PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1979 - OCTOBER
Tuesday 2 October
I went to Greece last October, should I this one. Marielle recommends Greece, tells me it's my turn to go visiting. I sign myself up for semi-work with the P.C. - the builder's mate strikes again. Graeme rings to say he's coming home. We are a little akin to a family here. At weekends there's fun and games, if just one person is in, then all the others ring to check on their wellbeing. All our humour is based on esoteric in-jokes, sexual or personal.
I wish I were in range of Dominique. There begins another love story, from the arms of one love to the next, and how else should it be. The edges of her character are not sharp. She has a maturity and sensibility unusual for those attached to the new age world. But, she still throws the I Ching to see if she should quit her job. The last answer: 'perseverance furthers'. With her sex is just beautiful, the loving, the touching - I can spend all day in bed entwined with her smooth snake body.
There was something boiling in me the other night. I went out, became alive, hit the streets with my pickled smile and chutney humour, half sweet, half sour. A rejuvenation entered me, and, for a while, I was fun to be with. And so was Emanuella. Did Jan see our first kiss? Did it scare her to sleep and leave me wanting, wanting all night long. And there was I not daring to tiptoe across the carpet to where Emanuella lay in the flimsiest of night dresses, her breasts silhouetted by the candle she had lit to wait for me. The mind and the body in turmoil, fighting some kind of battle in detail, in which I challenged my own morals, examined my own hypocrisy. How could I go to E when I knew how badly J would feel in such a position. But, oh the spark, the Latin fire waiting, the promise of sex in hell.
Miss Declerq found my wallet outside the Brookfield Church Hall. She duly took it to the police station in Forest Row. All its items were written down in the constable's duty book and a copy of the list put with the wallet in a plastic container. From the driving licence they established my old address - 68 Fordwych Road - and from that must have found a telephone number; and, whoever they rang at 68 must have given them the number of the flat here in Leyton. All this was achieved within several hours. My wallet contained: one ten pound note, one five pound note, two one pound notes, three metro tickets, one Timex wristwatch, one driving licence, one library ticket, four half-penny stamps, and one traveller's cheque for £50. Miss Declerq lives in Ruby Road. Should I take her some ruby red flowers in thanksgiving, for she saved me from much hardship. Or should I send her a polite letter on autumn paper wishing her a pleasant Christmas season? Is she 14 or 69? Is her hair dyed blonde and cut to a fringe? Does she speak French?
Arthur Rubinstein plays Chopin. He can't be very good if all the crackle belongs to him.
Graeme comes home and complains about the injustice of Arts Council, and the fact that the grant to his dance company is being cut while another similar company is being set up.
Wednesday 10 October
Life is rattling past. I have carried this book with me for eight days without writing in it. My creativity is a sore throat. Time passing, lives falling. My mind is garbaged while I continue to live her in Leyton. A letter pulls me to Greece. There's never any fucking pens that work in this house.
My hair and pores are filled with dust as I pull the Phantom Captain shop to pieces ready for the Phantom Plasterer and the Phantom Gutterer. Chihane invites me to take some photos.
Emanuella comes. Her naturalness counterpoints and emphasises my own falseness. She catches me screwing regardless of her pleasure. She accuses me of being a stranger in bed. Several games later, though, we reestablish contact. At one point I ask if she is cleverer than me. She snaps back: 'I don't want competition'. I take it as a compliment. She thinks, I suppose, that competition prises a relationship apart, polarises it. She talks about there being no best. I listen to her, sometimes like a schoolboy, and sometimes like a teacher caught by the wisdom of his pupil. She treats conversation like game, but, after several sallys and retorts, neither of us is sure how far the game is going. She moves in and out of being serious or playful at will, without rules. She says her main aim is to find a sugar daddy. I say that's boring, but she is not persuaded. She knows she is exciting, I suppose, so why not sell her excitement to the highest bidder. Her philosophy so matches mine it is uncanny. I'm not sure I've ever met someone whose thoughts are so close to mine, and who tries to live by them also. She talks about her friends and their qualities, but she will not talk about me except to say I am beautiful. Tonight, while she is here, I am writing her into these pages.
Harold finally left, creeping away in the night, no tears just lots of bags, to a new life in Paris. There he will find new Pauls and new Rosers. I write to Marielle, asking her how she dare try to seduce me to Greece with such plain words.
There are a hundred and one things I should be writing about in this diary: Schopenhauer, Woyceck, Docks, my mother, the state of the nation, jumble sales, robberies, films, theatre, books. I could go on for ever but how can I extrapolate the essence of this existence. How can I remember the subtle moments.
Some dull individuals from Spain are cramping in Rosina's room while Graeme grumbles about money and the kitchen and rain. Dominique and I agree people need space. I need it badly and sadly. I'm stalling. Andrez, a puppeteer from Madrid, comes to stay.
I still work on the last chapter of 'The Gardeners', but the whole novelette is not good enough. 'The Beast' plays at the ICA. Should I do a Borges trick? That was a joke. There is not enough irony in this book. There is not enough intelligence in my head. I read Conrad, Miller, Schopenhauer, Pushkin, Isherwood, Lyons.
Schopenhauer is more of a slob and a snob than I. He talks of the intellect being the highest and best quality, and how the masses are ignorant and thick. He talks of the greatest happiness being found in solitude and in the hobby of thinking. He gives analogies that are simple and thought-provoking - but wrong. They don't hold up. One of them is about porcupines. He likens humans to porcupines, who, when they are cold (read bored), come together but find they prick each other, so retreat, but then get cold again and return to a mass. They then prick themselves again and realise the best position is to be as close to neighbours as possible without touching them. He talks of boredom a lot, and how the ordinary human resorts to the company of other humans to allay boredom. One of his strongest points, to my mind, is that happiness is only the lack of pain. He says happiness cannot be attained and that it is better to go through life trying to avoid misery. I think - he says modestly - my theory about how our feelings are always relative is more robust: a person adjusts to whatever situation they are in which creates a norm; if circumstances change temporarily then that can give rise to misery or joy temporarily; if that situation then persists a new norm re-establishes itself. Look at my situation for a moment. Objectively it is a hundred times more desirable than two years ago, yet am I any happier? Happiness does exist - as a positive force, not a permanent thing, and it is possible to strive after ecstasy.
Thursday 11 October
I don't remember the details of the days as they flutter back and forth. There is little in my life. I don't watch the leaves crinkle to the ground. I am with people often, alone less and less. I have a sense of losing my uniqueness, my ability to be alone. What if lovers dissolve and friends melt, it would be hard for me. I have not yet learnt to really work. Cigarettes still harm my concentration in the morning. Do they harm my memory. My memory destroys me sometimes. D mentions a film 'Padre Padrone', I've seen it but don't remember a single detail from it. I hardly remember the plot from 'Justine'. I remember nothing about the South American patterns and pottery I looked into once upon a time in my silk screen printing days. Rosy says I'm full of schemes - she's right. But I never do anything about them.
I just watched a programme about the Aztecs. 400 years ago the Spanish destroyed their civilisation and built Mexico City. Now parts of the city are being pulled down to restore the temples. The programme narrator says 'it seems ironic'. Aztecs sacrificed humans, and drank the blood to make sure the sun came up the next day. Now we are celebrating them to the point where scientists inject white fluids into their stones to give them strength to last.
I waste hours in libraries looking for a Borges quote and a Chinese myth. I can't find either. Why didn't I write them written down when I first came across them?
Friday 12 October
There is a problem in having two lovers. I forget how to behave. Emanuella gives me new standards, new behaviours. Unthinkingly, I find myself acting differently in bed with Dominique, and she doesn't like it. I have the horrible thought that it might be very hard for me to settle down sexually with one person. Travelling makes a good analogy. I knew it would be difficult to stop moving and yet could not carry on moving - so I stopped and it was difficult. The same must be true of sex. If one becomes used to changing lovers every month or two, then one is heading for a fall.
Where were my eyes in Brixton? I remember the buoyancy in the streets, the Jamaicans skipping along, the reggae music spilling out of upstairs windows streaming with yellow light. I remember the young black man who addressed himself to me as we passed: 'd'ya wanna smoke man'. He was casual, he was hip, he had me sussed from the first eyeful.
It is impossible to handle two relationships at once. D plans to come to jumble sales with me on Saturday; but then E wants to come. I say to E that I prefer she doesn't, and that's OK, but I feel silly. Then D doesn't turn up because she's suddenly busy with work. Later, at five, she rings to say she's coming to the flat. Soon after D's call, E rings for a chat that and says 'see you later'. I fear that she has decided to visit without telling me! An hour later, I hear stones at the window. E is standing there. I expect D in five minutes. I tell E I'm expecting someone else, and she acts cool. She asks if I want her to go or play the long lost aunt. Graeme saves me because he is just leaving for the opera and offers to take E too. Now I sit alone with the white light on this black table worrying that Patrick, Graeme and E will meet D on the road and persuade her to go the opera with them too!
Sometimes you don't see the sky for the trees, and sometimes you don't see the trees for the sky.
I read some of my short short stories from South America to Dominique. She likes them. I like them again. I would like to write more, but I don't feel much inspiration living in this city. Perhaps I should try this winter. Just from the last few weeks, I could write ten lines, about the pub on the corner, for example, or the thief I caught. No, no, no, my eyes are closed. I walk the streets and I think about 'The Gardeners' or the women I spy. I travel on the tube and I read, I don't see. I've decided I must finish 'The Gardeners' by the time I go to Greece, and, during the winter, I will write a radio play.
When should I go to Downton. And will I ever go to New York? Phil rang last night. He wants to come and visit. I wonder what Patrick said about us all. I've decided to cut out cigarettes, reduce coffee, butter and eggs, and get up earlier in the day.
If people ask me what I do or what I'm doing, I say 'I'm trying to write'. When did that first start? When did all this obsession with being a writer start? There's a long way to go, but I am not ambitious, I give myself a few years. Perhaps I'll allow myself to piddle around with words until I'm 30.
I am very worried by the way the weeks and months have taken to mingling themselves into obscurity, for this reason I have begun to chronicle the days.
Monday: 10:00am - quick breakfast - Phantom Captain shop - letter to Harold - to see Luke - home - Phil here - talking, clearing up - 7:30-10:30 typing, writing.
Tuesday: 10:00am - chatter till midday - Phil, Graeme to town - typing till 2 - Walthamstow library - Mum at 4 - PC shop at 6 - home at 9 - more typing and writing - chapter three finished - 12:30 to bed - Graeme to Brighton.
Wednesday: 11:30 sign on - PC shop till 5:30 - Swiss Cottage library - Blenheim Terrace - home 8:30 - television 9-10 - reading Borges and music till midnight - four cigarettes - Phil goes
Thursday: 8:30 - library - lunch - PC shop at 1 till 6:30 - plastering - Prompt Corner Cafe - Cockpit new plays - bed 12:30
Friday: 9:30 - Andrez arrives - 2:00 PC shop - 7:00 Action Space with Andrez - home - Graeme and Patrick staying the w/e - 1:30
Saturday: 9:30 - jumble sales - Lourdes arrives - reading - taping records - Action Space - Patrick, Colin - 12:30
Sunday: 9:00 - secret garden - walking, thinking - Dad for lunch - afternoon with Rosy and gang - at Camden Lock - thinking thinking - Rosy's flat - Mother's house - 'Tinker Tailor' - 12:30
Monday: 8:00 - PC shop plastering - library in search of Chinese myth - travel agent for M - home, taping and typing - chatting, typing all evening - 12:30
Tuesday: 9:00 - still lost in decisions - typing in the morning - to meet Emanuella - more walking 6:00 - Colin's room - with Colin to Leyton - 12:30
Wednesday: Entire day in Leyton - one jumble sale - one excursion shopping - decision made - story typed and finished - clearing flat of garbage 9-1
Thursday: 8:30 - Marielle telephones - to PC shop - 12:45 father - 3 Emanuella - 6 home
There is turmoil in my mind - cross winds threatening, voids emerging, great empty spaces framed with conversations. Definitions of time. How boring. Complete catastrophe of the clock. In the end - can I say that - I had to submit. I no longer hold the arrogance or the delusions of youth. Paul was here arriving a stranger with strangers talking about Huxley and Mitchell my favourites of years gone. He was modern youth. He had heard of the sixties, thought we were a blow out from it. He said he was cleaner, without ambitions. Ambitions only bring disappointment, he said. The need to experience was only self-gratification. He used that word a lot. He was arrogant, vain and pretty. I wonder if he is worth the first page of this new diary. He had a surprising intelligence, like wisdom taught rather than learned from experience.
Schopenhauer does talk a lot of sense - but sometimes he makes a complete ass of himself. His major fault is trying to classify human behaviour. It is infinitely variable. Exceptions do not prove a rule, they just go to prove variety. Goethe (in 'Elective Affinities') writes in a very plain style about the upper classes. By describing their loves and hates, their petty squabbles and joys, their daily life in such detail, he gives the impression that they have no deeper doubts about their lives. But these writers are from a couple of centuries ago. I wonder if they would have managed to amuse themselves so well without money.
Phil likes 'The Gardeners'. Colin likes 'The Gardeners'. They have only read the first part. It is not well conceived, and I am sure it is not good enough for publication. But who knows, maybe the next one. I still stand back and admire myself for having written anything at all.
The cold has suddenly hit us all. One day it was warm and the next it was cold. The electric fire is on. We have jerseys and socks on. The windows stay closed. Here is some of my dilemma. I want to go south for the winter, but I do not want to spend it all in Greece with Marielle. I toy with the idea of hitching myself up in some small hotel in Cadiz or Florence but I'm scared, and perhaps the snows will go there too.
Sunday 28 October
There is an old woman (sitting at a table? doing what?). I sit opposite her and watch. An old man comes. She gives him £10. She has a whole pile of £10 notes. When she goes away for a moment, the old man steals another £10. He only steals one £10 note each visit. This is all I remember apart from my dilemma. Should I tell the old woman that she is being robbed? Yes I should tell her in theory, but I wondered whether the old man might be her only friend. How would she react to knowing that her one friend was stealing from her? How do I know that she doesn't deliberately go away for a moment so that he can steal? And then I wake, and the memory fades.
Paul K Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG