PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 2000 - JULY
3 July 2000
It is dark, I am in Brussels, but I don’t know where. I start walking toward where I think I should be going but everything begins to get less familiar. I can’t understand why I am in Brussels, the last thing I can remember is being at home in Russet House on Monday morning. I know I am due to catch Eurostar in the early evening, but what has happened to the rest of the day. I stop and think hard about this, this must be a dream I decide, but it can’t be because I am most definitely here and everything is definitely real. I have this conversation with myself several times. I wonder what happened to Adam when he came home from school, and I think to ring him and Barbara as soon as possible (but, interestingly, I don’t look for a phone box). I seem to accept the reality of my predicament without fear or panic, just curiosity.
I have only my leather shoulder bag. I check it. There is no passport, and no keys for the flat. I am going to have the same problems of getting in as last time. I will have to stay in a hotel. But I won’t disturb the owner this time, I daren’t for fear of making myself seem so stupid. I don’t have my press pass either, and this time I won’t be able to get a replacement because, again, I got one just a few weeks ago. I will just have to manage without it, which I know I can, its just inconvenient. I continue walking around and eventually find a bus stop, where some people are waiting. I put my bag on the ground for a moment, and then, when I look for it, it is gone. There is a slight sense of paranoia now, but then I find it. Somehow it has been shuffled through the legs of the people and is resting on some grass the other side of the fence edging the pavement. I ask someone if buses from here will take me towards the centre. They sort of confirm that they will. A double decker bus comes. I look at the list of destinations on its side, I recognise none of them, and so do not get on. I feel awkward and decide to walk on in the direction the bus has taken. I soon arrive at a corner, when I see behind me another bus, a single-decker, pull up at the bus stop and most of the people get on.
I race down towards the next bus stop, where a man eyes me suspiciously. The bus arrives, it looks very crowded, but when I get on I find a seat. (Interestingly, I do not worry about money - but then on buses Brussels one does not pay the driver.) There are two (then somehow there are three people) next to me. Something a girl says, connected with travel (I don’t remember what) prompts me to try and explain my story to her and her friends. I start by explaining I’m not a freak or weirdo, and that I really cannot explain what has happened to me today. The girl has some vague knowledge about similar occurrences and starts to tell us.
A black guy next to me is demonstrating something she says by kissing the person on his right, and then kissing me too. It is clear he is gay, so I laugh along, push him off gently, and say something like ‘I get the picture’. A few minutes later, I feel him watching me lasciviously and whisper that I’m not gay but have had plenty of opportunity, in the hope of avoiding any further slobbering on me. I wake up, before I get any of the gist of what the girl is saying.
This was a fantastic dream. I was utterly convinced that I was in Brussels, but yet I was having this internal dialogue within the dream about whether it could true. Actually within the dream, logic was telling me it must be a dream, and yet the external reality was that it was real. However, during the short spell of the dream, the logical me in the dream never tried to test the external reality by touching anything for example, or by going into any detail about anything.
Most oddly, I am reading a chapter in an interesting book by Susan Greenfield. There is a strong argument about dreaming. She has become such a well-known personality on radio, talking about brains and consciousness, that I thought I had read something by her, but I must have confused her with Patricia Churchill or Helen Cronin. I will come back to the book, entitled ‘The private life of the brain’, when I have a bit more time. For now, it is after 10am on Monday, I must start work, and prepare for going to Brussels later today.
5 July 2000, Brussels
I may be far happier with this flat in Brand Whitlock but there are still a number of things which annoy me. I hate this desk and chair, I simply cannot write comfortably: the chair is too hard, and doesn’t have enough depth to allow me to put my back into it, and the table has an under-rim so that I cannot cross my legs while sitting. This annoys me every single time I have to work at it. Getting a new table and chair here is not that simple without a car. Also, I never manage to sleep well on the brown sofabed: it’s too hard, the sheets always drift all over the place, and the duvet is too thick in the summer. Consequently, I am sitting here at 6am, feeling somewhat shattered, having slept too little on Monday night, and too much early yesterday evening, and too little during the night.
David and a friend stayed here for two or three days a couple of weeks ago, and kindly (?) left me two bottles of Greek red wine - although I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I had to courier the keys to David in Amsterdam since there was insufficient time to post them, but he rang me afterwards to say he had had a good time, both at the Euro 2000 matches and sightseeing with his friend. Although the flat was in a reasonable state (I always leave it tidy in fact), I was embarrassed to have left a men’s magazine only slightly hidden in the cupboard where he may have found it.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ME AND PORNOGRAPHY
I blame Sasha for my interest in soft pornography. He kept a copy of ‘Playboy’ by his bedside, and some back copies in a cupboard somewhere. When he and my mother were out for an evening, I used to sneak into their bedroom and wickedly finger through the magazines. While at university, I recall working on the student rag ‘Impact’ with Phil. The editor, Philip Cayford, I think his name was, was older and far more mature than I. We were making up the magazine one weekend at his house and he caught me stealing glimpses into a stash of pornography, and, because I was a christian, mocked me for it. Years later, in Aldershot Road, before I went to Brazil, my lodger Andy once came home unexpectedly and caught me in his room borrowing a copy of ‘Penthouse’ or something. This was very embarrassing. I should never have been in his room, I should never have known he even had soft porn magazines under his bed, and I certainly shouldn’t have been borrowing them for my own dirty deeds. Thenceforward, I took to buying my own mags. Now, I take relief by downloading pictures from the internet, which is - I am afraid to admit - a very pleasurable experience in the absence of the real thing (i.e. physical as opposed to virtual sex).
8 July 2000
The Elstead Paper Boat Race 2000 has come and gone - last weekend; and the marathon has come and gone - last night. I have sold my blue escort. England have beaten the West Indies at Lords, France has won the European cup, and Tony Blair has had a bad week. I am in the throws of producing my last pre-summer issues, but must work through July to finish the Eurelectric book. And tomorrow, Ads and I are going to Lords for another meeting of England and the West Indies in a one day international. It may pour with rain. Tonight we will eat steak pie, ratatouille, new potatoes and trifle while watching an episode of ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’. The deer have been visiting (while I was in Brussels), munching up my beans and geraniums etc etc.
‘Press release: ELSTEAD’S COLOURFUL ANNUAL PAPER BOAT RACE WILL TAKE PLACE AT 3PM ON SATURDAY 1 JULY, THE MOAT, THURSLEY ROAD, ELSTEAD.
There is still time to make your boat, and enter the Elstead Paper Boat Race 2000.
This must be one of the country’s most unusual and colourful events. Boats of all shapes, sizes and themes, built only of paper, paddle or splash their way around a small lake, eventually to be overcome by sogginess - or not. Some do stay afloat, and some crew - not many - do avoid a dunking! Could you make a boat that would survive?
Each boat must be large enough to contain a crew of one or more. The main hull of the boat must be made entirely from paper/cardboard with no pre-formed sections, catalytic glues, or damp-proofing products used. However contact glues can be applied to bond components. Trophies are awarded in the junior and senior races (for the boat making the greatest number of laps in 15 minutes), and for the best designed boat.
Entry forms (and the full rules) can be collected from Spar in Elstead, or by calling 01252 702306. For advice on how to make a paper boat call Norman Emblow on 01252 702079. PRESS ENQUIRIES - Sue Stephenson 01252 702196.’
The boat race went off well. The weather held. We had eight entrants in both races. Several families - the Cruickshanks and the Bennets provided many of the boats. The junior race was actually exciting as well as entertaining. We made around £200 as usual. The newspapers ran photo features, also as usual. I was preoccupied mostly with sorting out the entry forms, and writing the entrants’ names on to the certificates. Norman did the commentary - although it was a bit lacklustre this year. The trophies looked splendid and even had the right date on them unlike Adam’s trophy for best designed boat in 1999, which had 1998 on it!
A week later, Ads won the Junior Elstead Marathon. Last year, he came second, but this year he was well determined to come first. He practised several times a week for about three weeks beforehand (mostly at my prompting). He also did well in the District Sports recently, coming second in the 1500 metres. According to Ads, he ran with a boy called Richard, new to Rodborough and new to Elstead, but also good at long-distance running, all the way until just before sight of the winning line. Then Richard broke first, but Ads managed to beat him on the sprint. The Elstead marathon is no minor event. They had some 200 entries all told, in the junior, women’s and mens’ race, and a lot of people congregated on the green for burgers, raffles and so on. There was a tug-of-war too. Ads was well manic after his win, and milled around with his friends rather than with us. At one point, I couldn’t find him at all, and it transpired that he was at The Golden Fleece pub, where Richard lives. Later, he went, uninvited, to a disco in the village hall!
France won the European cup. Such a shame. They should never have won the World Cup, and they shouldn’t have won Euro2000 either. The Portuguese or the Dutch would have been far more interesting winners.
Speaking of the Dutch, I have finally got round to reading half of David’s book. It is very readable, and he does an excellent job of bringing the sport to life. He does go over the top, here and there, in his determination to find parallels between football and art, theatre, politics, geology etc; but, on the whole, it works. I suppose, in a way, it’s the kind of book I would like to write one day, but I have no idea on what kind of subject.
And poor old Tony Blair. He got booed at an important speech at the Women’s Institute. This was a public relations blunder, and Alistair Campbell’s fault as likely as not. The speech was hyped up in advance, for its policy content, and then Blair got crucified, because some of the 10,000 women at the event were not happy at being used as a platform for policy loud-speakering. I’ve no doubt there was some orchestration of the clap-protest by arch-tory women, but, unfortunately, because the speech was over-policy oriented, Blair had no defence. Then, he got axed in the press again when an apparently off-the-cuff about the possibility of new laws to allow street hooligans to be fined on the spot was deemed to be impractical by the police themselves. He also got a drubbing from Hague at Prime Minister’s questions. I have to say, though, that I continue to admire the man, and his government. The kinds of difficulties they are running up against are of a minor nature compared to those of their predecessors. The trouble is the press, the bloody press. They’ve lost all respect for government, and insist on a combative approach on every single story. And yet, the government continues to be in the dock for its attempts all the time to spin the news. But what else is it supposed to do? Pick out the bad news, and broadcast it? Spin is a requirement of any modern organisation that wants to get its message through the barrier of a vicious, self-righteous, headline-driven media. But I blame the BBC the most, for failing not to follow the commercial press. Here is a letter I wrote to Greg Dyke about the European issue, to which I got no reply or acknowledgement.
‘The BBC is a great institution. It is a remarkable provider of excellent entertainment, and superb educational programmes. It is also the most authoritative and reliable news service upon which, one way or another, everyone in this country depends. This very importance of the BBC news gives it such a huge responsibility, one wonders sometimes whether it can shoulder the weight.
There is one major problem in the way the BBC approaches the news, it is a hole in your coverage which is so big that no-one dare see it. The BBC is not alone since the same problem affects all UK news providers, but whereas the commercial newspapers have their own agendas, the BBC should surely aim to reflect the world around it accurately.
I am talking about coverage of European Union policy. I am not a political person, and this is most definitely not a political letter. Yet the consequences of the way the BBC chooses to cover EU affairs - i.e. by not giving them anything like the proper weight - has immense political consequences.
The quickest way I can demonstrate this to you is by the following.
Consider, if you will, one policy area - the environment.
When the UK government issues a new draft environmental law or policy paper, this is literally pored over by journalists, commentators, MPs. We hear about it before it comes out, we hear about it when it comes out, and we hear the views of a large range of people on its content.
When the European Commission puts out a white paper on the environment, it is not even mentioned, not once, not at all. When a draft law is proposed, it might be given a short mention (but usually only if the newspapers have reported it widely); and then it will be discussed again months later when it reaches the European Parliament, but only if a UK MEP has drawn attention to it for his/her own reasons.
Fine, your news chief says, we cover the big stories, and the rest of the EU news is esoteric. This is simply not true. In today’s world, 80-90% of environmental laws are not decided in the UK Parliament, but in Brussels (not my figure but that of the leading environmental organisations in Europe). Yes, this legislation is often transposed into UK legislation, but it is decided first in Brussels. The BBC gives more attention to the detailed transposal of the EU law, than it ever gives to the negotiations which lead to the law in the first place. A news organisation wishing to inform its audience accurately should, in theory, give 80-90% of its coverage on environmental news to EU affairs. But the fact is that the proportion is probably only 1-2%. Is this not an extraordinary situation?
We have yesterday in Parliament every day, but do we even hear a summary report on the monthly plenary sessions of the European Parliament (which has codecision powers on those environmental laws)? No. Do we ever hear about the work of the important European Parliament committees (where the power of the European Parliament is wielded)? No.
Do any of your presenters, even on Radio 4, actually properly understand the way laws are made in the EU?
I ask this, because their questions to UK politicians about EU subjects very often sound naive (if not inaccurate) compared to those about UK affairs, which are deft and skillful.
Two presentational examples of many, I could go on and on.
Is it fair and right that the BBC goes on and on failing, by dint of the way its news and current affairs is organised, to properly inform British citizens of the major news developments that take place on a daily basis in the EU institutions. As I am sure you can understand, this failure has highly significant consequences for the way the UK public views the EU, its achievements, failures and difficulties.
Yours very sincerely,’
15 July 2000
I have seen the sun today, but only in fits and spurts. Saturday afternoon is always time for jazz, care of Radio Three’s Geoffrey Smith and ‘Jazz Record Requests’.
I still have the taste of badly-made lemon biscuits in my mouth; it’s almost as if I put too much bicarbonate of soda in, but I didn’t put any in at all, which is a bit strange. I put lumps of mixture on the baking tray because the recipe assured me they would melt flat. They didn’t. They look and taste a bit like rock cakes.
England beat the West Indies at a one-day match this afternoon (by an extraordinary 10 wickets), which should see them through into the final against Zimbabwe next weekend. This match was held in the northeast, at Chester-le-Street, but the previous match between these two sides was held at Lords, last Sunday. It was abandoned before lunch, before even England had completed its first innings. This was a terrible thing to happen. Why? Because Ads and I were actually there, at Lords, in wonderful £50 seats - generously donated by Julian. Well, he only offered them to me on Friday. His company has had a debenture on these Lords seats for many years now. Ads and I drove up to Mum’s early on Sunday morning, where we were treated to a second breakfast, and then we bused down the Finchley Road. It was all rather exciting. I have been to Lords, but not for, what, 20 years perhaps, certainly not since the futuristic media centre and plush Mount Stand were built. Julian’s seats are right at the front of the top tier in the Mount stand, parallel with the wicket with a superb view. The ground was quite full and, to start with, buzzing. But the weather was always threatening, and England’s batting was hardly scintillating. I persuaded Ads to sit fairly still and take part in the match as a spectator for a couple of hours, then I let him wander round. Later, at the first rain stoppage, the both of us took a turn around the outer walkway. It was crammed with crowds of boozers trying to keep out of the rain, or trying to get another drink. I was relieved to get back to the relative sophistication of the Mount Stand with its elegant spacious design. The cricket came back for a few minutes, then went off again. We watched the intricate business of placing and removing the covers with great interest, but time dripped by and by and by, and the rain came on stronger, and the crowds started to drift off slowly. After three or more hours, we finally departed too. It had been worthwhile, just, to have come, for the experience of Lords, but it could have been so much more. Only a week or so earlier, England had beaten the West Indies at Lords in a thrilling test match, which was finished on the third day. We had a up of tea at Mum’s and then drove back to Elstead.
16 July 2000
A call from Raoul. Since we last met, some weeks ago, he has been to hell and back. Last night, Ads and I watched ‘Blade Runner - the Director’s Cut’ on TV. With all those impressive panoramas, it is not a movie to watch on TV. Ads fell asleep near the end. Some 20 years on, the style has become commonplace, but it still carries a certain punch. This morning, I read him ‘The Black Cat’ by Edgar Allan Poe. Why do I do that? Because, he’s supposed to be writing a horror story for English, but his draft so far sounds like a scene from the ‘Towering Inferno’, more Hollywood thriller than short story horror. So I go to the master. Ads is making sound effects all the way through; and even comes to bash on the book several times, when the narrator is harming the black cat.
With the July issues out of the way, and my office tidied up, I now have to finish my Atalink contract for the Eurelectric book. This involves rejigging some bits of Part Two, and writing Part Three. I hope to get the bulk of it done this week.
But, then, I have to face the future. Since Theo left, and since I didn’t manage to find a replacement, I’ve put off any decisions about the future. What the hell am I going to do with the next 20 years. Do I carry on with EC Inform, or do I do something new? Somehow, I have amassed about £170,000 (of which I probably owe about £10,000 in tax, and not including about £45,000 in pension funds) which I could do something with. But what?
28 July 2000
My left knee has been troubling me for a couple of days. Most of the time, there has been just a feeling of uncomfortableness, but enough to divert any concentration. But last evening and during the night, it became really painful now and then when I was lying down and would only ease when I got up. I suspect it must be gout. I nearly went to the doctor this morning to get anti-inflammatory pills - because last time I got gout it was incredibly painful. But, I so hate going to the doctor, and, as I didn’t have an appointment, I would have had to wait hours probably. I am hoping now that this will be - will have been - only a mild attack. I certainly haven’t had any of the really acute pain of last time. Tonight will be the test. What could bring it on. Well, I was in Brussels this week for a day. I ate one meal with peas and carrots in that funny French/Belgian near-mushy way they cook it. I don’t think there was anything else in the mixture. I say this because I suspected an attack last year might have been triggered by eating a spinach/something mixture which you don’t get in this country. But, also I hadn’t had any bananas for a few days. I had carried heavy boxes on Wednesday (new computer table and chair for Brussels flat). It hasn’t been particularly hot. I have restarted my yoga, which may have put a bit of extra strain on the knee. But this is definitely not a muscle-strain kind of problem - it would hurt when I walked, and taking the weight off would relieve it, if it were.
It is Friday night. I had thought that this week would see the end of my work, and the start of my summer holidays. However, it now seems that I will probably work all next week too. Ads is doing a drama course at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford every day - 10-5 - through to next weekend, so I might as well work. I have lots to do. Indexes, VAT, admin.
However, I have finished the Atalink contract, on time and to length. It was due in by the end of July. I haven’t actually delivered it to Atalink, because there are some final bits that Eurelectric need to supply, but I’ve done about as much as I can. Unfortunately, I ended up having a bit of a spat with Anne-Marie at Eurelectric, the lady who basically landed the job on me. Right from the beginning, she seemed unwilling or unable to be much help. I had to fight even to get copies of the annual reports. Yet I had stressed, at the beginning, that Eurelectric would have to be involved because the book was for them and because they were also the funnel through which all the information would have to come. I kept her informed of everything I was doing right from the start, although she never responded to the information I was giving her, not even to the draft outline and structure I sent her. When finally she got back to me over Part One, it was to tell me it was not ‘lively’ enough. I thought I had made the thing far more lively than they had a right to expect given the lack of information and archives they had made available to me. Then, when I sent them Part Two, I was told by the Eurelectric boss Paul Bulteel that there was not enough about Unipede. I tried to explain that it was impossible to do justice to Unipede’s technical cooperation work which is why I had decided on using the device of calling Part Two ‘Dominating Issues’, so that I could focus on specific areas of the organisation’s work. But, again, no one said a word about the text. I coped, no problem, but, as I approached the end of my work, I was increasingly concerned about how Anne-Marie would manage to finalise the project and hand it over to Atalink, particularly with regard to the illustrations. I had repeatedly suggested that Eurelectric would have to spend time finding photos, and I provided a fair number of illustrations as well as a whole range of further photo ideas. But after I gave her the final text she emailed me with a message indicating she’d done nothing about the photos until now. My reply was a bit terse, and it prompted a cross email back from her. Which I then replied to, less tersely, but more honestly than before, explaining why my emails had been getting more frustrated, but also offering to help out more. (I’ve tried to tell this story succinctly to both my mother and B - both of them found Eurelectric’s attitude rather hard to believe.) I had got used to it, but obviously my patience gave out at the end - I’m sure it’s mostly Anne-Marie’s fault but I never wanted to point the finger at her, and I thought I could get through the project without opening up this sore. But, at the end here, she really needed to have been on top of the business. Anne-Marie is heavily pregnant and about to leave to have her baby, and I suspect she felt she would not have to deal with this project because she’d be gone, but, unfortunately for her, I delivered on time. Trouble, is she’s unlikely to come to me again. I keep thinking of that poor PR guy at Shell in Rio who lost his job because I was too blunt, too keen to be in the right.
30 July 2000
Just to round off that story - I got a reply the same day from Anne-Marie. A rather sheepish reply, I should say, thanking me for my work etc. I expect they’ll be more angst before the thing is finally published.
I have to confess I find this Channel 4 programme compulsive. Actually, I don’t think of it as a TV programme, I think of it more as an event, a happening. I have no more special connection with it than the millions of others watching it, and the more than half million that have telephoned in to vote on the first flatmate to be thrown out, and yet I feel specially connected; I feel as though I know these people personally; I feel as though I have some special insight into what is happening. All of which is complete hogwash, of course. But that is obviously the secret of this voyeur’s wet dream of a programme.
The premise is simple: Ten youngish people (the oldest 35ish) - five men and five women - were chosen from across the country, all of them strangers, and locked up in a specially-constructed house, full of cameras (infrared ones too) and microphones. Each week, the 10 people in the house choose two who they want to be thrown out, and the public is then invited to vote on which of the two is to go. The last person remaining in the house wins £70,000. Channel 4 runs a programme almost every day with a carefully edited update on what has happened in the last 24 hours, and then runs two live programmes on Friday, one when the announcement of the person to be thrown out is made, and one two hours later when that person finally emerges and is interviewed by a well known presenter amidst quite a razzmatazz.
The first week was spent (by us, and presumably by the participants themselves) getting to know the people, and the set up and the routines. In the house, there is no communication with the outside at all, no TV, no radio, no telephone, except for the weekly live direct conversation on Friday when somebody is about to be named for chucking out. Neither do the occupants have too much to do, other than backbite and discuss who might be the next person to throw out. Big Brother does, though, set them a weekly task, on which they can gamble a part of their weekly allowance, and occasional discussion topics. The £70,000 ‘prize’ - no TV contestant will ever have worked harder for a prize of that amount - is the key by which Channel 4, presumably, bind the occupants to meet some fairly strict contract conditions, ensuring they play the game properly.
Simple as the set-up sounds, it is a mammoth project. There are over 100 production staff involved on a day-to-day basis. There must have been a huge amount of research, and the selection of 10 people from the 10,000s that applied must have cost a bit too. There are huge risks - I mean I feel sure that one or more person will eventually freak out, and leave the house before the proper time. I can also imagine that, as the numbers dwindle, there might be an ugly fight or two. I can imagine three or four of them near the end deciding to quit together - and thus beating, defeating Big Brother. Already after only two weeks, the occupants - so isolated from the real world and dependent on Big Brother for everything - have already begun to display an unhealthy obsession with it/them.
Last Friday was the first throwing out. Two girls were nominated by the house, basically because the boys colluded, if not deliberately then certainly as a result of the scheming of one or two of them (i.e. seeding the idea of who to vote for in seemingly innocent conversations), while the girls were less united. Both women took the nomination very badly and were often in tears during the three voting days. The posh-ish hippy writer girl was the one to be thrown out - she had seemed selfish, and had schemed a little too obviously. Despite having been totally distraught in the house, once she was out and before the main live cameras she was unbelievably cool and coherent. She was very happy, and also refused to say anything bad about the people inside who had chucked her out - although her mother called one of them a scheming rat. The world knows the truth of this, thanks to the programme editing, and if he were ever to be nominated, he would be voted out for sure, but will the occupants of the house wake up to his deceitfulness and nominate him.
Watch this space - I will. These people have become part of my life - viz the following dream.
Somehow, I am in the Big Brother house. I am talking to one of the men. But I am not sure who I am. I decide to rush straight to the Big Brother room, and ask him who I am. But then I stop, and I count the other people in the house, there are already 10. I find I am not wearing a microphone (as all the 10 people in Big Brother do), and I cannot remember arriving at the place. Thus, I manage to realise I must be dreaming! And that there is no need to ask Big Brother who I am. Nevertheless, I remain in the house, and more of the people there become aware of my presence. Later the man I was originally talking to develops some photos he had taken of both of us; but I am not in them.
This is the summer holidays now. I have five weeks before I have to get down seriously to EC Inform work - although within that five weeks, there is probably a week of business-type work I need to do. Which leaves four weeks of . . . what! Good question.
This week coming Ads is doing a drama production at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford - in fact he started last Thursday, the day after school broke up. Nic Paris, the theatre’s youth director, is working with 14 of them to produce, by next Saturday, a musical called ‘Panic - the musical’ (written of course by Nic Paris). I took a long time over deciding whether to sign Ads up for this course (there was a similar course being run by Guildford’s other theatre which is used more for celebrity shows). Ads liked the sound of the Yvonne Arnaud one (even though it was a musical) because it was nearly two weeks rather than one. Unfortunately, the bus and train times are not very helpful, and we have to take him in and pick him up each day - but this is not really a problem. After three days, he is enjoying it immensely, more so than any of the activity weeks he’s done in past summer holidays.
I’m not keen on encouraging Ads to become interested in the theatre as a profession, but I think there are distinct advantages for him in courses such as this. Firstly, it is extremely important for him to experience as many different social situations as possible, to learn to become comfortable with who and what he is - he has rather limited social intercourse with B and I. Secondly, in this age of such amazing TV and films which we experience on a daily basis with no more than a passing thought, I think it is important for him to understand how much work and rehearsal it takes to pull even a small amateur theatre piece together. I think acting skills can be useful in life. I also think it is a useful experience to be involved in a group working together to produce something concrete, something tangible - which is definitely not the case with other kinds of activity weeks.
So, for me, this week is probably the best week to do the work that needs to be done. I also want to write a story for Adam’s birthday. I’ve already got a title and half a plot - ‘Panic - not the musical’.
The next week. Barbara has taken a week’s holiday, and so I am free for a full week - but what shall I do with it? The week after, I thought I might take Ads to New York. Again I thought I might get some kind of package deal - cheap - at the last minute sort of thing - no chance - £400 each for the flights is the cheapest available, without any accommodation. In any case, I know New York will be insufferable in mid-August. And then there’s still a further two weeks. In which I thought I might try and sort out my life - sort out what I’m going to do for the next 20 years, well the next 10 years any way. Something radical has to happen to me - soon. It ain’t going to happen from outside, so it’s going to have to happen from the inside. Help. I don’t think I have it in me.
Raoul and I meet up in Esher. For the first half of the evening, he is on an act, it’s a Raoul I hardly know, aggressively and unhumourously picking up on everything I say demanding that I justify it; claiming that I’m always negative, and throwing back accusations about my own life. I hold my position, but start accusing him of being difficult, changed, unreasonable; I tell him it is not the Raoul I know; and then, whether deliberately or not I can’t tell, a smile wriggles out the side of his mouth at something I say - not something funny, but something true - and I catch it; I tell him ‘that’s better, that’s the Raoul I know’, and within a few minutes he is back to normal. It’s as though he had taken on the persona of someone deeply hurt, and trying his best to recover the situation through a serious re-appraisal of his behaviour, but that, really, underneath, he knew it was all a con.
I spend an evening with Genny. I don’t know why, but I have a headache after it. We talk a lot about her work and about David. She looks and feels more confident these days, more settled. I expect she will find a man soon.
News of the week: a Concorde plane crashed outside Paris killing all the 100 or so German tourists on board. Engines were on fire as it took off, and there appears to have been some burst tyres, but no one appears yet certain of how the accident actually happened. PLO-Israel talks at Camp David concluded without agreement - how are the Israelis ever going to give up a part of Jerusalem? Another and last batch of IRA prisoners - bombers and killers - were released from the Maze prison, much to the disgust of the Protestants. Tony Blair announced a radical overhaul of the National Health Service.
31 July 2000
Monday, a nice quiet day. I read a bit, played a little Scrabble on the computer, updated the EC Inform-Energy index, helped B out with tidying up a text, listened to the ‘Mastermind’ final on the radio at lunchtime, and made a start on Adam’s birthday story. An order came through for the book, so I dealt with that too.
A week ago, I took Ads to the Farnborough Air Show. Because of his drama course and one thing and another, the only time we could go was on the Monday after school. Two years ago, I took him on the public day and it was very crowded, this time we went on the press day, and there was much more room everywhere. We went on Kiwi [my Kawasaki motorbike] as usual, in order to save ourselves any hassle with traffic. I was a little unsure whether I would be able to get Ads in with my press pass, but calculated that no one would actually stop me. In fact, all went according to plan. We arrived in time to see the new Eurofighter in the air, and for us to make our way to the British Aerospace area so Ads could actually sit in one, something he couldn’t do two years ago because of the queues. Then we made our way over to the Media Centre, and arrived in time to find a seat on the balcony to watch a magnificent Red Arrows display. Afterwards we made our back across the site, through the display areas, returning to Kiwi around closing time.
There is a job advertised, by a recruitment agency for the Boston Consulting Group, in the ‘Economist’ for business writers and editors with 7-10 years experience. I don’t think I’m ready yet to really look for a job, but it’s fairly close to the kind of thing I would best qualified for.
Paul K Lyons
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