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Once, sitting down with Spike Milligan, at his his mother’s rather nondescript house in Woy Woy in New South Wales Australia, we were talking about children and his children’s books. He looked at me in that typical Milligan way that could always raise a smile and said. “What children’s books? We are all children when…

Once, sitting down with Spike Milligan, at his his mother’s rather nondescript house in Woy Woy in New South Wales Australia, we were talking about children and his children’s books.spike self portrait He looked at me in that typical Milligan way that could always raise a smile and said. “What children’s books? We are all children when we don’t have to playact at being grown up.” Later we took a slow, rambling walk on the beach. He was hunched and shuffling, his eyes always looking down. Now and then he would bend and pick something up. “Little things.” He said. “If only we could always live in the land of small things. There are whole universes on every grain of sand.” On the way back to the old and tiny house which had been his mother’s he squatted rather painfully on crackling knees to watch a dung beetle rolling a huge ball of horse dung before him. “Imagine if that dung beetle was God,” he said “and that big ball was the world. All the microbes, all the bacteria could be us.” I loved Spike. He was the kindest man, the saddest man and the most likeable man I ever had the privilege to know.
He was an old, and sad man when I knew Spike, consumed with regrets about his ancient perceived sins and worried about what would happen to the world when he was no longer in it. He wanted to stay to the end. “Like a really terrible film.” He would say. “You hate it, you groan at every word of unbelievable dialogue, you begin to pick out the continuity errors. You finish your popcorn and yearn for your money back. But then something keeps you glued to your seat. You just want to see it through to the end. To see what happens. Nothing does. Everyone dies, and you are left thinking that surely you missed something important. Something someone was trying to say to you. But they weren’t and you feel cheated.”
Like me Spike was manic depressive, and like me he hated the newspeak ‘bi-polar’. spike quote 2
Today, while I lie flat on my back full of valium, Neurontin, and morphine, feeling sorry for myself because all I can move arms and legs, and trying to keep the depression at bay I think of my old friend. A friend I wish I had met in his younger years when he was a master of expression, a founding member of the timeless “Goons” with Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine (in the early days), and the magnificent Peter Sellers. From Milligan’s writing of The Goon Show with collaboration from Eric Sykes and Larry Stephens, Maurice Wiltshire or John Antrobus was birthed Monty Python, The Goodies, and perhaps even The Young Ones benefited from Spike’s mania and depression. spike quote
Today, I picked up my morphine, my valium, and my Neurontin, planning to order in a bottle of vodka and pound up my pills with my lovely marble mortar and pestle, when Spike whispered in my ear. “I’m the oldest manic depressive I know.” I heard it as clearly as the day he laughingly said it to me. So I made up my mind. I too am going to be the oldest manic depressive I know. I owe that to Spike. At the very worst I can promise to live longer than Keith Richards! (After all we’re the same age and he has had a lot more fun than I have!) e
Thank you Spike. For having lived, and crossed my path, and in doing so, taught me a lesson. I will stay till the movie is over no matter how horrible the acting or the script!

UPDATE: I had previously said that the house in Woy Woy was Spike’s “birthplace”. Even as I wrote that I knew that he was actually born in India, but I blithely skipped by and carried on writing. Thanks to Russell for keeping honest here. If it’s any excuse I was flat on my back with a prolapsed disc and in great pain. However, excuse it might be, but not absolutely honest.

Author: grahamwhittaker
What do I call myself? A novelist? A journalist? Writer on demand? Copywriter? Ghostwriter? Poet? Is there a single word to describe all these things? if anyone knows one please tell me. I started out life as a journalist after my service time in the RN. I was 22. My love then was music writing, contributing articles to most of the pop/rock magazines of the time. As time went by I ghostwrote biographies for celebs, wrote novels, and made a general living from writing everything from love letters to translating menus in China to acceptable English. I have written greetings cards, manuals, How to books on so many subjects I forget. My living has been as a writer on demand. So, my blog is an eclectic collection of HOW MY BRAIN WORKS. Recently I started writing blogs for company blogs. In my retirement I find myself writing more, about more subjects than I ever covered as a roving journalist. I ask myself why having reached the age of leisure why I am now busier than ever before! My last novel, The Girl From Kosovo has led to a second, which will be in your bookshops next year 2019, and my new anthology of shorts with the title Picking Up Peas With Chopsticks has just been uploaded as an ebook. (It's a pot boiler so don't expect a print version any time soon.) If you have a blog, or a job to offer, I'm an obsessive researcher and turnaround time is fast. Yes, I know, I'm a HACK. A writer for money. A gun for hire. But hey... we all have our failings. Thanks for calling in. Feel free to chat and comment. I'll even get back to you with a thank you note!

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