PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1985 - AUGUST
A big argument with Elaine. I see myself trying to tame her and I hate myself for doing it. In this case, I was looking for a little enthusiasm or excitement concerning our oft-proposed trip to Petropolis, but she showed zilch - even sleeping late, though we'd planned an early start. Then, when I showed doubt about whether we ought to go, she mirrored that doubt, again displaying no keenness. So I sat and thought about her. Maybe, because she has no money she cannot let herself get excited - if a trip to Petropolis were a thing of excitement, then she would ever be yearning for it. But, in effect, I am requesting/commanding/manipulating that on future occasions she show signs of gratitude/interest/enthusiasm in my projects. I am trying to prise her open, to be responsive emotionally to me, yet I know I don't want that, because I'm not in love. She just returned to collect her things, and to say, 1) she's not well because she's so near her period; 2) she's not used to anybody being preoccupied with her.
Sunday 4 August
I've been easing my depression by spending money. Yesterday and today it was plants, and plant stands. A big one I bought is called Happiness - a likely story! This reminds me that Julian told me the passion flower at 13 Aldershot Road is picking up - even though Bel doesn't write any more! Perhaps I'll write her a card this afternoon. Mum told me on the phone that she is seeing a lot of Bel at the moment, and she's been invited to Mel's wedding.
I don't like this pen, nor am I likely to finish this book. Having bought a new diary book, it is difficult to persevere with the old one.
Last night, Sunday, we drank and smoked some maconha, and my paranoia came hurtling down in a rain of knives. How close to the surface of my consciousness does all this bubble, that a couple of puffs brings it out bursting? First of all I couldn't speak Portuguese. I responded only to the simplest of Elaine's mutterings. I seemed to realise that I was only able to relate to women who give in to my pride and arrogance - which Elaine has begun to do. While Elaine was chattering away in pure joy and simplicity, I was lying there without any real feelings. I became aware of my own jerky head movements, and my constant denial of things hers, and also of my saying to J & C and to Maria that I'm not 'empassionada com ela'. Everything about me seemed fraudulent - impossible, hypocritical. She says, how good she feels with me. Am I supposed to confirm, oh yes, I suppose I am. I'd better say something. But there's nothing coming from inside. I won't let it. No one is ever good enough for my inside.
DIARY 28: August - September 1985
Wednesday 7 August 1985
How unvarying the weather. Always the same mornings, the sunlit hills, buildings, sea craft, the expanse of clear blue sky (occasionally, like this morning, specked with a single jewel, the platinum moon), the rippling blue water, yachts undressed of their sails all pointing in the same direction, the sounds of leaves and dirt being swept along the pavement, and the traffic, the ceaseless traffic.
It is not a propitious moment to be writing in a new book. I am a bag of insecurities as unchanging as the weather. I bitch at myself about not getting my teeth stuck into any new meaty stories, then, when I spend all day, as I did yesterday, writing a 1,500 word story for 'The Economist', I wake feeling as wretched as ever knowing that I've written like the inexperienced journalist that I am. And yesterday it depressed me unaccountably to receive 'Nucleonics Week', 'International Coal Report', and 'New Scientist', and to find that none of them had used my files.
Yet, when I sink into the sea water, I am transformed from mammal to fish. My mind floats free, independently through long thoughts, while my limbs, attached one way or another, exercise themselves.
Later on in the day
Night has fallen. Most of the day I've felt redundant. There have been but three phone calls. The first from Townley because I asked him to call so that I could return some information; the second from 'The Economist' (thank god) who got quite keen on the IBC/IAA piece; and the third, just now, of course from Elaine, who grows day-by-day more attached. Why, I don't know - is it the sex?; is it that I accept her round here whenever she wants to come?. But I wonder if my life couldn't be a teeny bit more exciting. Why does nothing interest me. I am working, moping, reading, swimming or making love with Elaine. But that's it. There has to be more social contact: this is vital.
I write to Bel asking her if it would be too silly to go away together to the Peaks or somewhere when I go back to London for Mel's wedding. And Vonny flirts across the oceans with a small drawing and informative notices. I think about being back in London several times a day.
Saturday after nightfall
Overnight Thursday to Friday my mood changed for no apparent reason. But right now I want to describe the ugliest woman in the world - so I shall. I saw her on the bus. I would certainly have noticed her, but I might not have written about her had she not had the effrontery to be painting her toe-nails.
THE UGLIEST WOMAN IN THE WORLD
There is nothing ugly about her feet, oh but the irony of crimson painted toe-nails: an innocent attempt to divert attention; or a gross deceit. I can't fault her calves either, unless they are a little too short, shrunken underneath the burden of such weight. At the knees, a white cotton cover-all commences a massive work of sheltering the world from a bulbous bulge. From the knees, one's eyes do not sweep along the line of thighs instead they move vertically to see a bean bag of a stomach, and breasts that are as large as pillows. But leave the simple monstrosity of obesity and raise your eyes with me, if you will, a little higher to the lower part of her head where many many folds of blubber have long since buried a chin. And inch up slightly to an underlip which is pouting more than a schoolful of sulking adolescents put together; and glance to the side where there are no cheeks, just drooping bags of more blubber. I shall leave any description of her arms, hands, neck, nose to some other chronicler, so I can focus on the woman's eyes. Unseeable in themselves, they are at the centre of two constellations of warts - giant ones, minuscule ones, medium-sized ones, black ones, brown ones, grey ones, multi-dark coloured ones, hairy ones, protruding ones, round ones, square ones, juicy ones, preposterous ones, and, best of all, oh, best of all, furry ones. All of them, dotted like mole hills on a scruffy hilly terrain, which the entire sum of my education has taught me to politely ignore. Certainly, I should not be staring. So I beg of you to turn your eyes away with me now.
Elaine is making an early dinner or late lunch. She is eating me out of house and home. She appears to be very hard up at the moment, and has landed here for the weekend, playing housewife, trying to please - not leaving the top off the sugar (the damn ants have got in four times this week), not leaving full ashtrays around the place, not asking me to do things every five minutes. How difficult am I - always asking her to draw such a fine line between accepting my generosity (?) and not asking for or taking more than I am prepared to give. She does always make the bed, though, and clean up the kitchen. This morning she claimed to have had her first orgasm ever - cripes! I've no idea what on earth I could have done different from past boyfriends.
I listen to 'Into the Labyrinth' by Peter Maxwell Davies - a powerful piece of moodism. It reminds me of Britten and Aldeburgh, and tugs at all those parts of me that are firmly connected to British heritage. I explain to Elaine, that my being in Brazil still feels like a sojourn. All my possessions are in England.
The day out with the divers on Saturday was quite entertaining. The overcast sky left me hesitant as whether to go or not. Yet, having paid a fiver it would have been churlish to skip the journey for want of a bit of sun. As it turned out, the mist cleared soon after we left for the islands. Five divers, three Brazilians, one American IBM executive, who looked more like a guerrilla with his wrinkled sun-tanned eye-pits and leathery thin lips, one German shipping clerk with his wife, mother and daughter (day trippers) who might have preferred a cabin, and yours truly. The launch rose and crashed with the waves round the headlands of Urca, past the small fort peninsula by the side of Pao de Azucar, and past the headland furthest out, where some fishermen were casting lines, proving that it must be possible to walk round the rocks. Our destination was a lighthouse island about half an hour's ride away. Unfortunately, we didn't anchor in a quiet little harbour, and although we were only a 100 metres or so away from the rocks, the water rocked and swelled, fell and swayed. The divers took well over half an hour to prepare themselves - wet suits, knee protection, gloves, flippers, air tanks strapped to their backs, weights, inflatables around the neck, goggles, airpipes, watches, meters, depth and pressure . . . then splash as they fell in the water backwards before diving down for up to an hour.
Paul = marsh, swamp Paulada = blow with a stick Paulatino = done slowly, by degrees
Tuesday morning 13 August
Workwise it takes so little to please me. One pleasant secretary, an appointment fixed, a message from an editor. Yet I know I'm not really producing the goods. I told Silvio, the Reuters salesman, over lunch today that if there were a good job in London, I would jump at it. But that's not true, not yet, not yet.
Well, I did it it, I phoned Cecilia and she's coming for a Maria special dinner. And maybe afterwards to Jazzmania - want to go, want to go. I hope Elaine doesn't call. Help, I'm not very good at this.
I treated myself last night to the opera - well Joseph Losey's version of 'Don Giovanni', with maconha on my side. I don't think I'll ever get off on Mozart the way Britten has me hooked. Plainly speaking, the music is less interesting, there is less to identify with from 18th century Vienna or Florence than there is from 20th century Suffolk. And I don't think Losey helps. His patchwork of settings and self-conscious style did more to confuse the music and ideas than help. I understand why Big Directors go in for producing Bigger names: it must be an attempt to assume the historical fame of the Bigger one. In the case of Losey I'm sure this is true. He has held faith with Mozart's words and music but in a vision painted and staged by Losey. How pathetic the statue coming to dinner. Surely, here is a point where cinema could leap ahead of the real thing, but no, my recall of Covent Garden's statues coming to dinner (what was that designer's name, damn my memory) is of vivid, forceful drama. Quite how Losey managed to turn the climax into an anticlimax, I don't know.
I also treated myself to an auction. Here is the sequence of events, the synchronous events. I was interested in buying a windsurfer (that will be a real treat if I ever get round to it) so I bought Rio's equivalent of Exchange & Mart - Balcao. Of course, my eye wondered to the book and antique section where I found an auction advertised for that very evening. How could I resist. I found the auction room near the old tunnel. It was a long narrow room with perhaps 30 rows of six chairs. The auctioneer looked like a business shark - in one hand he held a miniature wooden hammer, and in the other a small microphone. A few pictures were hung on the walls and I could see a few piled paintings on the floor. Only one painting caught my eye - a glass-framed rough-coloured sketch of a church. I sat as close to the front as I could. Middle class, young-to-middle-aged painting lovers filled the room to bursting. A waiter idled up and down the corridor offering glasses of wine (good idea that). I flicked through a catalogue and only one item attracted my eye - 'Igreja da Sabara' - and this was because I've been to Sabara very recently, and loved it. Lot 44. I decided to wait patiently for lot 44 before leaving. As the sale progressed I did not see one painting brought to the front and auctioned that I would ever consider hanging on my wall. Prices varied between 200,000 and 5m. I was surprised, but pleased, to be able to understand the auctioneer's figures. Honest to the laws of mathematics, it never occurred to me for a minute that lot 44 would turn out to be the same painting as I'd noticed and liked on the wall. The synchronicity was pure, and - as a consequence I'm sure - a spell fell over the entire audience of maybe 200 people allowing me to buy lot 44 for the minimum price of 200,000. I slipped away thoroughly pleased with myself.
Saturday, Parati Mirim
The ice factory at Parati had closed (where we might have picked up a block) so we made straight for Parati Mirim. Leaving the macadam road, we had a 20 minute bumpy ride over pitted unmade stone tracks to the sea's edge. By starlight, I could just make out the beautiful bay. Cecilia shouted across to Joaosinho. A few minutes later two torchlights emerged in the distance, and a few further minutes later, Joaosinho and Louis arrived in a basic fibreglass boat with oars. We humped boxes and bags from the car to the boat and glided across the silent water to where a few dim gas lights were breaking up the darkness. J and C talk rapidly about practicalities. Who's come, who's gone, what has happened, what the weather's done, what the sea's done. The tide was low so, after the 15 minute row, we had to scramble up onto the crude jetty. Narrow stone and concrete steps led us up 20-30 metres to the house veranda. It was just great to arrive at the shuttered house, open the windows, collapse into a hammock, and stare out to the stars, the bay, the distant shades of mountains, all framed by curving palmeiras and a monkey puzzle type tree. There was no moon so the sky was alight with stars.
DAWN AT PARATI MIRIM
The sun has just completed its climb above the background hills and dispels the cool morning air from this paved terrace. A humming bird vibrates for a second at a poinsettia flower. A silent kayak with three men and a woman glides across the inlet to one of the apparently deserted islands or peninsulas. Below me wavelets lap on rocks. In the distance I can hear the soft crash of waves on sand, and several different kinds of birds, one sounding like a castrated owl.
Now that the kayak has slid out of sight, I can see not one single sign of other men's existence - not a chimney, not a boat, not a pier, not a pylon. I am stunned into contentment to be here. Cecilia still sleeps. I like that she leaves her door and windows open. Indeed, I continue to be impressed by Cecilia. She tells me she's been coming here for three years now, and that since the owners hardly use the house any more she has taken over its running. It is large and pleasantly simple, built around a boulder, with whitewashed adobe walls supported by timber uprights and crossbeams, and an elevated mid-section. Thin thatching covers both roof levels. The east end contains two double bedrooms with a bathroom each. The central lounge area with cushions and hammocks and books leads to an eating and kitchen area. One needs to scramble up the boulder and concrete to arrive at the elevated section. Water is plentiful, and a full size gas cooker and gas lamps provide cooking heat and light.
50 metres below there's a crude plank pier - boat is the only way to bring any volume or weight of goods to the house, although there is a dirt track which winds its way half a kilometre or so between other houses to the road. The house is surrounded by bushes, palms and trees. Directly in front is a tree similar to a monkey puzzle but the trunk and branches are smooth and silver.
DUSK AT PARATI MIRIM
Cecilia sleeps in the hammock. Micki reads her German magazine. A wind now rustles the trees' leaves and furrows the sea. Maybe we have an hour left of light after the sun has sunk behind the mountains in the west. The hours of sunlight have vanished in a tranquil bliss, disturbed only by odd sullen thoughts concerning Cecilia. It is fine to be able to be silent with someone but there is almost no communication. Occasionally, she tells a story, occasionally I ask a question, but mostly we are quiet. I wonder whether she wants me in her bed, but I have no idea how to find out, or what to do without communication. She has gone to much trouble, buying all the food to bring here, and has hinted that she didn't really have time this weekend. She appears so capable, but I can find no way to return my gratitude. But this is all a minor parenthesis to the physical enjoyment and sensuality of being here. Alejandro hired one of the ex-fishermen and a fishing boat to transport him to a diving spot. We hitched a lift. For a while, on the way out of the immediate bay, the water was a pure turquoise and so calm, I wanted to dive in and disappear. Further out, though, the water grew darker and choppier. We anchored at a point off the west of Ilha de Algodao, and Alejandro dressed himself in wet suit gear. I've always assumed such gear is simple protection against the cold, but it must also provide protection against things like rocks, spikes, lobster claws, and, and, and cripes, jelly fish. I bravely dived in with goggles and snorkel, and followed the wetsuited man for a bit. A great fog of turquoise spread out in every direction. Occasionally, I felt minor stings but was too busy swimming and blowing the water out of my snorkel to notice, then carumba, cripes, I saw my first thing - a little wiggly transparent worm. Cripes, carumba, that was enough to see me back in the boat smartish. Fortunately, Alejandro also came back immediately but I doubt it was because of the mini-jelly worms. Safely back in the boat, I was informed of the creatures' name - Agua Viva, live water - very appropriate indeed.
Sunday, noon or long after
There is very little conversation in this company. The day passes in a monastery like silence. But then what is there to talk of. A strong sun and a coolish wind compete for attention; after a day and a half in the sun, my skin reddens slightly. The sun now lies more in the west than in the east, its strong light dancing blindly off the sea's surface. By now my mind cannot focus on thoughts of any intelligence, instead it is absorbed in listening to nature simple, the water-lap or the distant clear sound of a boat's phut-phut.
Back in the city. Inevitably days move past like wagons clinking over a rail junction, routinely and unconsciously. Days at Parati Mirim were weeks in the city. I am still scratching my mosquito bites and aware of the redness of my skin. Monday afternoon, after we arrived back, I was overcome by tiredness and a headache. I still had to make myself work, and step up a rhythm in keeping with the city traffic and 'gente'. I was besieged with phonecalls which helped stave off the various physical and philosophical pains. Ruth rang first, not long after I walked in; then Julian rang to tell me I could wear a white or light suit at the wedding, and that he's not controlling things in my house as well as he should; and in the evening Bel rang to invite me to Cornwall for a few days. In between times, all the people I know here rang too, Conceicao, Elaine, Pat. . .
The rains have come. Such a grey day fills me with nostalgia for England. I've bread in the oven. 'The Rape of Lucretia' diverts my attention. I think it contains some of the most lovely duets I have heard, but now it is the female chorus that delights me - the echoing repetition of 'finding and losing' - 'seeking the threads of their dreams, finding and losing'. The water drips in by the side window. Perhaps Elaine will call on me this night. While I was away at the weekend, Elaine came visiting and interrogated Maria about Cecilia. Maria fortunately knew exactly what Elaine was about and informed me on Monday that she had given away nothing. Firstly, it is really odd that she should have come here while I was away, and secondly that she should be quizzing my maid over my personal life and friends. She had left a note to say she'd been here. As soon as she arrived on Monday, I told her off sternly, as a father would a daughter. Well it was sneaky behaviour, that deserved childish punishment.
The bread is done.
I bought a new suit. An event. I have only ever bought four in my living memory. The first two new ones were really bought for me by my Sandoz sales director in Auckland. The third one was bought for me at a jumble sale by Roger's secretary - Michele's auntie - and I paid only £1 for it. The fourth, and most recent, I purchased at the charity shop in Aldeburgh for £8. Now I have rashly laid out £45 on a smart light suit which I plan to wear to The Wedding.
'Loveliness like this is never chaste. If not enjoyed, it is just waste. Wake up Lucretia, wake up.'
Sunday 24 August
Maria has left, dusk settles across the bay. I have upset Elaine today by not turning up for lunch when both her mother and brother were there waiting to meet me. I only justify myself marginally because she did push me so into accepting an invitation to come immediately when really I wasn't ready. I was entertaining strangers, strange girls, strange young girls, strange young almost fascinating girls - and I have half a mind to believe that one of them, Cynthia, is a girl I sat next to on the bus oh so long ago, and into whose lap I dropped my telephone number, having felt an extraordinary degree of sexual buzz. But only half a mind, mind. I met them in the Jardim Botanico artefacts shop. We had both been buying presents for friends overseas, and when it came to wrapping them, we were both writing names on the outside to avoid later confusions. I'd already noticed, and caught the eye of one of them, Cynthia. As I was leaving they invited me to take a lift with them. C lives in Urca. Extraordinaraily they both work for a consulting company that appears to be heavily involved in the Algeria natural gas project, about which I've been writing. I invited them up for a beer. I am most attracted to Cynthia, small and pretty, but Leila is the more vivacious, the more imaginative. Even more oddly, L's mother is Algerian, and Cynthia's father used to be the president of Rio de Janeiro's gas company!!
Meanwhile, as I say, I've been shopping. Melanie: a wedding ceramic; Luke: wedding ceramic; Colin: preacher with birds; Julian: wooden bowls, tape documents do Brasil; Judy/Rob: little wooden bird; Vonny: earring with parrot; Bel: Flora Brasileiro/tape documentos do Brasil Villa-Lobos; Dad: cashaca; Mum: tapes of Gal Costa and Nocturnas Brasileiras. Also for me, two pairs of shorts, a bread board and a plant holder in the design of a great caju.
Elaine tells me how she loves the rain. In her land, Ceara, it is a sign of health, of sustenance to the crops and a bringer of cool air; and the land sprouts flowers suddenly in a magnanimous toast to the offering. Here in Rio, when the rains come, favelas are sure to be washed away; people mutter in the streets unprepared, unused to umbrellas; my flip-flops flick mud up behind; and the mudguard-less bicycle streaks my back from calfs to neck. Puddles are big here. In London, it is always possible to step or at least jump over them, not here, one has to walk around them. At least the rains mean clouds and the sky is interesting again.
Following my trip to Belo Horizonte, I sent 'New Scientist' a small piece on congenital birth defect research with a covering letter explaining that I'd talked to some schistosomiasis scientists (I'd been asked to see what was going on on that front) and also requesting a small sum to go to Sao Paolo to interview the Antarctic Expedition scientists. My story and letter were returned with a brief note saying the story wasn't suitable and with no word about the other two suggestions. Also my subscription has been stopped. So I've been dumped. Really Chris Joyce should have written or called and said my stories weren't suitable or proffered some advice. But he also returned my letter with notes scribbled on it sometime previously, and I got a cheque of £25 for help on a feature. By contrast, 'The Economist' has treated me like a gentleman. I wondered if I'd get paid for both the alcohol story (for which I'd been given the thumbs up but which they didn't use) and the IBC/IAA story which they did use. I did. A nice cheque for £180 the other day.
Two days of the gripe, orange phlegm surfacing from the lower regions of my throat, endless spasmodic coughing, and catarrh streaming down out of my nostrils. I haven't felt too ill, but weak enough to stop me swimming or running about much. Maria insists I should take remedies, but I try and explain that remedies only ease the symptoms and not the cause.
But I am excited today. I have, by chance, noticed that 'Laura' is playing at the Modern Art Museum cinema at 4:30 this afternoon. Will I finally go and see it. I am in the mood. The other night, I was entranced by Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George MacReady in Charles Victor's 'Gilda'. Why should it be that these black and white forties movies are so pleasing?
Last night the winds came with a vengeance. I shut all the shutters and doors and lay awake on the bed expecting a glass window to explode. I am unsure if my heightened tension during these winds is purely practical or whether there is a connection with the 74 Darwin experience - after all I was still quite impressionable. Despite my precautions one window vibrated loose and began rocking back and forth with loud bangs that woke me up.
I was in the middle of a game of cricket. The pitch was narrow and there was a rock face on one side, and a cliff on the other. A fresh batsman had just gone in but I went to dispute with him his right to be there. He had already batted, and I felt it was now my turn. And the other night I dreamed of a bald patch above my forehead, 3-4 inches in diameter. What does it all mean. God! What does it all mean.
The affair with Elaine must have run its course, I think. I've become particularly boring in her company and she is again becoming weighed down by problems. The whole day it has rained, and remained grey - a sign of our relationship - and makes me feel quite nostalgic for a verdadeiro English drizzle. Soon I'll be there.
The first government drop-out caused a tizz during the last week. Dornelles, the treasury minister, decided he'd had enough and resigned. Of course, the news that gets into the papers is but the tip of a proverbial iceberg. Clearly though Dornelles was out on a frozen limb, attempting to cut government spending by a much greater degree than other ministers, including Sayaad of planning, and presumably Sarney himself. There are no absolutes, so it is impossible to use the words right or wrong or even better or worse, however, it does seem that Dornelles was winning ground with the international bankers, but at the expense of his own political standing. Perhaps he never wanted that political standing. He has returned to the Getulio Vargas Foundation from whence he came - an academic at heart. He must have had a rough few months. Sarney has appointed a politician in his place, Funaro, his first very own appointment (because all the rest are Tancredo's men). There was a wonderful cartoon in the Jornal do Brasil, by Michel I think. He copied a photograph of the much taller Dornelles hugging the short stocky Funaro. Both men are wearing odd expressions: Dornelles' is tranquil faintly bemused and Funaro has pouting lips and looks like a child holding onto the bigger man for safety. Well, Michel copied this photo in detail but lightly drew in, at their feet, a cliff edge so that Dornelles is standing on the edge, while Funaro is off the edge, being held by Dornelles who looks like he might let him go.
Have been reading Thomas Hardy of late. 'The Major of Casterbridge' kept me on the edge of my cushion, but Tess, oh Tess, at times it was difficult to turn the page. Why did he write this story? Why give Tess such a hard time? Is the man himself a dire pessimist? A Khamist he certainly isn't. But surely he didn't want to write this novel as a moral - whereby the one sin, the one weakness leads to a degraded life. Surely not. I must examine some literary criticism. I am grateful to read in the very brief introduction of the mammoth omnibus I have that the last few pages of 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' - which I so liked - 'are surely among the most moving passages in English fiction'.
Paul K Lyons
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