JOURNAL - 1983 - MAY

Sunday 7 May

It was a bad week at work, the one before last. I got weaker by the day, looked like an old father time, spreading greyness around me to the point where Bill Biggerstaff - the grumpy telex-room operator - opined I should die at home. That was Friday. I did. I'd had bloodshot eyes for a month, and was losing definition in one of them. Headaches got to a point where I couldn't move my eyes without moving my head too. Pain in my ribs. Weakness at the back of one knee. Shallow breathing. There seemed to be new symptoms every day. In fact, it seems, my lungs were diseased - Dr Richman diagnosed pneumonia and gave me a few pills.

Vicky was all set to come to London on a five week exchange course when her counterpart told her she couldn't stay in her London flat, so, for £20 a week, she's camping in my front room. Meanwhile, on the first floor, Ruth parades about in the flimsiest of dresses while wearing stockings and high heels. Bel thinks she fancies me. I think she's way too weird. Last night she had a man and a woman - neither of whom I saw - to stay, but where they slept is a mystery.

Bel has been wonderful during my illness, being here, cooking, cleaning supporting me in my self pity. Raoul visited in the morning. In the afternoon Luke came for tea, and we talked for a couple of hours. Then Mum came for a couple of hours too.

Andrez, in friendship, calls round Monday evening. My first hours of fitness in which I feel capable of painting the empty breakfast room. He talks and I paint. I paint over some awful hypnotic red spots and Andrez recounts the story of a friend of his, who, he suspects, has been murdered. A chilling yarn. Rosana, a Polish woman but of British citizenship, who spoke faster than Patrick Moore, really cackled, and was very transparent, has completely disappeared. Apparently she was living with a 'murderous' type who, when a friend called one day, said she was busy. The friend rang several times and got the same response, and then, finally, was told she'd gone away. Andrez assures me Rosana would almost always answer the phone and would tell her friends if she was going away. Furthermore, friends discovered that her passport and other papers are still in the flat.

There has been a furore over the fuhrer. Three weeks ago 'Stern' and 'The Sunday Times' announced that Hitler's diaries had been discovered. Both publications said they were genuine, and first extracts printed. Some historians, who had been allowed a view of the enigmatic pages, said they were genuine, others thought them fakes. 'Stern', though, wouldn't reveal their full provenance, and thus doubts began to grow. Forensic tests eventually proved conclusively that the paper, ink and binding were all of post-war vintage. One of Stern's editors has gone into hiding and 'The Sunday Times' is holding its head up high saying it took a risk, but was wrong, mistakes happen.

Monday 16 May

But for this illness of mine dragging on I would have been travelling to Switzerland and Cannes this week, followed by three or four days rest in Antibes. But today, three weeks on from when I first went to see Dr Richman, I'm still an old man, hobbling around and crawling into bed at the first opportunity. The circulation in my legs and arms feels insufficient, my back aches and my chest pains from time to time. Last Wednesday, I went to the Private Patients Plan Clinic for a general check-up. They checked my weight, my heart, my eyes, my ears, my breath, my urine, my blood. I felt like part of a production line, and when finally I got to see a doctor at the end of it and a long wait, he was not unlike a robot. He told me nothing about the results and gave me no insight into my general ill health.

Chile livens up again with strikes and riots, detentions in football stadiums and hundreds of arrests. Syria, bound to the Soviet Union, will not withdraw its troops from Lebanon despite an accord to do so by other interests.

How can I vote Labour when the party is a virtual puppet to the trade unions now? The unions are rooted to traditionalism and stagnancy where once they were a power for change and progress. How can I vote for Mrs T when I see the police force daily more like an army, when I see the national health service crumbling, when I see her dismantling social institutions one by one. I would have equal opportunities in the areas of medical help, schooling, legal advice. But how would the elite stay the elite and be bright enough to fill Parliament and our television screens without Eton and Oxford? And how would great business run without the tax advantages afforded to those who know how to pay for the best fiddles? I'm confused. I think I'll vote SDP.

Colin phones from France. He has moved into an apartment with Hilde. He is surveying the furnishings in the living room as he talks and ruminates on the essential conservatism of women. Ann calls several times. Even Rosso rings and burdens me with advice. Gale visits briefly. And Patrick has been solicitous after my health. I write cards to Vera, Colin, Sylvie and Mike.

I have an idea for a book called 'The Lives of 100 Old Men Encountered on the Kilburn High Road' - a celebration of ordinary men's life. I could just walk up to them and ask them for some time, buy them a drink or a meal and promise them a copy of a book. It would be for young people who haven't yet tapped into the potential of their forefathers about the truth and reality of history.

I dreamt of M last night. We were together on the fielding side in a crazy cricket match. Afterwards, we were walking together, her arm tucked in mine, and I was happy to be with her.

24 May 1983

I went to bed again. I wasn't getting better so I stopped working and stayed in bed. The results of the clinic test finally came through and Raoul said he thought I might have TB. He fixed me up with a chest specialist friend of his, John Millard. I saw him this morning at St James' Hospital in Balham. Here, at last, I felt was a real doctor. He asked me questions, examined me, and x-rayed me. In conclusion, he told me I had some weird kind of pneumonia - I don't remember the full name - and that it comes with headaches. I have a seven day course of antibiotics to take and a return appointment for two weeks hence. I am relieved to have a definite diagnosis. Dr Millard says I should return to work next Monday.

27 May 1983

Peter Savage has resigned, and Joan Lipman will be leaving also; Andy is on holiday for a fortnight. Jim Trotter, at present head of World News Bureau downstairs, has taken Peter's job. He is a ruddy-faced, rather lurching sort of character, at home with a pint in his hand and expostulating on the politics of journalism. I don't understand why he should leave the realms of real journalism for those of pseudo-journalism where we information gatherers are not far short of salesmen. George Lutjen has flown in from the US to help sort out the changes. He has served a long apprenticeship at McGraw-Hill. He's oldish, and socially very at ease, but doesn't seem to have the punch or imagination I would expect from an executive in his position. At lunch yesterday, he was rather a pedestrian presence. Here is a joke he told the troops: A man goes into a tailor to buy a suit. The tailor persuades him to buy one off the hangar. When he gets home his wife notices that one sleeve is longer than the other. So the next day the man goes back to the shop. The tailor says, don't worry about that just hold the short sleeve down with your hand. The man goes home with the suit and shows it to his wife. She notices that it's tight over the shoulders. The man returns to the shop. This time the tailor says , oh don't worry about that, just hunch your shoulder up to your ear. The man returns to his wife who says the back of the jacket is all crooked. The man returns to the shop, and the tailor says, that's nothing just hold the back of your jacket down with your free hand by stretching it between your legs. The man heads home again to show the suit to his wife. On the way, a pedestrian tells his companion to look at the poor hunchback. In response, the companion says, yeah, but doesn't his suit fit well!

Lutjen mentioned that a new department - Electronic Publishing - is to be set up. It will comprise the telex wire information services and the EMIS project in the first place, although it will also sell databases compiled by other publishing areas. This is a progressive step because electronic publishing is the thing of the future. EMIS is quite futuristic in its way. A chap called McAndrew is in charge. But, to me, EMIS seens so vast in its potential that nobody quite knows how to develop it. Like Prestel, it is most definitely a two way communication system - much more so than Prestel. But what information should go on it? How is the information paid for? To whom should it be sold? On what basis? How do subscribers who are also inputters fit in? Access to databases is done via the telephone from almost anywhere in the world. Databases can be connected by satellite. How many databases are accessible? How is it controlled? Who is in control? What we have now is the ability to create an immensely complicated communications tool that will need decades to evolve. The home TV will become an all purpose communication tool. Through it, subscribers will be able to order shopping, pay cheques, book theatre tickets, watch football, borrow videotapes from the library, ask local MPs questions, talk to Citizens Advice Bureaus, vote, take part in pool discussions, talk to a friend in Australia etc. Knowing how to do all those things by pressing the buttons on the little black box will become second nature to future generations. But the entire spectrum of possibilities is so huge, the multi-dimensional layering of capabilities, the costing, the advertising, the personal tailoring of each television's black box to each consumer's requirements, so much will need to evolve before the future is really here.

To me it seems archaic that, once a week, I report on the prices and markets of dozens of different products and send out the information in two bundles, regardless of change or no change and regardless of what the actual customer wants. How simple to input change into a database whenever there is change and let the customer access the database whenever he wishes. Telex is dead. Death to all telex services.

Terayama died. He was only in his 40s, but had been dogged with ill-health most of his life. I only saw him once, when the theatre group Tenjojasiki came to the Riverside. The theatre was stunning. And, later, I saw some of his short films (I wrote at length about them in the journal - in April 1978).

How much of this illness is caused by apathy. I feel so pessimistic about the present. I have a house. So what. I have a job. So what. What am I doing that gives life to my life. Where is the fire that makes anything worthwhile. This underlying melancholy surely effects physical health. Why should I be better? To go to work to get money to pay bills to make telephone calls to friends, to act, to clean, to make slightly better the environment in which I live etc. What a landmine! When I open my old journals there I am, electricity of youth, bouncing, leaping out of the pages with ideas, hope and energy.

I went to tweedom - The Chelsea Flower Show. It seems to me to be the hunting ground of middle-aged ladies who spend the rest of the year sitting on charitable committees. I can't help feeling that men interested in gardens must have had overbearing mothers. There were magnificent displays of bloom and colour but they left me unmoved. The gardens that won prizes were so weedless, so tweefull, so organised that they could only have come out of plastic moulding machines. I don't recall anything about the year I worked at the Show - it must have been 1974 - only that I did and that I was connected with refreshments.

30 May 1983

I turned 31 without any trauma. Mum bought me an art deco lamp, Mel gave me a bright red tracksuit, Julian gave me a framed original etching, and Bel bought me a Chambers dictionary.

Paul K Lyons

June 1983


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