PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1980 - DECEMBER
It is Sunday. I did not pull myself out of bed until 1:30 this afternoon. Quite unusual these days for me to spend so long in bed. Last night I went to a party at the house where Harvey is staying. A 25th century fancy dress theme inspired me to dress as a martian. I painted my face green and wore the long black satin gown I've had for years. My flatmate Peter K. thought I looked quite intimidating. Most people couldn't cope with martian double talk. It seems I still expect too much from parties, and I spent the whole evening without striking any chimes.
I went with Julian to see Thornton Wilder's 'Matchmaker' at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Always good value entertainment at the Embassy Studio. On Thursday. I went with Ros and Jane to see 'The Italian Straw Hat', an awful amateur production at Paddington Hospital. Nigel had a minor role, but hammed it up because we were there. Afterwards, stage high and high on the whisky bottle hidden in his pocket, he raced us down to Boswell's joint, south of the river, before bringing us back here. I plied them all with Benedictine over a discussion of Marlowe's politics and death; and, in an aside, I invited Ros to stay but she declined.
And then, as if to prove that this has been my most social week in many months, Flavia came to stay, and to highlight a night until dawn. She was so keen, so lovely, so enticing, and so very sexual. We've met and talked twice before; I know she lived with Peter B. for four years, and that it was a very fraught relationship. In the morning cool of the sun, we walked across the Heath and talked a little. She said she felt as though she had shed a skin. Her flaxen hair and film star lips disappear to Italy this week for Christmas. On Sunday, I could still feel the mark of her unskilled hand on my foreskin.
I torture Sunday afternoon with my ideas for fiction, but I'm still recovering from Flavia.
Evolution trapped me in its theories one night. Often it appears to me that virtually the whole human race is living in its own hypocrisy, and probably because of it. Religion, for example. It is so plain that the concept of god or a supernature is absurd. The truth of the matter being that we are as insignificant to the universe as an atom is to us. For some reason, the human race has not been able to conceive of its own insignificance and its memember therefore have made gods and idols. As the world becomes more modern, so other methods have been found to combat insignificance. Hobbies, sports, work, causes all often provide a raison d'etre for people. But the truth is we are utterly insignificant outside our own sphere of influence. There are moments when I find even the discussion of religion, or the taking of it in consideration, bizarre. Certain writers bear me out in the way they dismiss religion as immaterial to the free-thinker. Yet no-one I know can completely dismiss religion in the way I do.
Thursday 11 December 1980
Christopher Asante comes for tea. He stands for the free and liberal world that attracts me so strongly, and yet I fight it constantly. It's difficult to achieve that confidence and ability to attract. I felt with him as I felt three years ago with Harold, coy and protective. His chief interest in me is sexual. My interest in him is that he is one of the actors in 'SpaceAche', the new Snoo Wilson play at the Tricycle Theatre, where I work in the bar sometimes. He's from Ghana, and quite determined to make it to the top of the acting profession. He lives as a couple with an LWT producer in Clapham. He told me that 'SpaceAche' was first offered to the Bush but they rejected it. And yet, as far as I knew, it was commissioned by Ken Chubb. Christopher slates him as an abominable director. I asked about the disappointment that must occur when he sees his work slaughtered. Professional was the word Christopher used to describe the attitude Snoo held towards the production. He also mentioned that others at the Tricycle had called me weird. What a word, am I weird?
13 December, Godshill
Salisbury appears to become more parochial and middle class each time I visit. There is a hat shop, the ever-so-clean-and-tidy market (though it still auctions lumps of meat), bookshops, gift centres, wholefood stores, American restaurants, and an art's centre that boasts a display of ceramics and local craft and is frequented by bearded men and pregnant women; the restaurant sells hot potato and cheese for 55p. Swept roads, no tramps in the market square, a cathedral that charges tourists to enter. I'm sure there's a duck pond somewhere.
Bel relaxes more than ever with me. We sit quietly by the fire talking about life, about people we've known who went mad. The freckles on her face glow humbly with love and thanks and the first real desire she has ever known. Sometimes I tease her, and unintentionally hurt her with sarcasm. Lawrence Durrell or was it Pursewarden said 'Happiness is only an overfed ego'. In this case I suspect he is right.
Ladybird was once a famous brandname in children's clothing. In 1932 the Pasold brothers came to England to set up a factory because they had found importing from their native Czechoslovakia to England very difficult. They bought a site cheaply in Langley, near Slough, and set up a manufacturing plant. (Site location was important because fresh water was needed for the clothes dies.) Sometime later they bought the Ladybird trade name and pumped all their marketing resources into its success. It flourished in the post-war boom and on into the fifties and early sixties. The name Ladybird became synonymous with quality, largely due to the efforts of Eric Pasold who was responsible for public relations. The current personnel director, Mr Turnbull, remembers him affectionately to this day, and tells stories about his ability to capture publicity and get media coverage for innovations. For example, he says, the Pasolds were the first company to use a private aeroplane - they would commute between Czechoslovakia and Slough. Eric used to live on the factory premises. He had a swimming pool built with a chute that connected to his bedroom, so that, on waking, he could slide down into the water. When Moulton bicycles first came on the market he bought one each for all his managers. Later, when roller skates were first seen, he bought them for those workers who had to traipse along the factory's long corridors. In those days, there were factories all over the country and the Ladybird symbol appeared everywhere. The Slough factory was a busy, happy, thriving workplace, Turnbull says. Today, there is a depressing atmosphere. Pasolds now employs about 1,000 people, compared to over 6,000 in the past. There are empty desks throughout; the canteen is far too large; and the corridors are bleak and reminiscent of another generation. The Pasolds themselves sold out just before the decline. Turnbull, who I feel is under-employed, tells me all this over a leisurely lunch in an Iver pub, for I am here on MORI business. There is a huge recession, and the textile industry is particularly badly hit. Throughout the country people are losing their jobs. Companies go out of business, they cannot make any profit and still the employees demand higher wages.
15 December 1980
Wet and grey have come upon us; the city traffic and terraced houses yawn. I try and estimate what I should do today, tomorrow, for ever, as always. I would read the library books, or go to King's Cross and do some photography, but neither seem vital enough. Should I send out another batch of letters this morning, or relax for three weeks. After the New Year, I could redouble my efforts until I exhaust all possible outlets. And then? Run away to find fame and fortune in a chance encounter.
Wednesday 17 December 1980
I cannot cope with empty days. Waking early at dawn, I find it impossible to face a whole day and evening without any engagements or pressing things to attend to. On Monday I read. On Tuesday I read and began to think about the north wind. And today I tried to formulate a plot for a play, but I keep breaking down to eat, sleep, cry or think about other things. The day passes so slowly. Yet at MORI I'm busy the whole day long, and it passes too quickly. How can I find the concentration that I need. I've been hesitating all day as well, making decisions and then going back on them. It's a very bad sign, no decision power. And worse, I can't see any improvement in 1981. Can I?
Paul K Lyons
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