My nose has been my making. I could write a book about it.
It’s been banged about a bit. And it’s because of my nose that The Big Issue came about. The man who gave me the money to start our street magazine – a certain Gordon Roddick – noticed my nose before he noticed me. He, likewise, was nasally challenged. I’m not sure if Gordon’s wife-to-be, Anita, had any hesitation over Gordon’s nose, but he had what used to be called a ‘hooter’. And it was a discussion over noses that brought Gordon and me into friendship.
How I got my enlarging of the nose was due to being banged about by a brother when I was 12, being hit with a cricket bat in a juvenile delinquents’ secure remand home aged 14, and being punched in the middle of the night by Clive, who I shared a dormitory with in reformatory school, because I wouldn’t give him my counterpane as he had the shivers.
A counterpane was a bedspread and Clive, one of my greatest friends, expressed his disillusionment by whacking me in the dark; after which a fight commenced. The duty screw came in and, on turning on the light switch, was astonished to find that both the room, and Clive and I, were bathed in my blood. And my nose was spread across my face. Though the wonderful people at Surrey General Hospital put the bits back together again, my nose started to look craggy, bigger and more like John Lennon’s (before his nose job).
Often taken for Jewish, Albanian (I’m not quite sure why), or at one time Gibraltarian, my nose means I can fit in well on continental holidays and can, when need be, adopt a confused foreign accent to get out of the shit.
But one striking thing in all of the years of my ascendancy is how quick people were to take up arms, legs, heads, feet and blunt instruments against you to get their point over. To prove their point. And how different this seemed to be when, through the good offices of art and education, I climbed into the middle classes.