JOURNAL - 1981 - MAY

2 May 1981

The sun does break through the clouds this Saturday. I expect Colin with his sister's Mini and perhaps to Downton we will go, where Bel is flitting around at a cuckoo fair. Colin and Rosina want to plough their way through stone circles in Somerset. I'm not sure what I want to do. My mind is in bedlam: there's fine games being played at the ECN office, plus I've only just discovered Rosina has a boyfriend (I'm jealous and a bit cut up that she can be so cool about me).

Wednesday 6 May

We are at Friends House, Euston, for a mandatory meeting of the IPC National Union of Journalist's Group Chapel. I cycled up from Victoria, the others came by tube. They are sitting at the end of the row. I do not fit into their world. I wear a uniform. I wear my smiles. I cut the corners off my personality and try to become an ordinary jelly, and talk like custard. If only I could get a trifle out of it, things would not be so bad, but there isn't any fruit, just jelly and custard. We are here to discuss the management's latest pay and conditions offer. There is a lot to say about my work if I was so inclined. For example, yesterday, Lynn gave me a story to write on acetone. This involved ringing round people in the UK and on the Continent. By early evening, I was writing an eight-inch story for the second lead on the market pages. I enjoyed it. I felt satisfied and useful. When I'm busy, the time passes, and I don't hang around, or get in anyone's way. (The meeting is now discussing the question of hours). However shallow and slight the undercurrent of hostility towards me in the office seems, Steve is the main instigator, but he's away on holiday at the moment. Since Tony's warning about my brusque and truculent manner, I've been doing a constant PR job for P K Lyons. It's be nice to everybody week. But I still find it impossible to go down the pub all the time. Also I get upset when I'm asked to work the fax machine even though I'm actually busy and others aren't. But I don't show it. I'm not a free man while I'm on trial. Is this going to continue for six months? Help.

Last night Patrick (who is staying here) came home weeping. One of his oldest and closest friends, Gordon, who came last weekend to my tea party and who is/was Liz's boyfriend, threw himself under a train near Rugby. He was a handsome, successful actor. There seems little reason for the suicide, although he did write a letter to Liz which Patrick hasn't seen. Also, it seems, he was heavily into drugs.

8 May

Apparently Liz hasn't seen the letter Gordon wrote yet either. All she knows is that the police have asked her what 'karma' means. Huh! According to Patrick, Liz is coping very well. There are a lot of unanswered questions.

I slept wretchedly last night after a confrontation with Rosina. We both went to bed early. I was hard and cold, and only softened near morning. Then, later, I returned to gentleness, and strawberries.

Why do I seek solace in churches? I am here in this church in Sutton, with a paucity of sunlight filtering through the high windows. My most favourite person, the old and crumpled lady of the knave, is polishing away with methodical and careful strokes - as if she were stroking the face of god. Surely she will die on the altar with a duster in her hand, and to heaven she will go. Even negotiating the altar steps costs her dearly. As she shuffles her feet down the aisle, her head hardly shows above the pews. Her smile is one of the purest I have ever seen. Now she is in the pulpit, but I cannot see her head over the railing that the priest holds, presumably with downstretched arms, when preaching. I am tired. The contrast between this old woman dutifully living out her last days and Gordon's suicide at the peak of success is too much. I weep. Where do these tears really come from? When the sun's rays no longer shine in through the window, this church becomes a dark and foreboding place.

Daily I expound my theories to Colin, who patiently listens to my intellectual analysis of the world. He believes everybody in power is corrupt, and talks of the Age of Aquarius. Rob Cutts-Watson came visiting yesterday (more because Colin is here than to see me). I barely remembered his wife, Barbara, although I did stay with them three to four years ago. Laughter came with memories. Colin and I were always one team - for tennis, football, cars, anything vaguely competitive. We were the Samantha consortium, named after our first car. Rob and Chris West were the CW consortium and our arch rival-friends. Also, though, Rob was my closest friend in the last years of Broxbourne; not only were we the only non-nerds (or so we liked to think) in the school's chess team but we did a joint Nuffield science project for A-level, and were the only ones to do such a joint project. Sooz appeared at tea-time, just as I was leaving for the Tricycle. I was so speedy I didn't have time to talk really. I was supposed to go round later, but then Rob came, and then I got into a heavy conversation with Rosina.

Sunday 10 May

The heavens weep. Across the road an old disabled lady stands sadly at her window watching the street below. Am I tired? I know that I don't relish the thought of an essay I have to write for my course on Risk. It'll take a day at least, and yet there are dozens of other things in my study waiting to be done. I do feel deflated, having put some effort into a social evening, bringing a few friends together for tea, then to the ballet, then back. But I had an underlying intention, a desire to bring Sooz to my affections. However, in my cool and calculatedly sensitive way, I managed to do the wrong things in the wrong pace in the wrong way. Perhaps they weren't wrong, she did keeping saying things like: 'It would be really nice to have men friends who didn't want to go to bed with me.' Even so, I felt she wanted to be persuaded and seduced, but I'm just not that person. I remember Anne, also from New Zealand. She used to visit me some years ago in the Fordwych Road days. One night she came over to dinner and I asked her to spend the night. She said, 'that's brave', implying I'd been far too blunt and that, even if she'd wanted to stay, I'd made it awkward for her.

Car tyres sizzle as they fly by the wet tarmac below my window.

Gordon. It seems that he knelt down on the railway track at the entrance to a tunnel, and, as the intercity express bore down on him, he stretched out his arms as if to embrace the leviathan. In his letter to Liz he told of his love for her, which he'd not acknowledged before. Gail was here last night. He says he was quite disturbed by the event. Nobody understands Gordon's motivation. Gail thinks he must have been in some dark state of depression that no one knew about, and Patrick believes the act to have been a stupid one because he's left so much suffering in his wake. I am inclined to believe it was a purely intellectual decision, realised with the help of a strong drug dose.

Thursday 14 May

Our office is fully airconditioned so we can't open windows, but it is either too hot, too cold or too stuffy. I can never feel the wind. Perhaps that's what European Chemical News needs - some wind. Mike Stone complains about writing three pages a week and getting paid less than 'some people' who only do a page a month. It's been a hectic week.

The pope got shot yesterday, but he's OK. I find it startling that, in this day and age when there are millions of people who see him on his travels, he doesn't get shot more often. There must be tens of thousands of disenchanted religious fanatics who want to get their own back on God. Yet only one individual surfaces among the millions, and he is one who has already said, a year ago, that he would kill the pope. I think this shows the archaicness of our society. The masses are sheep and the individual is the exception.

I've escaped from the office, to Carshalton Park. Grey sky with mild blusters. Here is the wind. Air on skin, smell of grass, distant noises, birds. I just swang on a swing, and I couldn't remember the last time I did that. Carshalton is everything that Sutton is not, in terms of space, beauty, history, tranquillity. For my colleagues, I have to provide a cover story such as 'I'm going shopping'. To say 'I'm going to Carshalton for a walk' would not be acceptable - it wouldn't do as a suitable excuse for not going to lunch with them.

K came to stay, a close friend of M, L and D. With a child and a marriage behind her she fits in well to the class of Porteña girls that I have known. She only stayed a day and a night but left boiled sweets and, through the flat's corridors, echoes of that peculiar Argentinian accent so reminiscent of M. L, so sweet, remembered my birthday with an exquisite antique postcard.

In the evenings I read my Risk course material. Now I'm onto block three - Physical Risk. What is the cause of accidents? Are some people more likely than others to have accidents? Should we try to reduce all accidents? etc etc. I feel that trying to analyse such questions is doomed to failure, because there are no neat boxes into which explanations, causes, reasons, can be enclosed. There is only the broad spectrum of human activity and chaos. In the mornings I occasionally get time to read a little more of 'Godel Escher Bach', which suits my analytical, intellectual mind far better than the social-based Risk course.

What will they say in the office about my vase of bluebells. I expect Steve to make snide remarks about them being cissy. On the board behind my desk I pinned a photo of a ship that carries 250,000 sheep.

Rosy and family are back from Ibiza. I meet Raoul and Vonny after visiting an exhibition of Hockney theatre designs. I particularly liked the one's for 'The Rake's Progress'. I met Raoul's boss John. There's something vaguely distasteful about him. Words come out of his mouth before he knows what he is saying. He seems desperate to ask questions, but forgets and repeats them as though he's not really there. The smile on his lips drifts off like the thoughts from his eyes. Marsha is over from New York. She's working with Rothschilds in order to learn stock market management. She has facial lines that fall down from her eyes by the side of her nose to a small tight mouth. They give her the look of an aged manchurian.

Sunday 17 May

The Eroica Symphony live from Shanghai. The quality, through the radio, seems as good as though it were from the Royal Festival Hall.

Wednesday 20 May

Woken by lightning, storms and light not long after dawn, not long after a long and restless night.

Ann flickers with electric charge, and sex rears its wild and bounteous head at last above the petty shimmering surface of my recent past. Will the mermaid sing to me? Does she dare? Do I dare call her near? Do I, so soon, with so little reason, fall for her commands in the middle of the night, commands that charm me to passionate storms (dare I call them so?).

Sunday, Paris

Suddenly, I seem to be rushing from woman to woman. Previously there were none, now there's a glut. It rained so hard last night that Patrick moaned and I got wet. However smooth, smart, cool and blue the Paris metro, it's still difficult to write when the train moves.

Tuesday 26 May

That was a weekend of intensities in Paris. Patrick and Gail, amidst lots of laughter, followed me there, and from perch to perch until I could fix them up with some nooky of their own. Of course it wasn't quite the same without Him there, but, on the other hand, I had time to see and talk with other half friends and half strangers, other peregrines that half inhabit the transient's dream. From court to court, from inn to inn, from lover to lover we walked through rainy streets, past prostitutes and pimps, soaking in the endless foreign conversations and aromas. But now, alas, as often seems to be the case, my mind is wondering and accepts with readiness its weariness. Words have come hard all day, and no longer want of life.


In Paris, I saw my uncle Mike Goldsmith briefly. He had broken his foot but was only in the city for 24 hours and as panicked for time as I. We spent half an hour talking about family. He didn't know that I'd met Fred and Gail or Vera. His aging face falls slightly back as he sighs at the remembrance of family sagas and relations he has never really bothered with. He spoke critically of Fred and Gail. I said, though, that we are all entitled to live within our own worlds. He talked fondly of Vera and Otto - one family member he has time for. Apparently he (Otto) comes to Europe once a year skiing. I said I would write to Vera and ask her to ask Otto to take me with him next time. Mike has interesting stories. He tells me, for example, that he has just arrived from Tunisia where the police are hot on the trail of the man who tried to kill the pope. Apparently he had several bank accounts with large amounts of money in them - undoubtedly Mafia connections. And then he tells me about a rubbish cart that accidentally rolled down a hill and crashed through the garden wall of his property in the south of France, felling six trees.

28 May 1981

My birthday. This time, today, I am happy. There is a shallow aspect to my pleasure but still I let the events take me and ride me, and on I plummet into the future.

The sun did shine in through the window for a few seconds this morning, lighting up the drowsy sleeper by my side. As she lay atop me, and as we moved in old and trusted ways, a distant bell rang. I didn't answer, but Ann had arrived. So, with Patrick and Peter and the two women the atmosphere was fun, like a birthday morning. Presents from Harold (sent) stole the show, but Peter tried hard by giving me a children's book with a symbolic title. Patrick was as conspicuous as ever in many ways, mostly by not bothering to give me a card AND stealing my presents. Rosina bought me a plant, and cards arrived from various family members. Best of all, though, was Ann's crafted card with a paper mache figure of herself lying naked across a chaise longue. 

Paul K Lyons

June 1981


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