PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1981 - JUNE
Wednesday 3 June
Ann stayed for a couple of nights, demanding stories before dawn, but dressing her wildness in folds of long hennaed hair. Then, Sooz came to stay for most of the weekend. But Patrick got the sharp end of my tongue and ran away bitter. And we all, well almost all, went to a tea party at Ros's because it was Jane's birthday. Rick, the fat-lipped dentist piano player and Kate the accountant for actors were there. But Sooz and I rushed off early to catch the sun at the Garden.
Sunday 7 June
Lonely Sunday, necessarily so. There were things I had to catch up on. Three bits for 'Performance' magazine - a joint article with Luke, a review of Incubus and a piece on the 'Show Trials' at the ICA. I'm happy to write for 'Performance', and I seem to be surviving at ECN, at least I haven't had another warning note.
Women come and go, how can any take me seriously. Time spent with Sooz this weekend turned sour. Not sure whether she was reacting against my blase acceptance of her company or whether she just got bored with me. The boy in blue shines with insecurity. Ann rings also. We talk for hours. I am so wary of her. What a fool I am to fall for such women, she will only bring misery. Yet what else can I do. Life has to go on. Bel calls to tell me about her boyfriend but that she misses me. Patrick remains aloof. Gail visits regularly. Harvey dressed as Sinbad but couldn't pull me to the fancy dress. At the Tricycle, old favourites congregated but, as usual, I never felt one or part of any of them. Rosie's crowd also seems far away at the moment. A life in such disarray.
Nostalgia has taken me over as I read diary extracts from 1974. Then, I lived in Earl's Court, I worked from day to day, I talked and drank with people I can't even remember, my world trip was about to begin. Tears well up in my eyes for the simplicity and unselfconsciousness of youth. There is a freshness and spirit in my writing of the day's activities. I seem, and have done for a year or two, clouded by a jadedness and awful self-awareness. Where did it come from? Here I am determined to grow up and yet refusing to accept the lonely consequences. And what is this imbecility I must continue. Writing is the most stupid of occupations. I run my life the wrong way up the escalators as if there were no achievement in being carried by the right-moving stairs. God help me, I really can't see any real joy, or constant contentment returning to my life.
One joint later. It is difficult to enter into my head and have a look, like having to constantly keep springs depressed. I remember something my father Frederic said to me in our talk about psychoanalysis: perhaps you were very angry when I left, and then, because you were ashamed at the anger you felt, you became very nice to people in order to make up for it. Then I think of my stepfather, Sasha, and wonder about how much information he must have about me in his head. I can hardly cope with the thought of it. Can we really have lived more than ten years in the same house? I remember almost nothing about those years. How selective our memories are, and they give us no clue of the basis for that selectivity.
The brain has a habit of normalising everything. When we sit down we feel the chair for a second, but soon that sensation is normalised and the brain is let free to sense something else. Everything is subject to normalisation in a similar way. Under ordinary circumstances, if I notice something different, a signal . . . change . . . change . . . change . . . flashes through my brain and I'll probe for what it is. But now, in this state of slight inebriation, these normalisations in the head are knocked ajar. For example, I just opened the door to my flatmate Peter, and I noticed how nervous he looked; yet he probably looks like that all the time, but I've normalised to his appearance, and it's only the dope giving me a knocked-sideways sense. Normalisation, then, is a parameter of the brain subject to the same differences of intensity and quality as other parameters, and each individual must possess his own set of normalities, all at different levels. Hence, I might be a person that normalises things very quickly and not in great detail, and so I might not appreciate fine things or notice details in people's appearance or the world around. The reason we cannot define human behaviour very accurately is because we try to do so with the wrong parameters. If we understood such parameters, like this habit of normalisation, we might make more progress with the study of mind.
I went to the cinema alone last night to see the Great British Movie 'Chariots of Fire'. It was good and, I suppose, rightly acclaimed, but it could have been superb. Like the film 'Nijinski' it suffered from time and space limitations.With such good material one is left wanting more, wanting to understand deeper into the issues. Religion and sport are touched on, professionalism versus amateurism also, but they were not really explored, just presented as issues. We found out what made the two runners tick but only at one level, we never saw them ugly - all characters are ugly somewhere. I wanted more realism, I suppose, and less myth, because the story is legend already. The use of slow motion, replays, overplays and the music all verged on the sentimental at times.
Ah ha. I've crept away from the stagnant office. Tis Tuesday afternoon. There's no way I'm going to get away before 7:30 this evening, whatever I do. But, for a moment, the work has hung loose and I've come to the empty silent coffee lounge. I've promised to visit Ann tonight. I'm scared to go. She is so involved with her work, so involved with people and the scenario of play acting. That world always seem so attractive, contact with it makes me feel undone. I need to dramatise my life.
Under the influence of drugs the other night I was startled by the way my mind always returns to want to think about itself, about the mechanisms therein. Is not this the ultimate end, the working of the mind, the unfathoming of the thing that is trying to do the unfathoming. How perfect are all the patterns of evolution.
The other day I tried to tell Ann about my preoccupation with the way the mind works, and how it (my preoccupation) somehow tints my attitude to other things. But, oh, it was so hard to explain, indeed when the telephone rang, I was glad it had rescued me. Finding nothing in this life, as I do, important, how can I ever really get washed away. The only topics I find fascinating are evolution and the way the mind works. But with whom can I talk of these things. I would wish to be carried away by the theatre or chemicals or chess or whatever, but I won't or can't or so it seems. What am I trying to say?
What a day out with Hoechst UK. ECN sent me on a freebie to cover the opening of some new laboratories at Stainsland near Halifax. I was supposed to fly the shuttle to Manchester but, because of an air traffic controllers strike, Heathrow was virtually closed. So, insteand, Hoechst PR director picked me up at the start of the M1 and drove me to Luton where the rest of the Hoechst executives had grouped at the McAlpine air centre. They hired a private jet - no less than £920/hour - to Yeadon airport midway between Bradford and Leeds. The sensation of flying in a small plane is more real: the lift off, the action of movement through the sky makes more sense, the control of the aircraft can be understood. Most of the short journey was above the clouds. Still, with the sun streaming in and smoked salmon sandwiches to eat, I didn't mind too much. The presentations were not overly pretentious, the speeches were short and comic, the lunch simple but good, the laboratories moderately interesting, the company mostly - apart from the board of directors - dull; well I was dull too - except with the board.
The highlight of my day, the focal point for me, came when I took a short walk. I met an ancient man standing on a disused railway line. He carried a walking stick in one hand and a lettuce in the other. He muttered about 11 and 12 year old girls working 12 hours a day at the mill. He talked of his father and grandfather who worked all their lives in the John Shaw mill, one of the biggest in West Yorkshire (he told me that at least four times). He told me about the railway line upon which we stood and that he used to take three penny day rides along it. A really strange thing happened to me while I was talking with this old man. At first, I asked lots of questions about the past and I was tempted to feign some connections between us: a love of the old, the past, or a remorse at changing values. But I felt a sense of dishonesty - I can't quite explain it - which led me instead to accentuate the differences between us. I told him, for example, I was flying back to London later that day, and, of course, he had never been on an aeroplane.
The return flight was a farce. It reminded me of the drunken shindig I experienced with a group of doctors on New Zealand's Stewart Island many years ago. All the Hoechst directors got really drunk and played children's games. I played a mock game of chess using pieces of sandwiches, and champagne was splashed about over people's heads. The chairman himself (or rather his chauffeur) gave me a lift back to Kilburn in the chairman's Merc!
I went to the local flee pit to Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel in 'Carnal Knowledge' but it was really quite a bore. I came home for a coffee and a fag. Tis midnight. I thought to ring Ann and put her off tomorrow because I've got these damn essays to write for my Risk course, but I've let it be. I want to see her. But it's a difficult relationship - somewhat akin to M in ways. God help me.
Thursday 18 June
Another NUJ IPC chapel meeting, and yet another militant proposal for a pay/conditions claim to take to management - it will no doubt lead to strike action.
Ha ha, the proposal was rejected. Custard in the committee's face. They deserve it. The debate itself was run fairly, but the summing-up was highly prejudiced. The committee is so manipulative.
Friday 19 June
Ann's room. Parrots chirping. Dresses being made. Grey evening settling its light across my back as I lie here on this white bed. I feel somewhat idle in a foreign room. Ann alternates between madness and cutting material. A greasy salty courgette is thrown in my mouth by an equally green elfin.
Last Tuesday, on a whim, after work and with the sun still up, your hero and mine hit the Brighton road with his thumb held high. Thanks to quantity surveyors and driving instructors I arrived in Portslade by 9, in time to walk Flavia along the pebble beach and hear her stories of love. Now, she's gone to New York, and from there she goes to Pennsylvania to work at a Jewish holiday camp as a teacher of macrame, pottery and Italian. It was a happy coincidence that I should arrive the night before her departure. After Flavia, I went to Andrew's and we talked through to the early hours about advertising, chemicals and women. The hitch back in the morning took a helicopter pilot, two hours and a bus, but I was in the office at a reasonable hour. As I walked into the office I was greeted by chants of 'what are you doing here?'. I should have gone straight to the printers, but I didn't know this. Apparently, last night, Mike had rushed after me to the train station, but it was the first time I'd not taken the train. And then Tony had rung me at home last night and early this morning. Even stranger, fate had prepared a double safeguard that I wouldn't be at home to get Tony's message - for the first time in three months, Ann had waited for me at Victoria Station. The first time I hadn't caught the train and yet I was wanted at both ends. Stranger still. Because I didn't get the message to go to the printers, I had an easy day at the office. I left early and was home by 6:30. The phone rang almost immediately - pip pip pip. Had I been at the printers, I would not have been home in time to catch these pips . . . The money slotted into the public phone box at the other end . . . and a voice was inviting me to dine . . . Marielle!
Wednesday 24 June
What a hective day at the office. What a hective day all week. I feel shattered, battered and stuttered. Three days I've been wearing these same clothes, black and red, black and red, back and led, ack and ed. Went to Ann last night, who whipped me and complained of habits. She pierced me through and through with her eyes after I came too soon for her fortune's tune. But, by then, it was half past one, and Patrick phoned. With her small lips taught and crimsoned, she twitches the muscles of her face demanding uncertainty from my vision of hers. Her thoughts come fast and foreign and scattily descend to lay waste upon the floor for anyone or other to pick or smile upon.
The Mufax (telefax) bursts to life with pages to be approved and corrected. Today, the whole responsibility falls upon my shoulders, with three pages to correct and final. My dear, my word, what a day. Unfortunately, I just don't have the same relationship with Mufax as I used to have with Ziggy (the photocopier at MORI) - now there was a true and lasting relationship. There's no real communication with Marielle, you see. The noise she makes is a dull and boring hum and it forces me to press a finger into my ear when talking on the telephone. No, Mufax and I were not made for one another.
I called Harold. He said he was not only fast asleep but fast awake as well. He talked of a commercial he did for an Austrian prince. He got $150 but was more chuffed with the nationwide coverage of his face. He sounded bright and dutifully friendly. He has done another of those Mastery courses, which is how he met the Austrian prince. Further and further away he draws, while I close ranks around my petulant and paltry existence.
I wonder why Frederic never wrote me for my birthday, or replied to my letter. I read Vera Caspary's 'Laura' at the moment.
Marielle came and we pretended wildness for a night. New actual rhymes emerged from our lovemaking and we laughed. The same passions linger. Ann's house is likely to be buzzing when I go, shall I go? Jean Genet's 'The Balcony', as directed by Patrick Kealey and designed by Ann Hubbard, opens tomorrow. Do I dare cope with the crowds and scatty fortunes. Rosina has left, and with her she has taken her softness, her gentleness. Julian grows podgy, plays cricket. Peter says life is awful at the moment, but it's how you feel about it that counts, he says.
Friday towards the close of June
I've been so stupid today I hardly dare tell. First, I lost my keys at Ann's which meant I couldn't use my bicycle and this disorientated the whole day. Then, at Sutton station they became suspicious about my short season ticket, and four inspectors were waiting for me at Victoria. I could have paid excess on the Sutton ticket, but I just didn't think . . . and now I'll be prosecuted. Sooz came for tea and couldn't handle me. I cleaned the bathroom and sat on the kitchen ceiling.
To Ann: My dear Mermann, do not think that I dare to care in which palace or lair you fright your nights away. My dear Mermann, do not dare to think that I might sink to a possessive wink across the city's wasted links.
Paul K Lyons
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