Introduction Foreword Writing Together Coping Within The System Coping On My Own Coping With Teenagers Coping With Relationships Live Performance

John Hoggett

A Beard is a Cushion to be Leaned On

Well I met a man in the street in Oxford and he asked me if I knew
of any good pubs and I said I had come from one just now and he
said, no, not just any old pub but a really good one with lots of
women and I exclaimed: I don't know, I'm a dedicated homosexual!
And he said, looking a bit puzzled: Oh I don't know about that, and I
said, what are you doing in Oxford? And he said he couldn't tell me
and so I asked him again, and he said he was on a parachute course so I thought he was probably a squaddie, age about 27.

And then he said, have you ever been to Thailand? And I said no and before he could say much his friend came along. Him and his friends, out on the town, in a busy street, in Oxford at 9 o'clock on a Friday night, when visiting to do a parachute course, looking for a loud pub with lots of women. And his friend said, come on, we've got to go, crossing his arms, legs well planted taking no nonsense, sort of stance and said, is he trying to chat you up? Like they had been through this before or something? And I shook his hand, the dark haired one who looked as though he was in charge of the three of them, I said, handing his friend back to him, get drunk, have a good time and look after each other, and then I turned to the one who had spoken to me, the one who had been to Thailand, the one who did not know about that, the one who looked intrigued and confused and pleased by something, someone, some people in Thailand, and I put my hand out and shook his hand and put my arms around him and he LEANED IN and HIS HEAD LEANED ON MY SHOULDER, LEANED ON MY BEARD, CUSHIONED ON MY BEARD and HE LEANED IN and I STROKED HIS HAIR and then I stopped, not wanting to get him in trouble with his friends, in a street in Oxford at 9 o'clock at night, not wanting to stop, wanting to hold him some more, STROKE HIS HAIR, FEEL HIM LEAN INTO ME, INTO MY BEARD, HIS HEAD CUSHIONED ON MY BEARD.

I stopped and looked at him and said: Thank you, thank you, thank you for that, and he looked at me, straight at me and I looked at him and said goodbye and I walked away and I felt torn up inside.'


This piece of writing, also about experiences in the army, is taken from John's 'First Book', in which he comments: 'These are the writings of a slightly distressed man who never got offered psychiatric drugs but instead found poetry and performance and now publication. This is the better option.' He describes it as 'a piece about distress on the street'.