Biker Arthur

It was back in 1986, before the name change. He was still plain old Johnny Rothwell then, a crazy-arsed barbarian from the Farnborough and Aldershot area, head of a gang of outlaw bikers, a death-defying trouble-maker, a rebel and a fighter, known as “King John” at the time, not because he had any aspirations to royalty, but because he was famed for throwing full-moon parties at nearby Odiham Castle, also known as King John’s Castle.

He’d had this weird revelation about his true identity – about his once, true and former name, as he describes it – in a run-down squat in Farnborough while sitting with another member of the gang called the Whippet. It was a year or two after his parents had died, both of them in the space of two weeks, and he’d had been on a bender ever since. But he was bored with life. He’d started doodling on a white laminated board in black marker pen. He’d put “King John” in the middle, with a three pointed crown above the K – which is how he always signed himself – and then around that a circle of names: Bacardi, Viet, Johnny Reb, Mad Dog, Ace, his social security number, his army number, a whole host of names and identities that he had adopted over the years.

“I’m bored,” he said, and handed the Whippet the board.

The Whippet had been reading occult books at the time. Something must have been going on in his head. He said, “no you’re not King John, you’re King Arthur.”

And that was how it started. Somehow those insane words buried themselves in his skull and set light to his imagination. He and the Whippet got into an intense debate lasting into the small hours, at the end of which he decided that it was all true, that he really was King Arthur. That was the revelation.

He said, “you know if I go for it, I go for it all the way? No turning back.”

And the Whippet said, “I know.

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