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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Sisyphus, John Lennon and the death of architect and mate Brian Anson

Apart from the working class males who suffer this excruciating condition, does anyone really understand what it is to be sensitive, working class and male?

Rebel architect Brian Anson (suaimhneas Dé ar a anam) has been cremated today (25/11/09) in Milhac, a village in the beautiful Dordogne region of France. Brian came from an extremely poor background in Liverpool but from an early age showed a talent for drawing and putting things together, that made architecture an obvious option. Obvious that is if you are comfortably off, you went to the right school and mammy and daddy have the right connections. Not so obvious, indeed a route of torture, if you are from a poor background and quite obviously from a poor background in terms of your appearance. White middle and upper class people can smell proletarian physiognomy coming at them at a thousand paces and it terrifies them.

Brian Anson had a glittering career ahead of him as an architect but turned his back on it over a point of principle. He was an up and coming architect in London but chose to oppose plans for the redevelopment of London's Covent Garden in the late 1960s on discovering that the developers were not happy to listen to the concerns of the local populace (many of whom were Irish). Brian suddenly found it hard to get work and despite the partial success of the campaign, many tenants were evicted. Brian had a nervous breakdown and retreated to Ireland to get his head right. Ponder on this the next time you visit this faux monument to Mammon.

I tracked Brian down to Milhac when making a film for RTÉ’s Léargas series about the collapse of local economies like the one in Gaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegal where Brian went to recuperate in the 1970s. Once at himself; and by way of architectural therapy, Brian had set out to create a kind of mini Marsall plan for Gaoth Dobhair – the quite brilliant Anson Plan; so brilliant in fact that the local authority threw it in some skip at the back of their offices and ignored it to death. But the plan keeps coming back like one of those monsters that chase bureaucrats in their worst nightmares.

In my last real conversation with Brian, we discussed the almost insurmountable difficulties working class males experience in finding a voice and then getting that voice heard. The writer James Kelman being a source of inspiration for both of us – “These bastards think they own the language. They already own the courts. They own everything. They want to block your stories, and they will, if you let them.”

We both swapped life experiences and decided that the definition of being poor or working class was the fact that you had fuck all behind you and fuck all ahead of you. Then came the physiognomy, broken noses bad skin, inherited problems like deafness , short stature, bad bones and wonky teeth.

We opened a second bottle of wine at his rough hewn table in the kitchen and started talking about our nerves. I told him something I had never told anyone else and that is that I be petrified of attending meetings or conferences or anwwhere where I must reveal my lower class accent and allegedly thuggish physical demeanour. I had been sent to a grammar school far away from my Irish Catholic educational antecedents. I fought weekly battles in the playground with bigger boys who ridiculed my Salford accent and was eventually expelled after attacking a teacher who bullied me for two years.

Brian for his part told me that his accent had been continually picked on as he grew up to the point that he consciously modified it to try and talk proper and thus gain acceptance. Fuck that we both said and clinked glasses.

As the dark descended, we both discussed the leap.

The leap a working class male must make to gain his goals and achieve acceptance feels not like a leap upwards but downwards into an abyss where unknown evils lurked. Brian told me how certain elements had laughed and guffawed at his plans, whilst I did my television training with the BBC in a state of terror at making mistakes and absolute devastation when this happened. The largely middle class trainees, meanwhile, projected their mistakes onto other people. This skill cannot be learned, it is ingrained through centuries.

We both found succour, indeed salvation, through art. Jack London, Robert Tressell, Caravaggio, Marlon Brando, the Smiths, Gill Scott Heron, Tony Harrison who said “its uz not ehss” you effete sabre toothed, sibilant infected middle class wanker. (He only said the thing in quotes). By the third bottle of wine we got to John Lennon and Sisyphus

I am blessed with the remarkable ability to remember everything that is said in drunken conversations and Brian said something that changed my life – “yet there is something noble and indomitable about Sisyphus”.
We had actually started off this discussion in pitch darkness because a building storm had put out all the lights. Storms in the Dordogne are like hurricanes in the Bay of Biscay – scary and elemental.

Obviously being a Liverpool man, Brian expressed his extra special pride in John Lennon and we soon began discussing one of his famous songs – Working Class Hero. Isn’t it ironic that the very middle class students who pretend they want revolution for a couple of years all wallow in this song without realising that it is the greatest putdown of their class and their system. Brian argued that Lennon never lost his edge and that he remained a true working class hero because he never turned a blind eye to the pain. Our pain.

I’ll never forget the first lightening flash that lit up Brian’s face. He was an aged Zorba the Greek, Emiliano Zapata - dark, withered, face etched with worry lines that were erased by his crinkly smile. The room returning to semi darkness and the fluorescent blue of his eyes.

I talked about the history of my family and the awareness that there is no escape from worries about money, lack of status, the mind numbing metronome tattoo of work or the lack of it. I come from a family of big Irish culchies built for work, for the glory of labour but all I saw was Sisyphus setting himself to begin the heave. Pushing that great round boulder up the hill and just at the pinnacle, his delight in his achievement , the boulder is sent crashing down and he must start again like stacking endless shelves in Tescos. “No", Brian cried. "He was the John Lennon and Ho Chi Minh of Ancient Greece. Like Jack London he could do privation and still come out on top. Defy death even as death disgusted him. Sisyphus was noble. You have to read Camus!"

I had been wanting to write about Sisyphus and Camus’ book on the Sisyphus myth ever since that conversation that was broken up by the lateness of the hour and the demands of work the following day. Brian Anson was a living Sisyphus whose pain at the loss of his two daughters Niamh and Mary B scorched him to his marrow every day. When I went to bed in his old, beautiful house, the thunder crashed and lightening made my bedroom like day. A cat appeared and jumped up on to the bed as the room fell to darkness. Niamh come to say hello.

My shock at Brian’s earthly demise has galvanised me to write about worker heroes and Sisyphus for, quite by chance, I came across Camus’ work in a bookshop whilst on a visit to Manchester some months ago. This book on Sisyphus confirmed many things to me. Sisyphus defied the Gods and took his punishment on the chin but never lost his integrity, All the while, Camus explains, as he toils with his load, he is thinking and pondering in the endless vistas of his mind and thereby retaining his dignity and presenting an affront to the ruling classes who must needs subjugate. Our thoughts, human thoughts, working class male thoughts, are immortal. They cannot be killed.

Brian Anson never bent the knee and always kept his dignity. May God grant that I prove to be even half the male working class hero that he was.

Chifidh mé arist tú a Bhriain. Tusa mo laoch – Grá geall mo chroí


You have just written about how i feel. Exactly how i feel.
by: Likkle Brian (contact) - 25 Nov '09 - 20:46
Maybe we should write about it, and write about it, and keep writing about it, until there are enough of us to make a difference. Maybe we have no choice r kid.

un abrazo de tu hermano
by: Pol (contact) - 25 Nov '09 - 21:05
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world.
The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
hasta la victoria siempre
by: sean cathal (contact) - 26 Nov '09 - 15:39
Is that a quote from something, or if it is, is it your own quote?
Either way, I love it!
The only thing I would say is that whilst Sisyphus defied the Gods, he could only defy them because he believed in them. (<;

ádh mór agus grá mór a chomrádaí

by: Pol (contact) - 29 Nov '09 - 12:36
From Finn Anson to everybody

Dear all,

Beautiful and soothing lines as ever. I amn't sure where to begin as far as Pop, his life, his family that stretched to the far corners of the world.
At his quiet funeral mass Wednesday morning, the priest read from St. Matthew's gospel. It was the passage where people asked, 'but when did we see you hungry and feed you, homeless and house you, ill or in prison and came to visit you.' To the which Christ replied as all know, 'to whosoever you did this, you did it unto me.'
Pop always admired the wandering man from Nazareth.
We will organize a gathering to remember him sometime in 2010. I hope this moment will be sufficiently organised to enable one and all to attend. Then we will carry part of him to Dun na nGall.
There is much to be done.
Now, I am lost. I am a little scared and I need to know what to do. Surely, one of the most beautiful men I have ever known will help me.
Love to you all and may God bless you
by: Pol (contact) - 30 Nov '09 - 20:46


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Title: Sisyphus, John Lennon and the death of architect and mate Brian Anson
Date posted: 25 Nov '09 - 15:08
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