Q & A
Ted Jacobs is an 80-year-old retired medical doctor. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Ted came to London 57 years ago after an unhappy childhood in which he became aware of his sexuality at a young age but was unable to express himself. Ted now lives in a one-bedroom flat in Wood Green that is more expensive than he is comfortable with and in an area of the city where he feels socially isolated. More positively, he lives very near a tube station, which means he can regularly access the cultural activities which he enjoys in central London.
When were you happiest?
I’ve never felt really satisfied. To begin with this was due to family problems and later I faced social isolation and sexual frustration. For years, I lived a double life looking for anonymous sex, which became like a drug to me. This is exactly why Tonic is so important and could be the crowning fulfilment of my life. It would allow me to meet like-minded people in a safe and happy surrounding and perhaps even to develop a relationship.
What is your most treasured possession?
Over the years, I have collected original artworks made by people I knew or made by friends. I’ve carted them around with me and 90% of them are on my walls now. They are my treasured children.
What makes you unhappy?
I tend to brood about the past and wish I had changed and lived differently. When I was working, I resented the role I played as a trusted GP as when I went home at night I was a completely different person. I was living a double life and I think that was very damaging.
What one wish do you have relating to the Tonic Centre?
I would like to live amongst friends in an incredibly joyful atmosphere. I hope the Tonic Centre facilitates the development of friendship where people will be able to visit the theatre together or to fall in love. It’s not impossible at my age! I want to make real friends in a warm and comfortable environment, which is accessible to central London.
What is the most important lesson that life has taught you?
To be less suspicious of people. People live their lives to survive and thrive. I tended to suspect people’s motives and one can’t live like that.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Nelson Mandela: When Mandela was released from prison he got to know the gay movements in South Africa and insisted that a non-discriminatory clause based on sexual orientation was put in the South African constitution. He was a great man who was prepared to stand his ground.
James Baldwin: He spoke in his work a lot about the relationship between race and sexuality intertwined.
William Shakespeare: The phantom of all theatre and culture! I would like to doth my hat to the founder of all culture.
Simon Nkoli: He started the first gay organisation in South Africa. He was a black, gay, HIV+ man who was eventually detained and imprisoned. Bravery doesn’t do enough to describe him.
Denis Lemon: Someone I know who was a patient of mine. He was the editor of the Gay Times during the Mary Whitehouse blasphemy trial.
What one thing would most improve the quality of your life?
To have really true friends, people I can trust and have a lot in common with. I would like a companion, not to live with, but someone I can see on a near daily basis with a circle of friends.
What does community mean to you?
Community is a broad term. I’m pleased Tonic will not be totally gay and that heterosexual allies will be involved as well. Sexual orientation is an aspect of my personality but community to me means mingling with people who are open minded and liberal and come from a variety of backgrounds.