From the Communards to a curate in Boston, Richard Coles’ memoirs offer Fathomless Riches

The Rev Richard Coles.
The Rev Richard Coles.

Duncan Browne casts his eye over the Rev Richard Coles’ memoirs...

“I barely slept that night - the excitement of a new place and a new people - and I heard The Stump chime one, two, three, four and five,” writes The Rev Richard Coles of the first night he spent in Boston.

Fathomless Riches.

Fathomless Riches.

Throughout his life, Mr Coles has been many things to many people - the son of a well-to-do Northamptonshire shoemaker, a chart-topping pop star, gay rights activist, BBC Radio 4 presenter and a Church of England vicar.

And now all of his guises have been laid bare in his unabashed and unapologetic autobiography Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop To Pulpit.

The book, of course, includes reference to the time he spent in this part of Lincolnshire, a newly-ordained curate finding some peace at St Botolph’s (‘one of the great medieval churches of England’).

‘A little train through fields of cows and kale and cauliflowers’ is how he remembers his first journey to Boston, a town he describes as ‘English pastoral’ but with Polish voices and encompassing an estate ‘where lives can be as rough as lives anywhere’.

The Fens form just one minor act in the life of Mr Coles, an existance as colourful as a rainbow but sometimes as dark as his cassock.

Although the church has always appeared in the backdrop of Coles’ life, it took what appeared to be a kindly nudge from Mo Mowlam to make him take the final plunge.

Before that there was The Communards and Don’t Leave Me This Way, the pop cover which propelled the duo to international stardom, the inevitable breakdown which follows lengthy period being lumped together as a two-headed, one-voiced entity and ‘more money than I can count’.

From start to finish - from childhood lustings to Christmas cottaging, from marijuana to the ecstasy-fuelled rave boom of the 90s, from the best-selling single of 1986 to his disgruntlement at being the other man in one of 80s music’s most famous two-pieces - Mr Coles always delivers the one thing any respectable memoir demands, honesty.

But when mixed with his sometimes-dry, oft-mischeivous wit, the combination is one of the funniest, charming and most heartbreaking reads you could possibly fill a stockings with this festive season.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking Fathomless Riches is a pleasant tourist guide to Lincolnshire. It is a journey through sex, drugs and dance pop - stopping off at childhood angst, the destruction caused by AIDS and some very bad, but repairable, teeth.

The subject matter will not appeal to all, especially those with their established phobias who will open the book with a closed mind.

But, as Fathomless Riches is proof, those are not the people Mr Coles has spent his life looking to for approval anyway.