PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1985 - FEBRUARY
I will be in Brazil in no time at all. Have I given this move enough thought? Time moves so swiftly when there is so much to do. I have yet to find lodgers for this house, I have yet to find out about taxes, I have yet to book a flight, I have yet to decide on a computer, I have yet to learn Portuguese . . . One person tells me it is too hot and humid in Rio in the summer, another tells me to 'beware'. Will I make my mark as a journalist. Will I be good? Will I have a big flat in Copacabana and an office with two phones, and string for 'The Economist'?
And Mireille rings. I will go to Geneva and we will go skiing.
What can one say about the famine in Ethiopia? Those caring concerned individuals, sitting so comfortably on the left, deman greater charity by the government, but how much of their own pocket would they donate? Surely unless you admit hypocrisy and understand it and accept it then you are worse than a hypocrite you are an innocent. It is the way of the world.
Why is it (let the caring, oh so caring person ask himself this) that we can kill an animal in pain to save it suffering a long death but we cannot kill a human to save it that same misery? Why? I'll tell you why. Because man is so puffed with his own self-importance that he dare not suspect that his life is not worth a spiritual wholesome amount. He believes it is sacred, and that sacredness must be preserved at all costs - even if they include starvation and terrible disease and living in worse conditions than sewer rats.
Now that I'm going away and now that I've been seeing a bit more of Bel, I feel guilty about going to spend a week with Mireille. My friends can't understand why I don't settle down with Bel. Would that I could, would that my spirit were quieter and my blood simpler. I will never love and care for anyone as much again.
The sun shines into my office promising of spring; the plants on my windowsill create skimpy shadows on the wall.
I've increased my portfolio of strings, it now includes: 'International Coal Week', 'International Gas Week', ' Latin American Markets', 'International Construction Week', 'Nucleonics Week', 'Nuclear Fuel', 'International Management'.
Me, I try and accomplish something significant each day. Yesterday, I wrote Peter Gall asking for money, today I bought a Portuguese dictionary and talked to Joan about working for 'Oilgram Price Report'. Monday I fixed up Portuguese lessons with Berenice. Saturday I wrote 10 letters to prospective buyers of my time. Tomorrow, I will go to the Brazil consulate and check on necessities for visa. Such a busy boy.
10 Feb 1985
I find it difficult to read or write. I can only turn my thoughts to the problems of my impending life. There are many problems still to be sorted out. The fear of failure becomes more acute, the fear of not being able to produce the goods that all these international magazines want. Tomorrow I go and see someone at 'The Economist'. The friendliness of the Brazilians overwhelms me. Everytime I ring the Sao Paolo bureau, Christine treats me like a long lost friend. Equally, I'm getting such attention from Marilla and Berenice.
Confession time. This pains me. Bel took me to the theatre to say thank you for the carpet. I told her I was going to Switzerland, skiing with Mireille. About 15 minutes into the play she lent over and whispered forcefully into my ear: 'If you go to Switzerland then you can say goodbye to me now!' There was resentment and anguish in her face. I hesitated for a few seconds then lent over and whispered back: 'Her boyfriend's coming too.' I don't recall ever having lied so blatantly before. Bel has carefully avoided asking questions that might be difficult to answer. But what would have been the point of allowing her to be miserable. I feel I have been as honest as I can, in the sense that I have exposed my feelings in their crudity and selfishness to her, I have not given her false hope or dreams, I have not pumped her full of future only to prick it with inevitable unfaithfulness in a future imperfect. I do believe strongly in a monogamous relationship bound by the limits of our own ability to cope with sexual jealousy - but where that monogamous relationship is not extant then a few lies and half truths can save a lot of pain and discomfort. There is self-justification in these words, but I am my own harshest critic, and this lie I forgive myself. If I were to have dedicated myself, committed myself to B, then it would be different, and I would not be be going to Switzerland.
The extraordinary hypothesis of 'Secret Honour' is that Richard Nixon orchestrated the entire Watergate affair in order to manoeuvre a pathway down from Presidenthood to save being condemned for a greater crime: that of accepting huge sums of money from Saigon (originally given as aid by the US government) for his re-election campaign. This is a very useful film. It was illuminating to discover that Nixon had been tailored for the job of president by the committee of the 100, a powerful group of businessmen largely Jews who appeared to direct Nixon's actions for many years until they had him in the White House.
Saturday night, Geneva
Snow has frosted on my hair after a long walk through the Geneva streets. It appears such a civilised place, peaceful, patient even, perhaps pondering. The snowfall is thick but gentle, enough to settle on the roads, causing trouble for motorists. I am here, very peaceful too, despite the evening's events. Now I'm listening to the 'Pathetique' in this most glorious of rooms with just a small lamp on the writing desk to see by. The walls, half wood-panelled, curve to a plaster patterned ceiling. Through the windows and the brances of some fir trees, I can see out over half of Geneva. The sky is white in reflection of all the snow. I spent much time today thinking about Bel, racalling many lovely times together, Ireland, the New Forest, Chesil Beach, Aldeburgh and the fireworks night when we both cried in a darkened room, cried for ourselves and others, and now finally, with my move to Brazil, these times are drawing to a close. I think to write her a letter: My Dear Bel, this morning I wept in anticipation of no longer knowing you were round the corner, to lose such a friend and lover is not easy . . . Then this evening, I was thinking about children again, and whether we'd been at all serious . . . and that if you wanted a child, I would want that too, even if I wasn't around.
Perhaps a foot of fresh snow covers the ground, houses, trees, cars all around. Last night I saw a car full of young people pull up. When the door opened it was not much higher than the snow. A young man stuck a white piece of plastic into the untouched snow and yelped with laughter - 'huit centimetres'.
I listen to Mozart - as delicate and musical as the snow in its micro and macro forms. But what is going on here with this Swiss nurse I have come to see. It appears that last night her boyfriend took an overdose of pills and swallowed them with plenty of alcohol. When we arrived at his house he was screaming and banging, and half naked, and half hanging out of an open window threatening to jump. I left him to Mireille and went marching through Geneva. When I returned to Mireille's flat she was there with him. I am not compassionate enough to show much sign of forgiveness. I've come here to be with Mireille, not to witness her difficulties in another relationship. I cannot believe she was naive enough to invite me here without expecting sexual intimacy. I am Mr Frost as though I've spent the entire night walking in the snow.
The boyfriend finally removed himself sometime around mid-morning and Mireille attempted some explanation for the events of last night, but she made no apology, and seemed to make no connection between her boyfriend's extraordinary actions and my presence.
I trudged across town to Rue de Temple to a cineclub Brazilian evening but, when I got there, there was a notice on the door which I think said 'we haven't received the films for tonight'. So I trudged back.
Only 24 hours of this nightmare left - it so serves me right.
The snow sweeps down again, blocking all escape from Geneva. Without this worst snowfall in decades, Mireille and I would have been far away, at her friend's ski chalet, alone and together. But there is no possibility to ski again today. I never felt so powerless. I express myself in a thousand different ways. I dance, I pace, I write, I walk, I laugh, I wank. But I have passed through the stage of anger. I can no longer sustain anger against the elements and blame Mireille for it all. Yesterday I walked along the lake till almost out of Geneva. The rocks on the shore were covered in sheet ice where the snow had been lapped and melted by the waves, and lining the water's edge attached to every rock's underbelly, to ever pier's support, icicles hung like panpipes. Once in the hills and away from the lake, I felt I could go on walking forever through the brilliant white barren landscape. Every house I passed looked like an artist's impression of an ideal city folk's country residence. A mixture of the tumbledown and the modern - not German Swiss, not the lederhosen and milkmaids here, still too French - but the snow covered rooftops and the huge farmyard gates and the snow-covered lintels above the small well-closed windows, the crumbling plaster in some parts, the snow-covered hedges. Then turning a corner to find a tea room, called 'Tea Room'. I asked for te limon and got te menthe, but perfect. And on. I thought to walk till evening and stay in an auberge but nothing mattered because I knew I could hitch if necessary. As it turned out the scenic beauty gave way to built up areas and I found myself making the return trip to Geneve. I had walked the anger out, what was left was some misery and disappointment and a trace of resentment, although not much. I bought flowers and food and returned. Too exhausted to go out again, I wrote and read alone for the evening, listening to the French classic radio station, while the two song birds chattered in mute tones in the kitchen.
Saturday 2 March, London
Time moves inexorably onwards. The nightmare in Geneva is now so insignificant. I am not ashamed of the events and relay them to him or her that would listen. Only to Bel, of course, do I not explain fully. But she is happy because now here in this time I am hers, and need her more than I have ever done. She is also happy to have the letter I wrote for her about children.
But I am not a well man - my jaw aches horribly from the operation two evenings ago to remove a buried wisdom tooth. The left side of my face is like a football.
Monday 4 March, New York
I have just written the date at the top of the page, and realised it's the end of the book. I never got to the end of a journal before without realising I was there. Now I have so many things to say and nowhere to say them. I certainly wouldn't have carried this book all the way to NY had I known.
Paul K Lyons
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