PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1982 - FEBRUARY
Monday 1 February
I spent Saturday night with Clare and Sooz. I do like them. We went to 'Lately' the new club in West Hampstead. I danced shyly after drinking cocktails.
Harold's father is dying. I find him a flight to South Africa tomorrow. He says the weekend Mastery course was thrilling even though the call about his father came on Saturday night. We speak through holes in walls now. Do we not see each other clearly?
So tired. I arrived back from Brighton at about 2:00 this afternoon and almost immediately smoked a joint and took a bath. Conversation during the weekend in Brighton was dominated by the collapse of Freddie Laker's organisation. As the papers notes, it is unusual for a business tycoon to become a folk hero. He did for air fares what Bloom did for household appliances. Also high on the list of discussion topics was the ever increasing chaos within British Rail. I dressed as Margaret Thatcher at a Bad Taste Party.
Tchaikovsky Four to drown out the skittles games that appear to be going on upstairs on bare boards.
Wednesday 10 February
A sterile life this. Deserves no record. There's a blanket in my skull.
Bel was here, as last year, she came to be my valentine. Together we went to Covent Garden to see a performance in an art gallery. Three dancers occupied various spaces along with musicians and the audience was scattered upstairs and downstairs. The idea was fine, the music interesting, but the dancers were not skilled. It became quite tedious and difficult to watch at times.
I am conscious of drawing closer to Raoul and Vonny, of being more distant than usual from Rosy, and of Richard going to Brazil.
I am still flabbergasted by Peter's story. Last weekend, I went to visit Flavia, rather hoping I wouldn't have to cope with Peter, but he came into Flavia's room. How well he looked. He continues to work as a street sweeper, but now boasts a couple of assistants. Flavia talks about those three months (after I met him) as momentous. They changed his life. I never realised the full extent of this. I had thought he must have always been like that, really manic.
The Barbican. We went looking for an arts centre which is supposed to be the next best thing to Peter Hall, and we found a new, modern, urban complex complete with ponds, terraces, walkways, stepped blocks of penthouse apartments, schools and pubs incorporated . . . it looked like a space age city. I couldn't believe a whole new area of London had been built without me knowing about it. I shall have to re-adjust my image of the city.
George Steiner talked with Melvyn Bragg on TV last night about his novel 'Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.'. The book has been turned into a play by Christopher Hampton and is opening this week at the Mermaid Theatre. Hitler, aged 94, is captured by a bunch of Jews who transport him to San Cristobal in order to try him. There is a very moving and impassioned speech at the outset in which Hitler's capturers are implored not to allow him to speak, 'If he asks for water give it to him, don't let him ask twice or he'll have become your friend', someone says, or something similar. Only at the end of the play, though, is he given permission to state his case. And Steiner has put very clever words into Hitler's mouth, and this is why the play has become controversial. I found Steiner's ideas quite refreshing. In a sense, he said, the Jews were punished for their idealism. Hitler did to the Jews what we all want to do to those who demand more from us than we can give. Sometimes, he touches on essential truths about human nature and mankind, truths that we are not allowed to accept or express publicly.
And Pauline Kael talks such sense about films in 'The New Yorker'. She decries such films as 'Ordinary People' and praises others like 'The Stuntman', how could I not listen to her?
During the afternoon I slept in front of the fire and dreamt about a flood on the 10th floor of a skyscraper!
I arrive early at the office to be greeted by a chattering Irene. She forecasts that THEY will get rid of Tony Cox. She says he has a reputation in the building for the most untidy office, and for talking the loudest. She leans close and whispers urgently . . . 'my husband, my husband is one in a million . . . they broke the mould after they made him'. She sits there reading 'The Sun'. What food is that for a mind. Like cigarettes for the lungs. Like pornography for the genitals. Like religion for the soul. Like sugar for the stomach.
To Tacye: 'How they babble. How these gods babble. Would that a demulcent tiger, dressed in chenille ventures, patter me with fables.'
17 February 1982
A card arrives: 'Come lick my lolly.' I can only imagine Ann would send such a Valentine.
Here I am, in a night class at the City Lit called 'Inside the Writing Business'. I don't know the teacher's name, but he is telling us about the practical details of writing. Yet, if he were at all successful he would not be here teaching. So his methods can't be very good. qed.
Saturday 20 February
The cold weather returns and drains my will. I grow my hair long and comb it back in waves. My insecurities mount. I listen to some music for oboe and piano by Schumann. On occasions, lightning strikes my heart. This is a new occurrence and it frightens me.
'The Beast' by Snoo Wilson was initially commissioned by the RSC almost a decade ago. In its original form it was nothing more than a farce but now it's been extensively rewritten so that the bulk of the play takes place at the Abbey of Thelema. On entering the Bush theatre I was agreeable surprised to see a set much as the one I had imagined for my own play about Alistair Crowley. All the action takes place outside the rundown barn-temple. The acting was first class, although the writing and direction left little room for the characters to be truly difficult or even unlikeable. John Stride playing Crowley refused to shave his head but would have given a better and truer performance if had. Apparently none of the other actors like him.
As I feel my loneliness more acutely, I am tempted - no - I want to see Bel more. But I'm afraid, for I see too many difficulties. Besides she would not have me. Last night I was thinking how much stronger she is than me, because she can take the position of giving like that - as I could not with Ann, I could not relinquish control.
I was enthralled by Richard Crossman's diaries (in the library).
I remove all decorations from the kitchen area. I hate to live in a pig sty. Every other word I say to my flatmate these days concerns the mess in the kitchen. I discover that, since Fiona left, no one at the West Hampstead Housing Association knows about my request for a transfer.
I talk to Vera in New York, and to Gail who says Harvey came visiting.
I am near finishing 'Godel Escher Bach'. One of the main emphases in the book concerns the multitude of levels at which the brain functions. The assumption, for example, that the human brain is no more than a computer could be true, he reasons, were the recursive levels of the brain not so infinite. At the core, the neurons might follow certain exact rules and from those a level up might be predictable but by the time the recursiveness of these levels has reached anywhere near consciousness all similarity to artificial intelligence are completely lost because of the complexity of the systems.
I finish a Graham Greene novel entitled 'A Burnt Out Case'. Yes, good, some great validity in his writing but a little contrived as though he had decided - right I'm going to write a novel about the leprosories and I'm going to combine that with what I've got to say about fame. Indeed, his hero, Querry, much like Rheinhardt in 'The Diceman', achieves fame, money, women without really trying. All that's left for his peace of mind is to give it all up and become anonymous. The Diceman, of course, finds a slightly different path to cleanse his soul.
'Veronica Villacombe' does not progress. The picture book does not progress. Angelus in the church does not progress. Angelus blowing up statues does not progress. Photography for the GLC competition does not progress. Job applications do not progress. Escher designs do not progress. What in fact do I do.
Wednesday 23 February
I suppose there are some weeks that stream by when the world is in turmoil and I have a sense of stability - on other occasions my world falls all about me. Such was the case last week. Now already, I'm half way through the next week, and instead of being in crisis I am returned to mediocrity. Bel pinned me to the wall last night, metaphorically speaking, by reminding me that I've felt just as mediocre, just as dissatisfied ever since she first knew me. Bel does not eat enough. A bowl of soup for lunch, a banana for dinner. I threaten to phone her parents to tell them she is not eating. Don't do that, she cries, they'll lock me up and not let me out. She is determined to come to London to live this summer.
Harvey writes of a holiday in the British Virgin Islands and of life in Toronto.
Thursday 24 February
Light draws on the Hook of Holland as though fisherman Holland were teasing the day out of the dark cold sea.
I read this: Intellectual egoists are called politicians; physical egoists are called sportsmen; emotional egoists are called performers.
Amsterdam's modern art museum: Chagall and his surprises are here, plus a strong contingent of boring neo-constructionists. There's a lot of big and bad plus a few small but fine Leger and Matisse. Somebody Dibbetts impressed me with a collage of photographs and charcoal lines reproducing the inside of a cathedral. The photographs of the windows and arches taken upwards were pieced together to give an arc range. Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum: Rembrandt appears lost between his own nightwatchman and foreign tourists. I can find little special hanging on the walls besides the obvious skillful use of light. But I did discover Vermeer, soft-toned interiors with mathematics and mystery. 'Woman Reading Letter' goes to Bel. Also I saw a magnificent writing desk - crafted by Abraham and David Roegnan - inlaid with marquetry and pearl in designs, reminiscent of Escher.
To Harold: 'Here then, where things sometimes begin, where white places blossom, bloom crimson even, where the face of Annamieke distorts in canal waters, where deep into the night eyes still meet and drink, where bicycles rattle over piano keys, where the young and healthy are mobilised to protest over almost anything, where things sometimes don't happen despite the clouds of expectancy that hang around in smoky bars, where the most innovative and exciting pinball machine I ever saw, called Black Hole, is touched without a pause in the gayest bar, where you my dear are missed.'
Paul K. Lyons
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