PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1989 - FEBRUARY
Friday 3 February
Last week was hectic. We launched the new newsletter ‘EC Energy Monthly’ (ECE). Kenny and I had much work to do, for not only were we expanding our normal workload from 20 pages to 28 pages but we had to completely design the new publication. Over the previous weeks, I hadn’t been able to resolve in my head how ECE was going to look. I thought about it a lot, but it became clear that I needed the actual material that was going to fill the publication before I could see how to arrange it, how to style the contents. This was not really possible until Wednesday, the day before the proofs were going to the printer.
When I redesigned ‘European Energy Report’, Tracye and I worked for days, printing out hundreds of copies of pages before I was satisfied. This time, though, it was easier. I decided ECE could be divided into two sections: one with long report-like stories, and the other with newsier items. The long stories I put at the front, the text broken up by sub-heads. For the back section, I found an innovative way of leading into each news item: a thin rule across the column above the headline, and a block capitals provenance above the line (i.e. which Member State or EC institution the story is about). It looks quite stylish, and very different from any of the other newsletters. For graphs and boxes, I’ve kept the EER style as, quite simply, these are the tidiest and best looking boxes anyone has got out of the limited software we use.
Of course, I undersold the venture, launched the newsletter so quietly that nobody noticed: I said it would be only 8 pages, and it was 12; I originally proposed a paper cover, but we ended up with a proper card cover; I called it a supplement but it’s a fully fledged newly-launched publication (as well as a supplement). Feedback on Monday, the first day it appeared in the office, was zero. Not a single journalist came in and congratulated me. Andy made not the slightest comment, nor Chris, nor Frank etc. No comment from the bosses (later they did give me a guarded thumbs up). I cannot fully explain this. Had another editor launched a new newsletter, there would have been celebrations, some back slapping, some hearty comments. I wonder if the other energy editors are reticent as, once upon a time, everything in energy was theirs, fully discussed among them, now I’ve done something new without them. In a way, I feel I’ve slipped the newsletter out through the back door, while Chris, Andy and Gerard were guarding the front door! If the venture shows some positive results, then I should be able to embark on another, bigger one, more easily.
The relationship with the Scots lad, Kenny, my EPA, is going well. His work is intelligent, and I feel I can trust him. Since the beginning of the New Year, I have him full-time in my office - which was, after all, one of the main reasons for me setting up the monthly. Hopefully, he is learning quickly, and, within a few months, will be able to put the newsletter together on his own (and, maybe, fax me the final pages wherever I am - I haven’t had more than a week off in over 18 months).
I should say a bit more about ECE. In the back of my mind is the thought that I might yet work as a stringer again, and maybe in Brussels. Thus, maybe, I am doing as I did with McGraw-Hill and South America: setting up a demand for stories which, later on, I can fulfil. I am interested in the EC, I find it stimulating. There could be a future in having specialist knowledge of energy in the EC. And, if I do feel the need to go abroad again, it would have to be close enough so I could get back see to Barbara and Adam often enough. Brussels could be ideal. Perhaps, in time, I could buy ‘European Energy Report’ from the FT, or perhaps I could write a management report about the EC and energy. Launching ECE is a concrete action. I have done it with the minimum amount of risk, but I have done it. I can’t think of anything commercial that I have ever created before now. I have always done other people’s work, and continued on other people’s innovations. I may have been innovative in a personal sense but never in a real world sense: I have never published a book, created anything new. This launch should give me confidence.
Armed with a copy of ECE, I went in to negotiate a new contract with my boss Dennis Kiley. Three days after its publication, he hadn’t seen it. He looked at it, liked it, and asked me what it was about! We went over the unaudited figures for 1988, and there didn’t seem to be any bonus for me. He then offered me a £1,000 raise to £25,000, and, maybe, a rise in my bonus from 5% to 10%. I said, I had hoped he might offer to put me on staff. He responded easily to this, and promised to support my request with the publisher (his boss). I can see no way of him wriggling out of this, without making it look like he has no control. I therefore take it as a given that he will get me on staff (despite all the rumours from others about how difficult it is to be taken on permanently). By accepting my request so simply, Dennis caught me off guard. But, once I’d left him, I began to feel dissatisfied, and the conversation kept going round in my head. On the news that night I heard that inflation was running at 7%. Well, a £1,000 raise on £24,000 is only 4%. That made me madder. As I was going to sleep, I found the answer: I would write Dennis a memo first thing in the morning. I knew he was seeing the publisher John McLachlan later in the morning. In fact, the memo turned out to make quite a case - 18 months on contract with no sign of a bonus or extras, and now, effectively, a salary drop. Plus, I made a point of reminding him a) that I had launched the ECE monthly; b) that the 1988 budget for EER had been formed without any regard to the launch of the in-house competitor ‘Power in Europe’. He rang me after reading the memo and said he took my point and would see what he could do. I may have had to admit my poor negotiating skills, but, it’s worth bearing in mind, whatever increase I get for the sweat of writing that small memorandum, will be cumulative: if, for example, I get an extra £500 because of the memo, that will be worth £1,500 over three years, and £3,000 over six years. A potentially profitable half-an-hour’s work on the memo!
We have not been to Aldeburgh for several weeks, and we can barely open the front door for the obstruction of free newspapers. Adam and I resume our early morning trips to the High Street to buy rolls and cakes. It is really quite cold but the sky is beautiful with the sun creeping up across the blue. Cloud and rain come later in the morning but clear by late afternoon.
On a short trip to Leiston I found a lady in a junk shop. I have no ladies in my lounge in London. This one is not ideal, for her size is smaller than average, and she is very brightly coloured. Yet, she is larger than the pipe smoker from Brazil which sits with the crowd, and she is a lady (and there are no ladies in my lounge in London). She was only £7. I could not resist her.
Barbara scours her books on perception for ideas on how to answer an essay question about beauty. I read up my first term genetics - Hardy-Weinberg and all that. I still do not understand it fully. I have the same sort of conceptual problems I always had with biology and organic chemistry. My mind doesn’t take to the ideas and models. They don’t sit well within the structure of my memory.
The house is lovely now. We have refurbished and redecorated every room, except for the kitchen which was the one room we liked any way. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I go into the bathroom, that horrible old sickly green has gone to be replaced by sparkling fresh colours of lilac and blue. The hall is now so bright and clean it is almost shocking, but what a pleasure to go up and down the stairway without being forced to look at grubby peeling wallpaper. There is an element of satisfaction too, in having recreated the house, having brought it back to health. I feel good in it. But, before very long we will have to sell it, there can be no other option.
However hard the last 18 months have been between us, I cannot imagine how we would have coped without this cottage and the visits to Aldeburgh. The house gave us so much to do, helped us put our personal difficulties aside for some of the time. The visits must have helped Barbara from feeling trapped in her small London flat. They got us out of London much more than we would have done otherwise; and they have given Adam repeated and consistent exposure to the more healthy environment of sea and country. Plus, the house has given Barbara a financial base of at least £10,000 I should think (the share of her profits from the house).
On the tape I have Astor Piazzollo playing. His accordion music is really special.
At the weekend Adam continued to be adorable. He understands so much now. He is both charming and happy. He has learned the meaning of many words. We can ask him: Where is the wall, the window, the book, the table, Daddy’s hand, Mummy’s finger etc. Both Barbara and I know what he knows, we can see him learning. This week I bought him some new books, each one with eight pictures across a double page spread. He knew at least three-quarters of them in one book on very first sight. When I tried a book with photos of animals in, I asked him to point to the kangaroo, just to see if he would know. Of course he didn’t, yet on one reading of the pages and me telling him the animals, he could recognise about half of them a few minutes later, and made very few mistakes.
Although Adam could recognise and point to objects in a room, until now he could not then point to the same things in pictures in books. Thus, this ability to identify well-defined objects with names, retain and use that information has developed very quickly indeed. This supports my general thinking about how there must be key moments in the development of brain functions, stages of neural connections, that make new functioning possible, and how these stages are not controlled by outside influences, rather outside influences affect to what extent the new functions are exploited.
Until now, both B and I have been firm about restricting Adam’s sugar intake. We give him nothing sweet other than fruit and juice and the occasional yoghurt. Yet, now, I am beginning to think this policy might be misguided. Sweets may become too special. Surely, a more intelligent approach would be to give him the full range of sweets in very low amounts and at very unspecial, unimportant moments. At the end of a meal, in the street. Never as a reward, or a bribe, just in the normal course of providing him with meals or snacks. There can be no question of him developing a so-called sweet tooth because we would only give him such sweets occasionally. B comes round to my way of thinking, and she tells me Penelope Leach says almost exactly the same thing!
On Sunday we took a trip to Laxfield where, the local paper assured me, the Museum of Childhood was putting on a junk and antique sale. It sounded like a good excuse to visit the museum. We’ve been meaning to go since, on the way to an auction at Diss, Barbara saw a sign to the place. Unfortunately, the sale turned out to be a waste of time - it was not a one off but a normal shop - and the museum itself was closed. We drove on to Framlingham, where we lunched in a pub within touching distance of the castle chimneys I like so much. The pub was full of parents chatting earnestly over a meal to their uniformed sons from the nearby public school. Adam behaved ever so well, considering how long I had to wait for my Guinness pie, but he did spill a drink over another child.
The day continued to be bright and sunny so I went for a walk across the fields, while Adam slept and Barbara studied. Day by day I think to move out of London, yet my situation at Aldershot Road is so convenient - shops, transport, central, two lodgers earning me a tax free £4,000 a year, which I need to support Barbara and Adam, and so on. It is hard to see how I could improve this situation without disrupting the financial and daily conveniences. If B moves to Brighton, for example, I think of selling this house and buying two flats, one in London and one near Brighton, and install one lodger in each. I think of my ultimate dream of living in Provence and wonder if I should invest now in France and so on and on, schemes and dreams go round and round, hampered by lack of money. I can save a little on my salary, but will probably need that to cover support for A & B if I ever give up my job. I try and sink my thoughts as deeply as possible into the scenery of my walk but am drawn back over and over again by the mathematical puzzle of utilising my resources better.
On the way back from Aldeburgh, Barbara so teased me with her secret idea of a holiday that would need me looking after Adam for a week, that I miss the exit from the Ipswich bypass to the A12 and consequently drive half way to Cambridge. She intends to spend close to £200 on a week’s driving tuition in Felixstowe so as to pass her driving test with as little fuss as possible. She expects me to disapprove and so doesn’t want to tell me. The idea is innovative for her, but suggest she wait perhaps until she sees some possibility of financing a car. In the end I say I will support her, and promise her £100 towards the cost. I could look after Adam sometime around Easter.
I arrived back to Aldershot Road around 8pm. The phone rings almost immediately. It is Mum. She tells me my father Frederic has died, has committed suicide. This gives me a good line of conversation all week - oh, my father committed suicide last week. Well, it is interesting news. Gail (Frederic’s wife) rang Mum on Saturday night to tell her the news, but was not very forthcoming with details. He died on Thursday, that must have been 26 January 1988, just a week before his birthday on 2 February. Gail thinks he was depressed. Apparently, he took an overdose with drink, and may have had a heart attack, and Mum assumes Frederic must have left a note because how else would Gail have known that it wasn’t an accident. That’s all I learn from Mum. I feel nothing inside. I settled my business with Frederic a long time ago, expunged whatever was necessary, and remain unmoved by his death. A few minutes later Martin rings. I tell him the news, and he is more shocked than I. Frederic is his uncle, and has seen him more recently than I. Although I feel no remorse, I am interested in Frederic. I have always been interested in him. And I find the lack of information about his death rather disquieting. On Monday night I begin to compose a letter to Gail, but I find it rather difficult. I need more information. I ring George Marlow who saw Frederic last summer. He says he talked a long time to Gail on the phone, but doesn’t know much more. Frederic was trying to write a novel, he says; and, although, he had helped Gail through hard psychological times, the relationship between the two had been rather difficult of late. Maybe I will find out more from Roxanne, who was in the US last week, and who may know more from her ex-husband, Mike, Frederic’s brother. But Mike is recuperating from Malaria in his Bar-sur-Loup house, I understand.
I wonder whether Gail had left Fred. I wonder whether the note he left, if he left one, was full of bitterness. I don’t believe suicide per se is something to be overly sorry about. Suicide can be a very positive decision against allowing age and sickness to eat away at physical life; it can be a positive decision against living further years in misery. It takes courage to die. Let no one say there are no good reasons for an individual to die. There are good reasons why society cannot condone suicide, and why religious and moral philosophies must advise against, but a free thinking individual given a life of repetitive boredom, or chronic sickness, or unending psychological misery, could quite well justify suicide. I have always believed this, and have no reason to think differently about my father.
On Tuesday, I decide to send Gail a telegram. I want to communicate with her more quickly than a letter will allow: and on Wednesday I send her a letter.
6 February 1989
Well, I was up bright and early this morning sitting here at the word processor merrily typing away, perhaps inputting is a better word, inputting a number of diary entries. In fact I was getting quite carried away and I probably wrote over 1,000 words. I’m not going to college this week (it’s reading week which means no lectures) so I can afford not to go into the office at the crack of dawn. This morning was the first time since before Christmas I had managed to get up and early and do some of my own work before leaving for the office. Then, I slipped downstairs for some breakfast and returned to the study. The sun streamed in through the window lighting up the room beyond the need for artificial light. so I bent down to turn the sidelight off at the plug. Horror of horrors, the word processor went off too. It was on the same extension lead as the lamp. All the morning’s work up in smoke. Now, what was it I was writing about this morning?
I receive a letter from Peter and Tony. They say they are sorry that Frederic has died, and Peter tells me what a nice man he was, and what good qualities he had. She fears I have a maligned image of him from my mother, and wants to make sure I think of him well. Tony writes a small letter like a child, as though Peter has told him to. She invites me to visit, but I doubt I ever shall.
At the weekend I rush around with Adam. I seemed to be forever taking putting him into and taking him out of the car seat. On Saturday morning, we go the three of us to Swiss Cottage swimming pool. I go in first so that I can have a swim alone; every other time I’ve taken Adam, I don’t get to swim even one length. Barbara and Adam come in together, and we play around a bit. Then, I take Adam to get changed leaving B to have a swim around. At £1.50 entrance, it becomes really expensive to take Adam and stay in for just 10 minutes. He gets cold quickly, but begins to enjoy the experience, and will even kick his legs about. I don’t expect anything of him, I just believe it is important for him to start experiencing as many things as possible as early as possible.
I spend the morning buying and installing a new saddle. For years now, I have had a hard spot on my backside which occasionally gets so bad it stops me from cycling. Only recently did it occur to me that the saddle might be the cause, and, indeed, on inspection I found a hard lump just underneath the saddle skin at the point where my sore is. All these years I’ve used that saddle and never thought a moment about it. A new saddle cost about a fiver and took me half an hour to fix on. It’s as comfy as a lounge sofa.
In the afternoon Adam and I go to visit Grandma. She has not thought much about Frederic’s death, and, as usual, is vague about her memories of him. It worries me that she says I did not care - did not even notice - when Frederic left. I find that really hard to believe. A three or four year old boy doesn’t take his father lightly. And even though customs were different then, meaning that fathers took less notice of children, perhaps, it is hard to believe I wasn’t attached to him. Surely his leaving left a scar - a disturbance at that age must leave the deepest sort of trace - around which my personality formed, later experiences layering themselves over it in an ever complex way.
On a simplistic level I can see that such a trauma must have a different effect depending on what age a child is. Julian and Melanie had to cope with their father, Sasha, leaving our mother, Barbara, when they were in their teens. But they could express the hurt, their lives were obviously affected in the sense that they could be disruptive, naughty, dismayed, distressed, and maybe about feelings. I imagine that if such a thing happened to a child of 8 or 10 then the hurt, the trouble would be nearer the psychological surface, and thus be more sensitive to disturbance in everyday life. Such traumas might be more amenable to therapy of various kinds. But not so a trauma in a child of 3 or 4 years old, for theirs is so deep, that a dense, intricate web has built up around it, layer after layer: to try and exhume the cause and exorcise the trauma would be like trying to recover a fossil from underneath the foundations of a great skyscraper.
On Sunday morning I drive down south early to see Raoul. He and Jack and Sophie, and me and Adam walk through Wandsworth Common to the adventure playground. Caroline is pregnant again. Raoul says she wants four. Good Catholics. And Caroline has no intention of quitting work.
Julian and Sarah are getting on extremely well with their new house in Ealing. They seem very happy, and are neither panicking nor slacking with their redecorating. Julian races off to play gold with his long standing friend Simon.
I’ve resisted for years the temptation to write all my journals onto disc, but the idea is so tempting. It will make editing them one day much easier. I write more on screen, and faster. Also, I am more fluent on screen. When handwriting in journal, I sometimes complete a sentence awkwardly rather than scrub/rub out a wrong word I’ve written down. If I can’t rejig a letter or two by overwriting, I will even change the whole sense of what I am saying rather than make a blot on the page. I wonder, now, if this goes back to essay writing at school, and being disciplined to hand in essays without smudges. (I do seem to remember writing out essays over and over again because I made some mistake half way down the page.) It’s also true to say that when writing by hand I can be lazy: I write what needs to be said, without caring how it’s said. One of the main reasons for writing in a book-journal is that I can take it with me anywhere. But gone are the days when I would travel a lot, and spend time in coffee bars, trying to capture the sense and smells of a place in words. These days, I only write here in this study in Aldershot Road, or at Aldeburgh, and I have word processing facilities in both places.
Friday 10 February, Aldeburgh
We rarely spend a weekend here which is not blessed by blue sky and sunshine. Rather than being down to luck, I suspect the weather in East Anglia is generally clearer, while London is cloudier. Or maybe there’s a subjective explanation: it seems that the weather in London is grimy, dull, less exhilarating because of the surroundings; while in Aldeburgh I am more prepared to put up with wind, cold and rain.
Adam now talks. He is 18 months and one week. He says Duk, when asked ‘What is it?’ before a picture of a duck, or a real one for that matter. When asked what a sheep says, he says baa; when asked what a cow says he says moo. When asked who Mummy is, he says Mummy; when asked who Daddy is, he says Daddy. This last is new today. He also says ‘bye bye’, ‘nye nye’, and ‘baby’. On a ‘where is’ level he can probably identify about 200 word objects. His memory for associations between real objects or pictures of objects and words has mushroomed in the last few weeks.
Currently, our favourite game is ‘Where is Adam?’. We play this on different levels. I can race around the room always away from him crying ‘Where is Adam?’ and he races behind trying to catch up with me giggling like anything. Or else we play it while I’m holding him in my arms. I just look the other way and quietly whisper ‘Where is Adam?’. He doesn’t move until I say it again, then he shuffles his face around until it’s right in front of mine, and I can’t miss it or him.
This morning we found a lovely walk. We parked the car on the new RSPB road towards Westleton from Eastbridge, and followed a track that led us to the white houses on Dunwich Heath, the ones that one can see from Sizewell beach. Because they’re on a bit of a cliff and are white, they stand out for miles. The view looks over Minismere to the nuclear power station. The walk there, though, crosses land covered in heather and ferns and gorse, and although the landscapes were largely chocolate brown, beneath the old brown growth new luminescent green mosses could be found everywhere. Such beautiful plants, smooth and soft to touch, pleasing to the eye, and a constant surprise on examination. So many different types.
It was probably the longest walk we had ever taken with Adam, close to three hours. We couldn’t have done it without the pushchair, fortunately the paths were easy. But Adam was as happy as a sand boy even though we had neither food nor drink to keep him quiet.
Both of us are relaxing this three day break, going for long walks, and doing nothing around the house. I try and snatch odd moments to do a bit of studying. For genetics, I intend to write an essay on the molecular clock, but, as for the course as a whole, I am greatly handicapped by not have any biology background. Biology and organic chemistry were always a mystery to me. I wonder if this has something to do with never being able to visualise the physicality of the substance of things. In physics, the models of atoms etc meant something to me, and I could attach the science to them, but in biology the models, the structures have no symmetry, have forms that are ungainly and unmemorable. Perhaps, in turn, this is to do with the structure of my own neural patterns - they are given to one type of learning as opposed to another. In effect, what it means is that I have to read and reread the same ideas over and over again to understand them at all well. I can get by with a minimum of biology for the rest of the course, even the anatomy in human evolution can be learnt in small patches relevant to the subject. With genetics, though, I need some molecular biology understanding just to get the basics of the course.
I have chose to focus on the molecular evolutionary clock because I have a fanciful notion, for my project, to look at the idea of time in evolution studies. I cannot for the life of me see how this would work, it is far too inter-disciplinary, far too vague an idea to be the subject of a simple MSc thesis. The clock is one of the basics of organising phylogenetic trees, and relies on the supposition that replacement of amino acids in protein strings occurs at a constant rate through time. It is far from clear whether this is actually so.
I am worried about saving tax on this house when we sell it. There are two ways of avoiding capital gains tax on the profit: 1) If B lives here as a dependent; 2) if it is rented out as holiday accommodation. I have written to Nyman etc for some advice but the accountant has been a long time in replying.
I take a roll of pictures. The last set of prints I took were about three months ago, and featured just Adam and/or I in a rowing boat, on a bench, standing in front of a pile of bricks. though the ones of us together didn’t work very well. This roll features Adam and Barbara again. I like to take develop a set of prints every few months to give B, her parents and my Mum.
After the egg Currie scare, the soft cheese panic: Thatcher and her cabinet have decided to take all this media attention on contaminated foods seriously and have set up an enquiry. Indeed, ‘The Sunday Times’ tells us that the PM has assumed overall control of the government’s campaign to restore public confidence in the food industry. ‘Tough new hygiene laws are also to be introduced.’ And, just when you thought it was safe to go to work on an egg again, a new report reports that as many as two million salmonella cases occur each year. Meanwhile, Currie finally bows to the pressure of her peers and gives evidence to the select committee dealing with omelette eggs. We all eagerly await her book on the subject to be serialised in ‘The Sunday Yolk’.
The Soviets are out of Afghanistan. What happens now is anyone’s guess. Fighting in Kabul seems likely. Many nations have pulled out their embassy staff.
Friday 17 February
A gruelling trip to Lyon and Bonn. Our feet barely touched the ground as we were whizzed from coach to plane to coach to plane. The Nuclear Electricity Information Group, a nuclear lobby group formed by all the UK’s nuclear companies and organisations, invited some 40 journalists on this fastbreeder jaunt. The FT, ‘The Times’ and ‘The Guardian’ were represented as were ‘The Scotsman’, ‘Yorkshire Post’ and several other regionals, and a few specialist magazines, ‘New Scientist’, ‘Nature’, and ‘Good Housekeeping’. Liz, from the latter, was keen to learn about nuclear energy, despite having little scope in her mag for much about it. She told me two pieces of fascinating information about her monthly: 1) it is an editorial responsibility of each journalist to write the letters; 2) they have six kitchens for testing recipes!
But was this gruelling trip about? The fastbreeder reactor. The next generation of nuclear power stations. We were taken to Lyon to see Superphenix, the world’s largest fastbreeder, and to Bonn to witness the signing of several accords over future design and research work. While near Lyon, our hosts felt obliged to show us one of the world’s most important PWR sites, Bugey, so we crammed two plant visits into one day.
I was talking to Andy Holmes today who said we were seeing the end of nuclear power. Steve Thomas, the expert from Spru (the science policy research group at Sussex university) holds the same view. The fastbreeder is a dead duck, it will never be built commercially. They believe the economics will work against it, as will the fact that it uses plutonium. They say an orderly retreat from the project is in progress.
We actually entered the reactor building of Superphenix at Creys-Malville. It is an impressive industrial cathedral, 60 metres wide, 80 metres high. One can only marvel at the engineering of it all, and indeed the design of what appears so complex a giant machine. But it has been out of action for a year, and is only now coming back on line. It produces expensive electricity by French standards, and will never be as cheap as the PWRs that are scattered across the country. Yet, the nuclear industry in France, West Germany and the UK are pinning their faith in the fast reactor for the 2020-2030 age. Originally, the timetable was much shorter, but the economics have changed due to low energy prices, and the high investment cost for fastbreeder technology. Andy and Steve may well be right, and yet I cannot understand why so many people would be willing to spend their lives on this, why so many companies are investing in it.
In Bonn, we were trooped in to witness the signing of formal accords on the European Fast Reactor (EFR) project, whereby one larger fast reactor will be built somewhere (nobody wants it apparently) by all the partners in the project, who will then be able to licence the technology in their own countries. The accords were for design, research and transfer of technology. It is far from clear, though, where the investments will come from.
Sunday 26 February, Aldeburgh
A cold again. I’m suffering because it arrived at the beginning of a busy week so I could make no concessions to it. Not only did I have the two newsletters to produce this week (the second issue of ‘EC Energy Monthly’), but college lectures and a variety of engagements as well. I didn’t stop all week long in fact, and now I’m suffering with a head cold, my sinuses are more blocked than the A1 on a Bank Holiday round about Scotch Corner.
I like it when my telephone at the office rings all day, correspondents, answers to my own queries, Carol from marketing, wrong numbers. But I got one call last week which was somewhat startling. Rosemary, the secretary of Dennis Kiley, rang me from home. She must have gone sick that day, for she told me that on her desk was an envelope marked ‘confidential’. In the envelope, she said, were some papers, maybe a letter, which she assumed were mine. How embarrassing, they are the computer-written diary entries (as above) that I had printed out so as to reduce in size on the photocopier, ready to paste into these pages of my journal book. The first few entries are about work, and about my new monthly newsletter. In them, I exaggerate my manipulation of the situation. If Rosemary read these then I will find it difficult to face her fully, and, god forbid, she should tell Dennis before my employment contract has come through.
Barbara takes me to the theatre. This is an event in itself, for it is the first time since before Adam’s birth that she has organised some tickets. ‘The Secret of Sherlock Holmes’ turns out to be entertaining if rather slight. Jeremy Brett is even more dramatic a character than he is in the TV series, but the play is thin for it rests on a single idea, and the rest is rehashed biography. That Professor Moriarty is but a multiple character of Holmes, a necessary Jekyll to the familiar Hyde, comes as no shock or even surprise as the writer and director have given us a few clues to the detective’s state of mind. The most famous appearances of Moriarty are neatly explained, though I imagine an aficionado would find holes in them. Barbara and I joke throughout about the lack of murders, even as we’re leaving the theatre we can’t quite believe we’ve been let down.
Now, Colin Dexter, the up and coming whodunnit inventor of Inspector Morse, understands this need all too well. Each chapter in ‘The Riddle of the Third Mile’ - my escapist reading for the weekend - carries a date head and a brief description of events to come in the chapter, thus on page 49 (of the Pan paperback which has been more badly edited than an FTBI newsletter, NB St John Street becomes St John’s Road in the same paragraph, and then there’s ‘enunicates’) and at the head of Chapter 7 I find ‘In which those readers impatiently waiting to encounter the first corpse will not be disappointed . . .’
I should add that Barbara and I are rather pleased with ‘Inspector Morse’. The TV has been showing both a new series of films and a rerun of originals. They are feature film length (two hours) and very satisfying. The plots are complex, with plenty of twists and turns, and the characters are always interesting. Inspector Morse himself and his sidekick Sgt Lewis provide a formidable detecting team with as many flaws as a Pan editor. The films are also photographed with intelligence and imagination. Thus, finding a Colin Dexter in a jumble, B bought it. As I am the sick one this weekend, I am reading it. And I am not disappointed. Even though I saw this particular whodunnit recently, I find the written story has lots of extra material to keep me happy. B is thrilled to find that Morse listens to ‘The Archers’.
I go to see Nyman Libson, where Paul Taiano has taken over all the Lyons business from David Messiahs. He is probably younger than I am, and has a child born the day after Adam, Emily. Without much ado, he simplifies my tax affairs enormously. Any payments to B are not tax exempt, and the tax man does not even want to know about them. The only sensible course of action over the Aldeburgh house is to GIVE it to B. This way I might avoid Capital Gains Tax. So, I shall give it to her, as soon as possible, and just hope we don’t have to pay stamp duty on the gift. CGT on this house will probably be over £7,000 net so it is worth saving.
I should say a word about Salman Rushdie. This rather arrogant and overly-erudite writer has written a book called ‘The Satanic Verses’ which has set the Muslim world alight. I suspect that Rushdie in his arrogance thought he might shake up the intellectual Muslim world a bit - the blasphemy in his book, of course, is deliberate - in order to try and drag the anachronistic religion into the 20th century. Unfortunately, he has discovered the religion is stronger than he is. Apart from the fact that there is now a death sentence hanging over him, one that might be exacted by any one of a million Muslims in this country or abroad, he has provided Khomeini with a tool for promoting fundamentalism, more treacherous, more dangerous, more effective than any he himself could dream up. Riots and demonstrations across the Muslim world, spurred by the proclamations coming out of Iran, have already resulted in a dozen or more deaths. The Iranian stance against Rushdie has been taken to heart by Western governments which are pulling out diplomats; and relations between Britain and Iran, looking so rosy of late, have now sunk to the worst ever. Rushdie is innocent, of course, with respect to this international activity, he and his book are but a catalyst. Within Iran, a moderate government is trying to re-establish relations with the world since fighting with Iraq stopped, but the hard line fundamentalists, including Khomeini, prefer to continue converting the Arab world back to a traditional value of life. The moderates cannot be seen to oppose Khomeini for he still has too much power. Fundamentalists all over the Muslim world are rallying to the Rushdie war cry, and Rushdie’s life life will never be the same again.
I’ll add one more note to this sorry saga. It seems to me that the media are more to blame than anyone else. Rushdie is an innocent, a nobody; and governments have to play international politics. However, if media owners - say Murdoch, Maxwell, the BBC and the ITV for starters - could find a mechanism to agree sometimes and decline to propagate certain stories, then millions of Muslims in this country would not even have known about Khomeini’s threat. It is the media that has telegraphed Khomeini’s wishes to every potential executioner.
Paul K Lyons
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