I like a good fight when I've a drink in me: Susan De Muth in bed with Darcus Howe

Susan de Muth
Tuesday 06 September 1994 23:02

Darcus Howe, 51, presents the 'Devil's Advocate' talk show on Channel 4. Originally from Trinidad, he came to Britain in 1961 and now lives in Brixton.

Before I go to bed I'm buzzing. I go to my local, then drift around the neighbourhood. I get a little soused on Sundays because I go almost hysterical after recording Devil's Advocate - I'm on a high and just keep going up. I always meet the same people - the fraternity of nightbirds.

People come up to me all the time - not aggressively because of my size; they speak well of the show. I love the neighbourhood. I love the smell. The only thing I'm afraid of is my temper - I can go berserk. But I like a good fight - let's have a good old Roman contest, that's my thing, especially when I've got some alcohol in me. I'm not usually home before the early morning.

Home is a cocoon and very important to me. One reason I did Devil's Advocate was because I was away too much doing other TV projects. I still travel quite a bit. I always take my same washbag because it smells of my own bathroom. It has a drawstring and I close it very tight, and when I open it in a strange hotel I'm into a private place.

Home was too quiet so Leila (his wife of 20 years) and I adopted Zoe (age three) six months ago. Then my nine-year-old boy from a tryst I had with a young woman came to visit and decided he wanted to stay. I have five other children - none of them with Leila - but they don't live with me. I'm close with all of them, most are adults now.

I've always lived a reckless life, flying close to the sun like Icarus. I was in gangs back in Trinidad - gunshots flying all over the place. I've had two children since we've been married and I know Leila felt deep pain, but she didn't say anything. I wasn't afraid I might lose her. Leila sees things in me that no one else can and our relationship is everlasting. Home without her would be meaningless.

Before my father died, I knew he was deteriorating and cried every night for nine months as I systematically went through how I would bury him. The reality was different but the parameters had been drawn and so I felt prepared when it did come.

In the still of the night when I'm lying in my bed I go into the half tone between sleep and wake, images appear out of a crimson background, faces, memories, situations. In the drift, you go through memories again, reliving the joy or the agony.

The other night I was remembering being nine years old and my father's whistle outside my grandmother's house the morning he came to tell me I'd won an exhibition to senior school. I could recall the jauntiness of his tune. As I jumped out of bed he came in and hugged me for the first time in my life - 'Good boy, good boy' - and my grandmother cried.

A standard is remembering women. The moments when women left me and the pain thereof, the moments of suspicion and discovery. Also when I first met Leila and just thought, 'Yeah]' The hunt for her, the plotting, the planning, the scheming - it took months.

As I get older I drift more and dream less. I do, however, have the occasional anxiety dream. In one I suddenly find that I can't speak any more. Since I talk for a living, I get absolutely terrified and force myself to wake up.

I think dreams are haphazard things. They're important in West Indian culture but not to me. My parents always drummed it into us that any superstitious business is low-life - you can't be an educated person and believe that crap. That's the way it is in my household too.

Mornings are better now for the fact that the kids are around. They come in and kiss me and say: 'Good morning, Dada.' But I do hate mornings and feel angry when I wake up. Nearly every time my wife says to me: 'Why are you speaking to me like that, why don't you have some respect for me?'

And I say 'piss off' and won't let her read my paper. I don't know why, but I'm always irritated in the morning.

(Photograph omitted)

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