Some memories from Mark Robertson

  • Pasolini's Canterbury Tales

  • 1969: Essex students deported from Mexico

  • RSSF

  • Ernest Dowson

  • Sir Arnold Molestrangler

  • Sir Arnold Molestrangler
    - further details from Julian Harber

    Pasolini's Canterbury Tales

    Somewhat outside the 68-69 timespan, was the other excursion of the Essex crowd into the cinema. Not Godard this time but Pasolini's soft-porn version of the Canterbury Tales, which starred Huw Griffith, Ninetto Davoli (as the Chaplinesque character) and PPP himself as Chaucer. The film was released in 1971, so I suppose it was shot in the summer of 70 or 71.

    Our bit of the film was shot at a Jacobean Mansion somewhere near Colchester. We were roped in as extras and played assorted villeins, country lads, lasses and doxies. PPP had found an elderly couple sleeping rough in a derelict church in Colchester, who were to feature at the head of a wedding march, which was one of the two scenes we were involved in. We discovered that despite their relatively major roles, the elderly street people were being paid a pittance, and being plied with cheap alcohol. A general meeting was held and delegates elected to communicate the view of the shop floor to management, i.e. a substantial increase. The workers' representatives were, however, rebuffed.

    The wedding march scene was to be shot just before sunset and we were all lined up while PPP waited for the right light conditions. The sun dropped towards the horizon and someone shouted action. The wedding march moved off and lo, the assorted villeins, lads, lasses and doxies linked arms and marched forwards, as if to the barricades, singing the Internationale. With that, a lot of Italians started to freak out and after much screaming and arm waving, management capitulated to the workers' just demands.

    The other scene to be shot was the wedding dance, which was to be mirrored in the film by a dream sequence in which the dancers were nude, females only, of course. The Essex women were approached and offered much more money to do the scene. To a woman, they refused.

    1969: Essex students deported from Mexico

    Those of us on the Spanish preliminary language year were meant to spend the summer term of 1969 at Mexico City University. We flew to New York and then bussed it to Laredo, Texas. Also on this outing were (I think) Val Fraser, Randall and Jenny Fortune among others. We were allowed into Mexico momentarily and then deported. We were denounced to the press as drug smugglers (whoever heard of anyone smuggling drugs into Mexico!). The real reason for the deportation was that students from Essex had been in Mexico in 1968 and involved in the troubles that led up to the massacre during the Olympic games. Who were those students? I have a faint recollection that Maryvonne may have been one of them.

    We had very little money, as it was awaiting us in Mexico. So we ended up staying with a Master Sargeant (Chuck) and his English wife on a US Air base. Her father was the President of the English Rugby Union! We hung about for a while while the Home Office protested and there were letters to the Times before moving to Dallas to be near the Consulate. In Dallas, some of us worked in a Hamburger joint called the Maverick Camel. I remember one of the women (Monica I think her name was, maybe the Mon Jenny mentions in her contribution to the page) got picked up by the police, who thought that any woman who chose to walk must be on the game.

    While we were trying to get into Mexico, those on the Portuguese language year had travelled to Portugal, which was then governed by the fascist Caetano. During the term, Raffy decided to fly out to Portugal, to see Jania, I think, but there was a problem... males with long hair risked being shorn on entry, or turned back. He apparently travelled dressed in a pin stripe suit and a bowler hat into which he had stuffed his locks.

    RSSF

    Who remembers the founding conference of the RSSF at which the situationists stormed the platform denouncing the bureacratic degeneration of an organisation, which did not yet exist?

    I think the RSSF meeting was in London (at or near the Roundhouse?). I am pretty sure it was in London because I slept at Pete Gilpin's. We all took our breakfast chez Tariq Ali! I may, however, be conflating two entirely different occasions.

    The range of organisations represented at the RSSF conference was immense, Young Liberals (Hilary Wainwright), Militant Tendency from Sussex and other varieties of Trots, plus some Maoists. Tariq Ali and other proto-Red Moles were to be seen caucassing, in a local pub, with Pat Jordan, who not doubt had instructions from the "United Secretariat". Was the token worker at the meeting not the Posadist coal miner, later of Ruskin College, Dave Douglass, the champion of post-holocaust primitive communism?

    Have you read Ali's book, Redemption? I particularly liked his wonderfol caricature of Chris Harman as "Nutty Shardman".

    Ernest Dowson

    I think someone ought to write and post the story behind the appearance of Ernest Dowson as "The Leader". I don't know, as it was before my time. You may be interested to know that Ernest is alive and well, he lives at Cynara House, Flaxton. and can be contacted on edowson@iname.com .

    Sir Arnold Molestrangler

    The story behind Sir Arnold Molestrangler, is a spiffing wheeze by the Priory Street Mob. The idea was simple, but inspired. At that time, TIME magazine contained several vouchers which entitled the lucky recipient to receive several free issues of the magazine. The vouchers in the magazines were completed and submitted on a weekly basis, addressed to Sir Arnold Molestrangler, Molestrangler House, Priory Street. This resulted in a geometrically progressive avalanche of copies of TIME. When the desired critical mass was obtained, the vouchers, for the hundreds of copies to be received at the beginning of the next cycle, were addressed to A. Sloman. Sir Arnold can also be contacted by email at amolestrangler@petlovers.com.

    - further details from Julian Harber

    The full address of Sir Arnold' s included the name of his company Molestrangler Investments (South Africa) Limited. But most of the Time Magazines came not to Sir Arnold (though he was keen on free introductory offers from book clubs and in particular a great devotee of Heron Books - with their 'genuine styvertex' bindings) but to various people in flats in Nantucket Island House, 13 Priory Street. However unusual the name (I remember Mavis Lydia Dug-Out and Deirdre Nanj) the subscription appeared to be honoured. (The poor secretaries who processed all this in the subs dept obviously did not care a damn who wanted free copies of the mag). Somewhere I think I have a letter from Priory St saying it had got out of hand and the final straw was when the postman arrived with a whole sack of the magazines - not only for a large numbers of the flat dwellers - but also for what appeared to be all subscribers in Colchester. They had had enough and just decided to deliver them to the one address.

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