PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1983 - JANUARY
Sunday 2 January 1983
This is it already, the start of the new one. I suspect that my journal has been excessively boring - the truth is that all my doubts, imaginative flights of fancy, stories of daily toil and hard-done-byness have all been revealed. This six month journal represents the first period - dare I say in my life - of a stable emotional and sexual relationship. There has been less need to write, less need to express myself creatively, uniquely. And, of course, the journal suffers. It is still, however, here; and, ultimately, acts as a true father confessor, a serialised autobiography - however uninteresting.
I meet a friend of my father's, a one time professional diver. My mother describes him as an adventurer, but I don't think she was trying to make him sound interesting, more of a waster. The man talked about there being 150,000 wrecks off the British isles (all on his computer files); of gold bullion thrown overboard on the Pakistani coast by smugglers; of conger eel fishermen who send him a piece of the skin of every eel they catch so he can analyse it with a spectrometer and thus tell if it has been living in a wreck and what kind of cargo that wreck might hold.
A rare conversation with Jackie in the office between Christmas and New Year's Eve. We were the only two working. She said she didn't like the film 'Women in Love' because real people don't do those sorts of things. I suppose she meant wrestling naked in front of the fire, sitting naked in a wheatfield, dressing up and playing etc. But Lawrence was such a down-to-earth writer. I felt Jackie's reality was threatened by the information in the film; just as my reality felt threatened by listening to information about the adventurous life of the friend of my father.
There was some excitement just before Christmas when thousands of women massed outside the RAF base at Greenham Common to protest against the government's plans to introduce Cruise missiles. Lots of people I know went. The Opposition called an emergency debate to discuss nuclear arms, and it was broadcast live on the radio. The thrust of the government's argument, I think, was this. At any given time there are discussions between East and West over the reduction of arms or the limitation of their growth. However, the negotiations are very complicated and progress cannot be achieved overnight. It is imperative that the West does not appear weak. If it should be seen to falter because of pressure from internal factions then the Russians' negotiating position will be strengthened. Personally, I feel CND would achieve far more if it used all its muscle and finance to contact and communicate with ordinary people in the East bloc, and help enlighten them as well.
Too much TV at Christmas. 'The Conductor' was a rather splendid Polish film with John Gielgud as an aging but famous conductor who visits a small Polish town orchestra. It is a love story, on one level between pupil and master, on another between a master and his art; it also comments on the tensions between an intelligent married couple. 'International Velvet' with Tatum O'Neal looked like a story from 'Bunty'. The 1961 Sellers film 'The Millionaires' was great when Sellers was in his Indian roles, but dull for long periods. And 'Fedora' was interesting for its attack on star-making and for its delving into dark and morbid arenas of desire; but William Holden was too blond and dull.
On Boxing Day I had an At Home. Gale, Amanda and Robin were here most of the day; Lisette, Iver and babies and Deborah and friend, Luke, Karen and friend came later on. Andrez turned up a day late. On Monday I went with Bel to see Mike Westbrook's 'Christmas Cabaret'. Phil Minton is rivetting, I can't take my eyes off him. Westbrook has a new triple album out - Cortege - which I've ordered from the library.
Wednesday night was a film called 'Bartleby' (based on a Herman Melville short story) with Paul Scofield as a concerned managing director, and John McEnery as a bank clerk. More films like this - about ordinary people - should be made. McEnery plays a society drop out who 'prefers' not to live. In fact we see him die - in my Secret Garden! - but he does not change throughout the film. Why is he so blank and how did he get that way? On thursday we watched 'Stalker', a 1979 film made by Andrei Tarkovsky who also made 'Solaris'. He is called a conjuror of images although this wasn't so apparent on my small b&w.
Monday 3 January 1983
I declined to go to work. Instead I chose to cycle into the chaos of the West End where I spent £60 on black clothes and shoes. I met Ann at Valerie's. We talked about our lives and lovers and our jobs and the new year coming. She wore long Moroccan earrings, like slim brass cornets upside down, not hidden as usual by her long thick hair, and a studded leather jacket which was somehow incongruous above a woollen skirt with red and black pleated strips that fell to her calves. She's still a cherub.
'Double Indemnity' sported Bel Stanwyck as a scheming wife in search of her husband's fortune, and Edward G Robinson as an obsessive fraud investigator who figures out the bold plot. 'Guys and Dolls' with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons is a real treat. Wonderful songs, captivating plot and superb staging. Joseph Mankiewicz 1955. But how much better on stage. Mum saw this film with my father, Fred, at the Swiss Cottage Odeon when it was first released. And last night, I watched 'Sunset Boulevard'. Yet another Billy Wilder classic. It is not as bitter an attack on Hollywood as 'Fedora' but its central theme is how madness comes from fame.
DIARY 21: January - June 1983
13 January 1983
This is a pretty book isn't it?
This is a pretty year isn't it?
It's been a bit of a nest, a marriage with Bel since Christmas. She's slept here for a week now because of my illness. Oh yes I've wanted her here, wanted to see nobody else. But I'm not sure I want what I want.
With little to do stuck in this ill state, I got to remembering the month I was holed up in Lima with hepatitis and how Didier rescued me from aloneness. And the travels. I remembered the superb days travelling on top of trucks, riding beneath brilliant azure skies through the snowcapped peaks of the Andes. There was always the joy of new meetings, new arrivals, new discoveries, the sadnesses of leavings and partings, the fullness of life thereof.
The movie curse goes on. Quite the best treat during my illness was Don Segal's 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. A chilling 1956 vision of how the world might be taken over by giant peapods.
14 January 1983
I should have been on a course at work today. Had I remembered it was the one day Print and Production course I would have gone - it's about the only course I ever wanted to do. But, as it is I've taken a whole week off. I have been quite wiped out, and have done nothing constructive in the past seven days.
I went to Bel's flat to fetch my shampoo. I bought some flowers, but when I got there I saw she had two fresh bunches already cheering her room, so, in a fit of nastiness, I decided not to leave all the bunch. After all, I thought, I've only one droopy set of flowers at home, and I'm there all day long, and I've got two rooms to cheer up. This is the sort of thinking that has got me where I am today. And when Bel arrived just before midnight I grumbled that I'd been all alone, ironing shirts, and that I hadn't even had anything proper to eat. I know this ungenerous behaviour so well.
Sterling is under strong pressure in world markets and the banks have been compelled to raise interest charges again. This is poor news for future investment prospects and hence for the long-hoped-for Recovery. But now I - little me - am directly tied into the system. When I hear on the news at midnight that interest rates are to rise, I go 'shit' and calculate the expected hike in my mortgage repayments. The building societies have announced that mortgage rates will be frozen until the end of the month. Wonderful I don't have to start paying until February any way.
I have grown to love the sounds that invade my living area. I fear I shall miss them once I move to the new house in Aldershot Road. In the early evening, just as the sky begins to darken and as it chameleon-like changes shades to suit the night so a thousand small birds take to twittering. It is an intense chatter not dissimilar to the whole sound that emanates from a school playground during breaks. The only time the trains annoy me is when they interfere with the TV reception. Otherwise they are quite a comfort. There are the tube trains that rattle their way incessantly all day and every day; and the night cargo trains that cause the whole house to shudder and items to shake a gentle vibratory massage to those in bed; and the fast diesel trains that go past like www ooo sssss hhhhhhhhhhhhh. They sound like trains from comic strips. I imagine long streamlined engines with noses slanting forward to the track. During the daytime there is an outside telephone that rings in a builder's yard. There is a dog that barks for twenty minutes every now and then, and then there are the screeching cats. I also love the loose windows and windowpanes for whenever a wind blows I hear the rattle symphony.
Alfred Eisenstaedt. He is described as one of the world's best photojournalists. He began working between the wars and worked for many years for 'Life'. He's 85 now and looking very good for it. With a refreshing lack of intellectual theory, he showed his favourite photos on a BBC2 programme. Like himself, his photos are unassuming, quietly brilliant, carefully composed in the moment of existence.
Sunday 16 January
When daffodils die they wither up, their yellowness, if anything, becomes more intense, more golden, and the petals wrinkle like old skin, but they do not fall off. The flower heads bow in recognition of their end, their necks having died first. Yet however withered, however wrinkled and obviously finished they are, I cannot bring myself to chuck them out, not just yet. The rushes with them are also dying, turning yellow at their tops. By contrast, I now also have some fresh and pretty pink tulips and lilac irises in a vase.
I walked on the Heath this afternoon. This is the first time in ten days I've been out in the air, breathing in the world. There was no wind just people and dogs crackling fallen twigs and brown leaves beneath their feet. In the Garden, I remembered days with Harold - more carefree, lighter.
Ha! I've escaped from Market Trends. The darling Lyn Tattum (T for Tommy, A for apple, T for Tommy, T for Tommy, U for undertaker, M for mother) will conduct the ritual telephone calls this week. Maybe Peter Taffe will help her. Instead I'm locked into a one day conference on the changing perspectives for soda ash. Last night, in bed with Bel, between the lovemaking, I tried to explain what soda ash was. I told her about the natural soda ash mined in the US and how exports to the UK are threatening ICI's production of synthetic material. But, however hard I try, I cannot make soda ash or the chemical industry sound interesting for my friends. I have written about the soda ash issue extensively in 'European Chemical News', and perhaps my coverage contributed to the decision to convene this conference. Yet there is no denying this is a dying industry. Executives like to call it 'mature'. A lot of soda ash goes into glass manufacture, but more and more glass is being replaced by plastic compounds. I have to concentrate on my breathing to keep the yawning at bay, and to avoid falling asleep.
The newspapers this morning are full of the Frank report. It seems to have exonerated the government. There are some criticisms but they are relatively minor. Basically, it concludes, the Thatcher government could not have predicted the actions of an erratic Argentine government. Lord Carrington, sweet Lord Carrington, honourable Lord Carrington admits that a submarine should have been dispatched considerably earlier, when Argie soldiers first arrived disguised as scrap merchants.
There is also a lot of press given to the shooting-of-the-wrong-man-by-the-police incident. One police officer has been charged with attempted murder. The 'Daily Mail' reported that, when the officers had shot the man in the back of a yellow mini and were still ignorant of the fact that they had shot the wrong man, they were laughing hysterically. Then, when the girlfriend told them they had made a 'terrible mistake', they started backing off. But there is an interesting story buried on page two of the 'Times': the police, it says, have been found guilty of several serious mistakes in the Yorkshire Ripper investigation.
Ah Rubens! He liked his women voluptuous. The National Gallery has recently purchased a painting called 'Samson and Delilah' for about £2.5m. Handsome Samson is asleep on Delilah's lap - a crimson skirt - and Delilah's accomplice clutches a pair of scissors. Through a doorway we see soldiers ready to take advantage of Delilah's treachery. Ah! they don't make women like that any more. It's almost as if they have gone out of fashion. And they don't make paintings like that any more either. The National Gallery has done the picture proud with a mini exhibition examining its history, its evolution, its painter, his materials, his techniques and his followers. In another room, I see 'The Judgement of Paris', and 'War and Peace'. The latter Rubens painted in the UK. In its foreground are angels and children and a mother breast feeding and a playful leopard. In the background there are elements of war. I prefer 'Samson and Delilah' with its sharp pre-Raphaelite-like colours.
Ha Ha. Alone at last with my journal. This building's new conference room has bright green chairs - lush emerald green. It's Friday lunch time. I seem to do nothing in the office but waste time. I asked Cox to work out a leaving date again, and he reacted, well, not quite volcanically. I went to see his boss Peter Waygood and poured out two year's worth of resentment, and pleaded with him to let me go soon. Why, why should I, after putting up with Cox for so long, feel the need now to moan so bitterly about his behaviour towards me. I could have been a little more subtle and less emotional about it. I'll never be a cool and calculating success.
I was being unfair to Bel last night. She gently pointed out that I only spend a few hours at a time at her house, while she spends whole days and evenings at mine. I denied it strongly taking her gentle criticism as an affront and then attacking her for spending so little time with me when I was ill. I was quite vindictive. I don't know why. She cried and was going to leave but I kidnapped her dress and keys and then told her how wonderful she was, how much an angel.
Saturday 22 January, Brighton
Despite my instincts to hibernate and not get in touch with people and wait for them to contact me, I have come here to Brighton to see Andrew and Rosy. I've been a bit worried about them since a phone call in December. I learn that Raoul and Vonny almost decided to get married but were dissuaded by Rosie. How funny that Jason should scream the sound shoooosh to their dog Cuckoo to try to stop him barking so loud and so much. Yet the very derivation of the sound is onomatopoeic and only works if said softly. Shouting shoooosh is a complete contradiction - a total irony.
Monday 24 January
Well I played dumb today. Slow, lethargic and dumb. I wrote six briefs in the entire day and made one phone call. Ha. But I talked to Joan Lipman at McGraw-Hill who is going to be my boss, sort of. I got £500 off the price of 13 Aldershot Road on the basis of Martin Carr's survey. That should cover the cost of the survey and maybe the solicitor's fees as well.
'The Postman Only Knocks Twice'. I found this an endearing love story. It tells of the passion between a hobo who is baited to work in a petrol station/diner through his attraction to the Greek owner's wife. The hobo, Jack Nicholson, soon forces himself on the wife, Jessica Lange, who subsequently falls in love with him. After an abortive attempt to run away together they eventually decide to kill the husband instead. He takes some killing, and the two of them almost die themselves, and then almost do a term in jail. It's a believable tale of an incompetent man and a trapped woman. I found both Nicholson and Lange compelling to watch.
Friday 28 January
On Tuesday I made the decision to leave at the end of February, regardless of Tony Cox and his boss Peter Waygood. Felt much better for having made the decision. On Thursday I will sign the contract for the purchase of 13 Aldershot Road.
David Hare's play 'Map of the World' was thick with debate: a left-wing socialist journalist calling on a hardened right-wing writer to let it all hang out and feel again; and the writer telling the journalist to grow up and understand the truth of the world.
Sunday 30 January
It's bright but the wind is near to a howl and cold seeps through the walls. I think about thinning out my possessions before moving. What I need is a sieve that would retain possessions which the essential me wants but let pass into a rubbish skip those that the insecure hoarder would keep. Quite extraordinary how the net of this sieve pulses bigger and smaller dependant on the state of my psychological well-being. I am getting quite excited. My illness is over and I sparkle again. How reassuring it is to know that people do call and think of me. I became quite lonely during the virus-time, and very down. But I know better than that - ancient proverbs know better than that. Laugh and . . . etc.
Liz invited me to a cockbirthdaytail party. I dressed in red and black and wore a silly cap that looked a bit like a black shower cap with a red woollen bobble on top and two red ribbons at the side. Instant fancy dress - instant Scotch Highball. Well, I didn't know what sort of party it was going to be. It was round the corner so I asked the Stockwells along. I knew Patrick wouldn't come because he owes me money. I didn't think to say don't worry about the money come any way. When I told Bel I was going to the party, her immediate reaction was to ask if she could come. That threw me. I said no, then I said yes, and then she said no. I spent the early evening with her, and then went to collect the Stockwells. At the party, Ros got drunk, and turned all actressy. Jane left early. Liz said I was sexier than she remembered, and I drew her into a corner. She said she hadn't slept with anyone for two years, had only fucked . . .
The phone rings as I write. It's Liz! . . . I felt she was afraid of me last June when we touched emotions. I suggested she might want to come and live in my new house with Andy. A definite possibility.
Paul K Lyons
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