19 39, Monday 6 August 1990

The weather has cooled down, clouds are visible in the sky again and a breeze blows against our faces. Last week, the highest temperatures ever were recorded in this country - 98 or 99 degrees centigrade. Some people claimed 100 degrees but no official recording device measured that high. We were sweltering in the office, at home, on the trains, in the buses. It became really difficult to work effectively; there was so little breeze that opening windows made no difference at all. Kenny and I wore shorts into the office on Friday, though we were the only men to have dared so much.

Despite having won over Dennis with regard to Miriam’s job, the administrator Anna continued to plot and scheme last week. Unfortunately, she has found and utilised the only really weak spot in Miriam’s situation: officially her visa only allows her to be working 25 hours a week. This was the student deal she organised in order to stay in the country for another year. Anna and her husband, who run the temp agency, agreed to the deal and were prepared to pay Miriam for 35 hours of work but at a pro rata rate for 25 hours. Anna suddenly turned around and said that she and her husband could no longer do this, and that Miriam’s hours would have to be cut back to 25 hours. It was then argued that a different EPA should work for my ‘European Energy Report’. Anna brought John McLachlan, the publisher, into the argument since Dennis was away, and Philip was used like a puppet to try and persuade me into agreeing to this new situation. On learning that he, Anna and John were due to discuss this terribly important issue on the morrow, and having made no headway with Philip, I decided on my only course of action - yet another memorandum. But who to?

At first, I thought John should be my man because I certainly wasn’t going to memo Philip or Anna, but it didn’t feel right. Having given it more thought, it seemed cleverer to memo Dennis, even though he was way, with copies to the others. That would demonstrate my confidence in Dennis to John, and also give me a chance to put down on paper what he had said to me in the phone call of the Friday afternoon i.e. that nothing should proceed while he was away unless Anna got full agreement from editors concerned.

This memo succeeded in putting paid to Anna’s ambitions of getting rid of Miriam altogether; but the reduction of her hours to 25 hours sticks for the moment (even though Miriam has more or less proved that Anna has been lying outright about this, and thus she has been squirming to try and find new reasons why she cut Miriam’s hours). Sordid, oh terribly sordid. We now know of at least four different petty frauds Anna seems to have carried out in the past, all through the connection with her husband’s temp agency. Several editors would dearly love to have this information out in the open, but Dennis likes a quiet life and is unlikely to act directly against Anna without very clear proof of dirty business. In the meantime, life settles back to a normal routine; the only difference being that we don’t talk or smile at Anna any more.

Oh events in the Middle East have exploded once more, and we are all on the edge of our seats. Iraq has invaded Kuwait. Bye bye Kuwait. Rich and powerful your citizens might be, but no one has any good reason to come to your aid. Your friends in the Gulf dare not anger Saddam Hussein; indeed Saudi Arabia trembles at the prospect of being next in line for invasion. Saddam has been likened to Hitler: he has the territorial ambition and the extraordinary loyalty of Iraqi people following years of repression and propaganda. The US, Japan, the EC, and the United Nations have all condemned the invasion and the most comprehensive package of sanctions ever imposed are under way. The US and the UK have been talking very tough indeed, and both countries are now paying for this tough talk. Saddam has rounded up hundreds of foreign nationals in Kuwait, which remains entirely closed to the outside world, and is transporting them to Baghdad for safe keeping. Nobody is quite sure whether Saddam plans to invade Saudi or not. He has said his troops are moving back to Iraq having installed a puppet regime in Kuwait City and having created an Iraqi-controlled Kuwait army; however, it does seem as though troops have moved closer to Saudi Arabia’s border. There are very rich pickings indeed across the next border. Kuwait is full of oil, has enormous wealth, and has given Iraq generous loans over the years of war with Iran, debts that now will not have to be paid, but Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producer in the world and has pipeline access to the Red Sea and a long coastline along the Gulf. The US has suggested it might intervene militarily if Iraq should cross the Saudi border. It is certain that Saudi will not deem it prudent to join the world in sanctions, and particularly in denying Iraq access to the pipeline that transports Kuwait oil to the West.

The Israelis are dancing on hot coals. For a long time they have tried to warn the West about Saddam’s ambitions. Kuwait brings Saddam one step closer to its own backyard.

Other Arab countries are unsure as to whether Saddam will get away with holding Kuwait. If he does, they want to be his friend when the stink dies down, if they don’t they want to have been seen to have played the white man and supported the West in trying to make the world a better place. They cannot make up their mind what to say. They tell the West that it is an Arab affair and should be settled by the Arabs themselves, but they cannot make up their mind even how to approach Saddam. PLO leader Arafat is said to be ready to offer a peace deal involving Kuwait handing over a massive financial reward to Iraq and some border territory; but why should Saddam hand over any of Kuwait, it is all his. The fact that the world has frozen Kuwait assets won’t stop him using them eventually to pay for his own domestic needs. Overnight, Kuwaiti nationals have become paupers. But then why should they ever have been so rich in the first place? Only because the cold war and the West in general policed the world. Such a small and unimportant collection of Arab princes would never have survived so long otherwise. They should have stayed in bed with the West in the seventies rather than nationalising all the assets and playing greedy kings.

If I have to make a prediction now, on Monday 6 August, I would say war is on its way. I think Saddam will enter Saudi Arabia, I think the Saudis will fight, and I think the US will also fight. I am unsure as to whether the UN can do anything. Policing the Lebanon is one piece of work, trying to repel an invader is quite another. A horrible nasty war is on its way. Saddam will go down in the history books as the last major warmonger of the 20th century.

I have two months left in which to finish my project for the MSc. There is a lot of work to be done, I am not looking forward to it. The problems at work have pushed the Brussels idea to the back of my mind, and now I must concentrate on the project.

Since Adam’s birthday falls in the middle of the summer, he will always celebrate it out of school. B organised a little party. Neither the children that Adam really likes, nor the parents that B likes, seemed able to come. Out of twelve invited children, only five of his lesser friends came. Of these five, four have parents who have separated already! Three came with their mothers, and two with their fathers. It was a quiet affair, much less noisy and boisterous than I had expected. I found none of the children were a match for Adam. There was Rosie who, already at the age of 3 1/2, showed touches of real evil; there was Kate who is both physically and mentally retarded, though very sweet; Karl, whose parents have made him a vegan, and who didn’t seem to do very much; and Richard who did even less. Only Sophie seemed at all normal. She played nicely with Adam who responded by giving her a big cuddle near the end of the party. Food, of course, was the focus - orange and apple juice, sandwiches, crisps, ice cream, cake. Nothing very special, nothing at all pretentious, just plain honest children’s tea party stuff. The children sat at the table outside while we adults sat around on the garden steps chatting. I liked the two men better than the two women, but they were both really immature, hardly developed in their work, and very Brighton. A coloured boy, Sophie’s dad, was pleasant enough; he looks after Sophie on Saturdays. I suggested he call us and that he, Sophie, Adam and I could go out together sometime. A rum load of kids, a rum load of parents.

I drove down at five in the morning - it’s almost a pleasure driving at that time of day. Certainly in that heat, it was the only time to be driving. Adam and I went to the beach for a swim. He loves going into the water now; unfortunately the beach has a very sharp gradient and even small waves tend to destabilise a boy as little as Adam. I put him to bed for a sleep late morning so that he would be both fresh for his party and also alert enough to enjoy an evening visit to the fair. After the party and before the fair, we paid another visit to the sea. This time Adam sat on the stones while B and I swam a little. He can be so mature at times. He decided he didn’t want to swim; didn’t change his mind when we went in, and sat quiet as a fisherman some 20 metres or more back from the waterline, high up on the stones.

I drove back to London at five or six on Sunday morning and spent most of Sunday doing menial work on my project.

7 42, Sunday 12 August 1990

Although the temperature has dropped from the record levels of a week ago, there’s still no rain. Much of the southeast is under threat from drought, and a hosepipe ban has been put into force. Parklands everywhere are soil bare with few grass patches anything other than a savannah yellow.

The Sunday newspapers are predicting that war in the Middle East cannot be far off. Although I, myself, was forecasting war six days ago I am now not sure. Despite winning from the United Nations the most comprehensive package of sanctions ever imposed, the US moved, very suddenly and then swiftly, by sending a large military force to Saudi Arabia. It clearly felt that the Iraqi build up of troops on the Saudi border spelt trouble and that prevention was better than cure. Of all the United Nations, the only one that immediately joined the US was dear old GB. We are still a great nation, thanks to Maggie. I am not convinced she has much to win out of this crisis, and she probably has a lot to lose. However, from her position of relative strength, she can afford to help the US police the world - for that is what this is about. The Falklands was a clear cut case for Maggie; she acted courageously and rightly; we in the West have no direct obligation to Kuwait and Saudi and yet if we let Saddam get away with the aggression, the example will lie dangerously in the history books for all future leaders to follow when domestic pressures become too great, or when financial resources trickle away, or when personal empires are judged too small. By acting so swiftly, the US may well have forestalled an Iraq invasion of Saudi, we will never be sure. But what can Saddam do now; provoke a war for war’s sake? Possible. However, the fact that leader writers are all now saying that war is inevitable may have more to do with the importance of making it clear to Saddam the terrible consequences of his putting another foot wrong. In other words, I mean that the sources which the leader writers use will be together feeding out information about the likelihood of war: this might also serve the purpose of turning Saddam in the other, and ‘unexpected’ direction.

After a week of hesitation, the Arabs have finally managed a meeting and a response to the Kuwait invasion. Twenty Arab nations, including an Iraqi representative, met in Cairo under President Mubarek’s initiative. Twelve of them voted to send a peacekeeping force to Saudi Arabia, only Libya and the PLO (Iraq’s terrorist friends) voted against the move. However, the action looks rather impotent and very late against the Western response. Left to Arab hands, Mecca would be Saddam’s palace by today. Since the US and UK response, a few other nations are joining in on a unilateral basis. France has said it will send some military but has made it abundantly clear that it will do its own thing and will not be part of any wider force. Other European nations are picking choice planes or ships to send out to Saudi or the Gulf. The Australians are joining in, and the Japanese may even help. Although, a United Nations force still looks some way off, the build up of forces in Saudi and the Gulf has begun to look menacing, and there may be sufficient naval presence now for a blockade of Iraq vessels. With both pipelines switched off, Iraq will be anxious to ship some oil out to those far flung places that wish to defy sanctions in return for cheap oil.

Saddam’s response to Saudi Arabia jumping into bed with the US and the West has been to denounce the kingdom as selling out to western values; he has told Arabs everywhere that Mecca must be recaptured for the Arabs. In Jordan and in the Lebanon, I think, there have been demonstrations in support of Saddam. Clearly, there does exist a strong anti-Western feeling running through the Arab world, combined with the Iran-style fundamentalism; it so scared the West that they pumped arms into Iraq for years. The US must have calculated this very carefully, deciding that the sense of outrage about Kuwait was strong enough to ensure that its military presence in the area would not backfire.

Mum, Julian and Sarah came over yesterday afternoon to sit in the yard, drink tea, eat cakes and give Adam his birthday presents. I had already bought him a big box of crayola crayons; Sarah bought him an even bigger box of crayola crayons, and other presents also had pencils in. Mum bought him some circus animals and a big wipe-off drawing mat. I was hoping she would buy him a paddling pool so we could set it up straight away; now the yard is cleared up and reasonably clean, he could have a lot of fun in a pool. I’ll buy him one on Monday. Mum had brought some old slides, which, for want of a projector, she hadn’t seen for years. There were scenes of Bandol, several of Mum and Dad in swimsuits, several of Mum wearing a hat that looked more like a Kent hop mill, and Dame Edna Everage glasses. There were some of Melanie as a cute baby, and several of me at about seven holding baby Julian. There was also one or two of the inside of 21 Fitzjohns Avenue; the decor looks somewhat threadbare and cheap, as befitted a young impoverished couple (hardly older than Kenny and Liz, who are moving into a Chalk Farm flat soon).

I finally get down to work on my project. I hadn’t realised quite how much more there was to do. I have spent all my spare time this week creating new graphs, setting out tables, testing results for significance. I should soon have most of the results laid out ready to examine in the body of the report. I plan to spend a week in Brighton with Tosh the laptop and all my notes so I can write up a near-final version to send to Robin Dunbar for comment. The whole thing must be finished by end-September. I think the project won’t be so bad after all; I have 30 pages of graphs and tables, surely as much as if I had sat for endless hours at London zoo watching a tamarind twitch, a marmoset munch, or a chimp chuckle.

At seven this morning Rolf is sitting in the lounge writing his diary; Cathy sleeps in his room. I am suddenly reminded of when M and I lived in Oakley Street. M would always sleep in on Sunday morning while I would go for a walk to Battersea Park. It was on one of these walks that I met Paul Getty’s heroin-addicted consort; more importantly on another occasion I met Jean Christoph who was, ultimately, to lead me to Barbara. There seemed to me to be some parallels between Rolf’s stormy relationship with Cathy and mine with M: how difficult it is to sleep on a Sunday morning next to a sexy girlfriend who will not wake up and who has vetoed love-making the night before.

14 21, Tuesday 14 August 1990

We are on a large first floor terrace balcony. An old-fashioned propeller plane, somewhat like a bomber, flies over head. It is bright yellow. I can hear the noise of the propeller. Suddenly, directly above my head it explodes and the pieces fly everywhere. Adam has gone inside to have a wee, I shout to Barbara to rush in and stop him coming out, but she doesn’t move. I, stupidly, fall to the ground, and bits of plane, large bits, start landing all around. Fortunately none hit me. A little later I go to the edge of the balcony and look across at the fields, copses and rivers and see bits of the plane everywhere. I wonder when the police (or whoever) will come to investigate the crash.

Last night B and I went to the Proms. My only visit this year. A concert given by the Ulster Symphony Orchestra (now graced by the presence of Julian’s old girlfriend Georgina who, having married the second fiddle at the Birmingham City Orchestra, was clearly obliged to move with him when his need to become a leader sent him off to Northern Ireland.) The son of cellist Paul Tortelier conducts the orchestra but there is a stiffness and a methodicalness about him that leaves the performance a little lacking in spirit or magic. The programme was splendid - Britten’s ‘Illustrations’, Canteloube’s ‘Songs of the Auvergne’, Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ and Ravel’s ‘Bolero’. No chance to get too bored, and plenty of change of pace. A full Albert Hall warmed up rather slowly but earned two encores at the end. It is so long since I’ve been to a concert and so long since I really sat down and listened to a piece of music that my brain was only very slightly receptive to music, I could literally feel it waft over me without going in. Barbara enjoyed the programme, she is always a delight to go out with because she enjoys everything so much. She particularly liked the Britten, much to her surprise.

A and B have gone back to Brighton for a couple of days but will return tomorrow probably.

Following the family’s visit on Saturday, Rob came over on Sunday with his two children Sophie and James. Together we ate a hurried lunch in the yard, and then walked over to Grange Park to the circus. A small circus with small and rather amateur (failed actors?) performers. Still we all enjoyed the show one way or another, if only because it was something bright and colourful and different for the children.

Lots of telly in the evenings: Lindsay Anderson’s ‘Glory! Glory!’ which was largely disappointing; Cary Grant’s version of ‘The Front Page’; Carol Reed’s ‘Outcast of the Islands’ with a splendid Ralph Richardson.

18 34, Wednesday 15 August 1990

Tension remains high in the Middle East, with attention currently focussed on King Hussein of Jordan. Not only was he Saddam’s great buddy through the Iran-Iraq war but the Red Sea port of Aquaba is being used as an export lifeline for the Iraqis. The King has travelled to Washington to deliver a letter to President Bush from Saddam but nobody seems to be leaking the contents. Over the last few days, international pressure built up against the US-UK axis for beginning, apparently, to enforce a naval blockade, something the UN has not yet sanctioned. Were the US to attack a sanction-busting vessel, it could lose international support. Yet, a little bit of sanction busting by Iraq could serve it very well and draw out any conflict much longer than the US would wish. It doesn’t take long for a country to get used to new and harder conditions and to find logistic holes through which sanctions can be circumvented. Just as the US has taken the initiative ahead of the UN over sending troops (since it saw the need for quick action where the UN would certainly not act quickly), it now sees the need for the sanctions to be enforced sharply. It will be politicking hard at the UN for a motion to put its and other nations’ vessels under a UN flag, and to be able to enforce the sanctions through a naval blockade.

Meanwhile, Iraq has pulled yet another ploy. In order to free troops from its long front with Iran and perhaps to get trade help, Iraq has offered Iran peace on its own terms, i.e. allowing it to reoccupy the territory lost in the Iran-Iraq war.

An FT correspondent makes a dramatic escape from Kuwait through to Saudi Arabia. His escape story this morning is about the most human interest article ever to make the FT’s lead.

We have a little scoop again on ‘EC Energy Monthly’. Well an FT story led us there but, as usual, the newspaper covered the news very superficially. A working group has been meeting during the earlier part of this year to study economic instruments as a means to enact environment policy. Because of the greenhouse effect issue, carbon taxes and other environment taxes have been very hot talking points. A few governments are moving ahead on their own in this field but the majority will certainly take their lead from the EC. Any sort of tax to limit carbon dioxide emissions will only be effective if it really does raise energy prices significantly. The implications for industry and domestic consumers alike are thus enormous. This working group’s report is only an internal document: it certainly has not been published by the Commission. The FT called it confidential, though I think that is an exaggeration. I got the same report from one of the permanent representatives, an increasingly useful source of documents (not available from the Commission itself). The report is lucid and advocates quite strongly the use of taxes and fiscal instruments to control energy demand. It also recommends that the EC proceed to tackle global warming even if other international blocks are not ready to reach agreements. It thus implies that the Commission is more likely than ever to push for some form of carbon tax in the very near future.

September 1990

Paul K Lyons


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INTRO to diaries