Champagne Socialist


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Both the toffs and the chavs loathe ‘champagne socialists’.  But what in hells name is a champagne socialist?  Are socialists required to drink beer and roll their own fags?  Do we need to shop at Lidl or visit food banks?  Can’t enjoy or appreciate art or design? Can’t arrange flowers or enjoy our rich British history?  Can’t travel?  Can’t trade or enjoy making money without voting Tory?

Are we implying only the poor and uneducated, bereft of appreciation can vote socialist?  The scavenging undedog who wants nothing more than Britain’s Got Talent and frozen pizza?  Why should ‘people like that’ vote Socialist anyway?  When and how were these ‘champagne socialist’ rules written and spun to shame those of us who are simultaneously well read, appreciate Pawson or Vivienne Westwood AND committed to defend the right to and provision of good health care and education for all UK citizens?

Do those who call me a ‘champagne socialist’ assume only extreme poverty, ignorance and duress will force the people to vote socialist?  Yes they do.

The British, from all classes, require this understanding:  are you one of us?   How can another Brit expect to divine who has socialist sympathies if they are drinking champagne?  It’s very confusing for a toff or a chav with limited ideas beyond fascism and racism to work out who might not think like him.  Annoyingly, of course, one can not tell another’s politics by the way they hold their knife and fork.


I am in Paris after a short but rather wonderful day or so in Barcelona.  I met some rich young Americans who secretly loved Trump.  I met a young english man who told me my instagram was terrible.  Barcelona is a vibrant, teeming, international city.  It is so different from genteel Seville.  Seville needs a dose of Barcelona.  I love the proportion of Seville, I love the people of Andalusia but the weather these past few weeks has been oppressively hot and only broke the day we drove out-of-town.

I left Barcelona at 2ish yesterday and immediately drove into three savage storms.  Now, thankfully, it is raining hard here in Paris.  The rain is such a wonderful relief.  The car is thickly dusted inside with Andalusian red earth and outside splattered with swallow shit.  There must be a hundred million swallows in Carmona.  The dogs are happy to be in Paris.  Little Dog does not like the searing heat.  He looked beaten… cowed on the hot pavement.  Dude is on a diet, Dude is losing weight.  He is looks better for losing his big bum.  He’s skipping around.  I admit!  I became one of those parents who couldn’t say no to an obease child.


Corpus Christi


Up at 7am.  Corpus Christi.  The Little Dog is delighted.  The streets of Carmona are strewn with rosemary.  There are black and white nuns taking selfies in front of the lavish shrines, there are choir boys with billowing red cassocks and freshly bleached surplice and starched ruffs running to the cathedral.  Young men and women carry a ton of Jesus or Mary on raised platforms through the fragrant streets.  They crush the herb beneath them.  The men wrap long black bandages around their waist to support their backs. Parents and grandparents are dressed in their Sunday finery.  The men wear religious medals, dark silk suits, brightly coloured ties and shirts.   Incense billows from the thurible.  Outside each church magnificent shrines are decorated with candles, brocade and lilies.  I acknowledge the tears of the virgin… glass beads on her painted cheeks.  I catch myself luxuriating in the ritual, the procession,  I am moved by the costumes, the smell of myrrh, the belief.  I love religiosity.

This week I took communion for the first time in years.

The corpse is resting.  David Roy, my adopted father, died on Friday after months long battle with cancer.  I received a short text message from my mother.  I called but she was her usual rancorous self.   Brexit loving, unhelpful and full of misguided disdain.  She said, the last time we spoke, she wanted Brexit to take back her power.  Repeating like an autistic child what she reads in The Sun and The Daily Mail rather than THINKING for herself.  What power?  She never had any power.  She has been cheated of power.  Now she wants to hand the few (who are still squabbling over the ashes of the dead at Grenfell Tower) more of everything.  Including our power.

Get to it Jeremy Corbyn.

Families have been riven over Brexit.  Ours included.

David Roy.  What of you?  All through my childhood I wished you dead.

I am 8 years old. There is a poster on the wall of my Stanley Road bedroom and on the back of the poster I wrote:  I wish you were dead.  Now he is.  For all the abuse, cruelty and misery of our childhood… he suffered a few short weeks of excruciating pain.

My mother was sad because at the end he was so weak and demented.  She remembered him strong and active.  She said she was, ‘sad’.  She chooses not to remember him as the violent, vicious abuser he was.  She chooses to forget how he tried to run her down when she attempted to leave their vile marriage.  Her boyfriend remembers, surely the beating David Roy delivered leaving him broken and bloody?  My friend Ana said, good riddance.

The end of such a potent chapter in my life.  I am unusually confused about his death.  I am elated and strangely moved.  I owe him something… I have waited for this moment my entire life.  I remember how he refused to let Billy Childish stay at our house one winters night after he and Rachel missed the last train home to Rochester.  I remember, he hated the miners and loved Margaret Thatcher.  I wore my Solidarity With The Miners badge.  He was furious.  He voted Tory.  The most vicious, self-serving kind.  He took me to watch football every weekend.  He took me to the garage where he worked and I snorted petrol fumes to get by.  My childhood, in that house… was excruciatingly dull and filled with fear.  That family, those people, those limited, strangled ideas.

Now, of course, they embrace Brexit.

My brother Stuart had children his own father was loathed to see.  My brother Stuart was also beaten.  He said to me once, “He would have gone to prison for doing what he did to us… if he had done that today.”  Bloody right he would.  And then I remember just how much effort it took to forgive him.  And when I went to see him and told him that he had been cruel but I forgave him and he tried to hug me but I stood as stiff as a board.  He was working in the arcade on Herne Bay promenade.  He was wearing latex surgical gloves.  He worked hard to ignore his crimes against us and we in turn colluded with him by not calling the police… like so many families held hostage by men like that.

I told my mother I forgave him, she said, “Why did you do that?  You let him off the hook.”

“No”, I replied, “I let ME off the hook.”

I have never forgiven my mother.  I have never attempted to forgive her.  I have only tried to make things better for her by persuading her to take what was hers.  She refused my advice.  She left with nothing.  I’m sure this blog is just the tip of the iceberg.  I will write more tomorrow.  Good bye David William Roy.  I have your name and the scars you left on me, both physical and emotional.  It looks like I am stuck with both.



I stayed at the compound last night.  The sheets are edged with delicate lace.  I left the dogs at home so I could sleep without disturbance.   I slept solidly and woke at 6am.  A light mist covered the immediate landscape.  The gardeners were hosing the paths, the foal was feeding.  A large flock of geese keep a watchful eye over me.    I drove home to two ecstatic dogs.  We walked beyond the Cordoba gate.  A rough, dusty path.

They went to the vet yesterday.  The little dog needed his anal glands expressed and Dude has an ear infection.  Total for visit and medication: $40.

After walking them both, The Little Dog and I (punctuated by a brief and violent encounter with a mini pincer) walked to the forum and drank the most bitter espresso. Early mornings in Carmona are cool and busy.  Spanish friends and neighbours chatter, the din echoes from the marble floor up to the roman arches.  Hundreds of equally noisy swallows dive in and out of the Ficus.

I don’t understand a word.  I order my coffee and sit quietly enjoying the breeze.   I am invisible.  On the way home I speak to no one.  I nod if they speak to me.  I am invisible.  I linger outside the house I like on Dolores Quintanilla.  My phone only works with wifi.  I am invisible.

The gardener harvested huge baskets of figs, tomatoes and aubergine.   The kitchen staff washed the red earth away from the purple and cream vegetables and delighted over the bounty.   The larder is full.  

Last night we took Lily for one of our late night promenade around the city.  We talk to old ladies about houses: empty, abandoned, for sale.  We find a cobbled lane and see an ancient house with weeds growing on the roof.  The windows are un-renovated, the bars have been fashioned by a blacksmith and not a machine.  The door has large mental studs hammered all over it.   Opposite there is an elderly widow sitting outside her house in a deck chair.  We ask her what’s for sale, is the house we like for sale?  She stows the chair, fetches her crutch and takes us to meet her neighbours.   She raps on their windows and whispers secrets about them to us.

“You can buy my house,” her friend laughs, “But it comes with my husband, I’ll pack my bags now.”

90% of the ancient alley is for sale.  A man from Madrid bought three of them, bricked up the windows and doors and they never saw him again.  Behind every door in the ancient part of the city there are endless surprises.   Courtyards, roman tiles, arches of marble or hand-made brick.  The best properties have been lived in but left untouched for 100 years… and there are plenty like that.

In our local restaurant, a few steps from the house, a young and handsome Spaniard practices passing a muleta they keep for decoration behind the bar.  A muleta is the stiff, pink taffeta cape used by the bullfighter to conceal the sword.  There are many styles of pass, each with its own name. The verónica is a pass in which the matador slowly swings the cape away from the charging bull while keeping his feet in the same position.  The faena is the final series of passes before the kill, in which the matador uses the muleta to manoeuvre the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulders, cutting the aorta. If this fails he must then cut the bull’s spinal cord with a second sword, killing it instantly. The task of killing the bull is given to the matador alone; his title means “killer”.

The young man in the restaurant had such grace.  He was impossibly beautiful.  His friend wraps an arm around him as they leave.  There are bull fights on the TV in the bar.  It’s hard to watch but god… it’s honest.  Killing the bull.  Eating beef.  Sport, entertainment… luxury… death.

Back in the USA I am preparing for my own fight.  I am preparing.  I am holding the cape. I am concealing the sword.

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The Heat


The heat is overwhelming.  A blanket of scorching air thrown over the city.  The dogs wilt, I pretend it’s just like Malibu but… it’s not.  Southern Spain.  I’m driving to Nice this week, then on to Paris and Chamonix to pick up my stuff.   I managed to leave things all over the place.  Ditching supurflous stuff along the way.  Lightening the load.  Occasionally I look at Dude and wonder if I should ditch him… poor crippled Dude.  His back legs giving in, he wants to catch up but he just can’t.   I can’t.  I can’t leave him behind.

At 5am, I took my coffee cup and the Little Dog.  We sat quietly looking out at the wide open plain, great fields of sunflowers, traffic snaking here and there.  Sitting outside the Cordoba Gate.  What dramas happened here?  Who was allowed in and who was kept out?  The two large fortified towers flanking a Roman arch were built around the 1st century A.D., with Renaissance and Neoclassical renovations.  It was designed to protect and reflect the great wealth Carmona enjoyed for hundreds of years.

A man arrives with his chestnut gelding.  As the horse drinks from the stone trough he drenches the beast with a plastic bucket.  How welcome that trough must have been to those who arrived (for hundreds of years) on horseback over this arid plain.  Waiting for the great doors to swing open, waiting outside the Cordoba gate, waiting to be let in or not.


I am going to stay the weekend in Italy with Rachel.  Near Pisa.  She has a donkey and two beloved cats.   At night Carmona is over run with scavenging cats.  Hundreds of them, like rats in New York.  They are too confident to be scared by me or the Little Dog even though he makes an occasional and pathetic attempt at charging them.  Their backs arch, they hiss and show their claws.  He stops a couple of feet away and makes his strange whimper.

Last night my friend Jose and I explored the ancient part of the city.  At 10.30 it was still very hot.  Then suddenly the wind comes from Cadiz, from the ocean… 60 miles away.  You can taste the salt.  We turn a corner and the welcome breeze fills our shirts and closes our eyes.

We were chronicling abandoned houses, with or with out se vende signs written on them.   Taking note of the location of each.  “Everything is for sale in Spain.”  The realtor says.  There are palaces and broken shacks, old towers and ancient islamic, crenelated walls formerly part of the old city fortification that crash into very ordinary houses and quite by accident these medieval battlements, parapets and mouldings are consumed and preserved.


Everything in Spain is for sale.  They see me coming: the friend of the rich celebrity.  The price of everything jumps $40k.  They show me the same houses they showed other friends two years ago.  Unlocking ancient doors, we wander through huge homes once occupied by many families.  There are slim balconies, stone steps leading to terraces looking down on secret courtyards.  There is pigeon shit and kittens mewing in every room in every house we saw.  Abandoned lives: a simple chair, a faience pot, a richly embroidered matador’s jacket hanging on the wall.  Left behind, like my luggage in Paris and Chamonix.


Jose asks me why I want to live in Carmona.  They asked me about Tivoli and Malibu before.  Why does anyone want to live anywhere?  I don’t know.  I could live anywhere and nowhere.  I am transient.  I am free of possession or need for possessions.  I go where I am safe.  It is safe here.  I lived in so much fear in the USA.  Fear of being caught without my papers.  Fear of the state.  I was not rich or powerful enough not to live in fear.

We wake at 4.30am.  We siesta after lunch.  The streets fill, the shops and bars open after 9pm. During the day Dude will not leave my friend, he hides under their garden furniture.  I keep the dogs out of the heat as much as I can. The Little Dog is gradually (slowly) recovering from his facial paralysis. He’s still very droopy but he’s coping.  He’s doing the best he can.  I’m doing the best I can.  I am covered with sweat and dust.  My nose is crusty, my eyes exhausted.  I am recovering my optimism.

Since leaving the USA I am not plagued with ideas of death, with dark thoughts, with hopelessness.  I am not hurting myself by investing in old traumas. Not here. I don’t want to die.  Not where there has been so much life for hundreds of thousands of years.  I am a smear soon to be forgotten.  My unpopular views on social media but dust.  It’s incumbent on me to stay alive.  To rejoice.  America makes a man vulnerable.  It destroys ones trust in humanity. I came to loathe so many people in the USA but I hated gay white men more than any other.  They are vile and crude.  They espouse ideas of love and acceptance but practiced hate and exclusivity.

Today we are having lunch in Seville with Spanish gays.  I am excited.  The gay men I meet here are so generous.  They touch my shoulder, they embrace me warmly.  At first I shrank from their kindness.  I learned not to trust white gay men.  But, I’ve warmed to them here.  They understand.  They understand what horrors I endured in the USA.