PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1988 - JULY
Controversy over where the family or families should congregate today to celebrate Mum’s birthday. The original idea was to have a barbecue at Melanie’s but that was organised when there was much sun and warm weather. Today it is cold and grey, and rain looks likely. Julian and I have formed a lobby to transfer the gathering to Mum’s where we’ll all be that much more comfortable. Tis but 9:15. I shall wait for news and allow my younger siblings to battle it out.
Already this morning I have been busy - firstly cooking potatoes to make a salad for the lunch/barbecue, and secondly taking photographs for my Willesden Lane series. It’ amazing how many photos I found to take. My original idea had been to take straight shots of each shop front every two years or so, to monitor change. But now I think there is more fascinating material to be collated, to be documented by the camera: the juxtaposition of shop fronts with complimentary or competitive colouring or design; the huge number of hoardings, To Let, For Sale, and so on; and the absorbing material of posters and signs in the shop window itself. One large sign, for example, advertises a fax service to anywhere in the world, which is something that historically will be placeable in a very small time frame - the emergence of cheap telefax machines is new and exciting enough for a backstreet shopping precinct to advertise so largely, boldly. Then there was the small cardboard note in a laundrette window advertising a need for a large cock.
Did I mention before how well my series of photographs of Aldeburgh came out. They just await framing. There is one series of six (from white to gold), and another of three beach scenes.
I have spent £35 on a massive tome called ‘World History of Photography’. I have already fallen in love with it.
I must write some letters; it is so long since I wrote any.
Martin has left for the South of France where he will work as a windsurf instructor for two months. After, he does not know whether to return to Bulgaria, stay in France, or continue struggling in the UK. The last couple of weeks, the three of us, Martin, Caroline and I have had a good time. We’ve been out swimming on the Heath, to the cinema, to see ‘Babette’s Feast’, and to eat in the Vietnamese restaurant at the top of the road. We joke and laugh a lot. Caroline is quite an exhibitionist, and likes being the centre of attraction. When we swim she wears a revealing swimsuit; in the lounge at home she wears a very loose dressing gown. I think Martin is attracted to her, but won’t say so openly. Caroline will travel for three months, September to December, so the possibility remains of Martin using her room if he were to return to the UK.
At FTBI: Marko comes up with yet another anti-nuke story from Russia - it is so good I put it on the front page. 4,000 officials within the Soviet nuclear industry have sent an appeal to the 19th Communist Party Conference (much in the news at present) requesting a 10-15 year moratorium on nuclear plant construction in Ukraine - where 40% of the nuclear industry is located. There have been plenty of earlier protests but this appeal is from all those officials within the industry. Sounds like serious dissatisfaction. My new stringer in Brussels, Brooks, comes on well, as does James Bourne in Madrid. I have been hesitant over the stringer network not wanting to tread on Andy’s old toes, as it were, but I must now replace Michael Parrot in France. I haven’t had a front page story from France in all the time I’ve been editor, and the hole is embarrassing.
Tuesday I to to Ireland, and hope to do a day or two of touring.
I’ve left today free so that I can travel slowly up the coast to Belfast. The weather is grey as it has been since I arrived in Ireland on Tuesday morning. I have worked solidly, with interviews all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Of most use was my final meeting with Principal Officer Martin Brennan at the Energy Department. We talked for nearly two hours, working our way through all the main issues, most of which I had touched on with one or other of my previous interviewees: Esso Ireland, Irish National Petroleum Corporation (it sounds such a joke, I didn’t think it could be real), Bord Gais, and the ESB. Despite Brennan’s openness and despite his making sense on every issue, there is clearly a raggedness about the department: it tends to come up with policy only when and if it is needed, reacting to circumstances in haste, rather than from a strong clearly defined direction.
I think I can safely ignore the east coast of Ireland for a few years. I dare say I didn’t see a tourist all day. I can understand why. The coast is generally flat and made up of unattractive beaches which are so close to being mud flats I could barely tell the difference. Every time I thought of taking a swim, the mile walk to the water across muddy sand put me off. On one beach, I thought more seriously about braving the cold but was put off instantly by a mass of jellyfish, probably deposited by just one tide, as they formed a line, but still too off-putting for me. They were very beautiful jelly fish, varying in size from a biscuit to a saucer, and all containing mauve ringlet. A child would want to eat them.
I travelled and stopped a lot during the day. I wouldn’t like to think that it was all a bore, there were highlights. First my itinerary: Rush, Skerries, Balbriggan, Drogheda, Anagassan, Castlebellingham, Dundalk, Killevy, Newry, Warrenpoint, Rostrevos, Kilkeel, Annalary, Newcastle, Dundrum, Ardglass, Strangford, Portaferry, Greyabbey, Donaghadee, Bangor, Belfast.
I am aboard Capital, Yorkshire’s International Airline. To change my seat from Sunday to Saturday I had to ring a number in Leeds. Belfast Harbour Airport, about the size of a Heathrow loo, did not even have accurate details of Capital’s flight schedules, let alone have the means to alter a booking. This Short’s 360 propeller plane is, at this second, taxiing fast, now doing a u-turn to face Belfast city and H&W’s two massive cranes. We stop, the engines tremble, can be felt like a massage through my seat. We’re off. Up, up over the very factory that must have made the aircraft. I don’t see much of Belfast but rows and rows of terraces quickly giving way to a fine patchwork quilt of greens and yellows of varying sizes and colours. I glimpse the long straight hill and road leading to Stormont as we turn and aim for the Ards Peninsula, which is just as well for I didn’t see it while driving round the city.
This Short’s plane is simply laid out and comfortable. I felt very cramped in the Ryan Air craft that brought me from Luton to Dublin. I do find it a novelty to look up to the wings. I spy land again. Can this be the Isle of Man. It looks flat and fairly uninteresting. More sea. The hostess unfolds a fold-away trolley and carefully lays out a selection of plastic cups, spoons, paper serviettes and biscuits.
Although a day and a half earlier than I had planned, I am glad to be returning to GB. It has rained on and off since I arrived in Northern Ireland, more on than off. I’m not sure how I thought I would find Northern Ireland.
I had expected some form of border control between the Republic and Northern Ireland yet there was none, nor any sign of military activity - not a soldier, not a police car, not an armed vehicle of any description. As I approached Belfast, signs did appear, RUC stations became more heavily fortified, and a few towns boasted newly-built stronghold police stations, with barriers and defence installations (there was something makeshift, almost comical, about the way older stations had been fortified with netting and barbed wire). All the RUS stations had full video surveillance.
It occurred to me that there can’t be many single men journeying haphazardly around the province in a smart car. At times, I felt like I was doing basic reconnaissance work for one or other of the terrorist organisations, and so, consequently, it was easy to imagine I might be being followed. This paranoia was never real, mostly I just played with the idea. Only in Derry did an actual anxiety take over and affect my movements in a concrete way.
I had no expectations of finding it difficult to locate a hotel in Belfast. It just didn’t occur to me that the Troubles would have diminished the number of visitors so drastically. After driving round and round for ages, and then asking someone, I found The European, an ugly tower block, in an ugly place. To get into the reception area, my car had to be searched and my name taken. But then I found it was more expensive than I had planned, so I decided to look for another. The gatesman told me of another hotel, a little way out of town. I drove around for ever trying to find that one too (it transpired that the hotel sign is not actually visible when driving out from the city centre; and the hotel itself, The Wellington Park, was well set back from the road). Fortunately, it had a room for me. Indeed, more fortunately, I found myself next door to Queen’s University and one of the prettiest and historical areas of Belfast. The hotel, though, was built like a fortress, the corridors could have been part of a prison or hospital.
Whilst I was in Belfast, there were killings: the IRA planted a bomb at the Falls Baths, but it was detonated too early, and killed two innocent neutrals, not the soldiers that were expected later. An IRA person was also killed. Sinn Fein apologised for the deaths; the army responded by saying an apology was pathetic. I didn’t see much military activity in Belfast, just checkpoints in the city centre, no policemen, no officials on the pavements anywhere.
Life along the Antrim coast seemed fairly sedate and normal but for the fortified RUC stations. It wasn’t until Londonderry that the full force of the semi-civil war really came home to me. All day, I had been looking to find a comfortable B&B in a small town, enjoying an evening meal, and then downing half a pint of Guinness in a pub.
I saw quite a few guest houses at Portrush, the town next to the Giant’s Causeway, but I’d read that the neighbouring town of Portstewart was more sedate, more sophisticated, so I drove on. At Portstewart, my ambition peaked, for I thought I would take a B&B near the beautiful empty beach, and this would enable me to have an early morning swim. Unfortunately, I found only one empty hotel which was £12 for a room. I should, of course, have cut my losses and taken it, but I insisted on looking for a B&B. I didn’t find one at that end of town, so decided to drive to Coleraine, which also sounded interesting. I found only guest house in the entire town, and that was full. I drove on to Limavady, saw nothing there, and drove on to Derry. I didn’t for a moment anticipate any problems in finding accommodation or food in Northern Ireland’s second city.
Not only could I not find a B&B but there was no sign at all of any hotel of any description. I drove around and around, nothing. Finally, I stopped and asked someone who said there might be one or two on the main road out of Derry. I followed his directions and found one. It was full, but the man promised to ring another. Thankfully, he reported success, and I drove half a mile to a residential house in Browning Road, a cul de sac sloping down to the river and overlooking the central Guildhall. To get to it from the main road, I had to drive through an army checkpoint, and show my driving licence. There was a giant army base on her doorstep, and I saw armoured vehicles go in and out of this base with soldiers standing up, their hands poised on, what looked like, machine guns.
Happy enough to have found somewhere to sleep, I then proceeded to drive back into the centre in search of a restaurant. I still hadn’t learned my lesson. There wasn’t one. There were several takeaways in the centre, scattered around the Guildhall, and a few pubs. Frenetic youngsters filled the streets, small groups of girls or boys went from one pub to another, each entrance carefully guarded by a bouncer. Outside this tiny central area with its frenetic activity, there was no activity anywhere.
I had driven round the centre stopping and starting, reversing and making u-turns, and I began to feel that I was acting suspiciously, and wondered whether I might be spotted. There were some video cameras, I couldn’t quite work out what they were monitoring. The centre of Derry is very confused, with its combination of historic walls, fortress-like bank buildings, derelict houses and shuttered shops. I parked the car and walked around, but I felt I was acting no less suspiciously. I stuck out like a sore thumb among all the youngsters pursuing their social life. I even got scared of leaving my car out of sight, in case the IRA planted a bomb to it. Even at the B&B, I feared some scenario whereby the IRA might try and use me to carry something back to Luton.
Belfast, Carrickfergus, Larne, Glenarm, Cushendun, Ballycastle, White Park Bay, Portrush, Portstewart, Coleraine, Limewady, Derry. I cannot say, honestly, I have been much inspired by my short tour of Northern Ireland. From Dublin to Belfast I can recall three highlights.
In southern Armagh, not far from the border I found the Kilkenny churches. Apparently two churches, built in the 10th century and the 13th century probably, which stand back to back. At some stage, a connecting wall joined them up. The most striking feature is said to be the massive lintel over the west door, also supposedly the oldest part of the church. But I have a problem with this, for when I rubbed the lintel with my hand, the surface of coarse sand or gravel came off, as long as I rubbed. Is this a clever reconstruction, a sort of granite mortar put over the surface to protect it. If it is the real thing, then how come it has survived so in shape for 1,200 years of weather and handling? The ruin is surrounded by old gravestones in long grass, and the cemetery has trees with leafy branches blowing eerily in the wind. The cold grey weather added to the atmosphere.
After Newry, the rather dull landscape is broken by desolate hills called the Mourne Mountains. I made only one trip into the purply hills, to a large reservoir called Silent Valley I’d spotted on the map. I rather fancied a swim, and a silent rest on the shores of this water, but it turned out to be a tourist attraction with car park. I never felt out of sight of the guards or watchmen. Nevertheless, the long thin reservoir, with its old and shallow sloping wall-sides, was quiet and pleasant. I lay for some while on the stones reading and looking across the water.
Past the Mournes and past Newcastle, I stopped for a while at Dundrun Castle. There are so many castles and ruins in Ireland but Dundrun Castle and, later, Dunluce Castle on the Antrim coast were the most beautiful I saw - more for their situations than anything else. Dundrun Castle overlooks Dundrun Bay and the river outlet that passes through an inner bay. With the tide out, this becomes a shiny mud flat, and looks quite beautiful from the castle. I lay on the manicured lawns of the castle car park, and rested for a few minutes.
Onwards onwards. The third highlight: a ferry crossing from Strangford to Portaferry on the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula. Ferries are always a delight: apart from providing a break in the routine of driving, there’s always give a feast of sensations: the pulling away from shore, the slow diminishing in size of the exit port, the feeling of abandonment perhaps never to return. One watches the wake of the boat in the swirly water, and glances at the people and buildings left behind. Before long, one turns ones eyes and thoughts to the future. Surveying up and down the Lough Strangford serves to remind one how beautiful waterscapes are. There, in front, one can just discern the concrete ramp, where the ferry will come to ground. One thinks, maybe, of the helmsman, how clearly does he find his position, how fast can he approach. The eye picks out detail by detail of the new town, so soon to be visited. Who are the other people on the ferry, are they expecting friends to be waiting for them? are they locals returning home? are they travellers? Reluctantly, I climb down from the pedestrian deck to regain my driver’s seat. All too soon, I’m back on the roads.
In Belfast, I visited Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) and the government department for economic development. Both organisations wanted to talk most about the competition between two projects: a private company’s plan to build the province’s first lignite-powered station, and NIE’s desire to construct the second stage of their Kilroot plant. It does seem obvious that the Kilroot option is better, but the department appears to have cocked things up by backing the lignite proposal for so long. Tom King, minister for Northern Ireland, is expected to present the proposals to cabinet shortly.
I left Belfast about noon, and headed straight for Lorne on the northern coast passing both Kilroot and Northern Ireland’s largest power station Ballylumford. The workers of Ballylumford (who have played a significant part in Ulster’s recent history) are causing some problems at present for NIE, they keep raising Loyalist flags unofficially and the company keeps pulling them down. In 1974, a strike by the Ballylumford workers grew into a general strike, causing the province to come to a standstill. Essentially, the protests were against the British government’s attempts to bring some power sharing with Irish nationalists. The strike succeeded in bringing down the Northern Ireland Assembly, and returning power to direct rule from London.
At Lorne I stopped, attracted by a line of BBC Outside Broadcast vans. They were filming an international bowls tournament between England and Ireland. All those players in cream pullovers and cream anoraks waltzing up and down the greens. The most close shaven lawn I’ve ever seen. It may have been plastic.
I expected great things from the Antrim coast - Lorne to Portrush. Instead of great things I got great showers. It rained and rained and rained. I had two hopes for the day - a swim, preferably nude on a deserted beach, and visiting the acclaimed Giant’s Causeway. I achieved both, just, and both caused me a fresh soaking.
I confess the glens of Antrim were pretty, even through a rain swept windscreen. I stopped at the village of one and drank a tea, and ate a huge piece of chocolate cake in an NT cafe. I was happy to be on hilly, windy roads again, clutching the shore line in places, or climbing a steepish ravine the next. Hills give so much more character to a coastline.
Murlough Bay, described as the most beautiful bay on the Antrim Coast and apparently without any human dwellings, promised well for my swim. The drive along an increasingly narrow and rough track promised even better. On arrival, I was well pleased with the the wild bay - even if there was a house with a week’s laundry on the line (despite the rain) - it was just unfortunate there was no beach. A bay or two further on, I did stop. Whitepark Bay beach. It looked so attractive from the road on high, with its white sand and clear water, so, despite the rain, I ran down the grassy tracks to take a swim. Unfortunately, I slipped on the mud, and my towel went flying into some cow dirt. Undeterred, I made the beach, and stripped off in driving rain. I piled up my clothes as best I could, but they were soaked in seconds. I ran around the beach for a while, feeling truly alive at last, and then immersed myself, briefly, in the sea and foam. Gorgeous.
Back at the car, the driving rain made in impossible to change into dry clothes, so I drove on to the Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre. The rain had stopped by then, so I dried and changed into clean fresh clothes - only to get soaked again a few minutes later! All mod cons at the centre, just for a few bits of rock: film theatre, shop, teahouse, information desk, exhibitions, toilets. No chance of such natural wonders being left to be naturally wondered at. These rock formations have been exploited for well over 100 years. In 1883, a hydroelectric tram brought visitors from Portrush. The five and six-sided rock columns are worth seeing, the geometry stuns one’s sensibilities. We are so used to seeing rock in abstract forms, not in crystallised form, like much smaller samples of quartz or crystal. It’s like an enormous lego model. Walking over the giant hexagonal and pentagonal cobbles, there was so much wind and rain I thought I must be in mid-winter. Perhaps Northern Ireland deserves such weather but not I, not I. Given better conditions I would have walked longer, but it was getting late and I was cold and wet.
16 July, Aldeburgh
A touch of Chopin on the record player. More than a touch of humidity in the air. Rain is expected across the country tomorrow. The garden looks in need of water, looks in need of weeding too. Here with Adam again.
EER 268 broke all records for minimum stringer payments. I kept them below £300. There were two long Irish stories I wrote, a report on an IEA study of coal stations, and the Piper Alpha story which had to go on page one.
Off to the dump when Adam wakes. Trimming that laurel hedge was hard work yesterday, and the cuttings have filled three plastic bags. I’d prefer to have the hedge thinner but the inner main branches have long since been too thick to cut. The hedge was covered in a kind of white mould; this worried me until the lumbago lady at 17, on the other side, told me it comes every summer.
I have finished Adam’s room. There was clearly no point waiting for B to find a wallpaper so I picked one from the shop on Willesden Lane. From a distance it just looks like a regular pattern of big dots and little dots, but in fact the big dots are half rainbows with four bands of colours, the same colours as I’ve painted the pipes and window frames. There’s a light red/multicoloured carpet on the floor. It is a relief to have Adam back in his own room so I can sleep in the bed.
Why is that when I buy ‘The Observer’ these days I can never find anything I want to read. It appears to have travelled to a land of blandom.
A day working at home. By mid-afternoon, I finish all I can do on Fay’s poorly-compiled energy profile of Norway. I spend more time on it than if I were to write it from scratch, and I’ll still have to pay her. After that I work on Belinda. I haven’t touched her since I finished chapter 6 - the point when Belinda disappears. Chapter 7 starts with the narrator’s return home (after a trip to the US) to find his wife sobbing. She says nothing at first but eventually recounts - in a trance-like way - how Belinda has been snatched. (In fact I, as author, know she hasn’t been snatched but that Susan has dumped her body thinking she is dead - but this is all besides the current point). How does the narrator feel on hearing the news, how does he react? I draw a blank. How should I know how my narrator will behave, nothing similar has ever happened to me. How can any writer know such things? An interesting question. He can’t, without experience. He can guess, he can try and imagine. But his imaginings must, of necessity, be based on any personal experience of events, or feelings, or on the sum of things he has learned from reading other writers, biographies, talking to people, amassing intelligence about the human race. The point is, his reaction can’t be invented, it must have a semblance of accuracy, that has to come from somewhere. Completely stuck, I looked again through Ian McEwan’s ‘The Child in Time’ which has a similar scenario for the passages where father loses daughter. In fact, father loses daughter in the supermarket, and his actions, rather than feelings, are described. Therefore, the most interesting parallel would have been his wife’s reaction when he returns home. McEwan, however, runs out on the problem, and he closes the chapter at the very moment the wife realises something is wrong.
I have trouble finding a lodger for the front room. I see a solicitor, a chartered accountant, a computer programmer (and cat), a publisher (too old and unemployed) but none are quite right for this house. I may yet choose the solicitor, but there’s something a bit wimpish about him. There’s an art to being smart on the phone, i.e. to putting off those people who would clearly not be suitable but attracting those who might be.
Dukakis is duly elected the Democratic nominee for president. He is so small, and the lively Jackson so colourful next to him.
What dirty game is Iran playing? The Ayatollah confirms the ceasefire decision. Is he running out of men, money, arms, or all three? The UN is in a flurry trying to mediate. One paper sees the influence of a new and moderate speaker in Iran’s parliament; another suggests Iran’s acceptance of peace terms is no better than losing the war; and yet another believes Iran is unlikely to hold to the ceasefire terms.
Lawson raises interest rates every few days in a pre-emptive strike against the economy over-heating and inflation. Mortgage rates jump to 11.5%.
At the FT, I lose Nicky, for Tracye has returned from Africa, and Insurance has taken the opportunity of gaining the other half of Nicky.
I had a very detailed dream - it reminded me of a Raoul Dahl story. I live in a large flat, an attic in a mansion house like along Fitzjohn’s Avenue. I allow two hobo characters into the flat. One is older and fuller in figure, the other is more of a sidekick, smaller, younger, slighter. We talk about this and that, and they try to wheedle things out of me. I enjoy the game, and don’t let them have anything. But then I sense some danger, and decide it is time to be rid of them. As I lead them out, I see a pile of paperbacks I don’t want, and hand a few of them to the older man. He stops near the door, in an alcove, and starts to finger one of them. The younger hobo has disappeared through an outer door and is busy laying a trail of wet pieces of paper. They are soaked in petrol. Then I realise the older one was tearing pieces of paper also and laying them on the floor. I understand they are going to set fire to the house, to my flat. I hurry the older man out through the interior door, and, as I do so, I trip him over. He rolls down the stairs, diminishing in size. At the bottom, he rolls across a small landing and through a hole in the wall opposite, to disappear into the dark labyrinth of the house for ever. Simultaneously, I am aware that he will now haunt the house but that his friend won’t be able to burn the house down.
Adam is such a charmer, and so well behaved in general. He still gets crabby when tired or over hungry or thirsty, but most of the day he is good natured and good humoured. Being so curious and intrepid, he tends to get into trouble, always finding objects he’s not supposed to play with, and discovering the most unsuitable play. For example, in the cemetery, I lie down on the grass and allow Adam to run off. He can run and fall as often as he likes, I do not worry about him falling against a gravestone. If I did, I couldn’t let him play at all. I let him pick up and play with leaves, sticks, mown grass. He can even put them in his mouth. I will not stir from lying on the grass. He can run off, hide behind bushes, be almost out of eyesight, I will not budge other than to keep an eye on him. Indeed, I find it hard to imagine any danger. But, he finds it - a cement vase full of water, water that may well be stagnant, so I have to pull him away. In the lounge he loves to open the cupboard and pull all the cassettes down to the floor, either that or tear up the day’s newspapers, or rock the TV table till it’s almost falling over, or put a hand in the plant pot and feed himself with soil. He does get bored of the same things and places. He adores to be out looking at things and places, and even more he loves meeting people, children and adults alike.
Adam does not yet speak but he begins to understand. Three times in a row, he gave me the correct series of four things I’d asked for. There was a brick, a beaker, a shoe and a ball. I said, give me the ball and he gave it to me etc. This knocked me out, to experience him understanding so much, but I fear it must have been a fluke because he hasn’t repeated the feat since. I am also beginning to realise how many ills that befall children and their development occur through repeated or reinforcing of the wrong behaviour. For example, in new situations and places, Adam needs time, time and support. It must be all too easy to believe he doesn’t like the place or situation simply because after a few minutes he is still clinging to me, and not interested in whatever bit of the world is around him. But, all he needs is time with focused support/attention. I’ve noticed this in a new park, when ten minutes or more seems like a long time if he is showing no interest in anything but in clinging on, and yet perseverance paid off: after some while, he began to explore, and go further and further afield. The same thing happened in the bath. He was terribly scared and would not relax or play in the water. But I held onto him for ages, and then he began to get used to it. How easy to reinforce a fearful first response by lack of patience, or by a lack of realisation that patience is all that’s needed.
I am also understanding that there are traits of behaviour easily controlled at certain ages, but which later might be extremely difficult to deal with. Timing is the key. I think, for example, now is the age when punishment can already be exerted to great effect. I have slapped Adam’s hand two or three times for throwing his beaker on the floor. He cried badly - in other words he recognises punishment - but has not thrown his beaker down again.
By not being afraid to let Adam fall down stairs and off beds (within reason) we have already taught him how to move backwards safely. If we were to lift him every time he approached a hurdle, he would not be learning about danger or techniques to avoid it. I am keen to allow Adam as much freedom as possible, and I surprise myself at how calm I remain when he courts danger.
In Pizza Express, Hampstead, on Sunday, I let Adam wonder all through the place, regardless of the busy waiters and other assorted dangers. It was only when I perceived other people troubled by him that I went to collect him up. One five year old seemed to positively cower every time Adam approached.
Experience is all. Only through experience does learning come. Often, I’m sure, we deny our children a multitude of experience because of the risk of harm. But the relative risk of harm is often so minimal. What is the harm of a screwdriver? That a child will poke his eye out. But, if he’s played with pens and spoons, he will already have learned not to poke his eye. What is the harm of fire? That a child will burn himself. But if he’s played near hot radiators, and been allowed to approach fire under supervision, been allowed to feel its heat, then he’s much less likely to harm himself seriously if left unattended momentarily.
Adam and I lunch with Vic Peeke in the Cosmo Restaurant. Such awful meals in the Cosmo - cooked and arranged on plate weeks in advance, then microwaved. David Hunter tells me Peter Savage has become editor of ‘Chemical Week’. Vic is surprised. Vic may go to Houston. He threatens to leave his yacht with me, moored at Aldeburgh!
Friday 29 July
Issue 269 of ‘European Energy Report’ bites the dust. A dull issue. The strongest story, the only one that could possibly have gone on the front page, was my own, about the select committee on energy severely criticising Cecil Parkinson’s electricity industry privatisation plan.
Tracye, the earthy Australian woman, is back from Africa, and back working for me. Just as Nicky was settling down, and beginning to do a good job, beginning to show signs of intelligence and responsibility, she was snatched away by Jayne in the insurance newsletters. I am not so unhappy. Tracye is much quicker than Nicky, and harbours less pretensions. I can joke and confide with her more, I don’t know why - is it do with class?
This week there has been much activity at FTBI, many corridor conversations and much gossip. I do not know what about. I am always the last to hear any news, whether it be about EPAs, new offices, or staff changes. I have my job to do, and I do it. I only get involved in politicking when my newsletter is directly involved. Some of the editors seem to be forever hobnobbing with deputy manager Philip Marvin and manager Dennis Kiley, but I cannot imagine what about. When the circulation lists are examined, EER has one of the highest subscription bases (‘World Insurance’ and ‘North Sea Letter’ are in a world of their own, while Gerard’s ‘International Coal Report’ is midway between the two leaders and the pack).
The imminent departure of Patrick Heren might be one cause of gossip. He moved from the FT’s International Reports to the ‘International Gas Report’ after innumerable lunches of persuasion between he and Andy and Chris. He signed a six month contract which expired today. Next week, he starts as bureau chief of ‘Petroleum Intelligence Week’ (PIW), one of the most authoritative publications in the industry. Personally, I think its competitor, ‘Petroleum Argus’ is now much better, providing excellent commentary on the markets, and equally excellent analysis of major news items. PIW has been owned by an American woman, though she recently decided to sell up. Her loyal and long-standing staff promptly resigned when she refused to sell it to them for a knock-down price. Patrick, as it happens, had met the new owner in Washington, at a gas conference, and has probably doubled his salary overnight. An offer he couldn’t refuse!
Patrick is disabled through childhood polio, and needs two crutches to get around. They creek so loudly I can always tell when he’s coming in. He is very good-natured and self-confident. Andy and Chris clearly look up to him, yet I saw no particular evidence of any particular editing or journalistic skill during his six months running IGR. If anything I found his journalism a touch over-confident. Yesterday, he brought in a book for John - an autobiography by his father, Louis Heren, who is apparently a very well known journalist - from messenger boy to foreign editor he lived his life for ‘The Times’. Patrick has inscribed the book with a message and signature to John, as though it were his own book. Later in the day, I saw him poring over all the newspapers, carefully cutting the reviews.
The sun was out most of yesterday, but a cold wind blew across the town. Buddleias and hydrangeas, roses and fuchsias colour the gardens. I have some peach-coloured dahlias in a vase at the front window. They look so lovely, and set the room off a treat. Six photos of Aldeburgh on the wall (in frameless frames which are a bit modern for the room) look splendid, and I am proud of them. Barbara has not come again, and I am lonely without her. On Friday, I broke the big mirror in my bedroom. I am scared of seven years of bad luck. They say life moves in seven year cycles. I cannot see any more upward possibilities for me. This is so frightening. I become distinctly less interested in entertainments, yet work does not excite me either. From leaving college to 28-29 was one cycle of seven years, largely a downward cycle interrupted by travelling; from 28-29 to 35-36 has been an up cycle; and now I’m about to embark on seven years of down, I fear.
Family matters. I call Dad to arrange a Sunday pub meeting. I like him to see Adam and Adam to see him. He tells me Melanie and her husband Julian are in some form of crisis with legal eagles taking over their bankrupt company. But, as I said to Mum, the venture was fraught from the beginning, she was young and inexperienced. It was an adventure. She may not have made a fortune, she may be in considerable debt, but she will have learnt an awful lot, and the experience will be very valuable. Plenty of time for more beginnings. My brother, Julian, meanwhile exchanges contracts on a £155,000 terraced house in Ealing.
Paul K Lyons
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