PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1979 - JULY
Sunday July 15
Terry Moore, Luke Dixon and me. The Train. The Sunshine Special. This is the great tragedy of fringe theatre. Weeks spent organising, talking, planning, telephoning are all about to be thrust down the drain of damp enthusiasm. We got front page coverage in the Ham and High, two photos and a caption in Time Out, a mention on Capital Radio and still we have less than half a dozen phone calls. Endless discussions on why oh why the tickets are not selling, even though every person we talk to enthuses madly about the idea. But now The Sunshine Special will never take off. We will have to return money back to 60 people. The artistes will be disappointed. Our deposit to the train company is lost. Respect is lost. We failed. Tragedy. It seems the fringe community never expected The Train project to make it. There were some bad vibrations. The Phantom Captain didn't help. It would have been a most extraordinary theatre event. Should we start a save-the-train campaign?
What about Shades - London's first cafe theatre? Bar and food, music and theatre, all at the West Hampstead Railway Inn, open till one in the morning. Will anyone come? At least it takes up our conversation time. Shades. Been to Shades yet?
Monday 16 July
Terry and Luke, full of smiles, standing outside the Phantom Captain shop. Terry juggling, Luke admiring. The Sunshine Special is all over. Full propulsion to the next project - Shades. I am still smarting from defeat. Have I ever been defeated in such a way. There's nothing I can do to sell the Train, to make it go, so I sit and cry while the others are all smiles.
It was fitting that it should be so. M and I falling in love all over again, before her departure, even to the point of lovemaking in the afternoon. She lovely and in love. Black hair fringed, framing her eyes, cheeks high, lighted. We talked of all the water that had flowed beneath us and some that still raged above. But how speedy she was, buying presents, books and records, and even wondering whether she should she take a white wedding dress back with her!
Harold is away, in Wales with his sister, so there is time for unforced drama between R and I. We walk by the lakes, talk of people, dance along a street to the crackle of opera from a transistor, and fill a garden with our desires.
The weather is warm, I sleep at night, naked above the sheets. I feel the wind take me over.
Miranda said I should read Cavafy. Durrell quotes him all the time. But I couldn't find him in the library. Two weeks later, Graeme told me about a poet that his Philip is in love with, but he couldn't remember the name. I guessed it right. So that very day, I rushed out to the shops and bought his collected poems. I find shades of Durrell and Elliot in them.
How aware I become of my own ability to have a nervous breakdown. How long ago was it - one year? - that I was able to say with such confidence that I was secure and stable in my inner depths. But now I feel the possibility of going mad. Sometimes my head cuts out of situations, any place and any time, my head just cuts out and will not bother with coping. That's what Valerie had, a nervous breakdown, she just didn't recognise it, and it wasn't that serious, but I can see it happening to me. I get caught in ruts of thinking the same thoughts, even thinking about this, this mental madness.
If I went mad, Harold would hold me. Perhaps it is people like him who do not go mad because they always find solace in other people. People like me, on the other hand, isolate themselves and slowly go mad. I could prophesy another short love affair, a temporary high, but then a sinking into general neurosis. I even watch myself writing this and saying it is far more serious than I feel.
Today, Sunday, is the day of the ill-fated Sunshine Special. Here I am in Bath, at what would have been the journey's end, at the Walcott festival. Graeme mopes around not quite sure why he came. I fill in time. I see my photograph in the Sunday Telegraph, they call me a Hampstead fringe theatre group and also mention a troupe of mimes from Germany. I see the silver band at the station and the arrival of the king and queen of Walcott. I almost cry, the Sunshine Special would have been splendid. The phantom train of our dreams.
Monday 23 July
Luke tells me the Sunshine Special phone line rang all day on Friday thanks to a small theatre magazine. Perhaps it would have flown after all. Luke says it was so depressing.
And why the fuck did I go to Bath. Rosy walked on glass, and Harold whipped her. Their show was laboured and almost embarrassing, I couldn't enjoy it. Instead, I played with a girl, no older than six, all dressed in white. She played my games as well as any Harold or Roser. I listened to many self important assemblies talk, especially on the subject of policemen. Was it David Gale, writer and core member of Lumiere and Son, who sat all weekend on the podium giving out humour, messages, and poems in the wit of the driest month?
And Harold was talking about death at three in the morning, trying to formulate some design for the constancy of death, suggesting that death comes only where it will be accepted. Some people nurture the idea, he believes, are ready for the end, and it finds them, while others never harbour the thought or the possibility. To them only comes the death of the dead body, the ceasing heart. My mind meandered around the subject. I thought of murder as a journalistic experience; I thought of the film 'The Hardcore Life' about the filming of sexual murder (Harold says they are called snuff movies); I thought of the imagination of Marquis de Sade. But I didn't think of Dolly's death, nor of Waugh's book 'The Loved Ones' because I hadn't read it yet.
A letter awaits me from M, I wonder if she talks of living or dying.
It rains. It really rains.
Letter to Marielle: 'The married ones - time and time again they repair to the photo albums to find out quite what it was they had. I sweated gallantly last night, charitably donating my odours to the airs, that would not, could not, move to cool me. You can make me sweat in Amsterdam. In Vienna I'm sure I'd sneeze. In London I probably fart too much. In Greece you can hear me sing. This side of Midsummer's day I feel old. I met a little girl, she said 'I'm six, how old are you?' I said, 'Twenty-seven.' She said 'My daddy's twenty-six.' I decide nothing. I conclude nothing. The most of summer's joys are found in silence. I read about the sadness, madness, gladness the other day. It contained more love and passion than three-quarters of the poems in a book of love poetry. That magic still haunts me. That magic still haunts me.'
Tchaikovsky burns me with the Voyevode. Is it the volume or the power of the music. It is a work he himself destroyed but years later it was recomposed by someone else. The tempest will come soon. I do not burn with the desire to write. I lie on my bed the whole day through, sleeping and dreaming with Sibelius, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. I feel the wind blow over my body on this, the hottest of days. My tiredness and the strange heat make mental activity difficult.
Now it is cooler. Sunlight dribbles through the smattering of clouds. Writing this, I am reminded of my travelling days. I justify one lazy day by an ecstatic day before. That day - in Brighton - demanded shimmering violet; but it was more like plastic orange. The English sea was completely indifferent; pebbles being thrown at Seven-up cans; boys teasing girls; the outrageously daring topless and the corsetted aged; and the not-quite-so-fully-dressed-man-on-the-sand. Parasols, radios, cameras, baskets, tables, chairs, filing cabinets, plastic elephants, cutlery services, stair carpets, hair dryers, prams - oh yeah everything was there. I bore it all thanks to the diversion of Jan's diary. What was I doing with Jan's diary on Brighton beach? Who is Jan?
What could be worse than a diarist lover? Secrets revealed each by each in private pages, possibly to be ravished by the inquisitive other. Would I dare write such things as: she has dirty feet; she doesn't comb her hair; she wears (and this is terrible) dresses with half torn sleeves. Quite honestly, no, I dare not, for if she were to read that I was sensitive to such things, the embarrassment would kill me. Therefore, I feel I should confine myself to the more pleasant sides of her nature.
It all started at that most exclusive of clubs, Action Space, with red candles shimmering into mirrored alcoves, purple velvet cushions, exotic cocktails, and quiet piano music lulling the senses. We took a taxi to the Secret Garden to catch the glowing red sunset - the walkways were overgrown with shrubbery, and the pergolas were rich in dying roses. And there was the pond with its multiplying lilies and the lawn with the ideal gradient for rolling down. Thence to the pub where we indulged in ports and lemons and endless chatter. This was the love of life, love of laughter, love of falling in love - the giving of oneself, time and energy, the searching for agreement, the finding of common interests and the ignoring of whatever might not fit. After port and lemons, there was the long tube voyage to Leyton, but we had to stop at Walthamstow Central, so Jan could use the loo; and there, by the bus station loos, did we first touch hands. The first tingling sensations.
Sunday 29 July
Lying the whole day long on my bed. Just lying and listening to music. Two small excursions made, one to the sales and one to the desk to write. Neither were adventurous or successful. The joy of the day was just lying on the bed, either ignoring or revelling in music. This went on till 9 or 9:30 when I speeded up my thoughts with some of that green stuff. I watched images in my head dance to the music. I wanted to make more stories but wailed at how slight my imagination was. I woke at three in the morning and finished the apple juice. Then I was woken at five and drank tea with Patrick and Roser who had danced all night. At six I was hop scotching it to Brick Lane Market.
The tremendous heat of the last few days broke into a cold rain, an almost winter rain. At the market, people were huddling in the bacon-and-egg cafes wishing they hadn't come. Here are parrots sold, car bits, antique feathers and clocks, bicycles, fruit, books, clothes, shoes, cans of peas, carpet, scrubbing brushes, cigarette cards, hats. If it don't work bring it back next week, they say, which always gets a laugh or two. The drizzle in Britain is always cold. Here at the market, more people protect themselves with cardboard boxes or paper bags than umbrellas. I, with my light silk shirt and arms rolled bare, shiver.
Jan once found 33 four-leaf clovers. She gave them all to her mother who then distributed them among her bingo friends.
I undress my prettiness in the garden, my feet and head free to wind, beneath the tree of velvet lightning.
Harold's child is rampant now. He says: 'If I'm going to work with Peter Brook. . .', or 'I'm going to get a job in first aid then maybe I can get work on a boat back to South Africa. . .' or 'We'll have a flat in Paris and London . . .' I say: 'If you don't stop dreaming I'll smack your bottom.'
I know the names of so few trees and flowers. Nothing essential or violent exists in our lives. This depressing sanity. Nothing at all but old lines.
Paul K Lyons
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