PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1993 - FEBRUARY
Wednesday 3 February 1993, Brussels
Well I’m nearly at the end of my term of duty here, I go back tomorrow evening. I should have been heading back today or even yesterday, five working days is probably sufficient. By hanging around longer I just find more things I don’t know anything about.
I ring B, she tells me I have two more orders (plus the three credit card orders on Monday), making 22-23 in total. Only one of the invoices sent out has been paid and so I could be looking at five or six less if the payments don’t come through. Now the dust has settled somewhat, I think I shall be reasonably content with 20 and a bit discontent with only 15. I’ve said I’ll open the bottle of champagne if I get 25 orders from this mailing.
I’m not sure the February issue will have much sparkle in it, but it should have a broad enough range of interesting stories to warrant the mailing.
The weather continues cold and miserable. I listen to the news five times a day, even though there is nothing of interest. I have finished Alasdair Gray’s ‘Poor Things’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. I sleep 9-10 hours a night. Right now I have ‘Porgy and Bess’ on the tape. I am debating whether to go to the cinema again.
On Sunday I went to see Neil Jordan’s ‘The Crying Game’. I was not much impressed with the film; and I particularly found Miranda Richardson’s portrayal of a tough IRA operator weak and superficial. Indeed I never came close to believing in the way the film portrayed the IRA at all. Neither could I determine what the film was really about. It started as though it were a thriller but then spent far too long on the relationship between a hostage and a hostage-taker in Northern Ireland. The film veered to London pub life as the hostage-taker sought out the girlfriend of the hostage who had died in his care. The Irish hostage-taker, having run away from the IRA, fell in love with the girlfriend, only to discover that she was a transvestite. The film thus seemed to take a wholly different direction.
Saturday 20 February 1993, Brighton
How does my business go today? Well, from the first mailing I have totalled about 30 orders, 23 of which have been paid. I surely can’t complain. I would only need four mailings that good to make my target for the year. However, already it is clear that life will not be so easy. My second issue and second mailing went out two Fridays ago and I have not received a single order or enquiry during the whole of last week.
Through Brian Jensen, I am again working on the Thermie annual report. Last year’s never got published, instead the bulk of it will be used for a 1991/1992 report and I am writing some extra pages. Next week I go to Brussels again for to work on Issue 3. Although the first two have been 20 pages, I cannot see myself getting enough material of 20 pages this time round since I have no overmatter at all and no prospects, as yet, for good articles.
It has been half term for Adam this week, and with Barbara working three full days, I was in charge of Adam for most of the time. But we get on famously together; I manage to work almost full days despite his presence in the house. I carefully organise a number of activities and tasks which he can do in his own time so long as he finishes them by lunch, say, or by teatime. He is very industrious and avoids disturbing me too often which means that when he does disturb me I can give him some time and set him back on to an activity track. I joked with Barbara that I get less work done during the day when she’s at home than when Adam is.
Last night B and I engaged in some social intercourse - an extremely rare event, especially since we met friends of Barbara’s rather than mine. B’s colleague at the RHS, Sally Kington, ex-wife of Miles Kington, asked B if we wanted to have a meal out with her and her husband and a library friend of theirs. B thought I would say no (I don’t know why) but fixed it when I agreed. However, I do actually really enjoy meeting new people - it is the bane of my life that I have no social network and the tragedy that I cannot see how to start one.
In all, there were six of us at a table on the third floor of the Spaghetti House in Goodge Street. Sally had brought her husband Paul and her son, by Miles, Tom, and then there was an elderly lady Audrey who writes articles about gardening and lives in Exeter. Sally had brought Tom along because he’s about to start work on corporate magazines for a public relations company and he wanted some advice on how to proceed into journalism. B reports that entertaining and socialising are highly important to Sally and this came across. She makes comforting small talk as easily as I pedal down the Kilburn high road and, purely by habit, manages to encourage others to converse. Paul by contrast was rather quiet and shy though given to smiling a lot. Tom appeared a bright and lively child, but Audrey seemed rather distant. I did a lot of the talking. B says I don’t listen very well in conversation, that my eyes glaze over sometimes and I lose concentration. I suppose she’s right. I am often conscious of interrupting people when they are talking, to put in my own two pennies worth, and with non-English people I often find myself finishing their sentences for them. I’m sure a long time ago I used to be a very good listener - I always used to do more listening than talking.
Sunday 21 February 1993, Brighton
This morning we went for a windy walk around Devil’s Dyke. Fabulous views both north across the plains and south to the sea. Adam and I scrambled down one side of the valley and up the other. The way down was extremely steep - ‘dodgy’ - and Adam loved the thrill of it. He was slipping and sliding all over the place but I held a tight grip on his hand and there was no danger, other than getting muddy backsides. The sun shone bravely through the gaps in many clouds.
Two ten year old boys have been charged with the murder of James Bulger, the two year old child that was abducted from a shopping centre in Bootle over a week ago and found murdered two days later. This crime has troubled the country and every Tom Dick and Pundit is discussing The State of the Nation. The story is indeed a peculiar one. The Bulger mother took her eyes off young James for a few minutes and two boys just led the child out of a shopping centre and along the road for miles and miles to a railway embankment where they must have killed him and left the body. The shopping centre video cameras caught the two boys leading the child away, but the quality of the videos was so poor that they couldn’t be identified. For two days the police searched for James, until three lads found him by the side of the railway a few miles from the shopping centre. Murder by children is itself extremely rare and murder of children by strangers is also very rare.
Saturday 27 February 1993, Brussels
Every month I go through precisely the same cycle, as regular as a woman’s period. I am depressed and fearful just before I leave for Brussels - depressed because I am going to spend so many days alone without daily and hourly contact with B and especially A; and fearful that I just won’t get enough good stories for the newsletter. The day of my trip is always horrible; I hate the travelling, I hate the waiting, I hate the delays. I always arrive here at this flat in a panic, feeling I need to rush off and find things out; I never feel very well and I usually have a headache; and then, to top everything, I start firing out phone calls only to find no one in their office (and usually imagine them all to be deliberately avoiding me). This trip I found myself falling asleep not long after 3 or 4 in the afternoon and sleeping more or less right through to the next morning, apart from occasional bouts of listening to radio programmes (one, an analysis by Frances Cairncross of environmental difficulties in GATT, was quite interesting.)
As my activity increases on the second day, so my spirits start to lift: a number of possible stories begin to present themselves; papers have fallen into my hands; and I have connected with one or two people on the telephone (and lunched with Brooks maybe). In the flat, I rapidly move into my routines which circulate around work, eating, sleeping, reading, doing yoga once a day, and listening to the radio. Once established, these satisfy and sustain me through the weekend. Then, usually, the second week hots up as I am on the trail of a number of stories, and have started writing articles.
This trip I’m having an unusually social weekend. I met up with Fiona, her sister and a few others in a vegetarian restaurant last night. The delightful restaurant was reached through a wholefood shop and was filled with plants. Tonight, there is a party with the same people; and tomorrow I shall meet up with Bente a delightful young Danish journalist who I met months ago but with whom I’ve only just established contact again.
Brooks has landed himself a plum new job as second European correspondent on a major new aviation journal edited out of the States. As I understand it, he has a full-time staff position and salary, plus some staff benefits (office and travel expenses), but he can manage to keep not only his strings going but his half share in the fortnightly newsletter for which he does all the editorial work. His second child, Camille, has settled down now and sleeps through the night.
Increasingly, I fear for the future of DGXVII. Many of the most impressive people are leaving for one reason or another, replacements seem to be 62 years old (as close to retirement as you can get), and policies being developed point to a diffusion of strategies into other broader areas. I am unsure whether a) this is a good thing for the Community b) this is a good thing for my newsletter. I will probably write an editorial on the subject soonish, and must make up my mind on what to say.
It is bitterly cold here today - there has been a snowstorm but the snow has not settled.
I read two books - ‘The Conservationist’ by Nadine Gordimer and ‘Indigo’ by Marina Warner.
Paul K Lyons
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