Saturday 4 June

I am a well man again. The antibiotics given me by F J C Millard for my mycoplasma pneumonia seem to have done the job. I am up all day and still fit to socialise in the evening. For the first few days of fitdom, it was quite a novelty being alive and well, but now, this Saturday midday, I feel rather depressed. Probably those secadian rhythms. It is warm outside and inviting. One could almost believe in the possibility of summer today.


I went out early on the bicycle to take photographs. I couldn't think where to go but ended up in Portobello Road. The sun was shining bright although was still quite low in the sky. I was looking for two types of photos - the usual shop window reflections and any photo that might fit into the GLC competition for pictures of 'lifestyle'. For one run along the market I managed to restrict my interest to looking for these, but on the way back the actual objects for sale - junk, antiques, fruit - competed for my attention. I almost got away having only spent 50p on some veg, but then an elegant plaster statuette caught my eye: a lanky Mephistopheles in grey slacks and red-hooded jacket. £85 was marked on it, but the seller came down to £70 immediately. I told him I only a had £50 note. So £50 I paid. I rode home gingerly, Mephistopheles under one arm.

Luke, as usual, had plenty of stories to tell. We talked a lot about his relationship which is turning difficult. He's also having problems professionally. Mike Alfreds' latest production with Shared Experience is a quartet of plays written in 16th century Italy. They portray peasant life and are full of scatological humour - Rabelais-like. The plays were translated at Alfreds' behest, and first performed for a few weeks at Sheffield. Luke's troubles began as soon as the show opened in Sheffield. The Lyric Hammersmith, into which the play was booked to go after Sheffield for a four week season, didn't like the idea of an evening full to bursting with shits and cunts and fucks. They wanted to cancel. But Luke had bills of over £10,000 on the show and needed to hold the Lyric to its contract, which required meeting after meeting. And then he had a similar difficulty with a theatre in Sutton. All the while, Alfreds in Sheffield was giving him no support, and although he promised to modify the show, he never did. The problems seem to have touched Luke rather deeply.

14 June 1983

I'm only writing once a week or every ten days in the diary. It is more work to write thoughtful retrospective pieces, to catch up on the past week. So much easier just to write down the first thing that comes into my head. To illustrate my point, I have Broadstairs, the election, two plays, a woman and a film to write up, and I could spend time writing about mike at McGraw-Hill, but I'm evidently not doing so.

15 June 1983

The GLC photographic competition this year is complicated with sections and sub-sections. I didn't get a feel for it at all, although I spent time riding around in search of pictures. I took 36 B&W which I've developed and contact printed, but I haven't had enough time to get my little darkroom fitted out properly or to work on the photos. I took 36 slides too, mostly reflections (in Bond Street, Portobello Road, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Whitstable), only a few of which were taken with the competition in mind, but I won't get them back until after the closing date. I find it so much easier taking slide photographs than B&W. The skill, the fun, the art, the pretension of taking slides is entirely in the composition, that includes speed and aperture manipulation. With B&W there is the added dimension of printing. As I look at a subject I automatically imagine the result of the photo (of course), with B&W I feel constrained by the quality (or lack of) I will be able achieve in the darkroom. I tend, therefore, simply to look for photos with lots of contrast. It is possible - after all I am doing it now - to divide photographs into two classes, people and not people. I find it quite difficult to take people because I imagine I am impinging on their privacy. I think to myself that actually B&W is outdated, after all, techniques have advanced so far these days that we can reproduce still life in perfect colour. As electricity and the light bulb replaced gas lamps so colour is replacing B&W to the point where B&W will only be the archaic form, a nostalgia, a moodmaker (note sepia tone prints). So, I ask myself, why continue with B&W, why not just take colour. Did I really waste all that time creating and setting up my darkroom, only to decide I can't be bothered with B&W any more - aagh!

I went to dinner at a friend's house last night and met A, the friend's sister. I'd met her before, briefly, last winter. I think I wanted her immediately I saw her. She is small, naturally attractive and given to laughter. She's a bit like Manzi, but stronger, more mature, more at ease. She's political, but we do not see eye-to-eye. She concerned with the politics of now, left-wing, I preferring to see both sides, to look into futures and imagine scenarios. I cant help it, but I wanted her slim body in my bed. I wanted to touch her to laughter and tears. I felt possibilities. We talked a little last Sunday of history and memory, and in the evening we saw a film - 'The Ploughman's Lunch' - which teased us with ideas. I rang her again today and felt like a little boy - nervous and edgy.

Broadstairs is cute but, unlike Aldeburgh, has nothing untamed. It's just another seaside resort, without any natural beauty or any of the appealing vulgarity one can find at Blackpool or Margate. There is a pleasant harbour with a fisherman's inn, a Bleak House which Dickens and Wilkie Collins once inhabited (in reverse order I hasten to add). Consequently the town is drowned in Dickens with shops and restaurants called 'The Old Curiosity Shop', 'Barnaby Rudge', 'Pickwick's' or 'Fagin's'. I didn't much care for anything I saw between Whitstable and Ramsgate, although almost any place in the world is watchable just after dawn. B and I stayed in a B&B that was spick and span: small notices on the small noticeboard in the entrance hall (early morning tea £1 extra a week); cheap but not too cheap decor; a landlady with a smile and stories. Over breakfast - sausage, bacon, egg, fried bread, cereal, toast, tea - she mentioned a Victorian greenhouse not far away. Barbara gleamed, spun around in her chair, raised her eyebrows, and through an enormous grin said 'really, there aren't many in the country you see!'.

I came up to the study this evening to write and potter a bit. I could hear, with the door closed, the chitter chatter of a radio or television. It didn't disturb me much at first but then I found myself getting angry, thinking my lodger Ruth really didn't need to have it so loud. I almost decided to march down the corridor and ask her to turn it down, but didn't. It was only after about an hour and a half that I realised it was my own radio in the lounge that I'd left on!

Raoul finds it amusing that he lives in a big house on the King's Road and talks left wing all the time, while I live in working class Kilburn and talk right wing. Who's trying to prove what to who?

Five years of blue rule. We voted, and landslide was the word on everybody's lips. Landslide for Maggie. Let's hope a bloody avalanche hits her. About 42% of the electorate voted for her and she got a landslide majority of seats; almost a quarter of the country voted for the Alliance and they got 27 out of 600 seats. How can that be right? Michael Foot resigned as leader of the Labour Party. Roy Jenkins resigned as leader of the SDP. David Steel almost resigned.

Thursday 16 June

If when I'm cycling, the slightest criticism or obstruction gets in my way, I let forth torrents of abuse.

This is what I want to write: a novel about now, about us, US, US and our lives in reality. Romanticise the present.

I saw a man riding a bicycle, loaded with bags, who looked just like Frederic. He was tallish and fat, and sat perfectly erect on the saddle, pedalling north along the Edgware Road. He had the air of a man doing exactly what he wanted to be doing. Frederic has this air. Behind the cyclist was a woman also on a bicycle (without any luggage) and obviously the man's companiion. She was straining to keep up, and did not give off the impression of a woman doing what she wanted to be doing.

Tuesday 21 June 1983

Another Solvent Wire bites the dust. It pays the bills, gives me something to do at work on Tuesdays. Andy is a rather straight young American who'll turn a line to wit if he can't think what to say. He's not half as clever as Mike or Tony. Then there's John, the new boy, who does more work than anybody else and is learning super fast. He's the most erudite of us all, and vey ambitious, concerned about his prospects as we still don't have a boss to organise and authorise. Jenny is beautiful and bronzed and, well, not stupid, but not intellectual. We all joke among ourselves about being bossless, AND having a boss's boss who is as far away as the US. Apparently several persons have already been approached for the job but refused.

Now, I'm fit and well again, I'm starting to worry about my empty social calendar. I find myself reading when I feel I should be out. Last night, for instance, Monday, I had nothing to do, so decided to try and write, but my head was vacant.

Rick rang and said come to a soiree, bring something to perform. I rifled through the library of my writings old and new, but was unable to imagine reading any of it out loud. None of the Sparky stories were clean enough and all my other stories were too heavy or dirty (in the other sense) or too long. I finally decided on two or three old travelling poems and a couple of short stories, 'Blue Darlings' and 'I woke up with Mrs T in my bed', and hesitantly made my way to R's boudoir. I knew two of the women and one of the men by sight. There were only six of us. God, I was so nervous, nervous and tense. Rick read some crap poems with style but spent most of the evening being either pretentious or silent. Any talent he has for singing was not on show. The rest of the assembly were singers or guitar players and formed various combinations, variously jamming and performing. My weighty poems were clapped politely, but I was not asked to read again so spent the rest of the evening just listening to the music made by others. I haven't sat so, and listened to musicians for a long time, but I've always regretted not having the ability to understand, listen, play, sing music.

I have my slides back. Some are beautiful, some are clever, and lots of them are ME. But what will I do with them now? Leafing through photography magazines in the library I noticed the winner of a monthly £50 prize. It was a photo of a reflection of Tower Bridge in a car window. The car was in exactly the same pose as my pink-house-reflected-in-blue-car picture.

Thursday 22 June

At the V&A a new wing - the Henry Cole Wing - has just been opened. There I find all sorts of wonderful exhibitions - a tribute to the 90 year old Felix Man, an early photojournalist; printing techniques; and how research helps art history.

Wednesday 29 June 1983

The half year closes in. Closes me in. This is a trap, my paws are clamped between jaws of obnoxious inevitability. At 31 I have guts made of bread pudding. Perhaps I'm on my down cycle now. I do not feel hopeful or happy. My body is better. My scalp heals, even the spots on my shaven face show signs of disappearing. I should start swimming again - and I must exert some discipline over my writing.

Questions of loneliness, insecurity, weakness, endlessly repeated in these journals as thought repetition will somehow make them better, cause them to disappear. Dashed this week by: John casually pointing out he has quite a few reflection shots on slides which he obviously thought were better than mine; Andy pulling me up for being arrogant and expecting him to do thing like the Solvent Wire so I could spend the w/e in Paris; the battery on the Cortina fouling up just as I have to sell it; a complete lack of social contact with the world; over-watching TV as an escape from being on my own.

News flash. Parliament has opened. Elections in Italy have created even more uncertainty than hitherto. Alarmingly, the Fascists increased their share of the vote by two per cent to seven per cent. Arafat is being brought to heel by warring factions within the PLO. He has been expelled from Syria. The only course of action left open to him might be to agree on a peace formula. Heaven forbid! Wimbledon in its second week has more surprises than usual, perhaps because there's been no rain. The ugly Connors is out. The Darling Wade also. India beat West Indies in the Prudential Cup Final. Unrest in Chile - a malignant tumour on Pinochet's crown, but once again he has been removed to ease the pain.

I saw A on Sunday and continued to want her. Why do I bide my time so? Do I know she'll reject me? I think I want something serious with her. I could fall in love. I sent her a Munch card and said 'He thought he liked the colours streaming through herself.' Was I too forward? I worry so about things. And Bel said she had fallen in love with me again - I cannot imagine her not loving me.

Thursday 30 June

I stroll through the R&A summer exhibition seeing how the red dots pile up on the safe and competent prints. It's a class occasion, for the visitors are all silver-haired or touching someone silver-haired. A punk in the midst of the keen crowds stands out like a lighthouse for modernity. There are huge abstract paintings on the wall that light up anger in me. They are so completely lacking in conception or skill. But I shouldn't anger for there is no value in it. These huge monstrosities of wasted canvas are not even worth my few words. Conversely the sculpture is of a very high standard. Intriguing and skillfully executed pieces catch the attention. Mediocrity is the word most on my lips as I whisper through the galleries in a puff of conceit.

Culture List

The Man from Nine to Five (radio) by David Windsor * The Return of the Soldier (cinema) Alan Bates, Our Glenda, John Christie * My Name is Julia Rose (tv) Joseph Lewis, b&w, b movie thriller, excellent * Tron (cinema) Walt Disney. This could have been a superb film. * Invasion of Body Snatchers (tv) Don Siegel. Giant peapods take over. * Hotel Paradiso (tv) Alec Guinness. Sleazy hotel farce. * Melvin and Howard (cinema) * Missing (cinema) Costa Gravas. Realistic human story of CIA in Chile * The Honourable Schoolboy (radio) Le Carre. gripping spy stuff. * The Postman Only Knocks Twice (cinema) Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange. * Raymond Chandler 1975 with Robert Mitchum hunting Charlotte Rampling. * Map of the World (theatre) David Hare, Diana Quick * Hammett (cinema) Wim Wenders. sympathetic photography * Prime Cut (tv) Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman. Horrendous tale of violence * When the Wind Blows (book and radio play) Raymond Briggs. A tale of woe. * The New Journalism, Tom Wolfe * Ministry of Fear 1945 Fritz Lang, Ray Milland and Marjorie Reynolds. * Gandhi 1982 Attenborough, Ben Kingsley. No risks epic. * Don't Look Now, Roeg, Julie Christie, Don Sutherland, Brilliant thriller. * Frances (cinema) Jessica Lange, Sam Shepherd. * Documentary (tv) about Roeg as a director. * Veronika Voss (cinema) Fassbinder. * The French Connection I (tv) Gene Hackman proving he's a good cop * Beauty and the Beast (cinema) Jean Cocteau * Saint-Saens 2nd piano concerto, CBSO (Royal Festival Hall) crisp moving performance * Brighton Rock (book) Graham Green * Le Pont du Nord (cinema) Jacques Rivette * The Crucible (tv) Arthur Miller. Brilliant but horrific play * Aspern (cinema) Gregoria * The Unsuspected (tv) Claude Rains. Clever plot * Treasure Island * The Big Clock * National Theatre of Brent (Tricycle) Funny * Sankai Juku (dance) modern dance from Japan. Tedious but good visuals * Tootsie (cinema) Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange * The High Window (book) Chandler. Old coin forgery * Yol (cinema) A film about honour. * The Moonstone (radio) Wilkie Collins * The Visitation (book) Michele Roberts. Very ordinary. * 1985 (book) Anthony Burgess. The antidote to 1984. * Bus Stop (tv) Marilyn Monroe meets hick cowboy * The Prostitute (tv) Godard, pre-1968, pedestrian un-romantic * Passion (cinema) Godard, Nice camerawork and visuals * Cabaret (tv) Bob Fosse's movie about Berlin 1931. Minelli is magic * Four Nights of a Dreamer (tv) Bresson * Sophie's Choice (cinema) Meryl Streep best actress Oscar * Android (cinema) A charming science fiction * Our Spoons come from Woolworths (book) Barbara Comyns * The Ploughman's Lunch (cinema) contemporary and interesting * A Penny Steps (Tricycle) Ken Chubb * Richmond (theatre) A Francis Durbridge thriller with Ros in * Mad Max II (cinema) Stunning bike and car choreography * Streetcar Named Desire (tv) Tenessee Williams * Town Bloody Hall (tv) with Norman Mailer and Germaine Greer

Paul K Lyons

July 1983


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