DIARY 23: April - July 1984

'As white as yon Chesil foam, when the west wind blows.'

5 April 1984

The last book's not finished - but I want to get on. A new book is pure, innocent, expectant, full of promise and future, the past is forgotten, and it only looks forward into the blank whiteness, as white as yon Chesil foam, when the west wind blows. Liberty's sells blank books with fancy covers for over £7. Perhaps if I had something fancy to write it would be worth the money. Instead I opt for a £1.20 book. Common and cheap. It'll last and last, I predict.

The Connoisseur's Postcard Chain. There are eight names on the sheet, all with details of the type of postcard they would like. I send one card to the top name and replace the name at the bottom with mine. I then distribute the letter to eight postcard collectors (Jim Kalnin, Harold, Annie, John, Andy, Rosie, Anne.) The claim made by the letter is modest, considering that eight to the eighth power equals 16.7 million!

Surely I will die
Surely I will die
Surely I will die one day
Surely I will die one day soon

9 April

However hopeful it may be to embark upon a new book, I don't feel any hopefulness within me. My eyes are given to water, my body to sleep, my mind to neither dream nor to thought. I dismiss Bel as though she ought to be punished for her inability to bring me back to life. Yet how patient she is, how long suffering, how giving, how lovely.

To beflict - from the Latin beflickum, meaning to have inflicted upon.

12 April 1984

The gasman cometh - pulling up the carpets, inserting copper pipes beneath the floor beams, drilling holes in the foundations. But following this chaos the gasman will never need to come again since the meter is now outside the front door. The old meter was an ugly and awkward intrusion in the space under the stairs, so I'm glad it has gone.

A lot of old men in dark blue suits at the opening of the Anthony Caro exhibition at the Serpentine. Seeing his large metal sculptures I am inspired not a whit to woo. They have a certain aesthetic form that is not unpleasing, they occasionally bring glancing recollections of everyday constructions, but I couldn't help thinking - so what. It is dull art, lifeless.

I begin to notice that sixties fashions are back. Yesterday, I saw a girl with a mini-skirt, bleach blonde hair, long with a fringe, high heels and a hard bag. Definitely sixties. I reasoned that eras became fashionable when a generation became adult and did not know them - that's a badly written sentence. I reasoned that an era becomes fashionable or is made fashionable by a generation that is too young to remember it - so about 20 years after - this perhaps is true of clothes fashion, whereas for home furnishings 30 years might be more appropriate.

I plan a dinner party carefully: Jane to meet Angela, Angela to meet Rosie and Andrew, Andrew to meet Andre; perhaps I shall invite Annie too.

Sunday morning

One continues to exist. Oh yes, there's no stopping existence. One puts words together in a comprehensive form so that people met are satisfied with their encounter. One has telephone conversations that resemble a chat. Yet it is in the quiet lonely moments between encounters - moments that last perhaps a few minutes in the course of a working day or an entire weekend at the weekend, that desolation takes hold. No action is meaningful. Petty cleaning tasks become abhorrent in view of their remoteness from what mind terms significant. Activities such as reading or listening to a tape are the easiest compromises. The mind wants to wallow in self-pity and self-reprobation. All the old doubts came back last night sparked by taking half an acid tab (that I'd been carrying around for years).

I noticed how dirty/scrappy parts of the house are.

Monday 16 April

I slipped out just before dusk last night in my quest for photos of Kilburn. I am anxious to photograph the shops in Kilburn Lane. I've also the idea to photograph all the inhabitants of Aldershot Road. The light in spring, especially at dusk, combined with the orange and red glows of sodium lights, make for interesting photos. As it happened, streams of people were entering the Catholic Church on Quex Road. The service was well under way but people kept coming. In the distance, towards the back of the church, I could see, through the doorway, a priest in crimson. It reminded me of coloured yacht sails I once photographed through the derelict framework of a house - the central show of colour piercing the average browns and earthly greens. This is a recurrent theme in my work.

I read in past journals that I shave my beard off at Easter. I am impatient. I decide on a haircut too. The gentle rotund gentleman from India is busy when I pass his shop so I cross the road and enter a barber's with an Italian flavour. Here my hair is chopped around as though there's no tomorrow. I complain that it doesn't look very good. So he asks me if I want it short and now he is happy because he can use his trimming machine. I never had my hair short - not since the cru-cut in adolescence. I note with a smile that long hair is just coming back into style. He then shaves me. I am shawn. My spots revealed. My face older, more haggard than I have ever known it. I fidget with the odd hair missed by the shave.

Good Friday

The Secret Garden [The Hill] is crowded. Children scream and shout and play, lower tones of adults respond. Easy not to hear the birdsong that is more persistent and louder than any human noise. The air is warm and still - the sun shines through a light clouded sky. Below me a squirrel is balancing its hind legs on the edge of a litter bin and its forelegs are scrabbling about in the contents. A young girl with pig-tails creeps forward. The squirrel doesn't scurry away but cowers on the lower branch of a tree. When the girl goes, it returns to the litter this time discovering a banana skin which it carries away with up into the tree. A few minutes later it comes back, and this time deposits its entire body within the litter basket. I am quite charmed by the little rodent especially because of the human-like way it uses its forelegs to hold and examine its discoveries.

Bel has gone to Paris with a friend, and I encouraged her to go and stay with Colin. But then, having fixed it up, I felt obligated to tell her I had gone to Paris with Ann. I could not take the risk of her finding out from Hilde/Colin; and I certainly didn't want to ask Colin/Hilde not to mention it. Bel was truly shocked, and talked about not being able to trust me any more etc. I explained there was nothing serious or worth telling, and that I was telling her now, but I was not convinced by my actions or motives. Yet I didn't feel any guilt and asked myself if there had been a better way to act.

26 April

Here then at Crewe railway station. Do I know anything about Crewe other than that it has a theatre. But when I was working on the Crewe Theatre study at MORI, I don't think I ever came here. The theatre's director FF - a friend of Worcester's - was doing the study on a shoestring and employed his own staff to do the interviewing. I enjoyed the survey but recall the results were largely predictable: the most significant way to get more people to come to the theatre is through the involvement of famous actors.

Mid-evening now and returned to London after a day at the International Garden Festival - returned, I might add, red-faced, for the sun shone unrepentantly the entire day. Bel had already mentioned it twice before, so, when I saw an open invitation to all accredited journalists in the UK Press Gazette, I couldn't resist surprising her. The project is certainly grand. The site, which is probably a mile long and half a mile wide, contains a hundred different gardens on national and international themes. There are water courses, miniature railways, pavilions, mazes, playgrounds and lakes, all landscaped along the Liverpool coast with a promenade walk and hillocks giving a view across the Mersey. The official opening is only a few days away, on 2 May, yet you would never know it. The activity there borders on panic with thousands of people digging, carting, planning, surveying, laying, painting; lift-trucks, and rollers, cars and lorries trail through all the walkways; large plots of land are empty. There is a fairly spectacular display of tulips that looks like it might fail by 2 May - the red and yellow flowers are as brilliant as the gaudy pavilions throughout. Many plants look shrivelled already, and the earth is caked dry. I took a small reel of colour negs because Bel wanted some pictures. I tried to shoot for her but my eye always looks for irony or aesthetic form in the unexpected rather than peace and aesthetic form where it has been created.

I sat next to actresses on the train coming back. Is it a fact of life that the more an actress drinks the louder she talks?

Sunday 29 April

My Saturday. I arose just before 9 - tea and chocolate egg. Shopping in Safeway and fruit stall. To the glass shop and a couple of junk shops; painted the coffee table in the garden. Watered the garden. Finished two unfinished photo frames. Cheesetoast for lunch. Just before lunch I went to the Audi dealer in St John's Wood and bought some bits for the car. Went to Queen's Park for an hour to think and read. A girl came to sit nearby and played sentimental Bread songs and lay down with her legs towards me and part open. At 3:15 I watched the first half an hour of King Vidor's War and Peace and recorded the rest. Painted the table again and the skirting board in the kitchen. Repaired the indicator, radio and cleaned inside the car. Went to Hampstead to take some B&W photos. Read a little of Colin Turnbull's Human Cycle. Watched the play - 'The Testament of John by Don Taylor'. Watched the middle part of 'War and Peace'. Took some B&W at about 11:30 in Kilburn High Road. To sleep about 1:45. Quite busy but completely alone.

On Friday, Tish had a 30th birthday party at the Diorama, a Victorian construction with a central circular hall and galleries of rooms on three floors. Somewhat cavernous and impersonal but still not bad for a party. Plenty of room to dance. Luke was already there and apart from Tish neither of us knew anybody else. We talked about this and that. He told me he was looking for a director for Pam Ferris in a production of 'Happy Days' he intends to put on. I suggested Berkoff. Berkoff directing Beckett could be interesting. Also I danced to Lol Coxhill's saxophone.

In Saturday's 'Times' I was struck by a story of a 50yr old librarian who killed his wife, his daughter, his mother - each instantaneously and without any knowledge of what was happening - and then killed himself. He left behind a diary of events which was read out in the coroner's court. The diary showed that he could not bear his own disappointment with life but neither could he bear having to leave his dependents - the three women - to face his suicide, so he decided to take them with him. He said he'd only ever wanted to be a poet but had never had a single line published.

Paul K Lyons

May 1984


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