PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1984 - FEBRUARY
Sunday 6 February
A fuller week than usual with dinner at Rosie and Andrew's, the opera with Luke, and a postcard auction. I do wish I would write in this diary more often than once a week. More often than not it's the little ejaculations of thought which are soon forgotten - and perhaps it is these that read best in years to come. The epithets of living. Since I have virtually abandoned story writing altogether, I put more emphasis on the journal as though it possesses some intrinsic importance of its own, as if somebody seeing it might give notice to it, as if it actually held significance or gave my life more significance than it has without it.
I was walking on the Heath today contemplating my state of hungerlessness. I have noted this before, this state of emptiness of void when all hungers are satiated. It is a Buddhistic notion to be without wanting, and there is something to be said for it. But this morning, walking on the Heath, contemplating my state of not wanting, I realised that I was not not wanting for quite clearly I was wanting of a wanting.
In recent times (this could mean months or years I do not know), I have noticed a tendency for me to expose my mistakes and/or poor behaviour as much as possible in order to be cleansed of them. It is as though such a confession to those around me might vanquish the error, as though the error were a sin. It is only now in writing this that I see the religious connection. As a Christian adolescent I was able to have god hear all my wrongdoings. An example: I made a mistake in last week's Petrochemicalscan. One of my prices was way too high. It wasn't a matter of opinion (which often explains small variances), it was just wrong, a mistake. I didn't keep it to myself, I went to Andy and explained how wrong I'd been. I don't know anybody who comes to me and tells me how wrong they've been.
A third of all British bras are sold at Marks & Spencers.
So I bought £126 worth of postcards at a Philips auction last week.
I plan a trip to Paris with R and A. It would be a real jaunt, partly to help sort out the relationship with A, partly to see Colin, partly to see Lanegra and boyfriend who must be now en route from Buenos Aires for a three week holiday.
A girl called Anna-Marie phoned for language exchange and we arranged a meeting, but she's rung twice more to change it.
Wednesday 8 February
Lunchtime. Radio 3 broadcasts some Afghan music. I sit in my new office. I have two plants on the windowshelf. I sit and cogitate my future. More and more I look to a trip to Brazil to justify my existence. I tell myself that in 1985 I will go there to work.
Chaos has broken out in Beirut. The US and British will pull their troops out. Let civil war reign. Poor Beirut. At my class next week we will discuss the Lebanon situation. Last night, though, a Nigerian economics doctor talked about the role of the military in third world countries. Apparently, the military in Nigeria is a benevolent ruler, one that has evolved a sense of responsibility and does not act in terrorist ways akin to the South America juntas. It seems to me that the cycle of civil administration followed by military rule is not completely unacceptable. How else, given the nature of things, does democracy evolve. But it occurs to me that it is going to be very difficult for the newly liberated states of Africa to find democracy. They can borrow models but there is no substitute for the gradual evolution of bureaucratic and judicial and political processes. Information is too readily available - newly liberated peoples want everything all at once. Perhaps, Marxism is the answer - maybe the West should have sufficient confidence in its own systems to allow Marxism to work in underdeveloped countries, and allow capitalism to grow out of the Marxism. Marxism being a way of disciplining people and rulers until a system can bear some development along commercial lines. Countries need practicians not idealists. Why can't Marxism be imposed without fanatacism.
The Channel Four documentary on China continued with a film about Caring. It focussed on one small street in the northern town of Harbin. It filmed families celebrating the New Year, the local hospital, mental home and prison. The over-riding impression was of the need to conform. Conformity of action and conformity of thinking. One startling sequence showed a woman having surgery on her throat while still conscious - acupuncture (needles in the ear) being the only form of anaesthesia.
[Newspaper cutting] China has 3,765 centenarians. By Hugh Davies in Peking. 'China has 3,765 centenarians, two-thirds women, although the oldest is a 130 year old man named Kuerbanyosheng living in Xinjiang, Central Asia, the national census has found. Foreign correspondents touring Xinjiang last summer were told that a 136 year old man lived in a vineyard near Turfan. After a request was made to interview him it was said that he had just died - in a motorcycle crash.'
Monday 13 February
We amuse ourselves with Valentine's Cards. This is Leap Year and the women by right of Scottish law in the thirteenth century can propose. Propose? Divorce more like! Somebody has sent all the guys on the fourth floor a Valentine's Card. I rush out to buy mine. Luckily I find a postcard of an illustration of a clematis. It is perfect for Bel. A is more difficult. I have no desire to claim undying love, so most valentines are inappropriate. I opt for a modern art postcard with a heart on't. I think to send Vonny a card, as I (and she) have done in the past, but remember she has gone to America. I send one to R instead simply because it seemed to apt. A pop-up picture of a man lying on a beach surrounded by women and lipstick.
Andropov drops off and is replaced by Chernenko. Princess Di is expecting again.
Most of the weekend spent with Bel and concerned with gardens. It is the first attention we've given the garden since last year. I've planted a mahonia down near the bedroom doors, a mahonia can do well in the shade. I've added two roses, one a Schoolgirl, in one of the coal bunkers, and the other a Paul's Scarlet. And I've planted a family apple tree in the other coal bunker. What fun, three different types of apple on one tree. Chances are it won't survive. Bel wanted to wait and research its planting more thoroughly - I rushed ahead any way. I almost forgot, I've got a virginia creeper on the front of the house now.
Will I look back on these days as the happiest of my life. They are so inconsequential, so ordinary, and yet I am nothing else. Nothing burns within me, to flame other than this simple life. If I force on myself some change, then I will suffer and the creation of that suffering will be indulgent. I must create out of contentment for then I can believe in myself.
Tuesday 14 February
Andre and I talk about writing. My dinner with Andre! Perhaps I was a little drunk because I ranted and raved about the hardships of writing. Well, he brought it on himself by instigating the dialogue. He's gay, 34, and lives over the way in Compayne Gardens. I like him. He is soft spoken although with a tendency for extremes.
Ann rings. A and R are no longer coming to Paris. I forgot Ann still is. Bel would crucify me if she knew I was going with Ann.
I am up most mornings by 8am. I make myself a cup of tea directly and then sit down to read or do a Portuguese lesson. The house is quiet bar a few footsteps from Ruth who will leave a trail of cheap perfume along the corridors between her room and the front door.
Last night was Wednesday evening. I did not go out - except for a short walk at midnight to take some photographs.
Andre rings phoned. I hope he doesn't think me gay. Has not A told him otherwise. Raoul rings to ask me out dancing tomorrow night but I have nobody to go with. Ann rings to say she is definitely coming to Paris.
Tuesday 21 February
I would not have travelled to Paris had Ann not kept me to my promise. It was not great fun travelling with her but better than travelling alone. She behaved well, against expectations, engaging in polite and varied conversation with Colin and Hilde and Schmulick and Felicia and Lucio.
I have found a novel theme - the subculture of the Underground. I am already doing some research in terms of science fiction of the subterranean, history of the Underground; plus I intend to talk to a few buskers. This morning I found an article in the 'New Scientist' about animals that give off light.
This is a new pen made by Cross. Cross, I suppose, is like Parker. Vera Caspary sent it to me. Some weeks ago I got a letter thanking me for my Christmas card. And now I've received a Christmas card and present. She is so sweet - but moans about my handwriting.
There is an elderly moon-faced man who I meet occasionally in the toilet where he spends time cleaning cups, saucers and teapots. He brings them on a tray in semi-ritualistic fashion and tries hard not to get into anybody's way. He is friendly and always has something to say. Recently we had a conversation about the badly-positioned taps and the surrounding area gets covered in water. It seems, though, that Andy has got a lot closer to him than I. For Andy discovered he'd written a book about the criminal world. Andy said he'd like to read it and now he has 300 typewritten foolscap pages in his office. It is very banal - 'they were dressed smartly' and 'he took his coat off'. Rather Andy than me.
But what about the weekend. Both trains and boats were supercrowded and there was no room to lie down nor quiet to sleep by. We are unusual friends Ann and I. I wonder how we had an affair. What did we talk about? What did we do? We did not touch, although I thought we might. I wasn't desiring of her, but I'm not too proud to admit that something might have happened if she had wanted it to. On the night train back we talked a lot sex.
Saturday 25 February
It cost £87 to have the suspension coil of my car replaced - £87. When you take into account insurance, tax, petrol, oil, repairs, depreciation, surely it would be cheaper to use a taxi for every trip instead of owning a car. It's an horrendous expense considering whole weeks go by and when I don't use it.
Yet another coincidence concerning my new found interest in rats and undergrounds. Andy rang me at work. He has never done this before. He rang to say he had seen a rat in the kitchen. A rat on the cooker nibbling at some of Ruth's food. RATS. I rang Brent Council immediately. The following day, Saturday, two rat catchers - one white, old and experiences, the other young, new-to-the-job and black - came to the house. They carried with them a bucket of coloured pellets and a ladle, and were full of rat chat. At first they couldn't find any evidence of either a rat or mouse and were inclined to believe it was a mouse because rats leave droppings everywhere; also they gnaw at anything even partly edible. However, on a second inspection, they discovered a small quantity of rat droppings on the cooker (Ruth has been cleaning there all day.) So they laid some pellets behind the cooker and said to call if this didn't work. They couldn't offer a suitable solution as how the rat got to the first floor in the first place, but the man on the phone at the council had rats can sometimes find their way through the sewer overflows. Exciting stuff eh! Bel said the old rat catcher reminded her of a ditch digger she'd met once.
I spend the morning helping Bel with her garden and the afternoon reading up about the London Underground. Now it is early evening. I want to travel about on the tube and take photographs. The first underground train ran in 1863!
There is a Channel 4 programme entitled 'Voices'. Last week an American called Searle did battle with a Brit called Eccles over their respective views on the connection between mind and brain. Searle, a philosopher, is a monoistic interactivist believing the mind is just what the brain is at different levels of inquiry. Eccles, on the other hand, believes in a dualistic approach, preferring to explain experience in terms of a mind separate from the brain - as such in a different world. Eccles is a scientist, a neurophysiologist I believe, but his views and investigation and understanding seemed rigidly devoted to religion. Searle made much more sense with his rational approach. At one time in man's history, biology or life was viewed as a different world from that of physics and matter, but we now have a much greater understanding of life and matter at the molecular level. Searle said, when all the neural firings etc are put together the sum is the conscious mind. OK, we don't know much about the transition from the molecular to the conceptual, but the explanation in terms of mind emerging out of brain is much more powerful to my rational head than Eccles' dualist semi-religious approach.
I find our political discussions on Tuesday evening fascinating. How is it I've never been interested in these things before now. We talked extensively about the Iran/Iraq conflict last night. The debate was helped by an Iranian, Caleb, in our group who left the regime when controlled by the Shah. He explained the (not very great) difference between Sunni and Shiite muslims: they worship in the same temples but believe in different successors to Mohammed and use different prayers, for example. We argued about why muslims rise up against other muslims, with Caleb suggesting the differences were religious but I argued arguing that religious differences were exploited for political ends. We agreed that the situation in the Gulf War was made more unpredictable and therefore more dangerous by the fanatacism of Khomeini. There was also a discussion on the relevance of Marxism to Iran. I made the point that religious fundamentalism was serving the same purpose in Iran as the marxist revolutions in Latin America.
Books. 'A Book of Sand' - Borges; 'A Clockwork Orange' - Burgess; 'The Washington Connection' - Chomsky; 'The Brown Rat' - Twigg; 'A short history of Lyme Regis' - Fowles.
Andy is taking some of my photographs to the Photographers' Gallery - a sample of the Graffiti six and of the Reflections series.
Paul K Lyons
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