PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1982 - JANUARY
2-16 January 1982, Austria and Yugoslavia
I'm sure this could be described as a luxury chalet with six bedrooms, an enormous lounge and a well-stocked kitchen - smoked salmon no less. The others watched a celebration of Marlene Dietrich while I bathed. I'm somewhere in Austria but I don't know where - in a valley between mountains I'm told. Tomorrow we ski!
The worst thing about falling off the chair lift is not the hoards of people wriggling in a snigger-worm but the hesitation and nerves of getting on it the next time when the person at the front of the queue nods for you to go alone. The best thing about falling down the mountain is that the mountain is there (or that you are on it) to fall down.
Hinterstoder's bakery-cum-cafe serves a blueberry cake called Heidelbar.
We loved in summer sun but can we do the same in winter snow. We try to melt our stranger ice.
Luigi: If I were a writer I would write that these hours, here in front of a fireplace in Hinterstoder, are some of the most enjoyable of my life.
Marielle: And we rested for a while in the bourgeois dream.
Next door, in the entrance to a large department store I met a lover. She was beautiful with well-cut brown hair arched round her face. We embraced and kissed and I ached for sex. She was reluctant to go upstairs and make love but agreed. I asked her which room she would like, she chose my mother's. But then I remembered I had not seen my mother for a long time so I crept gingerly up the stairs to see if she was there. No. I left the girl in the same room making some tea and found myself involved in a game downstairs with some people (like Risk but with a fruit machine instead of dice). A person stood very still next to the fruit machine in the corner behind glass and green transparent crinkly film. The fruit machine, when it stop rolling, came up with some very complicated moves that took us time to decipher. I felt guilty about leaving the girl upstairs. I found her falling asleep with a mug in one hand about to spill.
I begin to feel frustrated sitting here staring out at the forested snow-covered mountains through showers of rain. We all arrived at the breakfast table early this morning but now we watch 'The Blue Angel' on the television.
The slopes are fabulous, the weather is cold and sometimes it snows but this means there are few people and I never have to wait for chair-lifts or tow-ropes. The solid mass of mountains shrouded in mist look sombre and magnificent. I could imagine they go on forever. I am in ecstasy when I breathe in these mountains. And my skiing - well I'm useless. I push my skis parallel but when the slope is steep or icy, they waver all over the place. On the first day I lost my skis once. After that I've only been falling once or twice a day, and I get up immediately.
Arthur is a sugar blue plum fairy. Arpat is young, fresh, still wild and a host to life. Hans wards of tiredness and finds dreams less easy to come by (he manages better than I). Marielle holidays in the womb of her friends. She seems warm and easy with hardly any traces left from those arrogant days - no I lie, there are traces but they show themselves lightly. But she is strangely aggressive to me. On her territory, I make few moves; I dare not push myself too much on the affections of these people. But I like them, and am very happy to holiday with them. Arpat's house is a wonderful luxury. Luigi is a little chief teddy bear. Thomas is the drug squaddy for the love squad.
Austrian speciality. Kaiser Schmarrn. Six eggs separated, the yellow parts creamed with three or four heaped teaspoonfuls of flour, some salt and milk, not too liquid, then the frothed white is creamed in also. Cooked in big frying pan with butter.
A lot of the time I am out of sync with the others. I am more active, more impatient. But I am the lonely one. The one who walks alone, writes alone, skis alone. I go alone to Yugoslavia. It is this, a simple loneliness, that defeats me time and time again.
Marielle said, in the darkness of the night, that I treated myself too hard, judged myself too hard in work and relationships. She loved me when I loved myself. I told her that I know my writing is not good enough: it's not a matter of connections, it's a matter of quality. She does not accept this. I said I was trying to pull myself out of the fairy world. She got very defensive again. And when I tried to explain that she was negating my opinions, my decisions, she sneezed a 'I don't care'.
Of them all I like Hans the most. Arthur is too young, Arpat too glittery, Marielle too fickle, Thomas too stoned, Luigi too tame.
Caraway seeds and walnuts and some other seeds and pure joy and rye flour go into my bread that rises so satisfactorily above the fireplace.
Jaega-Te es so gut in ze kalt weather.
The moon dispersed all its light through the clouds so that a constant twilight lit the forest mountains and paths with a ghostly pallor. Only general shadows existed. The snow that falls with an even temper is like flour, soft and softable upon the ground. The cold and wet come as no surprise to the bare-skinned fingers playing with it. Tonight there is an eclipse of the moon. It is also a full moon, but the sky is falling snow.
Marielle got so bitter with me by the end of the week. She didn't like what I wrote. She has a tongue sharp enough to cut my bread. And all because - perhaps - I did not love her passionately enough.
The snow here does not turn itself instantly into slush. It retains its spirit and its distinction in the streets. Old snow turns a little beige and reminds me of yeast.
We passed through a place called Winterschgarsten or similar. It was so pretty with its well-painted pastel house-fronts and toy town look. We ate a menu in the local hotel - so gut - soup with meat balls, schnitzel, polenta and salad, chocolate cake with sauce and cream - so gut.
Edwin speaks perfect English, and I suppose German since he's lived here or in Berlin most of his life. His father is employed by the British secret service. Edwin has a strong, almost rugged, face, most definitely German, chunky features, curly black hair. He wears a trilby hat littered with metal badges. He feels at home driving his old Merc along the snowy roads, his woman sat in the front seat caring for the labrador and St Bernard at her feet. They both smoking Lucky Strikes or Camels.
Here in Graz, I catch the 10:58 express to Ljubljana. It takes about four hours.
Ljubljana. It is a two hour bus ride to Koper and that is not even where Maja lives. The difficulties of not speaking the language seem more exaggerated than when I was younger. Just trying to get something to eat caused me innumerable hassles. I can't point out the food because I have to buy a ticket for it first. And I am reluctant to ask what it is called because I won't remember it. In the end, I resort to smiling at the cashier and giving him the same money as the previous customer. It turns out to be some meat floating around in a mash of hot sauerkraut. This place is full of sullen faces, chewing on cigarettes, taking a quick cognac, or slurping soup. It reminds me of the drinking halls in Cardiff.
The bus journey is not so difficult. I sleep and dream a little. At Koper there is no bus to Hrvatini, Fayti, for an hour so I take a taxi. I am getting close to Maja. At Fayti, the driver drops me off in darkness. I walk to the middle of a few houses and dogs begin barking. Dogs bark all around. I am surrounded by shuttered windows with lights filtering silently out. I wait for a head to appear. Two heads appear. One points me around a corner where there are other houses with numbers. I remember that Maja lives at number 204.
So, here I am in Maja's house. I did not think too much about coming here, and now I am here. And I wonder why I am here and if I should have come. I came, I'm sure, just as an old friend, but there is much hidden in our histories. We steal kisses, and I fear they will go too far. I feel the trappings of husband, children, house all weigh on Maja's flighty spirit. She is her mother's daughter and still rebels. I suppose I am part of that rebellion. A symbol of a freedom she once had. A reminder of her childish past and still present. She hoovers and feeds Matia with an apple. Nika is a beautiful girl, four years and always smiling - we have only three words of communication, Paul, Nika and mishmash. Mishmash is a cassette story character for children who makes bread. Yesterday, Nika and I made bread, and bread for us is now mishmash. But we always smile. She talks and I smile.
Brane is a solid likeable man. He laughs nervously, not at ease in my company. I give him as much attention as Maja. She left him once over a year ago. I remember I wrote to her. But when they were preparing for divorce, they learned to love each other again.
I went into Koper again and was disappointed to find I had already seen it all. There is little choice in the shops, and little choice of shops. I bought a school briefcase, the kind that goes easily on a bicycle, and the shop girls giggled that a grown man should carry a school case. I sat for an hour in the central coffee house and watched the dull dressed boys and girls come and go. Here, I thought, is a scrappy culture, an unevolved one. I made comparisons with Greece. In a Greek cafe I feel comfortable, the world around me is at ease, the people there know the good food, the games they like to play, the organisation of their lives, their type of houses, their drink - I am not explaining myself well - but here there is a poverty of culture. The young adults are not secure in a future. I suppose it is worse here because it is a coastal town somewhat influenced by tourists. But then most of Greece is too. A resolved society copes well with tourism, like Ibiza, Bali. Here the proximity to Italy is a bit disruptive. I notice this poverty of culture in house and street construction, there is no richness of imagination or skill. The most interesting patterns are those thrown on walls by shadows. In Idrija, I remember, there were much deeper traditions evident, traditions that grow, I'm sure, regardless of the politics around. But here there is no settlement, no isolation and therefore no strong culture.
Back in cold Vienna I am increasingly aware that on Monday the routine will begin all over again. My life slowly disappears in negligence.
Softly I confirm relations with Luigi and Hans. On Saturday night I go to watch Luigi's performance at the dramatic centre. Ruben Fager has coordinated an evening of rather heavy theatre. There are 14 shows, each one developed by the principle artist, taking place within its own area, and lasting between 10 and 20 minutes. Two groups of 25 people are conducted through the shows, sometimes together and sometimes separately. Luigi's is the last piece and is an evocation of a punk's remembrances of the Second World War through his father and his present fears as to what is happening in Europe. It ends in a heil Reagan. He certainly was a power on stage from start to finish giving the audience no breaks. I tell Luigi that this is a marvellous idea for a permanent performance place. Each performer does his thing for however long, a month or three, but a coordinator keeps a planned changing of parts. A really marvellous way to give young aspiring performers a platform.
With Hans I talk of the problems of living, relating, working. His sugar daddy has offered him solitude in an Italian castle so that he can finish his novel. He plans to go for four or five weeks and live alone. I wonder if a similar thing will happen to him as happened to me. I feel very warm towards Hans, he has managed, and always will manage, his life better than I.
I saw Claudia just before leaving Vienna. Tracked her down. She withdraws from the community and concentrates on her music and music in healing. She tells me she has written 14 songs in English.
On the plane I meet a Hungarian ex-patriot who has just come from visiting her dying mother in Budapest. Life in Hungary is good at the moment, she says. Rent, transport, bread are all cheap, the shops are full of goods, and everyone has a car. The theatre is very political and seemingly uncensored. But bribery is endemic.
Arriving at night with clear skies, London appears below as an immense paisley design, faint yellow dots patterned as far as the eye can see. I had never seen this before. So impressive. So immense. A huge ancient shawl embracing eight million people. It hypnotised me.
DIARY 18: January - June 1982
(Inside front cover: 'To my favourite story-teller' - Rosina, Navidad 1981)
Here then in 1982!
Back from old lovers in cold countries.
Elijah Moran ran a little restaurant called Moses. He opened at four in the afternoon for those who liked to dine for a very long time. And he closed at half past three to clean the tables and empty the bins. Elijah Moran was two and a half thousand years old and people came from far and wide to queue for a week or two.
There is an exhibition at the Sutton library that has this unappealing title: Archeological findings at Blamford Sewage Works.
Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony climaxes too quickly and strongly for me. His mountains are too jagged, his avalanches too often.
Often I say as an excuse for not remembering something, 'I have a bad memory'. Isn't that like flashing a red light 'malfunction, malfunction, malfunction', or 'not-very-intelligent, not-very-intelligent'. Horrifying.
Thursday 28 January
Last night with Raoul and Vonny, we talked about Brazil until late. Raoul says that Ludwig, one of the richest men in the world, has pulled out of the Brazilian jungle, and that, in any case, pillage the jungle was a rather dubious way to fund his cancer research. I tell him I think of Brazil as one of the most exciting countries in the world. The streets pulse like nowhere else I know. I would jump at the chance to live in Brazil for a while, given a decent job. And suddenly I zip to the telephone directory in search of an address for the Brazil Trade Council. Zap, Zip, Zap. I think to go and live and work there just like that.
Friday 29 January
Peter, my flatmate, left an unlit gas tap on in the kitchen. When I asked if he did it deliberately, he said if he had he would have left a suicide note.
The government announces an increase in public spending on the police - all my friends cry out - and yet if they put more money aside for the police then it's probably needed. Not to keep marijuana smokers under control, but to keep law and order within reasonable proportions. Crime, I'm sure, is soaring, theft, robbery, armed attacks etc. Somebody has to keep it under control, yet the circles in which I move do not seem to see or understand this. So am I a naif trying to escape from a naive society. I'm confused.
For the first time in my life politics begins to nip my temples.
This weekend Harold conducts one of his Mastery courses in Paris. Friends Rosie and Patrick have gone to be part of it. But not I. I feel I am divorcing myself from him and them. It is just the same as ever, I taste, don't swallow and then move on.
On the World Service news last night I heard a report concerning the theft of bird's eggs from a museum. It prompted me to send my radio play 'Eddy's Eggies' off again - to Capital Radio this time.
I am driving to a youth hostel and giving a lift to two hitchhikers, one of whom is a superhero.
Paul K. Lyons
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