DIARY 22: July - October 1983

6 July 1983

I spend hours sitting in a darkened room trying to analyse my present and future and invariably take refuge in the past. The secret as always is to know, to understand what I want, but when I do make plans they crumble as there is no driving will behind them. Last night - in the darkened room - long before it was time to sleep I lay down to think and thought first that I needed a marriage. Then, I asked myself what I would do within a marriage, and decided that I would need to be fulfilled as a single person before I can expect a marriage. These thoughts endlessly the same. But they bear repeating.

The sleek new shiny sports car motionless: trapped in a queue of cars along a narrow road. How redundant - humiliating.

How did I manage to choose my first property, so quickly, so easily? It must have something to do with those endless tiring treks I made across the great cities of the world in search of the very cheapest place to lay my head.


All the hype about hanging has returned. Parliament is to vote on the re-introduction of the death penalty for theft with violence, terrorist acts and acts of violence against the police. Most MPs and al the media are committed to continuing with the no death penalty legislation. The strongest lobby for a change, I imagine, is the police, but I can't help wondering if it isn't just a matter of vengeance and keeping its rank and file happy with the knowledge that revenge will be done. After all, the alternative is a life without responsibility watching colour telly. Can't be much fun for police persons to know that criminals have a reasonably OK life before them, even if they start shooting to kill. However, the moral majority will win. There is too much conscientiousness in this country, too much charity, too much worrying about personal image. Who will stand up and be counted as wanting to revert to middle age behaviour. And yet I wonder how many secretly believe the death penalty should exist. One might ask why should the state preserve worthless lives with public money? Why should those that take away life continue to live?

I remembered Sorcunde today. And yesterday I wrote to the desirable Sylvie, and the almost forgotten Christian in Chile. When I phoned AP in Paris I discovered that my uncle Mike Goldsmith will be there next week. It always seems to work out that when I go to Paris I catch him there. Of course, if I want to go to Brazil, perhaps to work, then I need to learn Portuguese. One of the thoughts of my thinking in the darkened room.

18 July

She was an old woman - not so old that she wobbled along or needed walking stick support - but old enough to have given up on her appearance. A very ordinary old woman, I would say, perhaps a little overweight. She stood on the pavement but facing the road and a pedestrian crossing. A look of comfort crept from her face, escaping to the world - a kind of contentment vaguely desirous filling the air around the spot where she stood. Schoolgirls no older than seven or eight dressed prettily in uniform filed across the pedestrian crossing two by two.

A newspaper brief tells me that President Bignone is considering the election of a democratic government before the proposed date of 30 January.

I made a mess of my time in Paris. I didn't doublecheck appointment times and places and found myself in the wrong places and at the wrong times. Moreover, I felt aggravated by the intense heat and high humidity. And, I'm always paranoid in France. I expect that I won't be understood. There may even be a label on my forehead visible to all but me which says 'Please do not comprehend what I am saying'. Why I've let the Frogs get away with this intimidation is beyond my conscious powers of reasoning. It's not even that my French is non-existent for I have a rudimentary knowledge of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

I am thinking of writing a brief description of La Defense - the new modernistic city area of Paris and the deserted railway station that Colin brought me to, but, as I think on't, I see little point in taxing my energies since I've already taken photographs of the places. It occurred to me that perhaps I ought to keep a parallel journal of photographs -people and places I have known. I went on to think about the relevance of such journals - their only real value is in terms of looking back and feeling nostalgic. There is therapy in the writing and perhaps also in the taking and organising of the photographs.

I must report that Colin was fine and content living with Hilde. They have a pleasant flat, and live a somewhat vegetarian existence.

Bel and I sloped off to Tring on Saturday and found an auction. Lots of junk going at knock down prices but we were too late to have a good look round, and decide if we wanted anything. I ran into Graeme Ogden, who I haven't seen for a decade. A decade has gone and is no longer there. Cardiff was yesterday or the day before but is a faded picture instead of a clear sharp image. Conversation between him, his 'lady' and Bel and I flipped backwards and forwards, past and present. No heavy nostalgia just light memories.

In the evening, or rather the middle of the night, Harvey arrived. The phone rang long after I was asleep and a voice said 'I hear you have a room to rent' - being the same very first words he'd said to me many years ago.

19 July

Harvey's come to Europe for a two month holiday - with June. June has an English family history but was brought up in Canada. I gave June Vera's autobiography to read as an antidote to all the stories June tells of women being beaten by the system. She came rushing into the kitchen to tell me that she'd read one of her books. I guessed 'Laura' because it's the most famous, but later she came rushing back, interrupting a conversation between Harvey and I, and exclaiming she wrote 'Evvie' too. That book had had a profound influence on her, she said, it was my most favourite book when I was 14, next to 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. It was locked up in her secret box, which had secrets about drinking, because it was set in the Prohibition. June's mother discovered it and confiscated it as a most evil book. Harvey and June are homely types. They enjoying cooking and house restoration. I am loving having them here - talking and drinking into the early hours with balmy air flowing through the open house. Art and theatre and politics and travelling - oh lots of travelling stories. Why can't I live with people like this?

Back to Paris for a minute. Mike told a story. When he was still working in France, he was instructed to interview this famous gangster who ran a casino in Nice. After some delays he, with his wife Roxanne, finally went to Nice at the gangster's invitation. Following the interview and after a sumptuous meal, a waiter approached the table bearing a tray. On the tray was a gambling chip valued at 500,000 francs. It was offered to Roxanne - but she refused to take it.

24 July 1983

This morning, though, a sense of hope - the sky darkens with welcome rain - a rather melancholic piece of music by Scriabin plays on the radio.

Harvey and June went to Newcastle to see the Constructionist painters, Charles and his wife.

I gave a dinner party - well to be more precise Harvey, June and I gave a dinner party. I had asked Rosy to dinner before H & J came so it seemed a good excuse. I got Niema and Tim over and Gale and H & J asked Vivien who used to work for IPC. And Bel showed up. That was strange having Bel here.

25 July 1983

This is midday on a Monday morning. I feel dead. A death born of an emptiness. The past few days the same feeling. Lying on my bed without any hunger or needs. Physical satiation with the world. Yet a mind unable to produce. A subconscious reeking with emotion but no bridges to the conscious. Flatness. All w/e trying to write, to invent, to imagine, to create a character, a story, a plot just encountering flatness, void in those regions.

31 July 1983

Dozy me. Yesterday, for example, I slept several hours in the afternoon and then fell asleep soon after 10pm. But I am up before 9 this Sunday morning anticipating Bel's arrival shortly. My body looks forward to the caresses.

The world was sad, the garden was wild; And man the hermit sighed - till Woman smil'd. Thomas Cowper in 'Pleasures of Hope'.

Some time ago Bel bought me two passiflora (passion flowers) plants. They have grown fast, but, unfortunately, there aren't any flowers - except for three. This week, while Bel was away, one of them opened. Today, however, it has not re-opened. They are amazing plants. They grow feelers in advance of the leaves, which sway about in the wind in search of a branch or wire or nail to attach themselves to - and thus they climb and ramble. If the feelers find nothing to hang onto then they curl up like a spring, giving the plant an odd spiky appearance. Still in the garden - what pleasure whilst cooking to be able to step through the back door and take some fresh chives, or parsley or thyme. Soon, I shall have some sage and mint also.

I was seduced - by a 'City Limits' preview - to the London Film Co-Op (in the same building as the London's Musician Collective) to see a programme of experimental Japanese shorts. There was mention of a film by Terayama, so how could I not go. The films were part of a programme sponsored by an American-Japanese group and were chosen to illustrate use of form as much as content. As such, they rarely strayed from an indulgent examination of the artists' own environments: the incessant noise of a train passing; the patterns made by leaves and water reflecting light; pictures of green bushes counterpointed with the sounds of guns and bombs.

I bumped into Plume. I may never have mentioned her before, but I seem to have known her for years. We met in my acting and miming days. I remember her as plump and pink and jolly. The last I knew she had joined a theatre group called The Cunning Stunts. I was standing right next to her in the queue for tickets but didn't recognise her. The girl that said 'hello' was almost gaunt, certainly thin. Her hair was dyed black and swept long down one side. We did not sit together in the cinema, but, during the interval, we exchanged gigantic smiles across a crowded room.

Paul K Lyons

August 1983


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