Monday 1 August


Two boys and a girl are sitting on a train. The girl is the older sister of the freckled boy. They are playing a card game called three card brag. Betting is an essential part of the game, so these children are betting in pretence. Before each bet they say, without fail 'see you and raise you'. In fact they don't actaully look at each other's cards until somebody decides to show them. And when they do show them, there is general laughter and a complete disinterest in the winner. Here are some examples of their betting sequences: One, three, 49, 500, 1,000, 5,000; Five, 500, 3,000, two million, one billion, one thousand billion; Three, 1,000, one trillion, one thousand billion five million trillion, three million million trillion billion thousand trillion; Two cream buns, three chocolate biscuits, ice cream and jelly, scampi, vinegar with a little marmite and a strawberry on top; Castrated earwig, fried testicles, diarrhoea, twenty dustbins, (long pause) a sapphire.

UNCLE BONDY (a one minute biography)

He was norn in Vienna to a rich banking family. His father was the Czech ambassador to Turkey. He became a cavalry officer and later went to plant coffee in Brazil. He came back to England and joined the De Gaulle free French army in London. Thereafter he lodged with my mother in Fitzjohn's Avenue, before himself becoming became a landlord and a dirty old man: he was arrested once for molesting a girl in a cinema. Later he tried to get his brother's family out of Czechoslovakia. The son got a scholarship to the States and never went back. When the brother and wife were old, the government allowed them exit visas, but not one for their daughter. The daughter felt deserted and committed suicide during the Dubcek uprising. When Bondy and brother and wife went to the funeral, the brother had a heart attack and died. Bondy married the widow, but then became ill. His new wife deserted him and went to the US. Bondy died last week at the age of 84. There was some nice music at his funeral.

DIARY 6: August - December 1977


Thursday 4 August, Paris

Didier sits in a crumbling leather and velvet armchair. On one arm is a piece of marble, with cigarette tobacco and papers. In the room are bookshelves, a slanting wardrobe, plant plots, lamps with rags for lampshades, curtain rails rigged up from stripped branches, a table top standing on books, walls crowded with posters, photos and broken-glass frames; a chess set stands by a candle, classical music plays on a good stereo. Didier's brother, a poet, is somewhere in France selling potted bead and leather strand necklaces they make here in the flat. There is a garden of vegetables and soft hair-like bright green grass. We eat picnics in this garden and discuss our pasts, futures and presents, objectively and subjectively. The dog, Barbara, eats a radish, I choke on Gauloise cigarettes. I am ashamed of not speaking French. I go out among these French people in this French land, and I am so far away from them. I will not speak English, and I can't speak any French, so I do no communicating. I am here only to see Didier. If I walk past the Notre Dame, or into the Louvre, I leave just as quickly. I feel unwelcome here - a thing of me, my shame to not speak the language of these people I deign to visit. But it is a very beautiful city, such buildings and stonework, barges on the Seine, smells and sounds from a million restaurants. Many shops are closed for the 'Annuelle fermeture' - it is August after all.

Vendredi 5 Aout

At both ends of my train journey from Maisons-Lafitte to St Lazare in central Paris there is never anybody checking tickets. So, the one time I do not buy a ticket, there are three thousand ticket collectors at the end. One of them is very silly and starts protesting that I have to pay 30 francs. This is ridiculous. Another man comes and he is much more sensible. He speaks Spanish, and explains that there is an on-the-spot fine of 30 francs (£4) for people who travel without a ticket. Well, I say, that it's absurd because I didn't know, I only came to France yesterday. They let me off with paying the ordinary fare, but now I will buy a ticket for every journey and I will never ever see a ticket collector again.

Saturday 6 August

Flying through France in a vehicle of heat and sweat and daydreaming between the rolled cigarettes, over leagues of concrete highways flying through bright light. We stop at a cavern of a restaurant where one old lady has the words and counts the bill, one old lady cuts the bread and sausage, and one young girl, with a shy glance, takes us to her shaded bed one by one! There is no passage of time between our leaving and our arriving, it is nowhere in the actions of these three females. We fly further to the south and pass the village of three actions, three motions: the old lady sewing on the step of her house, the old man climbing up a step ladder to paint his house, and the three men standing outside their citroen, pasting a notice on a board where notices go. The village of three actions, three blinks of the eye, three ages of time. Motorbikes speed pass and suggest a way I can travel all the places I want to know, fast and cheap - Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Greece, Finland. Rivers that we pass remind me of New Zealand and my frantic transformations: from business suit to a skin pure and beautiful drinking and floating in mountain waters.

We arrive at Proube, a farmhouse, where Didier's sister gives us refuge, where I find dark barns with wood piled high and ancient wooden carts.

Monday 8 August

If I had a camera in the country of France, in the province of Poitou in the little hamlet called Ploube, in the farmhouse rented by Didier's sister and her husband, I would have taken a picture of Florence, the daughter. She is two and a half years old, with a white body covered in small red marks from mosquitoes, and coarse ginger hair down her back. While we were lunching outside, she came out of the house with her shorts and pants around her knees, her little stomach sticking out below her coloured vest, and she held a pipe to her mouth, and was, in all seriousness, blowing it with an expression that queried the whole art of pipe smoking.

I probably would also have taken a picture of Didier lying in a small haystack smoking a joint. I might have taken a picture of one of the men sitting in a stone outhouse earnestly playing on some drums, as well as the echoes around the farm. I would have snapped the garlic hanging in the attic. I would have snapped Didier saying he felt 'perfect'. I would have snapped the two children diving naked into the plastic pool and the dog Barbara poking her head between my legs and mealtimes. I might have taken a picture of myself reading late into the night by a huge log fire. I would have taken a picture of two brothers riding rusty bikes past forests of flashing suns. And in Poitiers I would have photographed the street named Enfer that led (with a few deviations) to the street that we named Paradise. I would certainly have captured the golden ball falling on the silence of the countryside of France.

And now, if I had my camera here in Paris at the top of the monstrosity called the Pompidou Centre, I would take a panoramic picture: 37 cranes, one Eiffel Tower, and one Arc de Triomphe hiding among the more distant skyscrapers.

Wednesday 10 August

Back in London and feeling back in London. At home in my worldly estranged city. France and Didier were refreshment, a cool and gentle pause in my turbulations. Back in London, back at work, from 9:30 to 5:30, 49 weeks a year. Colin is disgusted at my citification. Didier is wordlessly worried about my security kick, the flat and friends I want. Am I worried, about work? I don't really think about it.

There is some news on my return from Paris: my uncle Mike Goldmith is in prison in the Central African Republici. Grandma Dolly took a fall at the news and is badly ill in bed with nursing around the clock.

Carter wants to legalise pot and give Panama back to the Panamanians slowly, relinquishing total control by 2000 but retaining the authority to intervene if the security of the canal is endangered.

It seems 64 Carlton Hill might fetch £100,000. Julian works at the Flask Pub and finds the pseudo Hampstead set exciting and interesting. Donna Donna by Donovan plays on the record player. Summer is weird. Soon autumn.

A letter arrives from my father Frederic: 'I deduce poetry from facts not facts from poetry'. I must write the next letter to him dead straight. M goes to Scotland on Saturday.

Back in London and feeling back in London, with a Guardian breakfast, library morning, and bicycle afternoon.

Sunday 14 August

Grandma is a ghostly image of who she once was; she's virtually lost control of all physical functions virtually out of control. Mike was to be put on trial, but was then released. He might arrive in England on Monday.

I go to see some jazz at Dingwalls, and spend the evening with M who leaves on Sunday.

Wednesday 17 August

Oh! Queen won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

World shaking news this morning, I am employed by Market and Opinion Research International (MORI).

Thursday 18 August

I have an office, a telephone, and am called a junior executive. It is my fourth day working. I share the office with S. Hello S! Do you fancy the receptionist? She is married you know. Bob [Worcester] took us young recruits to the RAC Club for lunch, such mundane service, decor, food and conversation. Will I become a market research executive, staying late in the office to finish some godawful report, using bottles and bottles of snowdrop to cover up all those mistakes. I have a swivel chair, but my drawers are still empty (although W H Auden tries to warm one of them). I have half of Stewart's rubber and a ruler all to myself.

Beautiful Carla joins me here at the ICA cafe and gives me some cigarettes.

Monday 22 August

Oh I had such a boring weekend. Everywhere I went I kept saying to myself 'what the fuck am I doing here?', I really must do something about my social life.

23 August


Today, pressure existed - the frantic rush, the panic to finish, the absurd little boy feelings as I waited for the boss to check my work, wait for praise or scorn. I was working on a report which had to be finished tonight. At 5:30 the typist was still typing, and I had to check for errors, then put i tall together - blah, blah, blah. I was very speedy, and raced home, arriving after 7:30.

Annabelle had a nice holiday in Greece. I talked to Roger yesterday about the limiting concept of democracy. Democracy implies that a population has the right to elect its desired government. But what happens if a majority want fascism? The democracy can destroy itself. Roger thinks democracy should be held even in the face of its own inherent self-destruction. I think (maybe?) that if a majority wants fascism then it should have it! Roger thinks politics will get more violent and polarised. It is the left that is causing all the trouble at the moment, at the Front marches in an effort to get them discredited. The only way to stop the destruction then is to ban the marches, but that's against our basic code of liberty. Roger asks if liberty is allowing people to go around inciting hate and violence. I suggest that the left should simply get clever enough to counteract the heavy propaganda of the Front. Ann has become a right little anarchist and marches against the Front and pickets Grunwick. Maybe I am a fascist, I cannot find a concrete political view that suits my thoughts. I seem to see things on too many levels.

Julian came round with some friends. They put some music on the stereo, so I went to put away the album I'd been listening to. I couldn't find where he'd put it, so I looked at the turntable to see if he had put the new record on top of the other. No, there was only one record on the machine. I looked again all over the floor for it, and then asked around as to where the album was. Someone pointed to the cover but the record wasn't inside. I looked again at the turntable but saw only one record on it. I was completely flummoxed. Then, suddenly it hit me: the record on the turntable wasn't going round and round; a tape was playing. It was my record on the turntable.


My guts are crammed with carbohydrate. Sometimes in the day, I dream of eating, of the meal I shall have when I get home. And now I feel the pressure of my gut walls. It is not a good greed, it is a vacuum greed, it is the stuffing of bits into my mouth.

Last night I went to Sadlers Wells Theatre to see Kabuki. There were lots of people that looked interesting, by their clothes and faces and actions. I drank with one of them, a lady, after the show. She was politically very left and very socially conscious. After half an hour she went south and I went north. The meeting was easy, the half an hour was easy, the parting was easy, and, though we had attracted one another by our appearances, we dis-attracted ourselves with our short play of words.

Grandma Goldsmith died. Yesterday was her birthday. She will be cremated at Golders Green Crematorium.

Tuesday 30 August

August Bank Holiday: five miles of traffic built up on the Guildford bypass, one quarter of a million people stumbled around Notting Hill Gate expecting violence erupt. On this same day, I rode past a place called Bala with narrow pavements blocked every ten feet or so by a whacking (for no other word will do) tree. Driving along this narrow street, one has to be very very careful of families popping out from behind the trees.

This bank holiday I also passed through Caernarvon, where nobody was cheering the prince, and partook of a nice tea with some country people at Major Southwood's. We also passed by a deserted mining village, long grey beaches, crumbling stone houses, cliffs, hanging fog, and hoards of families. And I lost a Mexican woven jacket that did not belong to me.

Paul K Lyons

September 1977


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