PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1978 - DECEMBER
Sunday 3 December
Rosy posy entertains and enters my efforts at living. I am impressed by our clowning. It is amazing what one can do if allowed. There is eagerness and enthusiasm, there is novelty in her eyes, there is a jaded sparkle there, I could fall for this clown, this lady who tours night clubs and collects escorts, poets and musicians to hang on London's map. And how jealous I am of her children, how jealous I am that they are treated like persons, that there views are listened to. And I stare at glass and mirror and never can see children nibbling my ears or a woman behind combing my hair.
Alive, rebellious, soft, charmed, careful, very like I do her - closer and closer interests me. Now here in this cafe, I sit robed in poncho and Father Christmas cap, my smile is gentle, smoothed, confident; my manner so easy, my bearing proud.
Where is Marielle? How do I dare live in such confusion until my love for her is burnt. Maybe it is unburnable. How dare I live without her? How dare I not be with her? How dare I not - I find words so mundane, so banal. It is impossible to say just what I mean, but as if Romeo should walk away from Juliette, and Shakespeare would say 'How dare you spoil my play?'; or if Shakespeare were to send Romeo off on some boat in search of lands, and Romeo were to turn around and say 'How dare you fiddle with my days?'
Poor old IT was gutted; poor old BIT was definitely unlucky. They invited guests from everywhere, and from anywhere they came. A 10th anniversary and all that. How many bands were to come? 9 or 10, 20 or 30. It was all friends and grooves, smokers and abortion campaigners, squatters and the rest. What a shame. Poor old IT, its thousand files, its million prints, its two typewriters, its five cabinets, its three desks - who was to blame after all? Those two friends, the best of friends, too keen, too overworked, who let the paint dry, and the wallpaper dry, and then catch fire, with flames licking up the wall, up the wall, out the window, the side of the house. I hear Paul went squeak at 2am and saved a life or two, but neither an office nor a bed was saved. Malcolm stumbled in with lips that almost hold a smile. He has soft hairs on his face, a twitch in his eye, and finds a flick of the eyeball when he needs attention, and then a slight twisting of the head down and to the side before he lifts it and takes it into the direction he will speak. And he uses such gentle speech, such insistent gentleness. He talks of plans for a coffee bar. He is keen. He has ideas. But the time comes to talk of something else. Arif proposes tubal theatre. Sara jumps with glee, with her bright and ebullient cheeks, her shiny ponytails. Conversation somehow returns to the coffee bar. Duncan is an old timer - is it his eyebrows I remember? Is he osteoporotic? He certainly isn't very tall and tends to crouch, chin tucked well into shoulders, almost tortosic (i.e. like a tortoise). He is very quiet, and can only talk in paragraphs. He's an antique book runner, i.e. he goes to jumble sales and sells to the trade. He is not far removed from a tramp - but then are any of us I wonder. When he is asked to speak, he talks not of policies or future gigs or special nights but of his kinship with the squatters. He is too old. I interrupt to say we really don't want to listen to such well-rehearsed trite but am beaten down, brow-beaten down by the rest who are enthroned on benches of respect for the holy papa. In any case, the conversation reverts to coffee bars.
THE THORPE LOVERS
Scott names 'another man' in the life of Jeremy Thorpe. My god, he didn't have TWO homosexual affairs, how could he - he must have been a pervert, an insatiable sex maniac. What about Mr Scott's other lovers, what about his wife? What about his national insurance stamps? What about the fact that somebody tried to kill him? The Guardian reports obliquely that, at one point, Scott shouted from the witness box: 'I should like to get this point over because you are trying to evade it. I am not here because of homosexuality. I am here because somebody tried to kill me.' All this shit about homosexuality drives me so crazy.
Wednesday 6 December
THE DISCO SKATERS
How can I streamline my thoughts onto paper about the Roller disco. I stand almost electrified, probably stunned is a better word, by the American dream, by American colours, American kids rolling round and round on skates. Electric-metal colours, leopard skin tights, crimson lips, dolls on the skates, music exploding from every corner. This is a gymnasium used for club events, including roller skating, but this is the first time it has been used for a late dance-while-you-skate, a this-is-all-the-rage American dream. The atmosphere of the ice-rink, the tension of the discotheque, the fun of rollerskating. Yet who's that stoned, falling over, landing on his back? Who's that bored, going round in circles and circles? And who are those two who glide round like Curry on ice, managing faultless pirouettes as if they were the very noblest ones on eight wheels?
THE CARLIN BROTHERS
Those daring devils on their flying machines, their cycling machines with long poles and no hands. Balanced, poised, cycle upon cycle, cycle upon cycle upon high wire. Gasp, ahh, the high wire, no net, death defying, death defying, death decycling. Here they go. The Carlin Brothers and their father perform the amazing, the astounding, the never-seen-before feat. Start peddling boys. Steady there. Balance Jack. Balance Jake. Oh no, what now? The dreaded boys in blue have arrived. Heh Mr Carlin and your sons you are all under arrest for the theft of ten clamps from the building site round the corner. You'll each have to appear in court and be fined £200 for this disgusting crime (with apologies to 'The Guardian' which gave a perfectly sensible account of the case).
Rosy Rosy Rosy
I wish if I knew if you were cosy
Or if you preferred the missionary posy
It's a mystery to me
Should I fall on one knee
And catch your eye
Should I tell a lie
And say - how much I wish you to hold me tight, in a romantic light
Should I snatch your arm
And pretend to read your palm
And say - you will meet a random young man, prettier than Pan
Should I write a poem in rhyme
And send it you for Christmastime
Tuesday 12 December
Jenny weighs heavily on my thoughts, as I replay round and round the party last night, and the night we spent together. Things I said return to my head. Did I say that? How embarrassing. How extrovert I was. How loud and crude and clumsy. How merry I was. How unsure of myself, like a fly dancing on someone's back. Did I forget to say thank you to Rowley and Vonny? Did I ever speak a word? Did I smile for Rosy, and then return, just in time, just in time, to Jenny. She was dressed in silver and black, slim and slinky, like a nervous model with the perfume of sex. She offered me a lift, and then I tempted her to come with me to the secret garden. She refused, but I refused to be driven all the way home. It was all so strange. The pretty lady had such soft lips. She hesitated and I hesitated, but her lips enticed me, she had such soft lips, and then she invited me in. Was my conversation just nervous gibberish? We screwed, but not in rhythm and she was not satisfied. She is beautiful, thinks I'm sweet and 24. In the morning, the return of her 13 year old daughter Dania unsettled me. I left, a little bit in love, but how my head pounds now when I think to ring her, I want to see her, perhaps so I can despise her or love her or know her or screw her or just be at ease with her.
Marielle, where are you? Your wisdom needed to calm my intellect; your love needed to calm my confidence; your passion needed to overcome me. Will she come? Come soon, my new moon, my mystery and imagination, my love and my passion.
Thunder rocks outside the office window, and just for a moment, I feel an intense desire shudder through me. I want to be with it, or at least nearer it . . . that's all.
I travel on the tube entranced by the highly complex world of Alexandria. Darley has been the narrator in previous books but, now, in 'Mountolive' he is an insignificant person talked about it passing.
From Jenny I learn about some pasts. Niema seems to the be one with power in the group. But she holds no spell over me. There was an actor called David who was interested in Niema, but then he had a love affair with Jenny and, since then, Niema won't speak to her. Whose side is Rosy on? Did someone ask Rosy why she hadn't slept with me? What did she say, I wonder. Should I believe the gentle touches stroking my back before I fall asleep or wake, and those soft lips that invite my tongue to lash in and out.
I feel almost happy today - very busy, things done, no nervous wrangles.
Walter Benjamin - a German essayist. There is a book called 'Understanding Brecht' that I MUST, absolutely must, read, so I'm told. And I swear, by the holy Who's Who, that this tall journalist/writer I met (Alan Woodward from the Bay area) must have mentioned a hundred (no less) writers, singers, actors etc. that I've never heard of. He was looking for conversation and stimulating dialectic, but found none in me. I knew nothing. I murmured in the right places and made it evidently clear that I knew no-one in publishing. There were times I didn't even know what he was talking about. While I was travelling, he was reading; but I'm always the envious one. The self-confidence of Americans drives me to total and utter distraction, i.e. jittering rambles.
There are few times in my life that I wish I had been filmed but the last hour or so is one. I, with hat and poncho, took statuesque positions, noble positions and unmoving. My head was mostly hidden by the hat but my eyes were very alive, they followed people as they walked around. Sometimes, I stood erect but with feet spread apart, in front of the pond; other times I stood next to a large tree with my knee jutting out a few feet from behind the trunk. I was frozen as I watched and took everything in. Thus, on the film, would be shown my posture, changing from time to time; but it would also show close-ups of confused faces; and it would show what I saw: the different people moving through the garden, the fast walkers, the slow strollers, the children, the old, the dodderers, the appearing and the disappearing - the theatre of it all. But more, there would be the paintings in the pond, reflected in the water, the bare winter trees, delicate, fragile, intimate structures, carefully woven branches and twigs, a forest of them reflected, sometimes clearly, sometimes through a shimmer. (I heard a guide in the Tate Gallery the other day talking about the Turner paintings. She explained how Turner used to be criticised because in his pictures reflections were almost as strong as the scene itself. But, the guide, said, this was how Turner saw them.)
Thursday 21 December
I am saddened by the absence of M these days. As always my ire doesn't last long. Three times I've contacted her and now I've sent a card, but she's still pissed off. I miss the familiarity, the ease that took us so long to find, instead I have tension with Jenny. She is a beauty and pulls me to distraction. Smoothly she traces out her past and present and promises me that she doesn't worry. She has such soft lips.
Didier rang, and warmth tinkled back and forth between us - will I be with him on Christmas Eve?
News: The BBC closed down because of a technicians strike. Just outside Brighton, a train stopped because of reports that someone was on the rail line, and another train went into its back end. Several people were killed. Those fuzzy Irish bombers are in town again, and the police are rattled.
Friday 22 December
I, naked, am fragile on the floor, close by the fire, examining myself from every nook and cranny of the cobwebs in my skull. I feel so insecure this morning, so small, so tiny. I begin to ponder whether my efforts to discard my insecurities will ever be successful. I cannot say that I have become less insecure over the last few years - if anything I have become more insecure. How fragile I feel. Don't even blow on me, I'm likely to fade out of the door. Don't stare at me with those large pretty eyes, I shall only melt out of the window. What struggles I move against, what enormous piles of dust I struggle to reach over for the ice-cream. I feel like an indeterminate gnat. I must be moribund. I am decrepit. I must have passed the apex of my life some weeks ago. Now I cannot do anything at all. I cannot print without making a mess of it. I cannot cook. I can't get drunk without worrying about it. I can't communicate properly. I can't shave without nicking my skin. I can't even write. Are they really white hairs I find on my head? My stomach feels forty-five years old.
Boxing Day, Brighton
How the sea carried me off, into realms of ecstasy; how the waves tumbled me into their dreams; how the brown turgid froth dragged me up to crests and deep into the essence of brilliant turmoil; how the stones came to life, leaping out at me. Alive, how alive I feel when swimming in the sea.
Christmas day in Brighton - Joan, Gunner, Andrew, Rosy, Jenny, Tammy, Jason, Dania. Conversation was mostly dull. Rosy tried hard to entertain with jokes and stories and games - but where oh where was the spontaneity? The children seemed to be the prime essence of our entertainment the whole day long. I shouldn't whinge, it all went very well, at least until late when Rosy wanted to play Truth. Jenny pleaded tiredness. It wasn't until very late that I had a chat with Andrew, and then another with Jenny's devil, but there was no softness left for me. So Jenny is over. That was a one and a half night stand, I should say. Was I not sensuous enough? What betrayed my flat feet to her? I was in love with her body, that's true, but was I not brave enough, not young enough for her taste. I think about it too much.
Durrell completely entrances me with his writings - but completely.
Rosemary, one of the secretarys at work, has tried so hard to let me known she is resigning too, but I continue to pretend I've not understood her meaning. For two weeks now, at every meeting, she has made comments linking us together and hinting that she too is leaving. Just now, she tried again, but I did not respond with 'Oh what are you going to do?' or 'Why have you decided to leave?' It seems important to her that I respect her decision, which makes me wonder why, and if my leaving has anything to do with her decision. The coffee is lovely. I am not well, I feel unusually tired.
Today life is suddenly a joy again. I have discovered a new confidence, a new pleasure, a new faith (though not a belief) in humanity. I am undoubtedly a spring of wealth. Tonight I shall go to the opera with Sabina. Tomorrow will be my last day at work and I shall tidy up all my odds and ends. Thus, 1978 will finish in a flourish, and, there on the porch, waiting for me in a satin cloak, will be 1979. The master of ceremonies will be poverty, the chairperson will be my lord of conscience, and the debaters will include a wide range of famous emotions, both explained and unexplained.
I travelled with Ibsen through Peer Gynt's conscience - through trials with trolls and mothers, prophets, richmen and scholars. It was difficult to follow on the radio some of it, especially when I was practising juggling or silkscreen printing at the same time. I lost his purpose, sometimes, his analogies, his reason. It appears, in the first act, as though Ibsen is going to delve into the question of madness, but he bypasses that question in order to have a go at more complex issues, such as who am I? what is oneself? It's not altogether successful, and I'm not sure he leaves the audience any nearer any answers. But it is a very powerful play.
I cannot fully remember the little village of Horcon in Chile, where I spent so many wonderful weekends with N, already it fades from my memory, but I am reminded of it by being here in Aldeburgh. A considerable way off the main trunk road lies a peninsula protecting a small harbour and beach, affectionately known as Horcones but in fact, cartographically (is that a word?) it is called Horcon. The locals like to say the daytrippers don't know the true name when they say HorconES, but they all use themselves too because the meter sounds fine, swelling as it does like a huge wave. I became acquainted with a few of the older villagers, the ones that had lived there all their lives. I wondered about how they were affected by the influx of city youths, weekending with the families, the wild and modern youths, and how they coped with public displays of women's liberation and homosexuality. How did they cope, those old people? How did they rationalise the changes? How did they justify their own existences? I did feel some some pity as I watched their walnut faces, not far off funeral marches, crack their lips with forced smiles. But, having lived through three generations, I suspect these ancients were impervious to change, just as the rocks at The Point, for instance, did not know if the waves hitting them were red or blue or if the water had come from the Atlantic or the Pacific. Perhaps I should have asked one of the kindly old men to explain to me what he thought when Catarina, after three glasses of wine, took off her blouse and danced to a crackling Beatles record. Perhaps. But I am not there any more, I just recall the way the wry smiles of the grandmothers and the drunken laughs of the uncles rested lightly in the background of the bar, and the noise of the surf in the distance. Here in Aldeburgh changes came earlier. Here, of all places, the faces are not so withered, they are more corpulent with rich fish dishes. There are few poor traditional parishioners left. What farmer's boy can afford to buy a house in Aldeburgh when the city lawyers and bankers, the magnates and the entrepreneurs, tired of cigar smoke, can use their petty cash to buy a little cottage on the sea front. Women visitors to both villages can be heard to say 'My fisherman is a superb lover' but the difference is that, in Horcon, the fishermen were just becoming aware of what might lie beyond the village, while the fisherman here are all gone.
Paul K Lyons
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