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Diaries
of
PAUL K LYONS

1987

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JOURNAL - 1987 - JUNE

Wednesday morning, 3 June

Cuckoo spit troubles the rosemary and the lavender, indeed has found its way onto a rose, iris leaves, and even the parsley. I have tried hosing the rosemary down using a fast jet but a few hours later the characteristic foam reappears. A spray of malathion doesn’t seem to have got through the soapy defences either. I have just watched a video of ‘Life on Earth’ which shows a frog creating a similar frothy soup to protect its eggs. Remarkable really how many devices of nature are found in disparate places The ‘Life on Earth’ video has occupied me the last two nights. My jaw fell open so often, watching for example, the frog couple that dance together to make sure that when the female releases her eggs in the water they fall on her back, guided by the male, and there they stick; over the next 36 hours the back swells and engulfs the eggs. Then, weeks later, the tadpoles break the backskin. Another frog guards its eggs in its mouth.

Wednesday evening

This week I transfer the focus of my work at FT Business Information to gas - working for James Ball is altogether a different proposition. I click with Gerard, we laugh a lot, and, in between, talk about gardens or houses or politics; but James is a dry old soul who talks a lot and is buried in papers. I thought the organisation on the coal report desk was poor but it’s worse on gas - given a couple of weeks I could sort both their schedules into better form. Gerard, for example, badly needs some quality control in his telephone directory, while James needs some quality control with his contributors’ copy. The junk I read through today - I thought I was a poor writer, but I felt great and good reading through what other freelancers write.

Now that the BBC has rejected me (it has no idea what it’s missing) I need to concentrate more seriously on this FT connection. Once my substitution for James is over I’ll have only three days a fortnight of work at best. Andy Holmes, who edits ‘European Energy’, has just started a new fortnightly called ‘Power Europe’, mostly on privatising the CEGB (and the Tories have just promised to privatise electricity if they get re-elected), and it is selling like hot cakes. Andy argues against the privatisation of the CEGB in one sale, and suggests it should be sold off in bits - an idea clearly not liked by top CEGB people. Andy is a quiet spoken Scot who tends towards being a workaholic. He has a dry, understated sense of humour, and tends only to reveal the depth of his knowledge if specifically required. He’s much more difficult to feel close to than Gerard who who listen to and laugh with anyone. The whole energy office is a bit of a mess, and the refurbishment taking place soon (a kind of anti-open plan wave of office styling) is likely to put walls around the mess (and paint over the piles of rubbish!).

I have heard a few of Robin Day’s phone-ins - ‘Election Call’ - but today with David Steel was the first time I detected a slight trace of sympathy with his subject. During his ‘Panorama’ interview with Kinnock, Day appeared to almost be hitting himself in the head in an attempt to diminish the pain of listening to the socialist talk rot. Polls in the marginal seats are being interpreted in widely differing ways. Tory majorities as low as 18 to as high as 100 are being predicted for the next parliament.

In opposition to Crook’s ‘Evolution of Human Consciousness’ I read ‘Not in our Genes’ by several authors. It is a studied argument against sociobiology and biological determinism. It makes me think. But, as usual, the answer lies between the two stools. Biological determinism does exist to a certain extent, but sociobiology has gone too far.

Saturday 6 June

Things are not going well - at least that is to say that the really big things are OK. B is well and happy, the house in Aldeburgh moves ahead slowly, but everything (useful word ‘thing’) else becomes a struggle. I am happy to have work at the FT, and at least I have some money coming in, for a month more I can rely on about £200 a week gross. But accountants Nyman Libson etc have just billed me for over £400. That’s a shock and a half; and the problems with my car go from bad to worse [it was hit, when parked, by another parked car that had been hit and shunted]. I called the insurance company to find out how I could claim for the damage caused by the accident, and the agent said I would have to claim from the owner of the car that hit it, etc. As it happens the car in between the oh-so damaged Capri and mine has disappeared so I’m afraid the insurance companies might clam up on me. In any case, I planned to take my car to the Honda garage to get an estimate on the damage, but the bloody machine was completely and utterly dead. What is so galling is that despite all the inconvenience I am going to loose about £300. And then, just now I went to the roof of the house to have another go at stopping the leaks by sealing between the tiles with some tarry compound - just as I finished, a rain shower started up. I am walking catalogue of disasters.

Michael Goldsmith, Martin’s younger brother, calls me early on Friday morning. He speaks in the same way as Martin, short sharp sentences. He arrives late morning, a tall handsome man, much more confident, self-assured than Martin. Talking to Martin you can feel the disturbances within him, but Michael is relaxed and calm, erect and at ease with his tall form. I think Michael is still only 20, but our conversation ranges widely, encompassing the differences between East and West, and between he and Martin. Coincidentally, Martin phoned from Paris a few minutes after Michael walked in. He had been to Vienna to see Uncle Otto, but Uncle Otto didn’t offer to take him skiing, for he no longer goes skiing (he’s aged 80). Vera advised me years ago to find Uncle Otto.

Martin is now in the West. He has not yet worked out how he will work in London and move backwards and forwards to Bulgaria in terms of passports, and to who he will owe any allegiances. But how Bulgarian is Martin? He has an English father who visited him regularly after being back in Sofia and constantly reinforced the image of a rich, free, Western professional. Furthermore, the first four years of his life were lived in the West with Mike. He is intellectually curious and flighty - an easier thing to live in the West I would imagine. He is also of an independent turn of character, not easily regulated and run on rails. It will never be an easy decision to make, and unfortunately the East-West decision compounds more sensitive personal inconsistencies. Like me, he has in his head the confluence of two rivers creating turmoil, the current of Mike’s genes and early influence laying the broad framework and the river current of his step-father and the Bulgarian culture. He has to ride these turbulent waters - as I did - for some form of psychological well-being.

Michael has no such commotion in his head. He loves Bulgaria, he sees the faults in Communism in much the same way we view the faults in our own democracy, but he can see no pressing reason for giving up his country. He is using the West to gain experience but his allegiances will remain with Bulgaria whatever he does. Unlike Martin, he has no real feeling for Mike, having never lived with him (Claudia returned to Sofia before Michael’s birth) and he must feel closer to his step-father. Martin and his father Mike have a much closer connection, involving love, hate and argument. They demand more of each other, in a way that never happened with Frederic and I. And this makes me wonder whether that regular personal contact - Mike visiting his children Sofia every couple of years - has made the difference between the extent of Martin’s connection to Mike and mine to Frederic [Mike being Frederic’s older brother]. Although Fred’s behaviour [when he asked me to leave his house in the US some years earlier] stunned me, I had not expected very much, and therefore healed very quick - if you like I had been well prepared to accept rejection. Perhaps, though I should have challenged Fred with his guilt - instead of being all sweet and friendly. I am flattered in a way to find both Martin and Michael seeking me out. Maybe I like Michael more, but Martin is more in tune with me, our histories too similar.

The film ‘Platoon’ won a few Oscars. It seems the Americans remain so guilty about Vietnam that any film that demonstrates a new truth about the ugliness of war, or the truth of war, or the heroisms brought forth by war must surely win an Oscar. ‘Platoon’ is a lesser a film than ‘The Deerhunter’ or ‘The Killing Fields’, both of which examined the depths and highs of the war and managed to incorporate more complex events and understandings. ‘Platoon’ is a simple film, has no pretensions other than to make you feel like you were there. No modest pretension, I suppose, and it does succeed in that. But it does not challenge the intellect. But, instead it tries to creep into mind sensations of discomfort, pain, confusion - the mosquitoes buzzing around the ear, cross-fire, complete chaos, never knowing where the enemy or your own side is, who is winning, who is losing, the sight of dead colleagues, the sight of murder and rape becoming commonplace. But it is not a revolting or horror film, and I suppose that must be a fine line that director Oliver Stone succeeded in treading.

Within feet of the cinema exit, I passed by the new Vietnamese restaurant in Willesden Lane. Back in my study I read up on the history of Vietnam. Fortunately, I shall never be asked to go to war - I have been lucky, avoided conscription, but it’ll be back. Yet have I been lucky? One memorable line in the movie: a muscular black guy, advising the young privileged hero (through whose eyes we see the war) says, all you’ve gotta do is survive and get out (of Vietnam) and the rest’s gravy - the rest of your life is gravy.

On the radio, I listen to Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People’. The play has a smashing climax when the medical officer, in an impassioned speech to a public meeting, denounces the greatest lie, the greatest deceit of all - the Moral Majority. The moral majority has no truck with truth, as the medical officer was to discover so painfully through his dealings with the baths. But the play ends on a strongly positive note, with the naif staying put in the town that had stunned him, intending to develop a small society around him of truer beings and feelings. I see from the EB that Ibsen sired an illegitimate child when still an adolescent.

And I see that the Conservative candidate for Brent East is an unmarried mother-to-be. A fine choice we have here: for Labour is Red Ken, who only lives around the corner, and for the Alliance there is some precocious youngster.

Tuesday 9 June

These days are the worst, nothing pressing to do, no engagements, no commitments through to Friday. I sit here in my study, it is not yet 10:00, wondering, on the one hand, what I should be doing in search of work, and, on the other, how I can fill the space of time. I think to go to the library, and then to a coffee house afterwards for my mid-morning coffee - I am reminded of Frederic who spent half his life in coffee bars according to Mum.

Yesterday I sent off some letters - the insurance form filled out, a reply to Mrs Whitehouse about the furniture in 15 Leiston Road, a work-begging appeal to ‘The Economist’, and a note to the ‘New Scientist’ asking for my subscription to be transferred to Aldershot Road from Avenida Portugal. I don’t know why I didn’t do that before - it worked with ‘The Economist’. I also got on with reading ‘Not in our Genes’ by Steven Rose, Leon Kamin and Richard Lewontin, the socialists’ answer to sociobiology. In the evening, I went with Barbara to see a dull French movie ‘Tenue de soiree’ by Bertrand Blier, but it was not achingly and anarchically comic as we had been led to believe - rather a story of a wimp-turned-transvestite with some funny and serious moments and nothing very interesting to say.

11 June

DREAM

Two strangers are in my house. I give them tea and then, when they confess they are hungry, biscuits as well. One of them says he has just bought an old church on an island off the coast of New Zealand for $300,000, without seeing it. He bought it in an auction and has just made a first payment. We talk about this for a while and I express my doubts. I suggest he cancel, it is not too late to save his money, for surely he will regret it. I ask why was the church auctioned in the UK and not in NZ or Australia, something suspicious about that, and how does he intend to get there and when. I can see has some doubts too now. The next moment, we are on some millionaire’s range, and he has promised to take us to the church. By this time the purchase has gone through. There are four of us that climb into the helicopter, only it is a limousine inside, with three rows of seats. We all pile into one row, and then think we should spread ourselves more evenly through the car or else it will be bad for the suspension.

At the church, I have a sight line from a side balcony, it is large. Below rows and rows of chairs are still laid out. I walk around the balcony until I am at the back end, rather than the side, here it is wide like a second floor. I see fresh floorboarding, and examine it because I suspect a booby-trap - a hole in the floor through which someone could fall. There is a commotion and dozens of people are rushing up the side stairs to an even higher floor. I have the feeling I know what I am going to see, but I have forgotten. On the top floor, I see the ghostly, dead bodies of a naked dwarf woman astride the prostrate form of a young man, her long lost son. They seem to be copulating. I do not think the boy knows that the ghost/witch is his mother.

’Tis election day. I cannot remember the last one, nor for whom I voted, nor with whom I watched the results come in. I have already been to the polling booth at the Kilburn polytechnic, but I do not remember having been there before - where did I vote last time round? I look it up in my diaries - all I find is that the word ‘landslide’ is on everybody’s lips, that Maggie won, Foot resigned, Jenkins resigned, and Steel thought about resigning. Clearly, four years ago I was not so interested in politics.

For the record, I have voted Alliance, for a young candidate who, perhaps, would not have got my vote in other circumstances. I believe strongly in the middle party - its policies come closest to those I feel should be pursued by government now. There is no doubt in my mind that chaos would return with Labour, it is the old party with a dash of fresh paint. The country needs a modernised, refurbished Labour Party to effectively provide a challenge for the 1990s and 21st century. The Thatcher regime, meanwhile, is clearly too biased towards the competitive motive, the American model of existence. It may seem a recipe for success but, unfortunately, it divides the country. If I could be sure the Conservatives would soften this term, become wetter, milder, while the Labour Party has time for a radical shake-up, then a vote for the blue might have been justified. The Alliance is bright and shiny and very middle-of-the-road. It is absolutely right to say: British politics needs the modifying influence of a centre party.

I mope around the entire morning hoping that the phone will ring or that the second post might bring me some interesting mail (there hasn’t been a letter from Rosa in nearly two months - I spoke to her briefly on the telephone, and she told me she had received neither the photographs I sent nor the presents through Tomas). But, when I examine the possibility of who might ring or write I realise I am in a fantasy land. Tomorrow, I am back at the FT for a run of five days, so I didn’t have the will to get seriously into The Novel. The Novel. Well, yesterday I did in fact try and think about this. I read through three chapters already written to try and establish a chronology and a list of concepts I want to cover. However, I was struck by the dullness of the story. I couldn’t find any real spark or any driving motivation for writing it. Yet, yet it is not that bad, not bad enough to throw in the bin. I have to remind myself that novels are not always dramatic events on every page, what must be important is development of character and a web of tensions between the characters. Trouble is, there is no real definition of the Susan character, nor do I have clear plan of a plot.

Having three of four days clear has given me enough time to mope, to sleep, to tidy, to go for a walk, to listen to the radio, and still to be forced back to the study to look at my writing, and think seriously about what to do next. I could try to write daily sketches in the style of Mile Kington. Why do I think this? Perhaps because everybody that has read the Sparky stories has liked them, perhaps because I think I have a similar imagination, perhaps because I just think I can write as well - though I don’t. It is easier to write a brief sketch each day, a prose-cartoon, than it is to dig my head into writing The Novel. I don’t actually give myself any hope of ever finishing it, just as I knew I wouldn’t ever finish ‘The Rats’. So, I have now written two prose-cartoons. I cogitate a bit during the day and write them early evening. Both have been connected with the election. One concerned a person drowning in unsolicited mail deliveries, and the other was about someone determined not to miss a word of the media coverage of the election campaigns. In both there are passages that made me burst out laughing for a moment, which must be a positive rather than a negative sign. I’ve no idea what I shall write today, and no notion of whether I’ll be able to keep it up when working at the FT.

Why does a bumble bee keep returning to sniff around my gold-heart ivy.

The other night I strolled along to the Prince of Wales pub function room to lend an ear to Ken, Ken Livingstone I presume, who had come at the invitation of the Kilburn Labour Party - sounds formidable. The small, long room was packed with Labour supporters. Ken arrived late, and then talked on the atrocities of Ireland, and Thatcher’s connection with MI5. Most of it went over our heads, and most people were not that interested in Ireland. A blind lady wanted to know what Ken would do about the holes in the road - he said he would read up the Highways Act. Ken has got the makings of a successful politician, but I believe he remains too naive, too unwilling to compromise, too little a politician. He needs to bond with people, give people policies they want, rather he appears to continue waging war, his war of personal beliefs. He will need to centralise his policies, let go of the communist traits, if he is to make it into a cabinet one day.

Fine weather yesterday.

16 June

At the FT this week editing ‘International Gas Report’. James Ball, the editor, personalises the newsletter with twisted metaphors and highly pointed comment. He comes across as a bit arrogant. His newsletter is full of some glaring inconsistencies and errors. But mine is not to reason why. And, according to Gerard, he has a circulation of 450, so management is bound to leave him well alone. Fortunately he has made life reasonably easy for me by writing up almost enough copy for the coming issue.

It is after 11pm. I do not often find myself writing this late in the day, although I hope to more often. I am feeling content, not depressed at present, and I wonder if this is, in any major or minor way, from doing yoga regularly. For nearly two weeks, I have consistently done 20-30 minutes of yoga, physical and breathing exercises, to counter-attack city living and city habits - lazy breathing, lazy moving - and to war off lethargy (and some psoriasis).

A multitude of things to mention. As always the freshest memory is recalled the easiest. Silvio and his boyfriend Rogerio have been here on holiday. I took them for a walk on Hampstead Heath on Saturday; and today we lunched in the Convent Garden fish and chip shop. At Reuters, Silvio behaves like a model salesman, but in the company of friends, he reverts to a laughing gay boy. Rogerio is altogether more serious, more concerned, more intelligent, and softer too. I’m sure it was no mistake that Silvio called him ‘she’ when talking English. I very much play the host, control the conversation and the time. They are appreciative and very friendly, clearly not used to having non-gay friends with whom they can behave and talk gay. The fish and chip shop in Covent Garden is no longer run by English people, and nor does it attract the same loyal Bohemian arty crowd. Yet the fish and chips remain above average (perhaps not quite as good as before), only the atmosphere has warped.

A dinner party on Saturday at Rosy and Andrew’s. A shambles of people. One of Rosy’s performing friends spent most of the evening playing the piano and singing loudly. Even during dinner she managed to continue singing. I could find no peace in the front room, with alternate cacophonies from crying babies or screaming children. In a way, I could see that Rosy orchestrates this chaos, perhaps not knowingly, as a way out of stuffy boring conversations, and a way into lively recreation. Once, I may have enjoyed it (though never this type of sing-song) but not any more. I managed a chat with social worker Ed - a fiery and red-haired Scot. (Vila-Lobos guitar music plays on the radio as I write, most, most soothing.) Ed told me how he and a team of psychiatrists pioneered modern ways of coping with madness. He said they just stopped admitting patients into institutions, instead they started something called ‘crisis control’, if I remember right. They worked on the basis that the one person classically presented as schizophrenic was often no less than the weakest person in the family, and that the supposed ‘madness’ arose out of the dynamic of the family. I had just read about how Italy closed its mental homes a few years ago, forcing all mental patients to be treated in ordinary hospitals or cared for at home.

Schizophrenia is much written about in this book ‘Not in our Genes’ that I’m reading. I would like to have got from Ed whether he felt all madness was socially-created or whether some people really did have screwed up heads. I remain clear on this issue, believing that potentialities are inherited, and that these are then widened or narrowed by environment, in a crudely put way. Over and above that, there is Lady Chance, given different circumstances some people might go mad while others don’t.

Rosy told me a tragic but oh so comic story. That very day she had gone to perform a show for Hammersmith Borough in a park. When she got there, she could find no way to drive into the fenced park, and thereby to her venue. She raced all around and around, and there appeared no one to ask, but, eventually, she did get a gate opened, and arrived with only five minutes to spare - so no time to test the space or to warm up. After the hectic show, she had to rush off to a children’s party, but her car had been locked inside the park, and could find no way to drive out. In desperation, she left with as many bags as she could carry, and took a taxi to avoid being impossibly, rather than just very, late.

Wednesday 17 June

The roof. Who would have a house when they get a roof with it? Flats are truly to be sought after for being, mostly, roof-less. The back roof at 13 Aldershot Road began leaking into the upstairs kitchen while I was away. Julian called in Marlow who came and went a number of times. The problem had not been resolved by my last trip back, and in they came again. After a few more visits, the leak did appear to stop. Julian finally decorated the kitchen (having prevaricated for so long because of the leak). Then, as soon as he moved out, the leak began again - and a leak in the study room developed as well. I have now spent days on the roof trying to locate the source the leaks. One - into the kitchen - I think is the same leak as before, but the other remains a mystery. I’ve tried with the hose up there showering patches of roof without discovering the source. Finally, I gave up and just bought a tar-based sealing paint, and began spreading it wherever I thought might help. As it turned out I’ve painted half the roof five times now, sealing whole tiles by painting all around. I don’t believe the repair will last - though the leak does seem to have been halted temporarily. Now - the moment I discover that water is no longer seeping through into the kitchen or study - I’ve find a more serious problem in the lounge. The main roof lets in water!!

Friday 19 June

I have not succeeded in writing a story every day. Last Sunday, I wrote three for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Tuesday I was very good. I came home from work, did yoga, ate food, walked in the park, and ended up writing a story. Wednesday I failed because Raoul called, and last night I failed out of weariness and B’s presence. Today, I have singularly failed to catch up at all through absolute downright laziness.

One interesting phenomena: coming home on the tube from the FT offices I find my head so dead I really cannot switch over to imagining a flight of fancy for a story - my head is thick, old custard. The atmosphere of the metro - the crowded trains and other dead heads - compounds the problem. It is not before I’ve got home, oxygenated by yoga and/or walking, relaxed by yoga and/or walking, that brain can actually flip about in search of imaginative ideas. Until then, it’s in a straightjacket, an old custard straightjacket.

On the phone to B. We agree that people like ourselves who do not lead busy, hectic lives, who do not have dynamic personalities, need to get up early in order to profit from the day. Otherwise, if we get up late, linger over breakfast, devour the newspapers and then part at say 10am, we both feel that we have wasted so much of the day already, that we might as well waste the rest of it. Whereas, busy people who live hectic lives can afford to get up at the last minute because they must rush into the business of their days.

In bed this morning, we discuss arguments. I tell her that R&C have furious arguments. R feels he must fight C’s attempts to subtly dominate him (he tells me this in a Notting Hill pub at our weekly meet). Barbara says I shout at her all the time. Of course I deny it. I never shout at her. Well, I shouted at her yesterday on the telephone over the furniture of the cottage - she said we shouldn’t buy the table, two chairs, bed and fridge for the £100 that vendor Mrs Whitehouse was asking. I had offered £50 in a letter. We went round and round in the argument, it was no contest. Of course, those items in situ are worth £100 to me, especially with Barbara so big she’d roll down a slight incline. And of course I might be able to bargain to £80, but on a transaction worth £30,000 I’m not going to bargain over £20. It would be too petty. And exactly how are we going to get a bed, a fridge etc, we would only be able to take one item at a time from London, and we’re not exactly mobile with the Honda sicker than an 18th century parrot. So, yes, I raised my voice, as I have always tended to do in heated discussion. And then there was the time I shouted at her about her knee, and not going to work on it; and the time I shouted at her about buying too many beds. Finally, I had to admit that I shouted at her. But there does seem to me to be a difference: when raising my voice it is often largely about something to do with B’s own well-being, and in the face of obstinence.

Monday 22 June

Midsummer. Constant drizzle keeping the great British green green. A week yawns in front of me with no work. I have made no progress in finding a real job; but there is a newsletter at the FT that might suit to me to a(n) (F)T. It’s called ‘European Energy’ and is currently edited by Andy Holmes, but since he started ‘Power Europe’ he’s let it go.

I depress myself by reading Miles Kington’s book ‘Moreover’. His imagination is no less wild or fanciful than mine, but he has a lot more information at his finger tips. Also, being a cleverer writer makes it all that much easier for him. I don’t know how long I shall survive trying to keep up writing one a day. It’s nearly 6pm, and I haven’t even an idea for today. Over the weekend I wrote three: a contrast between Coliseum opera and amateur opera, a Sparky story, and one about a bicycle taking deterrence to heart.

Otherwise, a fairly drab weekend. After yoga, I skipped over the cemetery wall attracted by the music of a merry-go-round. Queen’s Park was celebrating its centenary with Carter’s steam fair and various events of a Victorian nature. The fair consisted of an old-type ferris wheel, swing boats, roundabouts with horses moving up and down, each of them beautifully painted in traditional colours, bright reds and yellows - and all powered by steam engines. A tall wooden helter-skelter towered over the other equipment, and a large barrel organ spilled out music all day long. I found it quite charming, and stood watching all the activity from a distance. I could not work out why I should find this display so charming when I dislike the terrible gaudiness of modern fairs - surely Carter’s Steam Fair was gaudy to the Victorians. I find this fair quite tasteful, quite delightful. There is clearly a resonance from my childhood when fairs looked more like this, although steam had been abandoned long ago. But Barbara, with whom I went on my third visit to the fair, believes the Victorians didn’t find such things gaudy at all. No, I feel sure that I like Carter because it appeals to old and traditional values and disclaims neon, cheapness and plastic.

Yoga in the cemetery is a delight. I am rarely disturbed, and the air feels so fresh and clean entering my lungs, while my vision is massaged with collages of green. And ’twas in the cemetery the other day that I met a Vietnamese Boat Boy. He approached me as I did my yoga like a cautious cat, and then, unbeknown to me, he sat behind and watched. When I had finished I went to talk to him, it seemed only polite. I asked where he was from, he said Vietnam. How did he come here, in a boat. How? Well one day, he said, we just climbed into this boat. He is 18 now, and was 15 at the time time. There were some 30 people in the boat, and they floated for a month until being saved by the British navy. He said they had no freedom in Vietnam, they could not earn money, and if they had too much money the authorities wanted to know why. But the strangest tale he told concerned his parents. He said they only went to Vietnam from China on holiday, and then the border closed, and they had to stay in Vietnam (this was soon after this boy was born). Now, he is adapting reasonably well, but the older boat people, he said, haven’t learnt English.

Folly no 43p. I wonder what time the library stays open to. I look in the library book on my desk. It doesn’t say. I think the library card may show it. So, I go downstairs (from the study here) to fetch it. Not there. Of course, it’s in my briefcase, upstairs in the study. It’s not there in the briefcase, of course not, I took it out. So, it must be downstairs. Oh no, now I remember, I took it upstairs. Here it is, in the drawer of the study. But it doesn’t show the opening times!

Today I have signed the contract for 15 Leiston Road, and paid the 10% deposit of £2,950. It is only a matter of 10 days or so before the property becomes mine.

Tuesday

Both Wimbledon and the 2nd test match are washed away by rain. Riots in Seoul worry the Olympic Games committee. Oliver North is about to incriminate Ronald Reagan. Three-quarters of a million demonstrate in Barcelona against terrorism.

Barbara leaves work at the end of this week. She has been given an orange tree and some books as leaving presents. She remains well, and blossoms, so long as physical difficulties aren’t overcoming her. In the mornings, she feels sick sometimes, she tires easily, and she has become a bit absent-minded. The foetus kicks like mad at times, and I can feel it scrape a limb along the inside of Barbara’s womb. The kicking is quite aggravating at times, she says. When we sleep together, I clutch her tummy with one hand as we lie spoonwise.

Monday evening

The year’s hottest day. Now at well past dusk, the outside air remains sultry, thick, I feel different, expectant of a more exciting life, full of more promise, more people, more parties. I glide through the air with the lightest of steps, peering into open doors, around corners, into the eyes of strangers. I find but strangers. My footsteps lead me nowhere special, the warm summer’s night brings no fairies forth, or sequence of dreams.

Until today, I have managed to write a daily story, I must not falter now - I think the change in clime unleashed a lazy streak within me, for I didn’t manage yoga either. I did, however, go for a swim at the Hampstead pond, but the water was only passably clean, and there were dozens of kids screaming around the place.

I am back at FTBI this week, though chaos reigns there. The builders and decorators work around us, the administrators appear not to have taken the slightest notice of editorial timetables or needs. Gerard has arranged a lunch with the boss, Dennis; I must make positive moves now that I’ve suddenly become so poor. I do find the work dreary, and the atmosphere somewhat oppressive - but then perhaps that’s London. This hot weather makes me think of Brazil. Even more so today because Jenny Morgan, who strings for IGR (the BBC, ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Economist’) from Buenos Aires came into the office. I always strived, when in Rio, to fill IGR with more Brazilian stories to outdo those coming from Argentina, though never really succeeded because Argentina has more gas industry. So we talked for a while of strings and stringers, and this only tended to encourage feelings of saudades.

At lunchtime I walk through the crowds of Covent Garden. Several people are performing an act I haven’t seen before - stood on their head, they twirl around as fast as possible and for as long as possible, preferably without hands, although they have to touch down every now and then. Also still popular are the robot acts.

Tuesday 30 June

Another state, politically and economically tied to the USA, has swung sharply towards democracy, following people pressure. President Chun offers the nation of South Korea elections to choose a new president. This happened in the Philippines and in Brazil. It seems that wherever the capitalist machine is bringing economic advances and where military rule is not absolute, people demonstrations are creating enough international tension to leave rulers little choice. Unfortunately, all three of these countries may slide slowly towards socialism, and into the spider’s web of Russian communism, triggering the US again to fund right wing coups on the sly.

I find a patch of rot on the back door. I have no idea whether it is serious or not. I think perhaps to buy a new back door, full glass, but find myself short of money.

Barbara attends her first NCT ante-natal class and enjoys it very much. Mum’s birthday on Friday - the whole family crew are coming here for supper, it is not only a question of not having sufficient plates and forks but I’m short on seating too. Oh dear, why am I so outrageously cheap.

July 1987

Paul K Lyons

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INTRO to diaries:
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