Lunch is Off
An Entirely Solicited, Occasionally Illustrated and Completely Unreliable Memoir
I was born into a great deal of comfort in 1958. My Australian father, Redding Unction was a commercial property developer and my mother Giselda Fasnacht, a Diva of some renown. Yes, that’s right, she is my mother. Anybody who saw her Violetta in La Traviata of 1975 at the Venice Opera, will attest to her skill and her heft. It was said at the time, (a tad unkindly by one reviewer) she could fill the house with both her voice and her abundant physical assets. Not long after, this reviewer met with an unfortunate accident, involving a cement hopper.
Giselda, a notorious snob, insisted on my attendance at the Schloss Private Boarding College in Switzerland, the country of her birth. I entered this establishment at the age of five. To say my time there was unpleasant, would be a gross understatement of the facts. If it had not been for an English master, going by the name of Pickles, I would have been maimed, if not murdered. Below is a drawing I made of the dear fellow.
He sported a mass of wiry hair and bushy sideburns, providing his narrow shoulders with prodigious drifts of snowy dandruff. He had an accidental opportunity to view my drawing before I could secrete it away and, oddly, it was one of the few occasions he remained silent. Master Pickles found, however, several other occasions to declare his point of view. Once he handed me a private missive as I insolently ambled out of one of his lessons:
Unction, you are destined for a hard life my boy. You are the most unlikeable person I have had the displeasure of knowing. You are in possession of an oppositional nature verging on the psychotic, bringing out the worst in everyone you cross paths with.
You’re manipulation of substantive reality and your venal undermining of conventional wisdom, is so thoroughly reprehensible one can only but fail to view your personality with any degree of indulgence. Having said this, I see it as my mission to protect you. My only reasonable conclusion in regard to my somewhat conflicted concerns on this matter, is that your case is so extreme, the science of psychiatry will have lost an opportunity to study a truly unique pathology.
I will not be passing this information along to your parents, for I fear your behaviour at school can only be a pale reflection of what they surely must be experiencing in the tortured chambers of your home.
Little did he know that any solicitations made in the direction of my mater and pater, would have fallen unheeded at their feet, as the passing of autumn leaves from the branches of a maple tree.
Master Pickles was an ambiguously comforting presence in my life at Schloss but at least he was wrong about one thing; I was not destined for a hard life. I invariably landed on my feet, granted at the expense of others; but one must get ahead. With this assessment of my early school career and with the encouragement of my parents, I entered into what became a lifetime of psychotherapy, interrupted briefly by a litigious stint as a psychotherapist myself. That, of course, is another story for which I would need many hours and the presence of my lawyer to explain.
It became clear at an early age I had some talent for drawing and as such, I could often be found practicing this talent in the gardens of my college. These were lonely years but when I was drawing I was happy. There are many drawings from this time still in existence. I made a drawing of my mother while we were on holiday in Bali, I was about thirteen and it remains one of the few realistic renderings I have produced. She is standing on the beach at Legian in a wide sunhat, peering down at a diminutive fruit seller carrying a large bowl of fruit on her head. My mother has an expression of superiority only she could muster.
I called the drawing ‘Hate’ but changed it to ‘Hat’, before showing it to Giselda, who predictably found it abhorrent, saying it was not realistic to make a human, the same colour as a boiled lobster. I decided not to press the fact that she was, in fact, severely sunburned. By this time she had lost a fair proportion of her weight, although she remained a formidable woman for the rest of her life. The holiday was brief and consisted mainly of her providing me with a babysitter for every day we were ensconced at the resort, while she consorted with a variety of young Balinese men.
Serendipitously, my father was building a two hundred room luxury resort at Ubud in central Bali, on the slopes of the beautiful but now spoiled, Campuan Valley. It was a ghastly Ziggurat of showy opulence; a testament to the heady days of excess exerted by the scions of Indonesia’s ruling classes and ably assisted by chancer’s like my father. Although father promised to be there to meet me (having been an absent parent my entire life) he never showed up, much to my relief. After all, I had never met the man and from what I had heard I would be better off not doing so. In regard to matters family, I should mention here I have a half-brother, Shane who I met much later; fear not I will come to him eventually. Actually, on reflection, it might be wise to be a little fearful.
By the time I was sixteen, I had graduated secondary school and entered Cambridge to read Romantic Poetry under the Laureate, Sir Clement Knight-Clules, an extremely austere fellow who resiled from human contact if it could be so arranged. Circumstances arose occasionally, where he could not evade the presence of another person and this rare interlocutor would be offered a chair near the door of his vast and poorly lit room above the college dormitory. His murky countenance could be viewed fidgeting nervously with his toupee seven metres away, his desk, piled high with ancient tracts and incomprehensible, scribbled notes. The arrangement of distance was a counter-intuitive arrangement, as it was known he had a hearing problem evidenced by the total lack of acknowledgement of anything one said. By all accounts, Sir Clement was a great man and I excelled academically under, or should I say despite, his tutelage.
It was clear I was an abomination to all who crossed my path. I achieved a degree in English literature at twenty and against the somewhat prevaricated advice of Sir Clement, I decided to discontinue my academic studies for the time being. A doctorate was mine for the taking, he once yelled indignantly across the expanse of his office. I wasn’t entirely sure he knew who I was or whether he believed there was another person in the room. Perhaps he was weighing the pleasant prospect of being rid of me against the peer regard I may afford him by my continued presence.
I had more than my fill of poets, romantic or otherwise. John Donne, for instance, was clearly a rampant pants man with an idle talent for verse – although one has to wonder how he managed to get so many lines down between all the wench bedding. He was only marginally eclipsed by William Blake’s penchant for suicidal pessimism.
I suspect, when all was said and done, both Sir Clement and Cambridge were better served by my decision to leave prematurely, not to mention the art of poetry.
The Spade Art School of London was more my cup of hemlock. I was by now turning my attentions to the fairer sex and was of the opinion, Art School might be the venue for my initiation into ‘l’intimité sexuelle’ despite the college’s unfortunate appellation. To continue with my woeful French, reading John Donne for years had turned me into a driveling ‘sexuelle frustré’. Madame Hand and her five lovely daughters had become tedious, if not positively arthritic and I longed for a liaison of the penetrative variety. As all young men know, it is a terrible thing to be in possession of the wherewithal without the opportunity for ingress.
My reputation preceded me in the form of a letter from Cambridge University administration. I purloined it some time later as result of a request via the Freedom of Information Act. The missive suggested, and I quote part thereof–
One should have at all times, immediate access to psychological services for Master Unction. His behaviour is considered aberrant by all known acceptable standards and should be watched for lapses into unpleasant social interactions and worse. Several students disappeared without a trace during his tenure here and we are sorry to say uncorroborated suspicion fell within his ambit. (Names omitted. )
We believe he is still in receipt of his chastity but once this has been rendered, members of the opposite sex may require supervision and counselling. To conclude and having attempted to relate the above without exaggeration, his academic achievements have been of the highest level.
It goes without saying the accusations in regard to missing persons and in particular a certain Abdul Persimmon, are specious, to say the least. My estranged father’s barrister later exacted a redaction of this matter in the document. But they would not stretch to an apology and the barrister unsure of a court outcome let it ride. I refuse to take any responsibility for Persimmon’s vanishing, although it might be argued, certain verbal exchanges and one of an unpleasant physical nature, may have aided his absconding. His father, a Sultan of some sort, suspicious of my complicity in his son’s disappearance, sent a minion, proficient in the art of the garrote, to shorten my life. To say I escaped by the skin of my neck, might underplay the seriousness of the Sultan’s intention. As it happened Abdul was eventually discovered, employed as a towel boy in a Parisian brothel. Except for the absence of an eye and walking with a slight limp, he was found to be reasonably intact, although he had contracted a malady which included the profound dislike of feathers. So pleased were the Sultan and the Sultana to receive their dear Abdul back in the bosom of the family, several archers were employed, for the purpose of shooting all birds venturing too close to the palace. As for me, to this day I refuse to countenance a necktie in the vicinity of my person.
As it turned out and in refutation of the universities opinion, I was the one requiring counselling. This was because of my relationship with the extraordinary Penelope Flowers. She was an utterly gorgeous creature of the Gothic persuasion, with fiery red locks and a passionate nature to match. Penelope managed to socialise me where others had failed. She took my rather suspect peccadilloes and turned them into virtues. No mean feat considering the state of my moral compass. She taught me to hobnob, to mingle, make advances and tell a joke.
In her company, I clubbed and danced like the love-sick fool that I was. I dressed in a style one could describe as studied dishevelment. I grew my hair to look like Ted Frenzy from the punk band Hate which I suspect, on reflection, made me look like a frightened breadfruit and doubtless I smelled like one after a night on the tiles in the vomitous, rat infested pubs we frequented in Islington.
The only thing we decided not to do was stick pointy objects into our earlobes, wrinkled at the suggestion of a nose ring and avoided the mosh pit for fear of being urinated on or worse. Needless to say this was frowned upon by the true believers and we were relegated to ranks of the ersatz punks scene. I have to say there were a lot more in our scene than there were in the hardliners who invariably ended up in psych wards or dead.
Needless to say I rejoiced in Penelope’s amply furnished and pneumatic charms. My pent up frustrations were liberated via all manner of callisthenics of a carnal nature. To say she was gifted in the many arts of love is to evade the unassailable genius of this wondrous creature. Everything I know about the libidinous arts I owe to her.
No doubt I will be obliged to address the reader entirely in the singular, so I invite you, dear reader, to progress to Chapter Two for further enchantment. Fear not, the sex-life of Penelope and I will be further elucidated. Of course, you may also be prompted to approach a priest for reassurance. Of course, you could simply call the police.
Rest assured, the full account of my misdeeds will shortly be found in the remainder bins of a bookshop near you.