Chapter 1: The Long Road to Deep North

The day came. They were coming to pick us up. They would take us to a destination that we did not know, swap us with a family we knew nothing about. We were not allowed to know anything about them. We were to leave our flat in the hands of the half of the TV production crew who were to stay in West Wales and film the experiences of the family we were swapping with. In other words, we were leaving everything, all goods and chattels, all our paperwork, and our history in the hands of holy fools. They were innocents in the truest Biblical sense, apart from Noël, perhaps. I had developed a good working relationship with him as he was doing the research in the weeks leading up to the swap. He was the Breton equivalent of a Welsh nationalist and a kind of quasi-hippie, so he would fit in very nicely on the West Wales side of things. He, like the others, was very young and had not yet learned to cook. The rest of the crew were complete naïves. The two girls helping him, Rosa and Daria, came swanning in, and they were a little bit luvvie.

'Hellllloooooo! Youuuuu're Craiiiiiiig!'

A heavy-rimmed, bespectacled power-dressed blonde reared up in front of me.

'Oooooh! Aren't you delicious! Isn't your little flat lovely!'

God no, God no, God no, I thought. God no. It was too late. I could not say, "That's it! Out!" It is no wonder to me that, when he met them, my father did say that. One of them was called Rosa, and, yes, her parents did name her after the Communist revolutionary, Rosa Luxembourg. Strangely the other half of the production crew were very hard-headed, the ones designated for our side of things.

'You should have split the production crew differently,' I said to the director, Luke, later on. 'You have got all the most experienced, right-on it, politicos where we are, and people who are going to get absolutely mullahed by their experiences where they are. Well, they are like they've just left school. What have you done?'

'Yes,' he said. 'It's terrible, isn't it... We were greedy.'

'What do you mean you were greedy?'

'Well, all the ones who knew what was going on wanted to be where you were and where Kiran was, with the millionaires. We were really horrid really because everybody wanted to be at that end and now from what I have heard I'm not sure it wouldn't have been more fun to be at the other end with all your mates going to a mad party and experiencing things the like of which we have never seen.'

'Well,' I said, 'there you go.'

Kiran and I realised the moment we gave our door keys to the production crew and they walked in that these were people you would not send down to the shops for a packet of crisps. Anyway, we left out flat in the hands of lovely, nice, pleasant and very well intentioned idiots! Two things happened in quick succession that proved us right. They tried to help us pack our things into the car. They did it all so wrongly that they were in danger of smashing everything to pieces. I had to join in and whisk whatever possessions we could off them. Quickly we repacked the vehicle so that things were not damaged. "I'm leaving all my possessions with you!" I thought.

I had asked them not to leave the front door open. This was very important because the wind in the Welsh valley where we live has a habit of sucking the air out through the back and slamming the door. It can do this so very viciously that it could kill our child if she were in the vicinity. Our neighbour's cat lost its tail through this very process.

'Notwithstanding that,' I explained, 'if no-one has a key outside and this were to happen, you would have to break a window to get back in.'

'Oh yes, Craig, yes, Craig. We understand.'

Not more than five minutes later the door was open. Everyone was outside, the keys were inside. I did not say anything. I just casually went inside the flat, retrieved the keys, shut the door. That was worrying. It instilled no confidence in me that they could protect our things. Too late, I thought. We have to go.

As Kiran and Lily and I were driven away and I saw the whole scene recede, Rosa and Daria were standing outside my flat. They had, again, opened the door and left it. I cannot even begin to describe how unsettling that was. When I come back, I thought, it might all be gone, for some stupid reason, that everybody is terribly sorry about but it would all be too late. You cannot give me enough money to replace that. Boxes of tapes, some of which are the only ones in existence because they are of bands I have either been in or of bands I have known and of which I am the only one who has archived the event. I have copied off hundreds & hundreds but still have hundreds & hundreds yet to do.

I left all these things that, on a cultural level, are more significant than all of my life-swappee's possessions put together. None of his goods are valuable to the future of the human race. They can all be replaced, whereas the only recording of pub-rock band The Brain of Morbius live at the Roebuck in Lewisham - now there is a thing for posterity.

Why I have ended up the librarian, archivist, or creepy janitor in the museum, I do not know. I did not ask to have that kind of responsibility. I have been in all kinds of artistic collaborations over the years. I have taped, videoed, filmed and recorded. Bands have praised me for doing this, I have had my back slapped, and left thinking I did the right thing night after night. I never had my own agenda, it is just that it would have been a shame not to have any of these things on tape and no-one else was bothering. Now my recordings are all that is left of a whole sub-culture. I started it in 1984, doing the very thing that Big Brother had a monopoly over in the famous story about that year. Now we are entering into a phase of society where it is automatic, with mobile phones. We are perpetually archiving everything now. We can all do it now, which takes the fear of surveillance away, and constant TV surveillance was, after all, what I was being driven away to face.

I am no threat to anyone at all. I am known. I can be traced. I also have nothing to hide. That being said, I did move a quantity of photographs, illicit substances and, obviously, paperwork to do with our economic affairs before I left it in the hands of the media. I was also a bit worried it was a set-up. Anybody with my political opinions would think that was a possibility. Within hours of us being driven away, I imagined MI6 were going to go through everything with a fine-tooth comb and then leave it exactly as it was when we came back. It is like an Aladdin's cave, our flat, for anyone who wants to put it into perspective. There are books on books on records on paperwork in boxes out of boxes. It fascinates me as an aesthetic. It reminds me of all the most eccentric academic environments you read of in children's stories about mad professors, and that's what Kiran and I are. I have things that I have forgotten I have, and things that I should not have, but I can only do so much.

Now we were driven away from the flat by a gentleman who did re-enactment battles of and at the Maginot Line and he was obsessed with military history. His name was Miles and he was about my father's age but had been a beatnik in Paris in his youth, albeit English, from The Wash. He was a lovely man but there were planets between us. Nevertheless, we were intrigued and impressed with each other. Our daughter, Kiran, he and I spent nine solid hours together. He knew where we were going but he was not allowed to tell us. I tried everything to get it out of him.

'It's like Christmas,' Kiran said, 'you don't want to have a peek at the presents.'

'You won't believe where you are going,' he said. He just laughed. 'And you're radicals!'

He had not known anything about us, until he picked us up. He knew a poor, unemployed family from West Wales was being swapped with one of the richest families in Britain, but when he found out what our beliefs were, what we were and who we were, he was in hysterics, all the way up there.

'When we got the call from them about this project,' Kiran said, 'we were very sceptical. I mean, what would any media corporation want with the likes of us? Our views are very, very, very, anti-capitalist.'

'What sort of things do you stand for, then?' he asked us.

'I don't believe in profit before the planet, animals, or anything,' Kiran said. 'This is my biggest thing. I'm anti-war and I don't agree poverty is necessary.'

'I'm not big on starvation either,' I said. 'I don't see any need for it. Kiran and I are very anti-corporate, so swapping us with a big business family would be interesting to say the least. Of course, I am weighing everything in favour of them swapping us with rich people. Although I wouldn't mind being a waiter in Croydon, I don't think that sort of swap is going to deal with issues in a visceral way.'

'Well, you're not going to Croydon,' he said.

'Where are we going?'

'You wait and see,' he chuckled. 'So you want to put your views across in this show, then?'

'Well,' I said, 'they originally wanted one of our mates to do it, but they put them onto us instead. We took some persuading, but that was the bait. They want the one with the biggest gob, who has the most to say so we said we were up for it if we were going to be able to get our politics on telly, in front of the whole country.'

'So, what are they then, your politics?'

'I am an Anarcho-Socialist,' I said.

'Anarcho-Socialist, eh?' he said. 'What does that mean to you?'

'It means I believe in life,' I said. 'I don't believe any one single person should die for any reason, other than misfortune, illness or mortality, or old age. No-one should shoot anybody ever again, for any reason, and nobody should kill any other living thing other than the agricultural demands to feed people. And no wiping out any other species in the process. It may be a tall order, but it's what I believe.'

'So you're for animal rights?'

'Well,' I said, 'As far as possible. I am sitting here with a pair of leather boots on so it's not like I'm perfect. I'm not putting myself forward as a prophet or whatever but I actually think like a lot of people, probably the majority of people, certainly the majority of children, who wouldn't like to see an animal shot.'

'What about human beings?' he said. 'Where do we fit in? What would you do to make society better and improve the state of hospitals and all that?'

'Well,' I said, 'that's bloody simple. You raise income tax to a really, really heavy level, as long as it doesn't make anybody so poor that they can't afford to feed themselves, then you renationalise everything that was privatised, and make sure that no one person has to wait for anything if it is an emergency.'

He turned around to me

'Are you going to say that on camera?'

'I probably will at some stage,' I said.

'That's brilliant,' he laughed. 'How do you think that's going to go down on TV?' he said.

'Well,' I said, 'I really don't know how I am going to prevent anyone seeing this show from hating me, but it would be wrong for me to have all my opinions and not have the backbone to air them.'

'You're a great talker Craig and that's very important.'

'It's a big responsibility for me, this thing is,' I said. 'I've got to speak for all the people like me who aren't being given a voice. There are so many views that don't get heard. If everybody's vote was counted seriously and fairly, we'd have fifteen separate governments in this country, and, by God, that might be an interesting move.'

'So it's going to be a bit confrontational, then?'

'I'm only worried I might not be as antagonistic as the director wants,' I said. 'Other activists have often said that one of my biggest flaws is that I try and be nice to too many people. I am able to take being shouted at without shouting back. I just hope that whoever swaps with me can take that as well, because some of our mates aren't averse to a bit of hollering from time to time. They might have to bleep quite a lot out in the final mix but I think the public likes a good bleeping. My grandmother doesn't even mind it these days and she's ninety two.'

'It's a very male-driven production,' Kiran said. 'Craig's being swapped with another man and we're his wife and child. So I don't expect either Lily or I are really going to have too much to do, apart from surviving. All the same, I can't deny that being a fiery Asian woman in an all-male environment of rich capitalists would amuse me. It'd be great to see 'em all trying to climb out of the windows to get away from me. I can get on my high horse at times, so that's something to be considered if they do want a bit of drama.'

'Yeah,' I said. 'Where I might only inform someone that they'd been a little misguided, Kiran will grab their balls and see how hard she can squeeze 'em!'

'That's true,' said Kiran.

Our driver was laughing out loud by this time.

'What about these people who are going to live your life for a week?' he said. 'What are they going to be doing and who are they going to be doing it with?'

'They'll be making some pretty unique music,' I said. 'Whoever swaps with us might find that they enjoy banging a drum. The finale will almost certainly involve them helping to put on a party. I've yet to go to a decent party where people don't discuss relevant issues.'

'You think they'll get on with your mates?'

'Oh yes,' I said. 'They'll probably be surprised how amenable most of them are. The TV usually only seems interested in radicals when they're throwing bricks at coppers. I suppose that means a lot of people think that's general behaviour but most of us are non-violent. I go down the local post office and me and the post mistress don't see eye to eye on everything, but we still get on. I may have worn

bondage trousers and sported red spiky hair at one point, but I still went and cooked for my gran.'

'What are your own circumstances then?'

'We get one hundred and sixty odd pound a week,' Kiran said. 'It's below average for two adults and a child but we've learnt to live on it. We're quite prepared to live on less if it means that our environmental footprint is lighter."

'I've made a choice between income on the one hand and freedom of time for thought on the other,' I told him. 'The government keeps judging me unemployable. Something to do with my mental health, they say, but this thing is offering me what social services can't. I can try something out without being penalised for finding it unsuitable. You never know, I might be good at it! But at home I've become a full-time house-husband.'

'You see, Lily is the centre of what we do,' Kiran said. 'We visit our friends with her and, living in Pembrokeshire, we go to the coast regularly. In the Autumn we'll be going to Welsh lessons.'

'Our kid can count to five in Welsh already,' I said. 'Un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump.' I've learnt some Welsh too. Gaf i cwrw os gwelwch yn dda. That's "May I have a beer please". Very useful.'

'I can't believe that Armada TV have pulled this one off,' he said.

'It is good then is it?' I said. 'Because you know where we're going. Are we going to like this?'

'Oh, you will like this a lot. I just can't believe they've done it.'

You see, this was not just a big moment in my life, or Kiran's life, this has been a big moment in a lot of people's lives, his included. It was not centralised around me, it encompassed a whole load of folk. You could fill an audience chamber with the number of people who have starred in this one.

We had to go to a pub to meet up with Luke, the director, and the other half of the production crew. They would be in the pub garden so that we could be given directions to where we were to go. Even at that stage, even though we were only a half an hour away from his house, we still had no idea where we were. I did look at the road signs though.

'We're going to Yorkshire,' I said. 'I was told the swap was going to be with someone in London.'

'Oh,' he said, 'they'll have told you all sorts of porkie pies, but, no. You are going to Yorkshire.'

'How far?'

'Right up the north of Yorkshire.'

In this pub, up came Lionel who was very good with our daughter. Jonty was there, who interviewed me with Noël weeks and weeks before. Franko, was from St Pauli, the centre of anarchist thinking in Germany and then there was Cargill. Cargill's father trains horses in Indonesia, in their thousands and thousands. He is one of the highest paid horse trainers in South East Asia. How Cargill had ended up a sympathetic, pro-Maori-activist coming from one of New Zealand's richest white families is a mystery to me, but he did not want to discuss it. He was the wealthiest member of the whole crew yet he was merely a cameraman, though with a difference. Armada Television hires fifty-thousand pound cameras, hires ten-thousand pound tripods, hires vehicles, hires everything: nothing was owned by Armada , nothing had Armada stamped on it. That is not how it is done any more. It is almost as though the corporations have been re-privatised. Cargill, however, owned all his own stock. He had his own super-vehicle with in-built computers and laptops to keep abreast of his international affairs. He had racks and racks of camera equipment. His vehicle and everything in it would probably amount to close on a million pounds. Everyone envied Cargill. Even the director envied Cargill. He is the international maverick. He was like Robert de Niro in the film Brazil. He comes in, does the job quickly, then leaves. Cargill was the one driven to tears when I gave what for to Redman in the final argument and patted me on the back and said, 'well done, son.' Cargill was only about twenty-four years of age. So I learned that there are some very different types of human beings in the media game.

Cargill, of course, had an immense bank of different bands' music on his laptop. I asked about it and I had heard of hardly any of it. I think he would have found our record collection rather shocking. It is a shame I may never see him again because Kiran, Lily and I developed quite a strong bond with the production crew in a way that the rest of the people at Ingols Hall did not. This happened quite naturally, it was not planned, pushed, forced or devised. The people at Ingols Hall were 'them': the production crew and we were 'us'. I found that quite disconcerting because I have always been a great enemy of the mass media but at all stages of this game I found them to be practically beyond reproach in the reasons why they were doing what they were doing. They were being paid buckets for this programme yet none of them were prepared to discuss the money with me. I did it for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. we got a second-hand camper van {a Leyland Highwayman}, we got a laptop, we got money redistributed to a Save the Schools campaign, a footpath clearance group, and a toddlers' group. We had our friend's PA & marquees officially hired & a clutch of bands paid in order to play at a Welsh all-nighter {the conclusion to the week our swappees were having}. And yet all of that together would not have been a fraction of what any one of them was earning from it, so however philanthropic media companies say they are they are always paying themselves better. This was a cheap shot for Armada Television, a very cheap shot. Half the reason why they employ radicals is that they are forced to economically. We come for free, that's our foot in the door.

An anarchist has no authority but themselves. No-one has authority over me and I do not have authority over anybody else. Armada TV is a strict hierarchy, so much so that the director was not even allowed to know the whole picture. In fact, I do not think anybody knew the whole picture and that is why it was such a flawed enterprise. Everybody should know the whole story, in the name of transparency, but nobody, even the man who drove us up there, knew more than a fraction of it.

In fact, our first real heartbreak on this project was about him. We all grew very close in that car because we were all experiencing a very big jolt to our lives in many ways. He had never met anyone like us. We had never met anyone like him. He knew where we were going, and he thought, 'bloody hell.'

He was the one sitting next to me as I saw what was unfolding.

'Miles, Miles,' I said, 'what have they done to me?'

He was there when I opened the wallet I was given. The first thing that happened after the pub was that we did several drive-bys to be filmed time and time again, with the director saying things like, 'Can you park the car and then drive them past again? Can you go back and drive them past again?' Every thing like that took about eight or nine takes. It was not reality.

'Craig can you look out of the window this time? Can you be talking to Lily this time?'

So then we were in the car, leaving the pub and we went towards Ingols Hall, still not knowing where we were going.

'At this point,' they said, 'your life-swappee will be opening his wallet, with one hundred and fifty pounds in it. Here is his wallet.'

I opened it. There was a thousand pounds in cash inside, with a photograph of him. Obviously, in the wallet he was opening there would be a photo of me.

They have done exactly what I asked them to do, I thought. How can I be so lucky? At that time, I did not think he was as rich as he turned out to be because a thousand pounds a week spending money did not seem to be that much but then not every rich man has a half-mile driveway leading through a wooded area to their separated house. Most people live in terraces, or in flats or semi-detached and two up two downs having to get on with one another in a painful state where they cannot be isolated and therefore private. Battery people, as a friend of mine used to call them. We are battery people. When I drove up to this particular building and saw the helicopter I thought, ye gods! Where's my curved blade and my pistolero?

They filmed me while I was counting the money. I am a performer, after all. I have been filmed many times and I have been on stage with bands semi-constantly for many years, and I played to the cameras. What you are not supposed to do in reality television is look at the camera.

'Don't you give me any rules,' I said. 'I am an anarchist! Is this getting through to any of you? You keep telling me what to do and you just know I ain't going to do it.'

Cargill got quite angry with me a few times. 'Don't look into the camera,' he kept saying. 'Don't look into the camera!'

I kept doing it. I wanted to do it because it makes great telly. It is what helped popularise Punk Rock, because suddenly you were being addressed by these bands, they were not singing for the sake of the bosses who were watching off-camera.

'Look away, look away, look at me, no, look at me, no, Craig, look at me!'

'Okay,' I said. 'All right.'

I turned to the camera again.

'Anyway, as we were saying...' I said, looking straight into the lens. Had they never seen Laurel and Hardy? The funniest moments are when the Ollie looks at you and pulls an expression that says, 'I should have figured it was going to be like this.' Had they not seen Buster Keaton? His whole comedy was based around eye to eye contact with the audience he never knew.

I got the money out, and obviously I was being filmed. Cargill was sitting in the front seat of the car with his foot up in this posture where he was leaning back against the windscreen with this fifty-thousand pound camera. I had literally got this camera lens in my face in the back of the car and Cargill was gurning at me, because you cannot do a job like that without gurning.

'All right Craig,' he said, 'look in the wallet and get out the money and we're going to have to do this in one, all right? We can't retake this one. We want this in one. We want the shock and the surprise, mate. This has got to be real.'

'Fifty pound notes! Bloody hell.'

I think I had handled a pony about four times in my life, at the age of forty-one. That might sound incredible to some readers, for whom fifty-pound notes are quite common. Not for this hombre, I can tell you.

'Two fifties, three fifties...' I said, playing straight to the camera, knowing Cargill could not do anything about it.

'Anther fifty...'

Of course, I was doing perfect maths all the way through.

'Two hundred and fifty, three hundred!'

I felt like a cheesy, game-show host.

'No!' said Kiran.

Then there was a photo of the fellow.

'That's your life-swappee - Mr. Gerard Braughn.'

'Show us the picture,' Kiran said. So I did.

'He looks like a right bastard!'

'Four hundred and fifty, five hundred! Five hundred and fifty, six hundred! Bloody hell, Kiran,' I said, when I got to a thousand, 'let's run, now! Get out the car now!'

I turned to the camera again.

'A joke, a joke!'

It was literally minutes after that that we got out and looked at the helicopter and the mansion. We did not even know the half of it by then.

Luke, the director, came up. He was very pleased with himself and I was very pleased with him and to this day am very pleased with him. If there were more directors like Luke Houlgate, television would be worth it. We are in the twenty-first century now and Luke Houlgate is a pioneer. I will save him. I will save his soul. I am going to keep on at him because he is only thirty-two. Most people do not make a name for themselves in that profession until they are well into their fifties. So, there are seeds that have been planted here. He will like this bit of the book. He will not like other bits, I am sure of it.

About Miles, the first driver, this is what was heartbreaking about him. I was so blown away and utterly shocked by what happened, as the driver knew we would be. It looked as though he had a tear in his eye from a distance when I remember. I had got out of the car, walked around the mansion, looked at the helicopter, and thought about how they don't look as big in real life as they do on telly. They do not look as big when you are touching them as they do when they are in the sky. That is an odd thing. And then suddenly I remembered the driver. I thought, how rude! I have literally got out of the bloody car and...

'We are having the same driver on the way back?' I said to Luke.

'Oh,' he said, 'I seriously doubt it. Probably not.'

'Will I ever see him again?'

'Well, I very much doubt it.'

'I've got no contact number, nothing. Have you got a contact number for him?'

'No.'

'I have just been through a nine-hour experience like that with him. Will I never see him again?'

I felt really panicked. It is even emotionally affecting me now. I saw him disappearing in the distance.

'Is he allowed to stay?'

'No, he's not allowed to stay, Craig, he's got to leave now.'

'Bloody hell,' I said, 'this is a savage game, isn't it?'

'Yes,' he said, 'it is.' He looked really concerned for me.

'Well, I think I've got to go and say goodbye.'

'I think it's too late, mate.'

There he was, as a little dot on the horizon, looking at this scene and I perceived, because I could not make his facial features out, that he was weeping with emotion. Then he had to go. And I felt bad. I felt so bloody bad. Had I suddenly become the dispassionate millionaire I was supposed to be? Did I think that he was just staff? Did I think that my experience was so big that he did not count at all? I desperately wanted to run after him and say, 'Come on, man, what's your number? I'll let you know what happens. Yeah?' I could not. It all happened so fast and it all does happen that fast in a millionaire's life that they cannot really connect with anybody in the way I do, from day to day.