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Jeremiah Savant’s ‘Inside the Inside’

A Parallel Companion to ‘Adventures In Mental Health

FIVE: Changes

Into Suburbia! The Seventies had turned into the Eighties and for a year or so, I put everything ‘on hold’. My college course had not gone well, and I had dropped out. I simply did not understand anything – I was supposed to be studying/learning how to do computer coding, but the way the whole thing was being administered made no sense to me. Why not just bung us a couple of vocabulary books and show us how to get on with it? Why all the emphasis on Simultaneous Differential Quadratics and Spectro-topical Infomemes?

I know. I made those up. I appear to have a gift for coming up with what professional people call Alternately Originated Communications Paradigms… or ‘Wonk’. The trouble is, once I really start thinking about it, I end up rather involved with creating phrases which appear to mean nothing yet actually do… however…

In the early part of the decade, the 1980s, I underwent the culture shock of moving with my parents to an environment totally alien to me – suburbia. I thought it a vile place, full of puffed-up individuals all pretending to be middle class; all they had was a bit of money and large mortgages. Growing up as I had, sort of trapped in a timewarp about ten years behind many places, I had known people of EVERY class, and could spot a pretender at a hundred paces. I was surrounded by them.

The first set of them I encountered, was the Saint Anthony Drama Society… all kissy of the air and ‘luvvie’… it had seemed like a good idea at the time. I was a young man new to the area wanting to make friends, etc, and I ended up doing a bit of – subpar, sub-Christie drawing-room mystery… complete with coffee table, drinks trolley and french windows.

Enter: BRETT. He is six foot four and has dark tousled hair, striking handsome. He strides quietly into the room like a panther… played by me: all five foot eight and a half with ginger hair and all the grace of an arthritic camel. Ah well. I met Anne and we had a long and confusing courtship which culminated in an afternoon of passion one bank holiday, but…

And there again, there is the ‘but’. Most of the time I spent with her – mostly as simply friends – I only wanted to be somewhere other than sitting around my parents’ house; going down the pub would cost money, and I was unemployed. I ended up spending a lot of time with her, and was not aware that there is a phenomenon where people involved in the same activity – in this case, doing a play – can end up fooling themselves into something akin to a relationship… a relationship which is based purely on the closeness of collaboration and based purely on smoke and mirrors.

Was I looking for another girlfriend? I do not know, but we seemed to be getting closer, and more than once had an evening of curling up on the sofa together. One of the novelties of this, for me, was that it was her house – rented, of course (back in those days there was not the same pressure to buy your own house and renting for years was natural) – so no parents or siblings around. We could just… be together. Then, of course, that wet and cold August Bank Holiday and the long afternoon in bed… and this was where I began to question everything I had learned about sex and relationships and what people wanted or expected.

What I did not realise was that for her, sex was an optional thing – I did not know what it was for me, except that my hormones were rattling. Just that one wonderful afternoon, and when the play finished less than a month later, we had a brief phone call and realised that we did not have anything to say to each other… so that was that and I went back to being alone… and a new person in a newish place. I ended up with a job pulling pints at the local pub. I managed to find other jobs to fill out my time, and ended up working every evening and most mornings but getting about £120 for it all told – which really was not as little as it sounds now.

Then, during one of the mini-recessions of the 80s, that they deny ever happened, the pub changed hands and I was not needed but did not qualify for any payoff. Around that time, I took up with girl who just turned 18, and was a friend of my considerably younger sister. While I still hold fondness for her… well… she was simply an excuse not to be alone. Plus, she reminded me somewhat of Nell. That relationship ended acrimoniously, and it is not that I regret the relationship; I regret some of my thoughtless actions – and, of course, how it ended. She deserved better… plus, being younger and living with her parents, it felt strange not to be able to have an evening of gentle physical intimacy without wondering if we would be disturbed.

“Not every actor has a JOB, let alone their names in lights,” had spake the Father, lo those many moons ago. “Most do menial jobs like barmen or cleaners while they wait for the phone to ring.”

Well, because I had been denied the option of following my vocation, my phone was not going to ring. And I had just lost my job in the pub, and was working as a cleaner. So, according to my father’s ideas, I had it half right; the only problem was that there was no opportunity to create a way into the half that I wanted.

Looking back, maybe I could have tried college again – this time we lived much closer to several – but I was very much put off by my previous experiences at college, trying to fit into a second or third choice of subject… and then, there was the whole funding thing to cope with. It simply did not fit into my head, so I left it all alone. Not only did I not want to repeat that failure, but… well, it did not occur to me to try. I had tried and failed, therefore I had blown my chance. College was for 18 year olds, not people of 21. We were supposed to be doing well at university. I drifted slowly and almost hopelessly back towards the S.A.D.S.

My life, even then, felt like it belonged to a loser. I worked hard – eventually ending up with a single full-time job – but always behind, somehow. Always… lost. Then, one day, I decided to nip down the pub. It was a Friday, and my parents were going out to lunch, my younger sister was watching the chips and so I could have a smoke before the meal, I announced I was going down the pub for half an hour. I ran out of the back gate, my mind on a cigarette and a half of lager, when

 

SIX: There and Back Again

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Jeremiah Savant’s ‘Inside the Inside’ is a parallel companion to ‘Adventures In Mental Health‘.

If you would like to connect with Jeremiah, or have any questions about this series, feel free to get in touch.