PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1982 - NOVEMBER
Thursday 4 November, London
Felt smug, arrogant, overworked, tired, violent this week.
My editor Tony Cox has been giving me bullshit again. I blew up. We shouted at each other, he threatened to give me a formal warning and I threatened to walk out. Psychologically, I'm sure I only felt strong enough to do it because I know he's in a weak position with both Steve and Janet having walked out. But the office still sways noticeably against me whenever Tony does. But I'm sure I'm doing my job well: I wrote two pages this week including freight rates (which need a lot of phone calls), whilst Peter and Tony and Lynn did three pages between them. Also, at the printers, I caught several errors that Pete, the deputy editor, had missed (even though I always think of myself as bad at proof reading).
Sylvie tells me Pip has rung but I can't find the drive to call her back, can't find enough of an excuse. A card from Jean arrives: she's back in England and trying to sell her autobiographical writing to Virago. Perhaps we'll meet next week.
I haven't eaten a decent meal in more than two days. Man does not live by bread alone. Man does not dance on tea alone.
Friday 5 November
Last week's 'New Scientist' contained two interesting articles. One concerned a Chinese thesis about unusual configurations of planets. The weather on earth, it says, is noticeably affected when all the planets are in one 90 degree sector of the universe opposite the earth through the sun. Of course, the effect on the earth depends on how closely the planets bunch up. But, it concludes, there is a cycle of about 180 years. Chinese records dating back 2,000 years have been used to show unusually cold winters following such configurations. The other article concerned the difficulties of trying to dam for hydroelectricity in the jungle. Brazil is planning several large projects and is well on the road to constructing the world's biggest dam in a jungle area. The problems are epic. First of all there is the stink from decomposing vegetation that can affect villages miles away and last years. Secondly, a certain type of waterweed thrives on conditions of rotting vegetation and can completely clam up the surface of the new lakes, badly clogging machinery when the water runs through. The water itself is decidedly more acidic because of the rotting and tends to corrode the dam machinery much quicker than anticipated. Also, the author notes that the vast tracks of land earmarked for the flooding are often the same as those set aside for indian cultures.
Tuesday 9 November
Harold came to visit last night. I moaned about my work, and he enthused over the latest actor he has met. We talk of Colin, Ros, Rosy. Patrick is in good form, working again. Hoorah. We swap symbols of affection: he brings me port and cheese, I criticise his projects. He shows me a L. Durrell book given him by one of his lovers. I show him a book of T. S. Elliot criticism I picked up yesterday. Over dinner I get bored of his projections - this always happens in conversation with him and I find myself cutting off. His dreams and fantasies fly as high as ever. I cannot connect with them. I look away, act bored and he continues talking. He tells me Marielle will give birth this December. I remember a letter I sent her. It started - 'A red letter day today. . .' I wonder if it was close.
Thursday 11 November
Brezhnev is dead. Last night the Moscow correspondents suspected one of the leaders had died and were qualifying their stories with intros such as 'speculation is centring on . . .'. The other main story is the sentencing of Geoffrey Prime to 38 years in prison. He has been spying for the Russians from GCHQ for more than ten years. The Americans suspect he may have given away secrets concerning the position of the allies' nuclear missiles. Despite Brezhnev's death people walk up and down Sutton High Street in much the same way they always do. Dour clothes, unsmiling faces, plain girls, old age pensioners resting on benches. Despite the complete disappearance of China and the vanishing of 700 million people, the residents of Sutton still walk up and down the High Street in much the same way as they always do.
Nat just used the word 'poppycock' on the telephone. I'm sure she only used it because yesterday's 'Evening Standard' used the word on its own as a bold front page headline to describe an irrelevant story about a waiter at Lloyds expelled from work for wearing a poppy.
Jean is back from Spain carrying around a briefcase of writings: her autobiography and accounts of her sexual adventures. She has left some texts with Virago who she hopes will publish them under the title 'Why I love men'. Conversation with her always comes round to sex, but I found I was bored - I don't know why - and wanted to get away.
19 November 1982
Here I am on a sub-editing and lay-out course. I can't say I am thoroughly bored with it - we do laugh. But, at the moment, we are talking about words and Americanisms. The teacher asked me if I would use the word 'date'. I thought about it and answered yes, but only in an ironic way.
I just had a brilliant idea. This is a curious age. Why not publish modern diaries by unfamous people.
Sunday 21 November
These are our lives passing by. It is 7.40pm. Vivaldi. Rain.
I have been offered a job by Peter Savage with McGraw-Hill on their newsletter and wire services - a whole different ball game from European Chemical News, Savage says. The salary is thousands higher. There isn't a typewriter in sight as everyone uses VDUs. I will have my own office, telephones with volume controls. The job will be based in Piccadilly and involve lots of European travel. How can I refuse. I've talked with Luke, Raoul, Bel and they all agree I must take it. What pleasure it will be to hand in my notice to Cox. There is a drawback to this jetset job and that is, it's a move away from journalism.
I meet Claudia, my uncle's second wife, and Martin's mother. Strangely, she looks like my mother with a squarish face battling against age with short cropped hair. She is intense with a tiring way of talking, and referring to psychology. At one point she saw me yawning, and made some deduction which I've now forgotten. She was very anxious to know all the details of my meeting with Fred. In return I heard how she left Mike in Morocco driving all the way back to Sofia in a little Citroen with two babies. I heard about Angela's break-up from Kenneth and then about the research into the execution of her father, General Zamo. In 1942, the King of Bulgaria was in league with the Nazi's, but Zamo was publicly against the Nazis. It was, therefore, assumed he was in league with the Russians and, by treaty, to the Allies. He was executed, and Claudia of him as a martyr. Now he is considered a hero, and streets are named after him. Claudia wants to know exactly how and why he was killed but has found documents that are classified secret until 2018. 'Well,' she says, 'Martin will see them or his children.' After this talk in a smoky pub we return to Angela's house. Angela's back garden stands in the shadow of Arsenal football stadium. I like Angele. It is interesting to listen to her. She communicates well and unselfishly. She looks old, her face and body lanky and bony, yet her mind is keen and practical.
Luke is not now moving in. He is taking a GLC flat - two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, completely refurbished and decorated near Charing Cross Road for £14 a week.
This morning Bel said I was funny. She claimed that I was always defensive and that one of the reasons she likes me so much is because she knows my insecurity is so deep that I need constant re-assurance. It stunned me to hear she was so conscious of our behaviour. Indeed we are both so sensitive we can blow our sanity over with a whisper. But surely that is what love is - giving. And she gives and gives in order to give me strength, to overcome my fears, realise I can be loved. How do I love her? With an infidelity of spirit.
No Lyn or Tony in the ECN office today. Bliss. I did nothing but write briefs. Ruth is unhappy that I'm leaving. She says I'm the only person she can relax with. She confirmed that she thought Tony's behaviour to me on the train was terrible. I'm glad I've shouted at him. He is a complete slob. He should not be in charge of people.
Wednesday 24 November
In my new office there are tiny school desks all in a row. I am not able to talk to the boss. There are endless corridors. There is an ugly moment when the boss laughs at a motorbike accident. Finally I am allowed to return to my old office to explain my absence and collect my things, but I am not wearing any trousers.
Why oh why why do I fall asleep at 10:30 in the evening when there is so much to read and do in the world.
Sunday 28 November
I got beer poisoning on Friday night which followed on from film poisoning. Let me explain - now that I am better. Lynn called me on Monday just as I was trying to decide who to take to see 'Ulisses', a film being shown at the NFT festival. Why I'd bought the tickets I do not know. The film turned out to be so goddamned awful. I was happy to be with Lynn since we both love to criticise. Moreover, I owed her a bad evening following the Psychic Youth and William Burroughs night at Heaven. The film was produced and directed by a German wanker who claimed it was a blend of Homer, James Joyce and Neil Oram's 'The Warp'. In my opinion it was a blend of a) his favourite soft core pornography, b) a few of his favourite places, and c) what he thinks avant-garde photography is all about. I am flabbergasted that people get away with such self-indulgent rubbish. Lynn reckons it is the dope (and there was a scene in the film: 'How to Role a Joint'). Anyway Lynn and I ran for some fresh air, to breathe in some of the Thames, and then to a small pub by the British Museum for a chat. There, I drank, perhaps rather quickly, a pint of shandy. We talked a lot about work, about aims and dreams. She is now working five days a week at the FT on an insurance newsletter. She has also been offered some permanent part-time work on 'City Limits'. On from the Museum pub we went to Luke's new pad on the Charing Cross road. Luke was softer, more vulnerable than I have seen him before. I do not stay long for my stomach is starting to pain. On the way home, in the murky back streets of Camden, I have to stop the car, thrust two fingers down my throat and splatter the gutter and my shoes with a mixture of half digested bread, shandy and stomach juices. Ah what relief from pain. It was food poisoning of sorts. All night I was feverish; I spewed twice more. All day Saturday I sat by the fire feeling ill, weak and sorry for myself, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for sympathy. Then, finally, in the space of five minutes Patrick arrived, Bel rang, and then Peter Savage rang formally offering me a job. I asked for £10,500 pounds. He said no problem.
I think I'm overdosing on culture. What happens when a person overdoses on culture? Last weekend it was the Tinguely exhibition of mechanical purposelessness, and the stylised film 'The Draughtsman's Contract'. This weekend it's been the ridiculous German film and esoteric Polish theatre at its most famous - Kantor. The most exciting thing about the Poles - 'Cricot2' - was the presence of Kantor on stage all the time conducting the action and occasionally inter-reacting. I've never seen that before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I was disappointed because I was expecting more. I didn't learn, it didn't make me think, it didn't surprise or astonish me, and it didn't get anywhere near touching my emotions.
Rick is busy. He has formed a group called 'Rick Friend and the Beauticians'. He's finished the musical, 'Atlantis', which sits in my parlour awaiting a read. I pop in to see him (after time spent reading the 'Observer' in the secret garden). We talk of Harold, and he reinforces my own opinions that he has his head in the clouds. I tell Rick I'm envious of his flat. He says he is envious of my £10,000 a year. He's heard from Jane about Bel. I read Atlantis. It is very flawed. The basic plot is too weak, the writing is plagued with cliches and is wooden. I'm sure I'll tell him and then he'll put my criticism out of his mind.
I don't know much about politics but it seems to me that the trade unions have too much power and that they are the main cause of unemployment being three million. If there are no profits to be made then entrepreneurs will not entrepreneur. If unions squeeze wages and conditions to excess for those in employment, then there will less to go round and more unemployed. It also seems obvious to me, although I've not heard a single commentator express this view, that the government is being so obstinate over the health workers because many of them are immigrants. This government probably thinks that if it can't take advantage of immigrant labour then it's a poor show for us Brits; they're flooding into the country so the least we can do is take advantage of them; let them have the mucky jobs; and then, of course, general dismay at the NHS will help make its privatisation easier.
There was an ad for a house in the 'Ham & High'. I went to see it; the owners had made it attractive. I spoke to my father, and told him I wanted to buy it. He told his surveyor friend who will go to to look at it on Monday. 13 Aldershot Road.
Paul K. Lyons
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