PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1982 - OCTOBER
Friday 1 October
There was this woman called Pip I met at R's last night. Wide blue eyes taking me in. Short punk hair rising from a face of small features, humble lips and bony nose. Slim body line with good poses. An air of serendipity about her. I fell into a clumsy invitation which was refused, and rightly so. No subtle winning ways, no arrangement, just a vulgar invitation. I can't take my mind off her.
I had an interview with 'International Pharmaceutical Newsletter'. They would have employed me on the spot but I didn't like that I'd be working only with women, or for so little money, or with only four weeks holiday. All day I'd been fantasising about getting this job in central London with a decent salary. But it wasn't to be. I left unsatisfied. Anger poured out of me. I thought to spend the weekend in clubs pretending to be Pierre Little or hitchhike into the country in my suit with a briefcase. I was singing about bleeding and dark horses in me, and dark resources. Lines from 'Jesus Christ Superstar' sprung to mind.
I saw a judge being chauffeured in a sparkling Rolls. He was fat-faced. I saw a tramp underneath the arches a few hundred metres away. He was lean-faced. I wanted to write a play immediately. The stage would be divided in two, and the two - the judge and the tramp - would live their lives at the same time. But irony can be overdone, and I think, in this case, it would flood the balcony seats.
I talked with my cousin Martin about diaries. He asked if anyone ever reads my diaries. I said none of my friends are interested enough.
What am I going to do all weekend. Ring Gale, Amanda, Rick, Joan, Judy? Go to Brighton? How hard when all I really want to do is see Pip.
Tuesday 5 October
Rosie and Andrew are losing enthusiasm for their legal case against the police. It is becoming so involved. It's even tiring for them to explain the intricacies of the latest complication: apparently, if the police make an out-of-court offer of say £5,000 and Rosie and Andrew refuse it, they then become liable for a certain amount of costs should the judge decide to award them a lesser sum.
L rang me on Monday. He is thinking of leaving his wife and wants to know if he can live here. He was in a state, I should've recognised it the other day, well I sort of did. Today, his amour rings me. She says she's worried about him, for he was ashen-faced and told tales of terrible scenes at home. I did warn him to be careful, but a passionate kiss is enough to send him off into fantasies. Perhaps this is a pay-off for working in the theatre world where all things are as bright as diamonds and as hollow as shells.
How strange sitting here quietly, at peace, because Bel will come soon. Writing small. Bread rising. A quartet playing. I have just looked again at the slides I took in New York. Sheer poetry. Why am I not a photographer? I never think I do things do well. But here I am, impressed by being impressed at my own photographs.
Pip is out with Vonny tonight. Yesterday she told her about my clumsy pick-up attempt.
Pip never phoned the whole evening so I talked sex with Sylvie and read her my story 'Valerie's Young Life'. I had forgotten how intense and sexual it was.
Thursday 7 October
1) I pull a hair from my nose, it is about two inches long, wiry and black. 2) Sooz and Dee come to visit. They sit in the armchairs in the kitchen. I offer them a chocolate from somebody else's box. There are only long flat ones left. We do not talk. 3) I am working naked at the office. I imagine that my colleagues tell their friends about the weird guy at the office who is always naked.
Saturday 16 October, Aldeburgh
The waves of the North Sea. The scuttle of surf on stone, much like the grating of philosophy on practical realities.
I am acutely aware of the limitations in my relationship with Bel. I cannot resolve the dilemmas within me. I do not want to take every decision, but find myself trapped into egocentricity. Rilke says, in his 8th elegy, never think that fate is other than the condensation of childhood. Bel's humility is frightening, yet she is so lovely in her gentleness and innocent approach to life.
We visited Framlingham Castle and fell in love with the red brick chimneys. Nine of them, I think, rising above the towers of the single circular wall. They were built later then the medieval castle, but with such styles, twirled like a helter skelter, or patterned like waffles. Framlingham is about 12 miles inland from the coast and much like ordinary English countryside - so different from the coast where the harsh North Sea washes Aldeburgh's sweetness with salt.
The Goldsmith blood has sugar and salt, the breath is sweet and sour. I cannot control it.
A lot has happened in the last week. L was ill in bed with a lung infection, but it didn't stop him pursuing his girlfriends, and definitely deciding to leave his wife. My old flatmate split up with her boyfriend who lives in Scotland - by telephone. And I started sleeping with Sylvie. The process took most of Sunday and some ordinary conversation. Surprisingly, she is the same in bed as out, slow and a little stiff, though not impassionate. Her body is thick-set, tight, but very sexy.
Here we are then at European Chemical News in a meeting. Mike is writing about the Danish waste disposal system. DD is following a story about environmentalists. The OECD has produced a report on biotechnology. Searle is looking for approval for Aspartame. Ruth is doing American results. Nat is doing the on-off Kuwait story. Pete says she should phone Fluor. There is something about Hoechst's ammonia terminal. Steve has lots of bits and pieces. The Gazocean thing should go into newsdesk. A telex from our new French correspondent arrives: it's just a rewritten Gazocean press release which we already have. David Birt's secretary arrives with a letter that I must insert in the magazines for the chemical industry conference in Monte Carlo.
Wednesday 20 October
A Phoebe Snow tape is playing. She has a very appealing voice, it nudges the emotions; the music crawls under my skin.
L rings and tells me his cat has become a symbol of the fight between him and his wife.
Extraordinary. For two days I thought I had lost my keys or left them at home. Then I found them on my belt hook.
At the very least this journal is a record of what one confused, ordinary man thinks most worth recording from his own life.
The strangest coincidence. Last weekend, in Aldeburgh, Bel and I discussed going to an old time music hall in Leiston, but Bel was set against it, so we didn't go. Yesterday, Rosie was telling me about her weekend: she performed in an old time music hall somewhere in Suffolk! (Even more oddly, she had been thinking of me because, at first, she thought she was due to perform in Leyton, where I used to live, not much further away, in Leiston.)
The office is quiet. I send off an application to 'GP' magazine which is looking for a reporter at a slightly higher salary than mine, but it's based in London. Mike rings up Michael Kenwood at the 'New Scientist' about a job as technical editor. Nat is very depressed because she and Tony can't agree over which house-in-the-country to buy. Over lunch Mike, Greg and I talk drugs. Nat is there too, asking down-to-earth questions about what effects they have and which of us have taken what. Greg talks about Zachary Swan's book 'Snow' on cocaine smuggling.
L comes round to discuss the possibility of living in the flat. The whole rigmarole, he says, has gained a momentum of its own. He is leaving his wife. She says, the sooner the better. L must begin his life over again. Frightening and exciting. Desperate and rewarding. He appears remarkably sane through it all, always a smile on his face.
I phone J. She tells me with excitement about an evening spent wined and dined by one of her authors. She thinks a lot about her current relationship. She'd love an excuse to settle down and marry. Her unmarried friends say it's too early, she should play the field, her married friends say she ought to take the plunge.
It rained most of yesterday, I was afraid of getting my baguette and croissants wet. Sasha has a lovely flat here. I wonder if I'll ever have a second home and be able to leave a car there.
On the plane from London to Nice I met an attractive girl called Fiona. She lives off Frognal in Hampstead. She's waiting to get a position on TV AM but in the meantime is buying aluminium foil from her father and selling it to hairdressers. Her boyfriend works for International Management Group and personally manages Bjorn Borg's accounts and others. I was rather hoping she might invite me to visit them in Monte Carlo but she didn't. I thought about giving her my telephone number but decided against. She's in a different class, has a little of the jet set in her; it feels likes she was bred with money. Not really my sort or I hers.
How I hate travelling in suits, and carrying packages.
Just inland from Nice airport on the road to Digne there's an Arab flea market. I suppose it's full of Algerians and Moroccans, but they remind me of the Arabs from the Middle East - dark-lined faces, almost black wiry hair, and moustaches trimmed to but a dash above the lip. They sell cheap things, gaudy-coloured carpets, jewellery, boring jeans and other clothes, tools, boots, perfumes.
I drive, in Melanie's metallic blue Colt Lancet, up into the hills. I am heading for Monte Carlo (to attend the chemical industry conference). Below, I can see strips of glass. They are mostly greenhouses and solar panels. When the glass catches the sun there's a weird spacey effect as if the valley were transformed into an electronic Aladdin's Cave. The roads are very windy. As I climb, further into the clouds, it looks like there might be rain. Figs and olives abound. I stop in a sleepy village. One old man is sitting in the courtyard outside the church. He leans forward on his walking stick. Two ladies discuss the onset of rain. A closed restaurant. Three parked cars. And now a rainbow arches down the valley into a thicket of trees.
I may be driving but, nevertheless, it is lovely to be moving through hills again, to feel them all around me, to have the crisp cool air blow on my shoulders and face, riding the curves of the road, hugging the mountain with my hand and feet movements, feeling that this is a joint venture between me and the hewers of rock, the road designers, the layers of tar, the steam rollers. As I go higher, so the trees thin into shrubs of many colours. The mountain rock turns into rubble, some of which is washed onto the road by streams of water. The shrubs give way to grass and crags. I can see the ruins of a small castle in the distance, and through the windows of the tower the sky again. There's a road that goes to the top of the hill, to the tower, but I don't take it. It is enough to discover it there in the distance at the top of the hill, to watch it and enjoy it as I drive past.
I am surprised how quiet the roads are - for a Sunday afternoon. I am reminded of Corsica. The hills here are more deciduous and there's more civilisation - more houses, roads, cars. Tiny villages are perched on top of some of the hills, church steeples pierce through the clouds. The villages cap and cuddle the peaks just like they do on the Bastia coast of Corsica.
The sun flickers through the trees, highlighting pine needles on the earth. I expect to finding something dire in the village called La Grave. I think of all the cemetery jokes - dead centre of town, people dying to get in there, etc. Through a peach tree laden with fruit I see a large cement works, cut into the hillside, grey into grey. It is more impressive than the castle with its tower-like structures, some of concrete, some of steel. Chutes run from one tower to another. The hill is scarred in every direction with tracks from cutting to cutting. Oddly, the light greyness of the whole reminds me of a play I say last Friday - an adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel 'A Handful of Dust' by Mike Alfreds. Five actors and five actresses, always dressed in grey suits and dresses of the 20s and 30s, played all the parts against a backdrop of grey wood panelling.
My first sight of Monte Carlo from high up in the mountains gives me a thrill - the thrill of arriving in an unknown city, or the expectation of adventure. Even from here I can see huge buildings and the word 'CASINO' written in high life letters.
Well one thing I've learnt about conferences is that it is impossible to keep going without alcohol. All in all it wasn't a very satisfactory experience. I don't click with industry people at all. But it was grand to stay in the Hotel de Paris - the Belle Epoque, such grand decoration, epic style, gold and marble everywhere. Monaco itself at night is like a toy town. Noddy comes to mind. There is nobody there except for a guard - dressed in black - pacing back and forth, and one policeman with his car, the only one in the square. The streets are spotless as are all the walls and windows. Trees and hedges and lawns are manicured. A little light sprinkles out from a shutter, a conversation spills from a television set, a few signs indicate the presence of tourist shops, the street lights tint the buildings a salmon colour. A stone wall protects pedestrians from an almost sheer dive into the black sea.
My cousin Martin is making slow progress by truck. He should arrive this afternoon. The weather is perfect: the sun hot enough to redden, the air cool enough for comfort. Birds sing among the greenery beyond both balconies.
Driving back from Monte Carlo yesterday I took the coast road, discovering such places as the medieval village of Exe, hugging its outcrop into the sea, and St Jean-cap-Ferrat, a peninsula that reminded me of Buzios, north of Rio in Brazil. Dotted among the semi-tropical flora and simple undulations lie many rich extravagant houses. A semi-paradise. Most of the coast is rocky, but there are small beaches and harbours as well. I tried to swim from one where a few families were sunbathing only to discover the water was full of jellyfish which stung like nettles. The very idea - even of harmless jellyfish - is enough to send me scurrying for dry land. I must have been stung badly as a child - there is a faint memory there.
I've read Robin Fox before. He talks down to earth, and he's not carried away by fancy ideas. He has mankind in perspective. His first essay in 'Encounter with Anthropology' looks at the evolution of social behaviour. In developing his thesis out of animal behaviour he says: 'Control over the emotions was one thing, control of the environment through tools and weapons was, however, equally important. Selection favoured the controlled and skillful animal. It also favoured the animal that could communicate best.' He explains how Homo sapiens evolved so quickly: 'The social system was one in which the majority of the breeding was done by a minority of males, with the least successful males being shut out of the breeding system - a system based on the polygyny of the powerful.' And: 'Men are caught between their inherited tendencies to promiscuity and dominance, and the necessities of regularised mating; women, between the same promiscuous tendencies and the pull towards security for self and offspring that can usually be obtained only by at least a show of fidelity. This is another product of the dominance process wherein the status of the male is measured by his control over females.'
30 October 1982
Martin is only 20, several years younger than my brother Julian. He's similar to me, intellectually. We play a lot of cards.
A card game of speed: Two players sit opposite and lay out in sequence from the right, one card face up, once face down, one face up, two face down, one face up, three face down, one face up, four face down, one face up. The remaining cards are held in the left hand. Simultaneously the two players play a card face up into the middle area between the two sequences, forming two new piles. The sequence cards are then placed as fast as possible on the two piles in the middle when they correspond to a neighbouring value (9 on a 10 or queen on a king). When one player has less than five cards face up he can turn over one of the face downs. When neither player can continue a further card is placed up on the two middle piles from the pile in the hand. When a player has no sequence cards left he can choose which of the two middle piles to take, and his opponent has to take the larger. The aim is to lose all your cards.
A Bulgarian card game: A pack of 24 cards is used - the four suits from 9 to ace. Each card has the following point value: A=11, 10=10, K=4, Q=3, J=2, 9=0. Each player begins with six cards. The top card of the deck is turned over and then placed at the bottom of the deck. The person who didn't deal leads. The aim is to get 66 points by winning tricks and leaving your opponent with as few points as possible. Should the opponent gain more than 33 then the winner gains 1 mark, under 33 then the winner gains 2 marks, if 0 then 3 marks. Cards placed into tricks are replaced from the deck, the trick winner taking first. Whilst cards remain in the deck there is no suit loyalty, but once the deck is finished or closed then each player must follow suit and must play to win if he can. A player on his lead may replace the bottom card of the pack - i.e. the trump turned over at the beginning - with the 9 of trumps unless only two cards remain in the deck. When a player has both the K and Q of a suit and plays one as a lead to a trick he can claim 20 pts (or 40 pts if trumps). The deck can be closed by either player when he thinks he can score the 66 pts without resource to further pick-ups. This can only be done on the player's go. If he does not succeed he loses 3 marks.
Marc Chagall painted some bible messages for a museum in Nice. The paintings remind me of William Blake - the imaginative use of colour and simple form, and the underlying religious symbolism. Here in Antibes, there's a Picasso museum in an old castle overlooking the sea. Why does Picasso do nothing for me? I find the design and execution of his paintings both juvenile and uninspiring. Even his ceramics don't move me. Considering he is so highly respected, the problem is obviously mine. Some sculptures, not unlike Giacometti, stand in the courtyard. They speak more to me. Another wing of the museum holds a large Leger, not one of his best.
Paul K. Lyons
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