JOURNAL - 1998 - MAY
Monday 11 May 1998
Work, work and more work. ‘EU Energy Policies of the 21st Century’ is nearly finished. I’ve booked it into a printer at the end of next week. For several months now it has preoccupied me. I’ve hardly read a book, or thought about the rest of my life. I’ve certainly not made a diary entry for a long time. Even the garden has suffered. I slipped out there for a couple of hours yesterday, but I’ve been doing the absolute minimum. The book is 200 pages long, and has taken the wind out of me.
Not only that but I seem to have been in a whole series of battles/conflicts/unresolved situations recently. First of all there was the radio programme. I say ‘was’ because Martin Weitz and Associates dumped me. I didn’t hear from Susan for four weeks, so I knew something was up. I e-mailed her a couple of times and she finally called to tell me that I was being put on the back burner - my ‘themes’ weren’t strong enough. Perhaps, I’ll write more about this later, when I’ve time, especially as it ties up with things about my life and about my diaries. Any how, that is resolved now.
Secondly, I was in a dispute with Sirius. I got a letter suggesting gently I stop saying no to so many profiles. It was from the same person (with a different title) who had replied to my letter about the age of the profiles. So I took great pleasure in writing back to her explaining that since her letter (promising me a majority of women profiles in the age range late twenties-mid-thirties, I had not received a single one). No grovelling letter of apology has yet arrived, but I did get three new mid-thirties profiles last week, which on first glance, all seem to indicate rather heavy women!
Thirdly, I am in a major dispute with a company called Stroudgate over the mini-edition of EC Inform-Transport, which was supposed to have been inserted inside 13,000 copies of ‘Pegasus’. After weeks dealing with the salesman, I am now in correspondence with the managing director, and I’m considering whether I should get legal advice. The whole business seems to have been a catalogue of errors. And it makes me furious to think about.
I had a silence to contend with over the delivery of some labels from a company in the Netherlands. Four weeks ago I asked for the 3,000 labels that we had agreed, and that I should be informed when they were sent. I never heard anything, and when I tried to chase them up, the woman was never there. Then, finally, when I got hold of her, she said she had sent them three weeks ago; but, when I pressed her she wanted to send them again (rather than give me the courier details). Then again I didn’t hear from her and when I rang she’d gone away for two weeks. I must have made ten phone calls - but I did finally get the labels.
I am in Brussels the day before I go to press with EC Inform-Energy - it’s an Energy Council and the ministers are having an open debate on renewables and climate change. I have finalised the pages for issue but for two feature pages and a news story. I know there will not be much news as such from the meeting, but there will be two statements, with which I’ll be able to fill up the two feature pages; then I can round up everything else in the news story. As for the open debate, if there’s enough material on the Member States’ positions I’ll run it as another story next month.
One of the most boring Energy Councils in history! Despite the UK’s attempts to liven up the open debate, it was dreadfully dull. Every minister (or substitute) must have stuck to their scripts, and there were no real diversions to interesting topics. The Austrian minister tried to lighten the proceedings with a couple of anecdotes, and the German minister let himself be sidetracked for 30 seconds with a retort to Greenpeace who were protesting outside, saying that Germany does not support renewables. But that was it. I think part of the problem was that the UK had divided up the debate into three separate subjects asking only five Member States to speak on each one. Although the speakers sometimes drifted across from one subject to the other they kept to their question fairly well. But this meant that an observer like myself was unable to make any meaningful comparisons of policy.
I had hoped to get a bit of writing done today, but I was too busy trekking round the institutions (it’s such a long way to the Parliament in this very hot weather) or hanging round the Council.
Saturday 23 May 1998
The book is finished, and sent to the printers. I keep dreaming of the errors I’d made. I realise, for example, I should have checked the document listings, I don’t think I ever read them through once. Theo read them carefully, but I didn’t, and I think there were some paragraphs that I rewrote and never rechecked. If I’d known that the Biddles van wouldn’t be going up to Norfolk, where the short run books are printed, until Friday afternoon, I would have taken another day to check things over. It’s done now. I expect to see the finished product in a couple of weeks. Between now and then, I must set to work on the marketing.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of tidying up to do around the house and garden. The garden is first. I was out there yesterday and this morning, repotting, planting, strimming, weeding, setting up canes for the green beans. I’m upset because so few of my sweet pea seeds have come up. I don’t know why. The potatoes are doing OK, and the first lettuces are nearly ready for thinning into the salad bowl. Rhododendron ponticum is flowering all around the garden, as are the two beautiful bright yellow azaleas. Other plants in flower: wygelia, the two brooms I planted last year in the front border (although one is not a dwarf and will have to come out). For the first time, there were substantial blooms on both the small apple trees, so I’m hoping for a modest crop of russets this year.
Monday 25 May 1998
I’ve invested half an hour this evening on a weekend FT competition - last year I won some wine for corrupting a pithy expression, but the prize for this competition is of a different order: a ten day safari to Namibia. All you have to do is think of an alternate meaning for FT. They want the answer to be stylish, witty and original. This was really quite hard, because without a reasonable pun any two word combination falls flat. I thought of Fly Tie, but it seemed to have too many half meanings and not enough clear ones. Then I though of Future Tooperfect, but that suffers from the fact that Tooperfect is not a proper word. But I did come up with what I think is a real cracker: Freewheeling Tirelessness. Both words have their own inclusive assonance, thus creating a little poem of their own, and there is a strong a pun in the sense that freewheeling might be very tiring on a tyreless vehicle. I think it’s witty and original, but it may not have sufficient style. The winner is to be notified by 5 June, so there’s not so long to wait.
A weekend of gardening, tidying up the office and VAT. What else is there to say. I’ve planted tomatoes, courgettes, cucumber, a single aubergine, more beans (why aren’t they coming up), and the sweet corn which are doing fine so far.
Ads was out playing until 9:30 this evening, in the rain. He doesn’t often play outside in the evening, but Jamie came round at about 7 and said he was allowed out until 8:30, so I let Adam go out after supper at 7:30 (it wasn’t raining then), and at 8:30 he said Jamie had been allowed out for another half an hour, so I let him stay out in the rain, and then again at 9:00. But at 9:30 it was really quite dark, so I went out on to the street to look for him; he was just coming home and kept saying ‘thank you’ for having letting him stay out so long. That’s a Roger the Dodger trick, telling your Dad that your friend’s mum has allowed you to stay out late. Say that to one parent, get the OK, then you can use it on the other parent.
This afternoon we went out on Kiwi to the fete at Brook. We’d not been before. It was rather traditional, with lots of sideshows (although the laser plastic clay pigeon shooting wasn’t very traditional), but it was all quite expensive too - 50p for a cup of tea, and 40p each for the paperbacks on the book stall. We probably went a little bit earlier than we had intended because the owner of a Kawasaki GPZ was summoned by tannoy to move his bike because the fire brigade were about to do a water hose demonstration on the bit of road where Kiwi was parked. Ads was chewing his sleeve frantically as we made our way across the field to retrieve Kiwi from an unwanted shower. He’s a very self-conscious boy, I wonder why!
My volleyball is slowly improving. Two Sundays ago we had a competition evening: six teams and four or five games each. My team won every single game, and, despite a handicap system, we also won overall. It was great playing with good players; they protected me a little, but on the whole I was a useful player, I rescued a few lost balls, and only gave away a couple of points. Last night, we also had a good game. Many of the regulars were away on tournaments, so there were only a dozen or so, and we had but one hour. The team was not as good as last week, but we still played well and won the two games. I did, though, make a series of mistakes which really pissed me off. I still can’t control my digging, and I made a couple of bad sets. Still, I do really look forward to the sessions on Sunday evening.
Overwhelming support for the Northern Ireland peace deal. More than 70% in the north and over 90% in the south. A large number of Ulster Unionists do oppose the deal and have promised to disrupt the new assembly if they get elected; but, so far, so good.
Tuesday 26 May 1998
Did I mention I have had two of the most atrocious headaches of my life in recent weeks - I also had one a few months ago on New Year’s Eve. The first happened a couple of weeks ago. I woke up with a kind of tension headache and a little queasiness. It built in force until I decided to take two paracetamol. After 90 minutes or so, when the pain was still intense and I couldn’t get down to work, I decided to eat a banana and take ibuprofen. Within half an hour I was vomiting the whole lot up, and my head was splitting with pain. I banged around my room for a couple of hours, lying down one minute, pouring cold water over my head the next, and then pacing around again. I got so fed up knowing that I couldn’t take anything for the pain because I would just be sick again; I decided to drive to A&E in Guildford. It was a dangerous thing to do because I could barely drive, my eyes wanted to close, and I could barely concentrate. Then, once in the hospital, I got cold feet and wandered around for a while. Finally, I went up to the reception and got myself booked in, but I felt the judgement of the reception staff on me: what the hell was I doing there. They said I should see a nurse, so I waited and waited, and finally one came, and she too could barely keep the scorn out of her voice. She was only interested to know if I had a migraine. I said I didn’t know. What the hell is a migraine. I told her I couldn’t keep any analgesics down and I asked if the doctor could inject paracetamol. She said no. Then she said I would have to wait at least an hour for a doctor. I’d already waited 40 minutes, for what? Although I felt a fraud being there in casualty, it seemed to me that of the other 20 people waiting in casualty I was probably the one in most pain. I decided not to wait, and drove home. The pain started easing a bit, and then by the time Adam came home from school, I was able to drink tea and eat a biscuit, with more paracetamol.
Then, after visiting the Chelsea Flower Show last Wednesday on the eve of the deadline for delivering the book to Biddles, I got another headache, this time at one in the morning. Again I took paracetamol, and again I felt a bit queasy, so this time I did not dare take ibuprofen as well. I knew I would just have to tough it out, but after 90 minutes when the paracetamol was having no effect, I was going crazy with the pain. I certainly wasn’t unconscious, but I was suffering something terrible. Finally, after trying all the beds, damp cloths on my neck, listening to the radio, watching television, lying still, pacing backwards and forwards in the lounge, I went out. I walked up Red House Lane, very slowly, and then paced backwards and forwards on the track to Red House Farm, maybe for 45 minutes. Then, sometime around 3:30am, the pain started to ease, and I strolled home, and went to bed.
I should also report that for a couple of weeks, I’ve been getting cluster headaches - though they seem to have stopped now. The last time I suffered them, according to my journal any way, was October 1995. These do not worry me much, since I know they only last half an hour. They are horrible while they are happening - that sharp ache behind the right eye - but knowing that they will go shortly, seems to make them all the more bearable.
I have two Sirius contacts to phone, but I find it difficult to arouse any enthusiasm. After my last letter of complaint, I got another polite letter, and a further batch of below-40 profiles; none of them set me alight, I have to say. I said yes to three, and got a positive response from two of them, both in their mid-30s I think. One is a dentist!
Paul K Lyons
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