Given the fortuitous era in which I have had the privilege to live, I wouldn’t consider that I’m really someone who complains. I certainly wouldn’t say that the life I’ve led has been tough compared to others. But being born with the moniker with which I was classified has made the trajectory, well, somewhat thought-provoking; some might even say stimulating. I would prefer the appellation: challenging; maybe even perplexingly inspiring. Certainly, though, not dull. If you frame that within the context of the family into which I was injected, then perhaps you may have an idea as to how the previous statement may have some foundation.
Heliosvart, except if viewed in cuneiform script from ancient Mesopotamian, is not the best name for a boy to grow up within the English public school system. In fact, the growing up was parenthesised by the Scottish public school system but, as the particular systematised institution I attended had its origins deeply rooted within the historic suppression of a rebellious nation and whose principal purpose was to turn out union flag-waving, empire supporting facsimiles of the English quasi-ruling classes that “knew-their-place”, it might as well have been the English public school system. Perhaps though, with a tartan tinge.
The fact is that it isn’t a great name for becoming a streamlined integrally accommodated part of any school system in these Kingdoms that are (at least at the setting down on these pages) popularly known as United. With a name like Heliosvart, wherever you are placed for your introduction to the emotionless instrumentation of raw conditioning, there will be, um, consequences. In the Scottish / English public school system, it is the equivalent of the deep-throat version of the traditional Glasgow-kiss.
And, when you add it to the rest of the indelible marker with which I was stamped on production: Plunkenstürm-Pampleverte, it became not only a millstone around my neck but one with a flock of extrovert albatrosses dancing a synchronised fandango, each one dressed in a bright pink tutu and glass slippers and sipping a multicoloured umbrella-protected margarita from carved crystal Venetian beer mugs, whilst a troupe of overweight, and naked, trombone-playing flossiplumps played a military two-step and stomped in drunken camaraderie around its edge.
Now, I would never imply that my parents were deliberately being unkind; I never thought that, despite the apparent evidence against it. After all, they couldn’t possibly know what the future held for their offspring and, besides, having organised my own birth at a time when originality had been sequestered by a tribe of wild hoodleburpers, repeatedly beaten over the head with highly explosive grövlly chains tipped with poisonous, extremely rare Hungarian wild mountain marshmallows, and then paraded through the streets in the back of a 1952 Lincoln convertible with white leather seats and girdled by a cloud of white flamingos all furiously blowing on out-of-tune trumpets, I must take some of the blame anyway. In short, my assumption of existence coincided with the commencement of a rash of names such as Flower, Tree, Kitten, Cloud, Puddle, and Marijuana Popsi becoming fashionable.
At first, I suspected that my name was a mechanism for my parents to seek universal acceptance amongst their peers, or perhaps to prostrate themselves at the altar of novelty or class acceptance. But, some years into my late adolescence, when hormones were sloshing around in a similar fashion to the gravitational pull of a rogue moon on the same volume of liquid contained within the Atacama Trench, I liked to think that the name had some deeper meaning, perhaps known only to an isolated cult of monks who lived deep in the Himalayas and spoke exclusively in a thirteenth-century dialect that had long ago fallen into disuse elsewhere. The years that I have seen have made me grateful that I didn’t change it and now I feel that it has definitely given me a character that I would not otherwise possess. There are many who would probably agree and not, I suspect, in a positive sense.
I am not aware of my father’s reasons for inflicting such a life-shaping, character-consuming label on such a small sliver of humanity. He disappeared from my sphere of perception before the silver salts of my consciousness acquired the ability to record for posterity the images flickering like windswept leaves being tossed carelessly by the Gardener of Fantasy upon the sepia display of memory. Perhaps, the rash of ‘originality’ coincided with my father’s desire to revitalise the family roots by naming his children after some remote ancestors whose life, I now know, had developed over two hundred years previously to mine.
In my formative years, I liked to revel in the delusion that my father did it to instill a sense of strength in me, a mechanism by which I would have to survive or die, a loving mantle of protection that he knew would strengthen my character against the vagaries of continuous, and potentially corrosive, habituation. In any case, my father disappeared shortly after my birth and the cause of said disappearance did not become known until much later in my trajectory through life. Despite a long investigation by the police and a search by a private detective, nothing was heard of him – until it was.
With his disappearance, my mother tried hard to compensate but, finally accepting that she lacked in motherly predilection, and seemingly far more interested in her new boyfriend, she moved us all north of the border where we were taken under the wing of my aunt, my mother’s older sister who, in pursuit of trying to erase the stigma of her ancestry, had married an affluent Scottish clan chieftain who was also extremely wealthy in inherited folklore and ancestral chicanery; enough to subsume her own, um, imperfect predecessors. This chap, who could be classified as my step-uncle, was thoroughly inculcated into the secret life of Scottish romanticism, and it was into their tender guardianship that me and my older siblings were unceremoniously deposited and left to the unconditional devices of step-familial indifference.
It wasn’t until much later, with my mother lying on her death-bed, that she referred to the origins of my name although, as if eschewing her own role in its fabrication, she often told me that the name had been imposed with regal dignity and unassailable assurance by my mother’s own father as a condition of ‘the inheritance’. The unscrupulous old cridfluck died, it only has to be hoped amidst waves of pink-spotted pain, penniless; my mother’s inheritance, a moth-eaten paper in an obscure language that no-one could read and which, on being found after weeks of fruitless searching, lay amidst boxes of accumulated rubbish and dog faeces in the bottom of a cardboard shoebox that smelled strongly of a mature Gorgonzola.
I understand from family legend that, on discovery, the paper was carefully removed with white kid gloves, examined briefly before it was decided that an expert in hieroglyphics should be employed to decipher it then, when it was removed from the property and, on being exposed to the relatively unpolluted comparative atmosphere of down-town Delhi where my grandfather had fled to escape his past, it promptly disintegrated. It was only through the persistence of an importunate private detective hired by my grandfather’s spinster sister, who lived alone with her ancient Indian servitor and seventy-five cats, that the truth of my grandfather’s activities was finally revealed. I subsequently learned that records, including faded portraits, the subjects of which generate, what can only be described as debilitating disquiet, indicated that not only was she was a dreadful, yet strangely captivating and inspiring artist, but that the inheritance of my grandfather was indeed altogether more substantially interesting. These, together with documents and other belongings, were hidden in a locked security box, the key of which had long been the subject of desperate searches by bounty hunters, deep in the vaults of the bank of Tadzhikstan.
I can’t really complain about my family roots either (however, as is natural, I do; frequently and at length). On my father’s side investigations led through a dark labyrinth of intrigue, suspicion, incest, bestiality and murder; almost the entire inventory of the more unsavoury traits that have, on occasion, been ascribed to the human animal.
From what I can divine, the Plookenstoms come from old Boíinian stock, earlier generations of which had emigrated to England some one hundred years before my father’s birth. On arrival, the saner members of the family wisely decided to erase the stain of such emotive and descriptive nomenclature in order to integrate seamlessly into English society. It was only on my father’s side that the name persisted; a carbuncle that provided the weave, as well as the distinctive warping, of the character of all family members graced by its unsavoury syllables. I had always understood that my father was a die-hard traditionalist and believed that the surname was a proud reminder of his ancient familial grandeur.
Here, a slight digression. Before the advent of such mysterious instruments of Luciferian fabrication as Google, and after much solitary reflection, I determined that ‘a rumour’ must consist of a physical manifestation spawned from discarded brain cells that have probably fallen out of an ear, and in which the requisite information is carefully stored. These cells multiply in a quantum vacuum between molecules of fresh (or fetid, it matters not) air and attain an ectoplasmically globular status that is attracted by polycornubian propulsion towards genetic simplicity receptors, that are located on the excrescences of the human body. Here the globs settles and begin to fester malignantly until ready to burst, ripe with innuendo, insinuation and destructive implication. The contents of the resultant eruption are hurled silently but with scattergun indifference and fit, with key-hole precision, into ready-made mirror-receptors located upon the outer membrane of an organic host. Here, this insubstantial liquid is thirstily absorbed into the cerebral lining and is ready for suggestive consultation. The impetus for effusive rumourial release is a firm belief, the spark of which is generated within the stigmaticoidal protuberance , that ‘something-about-this-chappie-is-not-quite-right-at-least-from-where-I’m-looking.’
So, having established the connection, one particular family rumour has it that my father’s family branch resulted from an illicit relationship between the daughter of, well – whispers hint at a wildly rich English aristocrat whose source of wealth was mired in the blood and bones of Empire – and a character of dubious Plookenstom heritage related to, well, some say a goat, but I refuse to entertain the veracity of that report as no propensity for thorn bushes in the diet has as yet been discerned, although my cousin Hortensia once informed me in confidence that her brother has been known to consume his own urine; a feature that will, once he becomes known to the reader, not appear in the least bit apocryphal. Another rumour of some credence is that my father’s branch of the family is descended from an affair between this same nobleman and a slave girl. She was subsequently spirited away with a token bauble and managed, against all odds, to survive in the slums and gin houses of London. Although no evidence of the affair can be uncovered, the nobleman in question went on to become Lord Mayor of London and the recipient of a hefty booty from English taxpayers for the freeing of his many slaves. Having cogitated on the rumoured provenance of my genetic spores at length, my preference in distinguishing my hereditary composition has fallen towards that of the goat.
Both my grandfather’s and my father’s siblings had the sense to change (they prefer to think of it as evolved) their family name to Plikinstone, Plackenston and Planckthorpe; not much better than the original but without the shear horror that sharpened my name to a needle point reminder of shame.
But the cherry on top of the icing on the cake of my nomenclatural presentation to the world came from my mother’s side of the family. As has previously been inferred, her family hailed from a demonstrably distinguished family, the Pümplevǫrts of Wartlehüle, a small town in a tiny, now-extinct country called Plozkneviaç, that used to be wedged uncomfortably between Nový Život and Austria.
After the devastation of some forgotten conflict in the powder-keg that is the Balkans, the country was subsumed into its larger and more aggressive neighbour without so much as a gesture of thanks-for-the-memories, and my mother’s grandmother, having committed the cardinal error of being born on the wrong side, sought to escape the inevitable bloody aftermath. She fled the postage-stamped sized country before it had been annexed seeking refuge from the pogroms and ethnic cleansing that ravaged the area on periodic occasions, especially when local ruling families sought to clear land for larger flocks of animals of varying parentage, or when local politicians wanted to take popular focus away from their own corrupt inadequacies; a tactic that has evolved little since the hand of history selected its entourage of discriminatory authors and permitted itself to be recorded.
My mother’s family, although of noble stock had fallen into disrepute and, nobles being nobles, they were knobbled. Accounts tell of how my great-grandmother had trudged dispiritedly through the desolation and destruction of an all too familiar war-scarred landscape, carrying little more than a leaking ceramic hot-water bottle, a few ragged blankets in which she had wrapped some precious seeds, an ancient astrolabe and a tin of meat with which to feed her seven children – all of whom, it should be noted – and this is always a source of great pride within the family – survived and went on to live, some would comment, thought-provokingly long lives.
Thus, the severely depleted family (my great grandmother had left behind a husband and several brothers and sisters whose fate remains unknown), together with those of the below stairs service who could be bribed with little more than the promise of ‘better times’ and, on nothing more than the brute strength of my great grandmother’s personality, finally arrived in Paris at end of the century laden with children, three generations of turnip seeds, assorted knick-knacks and two dispirited servants.
After the death of my great grandmother, these latter continued working for a time for my grandfather and his wife but, on discovering that they could earn a better living without having to sell their souls to the heartless old sad-bonter that was my grandfather, they disappeared in a cloud of dust and small pebbles and reappeared in the newspapers many years later having run a sordid bed and breakfast next to the cemetery of Villeneuve-sur-Florence and having been decapitated by a mysterious Plozkneviaçnian war criminal who, it was widely reported, had actually been searching for my grandfather. The building they had colonised was subsequently declared unfit for human habitation and levelled to dust.
I grew up, mostly alone, the very paradigm of wampishness which, if wimpish could be compared to a soggy three-day old soya-sausage roll, wampish would be its oozing, putrefying fat which, as everyone is more than aware, soya doesn’t emit – and then only under conditions of extreme duress.
Of course, I had my childhood teddies around with whom I constructed sad infantile games and upon whom I imparted implausible, yet strangely real personalities that provided solace in the form of the company that every human (or near human in my case, I suspect) child needs. In my adolescence these personalities evolved according to the requirements imposed by exterior pressures, amongst which was a creeping, yet ultimately, imploding realisation that such things as ‘the opposite sex’ were a perceptively unattainable yet absolutely necessary, if rather humid, dream.
This leads me in a rather roundabout way, I will be the first to admit, to the main point of this soliloquy. The fact that the aforementioned is, albeit true, highly unconvincing is only another strand of the strange influences that preceded the development of my psychological furniture that appears to have evolved, fungus-like, over advancing infantile years. That the convoluted construct was a mechanism of escape from the harsh reality that was contained within the hand that I had been dealt – I am positive with marked cards – by a faceless servant of Fate, there can be no doubt but, and here, in order to avoid plummeting into the logarithmically bottomless abyss of madness, we must tread with the steps of the terminally wary; for me it became, and remains unnervingly real and manifestly tangible.
What follows is a note of advice, or caution if you will, viewed from the vantage point of many years and taken from my own experience won under excruciating circumstances, to those about to or, indeed, have already embarked upon, let us call it, the adventure that is life.
My principal target audience is that unfortunate subset of humanity that is commonly known as the ‘adolescent’ male; a group in which undiluted (some may even consider them to be unadulterated, but I think this is too harsh a definition as in their purest form no inferior essence can possibly exist) human frailties are sometimes so unfairly and unevenly concentrated.
My purpose is to provide an unapologetically graphically illustrated summary of the process within which some of the more unfortunate subjects of the above-mentioned group may find themselves and which I hope, through the experience of someone who was (as I’m certain you will, having read this document, agree) located somewhere at the bottom of the barrel scrapings – actually probably located in the mud under the barrel – when ‘Le Bon Dieu’ handed out the ströbleblummen candies which, as everyone knows, are those materials essential for fashioning the tools necessary for carving out a successful form of coexistence with reality.
It may be that some may find what I’m about to impart boring or indeed apocryphal. In fact, with time, there’s a good chance that you may learn to loathe it in its essentialism. However, personally I care about as much as a blind racing treethump being bombarded by rotten sicklethorp juice. You can choose to glean from this the, at least to me, fascinating pearls of scrottified wisdom that are concealed herewithin, or you may choose simply to ignore these wise words; in which case you will, of course, be none the wiser, at least with respect to these particular pearls.
Thinking about it, as one does occasionally in a somewhat tangentially reflective way, I ask myself whether this critique could be applied to those of the female persuasion? And, allowing the odd couple of brain cells to expire in consideration of this vexing question, I consider that there is nothing that says it cannot be. We are, all of us, a maelstrom of frequently misunderstood hurldepoop, a swirling dichotomal mass of emotions that, one way or another, must find a way to navigate along the burlyhoops and bustletrammels of the, let’s face it, unsubstantiated pathways of existence; and this without anyone regaling us with ‘I-think-therefore-I-am’ philosophical jumbleturds.It behoves us all, therefore, to try to seek a form of existence in a manner that is specifically tailored to our own individuality, as it is only then that we can attempt to achieve a modicum of that fabled yet elusive nirvana that hides deep in the quiet, fondant and highly improbable valley of our psyche and is commonly, if somewhat spuriously, known as happiness.
However, I stress and I presage that this is an individualised account of exploratory experimentation at personal evolutionary identification and an attempt (some may consider it to be a weak one but, on a certain level – perhaps yet to be identified, I firmly believe it remains a relevant one none the less) to understand and enumerate the inner complexities of the convoluted, kaleidoscope that is the human id, and, in particular that of my own.
Of course, it may be that the experiences and their concomitant spaces I have unwittingly occupied have absolutely no relevance to any other than myself, especially given the circumstances of my idiosyncratic reproduction and the construction of my unique genetic potage and, if such is the case, I am sure that pages will be turned until something of use emerges, such as ‘the end’ and, if such is the case, I wish you well and trust that the boils of longevity remain always on your excrescence. If you consider, however, that there is a soupçon of a possibility that a relatively cognisant witness of the essence, nay existence, of personality, err ‘protuberances,’ may lead to some revelation, I urge persistence.
The ensuing document is organised on the familiar themes of an introduction which, if you have advanced thus far, you have been exposed to in appalling detail and which, if, like a diseased barnacle clinging to the perilous rocks of pragmatism and pounded by the unerring storm-waves of overwhelming irrationality, you persist; will be further embellished with supplementary narratives of my unfortunate family. It is effectively a potted summary of my somewhat questionable, completely implausible and, in the hands of any other, undoubtedly spurious family history. It is, however, unfortunately true.
I go on to discuss some of the main characters that have manifested themselves during my uncomplicated and surprisingly innocent childhood and that have accompanied me on my personal journey towards accomplishing what I like to categorise as ‘completion’; a term that will latterly be defined and something, I’m sure many will comment that, even from the inflexible vantage point of prodigious old age, is probably still far from being achieved. The veracity of this latter statement will, of course, depend on two conditions being met: firstly, that this missive has been carefully perused, contemplated and understood and, secondly, that, god forbid, the reader should get to know the author. These characters, fictional all in a world populated by human animals whose perception of reality is marked by emotion and physical sensation, are authentic enough to a mind that was, and some would say remains, hungry to make sense of changing circumstances.
The thesis is completed by an autobiographical resumé; events and people as I remember them once the synapses of memory commenced the process of consolidation by being threaded together by delicate filaments of experience. It relates how the character traits and distinct personalities I was born with, as well as those that were spontaneously created and developed during the course of critical early years and during the tumbleweed trajectory of continued perseverance.
It is my belief that, whether we like it or not, all of us are composed of a multi-varied, multi-coloured and multi-sexual array of many personalities that are accommodated within one encephalon. It is my further belief that it is a universal obligation to invest some time in an attempt to try to get to know as many of the personalities I identify as possible, and hence the presentation of this dissertation.
And finally, I firmly believe and contest that, even for the simplest of humanity’s representatives, of which classification I consider myself to be a prime example, there is no single truth, there is no universal answer, and even the darkest of colours is a rainbow in disguise.