PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1984 - OCTOBER
DIARY 24 continued: October - November 1984
Monday 1 October 1984, Berlin
I am fragile today. I went out drinking with Jan and Andreas till the early hours mixing wine from the meal with spirits and beer. Oh my head at 7:00 this morning. It has not been a good day. Wrote my piece for IPR, had a swim, a sleep. The main speaker at the congress this morning was Pater Prof Iwan Sokolowsky, SJ Pontificia Universita Gregoriana on the subject of Islamic science. The speech was erudite, laborious in parts, surprisingly humourous in others. He attempted to explain, through historical perspective, the manner in which the Moslems think, live, work. Later, in the press room, journalists bombarded him with questions ranging from the ethics of business dealings to the difference between Pakistan and Iranian beliefs.
I was up till 4:30 last night with the ambition of spending the night young AK, the rave from sales. She has a stunningly beautiful face and slinky figure, but spoils it with a pulled-through-a-hedge-backwards hairstyle. In the end her apparent innocence protected her (at least from me). She wanted to talk about Tony, her fiancee, mostly and how they wouldn't dream of having affairs. At the same time, she plied me with drinks while purring cat-like with naked legs wrapped around a chair back.
Thursday 4 October, Antibes
In Antibes yet again. Unusually it rains, watering the dense green foliage of the gardens of Jardin du Cap. Clouds have darkened the sky leaving an appearance of late evening rather than mid-afternoon. I am free from the constraints of working for a few days but my head is entirely involved in petrochemicals. Peter Savage just rang from Houston, having twisted the number out of Ruth, and woke me from a dream. Shostakovitch fills the air with his jerky rhythms. I am tempted to set down a story told me by a trader at Frankfurt airport whilst we waited for our connecting flights. In 1974, he bought, for his company, 14,000 tonne of styrene at $250/t; nine months later he sold 10,000 tonne at $1,500/t, a cool $12.5m profit. Yet, he said, he was never really rewarded and his boss ran off with all the money.
I enjoyed Berlin and the conference but mostly thanks to the hospitality of Manu and Anna. The brief and manic encounters with Jan and Andreas added some spice. Let me mention Manu. His main work, at least for the last three years, has been making music. For the last year, he has been working full time with two others- the group is called Ethnochip - to produce records. They use fairly sophisticated electronic equipment as far removed from instruments as a personal computer is from an abacus, but they use it to reproduce an enormous variety of ethnic sounds - zoo noises and African drums just for example. On the morning I leave plays me some - the music is surprisingly fresh and enjoyable. He explains that, according to a recording company, the music falls between the two stools of mainstream and avant garde and is neither one thing or the other. Now they have to rethink: do they change their style to conform or to conform less. It must be very frustrating for them. Just a brief word about their Emulator - a keyboard with a menu, and a floppy disc reader, which will play up to two seconds of any recorded sound (a newer version of the Emulator can play 17 seconds, apparently).
Otherwise Manu is currently engaged in helping Clemil the Clown, a well known East German performer, settle down in the West after being kicked out of East Berlin. The story goes that one of his troupe - a drummer I believe - defected to Austria and from that day the troupe's engagements declined to a point where it became difficult to survive. One day, Clemil was told, by a friend, that he was leaving the country, and this was even before he'd been informed by the authorities. The night I arrived in Berlin, Manu went to help him move his furniture. Although he's short and fat and middle-aged body, his wife, Catherine, is very young and pretty. Catherine tells me she may not see her parents again for a very long time. Her father is a medical scientist, and used to going abroad to conventions but now, she fears, he will not be allowed to travel.
Anna tells me a nice story about how her parents met: on a train sheltering under a bridge during a bombing raid. They were retreating in the face of a Russian advance. Also, coincidentally, one or possibly both of them (I can't remember exactly) were actually bridge engineers. After the war, they lived in a small town outside Berlin in a communist area. The authorities asked her father to be mayor but he wouldn't sign up to be a communist. They moved to Berlin and helped rebuild the city.
This morning I walked to Jardin Thuret. They are making progress. The landscape design is apparent now - the last time I went whole sections were being redug - and at least half the garden has been replanted. The bust of Thuret stands prominent as ever beneath the umbrella pines not looking, as you might think, towards the panorama of Antibes but towards his house and garden. Black squirrels scavenge in the grass for food. Walking on from the garden I discovered a lovely path that leads up some broken stairs through forest to the high point of Cap d'Antibes where I find Villa Antibes and a lighthouse. And then, from there, there are more broken steps that follow the edge of the wood and lead back to the coast. Every 50 metres or so there is a small sculptured tableau depicting a scene from the last few days of Jesus' life. I walked back, barefoot along the beach, the cold sea waves chilling my toes. Men were busy clearing branches, driftwood and rubbish that had been beached during last night's storm.
Back to Berlin for a few comments. I rang Jan and Andreas just to see if they might be returning from the US sooner than expected. They were already there. Quel surpris! I bought cakes and went straight round. They told me a horror story about their car breaking down on the way to an airport. And they both confessed to being uncertain about the future. In the evening I invited some of the sales people (including, of course, Ann) along to meet Jan and Andreas in a back street Berlin bar. Actually, I spent the evening rapping with Andreas mostly. When there was a pause in the conversation Veronica (sales lady) chirped in to say to Andreas: 'So, are you in the petrochemical business as well?' As it happens I had trained Andreas to say, 'The chemical industry is in a very bad way' which provided me with great amusement. Later, when Ann and Veronica had gone, we got back to politics. Andreas compliments me by saying I'm only the right wing bastard whose views he respects. I love to debate with Andreas, there is passion in him - a debate is not only intellect, it is fervour! Jan and Andreas went back with me to the Kempinski Hotel, where Andreas raided the mini-bar, and then comically preached a diatribe against the world with Kempinski peanuts spilling out his mouth carpeting floor. Eventually I tired of conversation and the two lovers left at 3:30am.
40 East Germans inhabited the West German embassy in Prague, and Bonn has now closed it. I don't know much more than that. But it fits with Catherine's story. She said the only possibility to meet with her parents would be in Czechoslovakia. East Germany was particularly susceptible to infiltration of Western values (share language, television, Berlin) until the Wall built. Before then East Germans were defecting in their thousands every week. Now, though, relatively liberal Prague is the focus for fleeing East Germans.
Reagan, fearing the Philippines may fall to the communists, has issued a severe warning to President Marcos. Apparently, the Vatican has told the Philippines church not to act in a destabilising way - after all communists are not very tolerant of the Catholic religion.
I am quite healthy again two weeks after contracting the sore throat that began this cold. A touch of phlegm still rolls into the mouth from the lungs but the feeling of health and fitness returns now for the first time. I just went for a swim in the rough sea. The water is spoiled with churned up weeds and debris, but it is not so cold to be uncomfortable. I collected David (Hunter) [work colleague] from the airport and we raced into the hills to St Paul de Vence and the Maeght Fondacion, to see a retrospective of Chagall's work.
It is not surprising that the south of France should attract such a range of artists - Picasso to Antibes, Chagall to Vence, Matisse to Nice, Leger to Biot, Renoir to Cagnes. It is perhaps more surprising that artists haven't always lived in this region, so perfect the climate, so rich the land, so beautiful the scenery. So Chagall came to St Paul de Vence. There is a permanent exhibition of some of his modern religious works in Nice which I saw on a previous visit. This retrospective goes back to the beginning of the century to 'La Violiniste' and 'La Poete' of 1911. Here in the exhibition is a favourite of mine - 'The Green Violinist' - with its lovely green and purples and cubist forms, and here too are some classics like 'Au Dessus de La Ville' with the blue and green figures flying above a multicultural pastoral village scene and 'La Vic' of 1946 with its Breughelesque expose of everbody's lives. One can notice a transition of style because the exhibition is arranged chronologically, and how his colour has, if anything, succeeded in become more and more brilliant through the years to the brilliant red and yellows of his religious works. Many of the symbols - such as the violin or that of flight, the bridal couple, the bunch of flowers, the horse - have remained in his work over more than 50 years. On this occasion I was particularly struck by two or three circus paintings - the first one dating from the sixties I believe. In 'Le Grand Cirque', 1968, there is a large form that has the shape of a cross or four leaf clover but two of the leaves are as wings attached to the two other leaves, one of which is a young woman's head looking down into the circus arena, the other is a head of a horse or goat. It is not as accessible as the more gay and colourful 'Les Comediens' of the same year and 'Le Grand Cirque' of 1975 with its more easily recognisable clowns and acrobat figures plus audience. I am convinced Angela Carter must have been inspired by Chagall. The feeling of the paintings is the same as that of her descriptions. This so much so that I was looking for a painting entitled 'Nights at the Circus'.
Hunter is out windsurfing. He likes action-packed weekends. Perhaps I will go with him. He is the son of a clergyman. At 14, he rejected the faith as I imagine most sons of clergymen do, but finds himself now at 27 more interested in religion.
The thunder and lightning of last night have passed. We are left with a dull stillness. This afternoon it is back into business suits for the annual meeting of the SCI. My restless dreams were full of business probably because I talked shop most of the night with David in Restaurant Le Matin over by the morning marché. I drank too much wine then raced around town in the little Ford Fiesta I've hired, treating it in an identical way to that of dodgem at a fairground.
The BBC radio newsreel this morning tells me about China's 35yr celebrations. Simon Jessel is very optimistic and positive about China's development. He wonders how much further forward they might be if it had not been for the cultural revolution. But of course it is impossible to forget that Jessel's judgements are made from the standpoint of the West. If China is becoming more commercially minded, trading with the West, getting into consumer durables then we must think it is a good thing. Also from the BBC: Kissinger recently went to Argentina on a highly publicised private visit and was heard to say that if Alfonsin fails, Argentina could well fall into the hands of a Gaddafi figure, i.e. a leader with pseudo-socialist politics. Peronism isn't far off that tag already. Also from the BBC: Mark Tully reporting on Mrs Gandhi's likely political moves in the run-up to the election in early January. According to Tully Gandhi is renowned for her political tricks and he expects her to pull a rabbit out of the bag - an attack on Pakistan, a change in the constitution, a quasi-legal extension of her power for six months.
Monday afternoon, Nice airport
How uneasy I felt about rubbing shoulders with all that top brass - presidents and chairmen - at the conference. And how embarrassed I felt to open up the package of IPRs to discover two glaring typos on the front page. To begin with I was too ashamed to put them out for the delegates. In the end I did leave them out, but I was on my way out. Indeed, I left the conference slightly earlier than I needed. The Hoechst presentation was well set out in the press pack and the sun was shining more forcefully than at any point in my few days here. I went to take a swim in the bay at Antibes. The view was exquisite, snow-capped mountains rising out of the foothills in the background and Antibes castle and old town in the foreground. The sea was very calm and oh so tranquil.
Thursday 11 October
And then, still in Nice airport, with the flight delayed by over an hour, I fell in love. Not in a real, just a teasing, sense. I had watched this blue and white figure wonder around the airport rather curiously - she was neither tourist nor businesswoman; and although confident, she was nosing around restlessly in an almost childish way. Then later, I moved seats and went to sit not far from her and was able to strike up conversation easily. Toni Racklin By chance our seats on the plane were near enough so we could talk, and laugh all the way to London. I learned quite a lot about her, most of which I liked. She lives alone in Marylebone. At Heathrow we said goodbye, but it didn't feel like an ending. I should fall beneath her gaze, and find us both in the maze.
Tuesday 16 October
Already people are talking about Christmas; my mother, for example, has made a list; and Melanie has already bought a present. Dinner at 22 on Sunday night was a dress rehearsal for Christmas day - the usual gang, plus turkey. In the womb of my family I am teased, I hesitate and laugh. With G, I exchange views on Berlin (Rattle and Co have just been touring there), with Julian Bull I talk about cars, with Julian Lyons I talk about Toni Racklin, with Melanie I talk about her new hairdo that looks like two different hair dos. Why do women spend so much money on their hair? This is beyond me. And the whole make-up scenario. In a primitive sense I understand it, and I understand it in the sense of the pressure that the society puts on women, but it is the extent to which they make up that bothers me. Ruth just had a hair do, it looks like an Old Maid's Curl. I do not find carefully hairdressed hair attractive because it looks so unnatural.
Wednesday 17 October
My first swim since Antibes, but in Antibes I did not swim for breathing or health but because the sea was there. The fitness I had in the summer is fading, and I must continue to swim at least once a week.
The coming of Mireille, the girl I met in Switzerland, keeps interrupting my thoughts. I read her letter again and remember how attractive she is.
I must be very restless, I cannot, for example, settle down in the evening simply to read. Since returning from my journeys, I have relied on the television and housework to keep me entertained. I think all the time about my future. Sometimes I go out and walk along the Kilburn High Road. It lets me be who I want to be, I don't feel left out, as I might if I lived on the King's Road.
At two minutes after 10 on Saturday morning, Mireille rings, and half an hour later we meet at Kilburn Park station. Now, she is in the bedroom reading, I am in the kitchen. It has not been so magical. On a practical level we have simple earth-bound tasks but there is little debate or argument. The language makes things difficult - her English is not so good. We play romance, the electric fingers, the rubbing noses, the laughter at eye movements, long smiles. But it is somewhat tainted, limited, dampened by the lack of any sexuality. There is sensuality in abundance, and usually this is a reliable indicator of passion, but with her it is well under wraps. I am attracted and highly charged but her response is negligible.
We went to the Garden, the ponds, Sadlers Wells for some dance, with Gale, to Camden Lock. Conversation ran a bit thin, but she is so natural and easy to be with, free of problems or tensions. There is beauty there.
I talk with Mireille about the relationship problems of others, but I am frightened and cannot imagine anyone more likely to have problems than myself. There is no abundance in my life, no joy, no direction at all, and this is so sharply put into focus by having Mireille here. She is Nene again. She is Mitzi again. I have not developed beyond this. I am regressive. A poor boy. Last night, she was sitting on the high chair made higher by a cushion, and she clasped her tea mug to her chest. She looked so childlike. How simple life would be to love a girl like this and just waltz through nature at the weekends.
Wednesday 24 October
It rains a lot. I get wet on the bicycle but it does not matter, why should it. It is the wet season and then comes the cold season. It is the wind that hates me most. But it is the rain that is more likely to maim me: speeding through traffic, an open door or unwatchful pedestrian will have me since brakes lose their sharp effectiveness, and manoeuvrability is lost. I should slow down but I don't. I will end up on the floor, sprawling across the tarmac, my suit trousers torn, my head coarsely grated, my mouth screaming abuse at the world that cares not a damn for the bicyclist. The bicycle is the most clean, economic, efficient, perfect way of travelling ever invented by man.
And now introducing, in the front - a front light; and, in the back - a back light. Both are now working. How many winters did I not have lights. Now I have them. I have also put the handlebars up like horns, this enables me to sit more upright on the saddle (but I have lost some degree of control over the brakes).
Monday 29 October
Handwriting. I have only just consciously noted that my handwriting has settled down into a single style. This entire book is written in a slanting forward style and not this one [more upright, less flowing] which can be found scattered throughout most of my previous journals. What is this symbolic of. I am sure it indicates maturity (at last) and indeed I do feel mature these days to the extent that when I act or find myself thinking childlessly (Freudian slip? I meant to say childishly) then I watch my behaviour and see the grown man behaving like a child, as of course all grown men do. But then I ask myself how have I matured. I know, for example, that my writing in this slanting mode is not vastly different from that of my mother. Does this mean I have matured more like her than either Frederic or Sasha? Certainly my writing bears no resemblance to the heavy-stroked but ballooning letters of Sasha (and I can't recall Frederic's writing at the moment). Regardless of any style, nobody can read my writing, not even me most of the time.
The world does not hold its breath at the coming of the US presidential elections. As my mother would say, it is a foregone! Currently, the famine in Ethiopia is the single biggest news item. It's being being called the greatest natural tragedy of this century. Millions are starving. The scale of this tragedy is utterly beyond me. I don't even know what it is like for one person - me - to be starving, except in a metaphorical sense. Can we still come back from a Sunday morning walk saying 'we're starving'. Western governments, of course, are rubbing their political hands together in deep satisfaction that this should happen to an emerging Marxist state. Predictably, 'The Observer' ran a story yesterday, its main lead I think, promulgating the views of Britain's foremost third world expert. He claimed that Britain and the US had not been very free with aid since the establishment of the Marxist government, and in fact had been obstructive and difficult beneficiaries. What a surprise. What does this third world expert expect? That all the rich countries are just going to take take take taxes from their people and distribute the money to the hungry in the rest of the world. Oh boy, we've got a long way to go before that happens.
I sent off three cards this morning. From being a good letter writer I have sunk to becoming a lazy postcard sender. Vera got one, Manu in Berlin and Andy a birthday greeting about two weeks late.
Mireille ended up staying through from Saturday morning until Thursday. It was very beautiful, the romance, fulfilling the fantasies I had before her coming, which were, after all, about someone I had met so briefly, and who I never believed would really come to stay with me. It was very beautiful because she was very beautiful. Physically she was lovely to look at, and socially she was easy to be with. Intimacy came naturally, as easily as our first smile in the park, although sex took a bit longer. Some tension crept in about this after a couple of days, and I ended up having to make to clear that she had come to stay with a man not a boy, and that she was woman and not a girl. . . Perhaps I will go to Switzerland. I cannot think of a more perfect holiday, than a week's skiing and lovemaking with Mireille. Voici la saison Mignon, voici la saison. Otherwise we had an excellent understanding on food and more or less equivalent knowledge on plants (but any form of conceptual or intellectual conversation was ruled out by language difficulties).
I am still on British summertime. By half past eleven at night I'm aching with tiredness. At 6:30 in the morning, I wake clearly, well dreamt and not at all tired. I am definitely 'by nature' a morning person. I inhabit the world of the morning. The dawn is a time of fresh hope, new beginnings, clean slates. It is also the time of least pretension in the streets, people are at their least guarded, unhappily trudging toward a day's toil. There is neither the clown nor the actor about. As the day proceeds and the number of contacts I have with people increases so my head becomes increasingly soiled with my own unfortunate, misplaced, wrongly conceived, ugly, tasteless, selfish etc, actions and words. The night's sleep cleanses me fresh, to try again. The morning person is more atuned to nature, more centred, more able, more rational, more deliberate, more practical. The night person is afraid to sleep, for fear of dreams, for fear of not waking up, for fear of losing contact with other human beings. The night person is deeply dependent on others, is more into relationships than nature, will not walk in the hills alone; but nevertheless possesses joie de vivre and eternal optimism that life is wonderful. For them, the morning is an anathema. Everyone and everybody is so dreary; and besides they themselves are dreary too, and it will take most of the day for them to crank up their machines and straighten their feathers.
Mrs Gandhi has been shot eight times in the stomach this morning. It may have been Sikh extremists. It is a propitious time for Gandhi to get shot since elections are due in the next few months and her popularity is waning. The reports say she is unconscious and critically ill. I think she will die, probably from being overattended by physicians and surgeons. But this is a tragedy. I am not knowledgeable on Indian affairs, yet it seems to me that Mrs Gandhi had some ability to control the powerhouse of religious and racial tensions. That is not to say she is necessarily a good leader, or particularly democratic. But it is difficult to think of India without Mrs Gandhi.
We went to Tring on Saturday and enjoyed each other's company. I bought £40 of old road maps and £70 of old postcards at the auction. Not exactly what I was looking for. B bought nothing, but the day was lovely, crisp cold air and blue sky. It's always exciting to go to the Tring auction, it feels like a good day out.
Paul K Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG