PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1982 - APRIL
Thursday 1 April 1982
Seagulls sound as Sealink slips seawards.
At Patrick's flat I read a play, at least the start of a play by a man whose name I cannot remember - someone Patrick had met the other day. The playwright, Patrick tells me, won a 'Sunday Times' award, and one of his plays is due to be produced at the Lyric. I read about 10 pages but the fiction never left the dull environs of cliche.
Peter moves out of the flat today. Mandy moves in tomorrow.
Roy Jenkins won the by-election at Hillhead and is now set to become the leader of the SDP. Despite the lack of definite policies and some declining popularity, it seems the new party is a force and is here to stay. I know nothing about him, but I don't believe the existence of a strong centre party can be bad for the future of the country.
The train will soon be flitting through darkness with fleeting glimpses of factories, towns and farmhouses.
Sunday 4 April, Paris
M, how strange I dreamt you were pregnant. I cannot imagine you fat. I was at your house in the front garden - you could not bear to look at me because I had a moustache (last night I shaved my beard but not my moustache, it looks terrible). We talked about the Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas), your mother didn't know the news and you showed her the newspaper. You told me that you planned to get pregnant once with a politician and three times on your own - whatever that means. Then I wanted to see your room - it was one you had made especially - there was a walkway and we were walking slowly towards it but I felt you didn't want me to see it. Philip was asleep, you said.
Bateaux mouching on the Seine: the couples, the cross-legged middle-aged man at peace with his newspaper, the boys, the lovers on the steps. The Louvre. Gare D'Orleans with its dirty broken windows, the giant stopped clock, the throned figures; moored barges; white sandstone promenades. In early spring, lines of American plane trees; bare branches reaching to grey skies; the ever-imposing Eiffel Tower; occasional cherry blossom. The great glasshouse purring up and down the river between the snapshots; ornate grey slate roofs; graffiti - 'In Paris death is more sweet than life'; willows already green; an occasional artist on the riverbank.
Tuesday 6 April
In Sutton High Street I saw a boiler-suited worker carrying a side of beef on his back and walk into an opticians.
We do all follow the Falklands crisis closely. As it approaches 1.00pm I think to turn on the news to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. At times, the news services find it difficult to discover a suitable lead sentence but today they should be OK for the British blockade 200 miles around the islands was initiated at 4.00am. Apparently, all the Argentine vessels are safely in port, steering clear of direct antagonism at this stage. In my view, the US has taken a mediator's role, neither for the British nor the Argentines. At first glance, this would seem somewhat unfair of the US given the strong economic and political (indeed one could say emotional) ties between the two nations and the fascist government of Argentina. And, yet, perhaps the US can be a good friend to Britain by playing this impartial role. Were they to come out wholly on the side of the British, the world of nations, let alone the Argentines, would deny any US role at mediation. However, surely it is a bad example to the world's more uncivilised rulers that Galtieri can act in such a way and not be condemned by the US.
The religious significance of Easter has touched me not a whit this year. Neither have I given nor received an egg, nor have I heard or seen any TV or radio programme connected with it. I listen to the New World Symphony as an antidote to the thumping music upstairs.
Bel was here for two nights. Bit like man and wife. She sewing, washing and plant potting while I continued with a spring clean. I stripped the top of the kitchen table and this has transformed the room. Bel never got self-conscious nor I bored. At one end of Dollis Hill Park there is a small pond in which a statue of a thin young naked girl stands; so vulnerable and erotic, a bit like Bel. I learned the names of quince, mahonia and berberis darwinii, and she learned those of Fassbinder and Bresson - the directors of films we've seen recently (Fassbinder's 'Lola' was an absolute delight - very Ibsenesque with jazzed up images).
'Look Back in Anger' was on the radio yesterday. This was the first time I had heard it. I can't think of much to say about it except that it sounds like a young man's bitter attack on his own rather pointless existence. The play seems a bit dated and, strangely, pretentious.
It still does not sink in that this IS life and it is passing away. I exist in a kind of expectancy that suddenly life is going to impose on me tinsel and colour and riches and people. But this IS life and its banality is astounding.
Wednesday 14 April
Damn it! I had a puncture. I promised myself I would change the back tyre at Easter but I didn't, and the result was a puncture. I shall have to go and collect the bike in the car tonight. On leaving it, I went to catch a train at Edgware road station and saw a couple of men repairing a platform clock. It was at least two feet in diameter but the inner clock mechanism was no bigger than my alarm clock. It seemed so wrong for a big clock to have such a tiny mechanism. Perhaps it was faulty because the gearing system couldn't cope with turning heavy hands all the time.
An hysterical phone call from Ann Monday night. She had locked herself out. A part of me should be flattered that she feels safe enough to come here, but a part of me also knows that I don't wanna be thought of as safe. A man is stressing her, so she comes to a past conquest for ego support. I've done the very same thing myself.
I was hoping for great things from BBC2's 'Play for Tomorrow' series which began last night with 'Crimes'. But it was pathetic. Instead we watched a programme on photography by Lord Snowdon. This was soft and brilliant. He talked to many different photographers about their work with portraits, food, fashion, car, advertising, gently prying for the skill behind each specialisation. For the food photographer, ice cream must not touch the glass when being placed within it, and a glass of sherry must have two bubbles. The portrait artist shines her subjects with light as though she were painting them. The car photographer spends an entire day setting up the scene (maybe weighing down the vehicle to make it look sleeker) and then won't even take the final photo himself because the work is done.
18 April, Oslo
Well I do seem to be getting around this year! Oslo, Norway. Spring has not arrived here yet, the grasses still have their winter colour, old yellows more like dry moss, and the trees are still bare, stark bushes of brown branches. I am in Frogner Park where 150 Vigeland sculptures are arranged in a succession of terraces and stairways - an extraordinary blend of atmospheres (it makes me think of both an ancient ruined temple site and Whitmanesque joy, but of the Norwegian family). The only colour is the occasional red sweater or a child with red trousers. The sun shines, so families and couples are here, sitting, walking, talking - behind, beneath, by the dark bronze and light granite sculptures. But which is more interesting - to look at real people or the sculptures? From a distance, Vigeland's forms well resemble the conglomerations of people sitting, walking, talking. An old couple stand by a statue of an old couple standing; four children sit close together beneath a sculpture of four children playing. Eye contact is difficult, there is little uncontrolled or spontaneous behavious in the park, no one is making a fool of themselves by jogging or doing exercises. (But, as I write, some students have come to exercise right in front of me, as if to counter what I'm thinking. Similarly, when I was on the bus earlier I was thinking how everything in Norway conforms, and then the bus opened its doors while still moving at a non-stop and let some people jump off.) This park is a celebration of the family. I hear English spoken. My feet tread among sycamore helicopters. According to Gustav Vigeland, the archetypal Norwegian is robust, not corpulent but not athletic either, stocky rather than tall, but not small. There is no beauty in the faces, rather a sternness of expression. The man is strong, the protector, the lifter, the bearer, the father. Ancient Greece transmuted to modern Norway? Perhaps he is a Norwegian romantic - with practical overtones. He sculpts young and old with equal authority; he has no fear of strange or extraordinary positions.
A day of walking from city limit to city limit. Perhaps, one time I will go to a city and deliberately see nothing. But, I am glad to have seen Vigeland, and I did want to go to the Munch museum. The painter's very name sounds ripe to be coupled with museum. I do not like his paintings. To me, it seems as though he cannot translate his images onto canvas successfully, he botches, he never fulfils a face, his colours are drab rather than symbolic. And yet his woodcuts spring to life, touch the emotions, display brilliance. 'The Scream', 'Angst', 'The Kiss', 'Towards the Wood' - it is in these prints that I see his soul expressed, the artist alive, suffering but alive.
I'm not very good with hotel rooms. All they do is provide rest for my feet. To sit down at that desk over there and write is somewhat beyond me. Making this entry is difficult enough after a long day. I lie on the bed in a small mustard room. It's as uninspiring as Oslo. Nothing really sparked my imagination today in the city itself. Neither the people nor the places nor the buildings. The food was lovely, though. I ate a simply-fried trout with sour cream. But no stories, fantasies waved across my thoughts.
I didn't bring my camera because of a lack of bag space, but I did see many photographs I would have taken, not least in the sculpture park. But yesterday, in Kilburn, your pretentious young camaraman took two reels of b&w inside the derelict church on the corner. The delectable, the ravishable Manzi was my model. Taking her clothes off for the camera, she muttered 'I'll do anything for art'.
Tuesday 20 April, Bergen
Sometime in September I wrote a short article about some shipbrokers leaving their firm, X, which was acting exclusively for shipowner (Odfjell Johnsen) and setting up on their own. A broker told me, perhaps innocently but probably not, that the split was caused by friction within the Odfjell Johnsen partnership. Naively, I published that information. I then received a long telex from X, complaining about the article and inviting me to a press conference in New York, but I didn't reply. So, I was a bit nervous going for an interview with both the head of X and the head of Odfjell Johnsen. I think the chief of X was exactly as I imagined. I sat quietly for a while and took his froth, but he went on too long and I began to resent his behaviour, and argue back. The boss of the shipping company, Abraham Odfjell, meanwhile, sat quietly only occasionally pointing out that I should have replied to the telex. I wanted to pass the buck onto my editor, Tony Cox, but instead I stuck firmly to a position in which I admitted only a slight mis-phrasing. Unfortunately, this matter clouded the rest of interview. On my side, I just couldn't be bothered to be nice. On reflection, though, I think it would have been cleverer to keep them happy, to not argue. Anyway a lesson learnt. It must be better to get one's way than to be seen to be right. I must loosen up my pride. This is probably easier at work than it is socially.
Bergen is ships. Boat building, sailing, fishing, Vikings. A tourist guide tells me that the fish market down by the harbour is probably the most photographed place in Norway. Some smelly recommendation. But what fabulous sailing boats - wonders of craftsmanship - they had in them days. The Neptun cafe, an adjunct to my hotel, has plenty of pictures and models of them. A coffee costs £1, a hotel room £40, and a meal £10. Apples are £1.50/kg. A Norwegian mile is ten kilometres.
21 April 1982, Bergen
A nervous twitch in my eye during the last few days. Nerves, fear of not being able to perform? I travel and work through Norway almost as if I were in a cocoon, unnoticed, unaffecting. I did sit in the hotel bar last night drinking a whisky that cost me £2 and had my first non-work conversation with a Norwegian. He had been to boarding school in West Buckland, Devon. He told me about a transport strike affecting all of Norway.
Morning. Dull. London. Returning from Norway early evening I went out in search of company. The Tricycle was hostile; Jane was out, so was Patrick. I really wanted to see Sooz, but I didn't even ring her bell.
My transparencies are included in the GLC photographic exhibition - fame at last! There is a private view next Thursday.
Two extraordinary full page advertisements in 'The Times'. One is by a group of Argentinians living in New York and detailing the 'true story' of the Malvinas. The other is to announce the second coming of Christ. Someone made the point that a true Christ wouldn't bother with advertising or have need of such tatty promotions. Meanwhile, the fleet steams onwards, perhaps towards war.
Norwegian proverb: For what one wears and walks in one pays no custom house duty.
An irradiant sky, even birds sing along the Iverson Road. I can hear a distant plane, some cars nearby, footsteps clicking along the pavement. A lorry throttling along the high road nearby, a builder hammering, a train trembling through the tracks. Then silences and a child's cry, a laugh, and then thoughts take over.
An argument - on the need for nuclear arms - last night in Liz's flat with Rick and Andy. Rick and Andy were extremely knowledgeable and quoted statistics constantly, but there was still a fundamental assumption in their beliefs that the Russian system was not so bad, and that there was some sort of equality between the US and Russia. On the Trident missiles, my point was simply that, as I did not know enough about the government's decision, it might, only might, be making the right move. There must be a thousand considerations in such a decision - and yes some of the weight will come from agreements with allies such as the US and from industrial pressures too, but it is not the whole story. And besides even those considerations - which are so attacked by the anti-Trident lobby - are part and parcel of what is best for the country.
To get on in the world, I must learn to lie and hide my feelings. Life is made up of an endless chain of situations. He who manages them best manages life best. I always say next time round I'll do it better. Taking dope always leaves me feeling so insecure about myself. Thinking back to the evening at Liz's, I feel I was arrogant and retarded in arguing. I just fended off arguments with blabber. When sober I feel right about myself, but stoned, I seem to see how entrenched I am, how proud and immovable. I feel small and ignorant. Will I ever settle out of this turmoil? Will I ever again be content with myself?
Paul K. Lyons
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