“FISHBONES”. Dedicated to the memory of Trevor Lawrence

“FISHBONES”: JUST ONE OF MANY DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVE VERSIONS OF THE TREVOR LAWRENCE STORY

“Stewart! Carol! Yoo-hoo!”

My wife and I exchanged the very briefest of sideways glances.

Please don’t get me wrong, it was always a joy to be able to spend time with our friend Trevor and to listen to his many anecdotes, jokes, vignettes, impressions and of course some the tallest tales you’ve ever heard in your life. Stories about how, as a young man, before he moved to Weymouth and started to make a living from selling his paintings, he had once been an aspiring young actor who had appeared in a number of Hammer Horror films and in episodes of Doctor Who, Coronation Street, Z Cars and The Main Chance. Stories about how he had once been friends with Keith Moon, Oliver Reed, David Bowie and Jack Palance; and how his keyboard skills and authentic blues growl had earned him admiring comments from Graham Bond. Impossibly tall tales which, of course, Carol and I eventually discovered were all completely true.

Unfortunately however, you really did need to have the time available to be able to spend it with Trevor – if you had any plans to be anywhere else any time in the next few hours however, it could sometimes prove difficult to tear yourself away.

Trevor was also a man of many moods – some of them his own original work and some of them his unique interpretations of everyone from Marlon Brando to Lon Chaney to Frankie Howerd – and today he was evidently in the grip of one of his occasional bouts of florid hypochondria. On this occasion this was because he had managed to get a small fish bone lodged in the back of his throat and he was absolutely convinced that this was imminently going to prove to be terminal.
”Can you actually die of choking on a fish bone? I’m sure you can you know! Didn’t Queen Victoria die of choking on a fish bone? I’m sure I read that somewhere!”

Carol and I tried to avoid giving each other eye contact – it was our only hope of keeping straight faces.
“I believe it is theoretically possible Trevor”, I said cautiously, “but surely an artist of your stature can’t just die of something as mundane as getting a fish-bone stuck in your throat?” Trevor looked at me quizzically as I continued” Surely you merit a death that befits a man of your status? Besides, if you die of choking on a fish bone, and Carol and I are the only witnesses, that would leave us in the extremely difficult position of having to have to lie to the world’s media in order to try to conceal the true nature of your demise so as to maintain the credibility of your public persona – and if the Coroner’s report was subsequently published and it just said ‘cause of death – fish bones’, then we’d all end up with egg on our faces. So really, you owe it to your friends, to your many fans, to all the people who’ve bought your work over the years, and indeed to the legend of Trevor Lawrence, to die of something with a little more gravitas than choking on a fish bone, don’t you think?”

Trevor visibly perked up immediately, the fish bone and the imminent threat that it presented both miraculously forgotten. “Yes, yes, you’re right – how do you think I should die? What would be appropriate do you think?” and then, after a few moments thought he started to grin mischievously “what about a sexually transmitted disease?”
”Well, given your reputation as a ladies man that option would certainly seem to offer a certain element of poetic justice Trev”.
From the sound of barely-stifled sniggering by my side, I knew that Carol was struggling to avoid exploding with laughter, and was in imminent danger of losing the fight.
“What about AIDS?” I suggested.
”AIDS?” Trevor weighed this option carefully in his mind for a few moments before announcing “No, too modern, too common, AIDS is for mere pop stars, like… like… Bono” he spat contemptuously.

Carol inevitably lost the fight.

No, Trevor decided that he wanted to die of syphilis, rotting away in some lofty garret surrounded by a cloud of laudanum smoke, whilst an almost endless procession of attractive young women came to stand weeping in the street below his window.

Almost inevitably it was decided that I was to play the part that I so frequently seemed to end up playing in Trevor’s narratives – I was to be his bodyguard, standing at the door turning the admirers away: “No, I’m afraid Mr. Lawrence can’t see you now, he’s only seeing A-list celebrities today and I’m afraid your name’s not on my list, Miss Knightley”.

Sadly Trevor didn’t get to die in the manner that he’d hoped for.
Neither did he live to see the day when the art establishment finally acknowledged his unique and extraordinary genius, and his work started to demand the sort of price tags that it so clearly deserves; which would have allowed him to buy the big house in Sandbanks that he had his eye on and to retain my serves as his bodyguard, so that I could tell his next-door neighbour “I’m very sorry Mr. Redknapp, but when you kick your ball into Mr. Lawrence’s garden, that ball becomes Mr. Lawrence’s ball”.

Trevor died quietly at home in his sleep – but if you want to tell people that he died in circumstances more befitting a wild-eyed bohemian actor, artist and musician, whose extraordinary creative talent sadly never received the recognition that it deserved during his lifetime; while Rachel Weisz, Catherine Deneuve and Charlize Theron stood outside his door sobbing inconsolably because some jumped-up jobsworth of a security guard wouldn’t let them in to pay their last respects; then I promise that I won’t breathe a word to the press about fish bones.

Stewart Osborne