COMING AND GOING
CHAPTER 1: DAVID
Could it be forever? Or am I just a wasting time?

David asked me the question as he asked it of all his lovers, with a beguiling mixture of adult sincerity and boyish naivety. And I replied as did all his lovers, of which there were too many to keep count. Don't worry, I assured him, my devotion will be forever.

David was my first love. I thought he'd be my last. But it was hardly love at first sight. I had never even heard of him until my eleven year old brother Thomas and my recently-turned eight-year old self went to the record store in Crystal Palace one Saturday spring morning in 1972 clutching extra pocket money with which to each buy ourselves our first ever 7-inch singles. Thomas had watched Top of the Pops less than 48 hours earlier and been captivated by David Bowie's 'Starman.' It was his clamoring to own it that generated the financial gift from our mother. I had not seen the show. I didn't know about pop music. Like many of my friends at the local primary school in south London, I had the England World Cup Squad's number one hit 'Back Home' from 1970 - small consolation for not being allowed to see the games live as they were beamed in late night from Mexico that summer - and had enjoyed some of my parents' Beatles records, just about the only ones in the house that weren't strictly classical. In my search for order and completion, I had even attempted to help my parents by cataloguing the Beatles singles once, writing numbers in marker on the papers sleeves, and then all over the inside of the 'Magical Mystery Tour' EP, trying to find somewhere on the glossy interior that the marker would take hold. I liked the silliness of some Beatles songs - 'Octopuses Garden,' 'Maxwell's Silver Hammer,' 'I Am The Walrus' - and was a little disappointed to hear that there would be making no more, that they had 'broken up.' When I asked why, my father replied that they didn't get on with each other any more; it was something that happened to people as they grew older. My mother looked at him in a strange way, like she was disappointed. My father left to live on his own soon after, and it seemed like part of the attempt to make it easy on me and my brother - not that I was finding it difficult, dad never seemed to have had time for me anyway - that we were being treated to records of own.

All the same, I could hardly call myself a pop music fan. And so, at the record store, daunted by the sight of so many slices of anonymous black vinyl in paper sleeves that gave no hint as to their content, only their chart position, I asked Thomas for advice on what to buy. He examined the racks cagily, equally overwhelmed. But then rather than admit defeat, he pulled from the number two slot the only record in the top 50 that came with a picture sleeve.

You should get David Cassidy, he said. All the girls love him.

But he looks like a girl, I replied, studying with some uncertainty the round feminine face that filled the entire seven inch sleeve.

Well he isn't. He's the teen idol all the teenyboppers are screaming for.

What are teenyboppers? I enquired

Teenage girls who love teen idols.

And what are teen idols?

People like David Cassidy.

I bought the record. A teen idol seemed a great thing to be, your picture on single sleeves and girls screaming at you. But there was little chance of me becoming one of those, at least for a while. A teenybopper though, that seemed easy. All you had to do was declare your love for the teen idol.

'Could it be Forever,' I found out when we got home and actually played it, was sugary sweet almost to the point of sickliness, but I was certain I liked it all the same. Besides, David himself was better looking now that I knew he was so popular. That feminine face on the front cover revealed itself as deeply handsome, a fragile symbol of male tenderness. His shoulder length hair mirrored my own bowl cut with which my gender had been called into question more than once. If he could look so girly and yet become so famous and adored, then one day, I figured, so could I. I played the record and again, and was convinced: it would be forever.

It wasn't enough just to buy David Cassidy's record, though. To become a real teenybopper, you had to buy into David Cassidy himself. I did. And in doing so, I became suddenly aware of a whole section of society that appeared to exist purely to worship him - just as I then grasped that there was a whole other section that existed only to worship Donny Osmond. I knew which side I was on, but the trouble was, I didn't know any one on my side. They were all older than me, and the wrong sex too. My school friends didn't seem to care for pop music; they were all into football, and so was I. But I wanted something else, something that would make me different, something I could show to these older people and say, "Yes I'm one of you, I'm a David Cassidy fan too." I felt so close to belonging to something important, something like a movement of people, and yet I felt alienated from it too. I had to do something drastic to prove myself, to show that my love and devotion was every bit as strong as that of a thirteen year old female. I took it upon myself to collect David's records. All of them.

David himself was better looking now that I knew he was so popular. That feminine face revealed itself as deeply handsome, a fragile symbol of male tenderness. His shoulder length hair mirrored my own bowl cut with which my gender had been called into question more than once. If he could look so girly and yet become so famous and adored, then one day, I figured, so could I.

This presented quite a challenge. David, it turned out, also sung with a group, the Partridge Family, which I understood to be his real family. The Partridge Family had a TV show of their own, and records of their own too. David Cassidy, it seemed, either worked twice as hard, or else was twice as good, or was simply twice as popular as all the other teen idols to have two separate pop careers going like this.

The Partridge Family had a hit single that summer called 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do' on which David sang, and though I had yet to enter into a relationship from which I needed to break up, I bought the record as soon as I had saved up the two weeks' pocket money. I started spending more time in record stores. Looking through the bargain racks of 45s at a shop in West Norwood one day, I came upon another Partridge Family single. It was dated from 1971 - a whole year before I had even heard of them! - and it was called 'I Think I Love You.' I was sure I loved David and so I bought it immediately - at half the price of a chart hit. Now I had three of David's singles and the makings of a collection. The stamp books and coin cases had gone unattended for weeks.

Pocket money was scarce, but all of a sudden there was not much else I wanted to spend it on other than David Cassidy. He was the one for me. And I wanted him to know it. So one weekend I went back to the store in Norwood on my bike and asked what albums David Cassidy and the Partridge Family had recorded. They brought me a couple from the racks. I asked in which order they'd been released. They looked at me like it was a trick question and then, after a few seconds, when they realised I was serious, they brought out a big book from which they could find the information. The first album in David Cassidy's career, it transpired, was simply called The Partridge Family. It had five or six silhouettes on the cover, an image used on the television show too, and five or six songs on each side. 'I Think I Love You' was one of them.

I had to have that album. If I was to be a proper teenybopper, a real pop music fan with greater dedication than anyone else, I had to start my album collection at the very beginning.

But the album cost £2.50 and I didn't have that kind of money. And I was worried that if I saved up for it the record shop might sell the album in the meantime and then I would never own it. My allegiance would be revealed as a sham. I explained the financial part of my predicament to the store manager and soothingly, she suggested I buy the record on Hire Purchase. I could pay for it a little at a time, and when I'd paid for all of it, I could have the record. In the meantime, they'd keep it behind the counter, so nobody else could have it.

It was a deal. I gave them one pound that day, all the money I had in the world. In return I got a slip of paper telling me I'd given them one pound that day, a deposit towards a - no, the - Partridge Family album.

My mother was shocked when she heard how I had just invested my entire earthly wealth. She could indulge my obsession with David Cassidy in seven inch doses, but the idea of starting an album collection with a three-year old TV tie-in didn't appeal to either her classically-trained tastes or her parental instincts. She'd seen me be like this with other temporary obsessions. My bedroom cupboard was filled with board games, toys, action men and annuals of various shapes, sizes, hues, and retail prices all of which I had been intensely passionate about for only brief bursts of time.

This one, I assured her, was for real. With David, it would be forever.

The trouble was, David himself didn't seem so certain. Here he was, a genuine teen idol with girls screaming at him, declaring their devotion in high-pitched feverish wails wherever he went, and yet he was constantly questioning them - and, by association, me. He needed to know it could be forever. He wanted reassurance that he wasn't wasting his time. He only thought he loved us. He couldn't even break up with us easily. Every song seemed to serve primarily as an opportunity for him to express his uncertainty.

The final straw came with his next single, which I bought as soon as it came out, in loving obedience, helping propel it to number one in the charts - his first number one in our charts. David was now officially the most popular pop singer in our country. And I was one of his most loyal lovers. Yet still he insisted on doubting me. "How can I be sure," he asked on this new hit, "in a world that's constantly changing?"

The answer was that he couldn't. And he shouldn't have raised the issue. For the world was indeed constantly changing, my view of it included. I had got away with liking David Cassidy at school mainly because almost all the other kids my age preferred football to pop music, and I was mad about that too. But at the youth center where my mum worked a couple of nights a week to supplement her single parent salary, there were teenage girls who looked down on David Cassidy and Donny Osmond, who played me T. Rex records instead. Marc Bolan, they said, now he's sexy. On Top of the Pops , which I had begun watching purely to see David Cassidy appearances, I was rather taken by Sweet and their singer Brian Connolly; I fancied my own blond hair falling in beautiful tresses like his instead of the accursed bowl cut I was enclosed by. And my brother's copy of 'Starman,' the one that had started this whole business but appeared to have been abandoned to my own rapidly increasing collection, had made a surprisingly lasting impression on me, even though I had little idea what David Bowie was singing about. (What's a suffragette? I wondered, examining the b-side. And why do they need their own city?) All in all, there was so much music out there, so many pop stars and teen idols to choose from, and here I was, saving up for an album by a chart-topper who wasn't even sure of himself.

I had promised my love for ever. But that love I realised now, was for the music, not the singer. I was hopelessly in love with pop. I was not so permanently attached to David.

And in realising as much, I discovered that breaking up was not hard to do, not if you didn't genuinely care about the other person to begin with. I eased David out of my life. I needed someone stronger, more self-assertive, more confident in themselves and their ability to entertain me.

That summer, while on holiday in France, I found him. His name was Alice.

CHAPTER 2: ALICE
CHAPTER 3: THE PALACE

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What is this?
Put simply, Coming And Going is a bunch of short stories I've been writing over the years, which follow the progression of the narrator from wide-eyed idol worship, through childhood and pubescence in 1970s south London on into... something else I haven't fully realised or concluded. Until I do, and to keep myself inspired, I'm happy to post the first few chapters as a 'work-in-progress.' Enjoy them as you will, for what they are. And feel free to comment.