Jim Haynes died on January 6th. I had known him almost 60 years. In 1963 my girlfriend Sue Crane and I hitch-hiked to Edinburgh to get married as her parents would not let us live together in London. We had been there before but had not got around to getting married on that trip. Our previous accommodation was unavailable the second time so I wrote to Jim, who we’d met on the first trip, to see if he could help us find somewhere to stay. Sure enough, he knew someone in the Village of Dean who was away for the summer and would like someone to stay there to look after it. In return, he suggested that I do a stock-take of his bookshop, The Paperback, as he was told he should one. He’d never before done one. I spent a few days rooting about in the basement and consequently came up with a pile of invoices that were still in the empty shipping boxes. ‘I thought they were packing slips,’ explained Jim. No wonder his account was blocked with some of the publishers.
We spent a lot of time with Jim who was very friendly, generous, and kind. I was still a teenager and he was ten years older than me but was in no way condescending. Jim invited us to see Jarry’s Ubu Roi at the Traverse Theatre, another of his enterprises. It was small and the audience sat on bleachers facing each other, the stage between. At one point we threw large cotton-wool balls at each other to simulate warfare.
We got married and moved to London. In 1966 Jim moved to London to start the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre in Holborn and we saw quite a bit of each other. My friend Hoppy and I had already started a publishing company with a view to bringing out an alternative newspaper based on the Village Voice and the East Village Other in New York. Jim and his best friend Jack Henry Moore were added to the list of directors and together we started International Times (IT), Europe’s first underground newspaper.
Our collaborations continued. When Jim and Jack started the Arts Lab, Sue ran the café and I set up a small bookstall of books from the Indica Bookshop. We obviously saw less of him once he moved to Paris in 1969, but we kept in touch and as time went by, he and I were often on the same panel or TV documentary discussing the Sixties, the Underground Press, the Counter Culture and the like. I think the last time I saw him was in Paris when Rosemary and I took some French friends to one of his Sunday dinners. Jim was gregarious to the extent it seemed like a way of never committing to a single relationship. He really wanted everyone on Earth to be in his address book, particularly all the women on Earth. Jim never seemed to want a single permanent relationship, preferring instead to surround himself with women. This is not to say that these were not often very close, meaningful friendships; I am sure they were. There was, however, a darker side to Jim. Many of his friends (and mine) stopped sending their young daughters to visit him when they visited Paris because he put so much pressure on them for sex. He was an old-style, unreconstructed, sexual predator. Having said that, this was not uncommon for people of his age; he was born in 1933 and we are all the product of our age, unless we make a huge effort to change. Of the founders of International Times (Hoppy, Jim, Jack, Mike Henshaw, myself, and Tom McGrath) I am the only one left. I thought Jim was a wonderful man and am privileged to have known and worked with him. This is Jim and I on a panel discussion in Glasgow in 2009.
I was in an early group to receive the anti-Covid vaccine. It was given at Lords Cricket Group in St. John’s Wood, next to Lords Tavern. It was a beautiful sunny day, with blue sky so I walked there through Regent’s Park then along the canal to St. John’s Wood Road. Several hundred old people were gathered together, and they were as excited as could be, introducing themselves to each other, helping the aged and infirm. It was the first time most of them had been out for months and they all had a smile on their face. It was like a village fete or a garden show; I half expected someone to come in carrying a huge onion or a giant cabbage. And, of course, everyone was very pleased to get their shot. Being in the vulnerable age group was very stressful and now that was being addressed. It was much less exciting when I had my second shot there in March, people had become used to Covid, but it was still a very positive situation with everyone profusely thanking the volunteers who were running it. This was the first time I have felt any affection for my old school, Cirencester Grammar School, founded in 1461, because that was where Edward Jenner, (1749-1823), pioneer of vaccines and creator of the smallpox vaccine, the world’s first vaccine, studied before going up to St. George’s Hospital, London. Here’s Mister Jenner.
It has been pointed out that there is a very large omission in my previous post. I didn’t mention that I had prostate cancer. In late August 2020 an annual MOT blood test at my doctor’s revealed a high PSA reading. A week later I was in the Royal Marsden for tests and a scan. The another two days later and finally an MRI scan. This large machine makes such a lot of noise that they give you earplugs to block it out. Giant magnets rotate and, by the sound of it, grind together each one making an entirely different electronic sound, from high pitched whistles to deep groans and clanking sounds. All it needs is a drum and bass track and you’d have a hit electro record. From then on it was a flurry of meetings and tests including a biopsy. I wasn’t really expecting this: you lie, curled in the foetal position on an operating table while three nurses insert a tube up your ass to take samples from your prostate. It’s the only way to get there. You can hear the mechanism at the end of the tube as it goes ‘Snip’, ‘Snip’ ‘Snip’ as they move it around and decide on a likely place to check out. Meanwhile, a charming your Irish nurse was seated next to my head, attempting to distract me from the procedure with conversation. ‘So what it is that you do now?’ she asked brightly, in a delightful Irish accent. In the end all five of us were having a lovely conversation about books and writing and agents, we could have been in the café at the British Library.
The cancer hadn’t spread so the standard treatment, 20 sessions on a linear accelerator, was indicated. It was a bit late to fit them in before Christmas, so I had them in the year, 2021. The extraordinary thing was, had I not been told that I had cancer, I would not have known that anything was wrong. I had a little fatigue but everyone I knew was anxious and depressed about Covid and quite a few complained about tiredness. The linear accelerator was a doddle. It makes hardly any sound, it doesn’t hurt in any way, and the daily radiotherapy session only takes 10 minutes. I was very interested in the machine, which was like the robots you see of the machines in assembly lines making cars. Huge bits of kit on the end of arms move around and perform a slow dance as you lie there, you don’t slide into a tunnel; the machine revolves around you. I commented on how big it was and the nurse laughed and said ‘All you can see is the bit that sticks through the wall. There’s a whole room behind there.’ I looked it up, naturally, and they cost between £4 and £5.5 million. They have two at the Royal Marsden; mine was called Brunel, after the great engineer, which I thought was rather nice. The nurses always referred to it as a ‘nice piece of kit’, a phrase I remembered Dr James using when I first met him; they were all copying him. It was all over and done with by February 25th.
I rather enjoyed my hospital visits. It had been years since I spent any time in Chelsea so each day I took the bus further and further down the Kings Road and walked to the hospital through the back streets. Sometimes I would get off early. The Chelsea Drugstore where Mick Jagger stood ‘in line with Mr. Jimmy’ is now a MacDonald’s, Mary Quant’s Bizarre is now a Jo & the Juice, it’s all much more commercial with the same old chains you see everywhere.
Well Brunel it did its job, though I didn’t get the results until several months afterwards as it does cause a bit of, painless, inflammation that has to go away before they can assess the success. It worked, PSA down to normal of 1:00. Ever since I’ve become a great advocate of getting tested and have banged on to all my male friends over 60 to get checked out. Over 60? Male? GET CHECKED!
By the end of March, 2121, up to six people were permitted to meet, and social life started up again. I was lucky in that I had always had my son with me for company as he still lived at home, and he had his friend Rami who lives upstairs as part of the bubble so we were never lonely as some people were. I began to cook for friends: Jill Nicholls, Maribel Torrente, Fran Bentley, Harriet Bowden, James Mair and Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, Suzy Treister and Richard Grayson. I was stuffing squid with chorizo and preparing quail with bread sauce and having a fine time. It was displacement activity, but a pleasant distraction and anyway, we still had to eat. Here’s Theo and Rami.
During lockdown and the period when we only allowed a restricted social life, I relied tremendously on my friends for support and to keep me from getting depressed and despondent about my cancer. I am privileged to know such a wonderful group of people. And here are a few of them: Maribel outside the French pub in July sunshine when you could eat outside but not in; she offered to move in and look after me. That afternoon was possibly the first time I felt really happy since my wife Rosemary died; other times were when walking in Regent’s Park with Jill during lockdown. I would bring a bottle of chilled Chablis and each brought our own glasses. At that time she was working on her brilliant BBC-Imagine TV documentary about Tom Stoppard; Harriet has since left this septic isle, swapping her bookstall on Portobello Road for the Mediterranean sun. And there were many more. My thanks to them all, they don’t realise how much I value their friendship.
About once a month, unless we are in lockdown, Luzius Martin comes over for a few days from Basel where he houses his massive William Burroughs collection. We always have plenty to talk about as I have written two books on Burroughs as well as one on the Paris Beat Hotel plus interviewed him, produced CDs of his cut-up tapes, curated exhibitions of his photographs, catalogued his archives (twice – 1972 and 2014), and lectured on his work on TV, radio and in academia. When Luzius is here we always have dinner with Terry Wilson, cut-up author, collagist, and Brion Gysin expert. I can think of nothing better than spending time with my friends, drinking wine, talking. Civilisation emerged from conversation.