My great old friend Richard Vick (I’ve always called him ‘Rick’) left his job as a reporter on London’s Fleet Street just before his twenty-first birthday with a small suitcase plus £50 in his pocket. It was 1969 the year the 5th Dimension sang and sang and sang ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.’ As Rick explained in a recent interview: “These were exciting times. Everything seemed possible. You could walk out onto the road, stick your thumb out and hitch a ride within seconds. We went to beach parties, got into Buddhism, meditated naked on mountains and smoked a lot of pot. It was a far freer time. Free expression and free love. Most of all though, there was a real feeling that things could change for the better. It had to.”*** They were indeed free and footloose times, I can attest to it too. And the sun DID shine in and in and in. Our paths first crossed in Greece when Rick became a friend and I first read (and warmed to) his early verse. It didn’t hurt that Rick was one of the most talented also beguiling men around. His partner at the time, Jane Motley, an artist, did this drawing of Rick around the time we first meant – early seventies.
Our paths re-crossed in London, in British Columbia, also in California, and most recently in Stroud, England. His various wanderings have included overland odysseys from Afghanistan to India and Nepal via Iran. He’s spent time in a Tibetan monastery, as well as Sierra Leone, Egypt, Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria. At various times he’s worked as a sailor, a ferry skipper, a salmon fisherman, a journalist, a biographer, a teacher and has published several collections of verse as well as a short work titled ‘Indian Eye’, after a recent sojourn to India. He has three enchanting children – Lucian, Faye and William. In recent years he’s organized a writing club and freely gives his time to teach writing at the Brimscombe-based charity – The Nelson Trust. His writing course is meant to provide support for those ‘freeing themselves from addiction.’ Additionally, he’s a trained clown/mime – see below, Rick is on the right, in black. Also below; a short piece on clown days – ‘Chico and Rikko’ – and four poems – ‘Biro’, ‘Father’, ‘Black Bike’, and ‘Prayer’ by way of an introduction to my soulful, generous, clown/poet friend now based in Stroud, UK:
Chico and Rikko
Chico and Rikko, that’s me, had been out on the thronged summer streets of Amsterdam through the morning. He a Brazilian, I, English. We had met on a clown training course in London and had blithely set off for Amsterdam as soon as we had completed it to test our new skills! Neither of us spoke more than a few words of the other’s language. We’d put on our grease paint faces, fitted ourselves into our baggy garb, he in white, I black. We were nervous as newly fledged cormorant and a gull poised on the edge of an unexplored world. I’d walked on broken glass, lain on the shards whilst he danced on my chest. He’d eaten and whooshed fire I tried to extinguish with a feather. We’d danced around each other, cartwheeled and tumbled. We’d got some laughs and a few coins in the battered bowler hat but it had not felt right, whatever right might be for a clown.
Despondent, still in our costumes, we mingled down-turned smiles, jingled the few coins and found a supermarket. We wandered around looking longingly at expensive items of food. Sniffed at cheeses, felt the texture of cooked meats and put them back. Chico picked up a bottle of wine. Looked at it inquisitively, shook it, smelt it, tried to twist the top. Rikko joined in poking a finger at the cork. We were puzzled, bemused. How to get in? We wandered on shaking the bottle. A young woman amongst a group of shoppers who had stopped to watch, took a corkscrew from a shelf and held it out. We were delighted by the gift. Examined it, turned the triangular handle at the top and watched excitedly as the shiny spiral of steel turned around and around. She motioned to the bottle. We brought the two together, the strange mechanical item and the green bottle. Clashed them with big smiles on our painted faces. We had not a clue. Then she motioned with a smile an action of holding an invisible bottle and taking back the metal thing twisted it above the imagined bottle.
Our eyes, within their coal black outlines, opened wide. We looked anew at the bottle and implement. By now a crowd had gathered around. Chico clutching again the shiny metal twisty thing motioned Rikko to hold the bottle out. He tapped it on the glass. The clink delighted us and we laughed and did it again and again. The woman motioned to the top of the bottle and Chico, light dawning, pressed the pointed end into the cork and glanced at her head cocked. She motioned twisting. He pushed down and began to twist. Our mouths fell open as slowly the spiral disappeared into the neck of the bottle, deeper and deeper till it had vanished within the green. We both looked to her as she mimed pulling them apart. Rikko held the bottle in both hands and Chico tugged. Nothing happened. We were sad, mouths turned down. We were close to tears of frustration.. Then she motioned putting the bottle between thighs. Our eyes and mouths opened wide at the erotic implication. She shook her head of blonde curls. Rikko clamped the bottle between his thighs and Chico, bracing himself, pulled and pulled and suddenly with a pop the cork pulled free and both clowns fell back onto their bums, Rikko holding the bottle high. There was laughter, clapping. How happy all of us were.
For that brief time we were truly clowns. Un-knowing, innocent. We had learned that you can’t act as a clown, you have to find him within.
I may be only a 50p biro but when your fingers
Close about my clear plastic shaft –
Thumb and forefingers pressing down I feel
The tremors vibrating through my dark juices
To my silver tip from where they flow
Into any shapes you want. I may be cheap
But I’m as classy as you could ever crave.
I am wanton and I know no rule
So make me do whatever you desire.
My sighs are silent.
I am your slave, don’t be afraid.
I will reveal your darkest, sweetest,
Surprise you with what you didn’t know you knew.
Be afraid and pass right through that thin skin
To Xanadu, to Paradise and Hell – yours,
To reveal the longing of now
For ever and ever
The black bicycle was strung
Like a desiccated bat
To the cobwebbed beam of the garage.
a bird’s nest in the wicker basket
strapped to rusty
I could picture my grandmother,
straight backed then,
pedalling to work, when the money had all gone,
leaving him, oxygen tank by his side,
to smoke his ration of Player’s un-tipped
to finger burning
I pedalled off, sandwiches made by her,
now widow humped,
in the basket.
The pedals clunked
at each rotation.
I followed casual lanes
winding where horses and carts had gone before
skirting low hills,
past fields just greening and fields
of glistening brown clods
and spinney’s of gnarled oak and underbrush,
home to badger and fox,
pigeon and rook.
Long stems of intoxicating light
cascaded over a field of mustard.
The world in balance
On two wide wheels
one before the other behind.
Did we collect chestnuts together?
Why do I even imagine we might have?
The image grows –
Tying them with string into holes pierced
Through tough skin to white flesh and out again.
He was a tree I wanted so much to climb –
Not chestnut or oak – more likely a conifer,
One with branches close to the trunk, Juniper or Cyprus,
Reaching tall, spreading narrowly.
I shrink to think of us playing that game.
Face to face, conkers dangling.
What if I had broken his?
I have no idea.
Such a familiar stranger he was – Daddy.
We skirted about one another, he and I –
And when we met – eye to eye,
Recognising noses and shaggy brows –
And maybe, a look of sadness and of
Bewilderment deep in our eyes.
I wish we had found some game to play,
Not chess, nor tennis or golf or scrabble –
One with dice and all the chance
Fate plays. We might have discovered
How much we are of each other.
I thought it was a crumple of coat lying in the road
As I walked down the long sinew of hill from home,
As I got close, eyes turned back from circling hawk,
I saw it was a badger on his back.
I knelt, touched the soft spikes of fur.
His eyes looked blindly into mine.
I thought of the distances he’d travelled –
So much safer beneath the earth
Than on this thread of lane.
Taking his paws, I lifted and laid him
In the dew bright grass of the verge.
Pressed a hand upon him,
Searching for the beat of his heart.
Slow the road home,
The soft throbbing of a broken dawn
[***See article on Rick Vick in
and thanks for helping me fill in some informational gaps.]