PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1991 - JULY
DIARY 45: July - December 1991
Wednesday 3 July 1991, Brussels
Rather grey days with a lot of rain; but the temperature seems to be going up and the humidity also. I arrived late on Monday morning after the 7:30 Docklands-Brussels flight was cancelled and the 8:30 flight was delayed 40 minutes. Although I didn’t suffer a blast of headache as last time, I was quite tired and bedded myself not very long after 9. At least I was mildly productive in the afternoon. Tuesday was my day for catching up on information and collecting data - at the Commission, the Council and the FT offices but I didn’t get much done either. And today I’ve done even less. A streak of apathy has taken me over. On Monday and Tuesday I allowed myself to be completely taken over by a Mac dungeons and dragons game I brought over from London. I must stay away from such evil inventions; I spend enough time in front of the screen as it is. Last night I was tossing and turning with all new ideas on how to proceed: you see I’ve got to the castle and found the oracle and my pack is full of all sorts of useful implements but I’ve surely missed some important ones because the oracle is all chained up and I’ve no way of freeing it.
‘The Independent’ did run a story on Monday based on my energy tax article; Mary Fagan quoted me quite near the top of the story but not mention of ‘EC Energy Monthly’. Still every bit of publicity counts I suppose. I was somewhat perturbed, and anxious, during Monday morning as I kept thinking about how Mary Fagan had quoted me, i.e. as saying that any energy tax would be around 10% on domestic consumer prices. Well I’ve absolutely nothing to base that figure on at all, it came out because I criticised other articles about the energy tax which used figures such £3 a gallon. So she asked me what it would be, and I meant to say, well it’s likely to be much nearer 10% than 50%, but I must have just said ‘about 10%’ - boomph and there it is in print for the whole wide world to see. Nobody has yet sent me to Coventry, or caned my hand, or chopped off my head, or sacked me, so things can’t be so bad. Having been teased with publicity in ‘The Scotsman’ and the ‘Yorkshire Post’, it was quite pleasing to get a mention in a major daily. I doubt it will do much for the newsletter’s circulation but, best of all, it will indicate to my bosses, Dennis and John, that I am doing something positive in Brussels.
The mess in Yugoslavia continues - the EC tries its best but really what can it do. Only time will tell. I hope Maja is OK, I heard there were troop movements near the Italian border, which is just where she and her family are. They are due to fly to London Friday week, I wonder if they will still be able to.
It’s Mum’s 65th birthday today; she is eating at Julian’s - I give her a call there.
Friday 5 July 1991
Not a very successful week; in fact of all my trips, since taking the apartment, this is the least productive. I seem to have wasted a lot of time chasing after things such as a haircut or a printer. I haven’t coordinated with myself very well; and to make matters worse, the temperature has shot up so that going anywhere, doing anything is rather tiring. My routines haven’t really congealed properly this time either. I never got going on the French lessons, the first time I haven’t, but it’s not as if I had the time. Perhaps its more a matter of not having an interesting course to do any more: Linguaphone has gone back to the library and I’ve already done my BBC course a couple of times and the dialogues do pall after a time.
After much prevarication I’ve tried to do some planning for book on EC energy policy. In me, there is an odd streak of reluctance to begin - is it that I just don’t want to be faced with the task ahead, or do I feel undeserving of having the fun of planning (for the planning is the easy, almost fun, bit) before doing any real work? In any case I did get down to some preliminary bits and pieces including trying to allocate all ‘EC Energy Monthly’s’ features of the last 18 months to a chapter heading. This allowed me to assess how well different subjects would fit into a structure. There are several things to do next: I must go through all my documentation in London and sort out, on a general basis, what I have which will be useful and whether I am missing any major documents; I must look at my draft chapter headings and decide which ones can be written first; I can take some issues, like German coal subsidies, or acid rain emissions, and start compiling historical data. And so it goes on. Although I have agreed with Vivien Korn, the editor at FTBI Management Reports, that I should deliver the book by the end of November, I must see if I can manage it by the end of October - then perhaps I could take a real holiday somewhere, but where, with whom? - perhaps the truth is that, now I’m forty, the only holiday I can enjoy is a nice chunky bit of work.
Which brings me neatly on to my 1974-1975 diary. Although I finished off the dense part of the diary - the 5-6 months of travel across Asia - the old red journal (marked 1 on the spine) continues with the description of my time in Darwin (Cyclone Tracy), Sydney and my arrival in New Zealand. So, in fact, I am typing up the remaining bits of this diary. The most interesting part, of course, is that about the cyclone and what happened afterwards. My memory of that event has bits of information not contained in the diary - particularly, for example, I remember that during my two and half hours lying in the storm trying to work out whether I was going to live or die and what I should do if my covering board should fly off, I never once thought about god. The rest of the journal, however, is rather unfocussed and incoherent; all sense of time is lost after the cyclone - I wrote only intermittently, without the sense of keeping a diary, and strung a whole sequence of events together without reference to time. In the quarantine station at Sydney, I seem to have done little more than watch television, and so had little to write about.
‘Radical Castle’ is the name of the dungeons and dragons game that I’ve been playing on the Mac since Monday. Although from Wednesday, after those dreams on Tuesday night, I vowed not to play it any more, I have allowed myself small sessions, and today I succeeded in bringing the oracle back to the King. I am very proud of myself. So much of it, though, is a matter of luck since, never having done any of these before, I had no idea what sort of principles to be guided by. It now seems for example that it is worth killing only some of the various monsters and dragons; if, when killed, they don’t give up some treasure or other then it can be assumed they are red herrings - so on the next trial one might as well avoid them. All in all, it wasn’t bad entertainment - about on a par with a good (not excellent) thriller, and probably worth about the same amount of time.
Maja rings this afternoon from Yugoslavia - she has heard the bombers and seen the tanks and watched the children play with guns for the first time. She hopes she will still be able to come on Friday but Ljubljana airport has been bombed and she’s not sure whether flights are running to schedule.
THE OMMEGANG PAGEANT
Last night, I strolled over to the Grand Place to get a peak at the Ommegang - a rich and extensive pageant recreating an event that took place in 1549! The original pageant began as a celebration of a religious event at the site of the Sablon church but it grew in size and strength to peak in 1549, the guide book says, when even kings attended. The celebration disintegrated sometime afterwards. In 1930, it was decided to recreate the 1549 pageant. Each year since then, on the first Thursday of July, the Ommegang parade takes place from the Sablon to the Grand Place. Huge grandstands of seats are erected in the Grand Place, and thousands of tickets for them sold months in advance - it’s Brussels’ carnival really, but where the Brazilians choose modern fancy costumes and loud dance music, the Belgians choose traditional costumes and the dull sound of amateur brass bands.
Sunday 7 July 1991
Thunderstorms last night. Another hot day today. The weather forecasters talk of temperatures up to 28-29 degrees. If I were in Brighton, I’d probably be on the beach, if in London, lazing in the garden or on the sun roof. Here in Brussels, my weekend is empty - empty of people, empty of thoughts, empty of any real interest. Yesterday, I dawdled for a long time in the Grand Place where preparations were underway for a concert in the evening, strolled slowly across town to the fine and modern art museums. To my pleasant surprise I found a gallery of famous Breughel paintings; and I also found one of Bosch’s ‘Temptations of St Anthony’ tryptychs - I have bought a postcard of this and will send it to Adam. The Breughel period appears to have been a very prosperous one for Flemish art, there are galleries after galleries of similar scenes with rich red and brown colours, an element of magic and superstition creeping into the compositions, and a strong swing away from religious subjects. I wonder if it is usual for geniuses, like Breughel or Mozart or Dryden, to have come from a time and place whne/where there was an abundance and richness of that particular art form.
Down in the modern art gallery levels, I come across some of Paul Delvaux’s disturbing nudes. These have always stayed in mind since I first taught myself a little of 20th century art. I didn’t realise, though, that he was Belgian, I always assumed he was English, I don’t know why. I also spotted Francis Bacon’s Pope fading away on his throne, but with the bright purple still fluorescing into the viewer’s eyes, into the Catholic world’s mind.
I did a little work in the evening, managing to clear my desk (as I like to do on my Saturday’s in Brussels) and then I strolled over to the jazz cafe round the corner, but it was far less animated last night than a few weeks ago. I found it best to stand outside, drinking my beer and letting the loud jazz spill out into the street for me.
On the radio, I listen to the closing games of Wimbledon’s women’s final - much excitement as Graf finally outdoes the Argentinian Sabatini - I can’t hear Sabatini talk without thinking of M.
Today, I determined on a walk in the Eastern suburbs of Brussels trying to connect up some of the lakes and parks visible on the map. This was not a very successful venture. I liked Woluwe park but the lakes were drained and ugly; and I couldn’t successfully negotiate a passage across the way I would have liked because of wretched motorways. One park and lake intrigued but was all fenced off. It turned out to be part of the property of the Val Duchesse, the first Dominican monastery in the Netherlands dating from the 13th century. It looked pretty deserted and wild to me; I should have thought it could serve better open to the public. Then I went on a wild goose chase to something called, on the map, an experimental garden, but it was just part of the university and all closed up. Back home for about 12:30 and a supermarket lasagna for lunch.
Monday 8 July 1991, Brussels
Music definitely has its times of day - from my limited collection of tapes, I choose Jan Garbarek at night, in the mornings I am more likely to pick Mozart or Debussy, in the afternoon it will be one of the more solid symphonies by Shostakovitch or Bruckner or Williams.
Those thunderstorms last night really cracked open the skies, I kept falling asleep and then being woken by a thundercrack. The weather has broken now, this evening it is cooler and clouds have drifted across the skies. If I look out of my front window to the left I can see a patch of pinks and oranges where the sun sets behind the clouds framed by conglomerations of city blocks.
Yesterday afternoon in the peak of the heat wave (and after having listened, on the World Service, to the German Stich beat the German Becker at Wimbledon) I waltzed up to the Grand Place to sit in one of the bars and read a novel ‘The Sorrow of Belgium’. I stayed for about two hours reading a few pages in between watching all the people come and go. A woman came and sat right next to me in the bar and plunged into her book - it is as though she had seen me walking through the Place and quickly decided to take the seat next to me. She looked mildly interesting, and I made some slight comment in English. At first, I felt she must be rather brazen to meet my eyes on walking through the Place and then come and take a seat next to me - far more brazen then I ever could be. She responded openly enough but made no attempt to expand on my enquiry or give one back, preferring rather to sink more deeply into her book. Then, for the next hour she barely looked up or around at anything or anyone. So I left her alone; her sitting there, I concluded, must have been a coincidence after all.
In the evening, I finished listening to the play ‘Pravda’ by Howard Brenton and David Hare. Anthony Hopkins dominates the radio production as a South African business magnate buying and selling newspapers for fun, or at the whim of his need for cash to buy into a horse breeding stock. A real pleasure that, a first class play for radio, I wish I’d seen it on the stage; it must have come out when I was in Brazil.
This has not been a successful trip, I barely know how I shall fill the next edition of ‘EC Energy Monthly’, and I haven’t got on well with ‘The Sorrow of Belgium’. This afternoon, at least, I was entertained at Electrabel where I gathered lots of news - material for EER and to help with the electricity section of the Belgium profile. In the morning I talked to two of the Council energy working group reps - Martin Brennan (Ireland) and Pedro Vitario (Portugal) both small and peripheral Community members.
I think a lot about Barbara and Adam and what I am to do. I try to assess what my life is worth and what progress I could now make. What is it I hope for in life? where would I like to go? Next year - when I’m 40 is a crunch year. If I am to make some changes I should be seeding them in my mind now. But, I cannot assess my current status, whether I should be pleased with my progress or whether I should be hurrying along. I don’t know what benchmark to use; and I am running out of ideas on how to use up my time with challenges. I’ve gone past a mark already with this Brussels lark; it’s a delaying gesture - I know that, I’ve said it before; so I must get on and find the next step, the next layer. This slowing down will not suffice; there must be ways to enrich my forties, there must be more for me to do. I need to get to 50 and be able to look back on my forties, and see colour, change, riches of some calibre or other.
7:12, Thursday 11 July 1991, Brussels
My flight back to London is not until 10:30, I shall either catch the 9:14 or 9:39 airport express so I have a minimum of two hours. Usually, I begin to tidy up and pack the day or night before but I have not done so this time. A bright blue and hot day is apparent through the open window. Although I look forward greatly to seeing A and B I do not relish having to spend time in the London office - there is so little air circulation, most of it coming from the photocopying machines; our furniture and furnishings are largely decrepit, and we have so little space per person. Still, today I will stay but 3 hours; I plan to train down to Brighton for the night even though my beloveds will be coming up on Friday night. B has her new Mac and is all excited to get it working.
7 36, Monday 15 July 1991, London
MAJA AND HER DAUGHTER ARRIVE IN LONDON
Maja and her daughter Nika arrived from Slovenia on Friday. They stayed until Sunday when I drove them to Luton airport. My diaries testify to the fact that Maja was my first love - we met while working at Butlins one summer during university years but never did more than kiss and hold hands. While at school in Hoddesdon, I had had two girlfriends - Anne and Clare. I would go with Anne to her house, not far from the school and indulge in heavy petting sessions during lunch breaks - I must have been 16-17 at the time. I remember that Anne’s parents drove an old A10 car (which, after my test, I was allowed to borrow once or twice). A little later, and before I left school, I started going out with Clare who was already working as a nurse. Clare was on the rebound from a heavy relationship, and all I got were the kisses and cuddles. Clare is memorable because she was very small, petite, but with large breasts. She provided, one summer, a wonderful refuge for me from the fighting and traumas in my home - it was the summer my mother barely left her bed and I was looking after my brother and sister. Every time I returned to the house, Mum would pick an argument with me.
With neither of these girls was I ever ‘in love’. I had crushes on such girls as Susan Gregory in school and Kaye and Jo from the neighbourhood, but I never even got as far as kissing with them. Thus, Maja stands out as the first and remote beacon of infatuation in my young life. We were together no more than 2-3 weeks at Butlins - a photo which I still have of us holding hands on a cliff-top captures the time. A year or two later, I travelled through her town and country with Philip on our Europe tour. We stayed a few days. A year or two after that, I left on my world journey and stayed with her, again just a few days. It is here in my first diary - the one I have just inputted to the word processor and printed out - that I find the words of infatuation. After leaving her then, and on arriving in New Zealand when several of her letters reached me, I was given to long poems about loneliness and the need for love. It is as though, Maja became a safe object upon which to practice infatuation - far away, an unreal person about which I really knew very little, someone exotic with an unfathomable language.
I did not see her again for maybe eight years - the event will certainly be in the diaries somewhere. She had both a five year old daughter and a baby boy by then, and was well entrenched in her village life with Brane. After this visit, and facing the reality of ourselves and lives, Maja virtually stopped writing. For years I barely received a card, but I would maintain a distant contact. Then, out of the blue, last year came phone calls and attempts to visit London on her journeys to and from Luxembourg where she was taking part in a festival of children’s theatre. It never quite worked out because the timing was wrong, or because she couldn’t get away from her commitments in Lux. Finally, on her last trip there she squeezed a few hours in Victoria station one way and a day or so on the way back. That was when she lost all her money. Since then she has been talking about spending some days in London with her daughter Nika and, finally, she’s managed to arrange it - on her way through to a festival in Dublin.
I met Maja and Nika at Victoria before even I had managed to get home since returning from Brussels, which meant there was much to do at Aldershot Rd, not least get some shopping, and also telephone around to secure them tickets for Dublin. In the evening, B and A arrived so we all ate together upstairs. Maja seemed rather serious and weighed down, Nika too gave the feeling of being restrained - it was difficult to lighten the mood. On Saturday, all was more relaxed. We went to Kenwood to catch a listen to the open air concert, but were fooled by new fencing arrangements which attempt to deny non-payers any enjoyment of the music. For a few minutes we played tag, Adam and Nika loved it, although Adam just wanted to hang onto the legs of whoever was ‘it’.
Maja and I have a few long conversations - none about the past. We talk about the situation in Yugoslavia, and Maja tells me she carries the Slovenian flag to the Dublin festival not the Yugoslav banner. She thinks that Slovenia and Croatia will form one country , while Serbia and others will form another. The army, largely people by Serbs, will fall apart and there will be terrible fighting in Kosova. After all the turmoil, a northern and southern group will emerge. The fighting has already touched their lives. Brane’s mother’s house was within a 100 metres of a bomb fall; tanks have rolled across the countryside, and the Ljubljana airport has been bombed, so that they had to fly from Zagreb. Otherwise we talk about children and not much else.
On Sunday, the two of them went to the zoo in Regent’s Park, while Adam and I did a grand tour of the park. There were many adventures to be had. Our first adventure was an encounter with President Bush, or at least with the teeming hoards of policemen that had been sent into the park to secure the area against would-be terrorists or the like. Because of the security arrangements surrounding the American Ambassador’s residence, the playground I had chosen was cordoned off. I felt this was a serious violation of my rights as a citizen. If President Bush cannot visit his Ambassador in London without ruining the Sunday leisure activities of hundreds of children then surely the US ambassador’s residence should be moved to somewhere where less inconvenience is caused. We continued to walk around the pond. I was staggered by the number of large, ugly, brown ducks that have adapted to eat the grass like sheep, and can be seen nibbling away all day long. We visited the rose gardens and the fountains and the tea house and made our way to the north end to walk along the canal through the zoo. We watched a few barges and the few animals one can see through the fences. About half way along, we came across a small group of policemen standing around the body of a woman lying straight and still on the path. She was entirely drenched, and could have been dead but for a slight head movement. Adam thought she was dead. When we walked around, back to the car, we saw a rescue helicopter had landed in the park - an ambulance helicopter just like the one Adam has a model of. Unfortunately, we did not see the woman carried to the ‘copter, although we saw it take off from a distance.
Adam and I drove Maja and Nika to Luton and then went straight to Mum’s where cousin Mary and Roger had arrived to lunch. B came by bus. The news from Mary is that a deal, worked out between Roxanne and the four Goldsmith children last week over her father’s legacy, has fallen through/
Tuesday 23 July 1991, Brighton
After one week of misery I may be finally recovering from a horrid cold. I’ve been in tip top health for most of this year, but the weekend before last I made the mistake of showing Adam how to play his toy trumpet - the mouthpiece was covered in his saliva and he was just beginning a cold. By Tuesday I was sneezing all day long, and on Wednesday I first started feeling under the weather. In the evening I was incapable of cycling home so was obliged to tube it. Then followed a truly ghastly 24 hours -when I spoke to B Thursday evening on the telephone I broke down and cried for a few seconds, I was so distraught with the pain of headache and the discomfort of the cold. I barely slept a wink on the Wednesday night, and all day Thursday I couldn’t think, sit still, read, listen to the radio. I couldn’t do anything at all, I just kept moving around from one part of the house to the other. No amount of paracetamol seemed able to kill my headache, and the flu symptoms just kept piling up. I went to Bliss chemist at one point, and bought up a few packets of pills, and then through the day I was watching the minutes waiting for the next time I could take some. For the first time ever (in my memory at least) I set back the production of one of my newsletters by a day. The worst of it was that on that Thursday I was due to be at a lunch with Dennis and other editors to discuss a possible new newsletter, and I’d already passed on another luncheon with Dennis the previous Friday.
Now, a week since the onslaught of the first symptoms, I am still feeling somewhat under the weather although I can manage more or less a full day at the office. I was obliged to roll in on the Friday in order to finalise the July edition of ‘EC Energy Monthly’ but I was feeling pretty rotten by mid-afternoon when I left for Brighton. The entire weekend I was inactive and grumpy - I wasn’t able to do anything nor be productive with Adam. The only real achievement over those few days was to have watched nigh on all the British Open Golf Championship, though there was little excitement - the Australian Ian Baker-Finch having led from the third round. I watch Wogan interview Madonna but he is in awe of her and finds himself asking questions which she has already answered. Madonna appears to treat her interviewer with respect but, oddly, she is too open and straightforward for him - it is difficult for us and for him, I suppose, to equate this well-spoken, intelligent, undramatic, rather clear-speaking person with the character that performs so charismatically and brilliantly on stage.
A huge banking scandal hits our domestic political scene - the BCCI has been closed by the Bank of England after collecting evidence of widespread fraud. Kinnock smells blood since Major was the Chancellor of the Exchequer during a period when suspicions about the BCCI were growing though nothing was done. The Bank, which has a worldwide network, appears to have been the favourite of Asian depositors and was on the portfolio list of many local authorities. The ramifications of this Bank’s collapse are both deep and wide. I do not profess to understand about such matters at all.
20 28, Thursday 25 July 1991, London
A rainy time we’re having of it this summer - I still have not managed a swim in the sea yet. I might have gone last weekend, even though the weather wasn’t too hot, but for my cold. Otherwise, there hasn’t been an opportunity. I plan on spending a good deal of time in Brighton during August, so hopefully I can get my fill of sea swims then.
Family markers - this Sunday, Rebecca is being christened in Ealing. It will be only the third occasion on which Mum and Dad have been in the same place since their separation over ten years ago - Melanie’s wedding was the first, and Julian’s the second. By neither marrying nor having Adam christened, I have avoided instigating such family get togethers. For Rebecca, I have bought two hardback books - Beatrix Potter’s collected works which, although not in their original small book format, does contain all the original stories and pictures. The other book is a Macmillan edition of the ‘Wind in the Willows’ with some lovely illustrations.
Soon it is Adam’s fourth birthday. Each day I see him, I am both astonished that I should have a child all and at how beautiful he is - such fun, such good value, so well behaved. It is difficult not to make him sound like an angel, yet he is not an angel - there’s a joker and an imp in him, a clown and a scallywag.
I have bought Melanie Penelope Leach’s guide for parents of under fives. Although I do not agree with all of her ideas (I think for example she is a leading light in the campaign to ban corporal punishment in the home), in general she presents good detail and intelligent answers for parents who are often at a loss to know or understand what they should do with their innocent infants. She is never dogmatic and more often than not explains the underlying reason for her advice. Despite liberal tendencies she demonstrates a strong sensible streak.
Because of my cold, it has been a hard week just to keep on top of things. I got out last night to see Raoul and Andy at the Bush theatre but, by the end of the evening, I was truly knackered, and desperate to lie down. Even now, more than a week later, I am coughing a lot and have a runny nose.
All systems go for the ‘East European Energy Report’. I can now allow myself to get excited, and start thinking how best to set it up.
This week, I have had the pleasure of a 17 year old school girl to help me out on basic research. Laura, on her own initiative, is doing a couple of weeks work experience in our office (her father knows one of the editors). She is remarkably mature and serious. And rather attractive
I read on the Reuters wire that one of Lawrence Durrell’s wives is trying to get an injunction against a woman who intends to publish the diaries and letters of Durrell’s daughter Sappho. Sappho committed suicide some five years ago when she was 33; the diaries and letters appear to show that she had an incestuous relationship as a teenager with her father.
7 26, Monday 29 July 1991, London
Finally, in the last few days, the weather has turned warm. Unfortunately, we have been in London and not in Brighton. I am still not fully recovered, I cough often and I get out of breath easily. Having said that, I cycled my bike home from the office (it had sat there for over a week waiting for me to feel fit enough to ride it); and I ended up racing the last section. An exceedingly fit and well-exercised looking man passed me near Marble Arch. I could see his long, lean, muscular legs wound the pedals round with ease. He wore THE gear, and rode an expensive machine. At the first set of lights, I timed my approach perfectly so that I rode past him with ease. Seconds later, he was by my back, and passing me at twice the speed of light. He did not even deign to look round, or suggest that there might be a road runner connection between us. At the next lights, he again had to stop, and I was able to glide by. A fraction of a second later, he was past me, and so far in the distance a gun couldn’t catch him. But, yet again, at the next lights, I slipped through the traffic, and on the orange I was past the cross-roads and in front again. Well, needless to say he overtook me yet again, and this time flew to another planet. There were no more hold-ups, and no more opportunities for catch ups; indeed we were on an open stretch of road, and he could cycle faster than me with his eyes closed, and his toes tied to the Mary Rose. Nevertheless, I persevered. I just managed to scrape through a set of lights so as not to be left too far behind, and, as we approached Kilburn, I began to realise I might have a chance. Many a Tour de France winner has fallen victim to the cunning Kami Kazi cycling of Paul Lyons through Kilburn. In the distance I could just make out his green and white striped jersey slowing down through the dense traffic. I sped out into the fast lane (i.e. that of the oncoming traffic), and thundered through (an articulated truck had to take a detour through the British Home Stores to avoid knocking me down, and I did bring the crossing traffic to a standstill at one set set of red lights). Inches before my turning off the Kilburn High Road, I found myself cutting in, having overtaken a veritable shoal of buses; my foe, my enemy, my rival, had been left idling behind it, and I had squashed him - THE gear, THE machine are not everything, there is still room in this world for skill, courage, and true grit.
Mum finds, among her lifetime’s collection of letters, my letters from South America. She had already given me those i sent from Asia and New Zealand, but they largely reproduced what was in my diary. I was particularly anxious to read any letters from the Panama-to-Lima period because it was from that time that my diary was lost. There is one letter describing the Galapagos islands and another about my hepatitis in Lima but, as yet, I haven’t found a description of the San Blas islands or my voyage to them and onwards to the Colombian coast.
Much family at the weekend. On Saturday, A, B and I go to Mum’s for tea; Julian and Sarah are there by chance, and Julian and Melanie turn up later. On Sunday, we are all together again because it is my niece’s christening. The service took place in the local church - St Barnabas; and quite high it is too, what with all that incense flying around. Four babies were being christened in the middle of this morning’s service, so all the relations and friends of four families filled the church (I wonder how full it is usually). Rather than making the service short and palatably sweet, the vicar insisted on running a full communion on the back of the baptism, so that by the time the vicar and his lackeys had chanted the necessaries, and about the time they were just settling down to break the bread and vino, there were a number of kids and one or two Dads just dying to get out for a run around. Well, my excuse was perfectly valid - Adam wanted a pee - but when I got outside I found a good number of men, mostly, puffing away at fags. Adam was much relieved to get out and be able to run around; indeed having been cooped up in a pew for 45 minutes he spent the next 20 minutes running backwards and forwards for fun. Every now and then, I had to stop him to tuck in his shirt and tie, the latter being one of mine which stretched from neck to toe and back again!
Both B and my Mum would have liked Adam to have been christened, but I could never see the point. This would, I understand, have ensured that later he could be confirmed and/or married in church. But, firstly, I don’t quite understand why Adam can’t just grow up thinking he has been confirmed. I can’t believe anyone ever asks for confirmation of baptism. I don’t have any papers to prove I was baptised or even confirmed. Secondly, I really do believe that this particular tradition, as opposed to marriage, for example, is defunct, purposeless, an anachronism of the highest order. The ceremony of christening, in essence, has it roots in a time when there was a high incidence of post-natal mortality.
It all went off very well considering. Rebecca was a dream in church; and afterwards we all had good a feed and drink while following the progress of the doomed England side in their valiant attempt to stop the West Indies massacre. I was assigned the job of taking photographs, both outside the church and on the way back to the house, and shot a full reel. However, later I discovered that the film had not been loaded properly, and none of my carefully-taken images came out.
We spend the whole of Saturday morning at Toys R Us, and spend over £100 on Adam’s birthday presents. The biggest share is on a computer game that talks and encourages reading. I also buy him a £20 space-age army truck that has lots of guns and turns into robots and things. I am anxious to give him some street cred as a bona-fide male of the species before he gets to school - I fear that too much of the mamby pamby liberal nursery, and too much education at home, will leave him without the wherewithal to get into guns and cowboys and space rockets and childhood technology.
Paul K Lyons
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