PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1985 - OCTOBER
DIARY 29: October 1986 - February 1986
2 October 1985
A fat book for a fat season.
Brazil stretches out before me in an unchanging pattern. I cannot see myself leaving the country for 9-10 months - a fat time to be in one place. As such this journal will be the blubber of my time in Brazil!
It’s just a shame I don’t like the colour of the cover.
First pages are so pregnant with expectation, but at this early misty hour, I can be neither more literate nor a fortune teller.
The Brazilness of this book is however spiked at day one by my need to record information still hanging over my head from the trip to London. (Once, a few days ago, the trip was a reality, I was experiencing the touch of my city and its people, now it is just a memory.)
How I hate aeroplane travel. I hate the queues most of all, then I hate the cramped seats and being trapped by other bodies, and then I hate the awful monotony of airline service, and then I hate the temperature that causes headaches - if there were but time to journey by sea. It took me the entire weekend to recover from the return trip, which included seven hours at Lisbon airport. And even today, Wednesday, I remain somewhat groggy despite falling asleep last night and the night before at 9 or 10. I suspect my sleeping is more to do with the mental exercise of speaking, reading, listening to the language again, perhaps the return to swimming is also tiring me.
I had managed to spend the last evening in London with family. Early evening, my brother Julian and I nipped round to see Dad who remains a little nervous and perhaps depressed, at least not so full of his usual bonhomie. He and Julian slip easily into discussions of business. It does seem to me that he is a hard and keen worker, though Dad, despite prompting, would not overpraise him. But I digress. From Blenheim Terrace we moved on to a Greek restaurant in Parliament Hill where we had arranged to meet with Mum and Julian and Melanie Bull [my sister]. Although Bel had hinted she may come, I could not find her by telephone or visiting to give her the restaurant’s address. The meal gave us all great satisfaction as promised by J. Indeed, there were too many good things served up as part of the meze. Family chit-chat abounded until finally we retired to Melanie’s new flat around the corner.
The idea of having a child with Bel has begun to take seed. Over lunch, the other day, Jenny told me she is pregnant, unsure of the father, and determined to have the child, regardless of the lack of stability in her life. That same evening, I met with Luke. We examined his forthcoming interview with Brentford Arts Centre in some detail, and after we debated the baby issue. He brought up many valid points, summarised by his statement: intellectually I think it’s a good idea, although emotionally it scares me. Then I discussed it with Colin, with Julian, and with Rosy - more really to sound out my own ideas over and over again.
But what is the idea? That Bel have a child in my absence, that I would support it financially and emotionally as much as I could, given my whereabouts and situation. In other words, the arrangement explicitly leaves me free of a responsibility that I would not and could not take. At the same time, it gives Bel the child she clearly wants (although not necessarily now).
What’s right with even considering such an arrangement is that we would rationally be approaching a problem that is irrationally treated by most of the world. Looking around us it is difficult to see a unified family, or children now growing up without a change of at least one partner. Both Bel and I realise we want, perhaps need, children, that we would cause traumas if we lived together (traumas that most marriages go through with the reluctant damage to children) but that we are unlikely to find a such a caring or loving partner in the near future. It would be, I reasoned to my friends, a deliberate rational and indeed responsible action given a set of variables that exist and which are beyond change. Well, as I say, the idea grew in my head. Bel let herself get carried away for a moment, then suddenly sat up with a start - what am I doing? Events after that became a bit hazy, but Bel said she wanted to think about it.
I believe now in retrospect that my pressure, although mild and subtle, was dogged. The idea of having my baby while I was away in Brazil was Bel’s originally, and after some thought (in 84) I decided that I would not be prepared really to have a child when I would have no control over its upbringing. However, on leaving England earlier this year, I changed my mind and wrote her a letter to the effect that if she wanted, I would not mind. I do believe a baby would be a right and natural consequence of our relationship. So, whereas the original impetus to have a child was, I imagined, to have come from B, during the last few hours, it was coming from me; and Bel’s own plans and desires may have been influenced by my own - which in a saner more objective moment would not have been my intention.
To return to the night in question, after leaving Mel’s new flat I went back to sleep at Bel’s. We woke early the following morning, but the hour we had planned just vanished in tease and counter-tease. Once I was us up and busying herself with preparations I became sulky. I cried quietly - ‘You don’t want my baby, you don’t want my baby.’ It was half serious. It was already very late, when she finally volunteered, stepping across the bed in her hurried way, that she had decided. I melted. And so it was I delivered what was the first and deliberate seeds I have ever sown. Minutes later we had separated not to see each other perhaps for a year, or maybe nine months.
The omnibuses have stopped - it’s a choice between a long trek by bicycle or a taxi to get downtown - but how do the ordinary people get to work - will the shops be manned for example?
In Fortaleza a young man atop a power transmission tower teases a crowd below with the possibility of his suicide. He remains there through most of the night until the morning when the crown begin to chant ‘pula pula . . .’ (jump, jump). One student is heard to shout ‘hurry up my classes begin in 15 minutes’. The newspapers carry a picture of him spiralling through the air.
The days are more cloudy and changeable than I have known them. In the week since my return I have seen the sun only for a few hours at a time. At least, there are interesting skies.
I have slept much this week. I find the evenings so difficult. I need practical occupations to break up the mind work of reading, writing, studying.
Now really it becomes difficult to sink back into London and pull out the details of my time there. The cultural highlight was, without doubt, the Royal Opera House production of ‘Donnerstag’ by Stockhausen. This is the first work in his projected cycle of seven days. There is a Wagnerian aspect to his ambitions. ‘Donnerstag’ starts just after 6pm with a prologue in the foyer, and finishes at close to 11:30 with an epilogue of brass instruments played from surrounding house-tops. I collared Colin into going. His only night in London, poor chap, and he spends five hours in a Stockhausen opera. Yet, he should be grateful, it is not so often we get the opportunity to indulge ourselves in a cultured event. And so what if it is a bit boring in parts. Isn’t life infinitely dull in its endless repetitions. The various critics had been luke warm-to-warm about the opera, pointing to its musical shortcomings. Colin fell asleep only once. I not at all. Indeed, I found the evening enthralling. The music was far from inaccessible, often delightful with many piano, trumpet and saxophone solos, and a great variety of scores, using an entire orchestra for one act, a smaller orchestra for another, and none for the first. I also found the basic idea of using three mediums for each person - speaker, musician, dancer - very satisfying. As I tried to explain to Colin and Phil Needham who we met there by accident, the human nature is so complex that it is a brilliant idea to try and try and demonstrate growth, change and maturation through such an interchange of mediums. Of course, I have always been an aficionado of multidisciplined events. ‘Donnerstag’ should get central feature space in ‘Performance’ magazine, but it won’t now Luke has left it behind.
Luke had advised me that ‘Donnerstag’ would be a wank. But I countered that it is unlikely that the powers that be at the Royal Opera House (one of the world’s top three?) should be hoodwinked by a composer. In fact, they turned down the work’s premiere which instead went to La Scala, a year to two ago. And Phil was ranting and raving in the 2nd interval that it was a load of rubbish. He went home.
Although I know nothing about music, it appeared to have variety and intelligence, it was also human, and there was ample variation between pleasing and challenging sounds. My criticisms are more visual. The first act fulfilled itself theatrically but the others lacked brilliance, lacked the combination of imagination with production skill and professionalism which the whole needed. I also felt Stocky’s son was given too big a role. Of the three main characters - son, mother and father - he played the trumpet player musician part of the son, and had most of the 2nd act to himself. Stocky himself sits in the middle of the stalls controlling the electronic consul. (Oh yes, I remember now the choruses in the 3rd act are dressed in spacey robes but they look oh so tatty - and in a production of this size you can’t afford such mistakes - in my humble estimation.)
Under bullying from yours truly, Colin sheepishly admitted it had been an interesting evening.
Saturday 5 October
The sun is shining all day today. The people are out and testing summer. I am relaxing em casa. Maria has not arrived because of the bus strike. I resort to doing some washing up and tidying. Now, I sit in the rocking chair at the window. The sunlight heightens the salt deposits on my hairs for, unusually, I did not shower after bathing just now.
I finally got hold of Elaine on Thursday and she came round uninvited on Friday morning all loving and wanting to make love. In keeping with my gentlemanly conduct, resisted her advances. But she would not be resisted, so I explained. Yet it made no difference and instead of continuing my market calls, we made love.
‘I am bad. I am bad, you see, I am bad aren’t I.’ Miles in Britten’s ‘Turn of the Screw’ - just played.
And this is a Brazilian phenomenon. It seems Elaine will be quite happy to remain friends and see me less often. But I foresee complications. Look what happened this morning.
10:05 E rings thinking about the beach - I decline.
10:07 L rings thinking about the beach - I decline.
11:35 E rings and says she’s leaving for the beach, and do I want to come. I decline.
11:40 L arrives here ready to carry me off to the beach.
There’s clearly a definite rhythm in ‘going to the beach’. But I don’t think I can cope with E ringing so often (yet I do so enjoy her).
‘The ceremony of innocence is drowned.’ Quint.
As I explained to Pat this morning, neither relationship is at all satisfactory. I really should be moving in more professional circles by now. This is always my problem - I just don’t make it with grown-up people on a casual superficial level.
Pat disturbed me. I had lent her my story ‘The Love of a Mountain’ to read. It was mentioned for a while, but then she said spontaneously that she couldn’t read it because it was too personal. I explained that was nothing to do with it being personal - because even if it was, a well-written personal account would make you read, not give up - and besides it is not personal at all. It just doesn’t work - ah well another set back. And reading my unfinished account of Marilia’s exploits, I am not at all convinced it has my worth at all.
Of friends back in London. Both the mothers-to-be, Caroline and Judy, have become rounder, mellower, even softer, characteristics that I would never have applied to them before pregnancy. Both are expecting in the first few days of November - such a shame that I will not be around to witness the events - the first time close friends of mine have given birth. I noticed little change in the men. Rob remains his quiet protective self, hesitating the start of his sentences but always succeeding in rounding them off well - perhaps if anything now more in his natural habitat. I sense that judy is not quite in her right place, but may gain strength and confidence from her child.
Raoul still coos at the girls in the street in his boyish way. It may be an affectation connected to his relationship with me. Perhaps he feels the need to retain this aspect in order to interest my criticism. Who knows. I notice how his house crumbles now. The front facade needs painting badly, while the garden is untended and uncared for. Inside a modernised kitchen with awful glossy magazine-designed wood fronts and a fitted hall carpet give away the new tack - wealth not time. The remnants of Vonny’s presence now appear strangely out of place, and the house moves towards the ordinary.
I have slept nearly the whole day. This might be acceptable if there were someone sleeping with me, but at 4:30 in the afternoon, it feels like a wasted day. Why have I slept the day away - it is the sugar regime (not being that closely adhered to), the swimming (twice yesterday), the dancing and alcohol last night at the samba show (only until 2:00am), or is it more simply a mental depression. What else is there to do on a Sunday without people, that isn’t reading or writing, and how I can tire of reading. Floating in the sea this morning (I have floated in the sea, eaten breakfast and a lunch, and done some reading apart from sleeping) I decided it would be a good idea to have one day a week free of mental work and commit myself to doing no other reading but the simplest thriller. Saturday will be the day. Pleasure will take preference on Sunday, but in the absence of anything to do, I should work, heavy reading, or writing for example, My current reading programme is: ‘The Haj’ by Leon Uris; ‘Godel Escher Bach’ by Hofstader; ‘The Smoke Ring’ by P Taylor.
Just now, rocking in the rocking chair with the afternoon sun spreading in through the glass across my naked body, I thought how easy it is to slip into one of these three worlds - opening a book is like saying take me away author, surround me in the comfort of your world.
And rocking in the hammock earlier today - lying in the hammock perpendicular to its line is astonishingly comfortable, the support of the curve of the material follows through all the way up the back to the head, whereas lying normally it is always difficult to find a comfortable position; in this traverse position I can either cross my legs inside the hammock, or else hang them loose outside in which case, simple swing movements rock the hammock in a most pleasing way - when I knocked my foot against the rocking chair. Suddenly, from thinking nothing in particular, I was remembering Lady Rose in Corsica, the time I met her in La Cave in Ajaccio, and her invitation to come on a Sunday walk. I couldn’t remember why I had refused - but why should I have been so concerned about this particular invitation and refusal that it should suddenly appear out of the blue in my memory. Did my mind take a random leap into space and find itself or rather its conscious self attracted, like metal to a magnet, to a weak lighthouse type signal - or better, a castaway’s smoke signal saying: Heh, Mr Consciousness, this little matter was never settled, never properly packed away, please come and rescue me from this eternal hell? Or was there a subtle similarity between the knock on my foot (or a subconsciously heard sound on the radio perhaps) that recalled Lady Rose or my time in Corsica?
MORE OF LONDON PEOPLE
I saw Annie briefly, who declined to accompany me to the theatre because it would have been difficult getting back from Shepherd’s Bush. Silly girly really because she would have revelled in the play ‘The kiss of the spider woman’. by Manuel Puig - it was all about Marxism. Well, it purported to be about Marxism and homosexuality, but was much more about the latter. It appeared evident to me that the author was a homosexual and that the dialogue was more believable when coming from the queen. (Two men are locked in an Argentine cell, one for homosexual offences, and the other for urban terrorist offences.) The play neatly professed a politic about ordinary relationships, though, by showing up the similarity between them, and the developing relationship of the tough young intellectual (who does admit finally he likes classy women) and the older weak pansy. In retrospect, I think more of the play than I did when I came out of the theatre; but I did think it faltered due to the weakness of the terrorist part, and this was not just due to the action being over-shadowed by Simon Callow in the queen’s part.
On from the Bush to Rosy and Andrew’s where a whole host of famous stars were collected together. I talked a while with Fiona [Raoul’s sister] (I also saw the Coombes parents at the weekend, so I’m beginning to feel part of the family), with Andrew, but mostly to Niema and Tim - they had many stories to tell after their half-year trip to Asia - two and half months in China on their own just travelling where they felt like. Extraordinary, unbelievable, how quickly change has been wrought in that greatest of unknown lands. They even went to Tibet! Rosy tells me Niema is ill and often tired - there has never seemed to be much of her physically present any way - more a spiritual presence. R+A and R interestingly talk of her as their one time guru - but I’ve never known her as other than an anachronism from the sixties.
I lunched with Andrew alone earlier in the week. His shop in Chelsea barracks building is more upmarket then ever it was in Brighton, and is visited by all and sundry. On the wall of his poky office, I read the half page feature from the ‘Daily Telegraph’ about Rosy the clown. Andrew claims to be raking in £300 a week but much of this is old stock being sold off. He doesn’t have the supply as yet. His life seems hampered by less worries then ever before, but there are two predominant ones. Firstly, Jason is not receiving sufficient schooling, and they wonder if they can afford to send him to a private school. Secondly, after all these years, his rooms in the barracks are about to be taken from him, so he is now negotiating some railway premises out towards Earls Court, but the dealing, he admits, has its shady side.
Monday 7 October
Bel rings. She is far away from me. Says so. Cannot write. Depressed. Like me. What can one say. The Phone Rings Again. Barbara to give me a big hug. This is easier now, lighter. I am almost tongue-tied in response. But the real message of the first call. NOT PREGNANT. Of course, I never stashed away hope there - but . . . she says. She says, the coming of her period was a confluence of emotions: relief. Relief and disappointment. But which is the greater, she says, I do not know.
8 October 1985
The wind came in the middle of the night. One moment I hear the yacht masts tinkling, the next the rush of air is forcing through all the cracks and rattling windows and slamming doors. I do the business: close and fasten the shutters, pin the windows, shut all all the doors. But it is too late, the wind has entered my head. A storm flies there whipping my body from bedside to bedside, screwing up the pillows in vain attempts to provide such a comfortable resting place for my head that I will leave all winds behind for the peace of repose. My head, trapped between the wind and sleep in a semi-conscious turmoil, took to finding ways to revenge Leila. Why? At level one, for not coming to visit me last night, the night before, for not bothering to catch a bus, to make the effort. So I plan to be busy tonight if she rings, perhaps the next night too. At level two, I know it is because she has not really fallen for me much. There is still a very little girl there without direction or depth, just a vivacious personality and a mountain of intuition. Yet, that the wind should buffet me so that my mind wonders on these old paths. My precious ego smelled the storm and came out for some air.
THIS MODEM BUSINESS
When talking to anyone outside of the business I call them magic boxes. The method in which they link the material stored in my computer to any reception computer in the world is surely magic. Who will send letters one day when all you need to do is write on your television and press a button. Hey presto it’s on your friends TV screen half way round the world. Well, the idea is but a hair’s breadth from reality. But, meanwhile, trying to acquire a modem here in Brazil to connect me up with the pubnet in New York is akin to finding a cheap apartment space on Fifth Avenue. I must have already waxed lyrical over the failures of CMA [modem manufacturer] and in particular Mac’s modem. When the technician at Reuters said he used to work for a firm, Modata, which made modems capable of connecting with the US system, I didn’t honestly believe it. Yet within a week or two, a salesman and technician came around and it worked first time. So World News had to stick to their promise and pay for it. Well, it was supposed to arrive over a week ago. The salesman insisted there had been a strike at the factory making delivery impossible. So, it arrived in a box just like that. Determined as I was not to touch it without a technician present, I did. I rang the technician instead who guided me through a variety of internal modifications. At the hardware store, I bought the right wire. I set it all up perfectly. Of course, it did not work. And the technician was no longer at the factory. Such a long story, these modems.
The technician came this morning and could work no miracles with the modem.
The men from the auction house came and brought all the goodies I bought last Friday. The postcards were a marginal disappointment, the jewellery which I hadn’t asked for was a complete waste of time as were the other supplementary gifts - a camera, spoons, dull reproductions of ‘antigo Rio’. The old book of flags, though, that came with the postcards looks like it may have some value. I had thought the pages were missing but not so, and the reproduction of the flag colours is very fine. I may sent it back to England, asked Bel to do a patch job on it, and put it into one of the auction houses.
Leila rings, trying to draw me up to Santa Theresa again - but we will not make it further than this, she is too much of a good time girl. I call Elaine for some comfort - maybe she will cheer me with her problems - she tells me she just came back from a talk by John Cage. It’s a wonder he said anything.
I have my television back and try to watch half-one hour of news each day to practice the language.
This [green] pen may match the colour of [this journal’s] binding but I sure as hell don’t like writing with it. [Ink colour changes] Perhaps I’ll enjoy using this Rotring more. Oh but its far too thin, and guess what, the spare nibs I brought with me are for Staedtler pens not Rotrings. I suppose if I write slower it is not quite as bad. But how tiny my letters become, as though they want to curl up and disappear altogether.
I may have virtually no work this week (no real work) but the world has begun to move a round me a bit again. Gorayeb from Nuclebras rang yesterday and invited me on an all day jamboree to Angra next week with President Sarney and no less than 12 ministers. My joy was partially spiked by finding out that the Reuters guys have been invited too. Then, in the mail, some invitations came from the British Council - a string orchestra concert conducted by no less a man than Tippett, and another recital by pianist Paul Crossley playing Tippett sonatas. Just now, idling my eyes at the glossy invitations, it occurs to me they are travelling together (for the concerts are on subsequent nights) and therefore I wonder if there’s some relationship other than musical between them! Also the foreign correspondents club is offering one or two interviews but the invitations keep arriving after the fact.
Thursday 11 October
The doorbell rings very early in the morning. Elaine with sheets wrapped around her struggles to the door and opens it. Bel rushes in carrying in a box. She manages to ignore Elaine completely and comes to the bedroom and sits on the bed. Elaine thankfully does not return to the bedroom. Bel is in a state, she tells me she has had to move and dumps something from the box on my lap. I think it has her address on it. I can see she is very disturbed and also trying to avoid thinking about the girl who answered the door.
Sunday 13 October
A cloudy grey day. When the sun shines these days it truly feels like spring. I don’t think there is anything special in the quality of the sun’s light that can be identified with the new season (with one proviso). I prefer to believe that it is simply the contrast with many days of dull weather that lifts a sunny day to the status of spring. In fact, spring is long since here: the sombra tree outside my window is already thick with new leaf growth, its almond-like fruit have already fallen and been replaced by the new season’s flowers. The one proviso is this: the sun changes position in the sky day by day - during the beautiful weeks it sat behind Botofogo Bay central - now it is disappearing behind Corcovado - seen from my flat of course. After a sustained period of sunless days, the new light can appear somewhat different to our eyes that notice change more than anything else.
GODEL ESCHER BACH
I am two-thirds of the way through, although I have skipped the most mathematical parts. I do still find it a fascinating book, though I am perhaps more critical this time round than last. Clearly Hofstader’s skill is the metaphor, the isomorphism that he not only explains, but also uses to explain, and uses as a metaphor to explain. I have reached the point where he uses his mathematical theorems, his Godel derivatives, his so-called typogenetics to explain and demonstrate the intricate way in which DNA, such a small thing truly, replicates itself into US. The biology interests more than the mathematics though ‘Godel only knows’ how I appreciate what he’s done - crossing disciplines, borders like an academic guerrilla.
Why do I always want to cross my legs when I sit at this table? These days I am often conscious of my breathing. A deep intake of breath - screwing it up into the tops of my lungs will immediately stop me scratching my head. But just sitting here at the desk wanting to cross my legs, I find myself consciously taking in a deep breath. I wish I understood more about breathing.
Have I made this observation before? When flicking through a book searching for a passage half-remembered, invariably a vague recollection of the side of the book (left or right) is wrong. There must be a very simple explanation for this to do with the separate halves of the brain perhaps.
I finally got the fucking modem working. Conversations with Modata were becoming quite heated. I decided to have one last go myself with the modem, trying every possible combination. In fact, with thought, there were very few combinations. I was certain the problem was not in the computer, and reading the modem manual, I could see that there was nothing I could change with impunity except the four keys controlling the level of transmission. Having no idea what the level of transmission really signified I was playing around in the dark. (Now, should I describe actually the way I got it working - what value would it have as a record of the past to describe the details. Ah ha. I have it. The instruction is that the solution was unexpected and illogical!)
The four keys have a progressive value so that combinations of them will give a full range up to a maximum of 15 (1, 2, 4, and 8). I had been instructed to set these keys at the maximum level (all on, making 15). This had been the major problem because my computer gave an ONLINE signal which I knew from experience to be wrong. When Antonio, the technician came, he adjusted the keys to a lower level so that the ONLINE signal did not light up. Regardless of our efforts we got no signal. [Every attempt with each new combination of keys required an expensive international telephone call to check whether it worked.] Now Antonio partially explained the keys to me - which is how I came to be playing about with them on Saturday. He had set the keys at about half level (say 9) - it seemed that any level higher than that gave the ONLINE signal. When I played around, I only tried lower levels. But, as a last resort, I pushed them up and discovered that the level near the top (14, with only the smallest value key off) did not give the ONLINE signal. Not only did it not give the ONLINE signal, but I was able to receive the magical MGH PUBNET signal from New York. BRAVO
I tried gallantly yesterday to neither read nor write, in other words to have a true day off. But it was hard for I had nothing to do. Indeed much of the day was spent reading the allowed paperback, ‘The Haj’ - allowed because it is easy to read - but really the purpose of the day off was ruined. I went for a long swim. I went to Gloria marina to see about sailing lessons. I went to the market. I cleaned the pictures I bought at the auction, but still I was left with oodles of time and nothing to do. Thankfully, the gang came round and idled away a couple of hours - John and friend Dave from Cultura Inglesa in Brasilia, and Max, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open past 10 once they had gone.
Sunday is almost closed but at least I worked - ploughing my way to near the end of the feature for ‘Gas World’. A small gas discovery story for ON and EMIS I sent by modem - it took two tries! And a longish piece for IPR. But I didn’t get any letters done - I don’t really have the inspiration. At least now, I’ll feel relatively free to nip down the marina and go to the Riomar fair tomorrow.
Maybe my depression is beginning to lift. I lack motivation, drive, social and even professional ambition. Reading Anais Nin’s diary is lethal. Lethal. Her life, as recorded, is so full of people, thoughts, ideas, it makes me feel like a pebble on a beach. The only time I can really say that my life sparkled with goings on was the time with Harold. The goings on were almost entirely connected with his presence, my presence is just not sufficiently interesting.
The ‘greves’ [strikes] are building up in strength and number, although those organisations now striking or thinking about striking for the second time since democracy appear weaker. The buses were due to strike today - all the papers carried the news that the strike was on - yet there was no difficulty in getting around. The motoristas are scared of losing pay now - it is not certain if they will get paid for the last strike. And the post office is slowing down - the postmen don’t arrive until the evening, and the offices themselves are opening very late, sluggishly. There is obviously dissension within the ranks.
Most of the physical depression may have lifted but now comes the emotional one. I find myself unable to pull words together in some situations. In others, I say things in clear contradiction to something else I said a few minutes earlier as though my brain is malfunctioning. Yet I’ve had some long conversations in the last few days. The state of England with Ray Cook, the state of the soul with Silvio, and the state of living in Urca with Leila. I do not win her. At night my head starts the circles I used to know so well - rerunning the conversation over and over again, switching to a subjective mode whereby I imagine the result of having said or done different things. I don’t think I am that attracted to her (if I were I could try harder) yet because I do not win her (and why should I) I remain interested. Last night, I would have liked her to stay after our evening of idle chatter (and our first meeting for 10 days) but I did not woo her at all. I am plain Jack, lost in the moment if caught without a plan. All it needed was to prolong the kiss, the goodnight kiss, and confirm that I wanted her for the night. How is she to know I want her, if all I say is ‘You’re going back to St Theresa?’ I am dull John, without finesse. In fact, having clearly understood the word GUACHE for the first time, I’m convinced it is the perfect description of me. But Leila stuck in my mind today - and I knew there were levels down there in the depths that we’re enjoying having a rutty problem to sink into - reading pales into insignificance beside the workings in such deep veins.
But leave Leila and return to gauche for a moment. ‘One gets the sense that Turing was highly unconventional, even gauche in some ways, but so honest and decent that he was vulnerable to the world. He loved games, chess, children, and bike riding . . .’ Hofstader on Alan Turing. I wondered if I could be described like that.
But leave gauche and return to Leila for a moment. From my new collection of old postcards, I picked one out of Paris and sat staring at it for half an hour trying to come up with an imaginative collection of words - about France or Mitterand or our relationship, but could I think of anything? YET, YET go back to 1979 (I’m typing up Diary 12) and it is full of those magical often lucid, sometimes senseless ramblings to Marielle or Harold or just for the sake of writing them, which demonstrates a vivid, live imagination. But if the truth is known, my lack of inspiration is also related to the intended recipient. Leila is no Marielle, no Harold, and my over-the-topness would not be appreciated by this girl who claims all she wants is marriage and kids and a farm in Uruguay.
I am not ashamed to say how much I enjoyed ‘The Haj’ by Leon Uris. I read one of his books before - about the Poles during the war and the treatment of the Jews. Likewise ‘The Haj’ is informative, mixing fact and fiction in a very satisfying way. I feel richer now for understanding why the Palestinians are homeless, and the Jews remain undefeated in their miracle land. Uris is quite brutal in his history leaving the reader no room for doubt that the Palestinians and Arabs brought their problems on themselves by the simple lack of unity and purpose. He is also brutal about the Arab character, showing up all its weaknesses without any strengths. Nevertheless, we identify with the Haj, as a good man, and his family. The story peters out more than ends, but this is true to historical fact - the book having so closely followed real events and leaders could barely turn its back at the end and find a fictional solution to the Palestine problem.
Saturday 19 October
I have been tearful all week. Perhaps it’s the counterpoint between me and spring. This morning my mind feels fertile but sad. There has been a lot of information slipping through the filters as to my social loneliness. I like it not. There is also the lack of any sense of belonging. All around me I am aware of groups of people. Up in Urca, Andrea talks of a party at the weekend but does not invite me, although the whole crew will be there. At the recital last night I met up again with John and Angela (John being the scientist friend of Foster, and Angela being his black girlfriend) having talked for a while with them in a Santa Theresa bar, and again on Thursday night at the Tippett evening. They are with two other Englishmen, why do I not continue to stand chatter in the group? why do I dislocate myself and fade away, without waiting for a decision on my suggestion of going to a bar or even saying goodbye - why? I really disappointed myself there. It’s as though my uncontrolled reactions to social situations is always to run away. Therefore, I must control better. Really, to be in this situation at the age of 33, I still act like an adolescent - even if my handwriting has matured.
And Leila has given me up. And John and Mac have formed a liaison which sees them together a lot. Patricia hasn’t called - no doubt because she rightly feels I ought to call her. And Cecilia is like a stranger now. Only with Silvio at Reuters to I make conversational connection, I wonder if that will develop outside the Reuters office. Of course, he’s gay.
If anybody ever arrives to edit these journals (this does in truth seem an astonishingly remote idea) then the very first writings to be spiked will be THE WAILINGS. THE CHRONIC WAILINGS.
What a privilege to see this 80 year old man conduct one of his own works, and later engage in conversation on stage so that we, the small audience, can know a little of his character. He is an attractive man, still full of smiles, slightly effeminate gestures, a large sore on his left cheek from a distance appears like an unnatural hollow. His much quieter and more reserved friend, Meirion Bowen, talked about the status and style of Tippett. On one hand, he is well qualified to do so as the great composer’s biographer, but, as he his companion, he is not so likely to be objectively critical. Any way, he tells us that the two main influences on his work have been counterpoint drawn from early English music traditions and the overall message system that Beethoven brought to music. He considers the operas and choral works as the major landmarks in his friend’s work. Indeed, the instrumental music I know of Tippett’s is not easy to relate to. I have his first two symphonies on tape, but cannot bring anything about them to mind. And none of the works I’ve heard in the last two evenings have struck me as memorable either. Despite my lack of sympathy with his work, it is still possible to admire and enjoy the man.
The visit of Michael Tippett and Paul Crossley has been organised by the British Council, and if I may use my newly learnt word, gauche in this context, I would say they have organised the events gauchly. Perhaps the small size of the Rui Barbosa auditorium was not such a bad thing after all. But the two panellists the British Council had organised to question Tippett were somewhat wet - at least small in size and insignificant in voice compared to Tippett. Their questions were dry and predictable - it didn’t matter as much because Bowen informed and Tippett played with their answers. But how much more interesting it would have been to allow questions from the floor for a while. The BC is itself too wet and tense and unimaginative to permit such goings on.
(Oh how painful it is to see all the launches and sailboats motor our to sea on this sunny day - each and every one of them with a happy group of people.)
One of the questioners was a young composer who possessed as much spark as a floor cloth. He asked Tippett what advise he would give to a young composer. Tippett’s sardonic reply covered by laughter: to be born in the right place at the right time.
I took Elaine along to this evening thinking she would be excited, but in fact she showed little enthusiasm. I’d forgotten of course her lack of enthusiasm for anything outside of her immediate sphere of interest. There was a small party afterwards, but Elaine wanted to leave. So I went into my sloth attitude, refusing to go to bed and answering all conversation with the nearest word to silence. I’ve done this with Bel too. (In a way this behaviour reminds me of Mike Goldsmith - I remember the way he just ignores questions he can’t be bothered to answer as though he didn’t hear them - I wonder if Frederic does this too). But it is a reflective behaviour - if I am with a dull spirit, my spirit dulls. With Elaine, I go to bed at 11, with Leila at 2. But I sidetrack.
On the Friday night, a second recital was given by Paul Crossley, again care of the British Council. He is a (quite, fairly, very) famous pianist and especially known for his interpretations of Tippett. The recital was given at the slightly shabby IBAM auditorium, half the size of the Rui Barbosa and the BC couldn’t even fill it up. This is a real shame. I would have thought that there was a hall-full of budding pianists in Rio who would have wanted to come - had they known about it. There must be a way of inviting the musical connections over and above the friends of the BC. I conclude that the Rio de Janeiro BC is socially and culturally gauche.
And I have to confess to falling asleep during the Piano Sonata No 4 that was only heard for the first time this year. The programme notes said it was an easier more embracing work than the other piano sonatas, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The first half was shorter pieces by Ravel and Debussy - they touched my tear-ducts - but I wasn’t enamoured with Crossley. He is immensely serious and formal - not like Tippett at all with his garish-coloured bowties. When playing softly the tension in Crossley shot to his face, his teeth gritted and his jaw edged forwards in immense overwhelming concentration.
I have briefly lent my modem to someone - I think it is Bim’s brother [Bim was a lodger in Aldershot road] - as I take repossession of it, I either discover or he tells me that it is changed. I look inside and discover that all the stops and switches have been changed, some indeed are broken. I start ranting and raving about how long it’s taken to get it working, how important the settings are, how long it took to find the modem. I am shouting at my loudest and most bitter. I am so angry. He has apparently been using it to cheat the telephone charges. I try to reset the modem but it is hopeless. I have a cheque of his for some hundred pounds and threaten not to return it unless the modem works. At this point, he goes wild attacking me with an electric drill. At one point, I feel it close to my collar. I repent just as the drill bit is about to enter my head, but then I run off out of reach of the electric cord.
Monday 21 October
The heat came yesterday. The rocks in front of this building were crammed with people, the beaches even worse. For the first time, I saw lots of people swimming around the water here. I got the fans out of the cupboard. I don’t like it. It was an awful weekend. Apart from Johnie’s visit on Saturday, and Elaine’s brief lunch here on Sunday, I had no contact with the world. I went to Sao Conrado to the Hotel Nacional on Sunday evening for the opening of an energy conference but was bored to tears. I thought a lot about dress. I cannot get it right. On judgement day it will make no difference, yet if I am going to dress out of context, I want to do it on purpose, not through GAUCHENESS. Some examples: Having felt once or twice over dressed, I made no special effort for the Tippett evening. I hadn’t told Elaine where we were going so she dressed very casual too. Once we arrived, we both wanted to hide because almost everyone was suited and certainly the women weren’t in casual. The worst mistake, according to Elaine, was for me to come in sandals. Then, at the conference session of the Rio Mar fair, I went in open neck shirt, and I was the only one, suits galore again. Sunday, I put my suit on to go to the energy utilities conference, to find at least half the delegates in open shirts, some even in jeans. Today, I put on my light suit to go to Petrobras - but of course, one doesn’t wear a light suit when the weather is so bad. Even if you can avoid the rain, then you are sure to get splashed. For me, going on buses, as is my habit, I found myself getting dirty just from sitting on wet seats or brushing against wet people.
My interview with Petrobras with Sant’Anna goes reasonably well. I chat more leisurely with Carlos Pinto and Cesar and feel more at home there, though they refuse me credentials which would have allowed me to go to their room any time and read the papers and cuttings - also I would have been able to make more friends with the other journalists. What a mammoth task these two have to monitor all the public faces of Petrobras, and especially with a directorate so willing to talk.
There is work to do but I am unhappy at the depth of it. I am scratching about on the surface. I transport facts from one locale to another. I do not sweep up fundamentals and offer them as Lyons analysis. Only the ‘Economist’ keeps me off the floor. If they did publish the alcohol piece after all then it will be the fourth I’ve sent, and the fourth they’ve used. Petrobras will be five. If I can’t get one a month, then I’m failing badly.
I have resisted writing down my most recent thoughts on MIND because I know I’ll run out wind before long. I finished the mammoth ‘Godel Escher Bach’ and owe much to Hofstader. The idea I have been thinking about just now is that of the I being but a subsystem of the mind. One of the essential themes of his book is that mind is a highly multi-layered thing beginning at neurones and ending in thought. At the lower end, we can describe neuro-scientifically the mechanisms of neurone firing, transmission etc, we know about one or two other levels after that but then we are lost, the next we know is what we can determine from thinking, psychology, social behaviour, ethology etc. We have simple and complex ideas which we utilise to think and speak. Hofstader likes to believe in an almost box-like system - that there is somewhere physically stored the concept, for example, of LAKE. When we activate this symbol then we have in our heads a vision of a lake - more details can be added through narrowing the box down (this is perhaps over-simplified but it draws the point out that despite all his safeguards he has still oversimplified). Boxes, the complex ones, are called systems, and the very complex ones are called subsystems. The I is but a subsystem. This makes sense. We are either an automatom doing what comes to us to do, or else we stop for a moment or longer and enter the subsystem ‘I’ to examine the relevance of what the rest is doing. This ideas seems to me perfectly consistent with the ‘me’ as I know it. Furthermore, it seems to fit general behaviour. It is easy to see that the ‘I’ subsystem will have many different characteristics but the chief and most important one by far is that relating to discipline. How often and strongly can the subsystem take control - for that is the measure of a person’s control over his own destiny. And, like all things this is determined largely in childhood. This is why the discipline of public schools is so important. This is why first borns are usually cleverer and more independent than others - parents tend to have more will to discipline first children than others.
That was the manic week that was! It really is astonishing how variable circumstances are. Given a normal distribution of events, I would expect, within any week, for the good and the bad, the successful and the unsuccessful to balance themselves out. But me, one week everything goes right, the next week everything goes wrong. What went right this week in a list:
1) Interview at Petrobras - relations with Petrobras people
2) ‘Economist’ accepted Petrobras story
3) Ryser, for only the second time, passed some work my way
4) Latin American conferences threw up some good coal papers for ICR
5) I had no problem bluffing my way into the Espirito Santos trip to see the steel plant
6) Useful chat at Correspondents Club
7) The return of Leila to Urca
8) The trip to Espirito Santos
9) The ‘Economist’ commissioning a science story
10) Successful signing onto EMIS again
COMPANHIA SIDERURGICA DE TURBARAO
What a work of man is a steel plant. Really I went on the ILAFA visit to the CST plant in Espiritos Santos under false pretences but I have no morals about such things - most journalists wing their way on many more freebies than I do. But having never seen inside a steel plant and only vaguely remembering the name Bessemer Process from my schooldays, I thought it would be exciting. And indeed it was.
The first stop of the trip was the part where coal (and lime I think) are brought by ships which then carry away the steel slabs. Lorries bring the slabs to the port, sometimes only two per lorry for the biggest slabs and queue up in line for the mighty cranes to lift them into the ship’s hold. We were allowed on a ship to peer into the hold far below. The hold only contains two or three layers of slabs and looks virtually empty; climbing around the slabs are a number of muscular looking men banging wedges of hardwood and strapping up the slabs to resist the movement of oceans - what a work.
The coal is transported by a clever series of conveyor belts from the dock sides to the coal stocks. Fiery coking ovens turn the coal into coke; this is to remove much of the impurities in coal which would be of no help in the pig iron. The coke is mixed with iron ore in the blast furnace to form the pig iron. At CST they have an enormous furnace - making 10,000mt of pig iron in a day - and this must be fully utilised 24 hours a day or the lining starts to crack. It heats up to over 1,000 degrees centigrade. Hot. We watched the liquid pig iron being tapped off from the furnace - fascinating to see the molten stream run its brilliant bright course down the channel to the torpedo trucks. The liquid pig iron is then transported by these trucks to the next process - converting. This is where it becomes steel. It is literally poured into a giant cement mixer along with some scrap iron, and then the oxygen is blown through the mixture. The flames and sparks emerging from the rocking cement mixer are blinding - the heat’s pretty bad too and the dust that fills the air is horrible. The still-molten mixture is then poured into other ingot-shaped trucks and taken to the rolling mills. Here we stood in the control tower as a technician skilfully fed the ingots, bright red, along conveyor belts into bright slabs of a specified height, width and diameter. The controller uses a video machine lever to do his controlling. The incandescent slab is then fed off along the conveyor rolling pins to be cooled and cleaned, hallmarked and stored or exported.
Most of what I learnt during the day came from the editor of Steel Times Int. - a true Brit - he explained all the stages. John [a journalist friend who works for Metal Bulletin] knew very little. Every time I asked him a question, he prevaricated. We were given afternoon tea at Victoria Hotel overlooking most of Espiritos Santos. The city is like Rio in being set across a variety of hills and bays, but a lot smaller of course.
Leila calls last of all, she has gone to a friend in Ipanema and invites me to dine there. Elaine has been ringing and I avoided calling her back hoping to hear from Leila first, but I could get no reply from her home. First John rings, he’s going to a churrascaria with his colleagues from New York - I don’t really fancy it. A few minutes later Elaine rings, she wants to go out, I prevaricate for a few minutes and then ask her over.
I don’t expect Leila to call now it’s getting late. But she does, minutes later. I ask her to meet me tomorrow to go to a fair but she won’t commit herself, wanting to make a decision in the morning. The conversation turns a little sour, and encompasses other things, but keeps focussing back to this business in the morning. Really, I don’t see why she can’t yes or no now; she can’t see what difference it makes, and gradually whittles my resistance away until I agree, but then she says she’s getting ‘chateado’ with this behaviour of mine. Well, really, I’m turned again, and tell her that I’m pretty chateado with her inability to make decisions etc.
Well, I couldn’t take the argument seriously, but after, I realised, that Leila must be quite fragile, and all her demonstrations about being able to be alone and how she adores to stay at home, depend totally on there being other people there. Actually, we row a lot any way. It’s quite refreshing. The other night, for example, I took her for a freebie invite to the Asa Branca - the Correspondent’s Club was included in a carnival preview mostly for tour operators etc. We were in Lopa and I knew there was going to be an argument about where to spend the night, and I had decided I would go (inconveniently) to Santa Theresa if, and only if, she was going to work early and couldn’t go in her clothes she was wearing. As she didn’t have to go to work until midday, I felt completely justified in inviting her home with me. I did it in the nicest way possible - kidnapping her in a taxi etc. She got serious, so I had to let her go. I made my way back to Urca. When I got there she was sitting on the doorstep waiting. But I really don’t feel I should get into long involved arguments with Leila because of her fragility, and easy dependence. She has a lot to give, and I could fall for her for a while, for her brand of intensity, but I know I shouldn’t.
This sort of spiel, the last page and a half, is really the stuff that gets cut first - it’s such a wank. As yes, but out of it, I did want to make one general observation - that of the social-life organisation here. An evening’s entertainment is most usually left to the evening - there is very little forward planning. In London, it’s unthinkable to live like that, to wait for early evening and then start ringing round your friends to find out what they’re doing - and maybe choose one or not without causing offence. In London, if I haven’t anything organised for a night, I know I won’t be going out - it would just never happen that the phone would ring three times between 8 and 8:15, and I get three people wanting to see me later that same evening.
Elaine came and we had lots of sex, exhausting us both. In the morning, I gave her a key so she could come back from her course nearby at lunchtime and lunch here. When I got back at 1:30 or so she had TURNED from the creaminess of the morning to an unexpected cheesiness: she left almost immediately, but came back to say she wouldn’t be coming again. I asked her what had happened and she would not say more than to refer to my other ‘enamorada’. There are three ways she could have focussed on this during the morning: I checked on the other two, Leila hasn’t rung and when John rang he didn’t mention Leila, which leaves only the diary. This diary damn it.
How did I know she would read it? When I left this morning, I actually came back quickly for the specific purpose of hiding my diary, but then I got sidetracked into doing something else which I had forgotten. Damn it. There is too much truth in here for anyone close to read. I’m sure she was looking for something to trouble her mind, and she found it.
That week may have been manic, but this week up and coming is absurdly empty. I made a special effort last night to stay up until 12:10 to watch ‘A star is born’, the George Cukor classic but TV timing is not what it is in England. I’ll swear it was 12:45 before it began. I found it very moving; indeed, it must have disturbed me because I could not sleep directly after, despite the late hour. I don’t remember seeing James Mason act quite so loosely; when he climbs drunkenly onto the Oscar-award stage I could barely watch. The ending is quite perfect. I was trying to imagine what the star could do and then once on stage what she could say that would carry sufficient weight: ‘This is Mrs Norman Maine speaking . . .’ was a touch of genius. The Hollywood Dream.
NOSSA SENHORA DE PENHA
So I went alone to the suburb of Penha in the heart of the zona Norte. Ironically, the Rio tourist guide monthly informed me of this religious festival: ironically because it has no tourist connections at all. The hundreds of stalls that line the route from the train station through the great square and along the driveway up to the church sell only snacks and trinkets and colourful religious bands. It was early yet, before midday, but throngs of people had already arrived at the church. From the square below, it was possible to see the line of people ascending and descending the steps to the summit of the rock which had been cut out of the uppermost ridge. I made my way slowly up a 1,000 or so steps passing people of all shapes and colours and classes. Many of them carried dull yellow candles as tall as themselves or candles in the shape of an arm or even a head. One or two were climbing up on their knees, looking desperately weary and in pain. I tried to imagine what for this penance, to cure an ill, or clean a sin. And how patient the hand-holding relation or lover. Loudspeakers erected on the way were emitting cheering comforting words, being spoken or chanted by the priest in the church. At the top, signs asked us not to ‘incender velas’ in the church, but that would have been difficult because it was already so full, crowds crushing into the exits, and a long file at the back with people waiting their turn. Inside, I could just see how bright and airily the church had been painted - as always with Catholic churches, so much lighter than the solemn Protestant equivalents. To the side of the building an official gave out single stem flowers to those requesting them; in another part, the wax models were being sold, and in a third area, a little away from the church, a man was busy dumping the candle bits that had fallen or broken on the crowded candles.
Mostly I was a photographer, interested in the colour of the stalls, the faces of the penitent, or the praying form - all with the city landscape as a backdrop. But coming down the mountain, I became a rich man and distributed paltry sums among the eager grateful hands that lined the stairway. It reminded me of Benares, but Benares is more, much more.
Leila rings at 5:30 to say she is leaving for Uruguay and bye-bye till ‘terca’
I can see that it causes Leila some pain to tell me, but, on returning from Uruguay, she will not be able to see me - the fact is, she is bringing a lover back with her. I smile barely concealing a moderate blow to my pride. Then I see her saying goodbye to other men, not sexual partners, but good friends. I am jealous of them all. Then I find a sinking rowing boat in the sea and haul it out. I ask someone if they know how to repair it. I am keen to get on and do it.
I am not very consistent with regard to Leila, and although I would not admit it to her, I would like to see her more often - yet I’m not prepared to join her life and friends other than on odd occasions. But this is not even a minor infatuation, it is simply that she is speedy, and full of chatter, and good to be with, and I have empty spaces to be filled. I cannot, however, justify her time here - for what do I give her? She must be out and about and dancing with other youth. So it was that I felt peeved to have been called at 5:30 this morning and not last night for example. But last night, I sat at home alone unable to do anything, wishing she would call - so why didn’t I call her?
And Elaine has been silent. I might never hear from her again, though up to now, her memory has always proved very short for things she doesn’t want to remember.
SAILING IN PORTUGUESE
Important words: ‘Orcar’ is upwind, this in effect means steering the ‘cana de leme’ towards the ‘vela grande’, manoeuvring the boat more into the wind; ‘arribar’ is the opposite, pulling the ‘cana de leme’ towards you and steering the boat downwind; ‘baravento’ is the side into which the wind is blowing; ‘sotavento is the side from which the wind departs; ‘cambar’ means to switch sailing sides through the ‘proa’ so that the ‘baravento’ side shifts from ‘bombordo’ to ‘boreste’ or vice versa; ‘dar um jaibe’ is the same thing but when sailing downwind and thus crossing past the ‘proa’ rather than the ‘popa’.
A fine thing learning all these words in Portuguese when I don’t know what they mean in English. Funny how I remember that the kids who used to go off sailing at Broxbourne School were always considered wet - the sport had a soppy image. Philosophically it appeals to me for two reasons: it is a clean i.e. non-mechanical sport making use of the natural wind resource - it fits in well with bicycling; secondly, there is sufficient routine and discipline needed to sail which is good for the mind in a zennish, yogic way. This is vague but I draw my understanding from the classic book ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’. One of the things I learnt from that book was not to despise certain routines and disciplines, indeed they can be looked upon as therapeutic. And a person like this one, whose hand writes these words, actually needs some physical routines of that kind.
I did think diving might be a worthwhile sport, but there is too much preparation, too much equipment, and it is a battle to counteract our own physical nature; sailing on the other hand is an attempt to harmonise with nature. I also like the skills that sailing requires, for one an ability to judge best combinations. However, I have always found it difficult to know the wind, perhaps I will learn.
Paul K Lyons
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