Opinion Pieces Two- (The past is a less desirable postcode)
It had taken Patton a long time to earn his comfortable place in the public sphere. His beginnings were not as grand as his accent and prose style would suggest. Writing to him had always been as much a portal to a lifestyle as it was an art. He was very comfortable with this fact. He wanted to be recognised now with money and a certain,.. manageable amount of celebrity. He wan’t concerned with legacy. He was concerned about quality but more about volume. He understood that the public intellectual needed to be in the public eye and in the public ear. People needed to understand that you were reliably there.
He was not a child of privilege in any sense. He did not have an Oxbridge educational background although he made sure he sounded as if he might. On other occasions he liked to turn the tables in discussion on people who made that assumption with tales from his working class youth. He knew the importance of keeping yourself interesting and others on uncertain ground.
He had created the person he wanted to be out of television programmes, books and films. Sitting in his childhood living room clued to the box he had dreamed first of being part of G-Force or the Incredible Hulk, later of being in the Jesus and Mary Chain or The Cure and later still of being David Bowie, Paul Morley or Momus.
His childhood was stored in his mind in one of those paper packets of old 35mm film camera photographs of flared trousers, bad hair, bad teeth and shame. Shame was the defining feature of his attitude towards himself as a child. Shame of and shame from his working class Catholic beginnings. There was a small estate, surrounded in truth by big estates, in Coventry where he had left most of his accent and a little piece of his heart, and to which he never wanted to go back.
From his mid-teens Patton had set his sights on a bigger and more sophisticated life. He started to tailor all aspects of himself towards achieving a career as some sort of public cultural figure. He was an arrow travelling in that one direction. From journalism college on he was always scheming on the next three or four moves forward in his career. “An Intellectual Superstar” that was his ultimate goal. He had dressed outlandishly in college to be noticed and now he dressed ‘slightly differently’ to be noticed enough but not thought of as a weirdo. (There was probably only room for one Russell Brand)
He had asked his mother once, a long time ago, what class they were. She had looked at him slightly sternly for a few moments and than answered- “You are third generation peasant.” What Patton had learned by his fortieth year on that subject was- Your children and your lifestyle can change class; after about the age of twelve- you can’t. (But you could most certainly alter the functional trappings of your life)
In practical terms the golden chain by which he had dragged himself from working class to middle class surroundings had been built solidly from opinions. He knew; for he was no fool after all, what and who he was deep down, but he also knew what kind of life he wanted, what surroundings he wanted. Now that he had achieved his goal he was not going to let it go, he was never going to let it go.