Saturday, 3 June 2017

JAGO STONE - THE HELLIDON YEARS - 1971-1986 - PART 2

In Part 2, I continue with more of this extract from my chapter: 'Lifting a Lid on Jago'.

Jenny’s husband, Tony, also remembers Jago and Rowland - and nights in the Red Lion that lengthened into the early hours of the morning.  Rowland was a ‘colourful piece of village life’. Tony agreed immediately with my expressed thought: ‘The country squire?’. ‘Yes! – and he revelled in being so’. ‘Rowland’, Tony continued, ‘divided the people he was thinking about inviting into his social world of parties and drinking into Gin Set Mark 1; Gin Set Mark 2; and Gin
Set Mark 3’. These were the levels in Squire Rowland’s hierarchal trinity of social acceptability.


The English Village - (detail) - Jago Stone (1986)

I was curious about how the squire of Hellidon stood in relation to his responsibilities towards that other foundation of village life, separate from the public house – the village church.  This, after all, was the church run by the Church of England which had its own Trinity and hierarchies.
Rowland, according to Tony, did indeed support the church. He was a generous man and he knew his obligations. He even, occasionally, attended the Sunday service. But being Rowland, the most memorable of these attendances was when he brought with him an African woman whom he had




met whilst on holiday in the Swiss resort of Kitzbuhel, his holiday destination come February each year. She had come back to England with Rowland and become for a short while a house guest at Leam Farm. Her attendance with Rowland that Sunday turned a few heads in this exclusively Caucasian village. Just as Rowland knew it would.


Unravelling the threads of Jago’s life requires an understanding of the characters to whom Jago was drawn in his need for security and finance. And Rowland was such an important patron and supporter. With Rowland came all the trappings of village life and the mythic promise of an especially English paradise. Pub and church and village green and the cricket match. Take a minute to look at the picture that Jago painted for his American patrons and friends, Jessica Raber’s mum and dad, now living in Missouri. They wanted a picture of a typical English village. Jago gave them a little bit of his heart as well as the fruits of his art when he painted that picture.  


The English Village - (detail) - Jago Stone (1986)


Rowland, as an archetypical village squire, had to be, in Tony’s words, ‘quite a sportsman’. He owned and looked after the cricket pitch at Chipping Warden, a stone’s throw or two away from where thrived, for a time, a fashionable boutique whose owner was a lady called Tina Shrimpton. Tina’s part in Jago’s story defies invention. Let me explain.  


Jenny in her account of these times in Hellidon recalls the first time she saw Jago. He was sweeping towards her in a long flowing cloak, resplendent with a curled brim fedora on his head and a girl on either arm. One of those girls was Tina Shrimpton. Tina had called herself Chrissie in an earlier life. Chrissie Shrimpton had been a London model and girlfriend of rock icon Mick Jagger from the end of 1960 through to 1966. 1960 was the year I arrived as a nervous First Year pupil at Dartford Grammar School in north Kent and Michael Jagger left to embark upon his undergraduate degree course at the London School of Economics. His fellow students were open-mouthed at Michael’s powers of attraction as he displayed his new girlfriend on campus. Tina’s older sister was Jean Shrimpton, model and actor, an even more iconic symbol of swinging sixties London. Michael of course dropped out of university to follow fame and fortune with The Rolling Stones before the end of that first academic year. Jago surely would have wondered at how far he had come from crouching on the floor of a prison cell with two other men.

 
Chrissie Shrimpton and Mick Jagger in the early 1960s


Tony added still more details in this canvas of a certain kind of English village life. Rowland also owned the field where cricket matches were attempted in Hellidon. And he had built the tennis court at Leam Farm where floodlit matches became a natural part of the development of any Rowland party. Rowland was the very model of the model sporting squire and Jago was the very model of the model gypsy artist. Each their own impresario.  


Jenny had spoken about Rowland’s seven-year stab at rescuing the Red Lion pub from oblivion. Tony added more detail. He had come to know Jago – the volunteer barman – at the ‘lively watering hole’ of the Red Lion – over a period of a couple of years, at the beginning of the eighties.


This was a drinking culture that had its own rules. Tony remembered how, typically, the woman behind the bar would serve last orders, announce she was returning to her family and children, and left the regulars drinking into the small hours. Tony recalls leaving the after-hours drinkers, returning home to go to bed, getting up next morning to drive to Coventry for work – and seeing the Red Lion’s front door open and the lights still on. He stopped the car, went back into the pub, closed the open till, came back outside, shut the pub door, returned to his car, and continued his journey to work. It really was another world where they did things differently. And time was running out on these old ways.


Dukes of Hazzard recreated in Hellidon by Squire Rowland

Yet for a short while still, this was a world where Rowland and Jago could live out their dreams. They would turn the new images and ideas of television into the playtime of their own magic theatre. There was a very popular television series called ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ that ran from 1979 to 1985 in the United States and achieved popularity on UK screens too. Rowland declared that there would be a Dukes of Hazzard fancy dress evening at the Red Lion. He did so, Jenny recollects, when he experienced several late-night visits from the local constabulary about his closing times. One evening, he had looked out of the pub to see several police cars lined up outside. Rowland determined to ‘cock a snook’ as Jenny put it, to thumb his nose at those men in blue who dared to interfere with his play. Jenny confirmed that he certainly appeared before the magistrates on more than one occasion over late drinking sessions. He may not have got off Scot-free but he was usually able to manipulate matters, to contrive a delay, because he knew the magistrate.  


No expense was spared for Hellidon’s re-enactment of the “Dukes”. Rowland appeared, in immaculate imitation, as Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg, the corrupt county commissioner and police commissioner and land commissioner, who had a finger in every nook and corrupt cranny of Hazzard County. The squire was collecting more material for the tapestry of his village tales. Jago would have had one more anecdote for the small talk at whatever bar he found himself behind.


I asked Tony whether there was a split between the pub and the church in the village of Hellidon. Not so, he said. If there was a split it was between those in the village who embraced community life – and those who now lived in the village but chose not to participate. The vicar might not have approved of the ‘slightly notorious’ artist in their midst but at least Jago was a 'likeable' and  certainly 'very sociable’ part of the village community.


Jago had found a home and a degree of acceptance. But as ever he didn’t stay.