PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1986 - DECEMBER
Wednesday 3 December
Here I sit at my desk in the prime of life. I am completely naked. I have become used to being naked most of the day - unless Maria is here, or I am going in or out. I call my sources, do my research, write at the computer, all naked. But this is a strange thing to conceive in the context of the business world. First of all, I do not talk to anyone who is not in an office, and if I did I would never imagine them doing their daily work naked. Only, perhaps, a student artist. Yet, I feel there is nothing strange in it at all, not even when I am talking to the president of such and such a company.
The air now, though, has become warm and muggy. At night it’s worse. I sleep fitfully without cover. One night I was obliged to turn on the fan.
The mail strike is over. Some three weeks of mail lies still to be sorted in the post offices. It will probably take until Christmas and beyond to catch up with the back log. A few cheques arrive in the first lot of mail, and I see that ‘Energy Economist’ has used my electricity article - £192. So long has passed since I wrote it, I thought it had been washed away.
A cheque statement arrives from McGraw-Hill - in October I earned $2,000; yet, I’d thought I did so little. From McGraw-Hill alone I’ve earned $2,000 a month since coming back from holiday in England; add the other bits and I’m on course for £20,000 a year. With so much income, I really don’t need to push; and now I have ‘Metal Bulletin’ as well. I mean, if there is nothing pressing, like today, then I can take it easy, swim, read, write.
What risks shall I take with this accumulating capital?
Since Barbara left, a couple of social entertainments have helped pass the time. Chas, the Scot, who sails with us, invited the entire sailing group to a St Andrews day celebrations organised by the St Andrews Society. Dress: Kilt or Smoking. I suppose a few years ago I would have declined such an invitation regardless but it seemed churlish to do so, even though I didn’t for a moment expect to lose myself in the festivities or enjoy myself much. In fact, sneakily, I did look forward to it. Without exception, I like the sailing group. Stan, Paul, Denys, Richard, Rosemary were all there, as were the wives of Stan and Paul and Richard. No Laurie and no wife of Denys. I must admit the evening was fun. The Society had persuaded British Airways to ship over two bagpipe players who played for us during cocktails (at the InterContinental), and then later played for some Scottish country dancing. Although the meal (and menu) appeared to be a cross between Brazilian, French and Scottish, it tasted well. Even the haggis was good. We were told that British Airways had only delivered a part of the haggis ordered, and that a member of the society had spent the entire previous day cooking herself. The inevitable jokes about haggis lost luggage surfaced; and there also some ragging of the Sao Paulo society that had had to make do with MINCE. Throughout the meal, a series of toasts were given, and towards the end there were a few speeches - none of which were long, and most of which were amusing. Denys swapped aeroplane stories with a golfer on our table, while I discussed the merits and demerits of Brazilian TV and O Globo in particular with Paul’s wife. Like this Paul, that Paul did not dance. Only those who danced or attempted to dance reaped the fullest benefits of the evening. Stan’s wife, Rosie, is clearly a favourite with everyone - fascinating how they share the same mannerisms and even look like one another.
That was Saturday night. Sunday I spent entirely alone. I read through and printed out the first two chapters of my novel. Monday night, I went to Ruth Walker’s apartment in Jardim Botanico for a cocktail party to lighten up Mr Crawford’s visit to Brazil - Crawford being the Bank of England’s representative for Latin America. In the lift going up to Ruth’s apartment I met Ivo of the FT, a public school package, handsome but exuberant in a sweaty way. We were immediately introduced to Crawford, and Ivo talked away, like a motor, holding the attention of the banker and interesting him. I remained dumb by his side, feeling like a dumb wife who doesn’t understand men’s business. But, throughout the rest of the evening, I talked to a man who claimed to be mother and father to Brazil’s new steel plant Acominas (he seemed very willing to talk and could be a useful source), and to a consultant who helps firms, foreign ones in Brazil, and Brazilian ones out of Brazil. Being a novice cocktail party goer, I just held my ground, allowing Ruth to introduce me every now and then. She continues to impress me more than the slighter, more superficial Rosemary.
The post comes - a cheque for $650 from Exxon’s Air World. I recalculate my earnings for August, September and October like a scrooge, cowering over the calculator. I cannot help it. But I have earned $3,200 each month or thereabouts, which is actually £25,000 a year - and is considerably more than many freelancers make, I’m sure. Mike Knepp said to me the other day that there’s very few freelancers who earn as much. It’s not the money that pleases me, they could be blue and gold stars for all I’m concerned, it’s that I’m succeeding at the game - the game of overseas and being a freelancer. I have swung it, I have taken on the challenge, and am winning. The next game I need to develop will be back in the UK.
Also in the mail, photos of Vonny’s wedding. Vonny, though largely out of focus, wears a white bridal dress off the shoulder. The husband, though not out of focus, is difficult to detect because - as usual - the bride is the peacock. I also notice how the bridegroom looks similar to Raoul in face and stature. Helmut, in white pop art bow tie, is there; Niema, as ever, in purple, her long curly hair laying across her back; Rachel with a flower in her hair; Raoul’s sister Fiona and hubby Richard dressed in black and white, but with added touches of the same crimson (Fiona’s in hat and belt, Richard’s in tie and button-hole carnation); Jason and Tammy trying hard to look smart though not succeeding (Tammy with her long scraggy blonde hair, and Jason with his anorak); Andrew with his sly smile and bi-coloured office shirt. And where is Rosy, and Niema’s daughter, Roneet? And no Raoul? In the background, groups of strangers stand dressed in a decadent selection of clothes from other ages. [A stuck-in photo of Vonny and husband.]
At the St Andrew’s do, I watched a woman dance with glee: she was well built and fleshy, though neither tall nor plump. She had long flaxen hair that swished around with her jerky moments, rosy cheeks and an enormous smile. She knew how to move to the music with skill and rhythm - an archetype wench from the country of Shakespeare or Hardy or Lawrence, an earth mother radiating the tradition and history of rural Britain. I was lost looking at her, for I a half-caste of race, of religion, of place, of culture. I have similar feelings when I listen to the Spanish folk tunes and songs I have on cassette. They emanate a grounded reality based on the evolution of a culture from generation to generation, with the joys and sadnesses, the miracles and tragedies of ordinary life, unconscious life in one place, where all the rules are made and humans live in the tradition, and the legacy of their forefathers.
I am at the apartment of a girlfriend. She goes out for a short while. Immediately, another girl in the flat asks me to help with a zip on her dress. I go into her bedroom, where I tug on the half open zip of her tight black dress. Suddenly it has come off entirely, and she is naked, dragging me on to the bed. I am not averse to her small chubby body, but AIDS is on my mind. I look straight into her eyes and ask how many people has she slept with in the last six months. She doesn’t answer, but continues to try to have sex with me. I struggle harder to hold her down, and demand an answer. She mumbles, not many, and only people she knows. Now we are off the bed facing one another, I am holding her shoulders, shaking her, telling her it is important to talk about it, when all of a sudden she begins to cry. The tears are a reddish colour. One falls where she can see it. She screams hysterically. I run out of the room for I have some bloody tears on my hand, and fear I might have caught AIDS. (I wake up at this dramatic moment.)
I am flying in some form of transport - a helicopter perhaps, though I recall no noise. I see clearly out of the front. We are high up in some mountainous area. The vehicle is rolling (this is more like being in a yacht) so that the view swings rapidly from up to down, it makes me a little sick. Then suddenly it stops, and it is as if we are in a balloon, and the balloon has sidled against a mountainside. The movements are jerky and undefinable. Just as suddenly the vehicle begins to spin round and round, and we are sucked up faster and faster. I have just time to think this is bye bye world.
The telephone rings. It is 9:30am. My heart leaps for this is just the time that Barbara would ring, and just now her period would be showing - being four weeks since her last. Nobody else rings me at this sort of time. But it is a wrong number.
I retreat into books as my social life once again dries up. Churchland’s text is fascinating - on every page she admits there is confusion, lack of knowledge, and says we don’t even know what questions to ask. Nevertheless, she manages to project what is known in a coherent and readable way - and that little is fascinating. A few epileptic patients have had the corpus callosum cut providing invaluable guinea pigs for study. One test flashed simultaneously to a subject a view of a snowy scene to the RH and a chicken’s claw to the LH. The subject was then required to select with each hand a picture card from a selection of what he saw. The left hand selected a shovel to go with the snowy scene, the right hand a picture of a chicken’s head. Afterwards, when asked to explain the choices, the verbally more fluent hemisphere responded thus: ‘That’s easy, the chicken claw goes with the chicken, and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed.’ The response of the LH therefore makes sense of the left hand’s action using the resources available to the LH, and the response is unstrained and coherent. Churchland also explains that the patient knew about the surgery and the fact that his hemispheres were disconnected. The point is, in one sense, banal because we know so well how well the brain adapts information to suit itself. Churchland says the only really concrete things we can say (even today) is that the left hemisphere is pre-eminent in the motor control of speech and generally far outstrips the right hemisphere in comprehension; the RH generally far outperforms the LH in manipulospatial tasks.
Monday 8 December
When we wake there must be something like a trail (a time trail as moving lights on a slow exposure photograph) in the brain, and all the available information there in the picture is sorted by the rational mind, and made as much sense of as possible. One imagines that the psychologist’s use of dream interpretation, therefore, has some basis, since those patients that turn into a story a few fairly random images left as traces in their memory on waking, are doing so, obviously, on the basis of their own psyche’s priorities, prejudices and obsessions.
Another of those days when I do absolutely nothing - well absolutely nothing is not strictly true, for I read and wander around the flat aimlessly and then return to reading.
Yet another accident in the street below my balcony. I hear the screech of brakes, the skidding of tyres, and the crash and tinkle of a car hitting a tree. Porters and pedestrians crowd around discussing the latest crash - no one is hurt. The police stroll over from their cabin; the driver explains how he turned the wheel and nothing happened. In 10 minutes it is all over, the bystanders have dissipated.
I encourage nostalgia for this flat and this place. I think to return to England soon, and want to be as conscious as I possibly can of my good fortune here. I know in times to come I will regret leaving this paradise of sorts. I will ask myself, in times to come when my life is busy with such banalities as washing-up, washing clothes, going to work, cleaning the house, how on earth did I waste so much time in Brazil, why didn’t I write, write, write. And it will be a very good question. I will also regret not have studied the language better. I think I have defined my limits, and yet still not accepted them.
I have tried to get back to writing the novel since Barbara left, but have been unable to start chapter three. My head is blank. Nothing emerges. I must spend time and think through a bit - build up the characters and plot ideas so they are ready to fall into place when I sit at the keyboard.
Instead, I half pretend to be working by typing up my old diaries. Just now, I have arrived at the time of my relationship with Ann. I have gone from being a depressed loner to what, in retrospect, looks like completely manic behaviour. Roser is living with me. I have started an affair with Ann, and also one with Sooz. Bel is always there in the background, and Marielle and M are still writing letters. Marielle even visits briefly. I am juggling all these women around, and yet write of being lonely and wishing I had someone in my bed. God.
Sometimes, I have grave doubts about the worth of my diary - like when talking to Stan, whose life has been infinitely richer in terms of his actions and connections with the world. Last night, for example, he was talking of his friendship with Sukano, president of Indonesia. Yet, the diary is an addiction. I never seriously consider stopping. I don’t expect anything from it. I just do it. Like I go to the toilet, like I eat, like I go to the cinema. Perhaps, I keep a diary simply because I enjoy it. Because I enjoy annotating the quirks and coincidences of life, the joys and tragedies of my life, the world through my eyes. And there is no doubt at all, that I enjoy, get pleasure from, reading past editions.
I have spent most of my time today reading ‘Howard’s End’; last week, it was ‘The Longest Journey’, and recently I’ve seen the film ‘Room with a View’, and not so recently ‘A Passage to India’. All of which makes for a large proportion of Forster’s work. ‘The Longest Journey’ betrayed too much of the student, despite the genius, but ‘Howard’s End’ is altogether a more mature, rounded and remarkable work. His central character, Margaret, is almost faultless, being intelligent, responsible, kind. If she is tainted with a fault it is being too like the chaperone in ‘Room with a View’ who is spinsterish, a little stodgy. But Forster wants to show us what happens when the flow of classes arrive at a confluence. We have the middle class Schegels with foreign blood who are intelligent, artistic, and, in a sense, the new civilised. We have the Wilcoxes, the rich and traditional and the old civilised. And we have the Basts, Forster’s attempt to bring in the working classes. A triangle of classes. He wants them all to influence each other, and to show us what happens. More linear themes weaved through the book include the importance of place, and the spirit of tradition, as embodied in the house, Howard’s End; the changing role of women, and their ambitions and abilities to guide the masculine sex. As in his other books, the coincidences are too neat, too contrived, and the world he paints is very confined, only the central characters matter, and they keep on coming up against each other. The Schegels and the Wilcoxes no problem, but to keep throwing Mr Bast in there, and then to crown it all, to get Helen pregnant because she spends one night with him. All a little overpainted I’d say. Still the writer’s one of the best we’ve got.
Tuesday 9 December
BARBARA RINGS. IT IS 5:30AM
THE HOME TESTER, BOUGHT FROM THE CHEMIST THAT PROMISES 99% VALIDITY, HAS GONE DARK BLUE. SHE IS SURE SHE IS PREGNANT.
But I am confused because I didn’t think it was possible to know so quickly. Barbara reassures me, and says that you can even do the test after only 35 days. But surely she has not gone 35 days since the onset of her last period. But the test went deep blue, not light blue, and she is feeling all sorts of pains.
Wednesday 10 December
I have not had a social call from London for well over a month, and in this period since I’ve been back (from England) only Raoul has rung once, Julian not at all. Yet, yesterday, the day Barbara phoned with her exciting news, both Julian and Raoul called as well. I resisted the temptation to tell them, though I have not denied myself the pleasure of duly writing to Mum.
Julian rings to tell me he has found a flat - it only has one bedroom, but has a garden and will cost £56,000. I question the wisdom of buying a flat in terms of how much he will have to pay in mortgage payments, but he is firm. I am pleased, for the house is only round the corner from Aldershot Road. Mum is fine. Dad’s business is going well. Not sure about Melanie’s.
Later Raoul rings to tell me that he has already moved. The King’s Road house has been sold for a little over £200,000 and they have bought a house in Wandsworth Common worth a quarter of a million. Is Caroline buying crystal chandeliers? I’m afraid of Raoul turning commonly middle-class and forgetting his spirit.
Although Julian moving into his own flat would not mean I have to return in order to resume a landlord’s duties. J could manage from Torbay Road, or his friend, Chris, would be happy to take over. Nevertheless, this is surely another spur for me to journey home in March. I told Raoul as much, and sounded quite definite. Events independent of my life here are, in a sense, converging to support my return early next year. Realistically what could happen to change this:
- the impulse to return would be far less if Barbara’s pregnancy fails;
- if much more lucrative work came my way, it would be difficult not to justify another year, just to earn money;
- if status work came my way, but that’s very difficult to imagine;
- if ‘what-I’m-going-to-do-when-I-get-back’ scares me too much - no.
At some point, there has to be a crunch day when the decision is made irrevocably - and then my leaving will need a certain amount of stage management. I will need to write to McGraw-Hill, and to everybody else I know looking for work. The timing must be accurate. I must give notice on the flat, and organise an orderly return to the UK. But, perhaps, I should take a month off before returning. This would allow time for me to sort out mail problems (cheques, for example). And if I did that, then I am talking about mid-February, not far off. But aren’t there all sorts of things I want to do here in Brazil before going back? What special trip could I make?
I have got stuck into Hardy’s ‘Woodlanders’ in the last couple of days. Cyril Aldred says of Fitzpiers he is the ‘romantic egoist . . . he is dreamy, idealistic and theorising . . . a whirl-minded Hamlet without that Prince’s mission in life.’ Sounds just like me.
I cannot help feeling there is something essentially dilute about my life. I have been here in Brazil nearly two years and I wonder if I couldn’t pack everything I’ve done into a couple of months. This diluteness, I think, stems largely from my inability to form personal relationships sufficient to fill up life, and from my inability to be flexible enough to let personal relationships sway me one way or another.
It is as well to remember that one of the reasons I came to Brazil was that I was bored with my life and lot, and it seemed as though my life had come to a standstill. I thought abroad I might find inspiration, and make new friends who would come to enrich my future life in London.
Claudio from Belo Horizonte rings. He has won a scholarship for his chemistry research. Perhaps he will come to Rio for Carnival. Why is it he likes me so? His phone call jogs my memory for Alice, another youngster I have time for. I must write her soon.
Jenny writes from Tokyo: ‘The working hours are incredibly long (but at least I get bylines in the ‘South China Morning Post’!), the Japanese are totally incomprehensible and there’s too many of them, and it’s an 18 hour flight back to London. And there’s earthquakes. There are also some bad points but I won’t go into them.’ She says she married Robert before leaving, but even so Robert hasn’t managed to get a transfer yet. I wonder if she’s being a good girl.
Barbara rang yesterday morning to say she had been to the doctor, but the result was negative. So she did another home test and that was positive. The doctor said to come back next week. B remains positive she is pregnant.
Elaine borrows my expensive Walkman to tape an interview with a famous actress and singer. But she forgets to switch the mike on. The lady herself is kind about it, the secretary though is furious. I don’t know how but she has crept back into an intimacy with me, even though she knows I am leaving soon. One evening last week I went to her school to take photos of the annual show put on by the kids, in particular the musical part resulting from Elaine’s work. The school - Escole Parque - has a privileged status in the rich Gavea district. Elaine says it is owned by three women, and perhaps one of them has a relative who owns the land. I can’t say I enjoyed my three hours there, the over-riding impression was of babble, hundreds of undisciplined kids running around and screaming their heads off. I think it’s meant to be one of those open, liberal schools that deliberately faults on discipline. I can’t say I saw any advantages. Most of the time, the events on the improvised stage were drowned by the rest of the babble. Elaine looked lovely, wearing a bright scarlet blouse, and lipstick to match. A long dress with a fancy buckle gave her the necessary school teacher touch. Her presence was rather quiet: on stage with two comperes, another guitar player, and the technicians, it was impossible to tell that she was responsible for encouraging and teaching the children to compose the songs they sang. For an eight hour day at the school, which means eight one hour classes with different pupils in each, she gets paid Cz96 - I am now paying my maid, Maria, Cz166 a day - it’s criminal how little teachers gets paid.
As always I send off a packet of Christmas cards: family (Ju, Mum, Mel, Mary, Mike, Vera, Barbara, Colin); friends (Annabel, Phil, Jenny, Alice, Manu, M, Vic, Trotter, Andy, my lodger, Cathy, David H.).
I call Barbara to ask how she is feeling. She sounds so excited, identifying dozens of symptoms of pregnancy, telling me that within a few days already the foetus will have been formed, if only one inch long. I try to calm her excitement - so much can yet happen. I tell her I have written to Mum but asked her not to mention it to anyone for the time being. (In writing up my journal from 1981, I find the following: ‘Barbara, you simplify my complications, don’t let me complify your simplications. T’is little love I can give you, but tis love.’ Indeed my journals over the years are littered with love notes to B.)
‘Der Spiegel’s’ correspondent here, Waltar, tells me he and his wife have just discovered that his wife will give birth to twins. The Germans are so damn potent.
Yet another Monday falls to lethargy. Taking Monday off to do nothing but read has become somewhat of a habit. Today fell to a Dick Francis in the persona of a famous actor. But I blame the heat too.
The whole week falls to lethargy - I don’t know whether it is my own lack of initiative or whether there is truly a drought of stories. I really do sit around and do nothing. Yesterday, I managed to get back to ‘the Novel’ after a long break. It seems a stupid idea to write a novel set back in London whilst I’m here. I find myself lacking much information and without the resources to check it. So far in this novel I have added bits of science, mostly about cancer, the pill, miscarriages - just bits and straight from my head without authentication. One of the aims of having a scientific journalist as the protagonist was this: to bring attention to science, give it some colour, since I see great scope for fiction with lots of science in. If I could just turn this into a real dream and then do it - write one novel, sell it. Then I would find the confidence to continue. I don’t want to write literature, I don’t want to be, nor could ever be, a famous journalist. Just allow me to make a living from writing books which need plenty of research and sell like hot cakes. But, back to my original point: while here in Brazil, I should be writing stories with a Brazilian flavour. I am sure I will look back and regret such a wasted opportunity.
So difficult sleeping these days because of the heat. I usually try for a while without the fan, and toss and turn to distraction, then I turn the fan on, and manage to sleep for a while. After a while, I’m a little cold so turn off the fan and crawl under sheet, then a mosquito comes to buzz mercilessly around my ear so I turn the fan back on and remain under the sheet.
I have booked my passage back to the UK (March 16). I have already told some people I will probably go back in March, though I qualify this by saying I will make a final decision in January.
On Tuesday, I call Edna. She asks if I have received her invitation to a gallery show tomorrow. I haven’t, although it comes in the post later. She has left her job, and has been working full time on her jewellery for this Christmas exhibition. She asks me if Barbara came and what happened. I had forgotten I had told her, and was obliged to admit she is pregnant. Edna expressed congratulations generously - only afterwards did I remember for just how long Edna and her husband have been trying to have a child, and how much time and money she has invested in operations and visits to doctors. It seems so unfair somehow that B and I should try once in our lives and be successful. I cannot help making parallels with my house-buying efforts. Two of the most important events in my life, and I manage to fulfil them with the ease of buying an ice-cream. It is not natural, I must expect tragedy.
I drove out to Barra to the Itahgu Art Centre where Edna’s pieces were on display with those by several other jewellers - mostly silver, or silver with stones, bracelets, rings, neckpieces, and ear-rings. I felt some of it was more miniature sculpture than jewellery. I wondered if this was a trend and a fashion, and if the late 80s would be remembered here for a flourishing of artistic silver jewellery. The art centre is western and commercial. Half of it appears to be a Habitat-type shop, the other half is divided up into small galleries for painting and sculpture. There is also an auction house, a bookshop, and a small bar. Nice place.
I told ‘Metal Bulletin’ I was through with them, then, in 24 hours, they came up with the goods, my retainer etc. Now I have made final calculations for earnings in the three months since returning from the UK at the end July: Aug - $2,887 = £2,019; Sept - $3,020 = £2,112; Oct $3,606 = £2,521 (@ 1.43). My pay cheque for November arrives from McGraw, over $2,000 again, which means I can say without doubt that for four months I have earned on average of over $3,000 a month, or about £25,000 a year.
At last the rain really comes down, clearing the air and releasing the humidity. Mists hang over the mountains, the forests of trees and the trees of avenues drip in waterfalls, the sea in the bay is, at the same time, flat like glass, swelling and retreating, dotted or spiked with rain drop splashes. The water is cleaner than for many days. I swim around with a dolphin’s pleasure. Because of the rain no one is interested in the boats, the beach, fishing or swimming. I am completely alone; the Bay of Botofogo is mine.
Just a few days from Christmas. I have invites for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Christmas Night, New Year’s Eve so I do not feel anxious, as can happen when I find myself too alone. Last year, I was with Eliane and the whole period was easy, was fun. This year, I fall back on groups of foreigners.
I have booked my passage back to London. 16 March. Four days before my visa expires. Assuming Barbara conceived at the end of her stay, around 23 November, and assuming she does not have a miscarriage, she will be four months pregnant by the time I return.
Sunday 21 December
On Friday evening I call Barbara. She has been to the doctor a second time and received confirmation of her pregnancy. She is all in a whirl, dazed, happy and astonished. I ask her if she has any doubts. She answers: how can I possibly have any doubts it’s such an amazing thing. Both of us do not have the ability to express ourselves well. We congratulate each other, we both feel that our venture was a success so far. She has told neither of her parents nor my Mum. I say I will call my Mum, she cannot have got the letter I wrote over 10 days ago. I say she will be delighted. Barbara is not sure but will not say why.
I call Mum but she is not at home. I am excited and a little tense. I make trial runs in my head of what I shall say - but there is real no anxiety in me, and I know I will just talk spontaneously to her as I always do.
This night is the dance school party. I am unsure of the timing but I want to go about 8:30. I am also a little tense because I know something will happen with a young attractive girl called Rosa whom I have more or less arranged to meet. I find no immoral behaviour in me, no great disturbance, to be involved mentally this evening in the great river of future parenthood, and in the small stream of pursuing a new relationship.
At 9:15, I return from the party, it has barely begun to warm up, and there is no Rosa. Mum is still not at home. I keep ringing every five minutes until finally she arrives. I waste only a few words before telling her that Barbara is pregnant. Mum’s initial reaction is very restrained, she repeats several times without any detectable pleasure ‘I see’, ‘Oh ’em I see’. I go on to explain that the pregnancy is deliberate and was the reason for Barbara’s visit to Brazil. Her hesitations, I discover, are based on the hardships of bringing up a child alone. She knows of course, because of the period after Frederic left when I was a young child. But, I explain, I now have resources to help, and will be providing emotional and practical support too. I manage to slip into the conversation about her becoming a grandmother, and tell her plainly I need her to be delighted for we are both relying on her support. She says she will call Barbara in the morning.
I return to my party. No Rosa. Plenty of other women without partners, but I do not spontaneously take to the dance floor, nor do I try and psyche myself up a bit. Content, I am, just to watch the people and make occasional conversation. There is a pleasant atmosphere, the dance floor crowded, and most people are smiling, enjoying themselves. Much of this is attributable to the small young man, Jaime, who runs the school and almost all the classes. He knows how to dance and to teach, he is patient and friendly, and clearly enjoys his work. The school appears to run itself, though it’s Jaime’s energy and skill and enthusiasm which fuels it.
At 11:00pm, an exhibition of various dances is put on by the more advanced pupils. Interesting to note that in the cha cha, the woman has more independence (than in the samba) and often moves free from control of the man. But, in the samba, the woman seems to be dragged around by the man, never having quite enough time to complete her steps.
Jaime and his best protegee dance two routines for us. They serve to entertain us, and to show off his ability, thus reinforcing his position as our teacher, our leader.
I turn around to leave the crowded place, disappointed that Rosa has not turned up - in a way not quite understanding because I was sure she ‘fancied’ me, and would follow up my suggestion of come to this dance. And, as I turn, there she is, standing next to me - a friend was leaving on a journey, she said, and this had delayed her.
We do not dance (I am vaguely guilty about this, feeling I should have practised) but drive to the Garota da Urca for a pizza. Our conversation is neither profound nor tense - it seems to flow smoothly. I ask if she wants to see my flat. She does, even though it is after two in the morning. But innocence is a great protector. We take tea, and talk a bit more. Standing at the open window, looking out at the night, we kiss a little, then talk, then kiss some more, and passion edges forward.
She is 20 - novinha, novinha. The kisses, though, gently become more sensual, edging towards sexual. She has her eyes tight closed - she expects the kissing to go on for a long time. She tells me about the boyfriend she had for four years from the age of 15 with whom she broke up a year ago. Since then, no new boy. She asks me why I offered her a lift home on Thursday. (We had gone for a drink after class. I asked if she wanted a lift home - it wasn’t far but not in my direction. We had talked outside her house, and agreed to meet this day. But her question wanted to know why I had chosen her, liked her, picked her out). I could only remember the first time we danced together in the class, there was a sympathy of smiles, and after that we tended to search for each other’s eyes often. She said she had an immediate liking for me when I first came to the class, and it made me wonder if my attraction to her wasn’t just based on hers for me. The theory that women really do the choosing has a lot of truth. I know I liked her face, her smile, her ease (though dancing she is a little stiff), she does not dress originally or show any signs of being independent or different. Perhaps, if she had not made it clear in smiles and looks that she was interested in me, I would not have offered her a lift home. Sat on the back of the bike, she held me round the waste and pressed forward - the memory of her firm breasts pressed against my back stayed with me for the rest of that evening.
During the kissing pauses, I told her a bit about myself. I told her I was going back to the UK in March. (I could not do otherwise, I am not, nor never shall be a casanova - I must be decent to a degree.) I even tell her I have a relação colorido although I’m not sure whether I said I did or I do have. Any way, the kisses continued, and Rosa became freer using a hand to touch my face, and caress me. Soft and lovely. For me, the tensest part is over, but on the second button of her blouse, she stops me. I ask her if she knows how to make love, likes to make love. She says where there is a real feeling then she sees nothing wrong. She is 20 years old. I shall fall a little in love if she lets me, if she decides to continue with such a short relationship. She leaves at 3 in the morning, explaining that only two times in her entire life has she slept away from home (when not on holiday) - she would not dream of doing so without permission from her parents. Strange that Rosa should be a vegetarian and like running.
Luke rings - he too, like Raoul, has moved, but Luke now lives in the heart of Soho. He says work is well - he will help organise the Buxton Festival next year - and that although he has stopped seeing Lynn, there are a couple more women around! I tell him I’m coming back next year, and that Barbara is pregnant. I doubt he will make it out here for carnival.
Claudio from Belo Horizonte sends me a Chico Buarque tape and photos he took whilst here in Rio at the beginning of the year. I ring Shell for a 1997 diary, they give me a Milton Nascimento record as well. Maria makes turkey and chocolate cakes for me. Cecilia gives me a small wooden boat from Parati (I made her a loaf of bread the other day).
I see Rosa twice more. We lunch on Monday, and dance on Tuesday. Her hair is so golden, so golden. Between kisses, I stare at her thinking what am I going to do with you - my instinct is just to pick her up, carry her to the bed, but she is not free with her body, and does not seem sexual yet.
Monica visits with an English cousin - she has fire in her mind and spirit in her body. She is unusual and interesting in a way Rosa is not, but has layers of neurotic behaviours.
Tonight I go to a party at Vera’s (ex-wife of Paul who plays volley). The volley group has all but broken up because the unofficial social sec, Rosie, is trying to leave Bobby, her ageing and boring man, and does not ring and rally us round any more. Funny that both she and Roberto do not show for volley. On the phone, Roberto admitted that he was very attracted to Rosie, and he might yet invite her to live with him. I say she is not intelligent enough for him; he says he believes people change and develop.
Synchronicity: I am typing up the diary for my early ECN days - when I was seeing Ann. Luke told me that he was approached by a girl the other day who remembered he was a friend of Paul Lyons. It turned out to be Ann. She was looking well and doing good work, he says. Reading my diaries it is astonishing to find what a pain most of my relationship with her was. I suppose, in those days, I never stopped looking for trouble.
At the press club’s Christmas dinner few people turn up. I talk to Thomas most of the time. He spent 2-3 weeks at a small town in the interior of Minas Gerais where his girlfriend’s family live (his girlfriend’s father is a doctor). Thomas said he enjoyed being a relative (so to speak) of one of the most respected people in the town. He could come and go as he pleased. Presents would arrive every day for the doctor. Thomas is a father now. His mother wrote, he told me, offering complete supporting, and noting that the family was sufficiently well off to be sure the child would never be in want. His brother is here for two months.
Perhaps I mentioned earlier that he lost $1,000 in cash. He put it in some safe place, but could never find it again. My evil mind suspected his woman, but obviously he didn’t - and the maid appeared to be in the clear. Now, he says, his brother found the money while playing around with a disused camera, and there was, in fact, more than $2,000 inside. I do believe I was more delighted about this when Thomas told me than he was on finding it.
So, Christmas 1986 - it will be the last I spend in the sun and dressed in a swimsuit for a very long time.
DIARY 33: December 1986 - February 1987
Christmas Day 1986
For the first time I find myself having finished one journal book without having a new one ready to be begun. This bright little thing was bought for note taking at interviews - altogether a more humble job - but has suddenly been promoted into the elevated position of diary, journal by my need to set some things down in ink.
I am in a fancy spaceship. Someone is showing off at the controls (many buttons and screens). First he is going to release a dummy model into space and then show his, or the craft’s, skill by tracking it and exploding it with a missile. We see the start of the manoeuvres on the screens but then the spaceship starts to spin. I realise we are all going to die. Blackout. I am the only survivor.
A robot or man in armour has come to rob us. We have been robbed several times recently and it seems obvious to me that this man or robot is here to rob us. I take him to explain how the burglar alarm works - look it’s so easy, I say, but please don’t rob us. I intersperse my ironic explanation of the alarms with a pleading. I tell him we are a good family, and that we have a friend from who can vouch for us. Then I see the rest of my family have developed another strategy. The robot’s parents are sitting on thrones, and I lead the robot to a third throne and we sit beneath them continuing to talk.
Friday 26 December
It is now two days that my mind has been hooked on thinking about the war of the sexes. What I found most astonishing is why my mind should of got so stuck on this question. I invited Elaine over on Christmas Eve for lunch. In the afternoon I took a few puffs of a strong joint - and got terribly lost in the labyrinths of the mind, so that even now I am not returned to normal. Now, looking back, I see that so much of my thinking has been circular, entirely limited by lack of information to draw upon. I suspect that overlaying much of the thinking process has been a sort of paranoia. These thoughts occur to me now as I write. It is as though instead of taking a normal path to growth, a deep wound inside my head has had to be slowly buried, or rather new information like a bush has grown over and round that dead patch in order for the rest of my mind to think and believe that I have developed ordinarily.
I feel a sudden need to go back to England NOW. I cannot wait until March. I am so afraid of the future, afraid that I will have no courage. It was Christmas Day yesterday. It could have been Christmas Day every day for all I care. I made an effort and went to Roberto’s in the afternoon, talked to a few people, got wet on the way home.
A damn cold has come to plague me - I sneeze all day long and water dribbles down from my nose.
Monday 29 December
Talk about a dull Christmas. It has not stopped raining for a week. It’s not been any of those flash thunderstorms that come, wet the ground, and go, leaving the air fresh and the sky clear. No, the rain has come and it has stayed. It is much more reminiscent of London - no one here has seen the sun since before Christmas. I missed Vera’s party on Christmas Eve (all foreigners and a Father Christmas), and then I didn’t go to Richard’s do on Christmas night. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and even today I’ve felt miserable, my head like a block of wood, and I’ve had no more energy than to watch TV, read a light book, or sleep.
I wonder how and when the body does its healing. I have learnt that to abandon the body to physical exercise - swimming, running, dancing - and generally to uncare definitely harms the recovery process; but I have not learnt how to speed it up. If, for example, the real battle of the system against the bug is fought during sleep, then it would be worthwhile to try and sleep as much as possible, or, if the healing process was mostly exacted when the body was still, even with the mind active, then to stay in bed is clearly the best advice. Better three days in bed then seven days half ill. But perhaps the bug takes its course regardless of body state (assuming no excessive exertion) in which case I should be more active than I. My body can never have been very strong to have been so scarred in the past by a mild bout of hepatitis and a pneumonia.
Maria administers to me on Saturday. In the evening Elaine comes to keep me company. But apart from her no one rings or visits. Today, I see Monica in the street for a few minutes, long enough to remind myself how attractive she is. But she is so strong-willed and fearful, arrogant and diffident in the street. She can be soft and friendly but if we are alone together or trying to plan to do something, a fire burns in her that is both too hot to touch and too cold with timidity. Rosa rings and will visit this afternoon. But I fear I will run out of conversation.
I spent most of these past days reading ‘The Mists of Avalon’, thinking about my future fatherhood, and flicking the television of and on, from channel to channel.
I try and retain my joy at Barbara’s pregnancy, but I find myself projecting into the future so easily. Can it be that we really will have a child and that our love will have such a practical materialisation. I wonder if all the joy and pleasure Barbara has given me over the years will now be paid for in some way. Yet my projections see a rich partnership. Can it be that I will take the child one time a week or twice to relieve Barbara, that we will take trips together to Salisbury to see Auntie Mary, that Barbara will become as much part of my family as Julian or Melanie, that we will be an example of parenthood. I cannot believe so. I think about my pride, but only see myself in the future as a giving and generous friend to Barbara. Are we grown mature enough? I want to concertina all these future experiences into a much shorter time. What if Barbara were to have twins?
I speak to Barbara twice - once on Christmas Day and once on her birthday. Both times she sounded very happy and very full of herself in an ordinary way, and already very careful and concerned and on top of practical things that need to be done - booking a hospital place, getting onto the council about a new home.
I think about confiding in Elaine, and ask her if she manages, after all this time, to think of me more as a lover than a friend or vice a versa. But, I can’t see any reason why she should know - it’s not as if it will make my leaving, which she knows about, any better.
I manage to joke and talk with Rosa during an afternoon, but after the cinema in the evening when she has nothing to say about the film, I find myself screaming inside for some intelligent company. People here in Brazil ask no questions, there is little curiosity.
Still it rains. Poor Rio does not know what to do. Half the front page of the ‘Jornal do Brasil’ is taken up with a picture of a car with water up to its bonnet, and the owner sitting on the roof.
In the world I cannot think what happens. ‘The Economist’ runs editorials on Thatcher’s decision to buy US Awacs instead of British Nimrods; another blow for GEC; the movements of financial markets through the year; the falsity of the creationist movement in the US; Thatcher’s idea to do away with rates; and the greater likelihood of revolution in South Africa if the press is gagged. In other words, not one single major world story. The magazine, or newspaper as it prefers to call itself, runs an ad hoc poll on ‘Countries in Trouble’ by giving 50 countries points for a dozen or so trouble-attracting parameters. Four countries hit the hyper-risk-of-break-down bracket: Iraq, Ethiopia, Iran and Sudan. In the very high risk bracket fall Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Chile, El Salvador, Vietnam and Zaire. Brazil is at the bottom of the lower risk countries.
Paul K Lyons
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