PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1986 - JANUARY
2 January 1986
The second of January 1986. A new year, but as always I can foresee little satisfaction. I’m already impatient to be moving up another step, but what of the last year? What shall I say of it? Perhaps it is too early to tell, my mind cannot conceptualise it as a whole. Logically, it must rank as one of the most exciting and fulfilling of my life. This enormous leap into the unknown, yet how much of a dream can a man have? I had a dream back in the ‘European Chemical News’ days to be an independent journalist to be able to travel and work where I want. Rio de Janeiro seemed the most vivid dream I could have. This year I made that dream come true. In relation to my life at the time it is similar to the dream I had to travel the world - accomplished; and the dream to work in the theatre with the Phantom Captain - accomplished. What occurs to me now, is that in order to make smooth the future path, I should integrate these dreams or goals better, and instead of chopping and changing, now at any rate, I should determine on a goal that develops me from where I am rather that starts me at the beginning again. For example, my dream now could be to be an independent non-fiction book writer or researcher (actually this is an old but jaded dream that needs but a spring clean). But the dreams to move into mind researching is knocking very loudly on my door, and although I say it is so far beyond the bounds of possibility, the three dreams I have accomplished at one time appeared unreachable.
Vital Farias. By chance, I saw he was giving a one-off show in town early evening - so, with his songs still fresh on my mind from the Santa Theresa evening, I raced off enthusiastically to see him. The newspaper says of him: When he leaves his home in Mage - where he lives practically isolated, without light, caring for his chickens, his bean crop and two children - Vital is making a force. He detests multitudes and conglomerations. But, in compensation, he leaves for something he thinks special - to divulge the music of his land - Paraiba - through a ‘Cantoria’. He is always preoccupied with describing social ambience and nature: ‘Only a singer can bring the courage, the smell and the colour of his earth’, he says. Elba Ramalho is the singer who lived with him for 15 years.
Fragments from a fitful sleep in the Aquarius hotel: A collective interview with Margaret Thatcher. It seems a complete waste of time but the other journalists appear to be interested. After a while I realise the room we are in is moving, indeed that we are all in a train carriage. When the train stops and the journalists are led somewhere - where? Wherever, it seems a slow way back, I decide instead to walk along a country track, but before long I am running. After some time, I am running through a windy up-and-down forest path and I detect someone else running behind, catching me up. I run faster until I think I can be seen by my chaser then I slow right down to pretend I’m not making effort and that’s why I can be overtaken. The runner that then overtakes me is Langley [school bully when I was a teenager]. He does not turn to acknowledge me and I neither him. He runs on ahead.
Saturday 11 January
So, a new year begins and before you have time to say The First of January it is already well under way. I begin to preoccupy myself with how I might entertain Julian when he arrives in early February. There is a sky this morning of dense spotty clouds, a strong but un-sunny light filters through giving the bay an odd greyness, as though it were trying for a silver tone. The smart launches as ever leave for fishing or just pleasure trips. Emiliana lies sleeping, one pillow clutched across her face, another probably between her legs. I begin to understand the full extent of the insecurities and tensions that trouble not her conscious self - should I speak more on this now? - and Maria has left already to do my shopping at the supermarket.
But, to repeat Emiliana lies sleeping. She has begun to feel deeply the sharp wounding edges of my personality. I do not disguise them well. I explain that the Goldsmith blood is complex and even though it is tempered in me by a tamer North English streak, the edges still glisten in the light of close relationships; bristle with untouchability. Emiliana is well confident to cope with them up to a point. She has persevered till now with barely a murmur, but tells me this morning she feels rejected.
If anything, my arrogant criticism shows I care. On the other hand, I know I don’t really want her to feel fully secure, I don’t want her falling for me strongly, the bristly personality is no doubt a hedgehog device: beware, come-not too near.
So, all last evening I had bristles out, until I finally wore Emiliana’s good humour down to a headache and depression. That was complex Goldsmith. This morning I am all loving, gentle explanation. This is north English Todd.
But apart from the unconscious aspects of my personality, there is this philosophy that is almost Spartan in its roots, which does not let my partners lie to themselves. Emiliana is typical Carioca. She barely knows her own city. She is hardly interested in Brazil (has never been interested in going to Foz do Iguacu for example). Saturdays and Sundays she thinks only in terms of the beach. I have been trying to persuade her to take time off from the beach to paint a couple of rooms in her flat - her flat is functional, the lounge nicely furnished, tastefully, but the wallpaper is old and dingy; with a coat of paint it would be transformed, giving it a lively positive aspect rather than a dull negative one. Yet Emiliana is so set in her lazy Carioca ways. Her mind is lazy too. I have this habit of bringing up topics, out of context. She never knows what I’m talking about. She does not think laterally at all.
After a week of intense activity, I lay on the sofa resting, waiting for Emiliana to arrive. An intense fit of depression descended on me, a few tears crept out. First of all, I thought of something I read in Bertrand Russell’s book Barbara sent me. It is at the back advertising his autobiography with a piece from it: ‘Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions like great winds, have blown me hither and thither . . . over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very edge of despair.’
The unbearable pity, this despair he talks of is what afflicts me too! In moments walking along the street, seeing a face at a window, or on a bus, the anguish visible in eyes can make me weep silently. For, at times the miserable hopes and consequent pathos of all our lives is so evident. How I used to weep after leaving Mum’s house. How often have I wept at the thought of Barbara saying - ‘I don’t want this breakfast to end’ (even now it makes me cry), and then this evening I recalled Elaine. She had come at lunchtime, eaten, and we had made love urgently. Before lunch, though, I gave her a $20 note to have as spending money on her vacation. She said she would save it. I said don’t be silly, and then with the glee of a child she said she would save it and buy a car. Like Maria saving to buy a plot of land. Such simple and vulnerable dreams. Elaine grinned so openly, in such contrast to her usual serious bearing. There was the material dream, emerging through all that spiritual stuff. And how far will $20 go towards buying Elaine a car. Would I had the security and the resources to buy it for her; or a television for Maria.
Again Elaine slips back with ease into the old relationship, the Friday episode having disappeared into history. The evening before I flew to Brasilia, I went for a couple of hours to her flat before returning home to shower, and motor over to sleep with Emiliana. This two-timing becomes second nature!
Wednesday 15 January
The sun is scorching today. After a burst of activity this morning, sending of a couple of telexes before 10:00, I elected to take another sailing lesson. That makes seven of ten now completed, and I am as red as a prawn, as the Brazilians say. It was another instructor today, one I didn’t know, his techniques and manner of doing things were different which confused me even more than usual. There is a knot, for example, to be used to secure the punho on either side of the boat - for the life of me I can never remember how to do it. And now, I’m truly lost because Franke (the instructor) has a completely different method for arriving at the same knot than say Roberto or the school’s owner.
Out there in the middle of the Guanabra Bay there is very little activity considering the size of the cities on its shores. A handful of windsurfers skim around the islets at the bay’s entrance, a cargo ship slides smoothly along the shipping channel, a tiny catamaran seems to fly with the wind, one launch motors out to sea. Is it the cost of sailing, the lack of local industry or the Carioca preguica that keeps the waters so free of sails?
There is so much in sailing that is unexplainable, that instructive reaction to the wind and sea comes only from practice and experience.
I do not keep pace with the diary - events, feelings, ideas slip into the wind forgotten. In no small sense is the diary an essence of my life. At any given moment, my consciousness plucks but a few memories from the trillions and billions therein stored, and those memories are hidden, to be recovered only by certain triggers and triggers’ triggers and triggers’ triggers’ triggers’. Yet the diaries spread before me like an immensely rich canvas or a Bayeaux tapestry that I can survey and recall much of my life without any trigger. It is the ultimate in consciousness-isation. Who can recall what they did in March 1976 - but here in the diaries, a mind is flattened out, ironed onto the page, and revealed. How grand and immense and complex is a life. This is shown by the diaries. In a sense the diaries are more unique than I am. They are dead, static things, yet they contain more information about me than I have available. They can live a hundred years longer than I, they can speak to people, strangers, and reveal who the writer is better than I can. Although many people write bits of diaries at times, I know of no one who writes as regularly as me - yet it is a private affair, not one friend, here or in England has asked me what I put in my diary yesterday for example, or has shown much interest in it - yet I feel sustained by it often and regard it as part of my living being. Why use valuable brain cells for wasteful information storage - many other things to do with them.
So, thus it is that I must dig back into my memory banks to record the week gone by.
Sunday with Emiliana: much discussion as to whether to join Roberto and Nuseia in Teresopolis. For: a nice sunny day; I don’t know Teresopolis; profit from friends being there. Against: I want to work; gasoline problems. I decided that I could put off the work, which only left the gasoline problem. All garages are shut on Sunday and between 8pm and 6am, this is government controlled. I have often remarked to E how ridiculous this is - it completely prohibits any travelling of long distances on Sunday. (I think it was an oil-saving law.) It is about 100km to Teresepolis, and there is less than half a tank in the car. (Reader! stay! the lesson for today is worth taking in.) Emiliana rings Teresopolis, to find out if a car there has enough gasoline to donate to Emiliana’s car for the return journey - it doesn’t. But then its passengers may not be planning to come back until Monday, so syphoning the gasoline might be possible. But then again one of the party is ill, so they might need to decide to return on Sunday evening. As a final decision maker, I suggested that, if that were the case, Emiliana and I could stay over and leave early in the morning. All objections were thus over-ruled. Nevertheless, we syphoned the few litres from my motorbike to a bucket and from thence to the car. Or we would have done, if the petrol cap hadn’t decided to stick. Finally, after 20 minutes, I managed to get it off. All set. It was 1:30, and despite my determination to do a couple of hours work before setting off, I hadn’t done any. (The only halfway’s concrete action of the morning was to take some photos of Maria’s children on the Urca beach - I had told her on the Saturday that if she ever passed by with her offspring I would photograph them for her.) All set.
I suppose we could have got lost leaving Rio de Janeiro, as we did through to Niteroi and Buzious, but we didn’t. Yet, even before we left we could see the grey mass of clouds in the distance. The road to Teresopolis is about as near as the Brazilians get to a decent motorway. Before the rains started, I suggested we fill up with gasoline as all the garages were open!! Emiliana hadn’t known. According to the pump attendant (lovely name for a job really: what do you do? I’m a pump attendant) the law had relaxed just a month ago to allow garages on intercity roads to remain open 24 hours. (All that faffing, and petrol syphoning for nothing!)
It did not help us much though, other than put us in a good humour, for the threatening clouds were coming straight for us. The rain began innocently but increased in intensity so that we could hardly see to drive. A flash of lightning landed at our side, with a cannon’s boom, deafeningly loud. It seemed that the weather was out to stop us and would only continue to get worse until we gave up trying to force our way through it. Indeed, I felt, or expected that, we would drive a hole through it so to speak and emerge at the other side. I did, however, give up. Finally, I listened to the signals that had been sent us the whole day. Returning home we soon outraced the weather to find it had never rained a drip in Rio. (One minor corollary, no corollary is the wrong word, one additional irony - Emiliana had no clue as to whether the car in T was a gasoline or an alcohol car - thus all the discussions over swapping fuel were academic in yet another sense.)
Travelling on a train. My motorbike is also on the train. In order to sit I move to a different carriage. After we leave a station I return to find the bike has gone. I get off at the next station. I am with a friend, but I cannot remember who. I remember little else other than a strong sense of paranoia in the village and a threatening witch (sic) appearing but disappearing when I tried to persuade my friend that it was there.
Thursday 16 January
I am seeing Emiliana almost every day. Yesterday was the first time I hadn’t met with her for two or three weeks (except of course when I was away) and even then we spent half an hour on the phone and I might have been persuaded to go to Tijuca if I hadn’t been meeting up with Neco latish. It is clear, though, that this connection - although not particularly special, at least I don’t think it is - has certainly dispelled my loneliness or my superficial loneliness; the deeper loneliness of the need for a partner for life exists still, as in most people, some married as well. And I confess, the connection is made largely due to Emiliana’s extraordinarily good humour and ability to withstand my severest intellectual, or quasi-intellectual, gunfire, almost any way.
I hadn’t seen Neco for several weeks, not since his journey around Minas Gerais and New Year’s Eve. He collected me here and took me with his girlfriend to his brother Toni’s house. The photos of Minas Gerais showed an unharnessed land mostly - I have commented on this New World earth aspect before - the land is astonishingly boring - no, ancient, old, new, historic, modern infrastructures to provide interest. The town of Diamantina is pretty from the photographs but like Pariti, Ouro Preto etc. - a little over-protected and over-visited due to the fact that there are not so many of these kinds of places. (I think that’s why I liked Sabara so much, so unexpected and then so tranquil and unpretentious still.)
Toni’s girlfriend Gabriella is slim with lovely legs and a charming face, she made me long for a person, a body, a being who I could want to kiss and embrace in the way Emiliana does me. Emiliana, herself, makes me feel too good-looking for her - in bed I cannot respond to her physical praise. It is odd that what most has ever attracted me in women is in the face and yet I am now with two women who are less beautiful in the face than almost any other previous lover. And then, I say to myself, I am a stranger to this land, this culture, I should be grateful for any acceptance that isn’t based on my difference.
I received a letter from John Kalish. It was full of claims on my friendship. He is returning already on the 31st January and wants to stay here. (Maria thinks Conceicao has put the macumba on him.) I write him back a tough letter, explaining that I think Ceicao is not good for him, that she has lied to me badly, begged money from me and Pat and even from Maria, and that I don’t want her coming to my flat. So he is welcome to stay but I don’t want C coming. It is difficult to see how he will take the letter - he may justify it all by thinking I tried it on with her and that she rejected me, or he may just ignore it. Any how, I said he could stay here until Julian arrives. What the hell is he going to do when he gets here - no flat, no telephone, etc etc. again. Unfortunately, exactly the time he arrives, both Es will be away, leaving me sozinho. Emiliana travels to Maranhao for a month. She is happy for it gives her a chance to spend Carnival in Sao Luiz. Emiliana comes for an hour at lunchtime, her gum all sore from the dentist’s surgery.
I play squash with Neco later this evening. Mike rings for a drink.
But Brasilia impressed me. Despite its name, the city is very un-Brazilian. The apparent degree of planning and organisation is more reminiscent of a Scandinavian country. At night, driving through the urban areas, you hardly see a person on the street, yet drive anywhere else in this massive country and birth and death are occurring on the roadside. I was helped to a cheap hotel by one of the Floryl drivers, the only problem with it was the location - on the edge of the industrial and supply sector. Waiting for a bus was a dead loss. The only other alternative was to walk half a kilometre across wastegrounds and freeways to the highway which heads for the centre (because there are no people on the streets, there are no taxis circulating - or so it seems.) All the traffic raced past. I had no idea whatsoever where there might be a bus-stop, or even which type of bus to try and stop. Fortunately, the Floryl driver passed by and gave me a lift to the coach station. Then I had to take a bus to the bus station, which is actually dead in the centre of town where the two so-called axes of the city cross. From there, I had to try and establish which bus would take me to the address to which I was bound - what a performance, no one knew. It was a trial and error experience. Finally, I got the wrong bus, although it delivered me to the right place on the return journey. The need of a car would be my fundamental criticism of the city. It has taken the American dream, the model of a great automobile age, but the future will be more tightly packed social units, with efficient public transport - like Amsterdam for example, or even Brussels. That basic flaw aside, what impressed me was the scale of the dream, the embodiment, the materialisation of an idea - philosophically very proud in many respects. The city is designed in the shape of an aeroplane. The Brazilian parliament, the Planalto, is at the nose with its distinctive hemispheres constructed side-by-side. On either side of the main axis, the ministries sit in their similar building blocks. Behind them, and more extravagantly constructed, can be found the embassies and ambassadors’ houses, also in a row. Along the axis of the wings, the residential sector sits accessed by a dozen or so curving parallel roads. On reflection what impressed me was seeing so many parks, so much space and the evident attempt at an architecturally-expressed philosophical equality and quality of life.
A clear day. I finish the main draught of the Floryl work, write the difficult letter to Mary, and one to Dad - mostly about Brasilia and Brazilian arms. But the weather is ‘demais’ (the newspapers recorded a high of 43 yesterday). I swam twice. The only reason I didn’t swim a third time was to economise water, as instructed by notes in the lift. I am not happy to miss a shower after bathing as I don’t trust the water’s cleanliness so.
The craziness in the street becomes apparent with the onset of such heat. Drivers become reckless and tempers get lost. The newspapers ran a story about a husband pouring alcohol over his wife, and setting her on fire. She pretended to be dead, but had time to tell all in a hospital before dying. Hundreds of people end their lives during carnival apparently.
Julian’s visit slowly gets organised. Hotel is booked in Porto Seguro. Return plane from Salvador also booked. Carnival tickets bought.
What irony, the ‘Jornal do Brasil’ quotes from the ‘Economist’ article on arms in the Informe section (Emiliana’s former lover works on this section) but it was almost entirely culled from newspaper articles.
A bad mood envelops me, ever since we missed leaving early on Sunday morning. The plan had been to leave at 6-7 to drive to Marangatiba to catch the 9am boat to Ilha Grande. I am impatient with empty weekends - neither meeting new people or finding new places. But I failed to set the alarm before falling asleep, and so did Emiliana. Waking at 7:30 it was already too late. I refused to make any more planning efforts, and thrust the blame silently onto Emiliana. (I realise now that my mocking of her endless beach-going has sunk beyond a joke - we do very little together, and this is largely due to E’s Carioca ways.) I have attacked her verbally once, allowing her to understand how eventlessness makes me relentlessly restless, in the hope that she might become more positive in future. But it seemed unfair, as she is leaving for a month’s travel on Friday, thus allowing no time for resolution. Instead, I treated her to one of my moods. Now it is mid-Monday, a holiday, and I still feel resentful that we hadn’t managed to do anything at all in three holiday days. Yet aware that my own resentment is hardly justifiable. Such a bad trait.
From 7:30 to 11:00 when I fall asleep, I barely break from reading Wilkie Collin’s ‘The Woman in White’. As I’m sure Barbara must have told me, the heroine’s name is Laura.
It is fatal to think about my future. As I have always known I would, I despise the practice of most journalism. For me, it has been the means to an end, but I seriously doubt my ability to step up any more rungs, and I am still way off stability, a security of purpose mixed with practice. My deepest logical thoughts lead me, every time, to see only one future on this path I have chosen, that of a specialist science reporter. There is a programme on the World Service, ‘Science in Action’, for example, which I would happily work on, or ideally a freelancer like wot the ‘New Scientist’ uses lots of. The way is clearly clear. Get the NS to publish my material. It will make life so much easier, when and if I want to return (the thought sends shivers down my back) (there must be thousands of well employed freelance writers, why the hell can’t I be one of them when I go back.) But the prospect is hard. But this must be my one over-riding aim at the moment, to become a science writer. My dream to be a science writer and a playwright. Such a long way to go and so many more people on the road with more talent and more confidence.
It is almost five years since I began my first journalism job with ECN. I wish if I knew if I was doing well or not.
Thursday January 21
There is no English equivalent of the cartorio. It is a scruffy open high street office with a few old desks and chairs and a couple of filing cabinets. This morning, when I went to one, there was a queue, half way down Voluntarios de Patria, of graduated students getting their certificates authorised (for some reason). My objective is to receive stamped approval on the motorbike sale papers of the signatories: mine and the seller. In order to do this, the parties have need to have established, at the cartorio, a record of their signatures. Hence the filing cabinets. I don’t see the purpose of this because anyone can go along to any cartorio and open a file of any name and choose a signature to go with it. But the cartorio stamp is necessary on the documents before filing them to the authorities. As a side comment, how about this for a catch 22: the moto is registered in Sao Paolo. Each region has its own transport authority. I can’t register it in my name in SP because I am here in RJ, and it has to be done personally. So I have to transfer the registration to RJ, but I can’t do this because I am not the legal owner. The answer appears to be to get a ‘despachante’ to do the business for me in SP.
But look what I have had to send: 1) Certificate of sale with both signatures cartorio’d; 2) proof of insurance; 3) registration document; 4) proof of my address in SP (what if I didn’t have one!!!); 5) Renavan document whatever that is; 6) a rubbed copy of the chassis number; 7) TRV whatever that is; 8) cheque for 200,000 Cruzeiros.
But the RJ organ apparently is absurdly corrupt. For the same service in RJ, the despachante has to charge well over 650,000 to cover the backhanders needed, or so they say.
But back to the cartorio. The only thing I wanted to point out was the following: The insouciant weary youth at the front bench locates the files and stamps the papers. He gives me the tiddly-wink counters and points further back into the shop. There, older men are sitting at the old desks as though they have never moved. The one to whom I must pass the counters is clearly a higher authority. His head is bowed over a book about six times the size of this one, but with black lined paper like this one. (The lines, thus, are very long.) The left hand page of the open book is filled out with continuous writing. No figures. What can he be writing? The day’s events at the cartorio?
Another dream with a train in it. Maybe my dreams are trying to ‘matar saudades’ unconsciously of train rides which I never take here.
Old wood seldom warps in the wetting.
Patience is a good nag, but sometimes she bolts.
I have badly neglected Colin - doubly neglected him. Just at Christmas time I received a postcard: ‘Dear Paul, here is the news! after much soul searching and deliberation I have finally decided to accept my lot. Therefore Hilde and I will be getting married in the new year - maybe you’ll be able to come over for the wedding? with the intention of in the near future to buy an apartment together and have children (one at least!). No doubt this comes as a shock to you - it had to happen sometime. C’est la vie!!! I shall write soon with more details until then I wish you a very merry xmas and an excellent 1986. Give my love to the rainforests and yourself. Colin.’
Clearly this striking news rested too lightly on my affairs to warrant mention at the time in the journal. Secondly, I have neither sent him a Christmas card or replied to the news.
The excitement of the events leading up to Leon Brittan’s resignation yesterday made me feel homesick. I recall the fever of hungrily devouring all new information during the Falklands war. This was no fever of patriotism, more the eagerness of watching the next episode of an exciting TV serial. Without fail these days, I turn on the World Service at the earliest time 6pm. Since Heseltine resigned at the beginning of January, the affair, the Westland affair, has got increasingly out of control. Right up until yesterday, Thatcher was supporting Brittan every step of the way. ‘The Economist’ editorial of last week (i.e. before Brittan’s resignation) is highly critical of Thatcher’s style of leadership. Criticism has slowly grown, bit by bit, inside and outside, or outside and inside, of the Conservative Party until now this is a serious crack in the workings. Heseltine has resigned cleverly. The issue at stake was just large enough, only just, for him to resign without an over-indulgence of public speculation for the reasons. He has done damage to Conservative morale, and effective running of the country, however he does give the Conservative Party a chance of winning the next election. The tiredness factor coupled with Thatcher’s errors would not see her win another election, against the likes of the maturing and dynamic David Owen and Neil Kinnock, but let Heseltine win the party leadership and the blues are in with a chance.
The weekend. The phone rings not once. The mail brings just one personal letter, from John, which apologises for troubles caused by Ceicao and says he will respect my wishes with regard to her not coming here. Surely, if I were him I would not have replied or spoken to me again. But nothing in the mail from Julian or ‘Flight’ or McGraw-Hill or any other friend for that matter. I feel my isolation pricking now this weekend. I need to be writing another short story but not an idea strikes me. The heat is much to blame. Tonight I will occupy myself with a trip to the cinema, to see ‘Tess’ which yet I never saw. During the day I read Wilkie Collins short stories, they are not very special, in truth, even the introduction talks of their failings - but they are short and easy to read through in a sitting.
Both my head and toes are troubling me again. It seemed to me I had gone through a number of weeks, months even, of not scratching my head, but the damn scabs returned of their own accord. Desperately I tried not to touch. One day in particular, the temptation grew and grew, until I could stand it no longer and rushed to soothe my scalp with the medicament. It almost makes me faint when I put the liquid on, the pleasant burning sensation, it takes up so much of my consciousness. It is a similar uncontrollable passion that eggs me to scratch between my toes or rub them together so hard till they are burning with a pleasure/pain only comparable to orgasm. It must end badly for my scalp and toes.
Carlos called me late on Friday afternoon having been given my name and telephone number by Anna at the British Council. He was looking for a British journalist. He explained he had details of a missing Englishman in Argentina. Not my line, I told him, but I promised to see if I could find anybody interested. I tried Mac Margolies who was travelling. I tried Hank who was out. Rik was at Reuters but he had no advice to give other than offering the stranger to come into the office and talk to him. Having given the matter some thought, I decided the least I could do was to assess the information offered myself. After all, I reasoned, it could be a break of sorts. I called him back and arranged to meet him the following morning - this morning. He had been unwilling to talk of the matter on the phone but did answer my question as to where the information originated - an ex-intelligence officer of the Argentine marines. I couldn’t see where it could lead, but I didn’t have too much occupying me this weekend.
I couldn’t find him when I first showed up at Hotel Itajuba in Cinelandia, so I went off to the bus station to purchase tickets for Porto Seguro. I returned to the hotel about 11, an hour later, and whilst the porter was calling room 707, a youngish man rushed over to me, and ushered me to a table to begin. I had no doubts at all that it was my contact. At first, I wanted to exchange cards, but he confessed he’d left his in his room. He then went on to elaborate about his job in Brasilia and his need to learn English. I interrupted his monologues several times with questions, are you from Madrid? are you a journalist? have you been to Argentina? All these questions were replied to in the negative, but I still didn’t suspect I was with the wrong man only that somehow I had been hoodwinked by some unscrupulous person who wanted to practice his English. Finally, he intimated at the end of the 10 minute monologue that I was to inform him of my special style of teaching. The proverbial penny plunked to the pavement.
A few minutes later, I was talking with the real Carlos Rodriguez. A handsome well-groomed man with well-groomed moustache, cool perhaps, a little too so. He is my age, more or less. I plied him with questions, and eventually everything made sense - this is how I understand the situation.
Carlos met Claudio Vallejos ex-marine intelligence officer in Madrid. From that meeting, Carlos formed a symbiotic relationship with the Argentine. Vallejos is now living in Rio having been expelled from the marines and having left Argentina for fear of his life in 1984. At that time, he gave information to journalists and judges in Argentina over the kidnap of an ambassador. The involved persons then threatened him. Now, he has been making a series of disclosures about disappeared foreigners in Brazil, and Carlos has been acting as his agent. But the relationship is apparently more involved because Carlos is writing a book on the subject and clearly relies heavily on the ex-officer. First, he shows me a Brazilian newspaper cutting (‘O Globo’ 6 September) about a 5 September French TV show in which Claudio Vallejos details the story of two French nuns who disappeared in Argentina in 1977. He then shows me a Swedish article and says Claudio has helped the authorities trace missing persons in several countries. He then tells me about Fleury Walter Kenneth Nesson (22) who was taken prisoner by Alfredo Astiz (the subject of all Claudio’s denouncements and a still active captain of the Argentine marines) for having been witness of a street shooting. Walter was apparently involved with local trade unions although this does not appear to have been the reason for the capture. He was later tortured and killed.
For $800 the story is mine. For $1500 he will go with a TV crew to Argentina and film the bones etc. as he did with French television.
I am told that previous details have been confirmed by authorities, that Claudio is in the process of informing the British Embassy and that as far as Carlos knows the parents of Walter are in the UK without knowledge of Claudio’s details.
I confess that everything has run very true. Carlos was interested enough in my connections and not overly concerned that I wouldn’t buy the business myself. I do not suspect a con. Even the motives ring true - financial gain mixed with revenge on Astiz. What to do? I telexed the ‘Sunday Times’. If I do not get a telephone call by mid-Monday morning, I will call John Arden and see if he is interested. Perhaps I should try the ‘Daily Express’.
Watching ‘Superman II’ on television last night (‘pessimo’ on the small screen in b&w) there was one moment, in Superman’s ice home, with the three other superbeing baddies that I noticed white lines across the screen. I could have sworn they were the wires that helped these characters fly, but then, of course, I realised it was the television.
Thursday 30 January
Sometimes events, ideas build up to a pitch that I become nervous with overload. I need to settle down for an hour or two with the journal and record the happenings and imaginations of my mind. But now I know I will not relax well until I tidy this desk.
The desk is tidy.
For two days I have felt vaguely ill. Yesterday, I was plagued with headaches and during the night I must have woken, gone to the lavatory, drunk water, about five times. I can only imagine it was to do with the drink I took at lunch time, white wine, and the couple of beers I drank this evening. It felt, during the night, as though I were cleaning my liver out. I really should strop drinking alcohol, it always ruins me one way or another. The only problem is that without drinking it is difficult to sustain social connections.
At the end of the restless night, I dream I had come to Barbara’s room, a strange room, but that she wasn’t there, perhaps that is her strolling in the gardens below. Also, after Barbara, there was a Pedro character from TiTiTi. Then, on waking I recalled I had forgotten Barbara’s birthday. How could I forget your birthday, my dear, so forgotten by others always because of its proximity to Christmas.
As for Carlos Rodriguez, the story cleared itself up by Tuesday morning. I had tried to contact John Arden, Mac, Hank in search of advice, but finally the first person I talked to was Carolyn Martin, wife of Gavin Scott the ‘Times’ correspondent. She is listed in the correspondents book as the ‘Observer’ stringer. Fortunately, she knew a lot about the business, having sat in on the trials. In the first instance, she told me Astiz was important because he is one of the worst criminals that have not yet been brought to justice, and he is still in the marines. She also said no one would pay for the story. Nevertheless her journalist’s blood was up, so to speak, and she hunted down some information for me by Tuesday. A chat with Juan d’Onis on Monday night informed me that he had chatted directly with Vallejos, and investigated the ex-intelligence officer’s claims through Buenos Aires organisations that should know, and he had not found a bona fide case. On Tuesday, Carolyn told me that, from all accounts, Vallejos is a shady character - he is being sued in various quarters, by the French TV and by a family in Argentina who paid him for some info. And it seems he’s only in it for the money. That was enough. I rang Carlos and said I didn’t know how involved he was but that Vallejos was not such a nice piece of work, and he should be careful. End of story.
The young handsome boy Claudio that latched on to me in Belo Horizonte turned up in Rio. He humbly asked to stay for a few days so that he could profit from the Rio beaches a bit, but I have become so insular that I lose all concentration when he continues to watch television and I want to read. The noise from the television fills the whole flat, yet I don’t ask him to turn it off - not with Roque Santeiro coming. Thankfully, he has gone out for an hour - if he hadn’t gone, I would have. This lack of flexibility is unbecoming - the same happened with Karen, John’s friend. Christ knows what will happen with John here.
A letter arrives from Emiliana, full of lightheartedness. A telephone call from Elaine, weighty requests to meet her at the bus station.
Today I lunched with Catesby, who represents the 21 Cox newspapers, the best known of which is the ‘Atlantic Constitution’. Well, they must be important if they can afford a full time journalist here, more than any of the British papers. He spent three weeks on one story - the luxury of it - and gets to travel all over the continent, writing in depth stories, and never just filing news. It seems there isn’t a single journalist here who isn’t on a better deal than me - it also upsets me that he’s only been in journalism about five years - the same as me.
CHALLENGER EXPLODED - in full view of a millions of TV viewers. One second, seven people were flying into space. Space. The next, conscious living beings suddenly exploded into fractions. Unconscious fractions splattered through the air. The fragility of life. The nothingness. Imagine the consciousness of those still living: the family of the teacher who was chosen to be the first civilian ever to go into space. Imagine, their awe, their excitement, their pride, to see Challenger rise for the first minute with their child, wife, mother a part of it - and then in seconds, no longer. Persons no longer. Me. I would scream till my own consciousness was no longer.
The evenings now are so muggy. Another night of restlessness. Picking feet, scratching head, moving joints. What’s in my head to create this peacelessness. I lie back and try and work it out. But there is nothing I can grapple consciously.
A body lies sleeping on the sofa, dozing. Claudio from Belo Horizonte is here, and John who has arrived from London, seemingly without any emotion concerning the letter I wrote him.
Bad news on the work front. The dreaded telex from Trotter arrives informing me that EMIS work is finished. $300 a month at least gone, that’s like having a salary cut of $3,500. That on top of the lost $100. And then finally my December pay check arrives, it is missing payments for the wires in London and still does not include any IPR stories. It makes me feel kind of sick. As I telexed Martha last time - you have to work hard to earn money, and then work hard to get paid. Actual McGraw-Hill total for january equals $1,185; add $350 for the wires; about $200 for IPR; about $50 for DRI and it equals $1,785, which equals £1,300 - still more than I was getting in the UK.
Sonia, Emiliana’s sister, called me the other day to give help on the subtitles of her film (even now I don’t know what it is called). I took the time to go to the production offices in Botofogo. But what am I to do with a massive pile of pages of subtitles to a film I don’t know the first thing about. I can help little, other than to advise that somebody sees the film and then corrects them. I volunteered to do it at the weekend but everything had to be done yesterday. I did go and see the film. Anonymously entering the Embrafilm premises (a block from Reuters) and anonymously seating myself in the small projection room. I don’t know why I should have been expecting an amateur effort, but the high quality professional film was a surprise and a delight. It is loosely based on the early life of one of Brazil’s first cinematographers - Edu. The story tells how as a young adventurer he fell in love with cars and film. He went to Rio to seek his fortune in the early cinema days but didn’t find it. Returning to Porto Alegre he made some short silent movies which were scorned, he fell in love with an actress, and eventually made good by filming the Vargas revolution. The film will suffer in international markets (it is going to the Berlin film festival) from, what I can only call, sophistication in the proper sense of the word, or rather not proper but older sense. For example, there are far too many scenes full of people wearing the Brazilian boater - too much, not a ragged soul in sight - such an unreal representation of society then will only smack outsiders’ eyes as naive and false film-making. Are the makers aware - trying desperately to project a sophisticated (in the modern sense) Brazil to Brazil and foreigners. It is an over-stylisation that is not evidently conscious. Part of the reason, the need for this stylisation is the lack of real settings and old world ambience existing any more - the ethic of the new and modern is all important to a development where no adequate useful traditions exist. So every outdoor scene is recreated with love and care, but it is obvious that it is recreated. There are one or two fine images in the film, the humour is gentle and appealing, the synthesis of real old films and newly made ‘old’ films and the film itself was cleverly and intelligently (one adverb would do) done. The actors and personalities are charming, yet somehow overall the film lacks a certain substance. It is not clear what is being said if anything and why. It might be true to say that the film lacks what the hero lacks, i.e. anything more than a local, regional, importance.
I am reading rapidly ‘Os Velhos Marinheiros’ by Jorge Amado, or, in English, ‘Home is the Sailor’ by George Amado in order to have the story under my belt for the play tomorrow. Marcelo says it is excellent. It is good to have someone to talk to about theatre, it makes me feel more at home here.
Paul K Lyons
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