DIARY 42: October - December 1990

13 04, Saturday 6 October 1990

My MSc project is out of the way so I should, once again, be able to resume more regular attention to the journal. I certainly have a lot of catching up to do both in terms of writing for ‘European Energy Report’ and developing its new supplement (EES) and ‘EC Energy Monthly’. Furthermore, I need to record some history and some ideas in this journal, I must also write Adam’s third birthday story since I have promised (to myself) to write him one every birthday. I must also spend every spare minute learning French, if I am to speak the language effectively within a few months. And so it goes on - I must make sure I’ve no time to worry about depression.

Where to start? What to record and what not to? Certainly, the riskiest and most nerve-racking experience of recent times was calling, on the telephone, the girl I met with Jim Trotter. Her name turns out to be Jenny Kent - not a bad name at all. First of all, I had to think of an excuse to ring Jim back in order to establish her name. Then, when I plucked up the courage to ring, my heart beating like a hummingbird’s wing, there was no answer. I left a message with the receptionist but no telephone number. This was good strategy. Although, I did not expect her to call me back, it would make the next try easier, knowing that she already knew I was trying to get in touch. I made the first call on the Friday; the following Monday I was super-occupied with getting my thesis into college. But I determined to ring her again on the Tuesday. I even chose a time - 3.00 pm.

It is worth dawdling for a moment on the mental processes which occurred in my brain concerning Jenny Kent, not because there was anything special about them, rather because they show how absurdly insecure and jelly-like is my emotional make-up. I have freely talked about this girl and my shyness to Miriam and Kenny; making light of it helps to some extent, as does confronting myself with the reality of my behaviour. Miriam observed, however, that my nerves were ludicrous since I had so much to offer, and any woman would be pleased to have a date with me!

Knowing how few people I meet, let alone women, and knowing how little I ever do about finding friends, I was determined this time to do something positive and was, thus, not prepared to let myself off the hook. For a week or more, I could justify not telephoning because of my cold; as the cold got better, I became more and more nervous knowing that I would have to ring her: every now and then, I would contemplate not bothering, but this time, I knew I had to. I kept reminding myself of who I was and what I had to offer, of where I’d been, who I’d met; and that the very worst result of such a telephone call would only be a ‘not interested’, and, of course, nothing would be lost. But none of these rationalisations make the slightest bit of difference - my heart was still beating as fast as if I’d run a nine second mile on the moon.

When I rang for the second time on the Tuesday - at 3pm - her line was busy which meant ringing yet again. Finally, it is Jenny on the other end. She puts me at ease almost straight away by saying she had actually tried to call me back, but had got nowhere at the main FT number. We talk for a little while; and there is no difficulty in then asking her to meet, she seems as keen as me and in fact apologises that she isn’t free immediately, says ‘from the weekend on really,’ which raises my hopes that she doesn’t have a boyfriend. I am old enough to be her father and insecure enough to be her child; I’ve only met her once and already I fantasise - there is so little social excitement in my life. I create a mountain range of possibilities out of a small sand pile. And yet, and yet, there is an efficiency about the way I live and operate. I tend to filter out opportunities, of whatever kind, at a very early stage so that I don’t waste time on unlikely outcomes. We have arranged to meet next Wednesday at the National Film Theatre.

Work never seems to get any the less busy. Last week we launched the ‘East Europe Supplement’ with ‘European Energy Report’. As I said, I did get a blessing from Dennis for this, and, because he was badly in need of Brownie points since Annagate, I made a point of emphasising that the East Europe supplement had been developed in response to his suggestion. He actually lost no time in sending a memo to his boss, John Mclachlan, detailing what we were doing and that the idea had come from him. In fact, I have been toying with the idea for some long time, but I was in two minds particularly because, in fact, I have consistently tried to cover East and West equally in ‘European Energy Report’, thus distinguishing it from other energy publications. Now, hardly seems to be the time to be separating them out. The only reason I have agreed with Dennis’s suggestion, other than wanting to keep in his good books obviously, is to take a marketing advantage from the intense interest in East Europe. I am not very happy with the Supplement at present but by launching it this last week - the first issue of a new quarter and the week of German unification - I have at least given myself a test period to the end of the year. I can then decide what best to proceed.

I mention German unification in passing but the history books will give this historical event a far greater fanfare than is possible in real time. The news programmes sent presenters to Berlin, and the newspapers gave us special features. The Gulf crisis and the Party conference season in the UK, though, soon drowned out the celebratory noises. But what an event it was. Everywhere you look, nowadays, public speakers of whatever ilk - politicians, clergymen, academics - are using German reunification as an example of how we can never predict the future. It is only one year since the fall of the Berlin wall. I can remember writing in the diary a while ago how presumptive I thought commentators were being to talk so much about possible reunification. I would now boldly predict the quick demise of the Soviet Union - Lithuania, the Ukraine, Latvia etc will all be independent states before 1995. The rump of the Soviet Union won’t be much more than Russia.

9 23, Sunday 7 October 1990

I took Adam to the barber’s yesterday for his first professional haircut. He has been once before and patiently sat watching me have my hair done. He didn’t want his hair cut this time and was quite happy just to wait for me. As his turn came nearer, he became rather miserable about the prospect so I allowed myself to bribe him. I told him he could choose which of the children’s cakes at Forfar’s he wanted on the way home. We were unfortunate in being allotted the youngest and least experienced barber. He was slow and methodical with me, and seemed unable to vary his routine to cope with cutting a child’s hair. Still Adam behaved admirably. Only after some long time did he get upset, and that was justifiable since the hair was going in his mouth and eyes and down his neck. A good barber would have dispensed with holding both scissors and comb at the same time so as to hold the child’s head still; it is almost impossible for such a young child to control his own head movements to the extent necessary in the barber’s chair. I cut short the operation, not wanting Adam’s first experience of hair cutting to turn sour.

Today, I notice that Adam has begun to relate to his furry monkey called Bunkey. This is a new phase in his development - the ability to fantasise. Adam has long been able to imagine things but giving life to his own friend is a recognised phase. From here on, I think we should also treat Bunkey as semi-real and treat him, or pretend to treat him, in the same way we do Adam. Unfortunately, there are no flies on Adam. Just now, after breakfast when I wanted him to go to his room and play, I suggested he take Bunkey upstairs because he (Bunkey) wanted to play. Adam immediately said that Bunkey wanted to play on his own, thereby hoping he would not need to stay alone himself in the room.


Annabel, her son Fred and her lodger/friend Clare, come round this morning. They have been to the market in the station car park. Annabel rang last night having got back from Brunei just a week ago. I have had no contact with her all the fourteen months she’s been away, not even a postcard; the only news was from Clare when I rang or popped round to Preston Drove. Fred, just six months older than A, is twice as big. If anything I would say that Fred’s height is more over average than Adam’s is under average. The difference between the two is quite astonishing. His father Julek is 6’ 4’. Annabel’s other child, eight year old Kate, has stayed out in Brunei with Julek - she is happy there, there is good schooling and she wants to stay. Annabel, who obviously misses her enormously, says that Julek communicates with Kate better than anyone. Annabel herself doesn’t look that well, but seems fine. She must knuckle down to her psychology degree now, having taken a year off. She and Barbara are in the same boat, both in their second year and both with a two-year old son. Fred is quite charming, if a bit disruptive. B suggests it can be quite difficult for a child to be so large, because teachers, other children and adults all find instinctive reaction is to expect better, more grown-up behaviour. Hopefully, we will see more of Annabel now.

We have been for a walk on the downs. We took the Ditchling Road from the centre of Brighton and found ourselves very quickly on the hills. A strong bright sun and a sharp early winter air had inspired other countryside seekers, for, at the first possible stopping place, we found dozens of parked cars already in place. In fact, on examination of the map, we found we’d arrived at a point on the South Downs Way. The footpath follows a ridge line with tremendous views back towards Brighton and out across the flat plains of inland Sussex. We parked at the bottom of the hills on the north side, and then walked up a windy chalk-laden path to the ridge, passing by many a copse coloured bright with autumn berries. It was a fine walk since the sun shone and the hillside sheltered us from the wind. A strong blow hit us on top of the hill, and forced us back down before long to the car. Adam walked and climbed well particularly enjoying the stiles and clambering over them.

Since being back at nursery, Adam has reverted to grumpy behaviour in the evenings. We think tiredness and resentment combine to make him tetchy. He no longer has a sleep at lunchtime, so is really quite exhausted at the end of the day; and after a long absence from the daily playschool, he takes time to get used to the new routines.

In terms of skills, Adam seems to be well advanced with his language. Not only does he begin to recognise and read quite a wide variety of words but he talks with a large vocabulary and complex sentence construction. He is an excellent conversationalist always ready to talk back with something complementary to say. He talks back too often, and he engages us in arguments and conversation over the slightest thing. Most of the time, we find it endearing but you can have too much of a good thing. Moreover, as I sat up here listening to A and B whilst A had his supper, I noticed that A initiated all the talk.

Adam still falls back over drawing. Even the health visitor who came the other day to check his development noticed that he was a bit cack-handed at drawing simple shapes. However, it does seem that he is finally settling down to be right-handed. I think he has been so slow over drawing because neither hand has taken over as dominant, disallowing the necessary mental, neuronal, or whatever developments to take place. Or perhaps, allowing a greater degree of development to take place in both sides of the brain. I am sure that for a child to grow up ambidextrous costs development of other skills. The brain is a model of efficiency; the way it learns and absorbs information through childhood is both regulated and flexible. There was a time when it was difficult to see whether Adam would be either right or left-handed and I chose to encourage right-handedness since life is a touch easier if you don’t have to be forever bothering with tracking down left-handed instruments. I stopped at the point where it seemed he was showing a very definite left-handed tendency. For three or more months, his manual ability more or less stopped. Now he has reverted to holding a pen with his right hand. His skill at drawing circles or lines will only come, surely, when certain developmental aspects within his brain have been decided.

19 54, Monday 8 October 1990

Mu calls one Sunday morning from New Zealand, I recognise her voice almost immediately. She has received my dual letter and was indeed somewhat confused but guessed I had just the one child not three. She has already tried to reply but been unable to find the right tone. She clears up some misconceptions. She has only been in New Zealand for four years - until she left for the antipodes she had still been living near Vienna. Her two children were most definitely born in Austria. I was under the impression that she had met a new man and moved east almost as soon as we lost touch. The house, location and job she writes about are all new in her life, and have given her a new sense of self, and it is that which has enabled her to contact me again after all these years. More specifically, she asks if she can send me a friend of hers who works for Greenpeace, and is coming to London for a conference. Of course, why do my friends, however distant, have to ask? I positively thrive on visitors since I get so very few of them.

Staying with my beloved New Zealand for a moment. I re-established another link, within days of Mu’s call. From Jim Trotter, I tracked down the telephone number of Ruth Le Pla, now in NZ, the lady I stole from ‘European Chemical News’ to work with me at McGraw-Hill. Having decided to set up an East European supplement, it was a timely moment to remind her of my existence. Since she was something of an East Europe specialist, having studied Romanian, I thought she might be interested in becoming a future editor of my new supplement were it to make into a full-fledged newsletter in its own right. She was about as excited to hear from me as I was to hear from Mu. She remembered me instantly, and suggested she was following my path round the world! She sounded really quite well and settled, but explained she wasn’t thinking of returning to Europe just yet. Shame, because I think she would fit in well with Kenny and Miriam.

As I may have mentioned, I delivered my Masters project in to college on the 1st October, the deadline date, although it is not unknown for students to take several extra weeks. Following Robin’s critic, I made a number of additions and changes. Putting the 100-page report together seemed to take forever, most of the previous weekend and week was spent finalising chapters, checking page numbers, putting references together (a real killer that), writing lists of contents and so on. I think that, if I had any real intention of getting a distinction, I would have had to put in considerably more work - i.e. looking up quite a few more references and doing a mite more thinking about the broader concepts. Still, it is good to know that I have the Masters in the bag. I made up three copies of the report (Miriam helped me on the Monday get them bound in exchange for a £25 pack of luncheon vouchers!). One I gave to Fred, one I gave to Robin, and one I intended to keep for myself. However, on handing the report to Robin, he opened it, and was faced immediately with a dozen pages bound the wrong way. How embarrassing, especially when I had prepared the report with such detailed editing. Fortunately the error (which had come whilst I was collating the photocopies) was only apparent in the one edition, the other one in my hand was perfect, so I swapped them over in his hand before he could say sociobiology.

People keep asking me what will I do with it. What will I do with what? The knowledge? The degree? Who knows? Taking the course has certainly cured me of wanting to give up work and study human evolution/psychology/artificial intelligence/brain sciences or whatever full time. And that is probably a very good thing. But, as far as advancing my career prospects or even my social life, or even my leisure interests, it is hard to answer the question in any positive way. All I can say is that it adds another string to my bow. Unfortunately, I am already vastly overloaded with sideways knowledge, and the world only respects/pays for/rewards vertical knowledge. I already have many strings to my bow and probably would make a very fine instrument if I or anyone else knew how to play such a complex me.

I am regularly driving to and from Brighton now in the very middle of the night. I usually set my alarm for 4 or 5 am but generally wake up earlier and leave as soon as I wake. Last night, I was driving back from Brighton at just after three, it was a night of crystal darkness latticed by sharp moonlight. From Tidy Street to the M25 I passed no more than three cars. The deserted A23 was all mine, all mine. And, as if that was not enough, the World Service put on a special concert of Beethoven symphony music, just for me. Only the other day, Barbara was commenting how little Beethoven she could find in my old and tatty collection of cassettes - all Mike Westbrook and Benjamin Britten. I begin to positively enjoy my night rides.

I have begun to indulge a little more in the goodies on offer at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs. I joined earlier this year, but there was little to whet my appetite. This autumn season, however, there are a whole series of conferences and meetings. Just in the last few weeks I have been to one on EC competition policy addressed by Sir Leon Brittan, another on a convention for the greenhouse effect, and another on strategic planning. I do not fit very well in Chatham House, it being a rather traditional institution peopled by academics with names for themselves or making names for themselves. I do not feel comfortable there, and tend to lurk in corners and reread my conference notes thirty times. The lunches tend to be repetitive - avocado with crispy bacon sauce, fish in a mayonnaise sauce and salad - and in any case have to be eaten on the hoof. Juggling a plate full of food, a drink, conference notes, a briefcase and holding a conversation is one of life’s little skills that I have not yet mastered.

Jonathan Stern, one of Chatham House’s bright young sparks, runs the energy and environment programme. He has written widely on energy and gas and East Europe. It was he who gave my management report the thumbs up, but I failed to mention him in the acknowledgements - it never occurred to me (nor for that matter did I mention the editor Vivian Korn). I have realised, since and too late, that acknowledgements may be more than mere thankyous. My name is completely unknown but Jonathan Stern’s is completely known - therefore, saying, in the acknowledgements, something like ‘many thanks to Jonathan Stern for reading the manuscript and making many helpful comments,’ and heh presto an extra level of authority is slapped upon the work.

In summary, Leon Brittan was hardly less dull than his subject and, against expectations, I did not come away with any great insight into the great mystery of competition policy. The greenhouse effect convention meeting was to launch one of the RIIA’s growing number of publications on the subject which I have not yet read - though I must soon. The strategic planning meet, however, was most interesting. The conference was designed for company thinkers and planners. There was a section on the short-term future of geopolitics, on demography, communications, transport, crime and defence.

Joseph S. Nye from Harvard University opened with a talk entitled ‘Geo-political - economic trends and discontinuities’. His main theme was that, following the fall of communism, the world would not revert to multi-polarity of powers or unipolarity, rather that power would become more diverse a concept as it was taken up by peoples through the growth of nationalism. Furthermore, international agendas were being dominated not by the previous issues which fell neatly in the camps of the two super powers in the bi-polar world but rather by issues which were complex and multi-layered: terrorism, global warming, third world debt. He also expounded on his views that power was moving in both directions away from national governments - upwards to regional councils like the EC and downwards to regions within countries. I have held this thesis for years, largely, I think, as a result of Alvin Toffler’s influential books. In fact, for all his fancy titles and position, Nye didn’t really offer me much to think about. I listened to a talk about techno-economic possibilities by Gordon Edge. He went through a long list of innovations which were on the verge of becoming money-making ventures, and tried very succinctly to indicate how they might change our lives. For much of the conference though I did not fully understand all the technical jargon. A man named Terence Bendixson spoke on the future of transport but he did not convince. He made a number of predictions, but as though a salesman for the transport industries themselves, he seemed assured that neither environmental concerns nor price would restrain future demand. Yet his own graphs showed an astonishing exponential growth in recent years, one that would be impossible to maintain for very many years. It seems almost certain, to me at least, that taxation (environment-led price mechanism) will indeed alter our driving habits significantly within the short term future. Bendixson made hardly a mention of global warming and its possible consequences on the motor vehicle.

I had been looking forward to a talk on demography by a French researcher called Tabah - indeed, having found the demography lectures in my Masters course fascinating, the presence of this talk on the programme was one of the reasons for my bothering with it at all. But Tabah never showed up having been delayed in Morocco. One of the RIIA people stepped in and gave a talk along the same lines - for the life of me I can’t remember any of his main points. He did touch, however, on the horrific proportions of world population, and he looked generally at war, famine and disease as possible mechanisms for limiting future growth. I think, essentially, he saw that there would be little let up in any of those three growth checks: aids in central Africa, nationalism wars all over the place, and famine in Egypt did he say?

I do have before me the text of another talk on current demographic trends. Quite startling some of the facts mentioned: 50% of births in Sweden are outside marriage; divorce rates everywhere are climbing sharply; petitions for divorce are being brought much more by women; over 40% of women aged 20-24 in Sweden and Denmark are cohabiting; by 1987, the proportion of single person households in the UK had risen to 25% (compared with 12% in 1961.)

15 42, Tuesday 9 October 1990

A quiet restful day working at home. I switch on the television now and then to see the Conservative Party conference. Cecil Parkinson looks daily less convincing - he kept having to correct himself for calling the lady chairman, Mr Chairman; on several occasions he stopped for applause and none came and when it did come it dribbled in. Kenneth Baker looked less than enthusiastic about Parkinson too - he’s supposed to cheer every Dick, Harry and Tom Cat along.

One of the commentators made an interesting point about the Party conferences this year which echoed something I’d heard at the Strategic Planning meeting. He said many of the debates within the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and the Labour parties were looking similar, because the important issues are beginning to transcend internal Western political divisions and are being debated as much within one party as within another. Nye also echoed this point at Chatham House: in an international context, Western capitalist nations, Communist nations and third world countries are all facing new dilemmas which do not fall into traditional politically-orientated camps.

I would suggest, therefore, in terms of UK politics, that here is more evidence that we are due for a rise in third party politics - it is time, at last, for government by compromise along the model that most north European states have already evolved. It is interesting to note that there appears to be a stronger, larger group within the Labour Party now demanding PR (proportional representation) and the leadership, although not supporting it, has not rejected it either, and promised, I think, a review.

Another of my forecasts is that John McCarthy will be released before Christmas, but not Terry Waite.

7 43, Wednesday 17 October 1990

War does now look to be increasingly likely in the Middle East if for no other reason than politicians are now predicting it. President Bush tends to lead the way, but he has played his cards cautiously and rather wisely. His advisers have continued to come up with new schemes to try and keep on the right side of world opinion and to prepare for any possibility that Iraq might withdraw from Kuwait. There is a school of thought that believes Saddam will withdraw on the eve of war, when he is certain that invasion is to take place - in other words he is simply playing the most dangerous game of brinkmanship ever devised. As the possibility of actually compromising with Saddam began to emerge and to be discussed in the media, so the good guys were obliged to develop a response to take the wind out of such an idea. The good guys recognise what a danger Saddam is to everybody and that compromising with him, at this stage, however attractive that proposition might be in terms of avoiding war, is simply to invite a repeat down the line, i.e. this same conflict at a later stage - but with the possibility of Iraqi nuclear weapons in the play. In the first place, the Americans and the Brits (presumably leaders in other nations are saying very similar things in their own languages and to their own people) began talking of recompense to Kuwait and her people, massive financial compensation for the destruction of property and deaths, and now they have begun to talk of bringing Saddam to court for war crimes. Bush yesterday gave details of Iraqi soldiers turning off the oxygen supply to a ward of 21 premature babies in incubators who then, of course, died. Experts have already begun discussing how an international court could be convened and who would sit as judge. In the meantime, Bush has begun talk of asking the UN Security Council to approve stronger measures against Saddam.

Unseasonably warm weather for a few days but it is impossible to enjoy it during the week since the days are already so short. At the weekend, though, I did get out with Adam. We went for one of our meets with Raoul and children, this time in Hyde Park. Adam and Jack were always lagging behind, for ever engaged is some dispute over sticks or conkers, as we walked through the west end of the park, past the Peter Pan statue to the fountains. The children were generally gorgeous.

Raoul has begun his new job as Professor at Charing Cross hospital. He tells me the details of his first day in the new job, when he wasn’t even sure that the previous head would have vacated his office. The hospital has a vast staff, many of whom were loyal to the old head. Raoul was appointed over and above ex-chief’s choice, and so relations between the two are, to say the least, frosty. Raoul will have to win over a great many employees loyal to the old man, a task which isn’t made easier by the fact that he will continue to work on the premises for a couple of years. I saw Raoul last week also for a curry, I think it was the night before my meeting with Jenny, so at the weekend he asks with keenness about my date.

I will meet with Jenny Kent again tonight but I doubt whether we will go further, perhaps we won’t even see each other again. Last Wednesday, we met at the NFT cafe at about 8.15, we barely stopped talking through to 11. What did we talk about? Well our histories, of course; the wisdom of travel over which I remain undecided but about which I have a lot to say. I probably talked most, although it is difficult to say; about things I’d done and the way I live. Neither of us appeared the slightest bit bored or keen to get away, but neither was there any more; we didn’t laugh much, and at the end of the evening we were about as tense with each other as we were at the beginning. I think, I must recognise much of my younger self in her; she displays a rather extreme shyness in the way she moves her ahead around and away from me and covers it with her long hair as we speak, she has very shy eyes - I’m sure that in my twenties, my eyes were just as shy. We shared a few dreams which were not so dissimilar but I did not ask her a single question that touched on her current personal circumstances - boyfriends, who she lives with and so on - perhaps I will tonight.

Interestingly, her father left home when she was about five. Thereafter, she saw him regularly as children do see an estranged parent. He is an academic psychologist at Manchester University, surname Rabbit. Robin Dunbar, who was an undergraduate at Oxford, remembers getting tutorials from him, says he was a good tutor, being the only one who would give him unpublished papers. Robin also says he was bit rabbit-like in stature!

Vonny has had her twins - two more boys makes three together with Austen. One of them is called Hugo Sheridan (!), the other is not yet named. Three boys what a load.

My neighbour, David, of whom I am very fond, gives me the keys to his flat so that I can water his plants. He is moving to live with his parents for a few weeks, or perhaps months. The viral problem that has taken over his life for eight months or more, is showing no signs of getting better. All this time, he has been told that with rest he should get better. His three month trip to New York was wasted because as soon as he tried to do anything the tiredness and weakness took over. He came back to London and took it completely easy for weeks, but has got no better. The last time I spoke to him about it, he mentioned ME - the Yuppie disease - for the first time. Doctors really know nothing about it and there seems to be some dispute, even today, as to whether it really is a virus and not just a psychological problem.

6 57, Thursday 18 October 1990

Early up this morning following a rather restless night - perhaps it is Brussels, perhaps it is the moon, perhaps it is my testosterone levels, perhaps it is Jenny. In any case I am up early this morning, at 7.00 am it is still dark, so dark I thought I must have made a mistake about the time but ‘Today’ is already being broadcast on Radio 4, and now the morning concert starts on Radio 3. As I think I must go to the launderette in a minute to ensure clean clothes for my Brussels trip, I realise I have made something of a miscalculation, since I had planned to go to Brighton this weekend by train. I plan to leave for Brussels from Brighton, but this of course means I must take all my Brussels gear with me to Brighton. If I go by car, I will need to leave it in Brighton for two weeks because my return trip brings me into Docklands and I plan to spend the weekend in London. Oh! such complications.

B reports that Adam becomes quite cocky, almost the clever dick. My mum says I was just like that as a boy. I have been meaning to write Adam a story for his third birthday, perhaps it should be about a cocky Adam that gets his just rewards. How hard it is these days to find the time for such leisure pursuits.

My kitchen awaits new linoleum; it has been awaiting new linoleum for two months. With the onset of autumn and winter soon to come, my bare feet say they are already feeling a chill and would I hurry up with a covering for the concrete. But Carpetland, or whatever the bad guy in this story is called, has passed the buck onto the factory which makes the lino. Last week, the shop said the factory was restarting production of my chosen style this week, and that a special delivery would be made. I explained I was going away next week and if it wasn’t done this week then I would seek my money back. If I don’t hear from the bad guy today, he’s dead.

Life in my parlour is pleasant now that it has been decorated in white and maroon and carpeted in blue, and quieter - the carpeted floor echoes less than the floorboards used to.

I am also attempting to clear out the study a little bit. Years of accumulated books, papers, cuttings, knick-knacks, bits and pieces, frames, photos, folders, pamphlets etc. have created a dense packing in the room. It took me more or less the whole of last weekend to make any impact on it whatsoever - a large black sack of rubbish, at least five boxes of ‘stuff’ in the loft, and the shelves look no emptier than they were before, just that the packing density has been reduced - there are less stacks on stacks for example. I fully intend to reduce the paraphernalia further so as, perhaps, to get a bed into the room eventually. I have books of such marginal interest that I wonder why I keep them, but, with the best will in the world, I was unable to throw out more than a handful - even putting some of them away into the loft pained me more than I can say. God and his armies help me when I come to move from this house.

More nightmares at the office. I am not sure that I can bear repeating the latest outrage against my peace and sanity - it so pains me to have to confront the evidence of incompetence/scams. Two Fridays ago one Keith Moore, head of training at Southwark Bridge, rang to say he had received Dennis Kiley’s memo regarding the purchase of a French linguaphone course. It was ordered, he said, would arrive at his office by Monday, and he would then send it over to me. By the Wednesday, I had heard nothing so I rang Moore. Yes, he had taken it to the post-room on the Monday morning. He asked the van drivers to look out for it. I rang him several more times that week, by Friday he was resigned to it having gone missing. I was furious that he was prepared to let it go at that. But it was then left to me to make calls and write memos - the circulation manager, the security chief etc. Now, almost two weeks later, I am still without a language course and still with the hassling of trying to find out what happened.

Meanwhile, I am also at loggerheads with management over the move to Brussels. Dennis is largely on my side, but John McLachlan, ever the company rule man - as all publishers are - wants me off staff and onto a contract. It is my decision to move, so he doesn’t see why FTBI should take the risk. So far I haven’t talked directly with McLachlan, just with Dennis. I have written yet another Memorandum outlining why I should stay on staff.

15 18, Saturday 20 October 1990

Brighton - the unseasonal weather continues. We are basking in bright sunshine. On Monday I fly to Brussels for five days. I arranged, some weeks ago, to fly from Gatwick, and return to Docklands airport which took a certain amount of forethought and then us sticking to plan. The trip down this morning was pleasant enough. I awoke late, about eight, and had to rush out of the house, fearful of missing the one fast train I was aiming for. Although I had to wait 15 minutes or so for a bus, the actual journey down to Victoria was quicker than I expected so I arrived in good time. But why oh why are there always queues at the ticket offices? It is as though British Rail deliberately operates a policy of not opening more ticket windows unless the queues reach a certain length. Always having to wait creates bad will among the public, it would seem such a short-sighted policy.

My meeting with Jenny went better than I expected. That Wednesday evening I had planned to use the two hours from 6 till 8 for fully editing ‘European Energy Report’, something I usually do on Thursday morning. Since Jenny can’t (or couldn’t) meet me until 8.15 it was good use of the spare time, and was certainly preferable to going home and then tubing back into town again. Life was not to be so straightforward. First of all, I got into rather a long conversation with Simon who works in insurance, and then Zeba came by, after something. I hadn’t had a long chat to Zeba for ages, and she seemed to want one, so we talked, a lot about writing - largely because the Booker prize was on the previous night and I loathed it. As an ultimate acclaim for a writer in this country - who wants it? All six of the shortlisted candidates looked as though they were tortured, helpless souls, but petty masochists to the sadism of trying-to-be-worthy literature. I couldn’t honestly say that I wanted to be any of the six, or even be present at the gala evening. Zeba tended to agree but she still has a burning ambition to be a successful writer. Good luck to her. I don’t think, though, that she has a sufficient egocentric need, I suspect other things, like money and a family, will actually take precedence. Moreover, I warned her, the attractions of the life as a writer would not - in some foreseeable future - be as great to her as those of other professions with more position and responsibility.

Zeba also confided in me that she would probably leaving FTBI next year to move to Hong Kong with her new diplomat boyfriend. She seems altogether content, if somewhat resigned, to let go of her previous wilder boyfriend and throw in her lot with Mr Straight. Mr Straight has been assigned by the foreign office for a three year stay in China, and must spend a first year in Hong Kong to learn Chinese. If necessary between Hong Kong and China they will marry, Zeba admits. This is quite an exciting proposition for Zeba, to have so many years in the future marked out, financially and socially secure, and at the same time being propelled into new and exciting places.

So, by the time we had discussed all these things, it was nearly eight and I’d little time left to do any editing before leaving for my walk across the river to meet Jenny. I allowed her to buy me a drink (since she owed me one from our last meeting and she insisted on equality) and we launched ever so easily into conversation - 15 minutes on the Gulf crisis, and then an hour or more about my ideas on schizophrenia; Jenny had seen the film with Judi Dench which had inspired my thoughts on the subject. Her father being a psychologist, I suppose she has an inherent interest in the subject. She remembered that her father’s sister had been diagnosed schizo following the death of her mother, and threatened to test my ideas on her father.

Later, for a change of scenery, we moved to the Royal Festival Hall. I ate a salad while Jenny sipped on a lager. She told me she’s thinking of teaching English in Portugal for a short time before she leaves for Brazil; meaning she may not be around much longer. Towards the end of the evening I finally asked if she had a boyfriend - no. Why not? Great blushes and anger with herself for the blushes. We laughed quite a bit during the evening and ribbed one another. Against my expectations, I found myself warming to her more and suggesting that when she’s back from Devon she come out to my house for an evening. We parted, as last time, in the tunnels of Waterloo station, but this time exchanged a very slight kiss.

That night and the following morning I found myself thinking about her lots, and trying to work out why it was I should be interested in her. It certainly isn’t lust, rather I am inspired by talking with her. But why this young woman, rather than any of my equals at FTBI? Is it simply that I can get more attention from, and hold some power over, someone younger and female? Or is that I sense, in Jenny, something definitely special?

13 09, Sunday 21 October 1990

I walked down to the front last night, I thought I might see the film of ‘Presumed Innocent’. The novel engrossed me and the film, apparently, is an equally enthralling and clever whodunnit. However, the queue at Canon cinemas overwhelmed me so I walked to the Odeon and decided on seeing ‘Wild at Heart’ by David Lynch. Lynch is flavour of the month with a lot of talk about his film, a much-awaited soap opera - ‘Twin Peaks’ - about to start on television and the inevitable profiles of him in all the media. The cinema was full, that’s the first thing I must say. Moreover, of current films, this is one of the most mentioned and talked about. But why? It is extremely violent, has very little plot, nothing to recommend it in the way of photography or advanced film-making, and has such a surfeit of the words ‘fuck’ and ‘fucking’ that their use probably outnumbered the use of all other words put together. Quite a number of people left the cinema in the first half of the film, and about half way through I felt like leaving too - I was both thirsty and bored. As I write this, I wonder whether it isn’t the sexual content of such films which is drawing such a mass audience, maybe because of AIDS had led to people becoming less promiscuous in deed, and more so in thought, or have they just become more sophisticated sexually and are in search of more information about the subject. I was equally amazed that the film ‘Sex Lies and Videotapes’ did so well. My judgement would be that ‘Wild at Heart’ is a confused film, a mixture of Wim Wenders ‘Paris Texas’, Dennis Potter’s ‘Singing Detective’ and that astonishing film ‘The Thin Blue Line’ which I saw last time I went to New York. Its main message, I suppose, concerns the amount of violence in American society and how even innocents cannot avoid it.

This afternoon Rolf comes visiting with his sister, Camilla, and her husband and Cathy. They will have been to East Grinstead on a memory trip - Camilla used to live there. They will pass by Lewes before coming here for tea.

Adam and I went to Lewes this morning. We took the bicycle on the train. It really is a splendid utility, the child’s seat, we both feel so good riding along; we can cover much more ground than on foot, and there is the added advantage that Adam doesn’t start whining when he gets a bit tired of walking. We explored lower Lewes, the bit near the river Ouse, and then walked up the steep chalk hill to the golf club. We both admired the view over Lewes; Adam wondered at the white rocks lying all around us.

18 14, Monday 22 October 1990

Brussels. A front room on the top floor (6th) of the Chambord. A sliver of moon rises in the darkened blue sky across the city, and in another direction the Hilton hotel dominates the view, where a dozen dozen executives are busy in their five-class rooms powdering eyebrows and dreaming of the next promotion. Me, I watch a western on BBC2.

Not a very profitable day at all. My one appointment rang to cancel. I went to the Commission to try and get my accreditation sorted out but was told I need to have an address here in Brussels before I get a pass. The accreditations officer gave me some useful information and a telephone guide for the Commission. I found the accueil information office which gave me a print-out of 21 two-bedroomed, furnished apartments for rent. None of them look suitable though, the prices are high and they have no better location than the one I’m going to see on Thursday.

I an anxious about moving to living here. Right from the start, the idea of moving to Brussels didn’t encounter green lights - on the mental route from conception to inception - all the way; it never clicked into place as the perfect next move for me. Indeed, I have said often enough to myself that a move to Brussels is the best thing I can think of and that I would drop the idea overnight if something better or more engaging came along. The trouble is I must make a move - this is the best one I can think of; but then what? then what? then what? It’s terribly disturbing not to see any possible path into the future.

The other day at college I went to listen to the first biological anthropology seminar of the new term. An old woman, restricted to crutches, spoke knowledgeably about language and the brain. She theorised that it was not language and higher functions so much that are localised in certain parts of the brain but the furniture which operates the language - muscles of the mouth and tongue and respiratory system. About three-quarters of her 90 minute talk was devoted to the history of neurology and explaining why current knowledge is still trapped by nineteenth century thinking. But what I mean to say about her is that she seems to have had at least three careers before studying neurology, she was an academic historian, and then somewhere around her fiftieth year she became a medical doctor. Losing the use of her legs sent her back into academic realms (at the neurological/psychological frontier). Should I then be thinking of yet another career change? This is the first time I have really allowed myself to even consider the vaguest of possibilities that I could even contemplate a new start. No No No - the last one was altogether too difficult. Journalism gives me a freedom, one which I would be hard put to find anywhere else. Certainly, the detached onlooker status of the journalist suits me to a tee. Where to go, simply become a better writer. Shouldn’t I be trying to get onto the FT newspaper then? What other routes are there?

8 58, Wednesday 24 October 1990

Despite the slack start to the week, I did achieve most of the interviews I requested, including the Environment Commissioner Ripa di Meana. This trip I am seeing people in five different DGs - energy, environment, research, competition and transport - but, whereas I am seeing just one person (or at most two) in the other DGs, I am seeing seven or eight in energy.

Yesterday I talked to Maniatopoulos, the Director-General for DGXVII. I have avoided him all this time because he has a weak and ineffective reputation. People both in and out DGXVII openly talk of this. His Deputy Clive Jones, who I have spoken to on many occasions, does not even talk to him, such is the bad feeling between them. Maniatopoulos and his side-kick Carvounis were extremely pleasant and, it must be said, respectful. There was certainly no doubt who I was and what I did. In fact we talked for an hour and a half. I didn’t actually get any information though! I heard for the first time yesterday that Stanley Davies moved on already after only a few months in his Director’s job at Energy. His over-riding concern, apparently, was and is rain forests and all he did for his six months in DGXVII was to work on the environment. He’s gone to the FAO, I’m told and may not be replaced. I feel part of the DGXVII family and thus lap up any internal news, not that it can do me much good.

Monday night I took Fiona Harney out to dinner. We wondered into the central tourist market and chose a restaurant at random. She’s very light and jokey. Last night I went to the movies, a new film by Alan Parker, ‘Come See the Paradise’. This was a love story between a hot-headed political activist and a Japanese girl on the eve of the Second World War. The film followed the fortunes of one large Japanese family from owning a good cinema business to being put into camps and finally being released. The focal point for the film was the love story between one of the daughters and the young American, whose political and altruistic ambitions within the emerging trade union movement came up against an increasing use of violent and illegal actions. As an outsider, with apparently no family, he fell into the embrace, so to speak, of other outsiders - the Japanese, who at that time were not even allowed to be citizens.

19 55, Saturday 27 October 1990

I returned to 13 Aldershot Road about 6.30 on Friday evening to find a an urgent message to ring Mum. I thought Sarah might have had her baby but in fact the news was of a death not a birth. Mike Goldsmith died last Wednesday following a second stroke. I knew he had had one stroke because last weekend Angela Sinclair-Loutit, that inveterate Goldsmith watcher, called me with the news. She was as hot on the trail of news of Mike’s illness as Mike himself might have been if the news had been of an African leader suffering a stroke. She told me he had been struck down by a stroke in Tunis, had been hospitalised, and had discharged himself within days. He retired to Bar sur Loup where his son Martin (who I spoke to this morning) joined him. A second stroke hit him there, and he was hospitalised again. There appears to be some doubt over whether the treatment he received in hospital didn’t contribute to his death. It must have been terrible for Martin to go through the experience of seeing his father die so suddenly. The funeral is being held in Bar sur Loup on Monday. Cousin Mary (with whom I spoke at length) is flying out today. Mike’s four children will, thus, be there (Mary, Martin, Michael coming from Sofia, and Andrew) as well as Roxanne, who is flying back from the US (having just returned there for good).

Mike married three times. Firstly to Johnnie, Mary’s mother, who remained a life long friend of my mother; secondly to Claudia with whom he had Martin and Michael; and thirdly to Roxanne with whom he had a third son - Andrew. He was not much loved or liked, it seems to me. He ruined all these peoples lives. My mother says he never had any time for anybody. He certainly lived for his work and nothing came close to it in terms of importance. Although he did make a name for himself as a major news reporter, he certainly never made a success of his private life. And yet, as always, I must compare him with myself: I have some time to go but he has more children than I am likely to have (that is one of the most important criteria I can think of for a life); he certainly gained higher status than I am likely to gain; his women have certainly been more high-powered if I can judge things in a such a crude way; and he certainly saw more of life: people and places than I am ever likely to see. Does it then matter that he was not particularly liked by his nearest and dearest!

Monday 29 October 1990

I must wait at home this Monday morning for the man (or woman) who is coming to lay new lino in the kitchen. I have waited a long time for this moment. The carpet shop - Carpetright Ha Ha - have continued to blame the manufacturers for the delay. My goodwill is at an end, if the man (or woman) does not arrive by midday (I am booked for an AM visit) I shall hit the roof over my un-linoleumed floor. I resisted the temptation to start writing letters to the head office over the fiasco with Mum’s camera, but I shall not be so kind and goodhearted to Carpetright Ha Ha. I bought Mum a cheap camera from the Brighton Jessops last Christmas. It went wrong almost immediately so I had to return it to the shop for a replacement. The new camera soon malfunctioned also. Unfortunately Mum doesn’t use a camera very often so it wasn’t until the summer, during her first foreign holiday in years, that the new camera went wrong. By this time she was on her third film of the year. The first film had been ruined by the first camera, one set of pictures had come out reasonably well, and then, at frame 8 on the third film, a little cloud of smoke emerged out of the cute white cheap camera, brand name Sirius. With one thing and another, it wasn’t until October that I returned yet again to Jessops. No one in the shop had any authority to compensate me for more than a free film. The young man told me that one couldn’t expect too much from a cheap camera. I said, I expected it to work. He recommended a camera more than twice as expensive but could not offer me a price reduction. After two trips by me, and another by B, after several telephone conversations between the young man and Jessops head office, we finally managed to get a £5.90 discount. So that, having originally purchased a camera for £17, having had countless problems with it, I was obliged to fork out a further £23 for a replacement. It was hard restraining myself, but I couldn’t see how I was really going to gain out of this one. I might have squeezed another £10 out of them or perhaps £15, it didn’t seem worth my time in writing the letters.

Nearly 11 am, and he (or she) still hasn’t arrived.

Professionally, my week in Brussels turned out quite well, even though it started rather slowly. Winning an interview with the Environment Commissioner Carlo Ripa did Meana helped enormously. Unlike my interview with the Energy Commissioner last January, which was quite long and covered a lot of subject, this one was brief and orientated rather towards a single news item in the hope that I could get it published in the ‘Financial Times’ itself. It seems there was some confusion and the spokesman, a dark and frowning Greek called Stathopoulos, had not understood I was from the lesser world of FT newsletters. Nevertheless, I convinced him of my importance and that if the Commissioner were to give me some news, I might be able to get it in the FT proper. He did in fact give me news, much to my surprise, which I duly turned into a 600 word story for the FT, writing some in Brussels on the Thursday night and some in the office on Friday afternoon. The reason, dear diary, why I bothered with the FT at all is because Lucy Kellaway, FT Brussels correspondent, who I met earlier in the week, quite genuinely (or so it seemed) offered to support any scoops I might have from Brussels with the European desk editors in London. Well, of course, when it came to it, she was ever so busy, and my idea was an environment story not an energy one, and Tim Dixon handles environment. Late on Friday, she agreed I could send my story by fax to the FT with a note that she, Lucy Kellaway, had suggested I do so. The story was simply more details on Ripa did Meana’s plans to bring in a far-reaching carbon tax to pay for energy-saving incentives in domestic Member States but also in the international arena. There was not a flicker of response from the FT on Friday nor the weekend, not a phone call checking some item in the story or to confirm they had even received it. I bought the FT on Saturday - didn’t think much of the weekend edition - and there was certainly no article there. I haven’t looked this morning, but I don’t believe they would publish it without first talking to me. It is not so much my name I want to see on the pink paper as a credit to the journal ‘EC Energy Monthly’. There’s so many people out there in the marketplace who don’t even know it exists yet.

I had a profitable trip to DG 12 (research) as well. I met two people, one in charge of energy saving projects and the other in charge of renewables. The latter gave me a copy of the summary of a ‘black paper’ about nuclear fusion. He lives under the funding shadow of nuclear energy: research into fusion gains some forty times the amount of Commission money that is given to photovoltaics, for example. It is in his interest to feed out as much bad publicity as he can about fusion so long as none of it can be traced back to him. I convinced him he could trust me. And he can. At the transport Directorate-General, I learned that a new report has been published on transport and global warming, I will get that in the post. At the competition DG (Leon Brittan’s) I also discovered plans to dismantle any national restrictions on imports and exports of electricity.

In terms of going to live in Brussels, I did not achieve very much. I was double-crossed over the one flat I had arranged to see, in that when I got there I was told it had been promised to someone else. My next move now, I suppose, will be to go to Brussels simply to find a flat and not confuse my time there with any other objectives. Before I do that I must be 100% convinced that I am making the right move. Had this flat worked out I would have been propelled onwards without the need to jump the hurdle consciously.

He came at 11.50am.

Evening now. Some Britten arranged songs playing on the tape. I must have recorded them from a record but omitted to write on the cassette who is singing or what is being sung. I am feeling somewhat relaxed and peaceful having just completed my first yoga session for weeks. Here I am at the beginning of the week, no pressing project to get on with, slightly more work than normal perhaps because Kenny is away. I have absolutely no society lined up for the coming days - no meetings, no parties, no films, no dates, no theatre. Nothing. Such is life in my late thirties. A free man with nothing to be free for. If I go to Brussels, who’s to say I won’t just become a weekday hermit.

Adam was as cute as an angel at the weekend. I read him my favourite child’s story of all time, the one about the fallen star and the magic key. It is a long story, but Adam listened riveted throughout. I’m not sure he fully understood but he took in enough to stay interested. On Saturday, Grandma B came over for tea, otherwise we did not do very much. On Sunday, the three of us met up with the Warrens in Primrose Hill. This is the first time I’ve seen Judy since we holidayed together in the Peak District last Spring. They have a five-year old friend of Sophie’s in toe. We all stand around in the children’s playground for an hour nattering about respective interests. Rob is fascinated by the Anna scandal so I tell him all the gory details. He is one of the few people to whom I can boast about my part in her downfall. I enjoy every second of it. Adam does not play much with either Sophie or James but takes great pleasure in honing his climbing skills on the well-constructed frames and running around talking to any child or adult that will pay attention to him. We retire for tea and cake in a nearby cafe that does a roaring business on Sunday morning. Rob tells me that his company has now been taken over by Southern Water and that the small stake he held in his bosses’ company will be turned into a cash bonus. However, he will no longer have any stake in the firm. He says the company just ran up against a brick wall and could find no way to expand, but it needed resources and expansion desperately. The takeover means that finally, he will be working somewhere out of London and they can move to live in a more rural location.

We popped in quickly before lunch to see Dad and Michele. Dad was in a more relaxed mood than the last time I saw him. I passed on the news about Mike Goldsmith but there wasn’t much conversation there; and we talked a little about his flat (Mutti’s old residence) in Brussels. Apparently it is near the Commission, is about the right size for me, but the current tenant has a lease for 18 months or more.

Adam has gone to Grandma and Grandad’s for two days since B has to finalise a 20 minute presentation for next Friday, to 50 or more people. She was in a total panic and mess on arriving Saturday. I read her text for the talk but it was completely unstructured and impossible to work with. I explained a simple structure, which once in place, would then write itself. I stressed the importance of creating bullet points, all through the talk, which could serve as her focus and around which she could elaborate whilst talking. It seems so easy for me to create a structure for something like B’s talk, and I can barely understand how she couldn’t see something similar. However, on reading Kenny’s profile of Swiss energy, the first such long feature he has written, I found a similar lack of structure (this, even though the profiles have a very clear and constant form). B rings this evening to tell me how relaxed she is now about the talk - she has written a new text and it all fell out quite easily.

22 11, Wednesday 31 October 1990

President Bush says he has had enough. The American flag is flying above the US embassy in Kuwait and the remaining diplomats are being starved, he says. He won’t have americans treated that way. War in the Middle East comes closer. Kuwait has been ransacked. Even if Saddam made a full withdrawal now, the West would have to tackle him.

At work I have to tackle ‘European Energy Report’ and the East Europe supplement (second issue) without Kenny who has gone off on another holiday. I desperately need a holiday and hope I can get a few days walking in North Wales early in November. Maybe I should also aim for a week in Antibes in January. It’s a lot of work putting together the East Europe supplement since there’s such a jumble of information. It all has to be sifted and edited appropriately. With news in West European countries, I can leave it largely to the correspondent to monitor developments and trust them to file whatever is news; not so with East Europe: much of the information we find is repeated over and over again, such as in the BBC broadcast notes, one of my main sources.

I was somewhat depressed today by a listing of the newsletters’ financial figures in a league table. In terms of contribution, ‘European Energy Report’ is near the bottom. I have to wonder whether my operation wouldn’t be more profitable without the supplements, i.e. by incorporating the EC and East Europe news back inside the main newsletter. Without the extra costs of a full-time trainee journalist and an extra half production assistant, my net contribution could be 50% more. I am top heavy with editorial quality and quantity - and it way out-balances the marketing input. All my work and ability produces just a few tens of thousands of pounds profit for the company - I feel sure I am being wasted.

I ring Mary in Salisbury to find out how things went in Bar sur Loup, but she is not back. Roger tells me all the Goldsmith children and Roxanne have returned to Paris. Things are difficult for Mary, he says, because the will appears to have left everything to Roxanne, who is not showing any generosity, and Martin and Michael are turning paranoid about getting nothing. The flat in Paris was jointly owned with Roxanne, but the Bar sur Loup house was Mike’s and has been left to Roxanne. I try to ring the Paris flat but get no reply.

Halloween. Bangs and whizzes, near and distant. What happened to Halloween parties. Last night I called Adam at his grandparents. When I asked what he had been doing during the day, he told me it was a secret. He did tell me what he’d had for supper - fish and chips. I asked again where he’d been but he insisted it was a secret. When I asked why, he said because Grandma said it was a secret. This morning a postcard arrived from Adam with a picture of a Docklands light railway train on.

November 1990

Paul K Lyons


Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG

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