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Monday, November 07, 2011

Spike Milligan's Love

Ostensibly, Spike Milligan – The Serious Poet (Radio 4, Sunday) was about his poetry, especially the darker verse he wrote while in the grip of manic depression. But what leapt out, and in a very cheerful way, were the ties and love linking Milligan and his daughters. Their voices as they read his poems filled the programme in a truly spirited way.
"He was an enchanting father," we heard. They recalled childhoods full of magic and play with him. He was more at ease with children, they noted, than the adult world that depressed him, but he couldn't tolerate seeing them in any pain. When he split up with the mother of two of his daughters and gained custody of them, he explained in an old interview clip, he saw his children's haunted faces and became determined "to keep up with trying to love them enough to make up for all the shortcomings".
As children, they were oblivious to some of his behaviour ("I thought my dad was celibate because he slept in a separate room", one daughter said, guffawing at her naivety) but knew they had to tread carefully around his illness. He'd disappear into his room, they remembered, leaving a note on A4 paper stuck to his door. "Fuck off," it would read. "I want to die."

There are holes in the sky
where the rain gets in -
but the holes are so small
that's why the rain is thin.

- Spike Milligan (by memory, so apologies if line breaks are wrong, I think the words are right.)

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