PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1980 - MARCH
Wednesday 5 March, Leyton
It seems L ran off with a set of keys and my Rotring pens - god knows what else.
Outside it is bitterly bitter. As I made my way to the dole office to sign on, two small pieces of theatre entertained me. The first was a young man, with a scruffy face and wearing a labourer's jacket, who was standing at the entrance to the telephone exchange building. He talked as if the world's injustice was at his door, but the comedy was in his pleading to a small metal object stuck on the side of the building next to the door. His speech went something like:
'But what am I supposed to do now?' Pause. 'Well, what will fucking happen?' Pause. 'What do I do . . , starve?'
Then as I am walking toward the dole office, almost in parallel with another man, a second man approaches us walking in the opposite direction. He stops the man walking by me and asks him where the dole office is. He points, the second man turns around, and they walk together. They are now both a few feet behind me, and I can hear the conversation. Almost immediately, the second man says to his new found friend: 'First time in my fucking life-time . . . 47 years.' I am suddenly ashamed of myself, my life, my times. For half an hour's work in going to the dole office, I get £60. I would not blame anyone for calling me a parasite.
I saw a sign near Euston saying 'Several small suites to let'. I went to the Bond St offices, and was told the advertisement referred to suites of offices. But, but, there was also a small one bedroom unfurnished flat in Maida Vale coming up for rent. I was unashamedly excited. The details were vague, date of unoccupancy and rent unknown. I must wait for news, and I have refrained from telling anyone about it.
A letter from Vera Caspary awaits me.
What does E do.
'Last Night Nerves' was not a success by any stretch of the imagination. The show was too complex and grandiose for such a short rehearsal period and get-in. Neil took on far too much to cope. The real star of the evening was a young black boy who won the overall award of £500 for the best new play. Edward Bond nervously twitched about the stage mumbling his thoughts on each of the plays in turn; and taking his time about it. When he announced the result, the boy shrieked with delight and rushed on stage, giving a very spontaneous and natural speech: 'I want to thank all those people who said I couldn't do it.' After that burst of pure joy, Neil, as compere, could not finish as planned and cut the show to an end, almost in mid-sentence. It was poor. But Poppy, the stage manager, was pretty and fresh.
Last night I went to The Everyman in Hampstead with Harvey. I told him about coming to a hall for cubs, when I was 10 or 11, and we went round the back to see if I could find the hall - and and there it was, and inside were little boy cubs.
We went to see Herzog's 'Heart of Glass'. It's the most stylised of films, with the 'actors' under hypnosis most of the time. And Herzog seems to disregard his audience, for, in the middle, he turns the movie into a documentary on glass-blowing, and then, as it seems to be ending, it keeps going off in new directions. Also 'La Souffriere' which is no more than a series of pictures of the smoking volcano on the island of Guadaloupe, and a laborious conversation with two people waiting for the volcano to erupt and then to die. When he heard about the volcano, the evacuation of the island, and the fact that a prisoner had refused to leave, Herzog rushed to the island with two cameraman. In fact, the volcano never exploded, and Herzog admits, at the end of the film, to some embarrassment.
A night with D. Somehow, it was loveless and passionless, not like before. Oh dear. What happened. She talks of a new love called Mell, and so I tell her about L. This free and easy version of sexuality.
Thursday 6 March
Cold, raining. It was a disappointing morning. I looked through the job sheets at ATCC in Wardour Street, and there was no sign of research posts. Should I write to the BBC. My next call was to the British Library, which brushed me off, wanting to know what I wanted to research, and what university/institution/business I was working for. Well, er, um. I dry up, and I am given a leaflet about other libraries in London. And I shaved this morning especially for the colour photograph. Rain gutters. Splutter.
Friday 7 March
I am NOT imagining it - Leyton is bad for me. I have got into the habit of sleeping in the afternoon. The alternating damp, cold and propane heat and the clutter all destroy my will, my determination to do anything at all. I am a dead man in this Leyton flat. I fantasise about the Maida Vale possibility, how I fantasise.
I read 'Hand to Breast' to Colin last night. He liked it, suggested I send it off. I think of 'Penthouse'. But it's not good enough. I know it's not good enough.
Sunday 9 March, Hawkley
Here are rolling fields, the Downs and ancient yew trees planted 1200 years ago by druids. The sun is streaming in through the glass, but it is cold beyond the walls. I write on a sunlit page. I can hear Stravinsky's music, and there is talk of Borges. On a table in front of the house, there are fresh eggs for sale. Michele is drawing. Emanuella is peeling onions.
Rosy told me stories. Guido had a mental breakdown over a year ago and had been searching since then for 'togetherness'. He was given a 'rebirthing' session by Tony. Three days later he killed his cleaning lady. Apparently, he ran screaming out into the street saying he had killed his grandmother. He is now in Brixton Prison, charged with murder, but not remembering anything about it. And Ruth was in hospital for two weeks having poisoned herself by injecting heroin with dirty needles; and a guy called Jeff had killed himself at one of Richard's parties. Bloody hell.
Monday 10 March, Liss
Cold grey drizzle. I take refuge in this cafe while waiting for a train. I have a hot mug of tea. 'House of the rising sun' is playing on a juke box two feet away. I'm glad I came to the country, if only for the air. But the news in Paris was true. Emanuella was, to all intents and purposes, finished with me. A coldness infiltrated all her movements and actions with me; she feared me demanding, wanting too much. The difference between now and last year is dramatic; she is like a different person. Yes, I feel my ego a little wounded. I feel I managed things badly, and there is no way I can express what I'm really about without fear of my words and actions being misinterpreted. I am not unduly worried, but perhaps I ought to be. The fruit machine clinks and whirs.
Thursday 13 March, Leyton
I have to trap myself into writing anything at all in here. Spring flouts itself under our noses. Sunlight filters through the condensation-covered glass. No shadows fall on the black table of the black cafe, which is what we've nicknamed this Leyton flat. I cannot find my slippers so my feet are cold. Rosina came and reclaimed half of the room. Making love is like a quick dance to a record put on at the wrong speed. Different rhythms? nerves? desires? I am going to Spain for a week, thanks to MORI.
Saturday 15 March
The greyness continues. Gin loosens our tongues, we find ourselves falling into personal conversation. Dom is worried in case I am madly in love with her, mostly from the letter I sent ('I wish I were entwined in your arms'). I can be mischievous sometimes. Well, after she told me that she only rings when she's down or got no one else to call, I had to admit I'd written the same letter to somebody else. The problem is partly to with the difference between English and Dutch cultures perhaps. I say things, for example, that are neither true nor untrue but part of a kind of conversation game I play, saying things other people might say. I do play a bit on her straightness. There was a small hippy girl on the tube easily falling into conversation with strangers and then asking for money. Dominique was upset by her, by her hippy language and clothes, and then would not stop talking about her. I felt, however, that the girl was playing a role and enjoying it.
I have bathed and scarfed my head. Dom still sleeps. We saw 'Wise Blood' last night. I was not impressed. Bunuel's films (made with Dali almost exclusively to shock), which I saw the night before, didn't impress me either. But I also saw '10' this week which I found amusing and entertaining. As good, if not better, than Woody Allen, to which it could be compared in terms of style. And 'Equus' on the radio just re-affirmed my belief that it is one of the very best modern plays.
I shall scoot out to Leyton soon for the jumble sales.
Tuesday 18 March
I am dressed in silks and velvets, but it is a quiet evening at home in Leyton. I am warm, comfortable and relaxed. My books aren't spitting at me, nor do they even show their fangs. They sit, unmoved, on their shelves threatening no-one and nothing. The lights are not sharp, soft candle flames waver. The music is blues. I am aware of my body growing old. My face skin is spotted and dry, my heart beats too heavily, too often.
I see the shape of Rosina's breasts bulge under her dull lilac sweater. I speak to Harold today, and to L. I don't even remember what I said. Rosina says I was strange.
I am glad to be working hard at MORI. I write reports and prepare for my trip to Spain - will Madrid be dark, cold and as inhospitable as it was last time.
And what the fuck is happening on the flat front? Am I condemned to live in Leyton for ever.
George Marlow phoned. Apparently, my natural father Frederic phoned him on Sunday from New York and, because he couldn't understand my letters, wanted to know what was happening to me. I was duly invited to dinner that evening. George has a grey Hamlet beard but nothing can disguise his overly Jewish features, manners, conversation. He hides his eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, and he has a grotesque laugh that turns him into a tossed pancake. Money is rarely far from the conversation topic. When it was my turn he listened, when his turn he talked, told amusing stories, mostly Jewish flavoured. He tells me a bit about Frederic, and his young wife Gail, who, he says, is a talented artist. Sasha apparently told George to tell Fred that he's a bastard and should send me money for a plane ticket to meet him. I told George to censor that message, because money is not a factor when I'm considering a trip to New York, and to meet my father for the first time since I was 3!
Sunday 23 March
I have that hollow feeling in the intestines, the one that comes from loneliness-emptiness. I've had it all day except for the few hours that Peter was here. Talked with Peter about security etc. man's needs - we have very similar ideas and experiences on independence and self-assurity.
I've just eaten and that's partially filled the gap. I wish Dominique would ring; I hope Rosina comes home tonight, but neither possibility is likely. I spend too much time thinking about them.
If, two minutes ago, somebody had asked me the name of the road opposite this window I would not have been able to tell them. But, now I know it's Atkins Road. A small coloured girl sits on the sign. I read 'Atkins' and 'Rd' on either side of a leg. She wears a brightly patterned duffel coat. She has a friend who is white. They play so sweetly together on the road. It is as though they are in love. I want to play with them so much. I doubt if Brahms was in love when he wrote his second symphony which I'm listening to.
The sun disappears after such a pleasant Sunday. The cold starts to penetrate through the glass, turning to ice. I write with a pen Jean-Christophe gave me. He admires my poetry. I was affected at his going away party last night. There were lots of growth therapy movement people.
Maybe this emptiness in my intestines is more to do with quality control in the Golden Virginia factory - maybe sometimes the tobacco contains les nicotine than at other times and my body misses it. Maybe it isn't emptiness/loneliness at all.
The girls in the street are now sweeping out the breakdown van of the white girl's father. Brahms moves on, an opus or two to his Fourth Symphony. I shall have to put the lights on.
The Pakistani bus conductor on the late bus last night was so cheerful. As I jumped on, he laughed and said 'that's better' and then explained about old ladies always haveing to be helped on and thus slowing the bus down. And then, near Baker's Arms, his eyes followed a pretty black girl as she descended from the bus's upper level. On the bus, he said, they're young enough for a cheap fare, then, when they go into the pub, they're old enough for a drinl. He laughed at the little problems of his job. I liked him.
Things on the move: letters sent to publishing companies; my play sent to BBC Radio; Peter interested in part-sharing the flat downstairs for studio space, could be a dark room and silk screen printing; renewed partnership with Luke and Terry vis-a-vis the mythical orchestra for the Walcott Festival; Sasha still prepared help with the purchase of a house sometime in the future; contact with Frederic through Marlow.
To escape spending the rest of the night alone and empty, I shall roll myself a Leyton Home Grown Special and listen to music as I fall asleep.
27 March 1980, Madrid
Bar El Sol de Mayo. Art Deco surrounds, popular music playing, a group of pretty people not too well-dressed, all smoking, holding glasses of beer or spirits. Smiles appear and disappear. Everybody is having a good time. But Madrid is grey, I don't think I will ever think any different. Even when the sun shines there is a duskiness in the air from smog. Buildings are dirty; people's faces in the unadorned metro carriages are grim. People go to work, work, come home from work - go out. No-one catches my eye. I smile at no one. Pepe is not so different from Andrez; Pia is not so different from Lourdes. Is liberation finally starting now that Franco is dead. Henry Miller translations are on show at magazine stalls that line the streets, they sit next to the pornography. The Economista is well hidden, though, but I bought a copy.
This is true research, this is what I want more of. I can't say the market for travellers cheques is exciting, an interesting topic, but my senses are tuned into it. I'm to find as much information as I can in a week.
¿Quien roba a un ladrón tiene cien años de perdón?
Children here all seem to be wearing the same type and colour of duffel coat. The bell buttons on the buses are too high for the many short old people that use them
How completely uncreative I've become since I left Corsica. I wonder if this is a reaction to having forced myself into writing over the winter, or connected with my general lack of well-being, bodily and mentally. I even find it difficult to write letters, and in thinking about anything but my bad state. I feel, literally feel my head empty. Empty of ideas, new thoughts, experiences. I seem to be a machine without any purpose.
I find myself in Madrid the same little boy I have always been (only now I don't dress like one), scared of people and, at same time, bored by them. I am scared of refusals etc. and of not being able to approach whoever I want etc. I am not really taking advantage of being in Madrid. I can't think of anything it can give me- although the bright sun and the singing people in Retiro were a joy. Tonight I will make an effort to go out.
I'm slowly diminishing. I realise how much Harold boosted my confidence. Without him I feel timid and paranoid again. I feel the world both too large and too small, and too clever and too inept for it. I become introspective, a pattern from the past, and I hate it.
Paul K Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG