..brainchild of Rod


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From a day out in London: Rod at Tate Modern:

Rod at Tate ModernI originally met Rod at TV Centre in 1985, but we only became friends after I left the Beeb in 1989. Rod has a curious energy that he frequently draws upon to evoke fun and vitality- like that experienced with mischievous kids. So in his presence one is inclined to feel more alive and conscious (You never know what might happen next).
As for me, I’ve never really grown up. People like Rod help me remain that way; they give me an added justification for clinging to what I reckon really counts in life: the stupid trivial pleasurable things.
Too many people grow up and become bores and prats – fastidious, pedantic nutters; those who A.S. Neill calls ‘life haters’ (see ‘Causes of War’). Maybe Wilde is too often quoted, but I like to bear in mind his maxim: ‘Life is too important to take seriously.’
I’ve spent most of my life well on the flippant, skylarking side of things, fooling around and acting daft or else just adopting a laid-back approach, taking any opportunity to create enjoyment (frequently to the chagrin of ‘sensible industrious’ people). And I regret not a minute of it. What I do regret is the solemn, stern, sober times, which nowadays is where I’ve come more to live. Yet - and this is where Rod comes in - at any instant, whatever the circumstances, I’m more than ready to plunge into the perceived bedlam of frivolity, of pranks and foolery and silliness: ‘the wisdom of bedlam’ - for me the equivalent of stepping back 30-years... nostalgia nothing! Perhaps this is a common experience? It’s clear that many great artists have known a similar angle on life - probably more than is generally recognised. (One rarely notices what ordinary people have done, since their work is either unknown or not especially innovative). Some of Henry Moore’s sculptures, for instance, are absurdly, grotesquely funny - without doubt deliberately so - as are those wonderful huge mad statues along the Champs-Elysées in Paris. Even Turner painted weird sea monsters. And look at Dostoyevsky, especially his ‘Notes From The Underground’! But not only his work, his life too. Utterly berserk - and there for posterity! As for Gogol - what more needs to be said? See also 'Kerouac'. There is potential for confusion with the way I use words like ‘mad’ and ‘sensible’, but I think what I’m saying is lucid enough. To really survive well, I suppose, you need to keep one foot in the sombre all-serious world, while the rest of you can live-it-up in the anarchic, defiant, life-affirming adventurous world. But to fall as a way-of-life - as so many do, even when quite young - headlong and into operating on a level known as ‘mature’ and ‘grown-up’ and ‘sensible’, is, it seems to me - and I’m sure Rod too - to abandon the whole purpose of existence.
In the last week of March 2006 Rod led me up the precarious narrow edge of an arch high over a brook that runs under the main railway line from Waterloo to Portsmouth. Steep and all brambles, I somehow made it - though not without tingling nerves and a prominent scratch on my nose. The slightest error, and I’d surely have fallen and broken my neck. But I was briefly 14-years-old again. Who’d believe it?
A few years ago we went to Disneyland near Paris and took a ride over ‘London’ at night in a little ‘boat’ with Peter Pan and Wendy and Tinkerbell that dainty little ‘fascist’ fairy. Again, who’d believe it? Anyone would think we were utterly barmy - and they’d be right, in a sense. But, I reflect, we’ll all be dead in 100-years.
Indeed, let’s all go mad - because (and now the Soap-Box) what’s far, far worse is to be a member of the business-class, supporting industry and helping to destroy the planet with aeroplanes and cars, and murdering thousands of people who are like ourselves - with horrendous expensive weapons which you and me are forced to pay for - all for the sake of profit and power, most especially for those few unscrupulous (there’s not many who aren’t), wealthy investors, managers and politicians who rule over everything.
And before it is rendered worthless and uninhabitable, these maniacs intend to plunder and dominate the entire planet - it is their mandate: the monster we call ‘corporate enterprise’ has no choice but to expand and profit, come what may. They run governments, wage wars to seize other governments (ie, Iraq and Afghanistan right now), repress and impoverish the feeble (us slaves at the bottom of the heap) from whom ALL their assets are derived… and rule supreme.
But unless people can find some way to escape this exploitation, and restrain the capitalist monster, the world will slide into the wild kind of anarchy that Dennis Potter predicted and which can only operate under Fascism - which is where we seem to be heading. And at the same time, to add to the horror, the world will become engulfed in climatic chaos. Rod would call these last three paragraphs ‘Soap Box writing’. But perhaps that’s the real answer to why I agreed to write that original site back in 2003 - and now this one: SO I CAN HAVE A SOAP-BOX!

Phil Clarke - November 2006