PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1983 - DECEMBER
Saturday 3 December
Don't seem to have two thoughts to rub together on this yellow paper.
Andy's having a party here tonight and I'm afraid of fags stamped out on the carpet and red wine stains; I'm afraid of elbows going through glass windows and people breaking the leaves of the plants.
Sunday 4 December
I sank into a miserable state yesterday. I became unreasonable and bore grudges. There is so much emptiness in me. I fill myself greedily with films and books and yet there is no escaping the fact that I will not become responsible, I will not take risks. I just cannot summon will and concentration and patience. It's not as if there are compensations. The life I live seems so worthless when compared to my own expectations - even this remorse, this indulgence of self pity proves my point.
I read up about art frauds - inspired by Bernard Levin's analysis of what is wrong with the public that they reject a work of art in a moment on realising it's a forgery. He tells the story of Van Meegeren who successfully faked some Vermeer paintings. It is a complex story involving several turnarounds and a continuing debate, long after he died, as to the authenticity of some works which might have been painted by Meegeren. It does seem ludicrous that a work of art acclaimed as a masterpiece can, by dint of its classic authorship, bring huge crowds to see it, yet, once denounced as a fake, become worthless. But I for one need some established hierarchy to tell me what is good and not good. History sifts well and survivors, we are taught, are artists worth understanding. We do not know enough, so we go to learn - we cannot learn with faith from a fake so we revolt - so to speak.
Sunday 11 December, Aldeburgh
Yes, the glories of Aldeburgh again. All kinds of weather charm us. The sea is wild and vigorous beating a path to the concrete wall and disturbing layers of beach stones.
Tuesday 13 December
I decide to visit a pub on Kilburn High Road which has recently been refurbished. For months I've seen the old trimmings filling up skips in the road outside. I don my greycoat somewhere between 10 and 10:30 and head out into the cold. The large lounge is virtually empty, oh but so plush. Pub plush and 'orrible and empty. Stinking clean and fresh. I take my half of bitter and go over to the fruit machine, determined to rid my pockets of some cumbersome 10p coins. The first 10p wins me £2 in 10p tokens. Nice pub. The fruit machine has all these buttons which flash off and on. I have no idea what to do, but press a few. Then a talking display says 'I can do better' and proceeds to jig (I think nudge is the correct word) the reels and I win £2. This must be a plot to get customers addicted to pub and its fruit machine!
But back to Aldeburgh - as ever it was magic. By Sunday the skies had cleared and the seas had calmed. We went walking from Sudbourne to Orford (disfrutando del dia, as the Spanish might, taking fruit from the day). We walked through a forestry commission forest with pines all in a row like soldiers, the ground covered in pine needles, and a deathly silence. Then we visited another forest - Stavanger Park. I had been flicking through an old book on the landscapes of England and it happened to show a photograph of this forest in East Suffolk and noted what it was called. I looked on all the maps and asked around but, at first, no one had heard of it. But then the proprietor of a tourist shop in Orford told us it was the primaeval forest, and he showed us where it was on the map. According to the old book on landscapes, primaeval forest is very rare in England. Gnarled oaks and ancient holly, the ground covered in bracken, ferns, twigs, leaves new and old, and decomposed fallen trees and fallen branches. Unlike the artificial forest, it was a busy place with animals and birds taking flight at our intrusion. I could feel the dead wood and leaves in decay on the way, so to speak, towards replenishing the food in the earth to feed the living trees. I could see the fungi covering the fallen trunks, and assisting the decay process. I could see the oldest of oaks, mostly dead, with barks thick and gnarled, but still alive in parts. But how long does an oak that has lived for 1,000 years take to die a death?
This is the forest primaeval, the murmuring pines and hemlocks Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight Stand like druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
This was one of the first pieces of poetry I learnt as an adult, but I can't remember why, where or when.
If I have an open day on Boxing Day who would come? This is important because I will send out Christmas cards soon and need to do the inviting on these. Let's see: Gale, Angela, and Bel are certain to be away. Ann and Kevin are going to Kent. Andrez might come, and Amanda, Julian and Georgina, Luke, Phil? R&V? Judy and Rob? Patrick? Annie? And honestly I can't think of anyone else - better give it a miss.
At the office we have three celebrations: 1) Jenny, John, Andy and I have a meal on expenses; 2) Jenny, John, Andy, John, John, Terese, Margaret and I have a meal on expenses; 3) the whole whole office have a binge too.
I went to Brussels for two days. It is a capital city of necessity. It's safe. One night out with Hilfra and Jim on the town drinking. Jim said he liked the party game that requires players to name five famous Belgians in two hours.
I call A. We talk a long time about her current boyfriend. The relationship has gone sour. I respond and talk objectively but all the time wonder where this puts me. After talking with her, I spied Rilke on my shelf, so wrote out the first lines from the First Elegy on the back of a Chagall postcard with angels. 'Who if I shouted among the hierarchy of angels will hear me?'
I drift into senseless indulgence, as most other people. All that time and energy spent on providing presents for the family is now dispersed. Christmas Day was boring, and I was boring too. I couldn't think beyond the next forkful of turkey. I hardly drank. I hardly opened my mouth. It was a great non-event. And me, what of me? Dullard extraordinaire. The isolationist. The incompetent. The misanthrope. The man who sends out four times as many postcards as he receives.
Dr Cook rang me at work to check if I was really coming to his Western Zen Retreat in the Welsh mountains. I told him yes, and then a few days later I received the info on how to get there and what to take - my favourite meditation gown for example. Yelp. What am I doing this for. This personal investigation lark seems to lead nowhere. The answer is to learn to cope. I am a privileged individual and yet I waste all the resources at my disposal.
Bel rang. She's at home with her parents. I tell her that Yarn liked my photo of the Fifth Avenue fashion house - the one I gave to Mum as a Christmas present. I tell her Yarn said I should do it full time, and she says I should write this in my diary. I do not write that sort of thing in my diary. This journal is my rubbish bin. I do not compliment myself in it with empty praise.
Paul K Lyons
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