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THE REAL DHARMA BUMS: THE BEATNIK FRENZIES OF JULIA CALLAN-THOMPSON & BRUNO DE GALZAIN
There were two great loves in the life of my mother Julia Callan-Thompson. Grainger I've written about elsewhere, so I'll cover Bruno de Galzain here. My mother first met 'Count' Bruno de Galzain in the Balearic Islands. It seems they were introduced by a mutual friend - possibly Damien Enright - in 1964, but the dating here is not one hundred percent certain and they may have become acquainted as early as 1962.
Bruno was a teller of tall tales. De Galzain's wife of the early sixties Sophie de Galzain had the following to say about the family title: "Regarding the aristocratic title Bruno's family have, I can't help a lot as I have never been interested in this matter, though Bruno was a bit proud of it. According to what he said, this title of earl is part of the old nobility, as it was given to his family by the king Saint Louis in the 13th century."
De Galzain claimed he become an artist at the age of sixteen after seeing a film about Vincent Van Gogh. He returned home from the cinema and miraculously found the materials to make oil paintings awaiting him, which is how his latent talent as an artist was unleashed. De Galzain signed his work as Onurb, his forename spelt backwards and told friends he sold many of his abstract paintings to the actor Vincent Price. This claim is not as unlikely as it may at first sound, since Price was a trained art historian and a dedicated collector of pictures. Indeed, in 1962 the chain of American department stores Sears Roebuck began a joint venture with Price through its art department called The Vincent Price Collection. Price's name was used to sell affordable original pictures to a middle-class American public more used to acquiring prints. Thus from 1962 until 1966 Price trundled around the overdeveloped world buying works by largely unknown artists which were sold at low prices to thrilled middle-income consumers.
Movies were important to de Galzain, he named one of his two daughters Garance, after the heroine of Marcel Carne's popular 1945 film Les Enfants du Paradis. Garance in this film is a free-spirited courtesan. Despite the birth of two children, Bruno's marriage did not last long and he left his wife Sophie for a Dutch woman called Desiree Schoonhoven. This relationship was short lived too. De Galzain claimed Schoonhoven was embarrassed about the way she towered over him, and one day while he was on the pavement she stepped into the gutter and walked beside him to make it look as if they were more closely matched in stature. Bruno took such exception to this that he simply announced their relationship was over if Desiree couldn't cope with the fact that he was small, and walked off.
It is believed de Galzain made his first trip to India in 1965: I don't know whether this was before or after he met up with my mother in the Balearic Islands that year as they'd done the previous summer. By this time, and possibly long before, de Galzain was insistent that heroin provided a good way of coming down from intense LSD trips. My mother enjoyed spiritual and occult highs but also required breaks from them, and the sense of depersonalisation these oceanic experiences often entailed. Bruno told people he introduced my mother to heroin, but it is just as likely that Grainger, the other great love of her life, got her into the drug. I've certainly been told that by 1965 my mother was regularly messing about with heroin and knew where to score it in London.
In the summer of 1966 my mother moved out of her top floor flat in Bassett Road and into a pad a few minutes walk away on the east side of Ladbroke Grove at 55 Elgin Crescent. It seems that the property at 55 Elgin Crescent had recently been divided into flats by a development company, so my mother signed a three year lease which she was able to sell on at a small profit when she left a few months later. Before leaving Elgin Crescent my mother dashed off an undated letter to my grandparents in south Wales. It includes the following: "I'm leaving definitely for Paris before November (I'll be down before I go). After spending a year there I should be able to speak French fluently - I realised lately how important it is to be able to speak foreign languages - now that the communications between countries are so close, it should enable me to get better and more interesting jobs. I intend going to school there and will get a part time job as a waitress or something to keep myself."
As planned, in the autumn of 1966 my mother left London for Paris where she shacked up with Bruno de Galzain. In the fall of 1966, de Galzain was living rent free in a large dilapidated house that belonged to an acquaintance. The property seems to have been at the end of the Metro line in the Fifteenth Arrandisement. Although my mother's new home was in the suburbs, Paris is a relatively small city and it did not take long to get into the centre of town. Her night work as a hostess left her days free, and so in November she enrolled as a French language student at the Alliance Francaise, 101 Boulevard Raspail, in the Sixth Arrandisement. The college was in the Left Bank and the area famously provided all the diversions of student and bohemian life, including but by no means limited to a wide choice of bars, cafés and cinemas.
There were plenty of people in Paris who my mother knew from her sojourns of the earlier sixties to continental Europe and she was readily accepted into Bruno's bohemian milieu. The most important new friends she made from among de Galzain's innumerable acquaintances were not French nationals but an American family. Alfred Duhrsson was a philosophy lecturer, his wife had been born Elizabeth Buntt and was now known by the nickname Bunty. They had a twelve year old daughter called Freddie. When my mother tired of speaking French, the Duhrsson's provided both good company and English chatter. Although my mum spent her days perfecting her French at school and at least some of her evenings entertaining rich men, such outward manifestations tell us little about what she believed to be the reality of her life. Her focus was increasingly on what she perceived as her 'inner self'.
In Paris with Bruno my mother spent as much time as possible bombed out of her mind. This was not simply a matter of hedonism. Julie had believed since at least the early sixties that psychedelic drugs provided an expressway to 'inner experience'. With increasing numbers of people dropping LSD as the sixties progressed, and with psychedelic drugs garnering acres of media coverage, the proportion of those ingesting acid as a form of entertainment in which they could take in pretty swirling colours was rising exponentially. But de Galzain, like my mother, belonged to the old school of drug experimentation. While other serious heads among my mother's friends - such as Terry Taylor - pursued a psychedelic hermeticism in which the tripper's inner world was reshaped and then projected outwards in the belief that this would have a transformative effect on gross matter, de Galzain wanted nothing less than to connect with the Godhead while on acid.
Although my mother and Bruno failed to create a permanent connection to the Godhead, in the course of their endless trips they developed what they believed was a special bond. When she was separated from de Galzain my mother believed she could communicate with him telepathically. These were heady experiences and as time passed Julie and her Gallic lover increasingly felt a need to ground themselves. Bruno believed that the best way of doing this was with smack. Thus as winter faded into spring, they found themselves consuming ever increasing amounts of heroin. By the time of my mother's long summer break from her language studies at the Alliance Francaise, both she and de Galzain felt they should clean up from the heroin habits they'd acquired. Bruno and my mother were acquainted with some of those who'd lived in a hippie commune in caves at Matala in Crete. So in the summer of 1967 they travelled to the Greek Islands to make their first attempt at getting off smack.
It was never Julie or her Galllic lover's plan to stop using psychedelics, they simply wanted to cut down on the amount of heroin they were doing, since Bruno in particular felt that hard drugs were starting to hold him back in his quest for mystical union with the cosmos. Once my mother and de Galzain had temporarily overcome their heroin habits, they were ready to resume their spiritual travels. My mother sent my grandparents the following undated message from Mykonos in the late summer of 1967: "It's been a long time since I last wrote, but I've not been conscious of time at all - I've been travelling quite a lot lately - a few weeks ago I was on my way home for a little while - when I arrived in London it was so cold and miserable that I left for Greece the same day - Here it is hot but there's always a little wind as it's an island, so it tends to be cool in the evenings which is very welcome. I'm not sure when but I think I will be leaving here soon for Istanbul (Turkey) and then on to India - where I am going to marry a French painter called Bruno de Galzain, although he's a count, so I will be Countess de Galzain, he's without a penny being the black sheep of the family. I'm very happy and will write to you from Turkey..."
My mother returned to Paris before she wrote again to my grandparents, and as promised from Turkey, to tell them that she was on her way to India. She and Bruno separated temporarily in Kabul, and reunited again at the Crown Hotel in New Delhi in the early months of 1968. From there they headed to Bombay and seem to have gone through some kind of unofficial Hindu marriage ceremony. In Bombay my mother modelled and worked as a film extra, while Bruno painted. They were both also pursuing spiritual interests, partly by ingesting lots of drugs. During the rainy season they headed north to Kashmir and from there to Nepal. After the rainy season was over they migrated back to Bombay. By the spring of 1969 my mother was home in London but de Galzain was still in India. When Bruno had an accident in the mountains, my mother trekked back to the Himalayas to make sure her boyfriend was safe, and to bring him back to Europe.
With the vague idea of producing an autobiography, de Galzain recorded a series of cassette tapes about his life in 1992. Apparently the services of a professional writer were secured to ghost the book, but nothing came of it. Bruno recounts various episodes from his life but they come across as disjointed, and not always entirely credible. He does, however, provide sufficient information for me to piece together the following account of his return to Europe with my mother. After being dropped off in Kabul, Julie and Bruno bought a Citroen Chevaux. They proceeded to motor without mishap as far as Iran. Then, while driving at night, Bruno hit a rock protruding from a large hole in the road. The car became stuck and a passing truck was flagged down to help free it. After a rope had been attached to the Chevaux, it was pulled free. Since the car required repairs, it was towed at speed to the nearest village which was some distance away. Bruno says on tape that he was steering the Chevaux and it is implied, but not explicitly stated, he was alone in the car, so I assume my mother was in the cab of the truck towing him. Apparently the truck driver was pulling him along so fast that it was impossible to control the car. After de Galzain's frantic horn honks begging the truck driver to slow were ignored, he just sat and laughed his way through this cosmic ride. De Galzain claims that he was stuck in this situation for several hours. Then when they finally arrived at a village, the truck driver braked suddenly outside a police station, and the Citroen crashed into the back of the lorry that was towing it because Bruno did not apply his own brakes fast enough.
Since the car was a write-off, with the body completely wrecked, it was necessary for de Galzain to go through an extremely elaborate bureaucratic procedure to get a stamp on his passport, so that he could leave the country without the Citroen. On the 1992 cassette recording, Bruno complains that the Iranian government was in effect stealing his property. On tape he explains there was a law stating that since he'd brought the car into Iran, he either had to take it out again or else sign it over to the government. This made him very angry. Especially since the engine at the back was undamaged, as were the tyres, and out in the desert such things were very valuable. Before sorting out the paperwork for the disposal of his car, de Galzain claims he told some guys who had use for the spare parts: 'I'm going to stay as long as I can in that office, and during the time I am doing the paperwork I want you to take as much of the car as you can, so that I leave them with nothing, right?'
The dismantling of the car was apparently filmed and Bruno was very pleased with what went down while he bamboozled the bureaucrats who'd already checked out the Citroen and considered it well worth accepting: "When everything was signed, I came out and was dead with laughter because these official people now have papers saying that they own my car, but (laugher) there was just a box left on the pavement with no wheels, no engine, nothing! There was nothing they could do because the number plate was down on their forms, everything was down. I've never seen a car being dismantled in such a short time – it was a brilliant job. Fantastic! (laugher)" Bruno continued his story in this way:
So Julie and I had nothing. We hitched a lift to Tehran and when we arrived we decided we'd really like to take the plane, but we had no money to do so and Julie went through her bag and she found a cheque – I mean only one cheque, not a cheque book, an old cheque for an account she'd had a few years before in England, and she was fantastic at this kind of thing – she said, okay, lets go and buy two plane tickets (laugher). So we went to a travel agent and bought tickets. She just filled in the cheque, gave it to the guy and convinced him that it was good. The guy took it and off we went to the airport (laugher) no questions asked.
Then we arrived in Heathrow dressed for the desert. I was just coming off junk. So I had a very good quality hundred gram bottle of powdered morphine that I had bought from a chemists shop in Afghanistan. It was legal there, and I had a bottle of that in case I got sick Actually Julie was carrying it in her skirt and I had a huge ball of opium in my handkerchief. When we arrived at Heathrow Airport, customs went through everything, everything, you know. And of course they didn't find anything in our luggage because we had the drugs on us. We'd been living in a place that was free, you could do anything you wanted, and we'd forgotten that this was why we went there. To escape from Europe. But we were also inspired, as we always were. Customs wanted to search Julie but there were only men present because it was late at night. And Julie was a real lady who knew how to bark! Never in the world would she be searched by a man. So they left her alone and took me instead.
They told me to strip. I was absolutely furious. I took my boots off and flung them against the wall. I took everything off, then one of them put his finger in my arse and I shat on it (laughter). They found nothing. They didn't search my trousers. They searched everything else. They even went through my underwear. I couldn't believe it. They told me to get dressed. They took me to another office and said: 'now empty your pockets'. I took the handkerchief in which I'd wrapped the opium and flung it on the desk. It was a big handkerchief and very dirty because I'd used it. Customs took everything else I had and went through it, but they didn't touch the handkerchief because it was dirty. So they finally decided I was stupid, and let me go.
Despite successfully smuggling their contraband into England, Bruno claims that the incident with customs made him and Julie sufficiently paranoid to make an unnecessary change of buses on their journey into central London, so as to evade any plainclothes cops who might be following them. Anyone who knew very much about my mother would not have needed to tail her to discover where she was going. She was heading straight back to her old haunts in Notting Hill. Julie and her Gallic lover went to stay with my mother's friend Terry Taylor at 58 Bassett Road. Detta Whybrow was two rooms below in the basement. Mike and Kim Burton and their two children had rooms with Terry Taylor; this was a huge flat, so there was room for everyone. Indeed, another friend of Taylor and the Burton's called Robert Tunison was living there too.
Taylor told me that while my mother was staying with him at the flat there was much talk of de Galzain's bottle of morphine and ball of opium; but he also stressed he never actually saw my mother or Bruno using hard drugs and never ever used them himself. Next, my mother and her Gallic lover moved away, then returned to take an attic flat at the top of Taylor's building. By the time they did this, Terry had moved on but the Burton's were still there. Although Bruno had intended to wean himself off opiates in Europe, he and my mother became ever more involved with heroin once they were living together in London. They found themselves increasingly drawn into circles where there was a roaring trade in smack, most obviously in the milieus around Alex Trocchi and his friend the black power militant Michael X. Other Trocchi affiliates who were important social cum drug contacts for my mother at this time included Brian Barrett and Phil Green. As already noted, Julie's relationship to another of Trocchi's main men, Malcolm 'Grainger' Drake, remained that of soul mate, despite de Galzain being her number one lover in the late sixties and early seventies.
Having returned to London, my mother was busy catching up with old acquaintances. She was once again thick with Detta Whybrow and Jean Turnbull. Her live-in boyfriend of the early sixties Geoff Thompson wasn't in London but it didn't take Julie long to discover his whereabouts. After being dumped by my mum, Goof (as Thompson was known to Charlie Radcliffe's crowd) had met Jane Ripley, a vibrant and down-to-earth girl from the home counties. Their daughter Gabrielle was born in Norfolk in January 1969. Thompson had acquired a cheap winter let in the coastal town of Brancaster, but later in the year they relocated from East Anglia to the spa town of Bath in south-west England.
At the point my mother reconnected with Thompson, Jane Ripley had come up to the Smoke for an operation and was about to leave hospital. My mother and Bruno burst into her ward, bearing gifts of flowers and chocolate which they'd stolen from another patient on their way up. Julie and Bruno proceeded to eat the chocolates they'd filched while simultaneously persuading Geoff Thompson that he should allow them to stay with him for a few days in Bath. Although my mother and her Gallic lover had only been in London for a week or two, they were already in some serious hot water with the Metropolitan Police and thought it best if they got out of town while the heat cooled down. In the late afternoon this small party with the addition of Thompson and Ripley's baby daughter set off for Bath.
Fairly early on in the journey Bruno insisted on stopping at a pub. Thompson was amenable, although Ripley wasn't best pleased. Being under eighteen the baby wasn't allowed in the bar, so while the others enjoyed themselves for a couple of hours, Jane was left in the car nursing the infant and feeling miserably sick and cold. When the four adults and tiny child finally arrived in Bath, it was late. Having dropped everybody off at his home, Thompson decided to go into the town centre to catch an entertainment that kicked off at midnight. My mother and Bruno dropped acid and went out, leaving Jane at home with the baby. Ripley recounted this episode to me before I'd come across Bruno's version of the story from his 1992 cassette recordings. Where there are discrepancies in the two tellings, Jane plainly provides the more factually accurate account. De Galzain was a raconteur and his stories are worth hearing precisely because they are fables designed to reveal the 'inner truth' of his life as he understood it. To find Bruno's tales wanting because in places they are completely fanciful is to judge him by the rational standards that he so vehemently rejected. This is what de Galzain had to say about his first visit to Bath:
We called Julie's ex-husband Geoff (laughter). He was living in a little house in the country with a beautiful lady. He was really happy to see us and invited us to his place near Bath. It was a very happy time because Bath is a little land of freedom inside Europe. We were very happy to see each other again, and the four of us took an acid trip to celebrate. At that time all the people I knew, myself included, never took acid to have fun or enjoyment. It was a very serious thing, a quest for the meaning of life. We were really very serious people, trying to get a little knowledge, on an adventure with the aim of discovering something real.
It was very strong acid, extremely potent and we got incredibly high and I found myself in eternity. I was on God's land. Suddenly I decided to go out. And I remember Julie said "No, don't go out, please stay here," because she knew me (laughter). I went out and it was incredible. To me it was a world like Australia actually – the wilderness – though I was in Bath. It was the world at the origin of existence. No trace of civilization, it was the jungle! It was the most beautiful, luxurious jungle, and I was barefoot. I was on the road, running. I was feeling so powerful and so strong and so eternal. And I felt I had arrived in a place where I was the only man in the original land – there was nobody else.
And suddenly I saw a truck in front of me. I was in a mental space, not in the twentieth century in Bath, I was in some sort of psychic adventure. To me the truck symbolised the destructiveness of the European world. All the pollution, that whole trip. And there I was, totally pure, and there was this destructive thing. It was just a symbol and I thought it's him or me. I started running towards the truck, to destroy it. And the poor driver freaked out and slammed on the brakes. I was running as fast as I could towards the truck, the truck stopped, and I banged into it. To me it was a victory. I felt this guy could run over me and nothing would happen. So I lay down under the front wheel and with my thumb I just told him: 'Go! go!' (laughter). Next thing a police car arrives – vroom! Seven cops in the car, they handcuffed me and I was very violent. I thought I could destroy them all. At first I thought I could break through the handcuffs. I pulled my hands apart but nothing broke, the cuffs just got tighter and started to hurt. Then the cops sat on me, they were very heavy guys and it hurt.
The cops searched me and found I had a hundred grams of morphine on me. So they put me in the squad car. A cop opened the morphine bottle, put his finger in it and tasted it. He asked me what it was. I said: 'It's flour for baking bread.' He said: 'Do you think I'm an idiot – this is heroin.' I said: 'It's not heroin, I don't even know what heroin is. It's flour, it's to make a little bread in the morning'. And I didn't know this but I was very inspired because it was Saturday night and since I didn't admit what it was, the law said they had to put it through laboratory tests before they could charge me. I learned that afterwards. I was in such a state they couldn't take me to the police station. They took me to the hospital. The next thing I remember I was coming down from the trip and a nurse with a syringe is giving me a shot of heroin. This was delightful, there is nothing better than to come down from acid and just go onto heroin because you feel no discomfort whatsoever (laughter). On smack you don't give a damn about what happens to you. That was a really nice way to handle me (laughter).
The cops were going to come on Monday morning and take me to jail, but something incredible happened. This beautiful guy comes to my bed and he says: 'Listen, I'm a doctor; they're going to come and get you in an hour or two, follow me. I'm going to help you escape because otherwise they'll fuck you'. So I followed this angel and he led me out into the street and off I went back to Geoff's house. Julie was so happy to see me (laughter).
Ripley's version of de Galzain's escape from the cops differs from the one provided here. She told me that when the police came to arrest Bruno, he and Julie (who were tripping together) managed to run away. Jane was not present, but given that both my mother and Bruno related this version to her immediately after the incident took place, it is probably the more accurate account. Bruno wraps up the episode by stating that life continued as if nothing had happened. By way of contrast, Jane recalls it being something of a rigmarole getting my mother and de Galzain out of Bath. The police were out in force searching not only for de Galzain, but also my mother, and they had good descriptions of them both.
A few months after the incidents related above, Geoff Thompson and his family moved from Bath to rooms on the ground floor at 58 Bassett Road. Ripley found my mother extremely burdensome at this time. Julie was very actively involved with street crime and would stash suitcases filled with stolen goods in Ripley's flat. Since Thompson was still in love with my mother, he was always an easy touch as far as she was concerned. By this time my mother had returned to working as a nightclub hostess to generate money, a form of employment from which she'd made huge amounts of cash in the early and mid-sixties. That said, her heroin habit - not to mention Bruno's drug intake - and at times extravagant life-style, meant it was necessary to supplement this income with money from pick-pocketing, cheque book fraud and drug dealing.
Towards the end of 1970 my mother and various associates got involved in some drug scams in the Midlands; in part this was because one of Julie's friends hailed from the Nottingham suburb of West Bridgeford and was able to introduce her to a territory that she felt was ripe for exploitation. Unfortunately, the Midlands soon became extremely hot for my mother and her associates, and they found themselves hauled before a Nottingham court. Bruno's account of the events surrounding these legal troubles leads me to wonder whether he was attempting to cover his own - as well as my mother's - tracks, when describing what went on. Likewise, de Galzain's dating of events appears to add yet another layer of inaccuracy to his various self-mythologising accounts of his life. My view is that what I'm about to quote from Bruno's 1992 recordings, which he explicitly states took place upon his arrival in England from India in 1972, is a distorted account of calamities that contributed to his decision to leave both my mother and London towards the end of 1970. After explaining that my mother had become addicted to heroin, Bruno relates the following:
I said to Julie: 'Do you want to quit junk now?' She said: 'Of course.' I said: 'Do you want to do it with me, or do you want to do it with the help of some professional?' And England is so much more evolved than France, I must say, in those terms. They had some decent places for people to deal with their addiction. We looked for the best place. She had a comfortable bank account at this time. We went to the bank, made a joint account. We went to buy a car, made the arrangements for her and found that according to what people were saying, that the best place for her was in Nottingham. We went to the doctor to get some linctus, it's legal to get your dose from the pharmacy. One kilo of opium is a hundred grams of morphine and a hundred grams of morphine makes ten grams of heroin. We had two gallons of this opium water that you drink every hour and it's a very low dose. We had made the arrangements, we got a place in the country, a kind of hospital for junkies to quit. I put the two bottles of linctus in the back of Julie's suitcase and off we went to Nottingham.
We arrived about two in the afternoon and in the hospital Julie asked: 'What are you going to do?' I said: 'I'm going to take a hotel in the town. I'm going to be here every day and it's going to be beautiful.' We were just so happy. There were cops around my car when I went back to it. They were pointing at the linctus and asking: 'What is that?' I said: 'It's all legal, it's all in order. I've just brought my girlfriend for detoxification. The linctus was given to me by the doctor. I have the papers.' The cops were very friendly. They said: 'Just wait two minutes. Gonna make a call and then you can go.' I gave them the car. They came back five minutes later and put handcuffs on me and that was it. They took me to Brighton jail on the other side of the country. I wasn't concerned for myself but I was really worried about Julie. I was thinking she's not going to see me at visiting time tomorrow, and she'll think that I'm dead or I've had an accident.
I was arrested because of what had happened in Bath when we first got back from India. So they took me into the jail and they really despised junkies and heads. They were afraid of people who took drugs. They put drug addicts in shared cells with the most horrible people. So they put me with these two monsters. They were both in for murders. They were huge, I am tiny. I ignored them and I asked to go to the library but there wasn't anything worth reading, just crap. The only book worth reading was The Bible. So I took The Bible and returned to the cell, and these murderers knew what book I had and hated me for it. So I lay down on my bed and made an abstraction of everything else and started to read The Bible. To my amazement when I stopped reading these two murderers were snoring. It was like a fairytale, the old ogre is snoring. I got up the next day and it was like an acid experience, I was just so high. I've never been so high in my entire life. God was in that room, there was no doubt about it. I said: 'God, please tell me something.' The answer was a beautiful human voice telling me: 'I love you.' That was bliss.
I think I spent three days there altogether. When it was time for my trial they took me in the police van to the court. A little man, the archetypal bourgeois, came to me and said: 'I am your solicitor. We only have two minutes together and I want to tell you if you get two years you are the luckiest bastard on earth.' He said that because I'd been caught in Bath and then run away, I faced between two and ten years in jail.
I was taken into court and it was a miracle. I could see the love everyone had for me. The colours were so beautiful, and everything was just perfection. I didn't know I was in court. I was with my most loved ones. I was in total ecstasy, and they started to ask me questions, and I knew they were Christians. I answered them. There was no barrier whatever. The feeling was so good, to come out of jail and be with your friends and have a chat. And then I heard a guy say: 'Everybody stand up, the court is going to deliver the verdict.' At that point I nearly fell to the ground because I didn't know I was in court. Suddenly I saw I was in court. But then the solicitations of happiness, of joy, of beauty, were so strong that I just let myself go. The judge said: 'You are fined sixty pounds.'
It was a miracle. The cops jumped on an innocent man. I hadn't done any harm to anyone. My main concern was to get back to Julie. Then her ex-husband Geoff arrived, a very interesting guy. He came and said that when Julie didn't see me she called him and he found out that I had been arrested. He got the solicitor for me and was in the court and I didn't even see him there. He said: 'I've got bad news for you. When you went missing Julie signed out of the clinic. She hitched a lift from four guys, very gentle people. They got stopped by the cops who searched the car. It was full of stolen cheque books and drugs. The guys in the car were junkies. They told the police they'd picked up a hitch-hiker and didn't know her.' So the cops lifted Julie's sleeves and there were some needle-marks, so she was put in jail in Nottingham with seventeen charges against her. It was a hard thing, Julie was in jail but she'd done nothing.
Bruno then recounts that he went to Nottingham with Thompson, where he promised my mother he'd get her out of jail. On tape he never gets around to saying what happened to her since his concerns on this score soon took second place to something altogether more 'cosmic'. All of the above is merely the preamble to the most significant 'spiritual experience' of de Galzain's life, a matter to which I shall return later. Naturally, it follows that to expect empirical rigor from him when he related the story I've just cited makes no more sense than reading The Bible as if it is literally true. Bruno is dealing with what he perceives to be 'inner truths', and from his perspective what I'm searching for are 'outer facts'. De Galzain's story is tenable as long as it is understood as what it is meant to be, a fable that reveals an 'inner' not an 'external' truth. This is why Bruno feels more than comfortable about massively playing down his own involvement with drugs.
De Galzain's story does at least appear to confirm in bare outline what I've heard elsewhere, that both he and my mother were arrested in Nottingham for drug related offences in the early seventies. Geoff Thompson only served a few months in jail in Germany in 1970 for his involvement with Graham Plinston's drug smuggling operations, and after Mandy Plinston arranged for Howard Marks to pay off his fine, he was back in England before the incidents related above took place. It is therefore possible he assumed a role similar to the one Bruno assigns to him with regard to these incidents.
Around the end of 1970 de Galzain left my mother and went to India on his own. On his 1992 cassette recordings he claims that he left my mother because he needed to be alone: "I was very happy with the woman I was with. It was real love between us, real trust between us, everything was interesting and we'd done so many things together. There was nothing wrong in our relationship. We could scream at each other and love each other but everything made sense. We had incredible trust, respect and admiration for each other. I said that I didn't want to get away from her and that I loved her very dearly. I knew she loved me. During the years we'd been together everything had been a proof of love. One evening, we went to a movie, Midnight Cowboy or Blow Up, and we were going back home, and suddenly I said to Julie: 'I have to go now. I have to go.' She understood and she was always so respectful of the experiences I had to go through. That's real love. We went to the airport, and I bought a one-way ticket to India. I took no money with me. I wanted to be naked on the planet."
While I find Bruno's description of his separation from my mother to be idealised, I have no major chronological problems with it. Detta Whybrow's daughter Annabel recalls my mother and Bruno rowing badly before their break up. She says that afterwards, Julie moved down to the basement of 58 Bassett Road where my mother shared a kitchen with her mother Detta, but had her own room (this was the room Annabel used when she was home from boarding school during vacations).
Once Bruno had skipped temporarily out of my mother's life, she hopped from pad to pad, due in part to her endless hassles with assorted cops and criminals. Life improved a little for my mother when her friend Felicity Redmill returned from India in 1971. Redmill told me that in the early seventies my mother had a major court case at the Old Bailey after being arrested in possession of a substantial amount of heroin. At this time Felicity had a Caucasian baby called Josh who she'd brought back from India. Redmill told me that my mother borrowed Josh to take into the Bailey when she was being tried, pretending he was her son. With Josh as a prop, Julie put on her best naive young mother act, claiming she was transporting the heroin found in her possession for friends and didn't know what it was. My mother was apparently such a good actress the jury found her to be innocent.
Meanwhile, after a period of wandering ill-clad in the Himalayas, Bruno de Galzain had settled down at Sri Aurobindo's Auroville Ashram in Pondicherry, where he was filling note books with the French translations he was attempting to make of this guru's The Synthesis of Yoga and The Life Divine. For years de Galzain had been searching for a Master but he knew he hadn't found the real thing yet. Bruno and his friends had a mantra they'd repeat to would-be gurus: 'we don't want the philosophy, we want the experience'. Some of the gurus de Galzain had encountered were self-evidently fakes. During one initiation when he was being 'given the light', Bruno had opened his eyes and seen that the con man who'd promised enlightenment was shinning a torch in his face.
According to de Galzain's close friend Marcus Halliday, in the sixties Bruno made a suicide pact with a friend to the effect that if they hadn't achieved anything spiritually by the time they were thirty-three, the age at which Jesus Christ is said to have died, then they would kill themselves. Having reached this age without attaining enlightenment, de Galzain's friend had topped himself and now Bruno's days were numbered. De Galzain was killing time in Pondicherry as a means of preparing for his own death. Or at least this is how Bruno outlined his life-story to Marcus in the mid-nineties when he was dying from cancer, as well as on other occasions dating back to 1972. Returning to de Galzain's taped narrative, unexpectedly towards the end of 1971, Bruno received a letter from my mother saying she was strung out on smack and needed him to come to London to help her out. These were tough times and my mother wanted this Gallic soul mate around to support her. Bruno had sold his passport to get money, but managed to acquire a replacement after reporting it lost.
The matters outlined above functioned as the preamble to de Galzain telling Halliday and others the story of how he discovered the Divine Light Mission. When Bruno arrived at the airport as he was on his way out of India in March 1972, someone allegedly approached him and asked if he'd heard about the fourteen year-old Perfect Master. De Galzain replied he was in a hurry to get to London and ignored what this messenger had to say. When Bruno arrived in England and had just emerged from customs, the first person to speak to him asked if he had heard about the fourteen year-old Perfect Master. De Galzain was still in a rush but thought it significant that the last person to converse with him in India and the first person to address him in England were saying the same thing. Bruno travelled on to Notting Hill to meet my mother, but allegedly discovered she was in police custody in Nottingham for forging a heroin prescription.
De Galzain told Halliday that after staying the night in London, he made his way to Nottingham, and the first person to speak to him after he got off the train asked if he'd heard about the fourteen year-old Perfect Master. For Bruno this was of too great a significance to be ignored and without seeing my mother or helping her with the court case that was coming up the following morning, he allowed himself to be taken to a Divine Light Mission centre in Leicester and from there on down to London where a few days later he was given 'knowledge' by the fourteen year-old 'Perfect Master' Shri Guru Maharaj Ji. De Galzain felt that with this initiation he'd really achieved something and he was no longer obliged to commit suicide on his birthday, which was only days away. Bruno allegedly received 'knowledge' on 15 March 1972, the day before he turned thirty-three. I have heard this story related by various individuals, but it seems to me that Bruno is the original source for it and that he was mixing up different events to heighten the dramatic tension in this tale. On the basis of the available evidence, March 1972 does seem to be the correct date for de Galzain and my mother first becoming involved with Maharaj Ji.
On the cassette tapes he recorded in 1992, de Galzain provides a story which is at odds with the tale I've just gone through. Over the years he seems to have related at least two distinct accounts of how he was reunited with my mother in 1972. As I've already made clear, Bruno is concerned with 'inner' and not 'outer' truths, so what appears contradictory to me is unlikely to have bothered him. Likewise, as is the case with many junkies, de Galzain seems to have been in the habit of telling anyone who'd listen to him any fantasy that entered his head as if it was veritable truth. Or, from a 'spiritual' perspective, Bruno isn't concerned with factual accuracy since his stories are merely vehicles for what he sees as 'greater truths'. That said, all the versions of de Galzain's reunion with my mother do share certain core elements involving suicide and redemption. In the alternate tellings of this particular tale, rather than my mother writing to him, Bruno simply decides he must leave India to see her. He has a two year-old address for her and he knows there's no way she'll still be living there. He went to the house at 58 Bassett Road where he'd last lived with my mother and there met a mutual friend of theirs (presumably Detta Whybrow or one of the Burtons; both Terry Taylor and Geoff Thompson and his family had already moved on) who told him where to find Julie. It transpired she was living only a couple of blocks away in the same street:
I went there and rang the bell. Julie opened the door and it was just such an incredible moment of joy for both of us. She was a woman who always had wealth come to her, she always had money, so of course she attracted junkies, and she was under the domination of the worst kind of junkie in her flat. One day she had to go on the roof to escape these guys and they pushed her from the roof. Another guy stabbed her on the cheek, and she had reached such a point of despair that the very day I arrived she was going to kill herself. She was going to deliberately overdose herself. And that was exactly what my vision in Madras showed me. And that was the challenge life threw me, I had to stop it. When she opened the door, it shifted at that point. I'm a little guy, I'm not violent, I don't have big muscles but I tell you that I took these guys and threw them out the door, and it didn't take three minutes, and that was that. I felt an energy and there we were together again in joy and peace. Everything that I'd seen in my vision proved to be true. I still believed she loved me. And so I said: 'how did you manage to let me go like that? Because I would not let you go, if it had been the other way round.' Julie quoted a Zen poem she'd read: 'if you love someone, let them be free – if they are yours they will come back'. That was Julie. She read that, made it a part of her, and when the situation arose she applied it.
In this version of his revelation narrative, Bruno next took my mother to Nottingham to get cleaned up from her heroin addiction, and while I think the Midlands incidents as he relates them on his 1992 cassette recordings took place in 1970, it is plausible that something similar occurred in 1972. Regardless of exactly what happened, in March 1972 my mother and de Galzain became followers of Shri Guru Maharaj Ji, who was also known by the names Prem Pal Rawat and Bal Bhagwan. Maharaj Ji got his break in the guru business at the age of eight after his father Sri Han Maharaj died in 1966, enabling him to step into his Pop's Holy Man shoes. However, Rawat was soon disowned by parts of his family for being over-influenced by westerners and was replaced by a brother as the head of their deceased father's flock. Despite this minor set back, using western converts Maharaj Ji built an extensive religious business across the world. In 1972 he set up an American HQ in Denver, Colorado. Divine Light Mission HQs were also established in Europe and various other places. Maharaj Ji was the right Master for my mother and Bruno since he cannily avoided moral teachings, instead he placed emphasis on meditation and guru service, insinuating that through his "grace" his followers got access to God.
According to those who repeat as factual de Galzain's stories of how he was 'initiated' into the Divine Light Mission, when my mother had finally resolved her legal hassles in Nottingham and got back to London, she too went to Maharaj Ji to get 'Knowledge'. Friends such as Marcus Halliday also joined the Divine Light Mission. Maharaj Ji seems to have given my mother a feeling of peace and a reason to keep living, which would explain why she viewed him as her Master and travelled around the world to be with him. My mother certainly felt she got a lot out of being around Maharaj Ji, although I suspect not quite as much as followers of the guru sometimes claimed.
After devoting themselves to Maharj Ji, my mother and Bruno lived together in Bassett Road, then moved to a squatted property at 61 St Charles Square, W10, once again just off Ladbroke Grove. Felicity Redmill shared these two homes with them and at this point she was copying Julie and Bruno's habit of supplementing their doses of smack with shots of speed. Felicity says she soon realised amphetamines were making her paranoid, so she moved to Crystal Palace in south London in an attempt to undergo withdrawal away from the temptations offered by other substance abusers. The fact that Redmill was dismissive of Maharaj Ji, who she still habitually refers to as Gooey Margarine, probably made this break easier to accomplish. The scene in St Charles Square consisted mainly of substance abusers who were attracted to the Divine Light Mission, and among those my mother befriended was Hazel Gray, a junkie from the Lake District.
In November 1972 the Divine Light Mission charted a jumbo jet to fly European 'premies' out to India to see their 'Master'. My mother and her Gallic lover were among those who spent a month at Divine Light ashrams in Hardwar and Delhi. Possibly at the urging of other premies, when they returned to London they attempted to address some of the more problematic aspects of their relationship. They decided to split up and it appears that Bruno returned for a time to France. My mother and Jenny Halliday squatted a property somewhere close to Latimer Road in west London. Jenny was the sister of Bruno's acid dealing and oriental carpet besotted friend Marcus Halliday. Initially my mother and Jenny planned to get a really good squat together but they didn't hit it off and gave up after a week or two. Jenny who wasn't interested in recreational drug use found my mother's obsession with such pursuits difficult to fathom and as a consequence they failed to forge a friendship. Eventually my mother returned to her family in south Wales, where she cleaned up from drug addiction.
Returning to Bruno de Galzain, after living for some months with fellow premies in a French ashram, he travelled to Houston in the USA to see Maharaj Ji. The chief reason for de Galzain's trip to Texas was most probably to attend Millennium 73 held at the Houston Astrodome on 8 to 10 November 1973. This long forgotten rally was promoted as, and alternatively titled, The Most Significant Event in Human History. It was supposed to mark the beginning of a thousand years of peace. Maharaj Ji was at this time living with his mother in a swanky Long Island property and claimed to have six million followers in the world, with forty thousand of them resident in the USA. Despite the Divine Light Mission owning a film production company, three aeroplanes, an IBM computer on which it kept a record of every premie's background, and a budget of over $1,000,000 to promote and stage Millennium 73, less than twenty thousand people attended the DLM's Houston Aerodrome recruitment jamboree.
In the States, probably during the course of Millennium 73, Maharaj Ji instructed de Galzain to go to Hong Kong and set up an ashram there. Bruno was provided with an aeroplane ticket and was in the Far East from the tail end of 1973 until the summer of 1975. While he was running the Divine Light Mission HQ in Hong Kong, de Galzain also set up in business as East West Traders operating from 44 Kai Yuen Street, 5/F, North Point. His business partner in this venture was Chris Wenham and among other things they traded in rugs and carpets. By early 1975 Marcus Halliday was living in a squat at 52 Eltham Road in Lee Green (south London) with various other premies including Nina Trott. My mother would turn up in London to see Marcus, then disappear to Beckenham where Felicity Redmill was living, and away from the watchful gaze of her Divine Light friends, she'd get skagged up.
Bruno de Galzain returned to Europe from the Far East in the summer of 1975. Initially he shacked up with my mother in Notting Hill but they both soon found themselves badly strung out and in trouble with the local cops, junkies and assorted criminal elements. They were in a bad way when they reconnected with Damien Enright who they'd both known since the early-sixties, and who probably introduced them to each other. He cracked a squat for them at 30 Tottenham Court Road, a few doors down from where he was squatting with his girlfriend Marie Hill. Since they were virtually living next door to each other, my mother and Enright resumed their extended rapping about 'inner' life and literature. After being urged to do so by Bruno and Julie, Damien even went along to a Divine Light meeting, but didn't think much of it. Of far greater interest to Damien was the copy of the 1950s French sado-masochistic classic The Story of O my mother gave him at this time. This was one of Julie's favourite novels, and Damien, who was not familiar with it, found the book fascinating.
Through the squat scene in Tottenham Court Road my mother and Bruno made new friends and got to hang out with old acquaintances. One person who shared their communal lifestyle was Nina Trott, another Divine Light Mission premie, who told me: "The chronology of Julia's relationship with Bruno I'm not too clear about - I know they went back a hell of a long way, and they considered themselves 'soul mates'. However, they weren't always exactly together in the accepted sense, and when I knew them they were in a somewhat inscrutable phase. I could never quite work out if they were actually together or not, although in most senses they were. They were certainly inseparable and always seemed very involved with each other. They were a sort of "double act", cared deeply about each other, drove each other mad in turn, and were very entertaining to be with."
During this period both my mother and Bruno were involved in ongoing scamming. Among other things Julie fraudulently scored a job as a drugs worker at the Blenheim Project in Portobello Road using university BA and MPhil certificates that she 'borrowed' from a friend and doctored. However, nine to five employment didn't suit her and having used this social worker job as a front to visit friends in London jails, she dropped it. Then in early 1976 my mother told Bruno and various other people she was seriously ill and required an operation for rectal cancer. She wanted expensive private cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic in the USA rather than free NHS surgery in England. In fact Julie had merely suffered a cancer scare and after tests was told there was nothing wrong with her. She, however, persisted in telling those around her in Tottenham Court Road that she was dangerously ill; at the same time she informed some of her closer west London junkie connections she was well but hoaxing everyone she knew in the Divine Light Mission into thinking she had cancer in order to scam Bruno and some of his friends. My mum wanted to leave London and live in the USA.
In an attempt to find the money to pay for my mother to have private health treatment in America, Bruno set up a major cocaine deal. Some friends believe it was carried off successfully and provided my mother with the readies for her 'treatment'; others think that the scam went wrong and no money was made. Regardless, my mother left London for the States in the spring of 1976. Before she left London, Julie had a fling with a premie called Jonathan Minton and rekindled her decade plus on-off relationship with Grainger. Bruno started seeing Gillian Woodwood but the relationship only lasted a few months. De Galzain was mainlining excessive amounts of speed as well as heroin, and this made his behaviour extremely unpredictable.
My mother spent her first months in the States on the east coast. She told Divine Light friends she was receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in Minnesota, although she seems to have been in New York for most of this time. Having been 'treated', my mother then travelled on to California, where she would 'recuperate'. She roomed at 226 Ocean Parkway in Bolinas with Mary Fishman, who it seems was also a premie. When my mother first met Mary in Kabul and subsequently Goa, she'd been a love rival for Bruno's affection, and he'd gone back and forth between the two of them. Back then in 1968 my mother's Californian house-mate had been known as Mary O'Berne, but eight years later she was using the surname Fishman. Mary was away in India for much of the time my mother stayed in her house, and without a relatively responsible person there to keep things in order, I'm told the scene at this dwelling became: "...totally insane! Base pipes on the top floor, shooting gallery in the downstairs bedroom. Nitrise tanks in the garage..." People came and went, with the Divine Light followers who made up the core of this group combining their guru service and meditation sessions with a lot of really hardcore drug use.
Bruno visited my mother in Bolinas but their relationship was clearly over. When my mother went back to the UK in the spring of 1977, it was to settle down with Grainger. Ultimately this didn't really work out and that autumn she took off for Bath where she lived for a few months. After this my mother ping-ponged between the United States and her relationship with Grainger in London. While in the US Julie would clean up, only to find herself using junk again when she returned to Grainger and London. She died in London on 2 December 1979, probably from a heroin overdose, in a bedsit she shared with Grainger. Bruno, meanwhile had returned to France. He would outlive my mother by more than a decade and a half before finally succumbing to bladder cancer on 10 December 1997. Bruno spent much of the end of his life living in London with Kam Chueng, a Maharaj Ji follower previously married to Chris Wenham; they'd got to know each other when they were all setting up the Divine Light Mission HQ in Hong Kong.
Red Hot Hippie Momma (brief overview of Julia Callan-Thompson's life)
Voices Green & Purple (overview of British psychedelic culture including Julia Callan-Thompson's involvement with Terry Taylor's incredible 1960s Ladbroke Grove drugs & magic scene)
Julia Callan-Thompson's time Go Go dancing in Kabul (you need to read through a bit of art guff at the start to get to this)
London Art Tripping (psychogeography of 50 years of bohemianism)
Dope In The Age Of Innocence (autobiography of Julie and Bruno's friend Damien Enright)
ON JULIA'S COUSIN RAY 'THE CAT' JONES
Something else that has come up in relation to Ray The Cat is the ‘Princess Margaret story’. I've got no real leads on it, but someone I asked ‘guessed’ that Ray The Cat was the uncaught mastermind behind the 11 September 1971 safety deposit box robbery of the Lloyds Bank on the corner of Marylebone Road and Baker Street (central London). Supposedly a series of sexually compromising photographs of Princess Margaret were found by the robbers in one of the riffled safety deposit boxes. This particular heist had a very different modus operandi to Ray’s jewel and fur thefts, but I suppose anything is possible. However, I would stress that the person who suggested this to me was ‘guessing’, there is no evidence to back it up. I am, however, confident that there is a reader of this blog who could throw more light on the matter, should he care to do so. Moving on, in my last piece on Ray ‘The Cat’ Jones I mentioned news reports about him that had been posted on the web and subsequently come down. What follows is just one example of these lost posts retrieved from my archive:
Last Bid For Imprisonment
The man campaigning to be credited with the £185,000 burglary of Sophia Loren’s jewels from an Elstree hotel is fighting his last battle in his war against a “cover-up”.
Ray “the cat” Jones, who has an estimated career haul of £60 million, was never charged with the 1960 raid on the Norwegian Barn in the grounds of the Edgwarebury Hotel in Barnet Lane — but was incensed when his accomplice claimed sole credit for it in a 1994 book.
Together with his spokesman, Michael Morgan, Ray was back in the village recently, delivering hundreds of leaflets door-to-door, calling on the public to demand police arrest him for the crime.
“This is definitely our last protest,” said Mr Morgan, “we want to finally lay this to rest”.
Ray, now in his 80s, claims the police do not want to re-open the case because it would come to light that officers accepted £12,000 from him for information to help him carry out the raid.
Another claim is that a senior officer, “knowing” Ray had earlier been jailed for a burglary he did not commit, ordered colleagues to let him off for the Elstree job. Mr Morgan added: “I'm convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt there’s been a cover-up.” Police have denied the claims.
Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion. Saturday 20 February 1999. Borehamwood and Elstree Times.
The testament of Ray Jones, the greatest cat burglar in the world, ever!
“I have never had much schooling but I have learned a great deal from life.
From the age of 12 my whole dream was to have become the middleweight boxing champion of the world. I honestly believe I would have got there but for the evil of the police and the dishonesty of some judges. Because of the wrongs done to me – first of which was that I served a Borstal sentence of 3 years and I also served a total of 6 years imprisonment. I was innocent of both counts.
The 6 years I served, it was for hitting a policeman – who happened to be the metropolitan police boxing champion – in self-defence. I started that six years in 1940 but the offence took place in 1937 when I was 21 years old. It did not happen but only a few weeks later I was due to box a leading middleweight contender and had I won I would have fought the British middleweight champion for the title with Mr. Jack Solomon, the boxing promoter, who believed I would have beaten the both of them and won the title.
At the time I got the 6 year sentence, when I was taken into custody, the police question you as if you are responsible for all kinds of assaults on the police and one evil policeman at Gerald Road Police Station did falsely charge me for hitting him as well as the police boxing champion, when he knew I had not done so. It was that officer that took charge of the two charges – the one with him and the other with the police heavyweight champion.
I got convicted on the charge for hitting the police champion and I got 6 years imprisonment. I did get acquitted on the evil officer’s charge but to do so I did have my younger brother David come up to London from Wales and give evidence on my behalf and prove that I was not in London at the time. My brother never did get back home to Wales in 1940 because he was killed with the first bombing of London in the war and went home in his coffin, and I went to prison for the 6 years and I was innocent.
That was in 1940. In 1982 I was charged on the evidence of a supergrass and I am pleased to say that the presenting barrister on behalf of the Regional Crime Squad police did inform the trial judge that I was innocent of the 6 years sentence I served in 1940. That barrister also cleared me of a sentence of 18 months I did wrongfully serve in 1944.
When my brother was killed and I got that 6 year sentence I swore and vowed to myself that I would hit back at the rogues that had wrongly condemned me, and that I would become the greatest cat burglar and jewel thief that ever was. I kept that vow and I never ever stole from anybody poor. I only robbed the elites and most wealthy such as lords, ladies, dukes, duchesses, multi-millionaire industrialists and three of the world’s richest film stars – Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Bette Davies. Also the best Home Secretary of all time R. A. Butler.”
So there you have it, an unequivocal statement of opposition to the cops who fitted Ray up and set him off on his life of crime. I assume the 18 month sentence in 1944 was for an alleged prison misdemeanour and led to Ray doing a continuous six-year stretch inside. Likewise, it would appear Ray’s boxing career ended in 1937 because he was forced on the run. If anyone is able to clarify these matters or add new information please do so in the comments below. Jones was very keen to have his story told right up to his death, so anyone who can contribute to his biography is assisting in the realisation of his dying wishes. There is a further story I can add here, emailed to me by another of my blog readers:
“Ray and my grandfather were brothers. My grandfather’s name was Ambrose Jones. I was told by my granddad that when Ray was on the run he dressed up as a woman so he could go to his mother’s funeral. The police were at the funeral but no-one recognised him for a while and when he was spotted he had to scale a fence so he could get away. My dad was at the funeral and he said there were loads of old time criminals there, he said it was great.”
If anyone has press cuttings or videos of Ray The Cat’s TV appearances, I’d love to see those too. Ray Jones is a legend and by getting as much of his life-story online as possible we'll ensure that his memory lives on! And I'm also looking for information on some other relatives of mine and Ray’s who lived in the Victoria area of London in the 1950s and 1960s, the Callaghans. The head of the family was Dinny Callaghan and he’d lost an eye in a fight over who ran the protection at The Derby. His sons were involved in criminal exploits too. According to family legend, the south Wales filth took a dislike to Dinny when he was a young man, and after illegally conveying him to the border with England, they told him never to return to Wales. The west London underworld is not nearly as well documented as that in south and east London, and by getting some leads on the Callaghans we can hopefully start filling in some more ‘lost’ history. Again any information placed in the comments section below will be greatly appreciated. Just to clarify, Dinny Callaghan was Ray The Cat’s uncle.
Checking again I was able to find Will Cohu’s hatchet job on Ray The Cat from The Independent on that newspaper’s site, so you can see it there for free rather than having to use a pay-to-view web archive service. With the statement from Ray above, it becomes possible to see that Cohu didn't fully grasp everything Jones told him.
I also recently came across a couple of sentences on Ray The Cat AKA Raymond The Climber in Villains’ Paradise: Britain’s Underworld from the Spivs to the Krays by Donald Thomas (John Murray, London 2005, page 365): “In June 1952, Raymond Jones, known as ‘Raymond The Climber’, was also sent to prison, in his case for six years, for robbing Colonel Charteris. He had fifteen criminal convictions going back to the age of twelve.” A footnote informs us that Ray The Cat was found guilty and sentenced at the Old Bailey on 23 June 1952. Citing Peter Scott’s unreliable autobiography as his source, Thomas goes on to credit Ray’s assistant with sole credit for carrying out the 1960 Sophie Loren Elstree jewel theft, a claim Ray consistently contested (see my earlier blog).
Poetry As The Heavy Artillery Of Cultural Revolution…
Trocchi's commitment to poetry is readily evident from Jamie Wadhawan's 1969 documentary Cain's Film. This begins with Trocchi trying to persuade his publisher to take a collection of his verse, only to be rebuffed by Marion Boyars who tells him that poetry doesn't sell. Trocchi persisted and John Calder issued Man At Leisure just three years later (despite the views of his business partner at Calder & Boyars). Returning briefly to Cain's Film, this more or less concludes with Trocchi reading the poem Lessons Fr Boys & Girls II at the Arts Lab in London's Covent Garden on 13 April 1969. Wadhawan's portrait of Trocchi is thus framed to emphasis the fact that he is above all else a poet.
Slightly earlier in his anti-career, Trocchi acted as MC at the International Poetry Incarnation AKA Wholly Communion at The Albert Hall. To some this marked the last and greatest hurrah of the London beatnik scene, to others it signified the birth of hippie culture. That said, for the several thousand punters who turned up to witness the event on 11 June 1965, Wholly Communion was a spectacular success. The individual poetry readings were less inspiring than the sum total of their overall effect, since even the appearance by beat stalwart Allen Ginsberg was viewed by many as disappointing. Regardless, Trocchi was at the very centre of the action and kept things moving with off-the-cuff comments about getting a few poets together and allowing them to ‘act naturally'.
In an essay about Trocchi, Lord Junk Himself, Denis Browne recounts meeting his literary idol through an uncle who ran a bar in Kensington, west London. The publican was presented with a copy of Man At Leisure but since he wasn't interested in modern poetry, Browne ended up with both the book and an honorary job as Trocchi's literary assistant. Trocchi liked to surround himself with people who dug poetry. Hipsters on the beatnik scene held poets in the kind of esteem that later generations accorded to rock stars. In London, Trocchi's immediate circle consisted almost exclusively of individuals who'd transformed drug addiction into a kind of poetry; and a dude known as Grainger was one of the most notable among them.
Grainger had suffered what was probably his first bust in the spring of 1962. This led to the headline ‘5 Idle Chelsea Men Had Hemp' in The Times of 24 April that year. Grainger was tried under his legal name of Malcolm Drake, and like those arraigned with him, he was unemployed. After he was informed that Grainger aspired to being a poet, the magistrate announced: ‘That is a nice job for the evenings and getting up in the morning to see the sun rise.' The beak was not impressed with the defendants ‘long hair' and seems to have viewed them all as worse than work-shy, ranting after reading a report on Grainger's flat-mate John Beaumont that: '...your philosophy is that work has to be avoided at all costs. You have almost a religious faith in being able to exist without earning any money...' From this it can be seen that Trocchi's inner circle thought and behaved pretty much as he did. By the late-sixties, Grainger and Trocchi saw themselves as individuals who lived poetically, and therefore didn't need to write.
The Situationist International, of which Trocchi had been a founding member in 1957, understood revolutionary activity itself to be a form of poetry. Raoul Vaneigem states in The Revolution Of Everyday Life (Rebel Press & Left Bank Books, 1983, page 153) that: 'Poetry is.... ‘making'' but ‘making' restored to the purity of its moment of genesis - seen, in other words, from the point of view of the totality.' Likewise, among the most famous Situationist slogans is one that runs: 'Never Work'. The Situationists, like Trocchi, gave themselves over to an art of living that was in itself poetic.
Trocchi's poetry is thus central to any rounded understanding of both him and his immediate scene. This alone would make the pieces that collected here worth reading. But beyond this they are enjoyable in themselves; sometimes they reveal real flashes of insight, and at others they work more on the level of verse that is so bad it is good. Trocchi is very much about peaks and troughs, and that shouldn't surprise anyone who understands that he self-consciously rejected the bourgeois literary compromises associated with evenness of tone and ‘quality'.
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