JOURNAL - 1995 - APRIL
Saturday 1 April
Pathetic really, pathetic that I couldn’t think of any better April Fools. I was lying in bed when I remembered it was 1 April. I quickly invented a story concerning a secret visit by one of B’s friends. She took some persuading but eventually I hooked her. Then I had to think up one for Adam. This was not so easy. I decided to try and persuade him it was a school day but, try as I might, he remained secure in his knowledge that Friday had been yesterday. During the morning we April Fooled each other constantly in a light way. Adam’s best effort was to get B to write our address on an envelope, to fill it up with an old book, stick a stamp on from an old envelope and go outside to post it like a real letter.
I worked on papers and admin during the morning. I did a few lessons with Ads. At 2:30, I went down to the kitchen and listened to a football drama while cooking lunch and making bread. Spaghetti bolognese and peas. I never make a real bolognese sauce, and it differs every time I make it. This time it was mushrooms and lots of onions and mince and no tinned tomatoes just paste. Yoghurt and surprise for afters (‘surprise’ is our name for the concentrated winter fruits we buy at Marks).
A trip to the park where we played catch for quite a long time with a very bouncy ball. The weather is delightful - warm and sunny - a prefect spring day. I noticed there was still some light at 8pm.
We watch ‘Superman’ together - he fights an international criminal organisation, and kissed Lois Lane at the end of the episode. I do a little work in the evening but mostly I watch television - a new, awful show called ‘Confessions’, where people confess embarrassing events from their life; ‘Bugs’ a new adventure series; and a bit of ‘Chicago Hope’, an American hospital drama.
Sunday 2 April
I get up relatively early, before Adam, and spend an hour proofreading Thermie before breakfast. The weather is wonderful - warm and sunny. I had hoped to go for a walk, and out of London, but I felt I had too much work to do. Adam wanted to go to the Science Museum but we didn’t do that either. I did some tidying up around the house and laundry. Then I did more work on Thermie.
After 10, we drove to Hampstead Heath and walked across Parliament Hill to the boating lake. We continued our play with the very bouncy ball only Adam kept throwing it badly and having to fetch it. The construction work on the lake has finished but the water level is very low - too low for bathing. There were many people out, the majority of them with dogs or children.
On the way back to the car, we sat quietly on a bench. I told Adam about the plot of a film about a blind photographer I had seen a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure he fully understood all I was saying about trust but he listened intently. Back at home A worked on some giant pictures of rockets on the moon. I continued correcting Thermie and listened to Nina Bawden on ‘Desert Island Discs’. I know her name but little about her. I was astonished to hear her responses to questions about a son who was diagnosed schizophrenic when adult and who killed himself. She didn’t know it, but it seemed clear to me that she, or she and the boy’s father between them, had been utterly responsible for the child’s psychological damage. The evidence she gave of the boy’s waywardness as a teenager was pathetic, and the very fact that he was taken to see a psychiatrist when 14 or 15 implies a dense history of parental mental abuse. When Sue Lawley asked her if she felt guilty, Bawden replied that it was the little things that she remembered - not giving him money to go to the US with his girlfriend - thus admitting no responsibility at all for the deeper problems.
Sausages and beans for lunch. Part three of ‘Ben Hur’. To the park for football practice. I tell Adam to use the side of his foot, he continues to argue, I explain again, and eventually get cross and refuse to play any more. Maintaining a dual role - teacher and playmate - is all too hard sometimes.
I finish Thermie. Write a letter to Lyn detailing progress so far on the Souvenir Magazine. Watch ‘The Choir’ with B.
Monday 3 April
I make sandwiches and leave in a hurry. I arrive at Waterloo with 10 minutes to spare which is just about right. I walk through the train looking for an empty carriage and bump into Michael Brown. We natter for most of the journey to Brussels - EU issues, what Cogen is up to, about Simon Burgess. Michael is working on a proposal for the PERU programme, and is using a successful template put together by Simon as a guide on how to do so. The proposal is an Ecu1m project for Shropshire County Council in liaison with other French and Dutch local authorities.
I read a ‘New Scientist’ supplement on the world below - it has some interesting tidbits about cable laying, sewers, burials, rats. The train arrives on time.
I go to the Commission to collect papers. Listen to Bjeregaard give a press conference on the Climate Change Convention. She is unbelievably dull and unappealing, she has the ability to say nothing that a journalist wants to use.
I mope around for some hours. I go for a walk around the Commission area looking at possible places to rent, but I don’t make any calls or press any concierge bells. I go to bed early.
Tuesday 4 April
‘Today’ is full of items about the Scottish law court decision to ban the ‘Panorama’ interview with John Major in Scotland last night. The Lib Dems and Labour went to court claiming unfair bias in the run-up to the local elections this week in Scotland. The precedent set by the court may be dangerous for broadcasting but the BBC seems to have been somewhat stupid to schedule the interview as it did, ignoring the sensibilities of the Scottish elections.
I listen to the radio until 9:30 when I leave for an interview in DGI. A cloudier day. At 28 rue Belliard, they won’t let me in with my press pass (DGIV is the same), and I wait 10 minutes for Agumaga. He takes me to the coffee bar and tells me about priorities for the energy programme in Latin America. I return home, turn the computer on and start working on a pile of papers. At 12:15 I leave for the Council. I pick up the press releases and chat briefly to Schweiger about the General Affairs Council. I meet Houdijk and de Briek from the Dutch delegation. They take me for lunch (an old sole meuniere, over-boiled potatoes, but nice decor) where we gossip for a couple of hours about all the main issues. They listen interestedly to my anecdotes and to my ideas on energy policy; I gather information on the general state of negotiations and the Dutch positions. Back home, I continue trawling through the papers and writing up factual stuff. I make one or two calls: the environment councillor at the Austrian Representation, who tells me the latest on Mochovce; Michaux at DGXII who doesn’t tell me anything about the GSP problems with the Gulf states; and Rex Bailey, who is always delightfully indiscreet and assumes I have as much inside knowledge as he does.
I am reading ‘The Fist of God’ by Forsyth, but whereas his early books were masterful and thrilling, this latest one has none of the power - he has become arrogant in his writing and he forces the information through, unable to keep his voice from slipping in now and then.
I have a long chat with B on the phone. She has got approval to rent a Wisley flat for four months, but it has no furniture, not even an equipped kitchen, and it will cost her £250 a month.
I go to the cinema at 10pm and choose ‘Just Cause’, Sean Connery in wise guy lawyer mode. It is a legal story. Connery fights to save a condemned man from the electric chair - gets him off and then discovers he is guilty after all. This is such a cheap trick, and is being used by film/tv makers all the time now. Sean Connery is always a delight to watch.
Wednesday 5 April
Here I am at 8am on Thursday morning, and it is a real struggle to remember anything about yesterday to write down. My short term memory is going the same way as my eyes - losing focus.
I listened to the news from 7:30 (6:30 London time). Went for a short walk around St Catherine to buy bread and cakes and also to look for apartment rental signs. I see quite a lot but they rarely mention price.
I have a huge pile of papers - cuttings from papers and ‘European Report’, Commission press releases. I chug through slowly focussing on the items that I must put in the Review (January to March) and writing up stories for EC Inform-Energy when I have enough information. Sometimes, I make calls as and when the need arises. I intend to leave for the Commission early but a call through to Simon is successful and we talk for 20 minutes. Simon tries to fudge the fact that he hasn’t given me the information I need to do a proper job on Thermie, and he wants to drag me into the meetings with the (stupid) Commission liaison on this project. We arrange to meet early on Thursday.
At the Commission, I photocopy a few more bits and pieces from ‘European Report’. These days the photocopier is often not working but I have learned to fix most of the jams as though it were my own machine - well no one else bothers.
There were dozens of press releases at the Commission briefing - a couple useful for me. I lunch with Brooks who is preoccupied with his tax affairs. He has always done his return himself but is trying to keep too many balls in the air - his staff job which is essentially a US position and doesn’t cover his Belgian social security commitments, his freelance, and his role in the newsletter ‘EC Times’ which he hasn’t factored in at all. I tell him he should get an accountant but he says he can’t afford it.
In the afternoon I rewrite a few of pages of Thermie - I do not want to leave any gaps in my work - nor do I want Simon passing the buck when we meet. Then I continue working on the papers through to 10:00 with a break for tea and supper with the Ashes. I write the last chapter of an Einstein story for Adam, and fax it through to him. A quick chat with A & B on the phone. Bed 10:30.
Thursday 6 April
I am under the Channel as I write this. I figured this would be the smoothest part of the journey for (hand)writing.
I woke about 7:00 as usual, dragged myself out of bed. Ate a croissant with my cup of tea. Looked through a few papers. Listened to reports on the radio about the Englishman who is due to be executed today in the US. John Major has declined to ask for the sentence to be transmuted to life sentence because, it is said, the murder committed by the man was gruesome. But the Archbishop of Canterbury has interceded. Why? The guy was born in England but moved to the US when he was a baby. He’s as American as George Washington. If the archbishop simply wanted to create publicity against the death penalty why was his intervention made personally and confidentially (the news was, apparently, leaked). There is also an item on the Canada-Spanish fishing dispute. The Spanish are the main transgressors here but the European Commission has been dragged in to back them. Only the UK in the Council is daring to speak the truth.
At 9, I meet Simon Burgess at OPET C/S and give him the Thermie report. I explain a few of the gaps but suggest he doesn’t point them out to Francoise - the more perfect we pretend the draft is, the more trouble she should have in asking for wholesale changes.
I spend the rest of the morning in DGXVII. I chat with Rex first and tell him the news about Von Scholz’s move (which Simon had informed me of - Von Scholz being the boss that commissioned the Thermie report). I do a proper interview with Carvounis who tells me about the Synergy programme and the new Regulation. I chat to Hans van Steen about the energy policy meetings, to Clouting about a new coal lobby group, to Fee about the final end of Maniatopolous, but he warns me that de Miguel, named as the most likely successor, is a ****. Out of the frying pan . . . Derek says.
Quick lunch at the Commission. I read through the OJs. Ask Costas for an interview with Papoutsis in May. In mid-afternoon, a man rings back about a flat around the corner. I had high hopes for it, but I find that it is below street level and short on light. I pack up, catch the 6:26 train to London, read, write, read some more. Arrive home at 9:30.
Friday 7 April
A fine sunny day. Adam’s last day at school this term. I work first on admin - there are three or four orders, and my stock of books is now down to four. I will definitely have to reprint. Then I concentrate most of the day on the Review. There are a lot of loose ends and I don’t seem to have got to grips with various issues this month.
Adam’s teacher wants to see me at the end of school. She says there was some funny business between Adam and Adrian over money. It doesn’t sound very serious, and Adam’s explanation later satisfies me well. She also says he has been a bit disruptive and defiant. I say I have been telling him off a lot recently; she says she has too. At home I have a serious chat with Adam, but I can’t get any useful information from him about why he’s a bit off at the moment. I suspect school is boring him, and the general climate of the class has deteriorated recently. I leave Adam to play on the computer while I continue with my work. He is trying to create a multiplication table 30 or 40 times 30 or 40. It is so difficult with Microsoft Word but he insists and keeps trying to get the table right. B comes back late from a day at Wisley, and we eat fish, potatoes, broccoli and sweetcorn. I read Adam from the ‘Wouldbegoods’ and then B & I watch the final part of a Rendell thriller. Peter Egan did it, as the not-so-nice-after-all doctor.
Saturday 8 April
I get up first and prepare breakfast - muffins. I waste no time in going to the study and working on articles for EC Inform-Energy. As usual, though, on Saturday I am interrupted all day long. First Adam is still trying to his giant times table so I decide to show him the magic of numbers software as opposed to word software. I set up a 30 x 30 matrix on Excel and fill it in as if by magic. He is suitably impressed. The rest of the morning A & B tidy up A’s room - there is so much mess in there, they sit in chaos most of the morning. I have to prod B to remind her it is lunchtime, and we eventually get a pleasant rice salad. I continue working in the afternoon with a break to play football with Adam in the park. We share an ice cream. I work a bit then watch ‘Superman’ with Adam. I work a bit more, then watch an episode of ‘She’s Out’.
Sunday 9 April
I am up relatively early to do some work as I have at least three non-work commitments today. This morning I am proof reading EC Energy Review. We drive to Holland Park to meet Raoul and family. He is there already, with his four kids, all grey haired and stressed. We spend an hour or so in the sandy playground. We talk about his stress problems, and my moving problems. He tells me a funny story about how he read the ‘Observer’ a couple of weeks ago and saw a major article about a book entitled ‘The story of a breast’ or something similar. The book was written by a patient of his and the article quoted extensively from the book. Raoul was not mentioned by name, but he was described as ‘blue-eyed, youthful, handsome in an actorish sort of way’. The author explained, in the article that her doctor had said he never gave interviews so as not to be recognised in sleazy clubs, but then, she added, she met him in a sleazy club. Raoul was quite abashed by this rakish portrait, and thought that his peers would be all talking about him. I said I thought the portrait was probably far milder a picture than most people had of him and therefore unremarkable.
At lunchtime I go alone to see Sasha (Michele has gone to visit her family) who is back from South Africa. He tells me his house there had a burst tank and a bad flood and £10,000 worth of repairs paid for by insurance. We talk straight away about my request for a £50,000 loans, and he agreed without any qualms - I’ll pay him a low interest, which he gets in his bank in Jersey. We retire to the pub. Sasha drinks a pint to my half and tells me more about S. Africa and his plans for this year.
After more work, we go to Mum’s for tea. I spend most of the time reading the newspapers. Mum is off to the north for a couple of weeks to stay with her stepmother.
Monday 10 April
Writing my diary in this daily format is a real bind when I get more than a day behind - it is Wednesday right now.
I finish off the Review this morning and do a lot of writing for the monthly. Rex Bailey rings to tell me he is faxing a summary paper on the Member States’ positions on the Single Buyer! I wish I could get this kind of document more often. It’s likely to provide the only bit of spice in the whole issue.
I have no time to spend with Adam today although we do get to the library quickly, late in the afternoon. B comes home early from work so we have extra cups of tea. Adam watches ‘Blue Peter’. I watched ‘Eastenders’ and later on the last episode of ‘She’s Out’. What an excellent TV writer Lynda La Plante is.
Tuesday 11 April
I finish off writing stories and start editing the monthly into shape. The features are the following: two pages on the international energy programmes (I interviewed Carvounis, and two people from DGI for this); two pages on the Single Buyer paper; a page on Mochovce (but the FT had a long article on it on Wednesday); and a page on the climate change strategy. The news items were mostly based on Commission or EP papers - very little original stuff. It’s funny how I run out of steam. There are half a dozen story ideas on my list but none are urgent and there is sufficient material, so I don’t bother.
Adam is working on a numbers project in the morning. In the afternoon he watched the classic film ‘The Sea Hawk’ but I don’t think he understands very much of it.
Lyn - a mother from school - rings and tells me how she has got on with her various tasks for the Souvenir Magazine.
Wednesday 12 April
I lay awake for some time in the night worrying about my behaviour towards Adam. I really shouldn’t get cross and shout so much, nor should I be explaining all the time. We need more silences, more ordinary spaces between us. So, today we have a no-telling off day. In fact, I don’t find this difficult, having taken the conscious effort not to get cross. I just keep a cool temper and ask him to do whatever needs doing instead of getting cross that he hasn’t done it.
I finish the newsletter quite early and I have delivered it to Terry Turner (now that Frank has retired) and returned home by 1am (including a stop at Tesco’s in the old Hoover building). Adam and I sit quietly during the drive enjoying the warm sun.
After lunch I read in the garden for a while (I’m still on a Forsyth) then I take Adam to the shops. I start the slow process of tidying up after an issue has gone to bed, while A watches some more of ‘The Sea Hawk’. He is very happy about the no-telling off day, and wants another one tomorrow.
We go to the park up the road for a game of football. Pizza and salad for supper, jelly and yoghurt.
I write a letter to the director of highways at Kensington & Chelsea Borough saying I am not satisfied with the procedure that led to my car being impounded. I resent having had to pay £130 to get my car back in the middle of the night.
B has had to take a tour of Wisley people around the Lindley Library. Tomorrow she has a long day at Wisley.
Last night I dreamt I still had my Yamaha 175 from Brazil. The kick-start was broken and that was all. I could ride it - I did ride. And I woke up to a huge disappointment.
Thursday 13 April
A lazy quiet day. The weather remains bright and hot. I tidy up my study, my papers, and sort out my agenda for the next couple of weeks.
I call Simon to see what is happening on Thermie. He says he has received it back from DGXVII, and been asked for loads of changes, but most of them are to do with positioning of the text or slight stylistic things which, he says, he can do himself. All he asks of me is a one-page foreword. This sounds promising, as though I may not have to put in any more time on the project.
In the afternoon, we go to the little playground the other side of Willesden Lane. Adam plays football with another boy. I sit in the sun and read a book. Later I put the hammock up on the roof and read. I give Adam an early supper and put him to bed at 7. B comes home in time to say goodnight. In ‘Eastenders’ it is stag night for Mark, he and his girlfriend are going to Scotland to get married. Mark is maudlin because he thinks about not being able to have children.
In the evening I make a start on my business accounts - never once yet has the amount I calculate from bank books equalled the amount from the subs lists, there’s always one mistake or other.
While I was lying in the hammock and Adam was also sitting on the roof reading, apropos of nothing he asked me about god. He said, Daddy how can one know what is the real god when there are so many. I mean which is the real one. And anyway how do we know god exists at all?
Good question, son, good question. I told him they could all be the same god but different people use different names. I also told him that a lot of people’s lives are not very pleasant and but that it can be easier to think someone else is in charge and to have a heaven to look forward to.
Friday 14 April - Good Friday
I start the day by working on the Thermie foreword and finish it before breakfast. We have decided to stay in London today, and go to Brighton tomorrow.
I spent the morning on my accounts. B spread her papers all over the lounge and pretended to work while she watched old movies on telly. Quiche and salad for lunch.
After lunch A & I go for a walk in the cemetery. We walk quietly, talking only occasionally. Sometimes we throw a tennis ball and play catch and we read a bit of the ‘Wouldbegoods’ which Adam is really enjoying. For a few minutes we talk to a photographer who is taking pictures with a replica old-style camera. These days we play a lot of catch and football, to get his coordination skills up to scratch. Later we build a large rocket and platform together.
A & B watch the end of ‘The Sea Hawk’ while I prepare a cold supper. Saturday 15 April
The alarm went at 5:30. It was not very pleasant getting up so early but within a few minutes we were all as bright as new pins and bundling into the car with our bags. The roads were quite busy even though we left earlier than usual. There’s always a lot of bustle during holiday weekends. On the way, Adam said he saw a pet shop. I’m not quite sure why he said that but I said we should tell a story called ‘The Pet Shop’. Only I ended up telling the whole story, and it took from before Croydon to Brighton, and made the journey go like whizz. Even though I say so myself it was a good story and I may persuade myself to write it down. Both A & B loved it.
I found a good parking space, and we carried our bags to Tidy Street. The painter has not yet done the front, but the builders have finished the roofing. I see from the inside they have put the new supports in the loft but not pinned back the felt to secure the newly repaired roof bit.
Hot cross buns for breakfast. I go off walking with Adam to a motorbike shop where I talk about helmets. I will probably buy one for around £90 - a fibre glass construction but at the lower end of the range. At my suggestion A&B go to the Duke of York’s to see ‘The Secret Garden’. I go shopping on my own, I buy a tripod (for taking photographs of documents for the Souvenir Programme), trousers, a lamp-shade for the Aldershot Road parlour and Easter Eggs. I have lunch ready for them both on their return: tomato sop, samosa, peas, beans, mushrooms, apple pie.
All through the day I was proof reading ‘Energy Policies’, writing up past days of the journal. B is spending every minute reading ‘Blue Afternoon’ by William Boyd, but she does go out shopping in the afternoon.
There is an article in ‘The Guardian’ today about the moving of the Lindley Library - it is highly critical of the chairman of the RHS, Horny, and is another notch for Brent (Barbara’s boss) - he has managed to keep his name out of the paper this time. (Incidentally, Rob said he thought he had heard B pretending to be a punter on ‘Today’ a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I told him, spot on. She was but we, ourselves, forgot to listen.)
After a relatively quiet afternoon, A & I go to the park to play football, we read more ‘Wouldbegoods’ when we get back. I cook pancakes because we didn’t have any on Shrove Tuesday. We watch ‘Superman’. We go to the beach at Hove for air as darkness descends. As we climb about on the breakers Adam tells me his gym teacher, Eddy, told him he was the best climber in his year.
Sunday 16 April
This is a trial - trying to write up every single day. It’s easy enough if I do it on the evening in question but if I leave it a day or two there’s not much left in the memory to distinguish each day.
Although the weather had deteriorated from the last few days we were not put off going for a long walk - I chose one near Chanctonbury Ring as I thought A & B hadn’t been there. We parked to the north of the Downs and climbed up the forested path to the exposed ridge on top. Spring flowers in abundance - bluebells, violets, celandine, daffodils, primroses, blackthorn. There is not much left of the Ring since the 1987 storm but it still acts as a focus for walkers. We hiked along the ridge and then down into Washington to the Franklin Arms for lunch. The sun had emerged and warmed us up sufficiently to sit outside. I drank Guinness, B tried the expensive elderberry wine, and we had a Sunday lunch plate each. Adam played on the small playground facilities with other children. The walk back to the car was only about half as far as the outward journey. At one point along the walk we found a marvellous rope swing. I took photos with my camera using a black and white film.
By the time we got back, 3pm or so, I was totally whacked (I don’t think I’ve ever been so unfit as now - and I am starting to put on weight). Tea and chocolate - there is a lot of chocolate around the house because it’s Easter. I’ve proof read my book, during the gaps of the weekend, and I’ve done some reading on the history of education. We watched the last episode of ‘The Choir’ and were sadly disappointed for it degenerated into romantic twaddle.
Monday 17 April, Easter Monday
I left early this morning and drove steadily along the A283 to Godalming. It took me about an hour. I made a point of looking around the villages handled by the Godalming estate agents - Chiddingfold, Wormley, Witley, Milford. Some are very pretty, like Chiddingfold and Hambledon, others like Witley have less of a central focus. I arrive in Godalming at 8:30 and decide to look around another area, beyond Charterhouse School, and in the area of Shackleford where Aldo Prep school is - very pretty. I am back in Godalming by 9:00 but none of the agents are open, indeed the whole place seems deserted - a few signs tell me they will open at 10:00. I sit in the car, I look at the agents’ windows, and I proof read my book a bit.
I am on my first real mission to look at houses. For the first time, I have a clearer idea of what I’m doing - I will look in the Godalming area today, and then in East Horsley on Thursday when I go to see Judy. I have £200,000 to spend. One or two window displays interest me - but not many. By the time 10:00 arrives, I am cold and fed up, and want to race back to London. I restore my spirits a little by having breakfast in a cafe, and then start my tour of agents. I do the same in each - give my name and details - always a telephone number and always the question as to whether I have a property to sell. In one, I am taken with the idea of going to see Tall Trees, a property between Wormley and Witley. I had seen the details in the window earlier, and thought it quite attractive, especially the 2/3 acre gardens. The agent rings and makes an appointment for me in an hour. I finish my tour of agents and drive to the house - it takes about 10 minutes from the centre of Godalming. I am agreeably impressed by the unusual shape and nature of the house, and by its gardens. There is a triangle of woodland separating the house from the main road but Mr. Roberts has chopped down many of the trees and it looks quite scruffy. One can also hear the traffic noise. Otherwise, I love the house and its situation. It’s brilliant for schools also. From there, I drive back home - it takes 20 minutes to drive to Wisley (which is very close to the A3) and I am home by lunchtime. I talk with B about the house, and she enthuses with me. We watch the drama ‘The Vilage Affair’ made from another of Joanne Trollope’s novels. It was filmed in Hoddesdon where I spent my teen years and is a stone’s throw from Hertfordshire’s Wormley!
Tuesday 18 April
Not a very productive day. I drive over to Islington (with Adam) to deliver the pages for the reprint of my book - 100 copies £400. I checked over my finances a little and ordered First Direct to close down my 60-day account in 60 days.
I rang the estate agent and offered £200,000 for Tall Trees, but he was not very supportive. In any case, the owners are away until Friday so I can’t get a response until then. I arranged to visit again on Thursday morning when I am in Surrey any way to visit Judy.
After lunch I slept a bit. I went to the little park where A & I practised catching. Difficult to concentrate on anything with Witley on my mind. In the evening we watch half of ‘Persuasion’.
Wednesday 19 April
Friday morning and I find it hard to remember the day before yesterday. Most of the day was devoted to the school magazine one way or another. I went with A to West Hampstead where I persuaded Print Zone to photocopy my two-page begging letter 100 times in exchange for an an advertising box to the value of £20. I then tried out my spiel on a few shops and left the letter for the perusal of managers. No one gave me any money there and then, but out of 10 a couple were promising prospects. We came home, Ads worked on his project, and I started putting together some of the history material for my articles.
At 4:00 we went to the church to see Father Peter and photograph the Deed of Testament (for the Souvenir Programme). It was not that easy, what with coping with a new tripod, and not being fully practised with the automatic camera. I kept getting confused between the automatic focus and zoom rings.
When we got home, I tried to find a local processor for the b&w film but ended up cycling into Sky (off Oxford St). I did the journey on my bike in 45 minutes. I left A at home alone.
Thursday 20 April
We left Aldershot Road at about 6:45 after a quick cup of tea, encountered roadworks leaving London, and we were 15 minutes late. Michael Medger was waiting for us at Tall Trees. We spent about 45 minutes there in all. I noticed more flaws than before - subsidence in the extension, windows that won’t open, poor quality doors, a flawed roof and, worst of all, the traffic noise. I hadn’t fully noticed/appreciated the extent of the noise from the A284 before. B loved the gardens, and so did Adam. We walked up the track to see King Edward School over the brow of the hill. Although there is plenty of work to do, it is only the noise that makes me hesitate.
I was planning then to take B to Wisley but traffic jams on the A3 made that idea less than practical so I dropped her off at Godalming station. I went to a couple of agents I’d missed on Monday, and then drove to East Horsley to Judy’s house. An American woman called Elizabeth was there when we arrived (and her two children, Nick and Anne who remained there all day). She was fascinated to know about Barbara and the Lindley Library move. I talked with Judy for ages about traffic noise. Adam joined in with James and Nicholas and played with them all day long, only getting up to mischief a couple of times. Adam was particularly keen to touch and hold their rabbit. We chatted through the morning. Judy nipped out to buy food, and I found that the boys (under my charge) had wrecked James’ bedroom by moving all the furniture - Adam’s idea! I got cross and ordered them to put the furniture back in order. By contrast, the girls who played separately all day caused no trouble at all. They did, however, threaten it at one point when they said they wanted to create a Channel Tunnel under the rose bed!
After lunch I walked round to the Horsley agents, but I saw nothing of interest. We sat around in the garden - when the sun was out it was truly hot, but the moment it went in, it was truly cold. Later I took Adam and James swimming at Spectrum in Guildford. This is a relatively new leisure centre which looks futuristic from the outside, all glass panels and white girders. Inside the pools are splendid - there are three, a main one, a shallow one, and a diving pool. Then there is a large area of inter-connected swimming basins and pools with three long slide chutes. James, who is six months younger than Adam, is very confident on all the slides, and so Adam (who’s had a phobia of them since Malvern) couldn’t really refuse to try them out. He went on my lap the first time, and his face lit up like a lantern. Wicked, he said. He couldn’t believe how exciting it was. Oh Daddy, thank you for telling me about slides. He was expecting it to be horrible because of his subconscious memory, and it was the reverse. He couldn’t keep off the slides then. Afterwards, he kept on saying to me, thank you, Daddy, and I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.
Back at Judy’s we stopped just long enough to drop off James and say hello to Rob before driving the 10 minutes to Wisley to collect B. It only took about an hour to get back home, and we bought fish and chips on the way.
We watched the end of ‘Persuasion’, which continued to disappoint us - some of the costumes were entirely out of period, there was a cosmetic procession of fire-eaters and jugglers which I hate, and the characters behaved inconsistently, not at all as they do in Austen’s careful portraits.
Friday 21 April
The business has been dead this week. Almost no calls, no subs. And I have done nothing either. This morning was again devoted to the school magazine. I left Adam at 12:30 to cycle into town and collect the b&w photos. I called him on my way back and asked him to tidy up and get lunch. We had a rapid lunch then drove to Mill Lane. I canvassed a few shops before going to the vicarage. Peter let me in to the church study room and left us there. I spent about 90 minutes going through the parish magazines, and Adam did lessons and read. Afterwards we canvassed more shops in Mill Lane before going home. Interestingly, Escorts, the upholsterer, is celebrating 100 years next week. Mum phoned in the afternoon and I talked to her about Tall Trees and traffic noise.
Saturday 22 April
I nipped off to Kwik Fit to get a tyre repaired. I organised a weekend of treats at the Brighton festival in mid-May, including for Mum. Then I spent time in the study. B did homework and cooked lunch before going off to Brighton with Adam. I must have lazed the rest of the day away in front of the TV. Mum came over for a couple of hours to talk about Melanie and look at my houses.
Sunday 23 April
A pretty awful day. I woke up at 4:30 worrying about the school magazine! and couldn’t get back to sleep. So a little after 5:00 I trekked up/down to Brighton. The car was semi-loaded and when I got to Brighton I filled it up with the rest of B’s stuff. At about 8, we headed back to Surrey. We looked at houses (from the outside) in Chiddingfold, Dunsfold, Wormley. And, as expected, we didn’t think much of them. We drove around Wormley/Witley a bit more and were disappointed to find the school in the middle of a housing estate. We nipped into Godalming but Fleurs wasn’t open so then I thought to go to the wonderful tea place at the Watts Gallery in Compton which we discovered a year ago. I had the most delicious buck and bunny breakfast with bacon and a poached egg, and B had mushrooms and tomatoes on toast. Adam played in the gardens. We got caught in traffic jams on the A3 going past Guildford and arrived at Barbara’s Wisley flat a little after 12:00. The flat is on the first floor, newly-decorated and carpeted. It is quite large with a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms and a lounge. The carfull of things we brought - a bed and sofa-bed - didn’t even make a dent in the huge space. And it was quite cold. As B had left her jacket at the tea house, we had to return there. We chose to go through Woking in the hope there might be an open Argos - B wanted to buy a microwave. It took us ages and then we had more tea and cake. We drove back through Guildford, dropped B off at the flat and returned to London. I was shattered after all that driving and slept for most of the rest of the afternoon.
David came round to send a fax and we chatted about Arsenal’s excellent victory in the semi-final of the European Cup Winners Cup last week - the goalkeeper Seaman saved three penalties in the penalty shoot out - and about the US TV coverage of the bomb that has killed 200 people in a government building in Oklahoma.
I watch the BAFTA awards presented by Billy Connolly in a very personal and almost offensive way sometimes. It annoys me immensely that ‘Cracker’ has won so many awards when ‘Between the Line’ was so much better from every angle. ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ won most of the other important awards.
Monday 21 April
I continue to feel tired through the day with little energy or motivation. Adam is at home again today - term should be starting but there is a so-called Baker day. During the morning, Adam works diligently on his project. I do EC Inform admin and not much else.
In the afternoon I visit a last batch of shops without any enthusiasm. I elicit a promise of a £25 ad from a restaurant. We go swimming. After swimming I spend time in the local history library doing more research for the school magazine.
Unexpectedly, the socialist Lionel Jospin won the first round of the French presidential elections - Chirac only pulled 2% more than Balladur, but it was enough to eliminate the one-time front runner from the all-important second round. All the commentators continue to predict that the Right has enough votes to see Chirac the winner in two weeks time.
Tuesday 25 April
Another dull day. I bicycle to the EC library - spend a few minutes in St James’s Park, enjoying the warm sunny weather. No orders. My reprinted books arrive. No estate agents call. No calls full stop. Do a little bit of database work. Cook supper. B flops to bed soon after Adam. I’m likely to follow shortly.
Wednesday 26 April
My tiredness continues - it is not serious, I just don’t have as much energy as sometimes. I am going to bed at 10-10:30 and not getting up till 7-7:30 - nine hours sleep. B takes Adam to school this morning. I make an early start on phoning Brussels. As I intend to do a mailing with the May issue, I need to set up as many interviews as possible to give myself the best chance of a decent issue. Unfortunately, Commissioner Papoutsis won’t be in town next week. I talk to a few contacts, start plugging myself in again to Brussels-speak. I also spend time preparing the next mailing letter. This is tedious work and I have put it off for too long.
Barbara picks Adam up from school and does some drawing with him for an hour or two. At 6 I cycle to the school for a meeting on the 150yr celebrations. Miss Goddard tells me Escott’s have donated £50, which, added to my £25, makes £75 so we have something for our work. There is hardly anybody at the meeting, Miss Goddard, three teachers, one other parent and me - the John Innis crowd is absent. The Souvenir Programme is first on the agenda and there is great interest in what I am doing. But I make little progress in filling in several information gaps. I am missing facts about the school in the 1980s and 1950s; naively I assumed there would be a shelf full of annual reports going back 20 or 30 years. In fact the school only seems to have two or three. There is no copy of the 1845 photograph, so I will have to have one done. I suppose that’ll cost a tenner. Neither was Miss Goddard able to help me with a source for info on the previous headmaster, Coombes. Most of the rest of the celebrations are being handled by the school or are under way. We talked about the reunion for ex-scholars, and Miss Goddard said she would make an attempt to find Miss Sinclair, the 97 year old teacher who has been mentioned by everyone I’ve spoken to about the past.
Natter and chatter with B who remains ever so lively and active at present.
Thursday 27 April
B is up and about early and leaves before 7. She is aiming to take the train to Witley, to walk along the path, past King Edward School, past Tall Trees, and all the way to Witley School to gather information about atmosphere on a school day. On the way in to school, I ask Adam what he wants to do: ‘See who can keep silent longest.’ I drive in silence. And then, as I’m waiting for the lights across Shoot-up Hill, I look round at him. I keep looking and he bursts into laughter with the exclamation ‘What?’ He often does that if I look at him without reason.
I spent most of the morning catching up on indexes and doing a little more database work. I lazed around watching the snooker championship (including Hendry’s 147). Nothing has happened this week on the business, on the house, on any front - dismal boring week.
Friday 28 April
A card from Julian in South Africa. A letter from Rosa in Rio who tells me she has passed her exams, and got a job in Sao Paolo.
Barry comes at 8:15 to do more repairs to my roof. I leave by foot with Adam for school and then go by tube to Aldgate. (On the way we see a woman feeding pigeons in the park. I apologise but tell her I think it wrong to feed pigeons. She says we’re polluting the whole planet. This then develops into a debate between Adam and I, and I am astonished at how well he argues.)
I went to a seminar organised by the European League for Economic Cooperation (Elec) with the help of Richard Butler law firm. Kevin Leydon presented the green paper and John Chesshire from Spru criticised it. Also speaking were Sayers from Butler, Henderson from the DTI, and Covindassamy from the EBRD. I didn’t learn much although perhaps a little about the UK position on energy policy. I’m not quite sure how I got to be on the invite list unless it was though Leydon. I only talked to Geoff Frewer, now at Amerada Hess formerly at BP, and Clive Joliffe from British Gas who is a subscriber. I got horrible indigestion on the way home (mixing wine and fruit salad) and I didn’t have time to visit the Record Office as planned.
Saturday 29 April
I spent the morning in the yard - hoeing the hard pressed earth of the flowerbed, repotting my shrubs into larger pots, throwing out the soil in pots where cuttings didn’t take or survive the winter, and sweeping and tidying up. The Berberis flowers have almost finished, but the quince goes on (magic), the clematis is beginning its show, as is the honeysuckle which has swarmed across the northeast corner of the yard. I also worked in the study. A late lunch, fish and boiled spuds. In the afternoon, I bought a microwave for B, watched snooker and tidied the house. Watched ‘Superman’ with Adam. High Tea.
Sunday 30 April
I have arrived in rue du Canal, it is about 10:30pm local time and I feel pretty depressed. The World Service is broadcasting a folk programme which has just mentioned the most famous singers from Sussex - the Copper family. I remember decades ago going to folk clubs in Camden Town and hearing the Coppers and their songs.
(On an irrelevant side note, it is astonishing how one word can have clearly differentiated and compartmentalised meanings - I hear the word Copper with respect to folk music and the only side connotation that comes to mind, maybe, is the colour, or possibly the metal, but there is no trace at all of the ‘police’ meaning, until that is I write the word down here in the diary.)
It was a boring trip over on the train - the carriages were crowded and I was obliged to listen to conversation around me, especially a couple of teachers. Most of the way I read ‘Blue Afternoon’ by William Boyd. I am enjoying it, but I can see I won’t be raving about it. I notice from the ‘Sunday Times’ book review that Le Carré and Adam Thorpe both have new books out, and I shall look for them as soon as I can.
At about 7am this morning we drove down to Wisley; to transport one or two things for B’s flat - a brand new microwave, and a table - and to allow me to buy a Surrey Advertiser to check out houses (I feel the need to keep close account of what’s on the market). Had I seen something in the paper, I would have been prepared to go on down to Godalming to seek more information, but there was nothing, and we came straight back to London. It only took 30 minutes each way.
Not long after returning the telephone rang. It was Colin. He had told me weeks ago that he was coming this weekend but I’d forgotten. As it happened none of us had anything to do this morning so we agreed to meet up in Cheshunt and go out to a park. I made the mistake of driving along the North Circular Road which, event at 10:30 on Sunday morning, was full of jams. I found 99 Ashdown Crescent without too much difficulty - where Colin’s parents have lived since 1963, the year he and I started at Broxbourne Grammar School.
Colin’s parents hardly seem to have changed since I last saw them. His mum has on her apron and is smiling. His dad is preparing a vegetable plot at the bottom of the small garden. Colin’s daughter Elizabeth is sweet and playful. We all pile in my car to visit to a nearby park. Adam and Elizabeth don’t play together much but individually they are quite happy. Colin is worried about his job and thinks his company may close down. Hilde talks about Elizabeth’s school. It is small and personal but is 20 minutes drive away.
I drive up to Broxbourne briefly to take a look at my old school - not much has changed. It is half past two before we are home, and I am fed up of driving. B makes a Sunday lunch while I prepare to travel.
Unfortunately, I have been careless with my glasses, they have been squashed and one of the tiny screws no longer holds firm, they are also bent. I spend too long trying to mend them and then have to hurry to leave. An uneventful journey.
Paul K Lyons
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