome the dawn in for me.
The Elderly Gentleman
That said, I think I will do a bit of running naked but will keep the information about the time and place to myself.