JOURNAL - 1984 - MAY

Tuesday 1 May

A muscle on the left hand side of my chest twitches. I catch my eyelid flicking occasionally; the head is scabby again - what is it within that would out? My neck is a rash of spots where the razor aggravates the skin. What is the twitch within me? Perhaps fear that I have not assessed the market properly this week, and published inaccurate numbers - no that cannot be. Perhaps its anxiety that I'm not worth my salary - it's just been raised to £13,000 from £11,200. I don't want money - I've never wanted money. What else is there to want, what else is there to want, what else is there to want, what else is there to want?

I'm mad keen to have a hatch built in the ceiling of my study so that I can use the flat roof. Quotes so far are in the range £200-300. I couldn't understand why none of the other houses in the terrace had access to their flat rooves, until one builder explained that the roofing felt gets very soft with summer sun and can be damaged by walking on it.

Wednesday 2 May

Confrontation with the Doc. I am tense - afraid of being weak perhaps, afraid of being diagnosed a hypochondriac. It is true I have lost an objective sense of my health, I can no longer tell if I am ill or not. What is certain - and I hold to this - is that I have not been well since having a cold. Dr Myerson more or less dismissed my complaint and started firing personal questions at me. I didn't understand his intent, and this increased my anxiety, but I eventually explained about having had pneumonia. He took this as an affront to his own skills, but then did soften. He gave me papers for a chest x-ray and a blood test all the while muttering that there was nothing wrong with me. When I showed him a lump, he said he could see nothing, and that its only significance was that I was becoming introspective.

Andy comes in and gives me a tin of anise sweets. I tell him that I am not seeing Bel at weekends any more. He tells me that his girlfriend, in her 30s, is anxious for children, but that, at 21, he is scared, and feels too young to be a father.

The policewoman shot from a window of the Libyan embassy is buried. Libyan diplomats are expelled. The embassy is de-embassised. There were 20-30 people in that building for over a week. Gadaffi says the guns found by British police were planted by them.

Tuesday 8 May

It's only after 10:00 but I feel tired as though I've had an exhausting day. My face burns with wind-chap, and yet I did not even ride my bike home. I have sat and watched 90 minutes of TV and now I feel the need to go to sleep.

I have taken to doing my personal writing on the Apple computer at work. I went into the office on Bank Holiday Monday for a few hours and stayed until 8 last night. It is clean to write on the VDU and the cleanliness is encouraging. The clean printouts are hopeful, not hopeless like scruffy bits of typewritten paper. I may never use a typewriter again.

If I had a party who would come? Luke, Tish, Judy, Rob, Raoul, Vonny, Tim, Niema, Ronneet, Rosie, Andrew, Jane, Ros, Rick, Mandy, Andrez, Annie, Nick, Andre, Andy, Gale, Annabel, Pamela, Sooz, Clare and Ellen?

Thursday morning

When I argue in company why do I raise my voice so and project such aggression. I do it without malice, but, evidently, I wish to pound my views into the skull of the person I'm talking to. Last night Andy had it. He saw a new side of me. He respects my views but now he's going to think twice. I get so worked up because I believe in our society. When I talk to people younger or older who don't see the good or value in our culture and only find fault then I want to re-educate them. Last night it was about Beethoven. I threw out the statement that he is probably the greatest composer of all time and Andy challenged that view. I talked of genius, he talked of popularity. I talked of a man that could move people for nearly 200 years, he talked of changing fashions. I talked about the need for a frame of reference in order to grow in understanding. If I don't accept that Beethoven is a great composer of incomparable genius, I said, how else will I learn. My head doesn't know the difference between good and bad, it only knows what it likes and doesn't like. Andy talked of snobs who bought/buy classical records without knowing what they are buying. But why talk down? Why shout and scream? Poor Andy was in a state of shock when he left.

The Soviets have withdrawn from the Los Angeles Olympics. They are saying it is because of the hyper-commercialisation and slack security arrangements. More probable is a desire for tit-for-tat following the US withdrawal from the Moscow Olympics in 1980. It is also likely, I think, that the Russian authorities are afraid that the temptations of capitalism for their athletes will outweigh the benefits of their medal tally. Meanwhile, President Reagan has again gone on the networks to say the Soviets are spreading terror in Central America.

Saturday 19 May

It is a spring day but the sun has retired before the afternoon. The air is warm but not warm enough to be in short sleeves. Bette Midler fills the air - her voice on this record 'Thighs and whispers' appears undistinctive - perhaps it is her earlier recordings that I so liked.

I have done all the chores - shopped in Waitrose, in the Willesden Lane Deli, at the fruit and veg stall; collected my car following an MOT that cost £100; borrowed the Midler record from the library; collected three photos from Supasnaps. And now I am motiveless again, depressed. This may sound silly but I don't know what to do for the rest of the weekend.

This needs telling I suppose. I am highly in favour with my boss at work. He has already pushed my salary up and given me the second best office after his. And he has offered me the job of editing the one little newsletter we publish. He has got me involved me with the World News chief of bureaus, i.e. the guy that runs the journalists in South America and everywhere else. And he promises me a grand future with McGraw-Hill, which, he adds, has ambitious plans to counter AP and Reuters.

I bought a large mirror at my favourite junk shop for £25. Immediately, I took the back off the frame and removed the glass and took the wood to the Barwood company in Mill Lane to be stripped. There they charged me £6 for the job, and suggested the frame was probably worth £200.

Still Saturday afternoon

I worry about my birthday - am still deciding whether to have a party or not.

Last weekend, I dipped into the pearls of Cornwall. It's a long way to drive a car. I got up at 4:00am on the Saturday morning, cooked myself a thermos of coffee and hit the trail. I was halfway towards Portsmouth before I realised I wasn't on the M3 and that Portsmouth wasn't on the road to Honiton etc. How much I enjoy driving through dawn and into early morning. Driving is a glorious pleasure when the roads are so empty. I can drive fast and wild and still watch the sky. Counties pass by like fields at the speed of dawn riding. By the time I reached Devon I was happy to slow and be watchful. Dartmoor came upon me sipping the last of the sweet thermos coffee. I made a detour to Princeton to see Her Majesty's Jail. You can't miss it. Huge grey blobs of seemingly lifeless stone. Wastegrounds and fences protecting the inmates from idle travellers.


All I've ever seen of Ruth's boyfriend is his back as he slouches around the top floor, his shoulders hunched, his shoes off, his glasses glinting around some corner. Can it be this man has spent months on end coming here to my house? And who is this Ruth. Has she lived here for a year and have I never spoken to her? A week today she leaves - and the clatter of her heels on the kitchen parque above will be no more. I find myself looking forward to Judy and Rob coming to live here.

A Friday night through Saturday night completely alone. No telephone calls, no contact. I am increasingly depressed. Last night, under a heavy stone from grass, I whipped myself into virtual extinction. Everything I've said and done in the last few days was up before the judge. This incessant proving of myself makes me want to jump out of the window. This arrogance has to go. There is no longer any room for arrogance. I have nothing to be arrogant about. I imagine, in my paranoia, that people think of me as a arrogant and bigoted. I wanted to dispel all these thoughts from my head, but I couldn't because there was some truth there that I had to grasp, I had to hold onto it into the morning and remember and try to adjust my behaviour. Be quieter, think before speaking, do not latch onto immediate head replies.

I talk to Jeff Ryser in Sao Paulo and am jealous. I still dream to work in Brazil. Luke says he is worried about me. He says South America definitely. I must be a disappointment to him, no longer the venturer.

28 May

Bel is more excited about my birthday than I.

30 May

Jane rings to wish me happy birthday, it is her birthday today. Mum bought me some glasses for wine and whisky. Mel gave me a book token. Bel gave me a wisteria, a bergamot, an iris and a hip flask - nicer far than the one I bought Julian for Christmas. Andy gave me a record of some singers parodying the Andrews sisters. Judy and Rob gave me a book. I spoke to Dad today - no memory at all of birthdays. I'll try next year for complete anonymity. The best present of all was Ruth moving out and Judy and Rob moving in.

Today, I'm a little manic - which is a suitable state given that I have a party only a few days away. If I lean back in my chair I discover that I am at peace with the world in a pragmatic sense, and the world is at peace with me. I am not beset with troubles. My relationships, the few that exist - family and friends - are without complications or difficulties; there are no major problems with house and car, and I am still on bonus points at work. How dare I, then, tense up and be depressed. This is just an expression of our slavery to mood.

Thursday 31 May

The weather has changed. It's warm now, very warm and the air light, very light. I can almost imagine a Mediterranean summer.

Paul K Lyons

June 1984


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