The Punks come to visit – an extract from ‘Farther from the Sun’.

Happiness is security and not having to worry.



So the kids came round to my house, a great horde of them. There was a loud knock on my door early one evening. I opened it. There was a bunch of them all excited and boisterous. All the long hair and flares had gone. They now all had short hair, spiked up into points with brylcream. They had tight jeans. One of them had spray-painted his shoes with silver paint (He has since gone on to become a lawyer). There were a lot of razor-blades, rips and safety pins.

“Right you boring old fart!” one of them said, with a big grin, “we’ve come to play you some real music!”

I let them in. They had some a plastic bag of tinnies with them. We put the Hi-Fi on loud and I passed the deck over to them so I could sit back and listen. They played me Clash, Sex Pistols, Damned and Stranglers. I listened.

It was loud. It was fast. It was angry and violent. I didn’t know if I quite liked it on that first hearing. It felt raw and unsophisticated. It grew on me. I liked their passion and enthusiasm! I loved the way they had found a style that they could lay claim to. I loved the energy and anger of Punk!

The house rocked. They sprawled over the furniture. We drank beer and talked excitedly. They came out with their new phrases. Everything was boring! You could never trust an old hippie like me! This was the new world! This was anarchy! This was New Wave! I was now officially a boring old fart! But there was fun and a respect. I was now the old guard. They were taking over. I’m not sure that this was exactly the type of relationship that the school would be looking to foster, but it felt right to me.

It seemed that overnight I had become a dinosaur! These new kids were cutting a new path through the wilderness. I was the other side of the generation gap. But they came round to share it with me! That felt good.

At least I wasn’t considered to be completely lost and down with the likes of Max Bygraves, Val Doonican and Harry Secombe. They had some respect. I still had a little credibility! After all, I had introduced them to Roy Harper, Bod Dylan, Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and the Doors.

Later on, in the holidays, my wild Punks came round to help me decorate the house. There must have been a dozen of them. Liz went away with the kids and we cranked the music up and chucked the paint on, making short work of it and having a ball. The whole house was a party for three days.

They were very keen but not too proficient at painting. I found myself having to tidy up a lot of their sloppy work. You see, that’s what comes with age and maturity – you become fussier.

Us teachers have to set an example!



Gandhi and Martin Luther King both had a vision of a new world that wasn’t exclusive. It was for everyone. They both set about putting their energies into building that vision of a harmonious, multiracial world, despite the seeming futility involved in even attempting something so impossible. They both took on hugely enshrined establishments that were so set in concrete that it looked as if they could never crumble. Yet the British Raj and South African white supremacists were both defeated and shown up for the evils they were.

Mandela and Gandhi were extraordinary. They both refused to let their emotions lead them down a road of violence and revenge. They sought to oppose regimes that they believed were wrong, in ways that revealed their enemies for the monsters they were, without resorting to hate and division. They were threatened, beaten but never bowed. If ever men stood as examples of what it was to be a man, to be a human being, then it was epitomised in these two.

If ever a person needed a role model then they could not be bettered.



Happiness is hope.



Medgar Evers, Steven Biko, Ann Franck, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, plus countless others of all races and cultures, all genders, all colours, all religions, all creeds, they will live on as beacons, while the Hitlers, Stalins, Pol Pots and countless other dictators, torturers and criminals should be reviled forever.



Happiness is building that better world.


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