PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1989 - DECEMBER
Monday 4 December - morning
Very cold frosty days, blue skies still delight and cheer us all, even though the mornings and evenings are so dark. I wake and get up somewhere between 7 and 7.30 usually, but what am I to do then, it is so dark, and my body absolutely refuses to turn on lights. I make myself some tea in the dark, drink it, and contemplate what to do. The easiest option is always to go straight into work and, in a production week, I can justify doing so.
We may have struck lucky with Tracye. She is only the third agency temp we’ve tried, but she has stuck out her first week with intelligence, good humour and a keenness to work hard. The other temps left within hours of arriving at the office. In fact, Kenny and I thought she had done the same: on her second day, last Tuesday, she didn’t turn up at 10, as planned, nor at 10.30, nor 11, nor 11.30. I was quite upset to think I had misjudged her so severely - she hadn’t even rung by midday. Well, it transpired that she had had her bag stolen in Charing Cross station, and being so devastated by the loss - the bag contained all her money, cards, keys etc - she had been taken home by a policewoman who did finally ring us about midday. Tracye was still in tears. It costs her £120 to have all the locks on her house changed, she lost £80 in cash, she lost her leather bag, all her Christmas cards, which were signed and ready for posting; etc. But on Wednesday, she came in full of good cheer and, apparently, not a bit burdened by her loss.
But there is some bad news at the office. Andy has been taken ill, perhaps very seriously. Early in the morning, about ten days ago he had a major fit and was hospitalised for a few hours. After being let out, his fits and dizzy spells continued, so he went to a private hospital, on the understanding that FTBI would foot the bill (Dennis had urged him to go private). A brain scan revealed a tumour, and last week he was wheeled in for a biopsy. By Friday, there was still no news of the results, which I think bodes very badly. There was a bit of a to-do over the costs of private care since it transpired that Andy hadn’t signed the company’s free insurance policy, and was thus not entitled to any payouts at all. As soon as Dennis discovered this, he was obliged to telephone Andy’s wife Clare and tell her - a rather painful conversation I imagine. That then incensed Andy’s friends, Walter Patterson and Gerard McCloskey (the three of them being linked by a fairly profound dislike of nuclear energy), and sent them running to the National Union of Journalists, screaming for FTBI to be made to foot the bill: not only has he worked seven years for the company, not only is he editing one of the most successfully launched titles of recent years, but he has also brought FT newsletter more publicity than they dared dreamed of, through his constant detailed criticism of the electricity privatisation and the publications of several and various leaked documents. One of these leaks, just a few weeks ago, provoked (or at least seems to have provoked through the coincidence of the timing), a major government climbdown and the withdrawing of nuclear power from privatisation altogether.
Andy’s illness is severe. No one is quite saying as much but from the information I’ve gleaned today I would say he might be close to death. The tumour is apparently inoperable, it being lodged in a part of the brain which wouldn’t survive surgery. Instead, he is going onto drugs immediately, and possibly for the rest of his life, to control the fits; and he is starting immediately a six-week course of chemotherapy. Poor guy. Lucy spoke to him this morning, and he was talking about being back in the office by February. I hope he is. Lucy bought a large get well card with a still life photo of fruit and flowers on the front. On top, she montaged the ‘Power in Europe’ and FTBI logos, and inside she put a made up masthead with such notables as Lord Marshall and Cecil Parkinson responsible for production and subscriptions. We all wrote in the funniest comments we could think of. Chris Cragg has bought him a portable CD player, but his more valuable contribution has been to help tone down the arguments over possible medical payments to Andy. While the company cannot be seen to set a precedent in this situation by covering Andy’s bills, Dennis is sure to find a way to pay out some money, quietly and when the time is right.
I have plenty to keep me busy at present. I must develop EER and ECE ready for next year; I am under way with gathering information for my Management Report on East European energy profiles; and my University College project is also well under way now. Since moving offices, Kenny and I are less stuck away in the corner; more people come in and out of our office, I feel more plugged in to the society, more a part of the group than I have done all year. However, I still feel that I must be perceived as rather aloof. Only a handful of other office people know anything about me and that’s only a very little. Crazy, really, considering I’ve been there now two years. But I feel comfortable, at home, in the office, and often look forward to going there.
A short weekend in Aldeburgh, but rather a nice one. I had wanted to go for a real day trip somewhere; we haven’t been exploring anywhere new for ages. However, we got up late and it was very cold and frosty - I even drove down to the High Street to buy my baps. Instead, we parked just the other side of Leiston, and walked the half-mile path to Leiston Abbey. A gorgeous walk, through a patch of forest, across fields and, unexpectedly, we were given a view of the old ruins. The last time we went to the Abbey was 18 months ago, I think, when the neighbouring field was alight with blossoming rape. This trip was special too. The light was beautiful, the place deserted and Adam was so sweet. Adam and I wondered through the big and little arches, climbing up steps and over walls, B sitting on a broken wall enjoying glimpses of us as we disappeared and reappeared through the arches and holes in the walls. Then, finally, when I sat down a few metres away from her, Adam ran between us carrying the message of a kiss. He loved it, and must have gone backwards and forwards five or six times, each time carrying a kiss from his mummy to his daddy or from his daddy to his mummy.
In the afternoon, we caught the Sally Army band in Aldeburgh High Street. Adam stood riveted to the spot watching the players and all the people gathered round singing. I preferred to scour the antique shops for Christmas presents. In the end, I bought few things: a couple of scarves for Julian and Sarah; and some little lunch table gifts. For me, I bought a pair of olive-coloured casual shoes and a mat for my hall. Tea at Craggs. Adam gets the chewiest of biscuits which keeps him quiet for ages. We eat wicked cream and jam scones. In the evening, we listen to an American whodunit on the radio, and, as usual, end up in bed very early, falling asleep somewhere around ten. The Aldeburgh air is so invigorating, we get invigorated to sleep.
Poor Adam woke up crying very distressed about midnight. We had forgotten to put on a nappy and his clothes and bed were all soaked. And then, on Sunday, B dropped Adam from her shoulders while we were looking around the Snape Maltings craft shops. He slithered a bit of the way but then fell and cracked his head on the wooden floor - I was watching. Immediately an enormous bump came up. He cried only for a short time before reverting to his cheerful self. Usually, one can tell from the way a child cries and how long he cries, how bad a hurt is. In this instance, I was much reassured for he cried a very normal cry. Last summer, when he fell from my shoulders to an earthen mound, he cried for a long time afterwards, and he was limping, so I took him to the doctor the next day. On Sunday morning, Adam and I went for the long walk around the town; he walked nearly all the way. We sang ‘what a frosty frosty day, frosty frosty frosty’. As we approached the sea he turned to me and said: ‘It’s too cold to go swimming today isn’t it.’
Tuesday 5 December
The Conservative Party votes today for Margaret Thatcher or Sir Anthony Meyer. Meyer has been called a stalking horse. No one else has come forward to challenge Thatcher as Meyer had hoped, so he stands alone. The Thatcher loyals have dismissed the challenge as irrelevant and only likely to damage the party, but Meyer insists that the public are not so stupid and welcome internal debate. All eyes are focussed on the number of abstentions, since Meyer is unlikely to get many direct votes. Commentators are saying that 50-60 abstentions could seriously unhinge Thatcher. I don’t think there will be that many. My guess is we’ll see about 45 votes against Thatcher.
Upheavals continue apace in Eastern Europe, so fast that I cannot follow them properly. The entire government in East Germany has resigned as mass demonstrations continue on the streets; the people want to root out the endemic corruption which they believe is central to the current administration. The news from Bulgaria and from Czechoslovakia is not quite as colourful yet the changes are coming fast there too.
I talked with Andraz last week. He is far from happy with the developments in Hungary. He spent seven weeks during the summer there, and he has just come back from another three week spell. He believes those preparing to share power with the established rulers are equally corrupt; they just want to replace one bad system with another. He would have liked to see a popular uprising as in the GDR or Czechoslovakia. To move from the kind of Communist system that has been in place now for forty years, I say, to the sophisticated democracy which he sees in Britain is not possible overnight. But I think Andraz has been taken in by all the media hype from other East Bloc countries. There will be no easy transitions. Most adults in East Bloc countries know only Communism - the ways in which people think, live, act have all been affected by the parasite of communism. The kind of social skills and characters that have been successful under Communism are different from those that might flourish in a democratic system. The institutions and administrations will have to develop their own democracy and new ways or working. It will be a long and painful process. They may yet find the road too tough. It is probably the very people that are shouting the loudest now that will suffer the most under a more market-orientated system.
Last week I met up with Raoul and Andy for a night at the Bush Theatre followed by a Tandoori. As usual they arrived as the curtain was going up (though there is no curtain at the Bush, neither are there any seats, and when the place is full, one can neither lean back nor stretch one’s legs forwards.) The play, set during the sixties in a Wexford Betting shop, was good: the playwright’s characters were powerfully acted out by a well-chosen cast. The play itself appeared to have been written in the style of the period, with five or six characters interweaving their history and relationships through the vehicle of the betting shop, with those relationships slowly revealing the underlying tension, and providing a suitable climax in the last act.
Neither Raoul nor Andy had much news but our conversation has time-honoured routines which we can always call on if necessary. I resisted the temptation of telling them about my liaison, much as I would like to have seen their envy - well Raoul’s anyway. I suppose I feel some responsibility and am worried about playing a subversive role with Raoul. If he knew I was freewheeling, next time he got randy away from home he might think of me as an example (a bad one).
Friday 15 December
Christmas madness slowly descends on us all, there is fever in the high street; no one walks the pavements without their hands full of carrier bags. Coloured lights festoon every window, soon-to-be-dead Christmas trees are more common than real live trees. I have been buying presents already, bits and pieces. Mum gets a camera, Melanie an umbrella, Barbara a clock radio, Julian a film guide book and a cassette probably, Dad a book on jazz. All run of the mill stuff. A few knick-knacks to give away over lunch at Mum’s on Boxing Day. I’ve bought tickets for us all to go to see a Trevor Nunn musical ‘The Baker’s Wife’ on Boxing Day night. I’ve also bought tickets for B and I to go and see ‘Romeo and Juliet’ on B’s birthday, the 27th. I’ll probably get round to writing some Christmas cards this weekend - though I hate sending them. It always embarrasses me so that I only get half as many as I send. I suppose I should have sent my foreign ones by now. Times like these I always bemoan how few friends I have. No new ones since coming back from Brazil. There must be something wrong with me. I’ve worked at FTBI now for more than two years, and there is not a person there I could call a friend. My telephone hardly rings, and if it does it is likely to be Barbara, or my Mum, or next most likely Julian, Judy or Rob. And no one else. What will happen to me in 1990?
Barbara rings. She’s about to catch the 6pm train, so they’ll be here a little after half past seven. Her course finished today, and she had to hand in all her pieces of work. She must be relieved and probably needs a rest. That she has managed to keep pace and get reasonable marks is a credit to her determination and hard work. Hopefully, she can relax a little next term and next year, and organise her work load a little more lightly. This weekend B will go to a party at Brent’s while all three of us will go to a party at Judy’s on Sunday. And tomorrow morning we will probably join every man and his family at Brent Cross to do some joint Xmas shopping. I am so looking forward to it.
Caroline has gone off to Paris and Rome in search of romance - she’ll probably be back a few days after Christmas (she is restarting with Phantom on 2 January). I had a vague plan to meet her in Switzerland at her sister’s ski chalet but the plan fell through. Now I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t go somewhere after Christmas anyway. See if I can find a cheap flight to nowhere. If I stay here, New Year’s Eve is sure to give me a headache through not being able to choose which of a dozen exciting invitations to choose. And this New Year’s Eve is that much more special since it is the eve of the 1990s. Oh! I do hope I’m in a position to really celebrate on the eve of 2000. What an old fart I’m becoming.
This is yet another exciting diary entry.
The last few days were rather panicky with production deadlines for both ‘European Energy Report’ and ‘EC Energy’. Tracye has rejoined us, and although she did almost all the typing, both Kenny and I were overloaded with work. We produced ‘EC Energy’ at 16 pages. I had a sheet of paper inserted inside the front cover warning readers it was their last free issue. Subscriptions are up at around 100, with perhaps 20-30 of them from EER subscribers, but that is only 5%; I was hoping to hook at least 10%. Some may still come in before the end of the year. We shall see. I have secured an interview with the Energy Commissioner Antonio Cardoso e Cunha for 8 January (also advertised on my insert) and maybe that will attract a few more customers. Next year, we will be publishing ‘EC Energy’ in a different week to ‘European Energy Report’, so our schedules will be more even and less panic-stricken, I hope. If ‘EC energy’ looks like failing mid-year, then I shall subsume it into EER and have a go at an environment newsletter.
Over the Christmas period, I must get moving on my two projects: primate paternalism and the East European profiles.
The forced repatriation of Vietnamese boat people from Hong Kong heads the news headlines at present. The government has had a bad press on its policy, and has even incurred the criticism of the US, which is, of course, a joke, considering the way it treats all illegal Mexican immigrants. It is quite clear to me that the Brits need to send a strong clear signal to Vietnam that economic refugees will simply be returned, otherwise the poor from there will continue to swarm into Hong Kong. A figure of 150,000 possible immigrants to the UK has suddenly appeared in the press today - Conservative back benchers are apparently up in arms.
Going back a few days, I should record the events of last weekend, after all they were so stimulating. There was the annual dinner at Dad & Michele’s. The meal was, as usual, lavish but completely characterless. Adam wouldn’t go to sleep, but neither did he make a fuss. He’s becoming so conscious of people and things and his bedroom was right next to the dining room. He probably lay awake listening to all the noise and chatter. The evening dragged on until well after midnight, we just couldn’t get away before then. Sarah showed Dad the wedding pics, which inspired Michele to get out her wedding pics. Oddly, I wasn’t in any of them, and yet I’m sure I was there. I’ve looked back in my diaries but cannot find a reference to it. The period was a very black one for me, before I’d moved to Iverson Road, I think, and entered journalism, so I could well have gone but deliberately stayed in a corner somewhere and made a point of not being photographed.
That was Saturday. On Friday, I was in Brighton. At the nursery party for parents, I didn’t really manage to socialise very much. B has met a couple with a baby that live in the same road. He is a lecturer at college, a rather slight man with a colourless personality, while she is an immensely dour women, appearing three times older than what must be her real age. She looks like she is her own grandmother. The party had suffered somewhat from a robbery the day before: a truly petty thief had stolen all the raffle presents, and the staff had to rush round trying to find replacements. Many of the businesses which had donated items made a second donation; and, in the event, there were dozens of prizes. Of all the possible ones to win, Adam (for it was his name scrawled on the back of thirty or more tickets) won the one least useful for him and B - a chicken. I had to laugh. I have yet to claim it from the butcher’s shop run by one of the parent’s fathers.
Boxing Day, 26 December
The lives we live, us ordinary folk. We make the best we can of limited circumstances and limited skills, mental and social. Christmas is a fine celebration, a fine tradition. To walk through the streets of Aldeburgh and look at the decorated Christmas trees in the windows of so many houses, the coloured lights, the tinsel, the baubles and the flower arrangements, is to remind oneself of how important such traditions are in our lives. A rich culture has many traditions to embolden and colour its people’s lives. That Barbara, Adam and I celebrated Christmas in Aldeburgh together yesterday morning, before driving back to her parents’ house, only seemed to highlight, to me at least, the smallness of our lives. I am not against the tradition of celebration, though I probably was when younger, but I think it should be in proportion to the momentum of feeling behind the celebration. Ours was very small and very quiet. Barbara had distributed a few sprigs of holly around the lounge, the presents were laid out on a shelf around a vase of holly, Adam’s Advent calendar stood there also, and a few Christmas cards were spread across the mantlepiece. I had actually left Barbara’s presents behind in London, so there were even less presents than two people and a child engender. But this was the size of our Christmas. In particular, I am making a comparison with another celebration that being lorded over, so to speak, by a man who came brushing into the High Street vegetable shop, on Friday morning, when I was there, demanding a crate of mandarins and a few onions. He may have been a few years older than me, but I imagine him to be in charge of a large houseful of relations and friends. Just a couple of years off forty, my domain feels so small and tiny and . . . fragile, I suppose, since Barbara and Adam are only satellites, if close ones.
This is the old Paul, the unsatisfied one, speaking, he will never die not till he dies. He will probably become a grumpy, lonely old man; resenting that things never quite worked out for him; and he will pass away never quite understanding why he could never make friends, and why he found society so hard to find.
Our Christmas morning was sweet. Barbara was up first, before it was light, having regressed back to her own childhood. While she was downstairs, I nipped across the landing and brought Adam into my bed. He and I don’t often have a chance to cuddle up together as B is usually in the bed too. However, we have never been able to sleep very well, both he and I wriggle a lot; so I sent him downstairs with a merry christmas message for Mummy. I could hear them talking and Adam asking when we could have breakfast, having been told yesterday that we couldn’t start on the presents until after breakfast. Before very long, and still before daylight had fully descended, B was jumping up and down on top of me like a seven year old, wanting me to get up; and then, having resisted in the manner of a jaded old Daddy, she sent Adam up to pull me out of bed. He did it with such charm and style, that I could not refuse him. All these three days in Aldeburgh he has behaved with charm and style. I find it quite shocking how adorable he can be.
On the Sunday evening, A was sitting on my lap in front of the fire - all day in fact he kept clambering over me, on my back, on my knees, up my legs - and he kept turning round to look at the presents. Every few minutes, he would jump down from my lap and walk to the presents to have another inspection. ‘Is this mine, Daddy?’; ‘No, that’s Mummy’s’. ‘Is that Mummy’s present, Daddy?’ And then he would rush back to climb on my lap, as though he thought if he stayed away too long, I might not be there when he got back. He must have done this half a dozen times. So sweet. Whereas last year Adam didn’t really know what was going on, this year he has taken to Christmas in a big way. In Brighton, he met a Father Christmas who gave him a small dog and a jelly baby - he’ll tell you all about that if you ask him. He spots Christmas trees, Christmas lights, and pictures of Father Christmas when we’re driving or walking through the high streets. He is a bit confused over where the presents come from, because, on the one hand, I tell him they come from Father Christmas, on the other I tell him they come from Mummy and Daddy. I am confused myself, and already at the age of two and a quarter his questions seem to pierce any legend I might care to weave about FC.
We didn’t have breakfast first, neither B nor A were in a mood for waiting so we each took a drink and set about the business. I divided the presents into two piles, one for Mummy and Daddy and one for Adam. At first, A came to us for help with unwrapping the presents, but since we didn’t give him any he soon learnt to open them on his own; only with the product wrapping did we have to help him sometimes. As he pulled the paper apart he would always ask: ‘Can I tear it?’. I imposed a strict discipline over the opening - one at a time - Adam one present, then M & D one present. When it was our turn, Adam came and watched us opening a present with almost as much interest as with his own. We tried to spend a little time looking at and talking about each of the items, but Adam was always anxious to get onto the next one. Indeed, by the end of the day and after an extended gift opening session at Bs parent, I realised that the content of the wrapped presents was actually less important than the excitement of opening them. Hence, I suppose, the impetus, anima even, behind that party game - pass the parcel.
Adam’s presents this time were rather dull I suppose, not that Adam would really think them so; but B and I both had a laugh when, having half opened one present and declared ‘it’s a puzzle’ with some glee, the next time he was opening a present, another rectangle, he said even before seeing any of it, ‘it’s another puzzle’, also with glee. All his presents were rather educational, but I did buy him a battery operated jeep which has a flashing red light and traction tyres that let it climb up almost anything before rolling over and landing again on its tyres. Oddly, Adam didn’t want it to run at all. I kept switching it on and he would scream that he wanted it off. The same thing happened at the Collecott’s with a similar toy.
It was a pleasant time in Aldeburgh. The weather did not encourage expeditions - it blew a tremendous gale almost the entire time we were there. On Friday, though, we headed up to Norwich. Well, B needed to go shopping, and I was quite keen to take a few photographs somewhere different. As it turned out B failed miserably to get anything she wanted, and by the time we got out of Norwich towards Great Yarmouth and the coast, night had descended. Most of the time B was shopping, Adam and I spent at the Norwich Castle museum. I went there last year on my own, I remember. After a second visit I still think it rather a splendid place. It has so many different aspects: a natural history section so that A and I could look at all sorts of different animals, from polar bears to rats, from alligators to porcupines; and an art gallery so that A and I could look at and discuss various pictures (A was actually running up to some and saying ‘can we look at this one Daddy?’ by which he meant could I pick him up and discuss the objects in it). There were other sections on fossils and rocks, and antiquities. We also went to the top floor which has all sorts of exhibits laid out in the large space of the four castle walls, so that, whereas below you don’t feel as though you are anywhere special, on this floor you do. You can see the window turrets and the thick walls and feel the size and shape of a castle. In the middle of the floor, sits a cross-hatch metal grating not unlike many heating and ventilation grates, but this one covers a deep well that rides down through the castle to a deep dark (but dry) bottom. It is a very eery feeling looking down such a long distance, and Adam was immediately scared. As soon as he realised the depth of the hole, he pulled away, almost in tears from fright, and as I knelt down next to the grate and looked down, he came up behind me and tried to pull me away: ‘Come away Daddy, come away’, with his mouth drawn down at the sides and his eyes all red. I think this fear of heights is instinctive; in other words the normal state of the human infant (presumably many mammals too) is to fear heights, but human social conditioning allows these fears to be overridden often or largely. There is very little reason for parents to take their children near heights and let them become accustomed to them, especially if they themselves are afraid of heights. But, it is quite clear that with very little effort, I could make sure that Adam is not so afraid of heights when he is older. Already with this well, I was able to talk to him enough and convince him it was not so dangerous. Before we left, he had looked down with me and discussed the great depth.
The FOR SALE sign put up in the front garden by Heritage Estates has broken down. That symbolises how close we are to selling the house. In six months, we have not had a single offer, even though the house is the cheapest on the market in Aldeburgh. Not even a nibble, I find it really strange. The two very worst things about the house, unfortunately, are both visible from outside - the rotting front door and the miserable dirty colour of the facade; perhaps that has made more of a difference than I calculated.
1) I have leaf miner in my skin, I can see all the tracks. 2) I am best man at Sasha’s wedding, but I have either lost my speech or forgotten to write it.
We have run out of adjectives to express our feelings about events in the East Bloc. ‘Extraordinary’ was barely a sufficient word to give full expression to the events in Czechoslovakia and East Germany, in particular, but now with Romania, there is no way to describe the unexpectedness, the scale of events there. Within a week, a people’s revolution has toppled the hated Ceaucescus. Most commentators had been of the opinion that the ruthless police and security control in Romania meant that there was little chance of any change. In fact, of course, the reverse was true: given the situation of such a police state (even typewriters had to be registered with the authorities, I heard today) a sharp, sudden, bloody revolution was in fact the only way out. It did seem that Romania’s position - with change in every other country in the region - was now untenable. Late last night, reports of the execution of the Ceaucescus started coming through. Mark Brain, reporting, from the Intercontinental in Bucharest, said that Romanian television had broadcast a short video showing the hated couple cowed and pathetic on their way to being executed. He said it was the most extraordinary bit of television he had ever seen. A video of the execution will be shown, he said, but, with sporadic fighting by loyalist security forces, there are difficulties in getting it to the television studios.
The USSR, France and the US have already recognised the new regime in Romania, but the US has expressed some dismay about the lack of transparency in the trial of the president and his wife. Much as the world might have benefitted from a long and public trial (the advertising of evil being replaced by good, and the punishment of evil), and, much as Romania might have benefitted in the international arena, from being seen to be a newly liberal and fair society, Romania has not had a moment to look outward. Its domestic concerns are more than paramount, they are absolutely vital. People are still being killed, fighting is still taking place. By executing Ceaucescu without delay, those in charge are doing the very most they can to bring the violence to an end. The man was such a despot, such a powerful head of state that even in captivity he would be extremely dangerous.
Journalists are already swarming across the poor country, as though revolution in itself wasn’t a sufficient fate; Kate Adie, of course, has got there, and is filming the wounded and injured in hospitals. Reports on the number of killed vary from 500 or so to 70,000.
We all had a fairly harmonious celebration time over xmas. B’s birthday, on the 27th, included a present opening ceremony in bed, a lunchtime drink of champagne with Dad at his house, afternoon tea with Mum and a trip to the Barbican Pit theatre to see ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Boxing day had gone well too, with us all meeting at Mum’s for presents in the morning, a late and sumptuous lunch (asparagus soup, roast veal, orange whip), and then a trip to the West End in the evening to see a Trevor Nunn musical - ‘The Baker’s Wife’. All present - Mum, Julian & Sarah, Melanie & Julian, B & A - all enjoyed themselves. I haven’t much to say about either ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘The Baker’s Wife’. The former was well done, of course since it was the RSC, though the Romeo (Mark Rylance) left something to be desired. He had an irritating manner about him, and was not able to fully convince in the transition from wimp to killer. The direction was spot on, the acting was mostly a treat to behold, and the language a pleasure to interpret.
As with ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the theme of ‘The Baker’s Wife’ was also that infatuation (sex-love however diffused) leads only to great difficulties. For the famous lovers it led to death, while the Baker’s wife was given a second chance having run off with a local Don Juan. Really and truly her young life was much better placed in the hands of the aging if likeable baker. Only when the baker was happy did the village get bread. A predictable story, a bland production; full-scale mediocrity.
In front of us at the Barbican sat a family of four, husband and wife, and two boys - one about ten the other mid-teens. The younger one was certainly bored by the three hour play. He was well disciplined and fidgeted hardly at all, but when he did his mother or father, both flanking him, quietly restrained him. I wondered whether I will take Adam to see ‘Romeo & Juliet’ when he is ten? My immediate reaction was no, because of how easy it would be for a label such as ‘boring’, ‘difficult’, or drudge’ to be tagged on to poor Shakespeare for life. Why would it matter if Adam had no exposure whatsoever to Shakespeare until he was 25 or 30, for then it might ‘discover’ the joy of his plays for himself, what a treat. But then I asked myself, why is taking this ten year old to see Shakespeare different from the things I do and have done with Adam. I am forever trying to teach him things that are beyond his age range. I was talking to him as though he understood since he was but a few days old; I have been teaching him to look at words since he was one and half; and now I am making a concerted effort to push him towards recognising words. But, he is clearly too young to read - he cannot even really recognise numbers or letters yet.
Ah! but as I write I find a difference or two. Firstly, Adam is at such an age where he will not do anything that is too difficult for him; secondly, where there is parental concentration involved the tasks at hand can be tailored and manipulated to remain interesting, and the boredom threshold can be seeded too. Furthermore, Shakespeare is a very particular kind of stylised event; far better to get a child well accustomed to and enjoying the theatre before testing him with difficult language and a thin plot (as is the case in ‘Romeo and Juliet’.) Also, better to start him on Shakespeare at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park where a play’s broad and base level appeal are emphasised. It is a mistake to think that just because a) the plays were popular entertainment in their time and b) Shakespeare is the greatest playwright that ever lived, that the earlier the exposure the better.
This year Radio Four curtailed its news programmes and created bland and waffly one-offs for the Christmas period; unfortunately with such important news issuing forth from both Romania and Panama, the policy seemed rather misguided; you can bet the price of your TV licence they won’t do it again next year.
Indeed the news from Romania is that the Ceaucescus are dead, and most of their loyal security forces have surrendered, a new government is operating and promises elections in April I think. But chaos is sure to ensue: with no experience of democracy, with no traditions in place, no administration to follow, no rules, no guidelines, the most manipulative and most ruthless people will again rise to the top, just as Ceaucescu did. When the Russians took control of Romania there was, apparently, a very small communist party; its weakness from day one as a puppet government meant that someone like Ceaucescu could soon abuse the system. The turmoil in Romania leaves Bulgaria as the most backward looking of East Bloc states, even though Zhikov and his cronies have gone. It is the only one of the six USSR Comecon partners that is still under the control of a communist party. The next crisis for communism appears likely to be demands by Lithuania and other republics for complete autonomy: can Gorbachev survive the strain?
30 December 1989
The eve of New Year’s Eve and nowhere to go tonight or tomorrow night. I have encouraged B and A to go down to Salisbury, where they would have a good time. I have spent the last two days happily looking after Adam and must now get down to some work on the primates project. I did one useful day’s work last week, but that’s all; now, if I buckle down tomorrow and Monday then I may take a substantial bite out of my workload for the next few weeks. I must start working harder at work, too, on the East Europe profiles report; and I must also smarten up my two newsletters for a new look in the 1990s. On 8 January, I fly to Brussels for a few days; I have an interview scheduled with the Energy Commissioner, Cardoso e Cunha, which I hope will make the centrepiece for ECE 13.
I think I have decided that I will continue to write my diary entries on the word processor, but not exclusively. There are two main drawbacks to writing on the screen: that sometimes I want to write when I’m not near a screen (i.e. not at the office, home or B’s house in Brighton), and that I never handwrite. A third drawback may be that I am less lyrical, less inclined to be poetical, and can’t draw or doodle. So, I shall run a journal book in parallel - if I’m at home, the office or Brighton I can write on screen, if I’m on a train or plane, or in Brussels or Antibes or Aldeburgh I can fill the pages with ink. When I print out the processed pages they can be bound as 53A and the book can be 53B. Why didn’t I think of it before.
Another interesting possibility! I have new software called Notebook. I have used it for recording references to all the papers I have accumulated connected with the primate project. But I am now wondering whether or not I should use it to record notes about films and plays I see, books I read etc. I have long chastised myself for not fully recording ideas and quotes and information from various sources. A writer needs to be able to call on masses of information without too much hard work; I have a memory so sieve-like that I can barely remember an author’s name, let alone quote from him, or use his ideas; or use his biographical details for reference, or geographical description for colour etc. But with this Notebook software I could make an entry for every piece of significant information I consume; and the beauty of Notebook is that you can then create Views; these sort the Notebook entries according to whatever key word, or author name or film subject you care to choose. The trick is to code each reference in such a way that you can then be sure of catching, in a View, that which might be of use at some future date. For example:
DATE: 29 Dec 89
TYPE: Film (on TV)
DIRECTOR: I forget
KEYWORDS: Japan, food, noodles
PLOT SUMMARY: Young woman turned into cordon bleu roadside chef by two passing truck drivers. NOTES: An endearing film largely about Japanese food culture, but also showing connections with sex.
DATE: Dec 89
NAME: Spy Hook
AUTHOR: Len Deighton
KEYWORDS: Spy, Berlin
PLOT SUMMARY: In this first part of the new trilogy, Samson becomes a fugitive as Control is exceedingly unhappy about his discoveries concerning his wife’s defection and a large secret hoard of official funds. NOTES: Not Deighton vintage, but highly entertaining.
Have I got the time? Have I got the will? Isn’t it too late to start now? Is it possible to view everything I have so far consumed as the core of who I am, and what I am about to consume as the essential notes for my future writings. So that I could justify rereading, and rewatching everything again.
I am thinking of putting a bed for Adam in this study. I would need to distribute a good number of the books to other parts of the house; the lounge could bear more books, so could my parlour downstairs. Then this room could become Adam’s bedroom as well as my study. At night, when he sleeps I could work in here; when he plays I could read or write notes in the lounge.
A few words about Adam. He has become so charming, I can’t imagine I ever thought him as wonderful as I do now. His language ability never ceases to astonish me. Today, after I ‘phoned my mum, he told me that ‘My Grandma Barbara is Daddy’s mummy’. If I say: ‘I’m going to read my book about cars’, he will say: ‘Are you going to read your book about cars now Daddy?’ I should have done some taping of him this weekend, it didn’t occur to me, but I would like to write down some of his actual mutterings.
Yesterday, I was standing on the porch saying goodbye to Mum, when Adam shut the door, leaving us locked outside and him alone inside. I immediately looked up to see if my neighbour, David, was in but there were no lights on. Then, of course, I called Adam through the letterbox and asked him to fetch the keys for me. Fortunately, I knew where they were, and he ran and got them immediately. He could just reach to pass them to my hand stretching down through the letterbox. Even if he couldn’t have found the keys, I could probably have asked him to fetch his little chair and turn the knob on the door latch; that might have been a touch more difficult for him.
He is still very needy on occasions and needs to be hugged lots. Sometimes all he wants is cuddles, but most of the time he is extremely amenable to suggestions and if necessary will happily play on his own. However, he would more happily play around B or I and disturb us non-stop. He plays many imaginative games now: the wooden bricks in his bucket become Christmas presents or chocolates. He dives under the bedclothes to have a shower, or he rides the sofa-horse. He adores climbing all over me when I’m sitting on the sofa drinking a cup of tea; he curls up in hysterics if I have him clinging on my back and then pretend I can’t him. He adores stories and I am already reading him long ones without many pictures; he is very attentive even though I’m sure he can’t understand everything. I feel it is good for him to be listening to the language, to the words and to the sentence constructions. Sometimes we have a talk. I ask him what shall we talk about, but he hasn’t yet enough ideas to suggest something so I pick a topic like trains, or Mummy, or books, or Aldeburgh, and then I just lie near him, our faces just a few centimetres apart, and I talk about the subject until he’s ready to join in the conversation.
Caroline’s trip to Rome worked out less well than she had hoped, but the good times she had in Paris made up for it. She met her friend from the Frankfurt ballet and saw the company perform three times. It sounds an exciting group; the director actually directs the dancers while they are performing through tiny head phones. She stayed with a family friend - intriguingly called Caroline Hemming before she married - but whom she had never met. She was overwhelmed by the family’s rich lives, their work, their friends, the ease of their relationships.
31 December 1989, New Year’s Eve, New Decade’s Eve
I could have gone with Barbara to Salisbury; I could have gone with Caroline to her friend’s house; I could probably have persuaded either one to stay here with me tonight, but I find myself rather unmoved by the end of the decade, and have chosen to spend the evening alone. I feel in no way depressed that party invitations have not come my way; if I’m honest parties on New Year’s Eve are often rather an anticlimax: one find’s oneself wasting sincerity and kisses and hugs on some complete stranger. However, although I am not sad or depressed, I do have a sense of doom about myself (is this anything unusual?) for the simple reason that I do not have any keen desire to be with anybody at all this night. Christmas is clearly a family occasion and I am very happy to spend it with my family, especially now that I include B & A within that group. I think of my friends, Raoul/Caroline, Rosy/Andrew, Judy/Rob, Phil, Nilofer/Heide and others I no longer see Vonny, Luke, Anne etc; I feel no particular desire to spend time tonight with any of them. I am such a jaded old man, there is so little zest left in me; so little interest in the world.
Perhaps, I have some right to be a little jaded. I celebrated the coming of this decade, ten years ago, in fine style. It was my Corsica winter, and New Decade’s Night was celebrated in some style, with Harold and Roser, who finally arrived just after I had given up all hope. I checked my diary of ten years ago. I had expected them by boat on New Year’s Eve, and I was so disappointed when they didn’t arrive by the last boat. I couldn’t see how they would get to the island by midnight any other way. Ange, the Corsican husband of the English woman I knew, arrived unexpectedly at my studio around 9pm to take me to his house for supper. I was so grateful, having been so disappointed. They offered to let me stay the night, but I wanted to get back to my flat. Ange lent me his car. At the bottom of the hill - this must have been around 2am - I saw a light on in my studio, such joy leaped into my heart. They’d arrived by a late plane, and taken a taxi, something I’d never expected. We celebrated by driving down to the old tower and drinking champagne on the turret with a full moon blinding us with its bright reflections off the wild waves. How can I top that?
That decade then began with my breakdown the following summer, a slow recovery of self-respect through the next two or three years, and a steady climb through the decade. From being virtually penniless and positionless in 1980 I have become both financially and professionally stable. As much stability as I have gained, I have lost spirituality, or, if you like, lyricism. I’m sure my diaries and writings document this process far more accurately than I can describe. So now, at the end of the 1980s, what does the future hold for me.
Dreams I have lived: in the 1970s: to go round the world; to work with the Phantom Captain theatre group; in the 1980s: to become a journalist; to work in Brazil; to study evolution seriously; to have a child; in the 1990s??????
It worries me that I do not seem to have any precise dreams left. There is one about being able to live and work in the south of France; there is another about having more friends (and I have to be so crass here: friends of a higher grade, but I don’t know what I mean, I don’t know if they exist, and least of all do I know whether I have anything to offer such mythical creatures). And there is an even vaguer dream about having more power in my professional life, about being able to make things happen - but what things? There is one specific possible plan, and that is to move to live in Brussels, from where I could run ‘EC Energy Monthly’, become FTBI’s EC correspondent and come to grips with learning French ready for my retirement in Provence. But this has the enormous drawback of being far away from Adam.
So there we have it the sum total of my dreams; no more than a paragraph. Ah no, I have forgotten one: the dream to be a writer. That one is still hanging in there. Perhaps I am now more competent at the craft of journalism than I was when I lived in Corsica, but I am so far from having the right frame of mind, from having the time, from even having the inclination. An epic novel about rats still sits there in the back of my mind; but I now know that I will never write properly unless I have real time; and to have real time I need to give up my job. If I came into say £50,000, this might be enough financial security to leave work; but could I really handle the liberty again without crumbling into a bowl of dust. Do I have sufficient ability to make such a gamble worth the risk? I honestly doubt it, and yet I cannot understand how else I will find peace of mind.
Paul K Lyons
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