In this epic science fantasy drama, Michael Gothard was eventually cast as European Space Agency Director, Dr. Bukovsky.

Bukovsky appears in the first half of the film, directing investigations into three transparent caskets containing naked aliens, found on the burned-out remains of the joint US/European Shuttle, Churchill.

In trying to rescue a security guard who is having the lifeforce sucked out of him by a newly-awakened female alien, Bukovsky is also attacked, by “the most overwhelmingly feminine presence” he has ever experienced.

He is later involved in the astronaut Carlsen’s debrief, but - having been drained of some of his lifeforce, and distressed by the loss of control - he never really recovers.

Having announced the arrival of the alien spaceship in earth orbit, he suggests that - like the vampires of legend - these space vampires are bringing their earth with them,
Bukovsky isn’t seen again.

He is later said to have died “like the rest”, though in the absence of evidence, it is tempting to think that he might have just gone for a quiet smoke and a lie down!

The film divides opinion, with reviews ranging from the “so bad it’s good” variety to “flawed genius”, with Jungian and Freudian readings, and suggestions that this was a parable about AIDS.

The film won the 1985 Caixa de Catalunya for Best Special Effects (John Dykstra), and was nominated for the 1986 Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film, and Best Special Effects.


Casting

Michael’s friend Sean McCormick tells of how, when he last saw Michael, “he had just lost the lead role in the Toby Hooper film 'Space Vampires' [released as 'Life Force' on June 21, 1985] to American actor Steve Railsback, and it crushed him. I think it was one of the straws on the camel's back that started his six or seven year darkness.”

Former girlfriend, N.B remembers, “I think there was talk about Michael getting another part in that film Lifeforce. I am pretty sure he talked about the crooked ways in which people (actors) got shuffled about and got made redundant or put to minor roles than was originally foreseen. He was angry, but didn't want to do anything about it. He hated going to places where you could socialise with directors and producers. He wasn't that kind of a person who wanted to ingratiate himself in order to get a job.”

Per an uncredited contributor to IMDB, Anthony Hopkins and Terence Stamp were the original choices to play Colonel Caine. Michael Gothard screen-tested for the role, but after meeting Peter Firth, director Tobe Hooper decided to give Firth the role, and gave Michael the role of Dr. Bukovsky instead.

A.S., the daughter of one of Michael’s close friends, confirms that both roles were supposed to have been on the cards for Michael.

"I don't remember if Michael talked to me about it, or to my father while I was around, but I remember that Michael was supposed to get the role of either the Commander of the mission [a role that went to Steve Railsback] or Colonel Caine [eventually played by Peter Firth], but was shuffled into the less important role of Dr Bukovsky.

He didn't blame the other actors at all, but ‘the business’: the producers, and the fact that actors had to play the political game - 'prostitute themselves', as he put it - to get on. He hated that actors had to go to parties, and stitch other actors up. Michael would NOT play the game. He felt actors should be cast on their merits, but that now they had become pawns, and talent didn't count for much.

I'm only surprised he didn't pull out, but perhaps his contract made that impossible, otherwise he would have no hesitation in telling a producer where to go. I’m sure the disappointment over that film helped push him further away from acting."

~~

Michael had worked with Peter Firth before, on "Arthur of the Britons", where Firth guest-starred as Corin in "The Pupil."

Personal statement

In correspondence with Belsizepark, Mathilda May, who played the alien vampire girl, (and was supposedly embarrassed by the film), says of Michael Gothard: "I remember him as a lovely person; a gentleman ..."

Watch on Youtube

IMDB entry
Michael was very anti-nuclear arms: really quite passionate about it. It must have been early in 1973, when I was 15, that we had a talk at school about nuclear weapons. I chatted about it at home, and Michael immediately said: 'We have to disarm.'

He and my father had quite a debate about it. I thought I agreed with my father's argument.

Michael did not say anything, but the next time he visited he had the book of poems. He told me he wanted to read me one, sat me down, and read this poem by Peter Porter.

'Your Attention Please'

Your Attention Please
The Polar DEW has just warned that
A nuclear rocket strike of
At least one thousand megatons
Has been launched by the enemy
Directly at our major cities.
This announcement will take
Two and a quarter minutes to make,
You therefore have a further
Eight and a quarter minutes
To comply with the shelter
Requirements published in the Civil
Defence Code - section Atomic Attack.
A specially shortened Mass
Will be broadcast at the end
Of this announcement -
Protestant and Jewish services
Will begin simultaneously -
Select your wavelength immediately
According to instructions
In the Defence Code. Do not
Take well-loved pets (including birds)
Into your shelter - they will consume
Fresh air. Leave the old and bed-
ridden, you can do nothing for them.
Remember to press the sealing
Switch when everyone is in
The shelter. Set the radiation
Aerial, turn on the Geiger barometer.
Turn off your Television now.
Turn off your radio immediately
The Services end. At the same time
Secure explosion plugs in the ears
Of each member of your family. Take
Down your plasma flasks. Give your children
The pills marked one and two
In the C.D green container, then put
Them to bed. Do not break
The inside airlock seals until
The radiation All Clear shows
(Watch for the cuckoo in your
perspex panel), or your District
Touring Doctor rings your bell.
If before this, your air becomes
Exhausted or if any of your family
In critically injured, administer
The capsules marked 'Valley Forge'
(Red Pocket in No. 1 Survival Kit)
For painless death. (Catholics
Will have been instructed by their priests
What to do in this eventuality).
This announcement is ending. Our President
Has already given orders for
Massive retaliation - it will be
Decisive. Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.
All flags are flying fully dressed
On Government buildings - the sun is shining.
Death is the least we have to fear.
We are all in the hands of God,
Whatever happens happens by His Will.
Now go quickly to your shelters.


He didn't read it as himself; he really WAS that announcer. It was terrifying. I was crying by halfway through, and at the end he just looked at me.

I remember saying something like, 'But what if that happens and we are not all together?' He then said something like: 'That's why we must disarm.'

I was freaked by it. He knew he had badly frightened me with that poem; that was his intention. He gave me a hug and said something like: 'I've upset and frightened you.'

I said he had.

He then said: 'Think on Little Sister, think on.' That was typical of him. Michael had very powerful ways of putting his view across. He would never back down on the message. I'm still affected by that poem today. At the time I was terrified. The thought of nuclear war after that haunted my dreams.

Yet his message had the opposite effect. Ironically that poem made me MORE pro the nuclear deterrent.

I remember having another lively discussion with him about it in the late 1980s. He respected the views of others, and usually managed an intelligent and show-stopping counter-argument. On this occasion, with remarkable prescience, he said something like: 'But what about if some crackpot gets hold of one?' I could not argue with that!

~~

Contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of Michael's close friends.
Michael was very enthusiastic about being cast, and my parents were very proud of him. I didn't see it as a big deal until I visited the set with my father, in 1972, when I was 15.

The first time I saw ‘Arthur of the Britons’ was on set; it was a real eye opener. When we arrived, and met up with Michael, he was in costume, and about to start filming. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, Michael does look really cool.’ I had known him since I was ten, and he was the big brother I'd never had. Up until the set visit, it hadn't dawned on me that Michael was an actor, because I had not seen him in anything before ‘Arthur of the Britons.’

I remember being impressed and star-struck with everything. It all seemed so REAL, and it was literally dawn to dusk, and just so quick. You would never get actors to work at that pace today! Michael said there were lots of times when they were running out of time, and the director would say: ‘We have to do this in one take, let's get it right!’ and they did!

We saw some fight scenes rehearsed, and I clearly remember they were very well put together. All the actors could ride, and do their own fight scenes, which is why it looked so good. By today's standards, it was virtually live; no stunt doubles, a quick rehearsal then film. Michael’s axe was incredibly heavy. He was extremely fit; they all were.

Health and Safety? Michael has a scene where he is supposed to cauterise a wound, in ‘The Wood People’: real sword in real fire, only substituted at the last minute! Child actors running round close to the fire! I don't remember any rehearsal for that either. I honestly think they read the script, and did it!

The atmosphere did seem friendly and happy: organised chaos. Some bits are hazy, but it's the pace and how hard they worked that I remembered. On our second day, one minute Michael was in jeans and T shirt, the next, in costume and ready to go. I'm sure there was some sort of make up, but I don't recall that.

We saw parts of two episodes being filmed. One was ‘The Wood People’ and the other was ‘The Pupil’, but they were not filming it in proper order. We spent two days there, and they were finishing ‘The Pupil’ with Peter Firth, then leaping on to ‘The Wood People’, then going back to ‘The Pupil.’

I found Oliver Tobias a bit intimidating, but he was really nice and very friendly when I went to meet him. Michael and Oliver did seem very good friends, and I know they socialised while filming ‘Arthur of the Britons.’

Michael got on really well with Jack Watson too. Father and I really liked him, but we only met him that time on the ‘Arthur of the Britons’ set. We had dinner together Michael, my father, Jack Watson and me. I think a fair amount of alcohol was drunk after I went to bed!

~~

Arthur of the Britons does reveal a fair amount of the "real" Michael.

In ‘The Pupil’, that lovely, lovely smile and laugh right at the beginning was typical Michael. You just had to smile with him when he smiled. It lit up a room.

In ‘Daughter of the King’, the bit where he sort of nudges Arthur? That was a typical Michael thing. If he wanted something he would come and sit next to you and give that little nudge. If there was no response, he would give a bigger nudge, and so on and so on, until you caved in!

The slow blink was ALL Michael. He did that a lot if he was emotional.

In ‘The Wood People’, when he slowly turns his head and looks at Arthur when he teases him by the fire about the ‘witches.’ He would do EXACTLY that if I was a bit cheeky or he suspected a crime.

Michael had a way of saying ‘ahh!’ in a certain was if he was exasperated! He did just that towards the end of ‘The Wood People.’ He used that ‘ahh!’ at home quite a bit! He used it when Alfie the miniature dachshund would get on his bed, and growl if anyone tried to get him off. He used it with me on many occasions!

In ‘The Duel’, just after the ant race, they are about to fight, and Michael sort of grins, half sticks his tongue out. That was not acting. If he was messing about, winding Alf up, or making a grab for me, he would have that playful, wicked expression on his face.

There is a bit in ‘Enemies and Lovers’ where Kai runs up to a girl, arms outstretched to hug her. He did that ALL the time: long arms outstretched.

Near the beginning of ‘The Marriage Feast’, Michael is sitting with Jack Watson and teasing Arthur. He says ‘Ooooooo!’ That was Michael too: as characteristic as the ‘ahh!’ He would use ‘Ooooooo’ if he was teasing.

At the end of "Go Warily", when Arthur and Kai are winding Llud up, you see Kai laughing at the trick he has played; that was exactly the way he was if he was laughing so hard he couldn't stop.

The more I see of ‘Arthur of the Britons’, the more I see that there is SO much of Michael in Kai.

I never heard Michael say anything negative about ‘Arthur of the Britons.’ We all got the opinion he really enjoyed making it, and he definitely enjoyed working with Oliver Tobias and Jack Watson. He was very proud of taking us to visit.

I remember my parents saying he was going to end up being really famous! We never really understood why he didn't.

Neither did he, really.

~~

In 1973 I went to a girls’ boarding school for my A-levels. I was very academic, but rubbish at school sports, so was definitely not ‘cool’ at school.

Michael decided to sort that out; he came and took me out for lunch one Sunday. I remember a couple of the snobby girls asking if I was going out. I told them my adopted big brother was collecting me. One of them said something like: ‘You don't have a brother.’ I told her it was Michael Gothard, and she didn't believe me. Her face when he arrived … that will stick in my mind forever!

‘Arthur of the Britons’ was a big success by then, and he made sure his visit was very visible, and most of the girls in my year gasped and stared. I can see him now getting out of the car, a yellow Triumph Stag, and making a big fuss of me.

I was so proud of my big brother!

I had one good friend at school; she had a massive crush on Michael. She came out to lunch with us and was very tongue-tied, and kept blushing when he spoke to her. Michael was lovely with her. He signed some stuff for her, and gave me ‘The Glare’ a couple of times when I got the giggles.

I was always a bit perplexed as to why so many girls swooned over him! I'd only every seen him as "big brother." Didn't they know how strict he was? Didn't they know that not doing prep, answering back, having boyfriends, going out, wearing the wrong clothes, (the list goes on) got all sorts of sanctions? But when I think of how much fun he was, I would not have changed him for the World. He was a massive influence on me as I was growing up.

~~

Contributed by A.S.
Michael loved going to the theatre. He went a fair bit with my parents, but they were not Shakespeare fans, and Michael had an extraordinary knowledge and love of the Bard.

He was a huge influence on my love of Shakespeare, and I saw my first Shakespeare play with him when I was very young. He took me to see the Royal Shakespeare Company, wanting to introduce me to "the best". He selected the play, prepared me for it by going through it beforehand, then discussed it with me in the interval and afterwards. It was brilliant I had someone to take me.

One of the Shakespeare plays of which Michael was particularly fond was “Richard II.” The verse is so familiar to me that I suspect Michael would have gone through it with me in depth when I was a teenager.

We discussed “Anthony and Cleopatra” when I was doing my A-levels, especially that amazing speech by Enobarbas.

This is the first part of the speech in which Enobarbus describes Cleopatra to Agrippa. It has very similar imagery to Homer, especially The Iliad. Michael thought it likely Shakespeare used Homer as a source for some of the imagery.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, Scene II.

Enobarbus: I will tell you.
The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue,
O'erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.


“The Tempest” was another one of Michael’s favourites. I loved hearing him read Prospero's speech. Act 4 sc. 1, “Our revels now are ended.”

I first saw it with him when I was about 12; Michael would have been 30. I often wonder what people must have thought when they saw this solemn little girl speaking very earnestly to her "big brother" about the play. Michael never talked down to me, and would have discussed it with me in a way I could understand, but still in an adult way.

We saw The Tempest together many times. The first RSC production of it we saw was in 1978, with Michael Hordern as Prospero.

He also took me to see the RSC’s “Anthony and Cleopatra” in 1978, with Alan Howard and Glenda Jackson, as well as “Taming of the Shrew” with Jonathan Pryce in the role of Petruchio, arriving on stage on a motorbike, which I thought was so cool!

We went to see Coriolanus at the Barbican on a Saturday in 1989 or 1990, with Charles Dance as Coriolanus. It was directed by Terry Hands, whose work Michael admired. Joe Melia, [with whom he had a few scenes in the “Minder” episode, “From Fulham, With Love”] played Junius Brutus.

Michael had an astonishing memory, and could quote long passages from Shakespeare and Homer.

Other plays we saw together were The National Theatre’s “The Caretaker” (around 1980) with Warren Mitchell, Kenneth Cranham, and Jonathan Pryce, the RSC panto, “The Swan’s Down Gloves” (1981), “Good” (1982) and “Toad of Toad Hall” (also 1982).

From the programme, Toad of Toad Hall seems to have been it aimed at quite young children. Maybe he knew someone in it. I know he always had great difficulty believing I had grown up, but I would have been around 25 when we went to see that!

~~

Contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of Michael’s close friends.
Music was a huge and vital part of Michael’s life – both listening and playing, though as far as we know, he never performed live in public. He is seen playing a flute in “La Vallée”, but mainly he jammed with friends. Sections below contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of his close friends.

Listening

Michael liked classical music and some rock, but his first love was jazz. He loved big band music, and we often went to live performances at the Royal Albert Hall, Michael, my father and me. Particular favourites were Glen Miller, (American Patrol, In the Mood, Little Brown Jug), Benny Goodman (the eight-minute version of "Sing Sing Sing" was one of his favourites, as well as "Hey Pachuko"), and The Syd Lawrence Orchestra.

My father and Michael also loved nightclub jazz and improvised jazz, and one of their favourite haunts was Ronnie Scott’s. They often went up to London.

Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie would all be playing at our home, often seriously loud.

They also loved Astrid Gilberto’s stuff. Michael loved the saxophone bit in the middle of "Girl from Ipanema." I can just see Michael and my father playing along to this: piano, bongos.

Michael also liked “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck, and jazz such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane was often playing wherever Michael was.

A friend of Michael’s told him about this great jazz backing band, “The Blockheads”, and he took me to see Ian Dury & The Blockheads at the Hammersmith Odeon, 1978 or 1979. Michael agreed that they were amazing musicians.

Both Michael and my father liked Dudley Moore's music. He was a great pianist.

Some other vocalists and tracks he liked were Aretha Franklin (“I Say a Little Prayer”), Nina Simone, ("My Baby Just Cares For Me", and “Feelin’ Good”) Jose Feliciano (“Light My Fire”) and Marilyn Monroe (“Some Like it Hot”), and Joan Armitrading.

He loved most of Pink Floyd. "Dark Side of the Moon" – he would sometimes sit outside listening to it and enjoying a drink and a smoke.

I love Genesis. Michael viewed them with contempt, but he took me to see them at the Lyceum in the 1970s, and Wembley in 1985; I suspect he tossed a coin with my father, and lost.

He was determined to hate it, but Genesis developed a quite jazzy sound, especially in live instrumentals, and Michael really liked the live versions of “Los Endos”, the drum duets, “Mama" and "Abacab": he called it "modern improvised jazz".

Michael also took me to a 1977 Yes concert; I suspect that was another occasion when he lost a coin toss with my father. He put “Yawn” in the programme.

Both he and my father went to see The Who with me.

He didn’t generally like pop music, but he liked Elton John's very early albums: “Madman Across The Water" and "Tumbleweed Connection."

He loved Kate Bush’s work: he felt “Wuthering Heights” was so different, and ahead of its time.

He liked Supertramp’s "Even in the Quietest Moments" and “Give a Little Bit”, and “borrowed” my “Breakfast in America” LP and took it to his room in the family home. Woe betide me if I "borrowed" any of his music without asking, but he used to help himself to mine – despite moaning about what I listened to most of the time!

He loved Classical music as well. Some I remember listening to with him are Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Saint Saens’ Symphony No 3 in C Minor, Hayden’s Zadok the Priest, Vivaldi’s Coronation Anthem, and Widor’s Toccata (allegro).

My father was ahead of his time with technology, and introduced Michael to Bang and Olufsen's amazing sound systems; together they chose a fabulous one, which had speakers in virtually every downstairs room.

Although music was very important to him, Michael could find it distracting - especially MY music - if he was trying to concentrate. There were times when he would come flying upstairs and tell me to "turn it down, or put your headphones on!" I couldn't really complain, as Michael bought me a beautiful set of Bang & Olufsen headphones.

Playing

Michael would sometimes play duets with me on the piano, to encourage me to practice. He was a good percussionist. My father had a great set of bongos, which Michael always grabbed when parties were in full swing! I think he may have played the clarinet too, and he played the saxophone later on. I remember him playing “Take Five” on the saxophone. He would get frustrated, and say he was no good, when he clearly was. I thought he was very good at all the instruments he played.

My paternal grandparents had a big old semi-detached house with huge rooms, and loads of space. Michael called them Auntie E. and Uncle G. They thought the world of Michael, and loved seeing him. They were very into music and had an old fashioned pianola which I loved. My grandmother could only play one song, and would proudly sing along to it.

Michael was very fond of Auntie E., and I remember him joining in with music sessions at their home.

My father had a group "The Rockbottomers", which – despite the name – were reportedly not bad. My father played the washboard and brushes, and later the drums; grandpa played the double bass, and someone called "Uncle Dook" the guitar: skiffle, probably. Michael totally fitted in, playing the piano. He wasn't bad with the washboard and brushes either! He sang with my father too; I don't think he could have made a career out if it, but he could hold a tune!

Auntie E. loved "Lullaby of Broadway.” We had one party where, after a few drinks, my father, Michael and other friends sang and danced along to it, which she loved. They were all really good fun, and the parties I remember were wonderful: always full of music and laughter.
Michael had amazing taste in literature and poetry. He was a prolific reader. He told me to read anything and everything, as long as it was well written, and he loved second-hand books, and trawling second-hand book shops. I used to enjoy going with him. He frequently wrote useful notes and comments in books, which I used to refer to as “scribble”!

He had a lovely copy of “Wuthering Heights”, and the most beautiful book: “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” by Edward Fitzgerald.

He wore spectacles for reading; I think the octagonal ones he wore in the Bond film were his, or modelled on them. I have really powerful memories of him looking over his reading specs at me to answer a question; the way he looked over his specs (and book or paper) was so characteristic. He never varied it! He had bookmarks everywhere. Woe betide anyone who folded over a book page!

Two of Michael’s favourite books were, “War of the Worlds” by HG Wells, and “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. He told me “Of Mice and Men” was one of the greatest books ever written, and read it to me when I was ten or eleven. I learned from Michael that when you read to older children, you shouldn’t be afraid of adult books. “A definitive read” – I can hear him say it!

Something else he read to me when I was ten or eleven was the “Eagle of the Ninth” trilogy by Rosemary Sutcliffe.

I don't think he would have been a fan of the "Harry Potter" books, but he would have approved of the way they encouraged children to read.

I found a very old edition of “Idylls of the King” by Tennyson. Michael passed it on to me when I was boarding school, studying “Morte D'Arthur” by Sir Thomas Mallory. It has some notes, including a reference to Kai being missing! The reference to Kai is highly unusual. Maybe I said something about wretched Mallory being boring, and Kai would have brightened it up a bit.

He would have gone through the notes with me. The chapter “Vivien” has the most comments. It must have mirrored something I was studying in “Morte D’Arthur”, and he suggests that I compare it with Homer as well. From the notes, we clearly discussed the sensuality of the imagery as Vivien seduces Merlin, who I thought was a bit gullible for a wizard!

He read “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice, shortly after it was published, and gave it to me to read.

He was a great admirer of the 17th century poet, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who wrote astonishing love poetry. Michael always said he was a great unrecognised poet of his age. A fair amount of his poems are very graphic, but ironically Michael did not ban me from reading them, but encouraged it, because he was such an amazing poet; we tended to read them together, so maybe we read “suitable” ones. One of Michael’s favourite poems by Wilmot was “Love and Life” (1677).

Love and Life

All my past life is mine no more,
The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams giv'n o'er,
Whose images are kept in store
By memory alone.

The time that is to come is not;
How can it then be mine?
The present moment's all my lot;
And that, as fast as it is got,
Phyllis, is only thine.

Then talk not of inconstancy,
False hearts, and broken vows;
If I, by miracle, can be
This live-long minute true to thee,
'Tis all that Heav'n allows.


It’s not a long poem, but it's beautiful. I know it's one of his favourites as he has marked it in the book. I think what resonated with him about the poem was the transitory nature of life. What we have is gone so fast, what's to come is in the future.

“Quality stuff, quality stuff” was Michael. Don't read or watch rubbish!

I don't think many people realised quite how bright Michael was. He chose what he (and I) read very carefully. Though he read sociology and psychology, he did not push it onto me, but encouraged me in the areas I showed interest and talent: literature and Classics. He really influenced and shaped my literary education and choices.

He was also an admirer of Cicero's writings. A self-made man, Cicero literally climbed the “Cursus Honorum” (political ladder) to become Consul. Cicero did not come from one of the old aristocratic Roman families so this was an amazing achievement. One of his favourites from Cicero is: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

He introduced me to Homer when I was very young: certainly no older than 13. He loved imagery, and the way similes, metaphors and epithets could conjure up amazing images in the mind, and felt that Homer was the “Father of literature.”

He should have been a Classicist, though ironically he had not read "The Aeneid" until I introduced him to it while I was at university.

A poem I remember reading with Michael is “Five Ways to Kill a Man” by Edwin Brock.

Five Ways to Kill a Man

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.
Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.
Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
a mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
and some round hats made of steel.
In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
miles above your victim and dispose of him by
pressing one small switch. All you then
require is an ocean to separate you, two
systems of government, a nation's scientists,
several factories, a psychopath and
land that no-one needs for several years.
These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man.
Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see
that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.


We read it together, and Michael made notes in the margin. It's a powerful poem, and again it shows the strength of Michael’s convictions on war and nuclear arms. It did not affect me in the way that “Your Attention Please” by Peter Porter did, but it still made me think. We discussed all the verses. I don't remember everything, but I always recall how serious our reading sessions were. No, serious is the wrong word, as they were fun, but I really “studied” what we read.

In our discussion about the poem that we talked about atheism. I told Michael I didn’t believe in anything. While he agreed with me, he stressed that choices must be informed, and he expected me to go away and come back to him with reasons for my decision.

I can see him so clearly leaning forward in his chair, arms on knees as we read. Sometimes he would have to juggle Alf the dachshund on his lap at the same time!

He would have been wonderful at recording audio books.

~~

Contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of Michael’s close friends.
We got Alf early in 1970. He was a miniature smooth Dachshund, tan in colour. He was a feisty soul, but full of fun and very affectionate (if he felt like it). He knew Michael from when he was a puppy, as we got him when he was only 6 weeks old. Alf knew who he loved and adored my mother and Michael in that order.

He followed Michael everywhere, slept in his room, and if he was feeling low, never left him. Dogs are sensitive, and even if Michael had not wanted him around Alf would not have left him when he was depressed. He actually guarded Michael.

They were great mates, even when Alf would not get off his bed. He would also get under the bed, and if you tried to get him out he would growl like mad.

Michael loved taking all the dogs for a walk, often with me and even a couple of friends in tow, and Alf usually ended up having what my mother termed as a “carry walk.” Alf would start off walking and arrive back tucked under Michael’s arm!

If Michael drove my mother’s orange mini, Alf would sit on Michael’s lap, and growl every time he changed gear!

He was a massive character. He died at the ripe old age of 13 in 1983 … growling to the grave!

~~

Contributed by A.S., the daughter of one of Michael’s close friends.

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michael_gothard

October 2013

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