It was a warm, sunny day in June, 1982. I was eight years old and my life was in a mess. My imaginary girlfriend, Beverly D’Angelo had left me for another man, apparently I wasn’t ‘fun anymore’. I was devastated and the trauma of that period has left a scar in me that is still sore to this day, in fact I can pinpoint the break-up from Bev as the point in which I lost all trust in relationships, real and imaginary ones. Looking back, I don’t really blame her, the imaginary video rental store that we were managing together was running up debts and I was under a lot of stress due to many things, one of which was my fathers increasingly erratic behaviour. Since accidentally murdering my mother he had changed a lot. His drinking was out of control and as for his work, his inventions were becoming more and more deranged. In the six months of 1982 he had invented, among other things, the TieStraw which was an ordinary suit tie but with a rigid plastic lining which could be put into a glass and used for drinking, the paper sleeping bag, a coal powered bicycle, LSD Slippers (slippers made out of the hallucinogenic and designed to enter your blood stream via the pores in your feet), and the Solar Powered Cigarette Lighter.
We would occasionally set some time aside to have frank discussions about my interest in world history and in his interest of wanting to transform into a salmon and swim the great rivers of the world. His determination to mutate into a salmon was to ultimately prove to be his downfall. In his efforts to speed along the transformation he took to lying under water in the bath which tragically led to him drowning himself.
So there I was, an eight year old whose father had accidentally drowned himself, a mother who had been accidentally murdered and an imaginary girlfriend who had left due to my inability to run a small imaginary video rental shop. I was alone in the world…or so I thought. Unbeknownst to me, I had an uncle on my father’s side and due to me having no other legal guardian he agreed to look after me for a small fee.
Three days later I had moved in with my uncle at his home in Oxford the centre of learning, the perfect place for a young genius such as myself to broaden his knowledge. My uncle was a cold and distant man (I don’t mean his body temperature or that he was always far away, I’m talking about his personality) and the reason I just keep calling him ‘Uncle’ was and still is because he never told me his name. He thought it would be a sign of weakness for us to know each others names so ‘uncle’ it was. But I instantly fell in love with Oxford and I spent all of my time roaming its ancient streets and libraries. It was during this period that I really became interested in world history and found myself devouring history books on a daily basis. The two books that had the biggest impact on me in 1982 were Jane Fonda’s ‘Workout Book’ and a book about the Romans which were a sort of large, perverted group of Italians.
The Jane Fonda book really helped me to learn a lot more about myself and the book about the Romans cemented my determination to become a historian. I should say at this point that a lot of you will be thinking ‘but Henry, you are a world-class entertainer with a series of hit shows, the most recent of which was a musical version of ‘Enter The Dragon’; with you in the role of Bruce Lee, (see picture below) what’s all this history stuff and wanting to be a historian?’ Well, even though I am a genius on the stage, I have only been performing for five years. Before which I was a highly acclaimed history author with (self-published) books such as ‘The History of Walls’ (which I also adapted into a musical but more of that later), ‘The History of Huey Lewis and the News’ and ‘The History of The Dramatic Pause’. But again I jump ahead in this, my life story. Despite my huge intellect I had never stepped foot inside a school and so on the 6th September 1982 I attended my first day in school and I think it’s safe to say without sounding arrogant that the English school system had never seen the likes of me before and the whole English schooling system would never be the same again…