PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1981 - OCTOBER
Thursday 1 October
The Oval or Action Space was the likely venue of my first meeting Tess some years ago. Since then, we've met occasionally always with slight sexual undertones. I find her attractive to look at but her eyes are overly intense. Now, after having spent two nights with her at the weekend, I find her difficult to describe. She has short, dark hair which is bleached in parts, and a body that is healthy and brown from weeks in Ibiza. She lounged about my room naked, rubbing creams into her body in much the same way - I imagined - she had done in many men's rooms. She reminds me a bit of Pat, a mime teacher, who had teeth between her thighs. We spent a night together once before - in a boat cabin - at the Amsterdam's Fool's festival when Tess's hair was green. Then, I lacked the drive to make any advances, but there were fireworks being set off outside. She tells me that she once tried living with a clown called Johnny but it did not work. Johnny lived for years with Tina, a lady who also once spent a night with me. Tess has two interesting aunts who live in Norwich. Many years ago, they set up a drama and dancing school. Even though they had to sell it recently, they still live in the grounds, and work there on occasions. One of them is apparently extraordinarily tidy, and the other is very untidy, and they live together in a state of permanent antagonism.
'Marx or Maharishi, public or private perfectionisms; neither can yield an answer, for the psychological naivete of the former is only matched by the sociological simplicity of the latter.' John H. Crook.
On the return train, return train, return train from Aldershot I sat next to an aging woman and a middle-aging woman who were deep in conversation concerning provincial museums and objects therein. Their talk travelled about mostly in India and Southeast Asia and ranged across the relative ease of finding true antiquities and influential friends. They certainly got around though. I didn't want to listen because I felt they were aware that I was listening. Sometimes I love to listen to commonfolk talk - old women on a brand of washing powder, train drivers on the late night shift etc. But I did not enjoy eavesdropping this one. The elder woman, who said she was museum curator, boasted about knowing David Attenborough and talked about 'having' people. 'Well I've got a wonderful sanskrit scholar, secretaries you know, a couple of diggers, and I've got this truly marvellous archeologist etc.'
The judge was 'human', yes, but he knows he's human in much the same way that a pretty girl knows she's pretty.
I had a conversation last night with Richard Gayer. He thinks Sweden and Norway are much maligned because of their high suicide rates, but, as they've got their act together, as he puts it, they ought to be given their due. He admits that their societies are clinical in nature, but full of good people. Rachel is pregnant so Rosy is giving her all sorts of advice. Richard, the father-to-be, was saying things like: 'I suppose the scientist in me will be fascinated'! He has to wear a wig tomorrow when he judges 'The Alternative Miss World' contest. Rosy will be doing some in-crowd entertaining. I can't afford to pay £14, besides I'm working at the Tricycle tonight.
I went to Ann's last night. There was a soft welcome, but, by morning, it was the status quo again.
Friday 2 October
Ken called me out of the blue to work a couple of hours at the Tricycle last night. I gulloped sandwiches down, rushed to the Box Office, and sold a grand total of 20 seats for 'Creeps'. Ken tells me of a disappointing rendez-vous last w/e. It's almost as if he is looking to become a faded queen. But he's still handsome and easy to be with, and he tells delightful stories.
Saturday 3 October
J has hair that is short and frizzy and blonde with a hint of lilac. Her cheek bones rise up in smiles to her eyes. Mauve eye-shadow rings her irises which are the colour of rich soil. She is apprenticed to a carpet repairer, and works alone in a small room mending Persian carpets. But, she says, the business is a front for heroin trade. She is sewing some trousers for me. I would love to touch her pastel colours in the willowy shadows of night.
Sooz came to visit with a rock star boyfriend. He is in love with her. I confessed to Sooz that I want to get married.
Last w/e I was repotting plants. This w/e will be for cleaning shoes.
Wesker is back with a new play at the National Theatre. He seems to have been quiet for a decade. Although I don't think I've ever seen one of his works performed, I remember reading his plays.
Thoughts at the Tricycle last night. There are so many people seriously and earnestly involved in every production, most of which don't ever fill the theatre. For each one, lots and lots of people get together to ahve terribly important discussions concerning finance, actors, production, publicity. And yet we at ECN, eight journalists, write every week for 10,000 readers, many of whom are important in the chemical industry worldwide. It seems somehow that the work at ECN is more important, yet why am I bored by the people there and interested in the people in this less important world? These questions puzzle me, I must confess.
Impossible not to laugh at 'The Producers' - Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder plotting a gigantic Broadway flop to make money. In this film, Mel Brooks is irrisistable as he charms his way into the purses of old women. 'Julia', on the other hand, is altogether a more serious film. It's more about Julia's effect on Lillian Hellman than about the famous woman herself, and is somewhat insubstantial.
Andrez and Sooz and Rosina and Teg and Maddy came to tea on Sunday. We talked about racism.
Friday 9 October, Brighton
A conference on pollution control. I learned about the tracking of sulphur emissions from chimney stack plumes. It seems the Scandinavians are blaming the industrial heartlands of Britain for the dead fish in their southern lakes: the high acid content of the rainfall, they claim, is due to the long distance movement of pollution contaminants. The afternoon session turned into a debate, or rather an attack, on the need for nuclear energy. The defendant was a civil servant from the CEGB who was not really qualified to deal with the broad and political attacks thrown at him. A speaker from the Society for the Preservation of Rural England suggested that the nuclear industry couldn't be efficient partly because the debate about nuclear energy was so open and public opinion so agitated. Consequently, this in itself was another reason why governments should seek solutions in other areas. Combined heat and power was talked about a lot, but I don't know what it is.
I went to Rosie's for the evening. Her parents came for dinner: her mother has slurred speech and her father has a formal and polite manner, and is ever ready to talk about hypnosis or Ireland or Jersey. Later, we went Sherry's discotheque - Rosy, Andrew, Adrian, Liz, Ann, Raphael and Gill. Oddly, all the women dressed in red, and the discotheque was largely red too. I was amazed at the place: we entered through a narrow corridor and ascended a red-carpeted stairway; at the top of the stairs we could see the dance floor below seething with twisting and twirling crowds. Flashing neon served to cut and slice the air with jagged colours, while revolving spots, giant oscilloscopes, deadly green lasers added life and death to an awful endless disco beat. A balcony, running all the way round the hall, was lined with crude shiny busts of naked women holding red spherical lampshades. By a strange coincidence a band called Heaven 17 was playing - it's the only modern group I've heard of (apart from Bow Wow which Mike was talking about earlier).
Imagine a place, a time when lightning has reached epidemic proportions.
Saturday 10 October
Graeme just rang and spiked my sadness with candy.
I wish I could understand my own behaviour to Ann a little better. To simply say there is an imbalance and that I want/need her more than she me is inadequate and probably not true. On the last three occasions we've met I've been inexcusably aggressive. I've found myself acting in a way that is completely out of character. I surmise, therefore, that Ann must have some powerful effect over me. As usual I also get angry with myself for being preoccupied with an affair that is well and truly over.
Last night, we met at a bistro in Hampstead (and here I have decided to wallow in all the grimy details). I brought a bag with all Ann's things left from another day - this was to indicate that I neither expected or wanted her to come back with me afterwards. We met, we ate, we drank. I behaved rather nonchalantly, while she managed to bring every conversation back to herself. Then we squabbled over the bill. She became insistent and I threw a newly-purchased whisky in her face (what horrors lie within me). She attacked me briefly and was on the edge of a hysterical attack but then composed herself. Her lips were tightly pursed and her eyes anger-pits. A splendid scene followed: a group of men who had been standing around drinking slowly gathered around our table and offered advice on how to manage our relationship. Mostly, they were on my side suggesting I be firmer and tougher. Ann was trying to answer their questions seriously, but I was playing, and asking for advice on how I could best stop her leaving me and how I could get her into my bed. When we finally left the bistro, Ann grabbed a taxi and flew off to Hampstead. As one of the men in the bistro said last night: 'Plenty more fish in the sea, plenty more stars in the sky'.
What else is there? The Tricycle continues to astound me with its capacity for mediocrity. The latest efforts are a sign attached to a lamp post that one cannot see at night, and a poster stand that has been beautifully crafted and is placed on the pavement every day and locked to a specially installed hook. This is the theatre equivalent of the dumb blonde: such a show, such an organisation, everything prim and proper, but no substance. Ultimately it's the quality of the show not the publicity/bar/food/entrance hall/exhibition etc. that brings 'em in. In many ways, the Tricycle Theatre is the very opposite of ECN. With ECN the administration and production bumble through because they have to, but the content is there because Cox knows his stuff about the chemical industry. The reverse is true of the Tricycle, all the fancy goods are a cover for a lack of real art, real content.
Monday 12 October
A whole night and morning spent with Ann without an argument, perhaps that's because I bought her dinner.
'City of Women' - Fellini's latest movie is, as usual, an intense portrayal of his own egocentric view of life. He is not concerned with covering over his own obsessions or vices or failings. He stamps himself on celluloid. Here he looks at women's liberation, and puts hoards of feminists and young girls together so they can romp through the film driven by the idea of being suppressed by man. But his view is, in fact, extremely narrow.
Tuesday 13 October
A tiny tea-gathering at Gail's temporary accommodation in Camden Town led me to meet Liz again. I am enchanted by her, but don't know why. I was a bit hyped up and tried to be charming. But I know very little about her, or her affair with Gordon. She was very emotional and broken by its sudden end.
Wednesday 14 October
Another ECN put to bed, my stories rewritten, pulled apart and re-assembled. And Tony has sent Lynn to a shipping conference in Venice - which is a complete denial of confidence in me.
Friday 16 October
It is important to record that I feel like I am falling to pieces again. I cannot believe how much of a mess my life is. I was shocked today by a desire to rub my knuckles along a wall, and so hurt myself. I suppose I really am putting myself through the paces: what with such a stagnant atmosphere in the flat with Peter, and working in such a stifling environment (I got to the point at work the other day when I went looking for the union rep - I do feel unjustly treated).
Found myself entering South Kensington station and remembering that Judy works nearby in a Persian carpet showroom. So I went to see her. She reminded me of a Cinderella, sat there on an old sofa in a room of old carpets, sad in face, and reading some book. After leaving, I tried to think up a ludicrous story plot that combined James Bond and Sheherazade with lots of magic carpets.
Saturday 17 October
Thursday night at the Tricycle Theatre, this time ushering. I stood at the back and danced to Westbrook's jazz and an enthralling saxophone. Towards the end of the second half, Kate Westbrook tripped and fell offstage making quite a clatter. She gave a stifled scream and then the curtain closed and the show was ended prematurely. Two thoughts: 1) how traumatic to be fully hyped up after two hours on stage performing, and then take a fall however minor - I suspect she shrieked more from shock than anything else. 2) I was struck by the bathos of a small middle-aged man hovering in the corridor and finally plucking up courage to say 'I used to be a doctor . . .'.
Sunday 18 October
The entire w/e spent alone apart from a few hours with Rosina at the Animal Welfare jumble sale (and some ridiculous telephone conversations with Ann). Now, as the evening draws on, I am utterly bored by my story - 'In Flight' - that I've been working on all w/e.
I noticed, the night before last - I was stoned - that I went to sleep with my right hand firmly clasped across my chest above the heart. It was almost as if I couldn't sleep unless I had some constant reassurance through unconsciousness that I was alive and living.
Saturday 25 October
I hibernate as though winter were here already in all its force - its weather is for sure. I need gloves on the bicycle. I sit here, night after night, as close to the gas fire as is comfortable. I must confess I think - in an intellectual way - about suicide. There's a case at the Old Bailey concerning a member of Exit who is alleged to have committed one murder and helped with five suicides. The Exit man is reported to have visited one of the suicides with anti-sickness pills, plastic bags and elastic bands. It seems the way to commit suicide most effectively - but this is my surmise - is to get plastered on whisky or something. Then, on the point of sleep or passing out, to put a strong plastic bag over one's head and clasp it on with a thick elastic band around the neck. Quite simple!
I went to a massive CND rally in Hyde Park - the news just informed me there were 150,000 or more supporting nuclear disarmament - and felt a stranger among believers. I heard Michael Foot speak passionately for the cause, he stirred up my goose pimples. A wave of history in the making passed me over. But I only felt conflict and a lack of understanding. Under the umbrella of CND there were a thousand causes: Gays Against, Police out of Britain, Anti-apartheid, Squatters. I smelt cannabis, I saw lots of long hair, coloured scarves, beards, but although so many of these people looked like me, I did not feel at home.
What crap this writing business is. I don't have a stroke of talent in my fingers at all, and I know it, so why persevere, why continue banging my head against a brick wall. Seeing all these people on the march, I fancied hibernating in the wilds somewhere and living in isolation - but what would I do? I'm such a jealous person. I want to be me and be able to write and go and live where I want. I want will, determination, concentration. Where's the shop to buy such things?
I continue working on 'In Flight'. I'm typing out a final draft now and hope to finish it this w/e so I can photocopy it on Monday. But I really do think it is time to change style and direction.
Marielle phoned, and she wrote suggesting a meeting. I replied that we should meet somewhere soon in unrepentant poetry. Harvey told me he's leaving soon, he's taken a studio on Long Island from January. Patrick brought whisky and a sour face. Julian and Georgina visited. Julian talked about writing letters to TV companies looking for a job as a floor assistant. I'd be happy once he did get a job, but I feel he's destined for his father's office.
What else is there to do in life but to love mad and beautiful women.
DIARY 16: October - November 1981
Thursday 29 October, Rhodes
A huge tree over-shades this small plaza that is now active with business. Last night, though, it was very peaceful, ancient. Two cafes spread their tables and chairs across half the square. All the stone walls along the shaded alleyways are covered in goods for sale. On the far side of the square is a cake shop (which charged me twice as much last night for the same two cakes I bought again this morning). There are a few tourists, most of the Greeks here are on business - selling shoes, carpets, bags, coffee. A three-wheeled scooter arrives, manoeuvring itself, phut phut, through the narrow paved streets. I can see its driver dressed in navy blue, a stern face and a pen behind his ear. Behind him, on the scooter's flat trailer, lie wet fish, a pair of scales and some wrapping paper. Uphill, he drives his scooter; downhill, he pushes it, or rather restrains it. There are only half a dozen fish - two large red-scaled ones and a few smaller ones. Now, he is running back a few paces to deliver a money note, change I suppose, to a shop where he just sold some fish. Scooters and mopeds criss and cross by the square. Last night, two Danish girls helped us find a 400 drachma hotel. One of them works in Paradise, opposite, and earns 300 for a 10 hour day.
But what a transformation - from London to a Greek isle, from damp cold to swimming in a warm sea. What paradise! What joy! To bare my skin and slip into the warm water. Salt on skin, sun, ecstasy.
I can't seem to find the street of the knights, although I may have walked along it two or three times already. At one end lies the Marine Venus celebrated by Lawrence Durrell. Old wrought iron gates give teasingly delightful views of courtyards flourishing with shrubs and climbers - bougainvillaea, oleander, hibiscus, small statues perhaps, or a fountain, an old wall. The walls lining the street themselves seem to be scrubbed clean, the colour of sand. High up, serpents gape, their mouths open in case the rains come and flow down the rooves. It is difficult to tell what is new and what is old. This afternoon I watched an old wall being restored or repaired and saw workmen throwing sand at the freshly mortared surface. Did this give a deliberate pitted, time-worn look or was the worker just venting a morning's frustration? Having sprayed the sand, he proceeded to redefine the dividing lines between the stone blocks.
Some rain came this afternoon and the wind brought rough seas to the northeast side of the island. The beaches were empty except for a few sunset spotters and a lone dog-walker. Already I feel healthier, with salt treating the skin on my scalp and in between my toes, and olive oil and tomatoes slipping down my throat with pleasure.
Tilos is one of the islands closest to Rhodes. It sounds quiet and small enough to explore on foot. There appear to be three boats a week - perhaps we will go there. Tomorrow, though, we will go to the beaches of Lindos. Harold, my staunch companion, is slowing down. We pull different ways, but here we are in this place and nothing to do but spark the town alight should it rain and try and close.
Friday 30 October
Stone cannonballs come in all sizes - some are twice as large as a man's head, about the dimensions of a large watermelon or a beachball. Others are as small as a large orange. I'm sure the Rhodians would welcome suggestions as to possible uses for them, after all they have been lying around with nothing to do for several centuries. In the squares they pile them up into small pyramids; in the museum they are used to support tombs, to line flowerbeds and for general decoration. They all appear perfectly spherical, freshly crafted yesterday but, they say, some of them could have been used by Demetrius during his siege of Rhodes - the one that led to the building of Colossus, a statue, nine stories high. With the war over, Demetrius, it is said, magnaminously donated those war machines left on Rhodes to the Rhodians for them to sell so as to finance the giant statue. An earthquake destroyed it 50 years after it was completed. So, I ask, why should giants live longer than ordinary men? It was famous in the middle ages and still retains mystique as one of the seven wonders of the world. If a man were a hundred foot high how big would his balls be - as large as watermelons?
The Marine Venus in the museum is a life size marble statue of Aphrodite. She is armless, her buttocks are deformed, her face gives the impression of a beauty badly burned. The head must have broken from the slender neck at one point but was then fixed back leaving a necklace of a dark crack. The form of her body is thin and youthful, her breasts and thighs exude (is that the right word - why am I always searching for right words?) adolescent sexuality. There is an amber scar above her right breast, as though a misplaced heart has been pierced by a mock-gold arrow. Almost every item in this light and airy museum has been broken at one time or another. Busts have their noses broken off; statues have heads missing; tombstones have corners damaged; and each of the pottery items has been glued back together. But what can a small museum expect? Should any pieces have survived more than 2,000 years of human warring and destruction then surely national museums would claim the finest for themselves. Indeed our own British Museum contains better pieces. Still, there is delight in seeing the partridges, the stags, the discus throwers, the warriors with spears, the dogs, the lions, the chariots all chasing each other around the circumferences of flat bowls (kylixes), oil jugs, cups, plates etc. Apart from the cannonballs, the only whole object I found was a quarter size Aphrodite drying her hair after a bath, and this was enclosed in its own glass case. She looked quite lonely.
Saturday 31 October, Lindos
I and many others are being hauled up a very steep incline, the surface is a cross between liquid and carpets. Miniature life rafts and other life- saving equipment are being fed down the slope by ropes or wires (ski lifts?) because an aeroplane is about to crash into the sea below. The water is busy with boats and people and equipment, but there is a gap on the surface where the plane is to crash. (This had the same feeling as movie portrayals of the way smugglers secretly light runways at night for landing planes). The aircraft is on fire (in the same way I saw fire spurting from motor-racing cars in a 'Horizon' programme last week). Later, I hear the aeroplane has landed safely at Munchen.
We all have to go somewhere and the only means of transport is a rather strange paddle boat. It has room for 20-30 people, all of whom actually stand on the paddler that must revolve. When I enter this strange craft I look for a naked woman I saw earlier and place myself near her. As soon as we start, the boat submerges up to our knees, which means that most of our possessions are submerged too (including a book of mine which was in cubbyhole near my feet). I think we start out on the sea but we soon find ourselves paddling along a canal. Suddenly we all stop paddling and keep absolutely quiet. In the distance we can see a locked door or gate. It opens to reveal either a cannon or a missile. Atop of our paddler there is a man who guides us. From the door/gate a troop of uniformed soldiers march towards us. They lead us on land to a place where dozens of wire metal crates are stacked on top of each other, like children's cubes or tea chests at the dockside. We are told to get inside them although it is not clear whether we should go one person to a crate or whether we should be squeezing as many people into each crate as we can. I am bemused by the thought of sharing a crate with the naked woman. However, I am more concerned about deciding what to do: should I run and be shot, or should I accept the awful discomfort and pain of being inside one of the crates. The decision is too much and I awake with enormous relief.
Harold's gesticulations continue to do most of the communicating with the Greeks for both of us. They are outrageous, complicated, extrovert and embroidered, just as he is himself. On the practical level there is some friction between us: I find fault with him and then feel guilty about it. But, when he catches fleas because he picks up every stray cat and dog for a cuddle, I feel justified in my fault-picking (nit-picking!). Also, while he always tries to prolong nitty-gritty discussions I always try and bring them to a conclusion. He tends towards extravagance, I towards restraint. We drink retsina all day long and comment on the boys and girls we see around us. We follow each other about the narrow cobbled streets, trying to hide and catch the other. We halve the last piece of chocolate and the last drop of wine and then halve them again. He compares the place to Israel, I to Corsica.
Today, we spent wholly on the beach - swimming, climbing rocks, discovering isolated places where we could swim nude between the boulders. I brought tiny Liesl back with me to the hotel. She has blond curly hair and pert breasts. She showers now, unaware of the forthright proposal I intend to put to her later.
Paul K Lyons
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