DIARY 86: December 2005 - April 2006

4 December 2005

There was a frost last night, and it’s been cold this morning, although the sun’s out. The last couple of days though it was raining fiercely, non-stop, was puddling front and back. I was so glad the Thomas’s surveyor had chosen Monday not Friday to come. I’ve spoken to Henry at Emery & Orchard and he says everything along the chain is proceeding well, and so the only significant hurdle left is the survey on Russet House. I predict that whatever the surveyor finds, Thomas will try to knock another ten grand off the price; and I predict I won’t be having any of it. And then it’ll take another couple of weeks before we press on. Henry thinks we could exchange before Christmas, and I’d then have to agree to a completion date, I suppose, no later than the third/fourth week in January. Bloody hell. I’ve been back from Morocco three days and I’ve not done very much - although I have trawled through the estate agent websites and picked out a few flats for possible viewing.

No, I haven’t done much. Usually, when back from a holiday, I take days just to get the holiday diary finished, but I completed the Morocco diary on the way home. Also, I’m usually shattered in one way or another, but I felt really fit and fine on my return, as I had done all the way through the holiday. I had no qualms about letting the rest of Thursday (I arrived back around lunchtime) dissipate in moping around the house, watching programmes that had recorded while I was away, unpacking, opening the mail (not one personal letter), and I thought I would press on efficiently on Friday. As I said, I did manage to go through the estate agent websites, but, at the same time, I started not feeling so well any more. The old lethargy took me over, I had a bit of a headache, and then my right knee started aching. It didn’t seem like gout at first, but more like an injury pain, a sprain or a knock; but there had been no injury, not even a slight one (certainly not to my knowledge). I took nurofen, and then, by the evening when the pain was worse, I started on the Feldene. The pain got really bad yesterday, and several times, when I was moving around, my knee almost gave way (felt very unstable). It’s only now, Sunday morning, that the pain has eased to a point where I feel I can be a bit more productive. I have, for example, just swept the drive, and cleared a few leaves.

Adam rang on Thursday night, and we talked a long time, mostly about Morocco. I didn’t speak to B until Friday night, and we spoke a long time too. On Friday, I sent Christmas cards to my mother, Julian and Melanie advising them that I was opting out of Christmas this year (doing a Mel!), and that I didn’t want any presents. I forgot it was Rebecca’s birthday last week, and Toby’s on Monday, so I’ve sent them ecards, and will follow them up with a money gift.

I haven’t thought much about Morocco since I’ve been back. It’s amazing how little travel experiences impinge on my memory or consciousness these days. I mean I wrote a very full diary, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy revisiting the trip in the future sometime, but, from the day I got back, it was having no impact on my life whatsoever, not even in the very slightest of traces. Memories of Morocco haven’t for example come into my thoughts naturally at all, barely once. Because of this, I have once or twice made an effort to remember bits of the journey, but, even so, my mental thought processes wouldn’t stay in Morocco for longer than a minute or two. While I was away, though, I did occasionally try to conjure up memories of the Egypt trip I did (I suppose because it’s the most distant recent travel, and was also in an Arab country), and I found it surprisingly hard to remember much about it. So, yesterday, I read through my Egypt diary. It was good to read, informative and flowing, and put me in touch with nearly-gone fading memories of people and experiences on that tour.

There’s not been much in the news that I wish to report. I’ve read a couple of ‘Economists’ but nothing stuck out inspiring a comment from me. There’s a big climate change conference in Montreal. Bush has been on a tour of the Far East. The UK pensions time bomb has been in the news again. England lost the last test match in Pakistan by an innings and a 100 runs, losing the series 2-0. We always seem to find it tough playing on Pakistani pitches.

Did I mention the gorgeous Moroccan girl I met on the plane from Marrakesh. She’s going to study for a masters at the American University (near Russell Square apparently) after doing a degree at the American University at Ifrane (the one I saw on the bus from Azrou to Fez). I gave her my email, and she promised to ‘connect’ with me, but I’m sure she won’t. She comes from Rabat, where her father is high up in education, and her mother is a midwife. She has an aunt in London (which was odd, because I used to have an uncle in Rabat). And did I mention that I looked Sinclair-Loutit up on the internet and found that he only died last year, so if I’d done this trip before 2004 the telephone number I searched out might have still have worked.

7 December 2005

So cold, so dark, so miserable. English winters, stuck here in Elstead. Stark cold dark miserable days and weeks ahead of me, Adam comes home next week, so maybe he’ll bring a bit of light and heat and joy into the house. I’m sure he will.

A Mr Ship came to survey the house on Monday. He did a very thorough job even though he was only employed to do a Home Buyer’s Survey. He knocked on this, tapped on that, turned on every tap, checked the drains, applied his damp meter wherever he could, even measured the house, although I’m not quite sure why. So far, I haven’t heard whether his report will cause the Thomases to think again, or ask for a reduction. Unless, I get any negative news, I may go down to Brighton and re-start the awful business of looking at flats. At some point, I will need to decide on dates for exchange and completion. I’m thinking the end of January for completion, but I wonder how many new flats will come on to the market in January.

David Cameron has been elected by the Conservative Party as its new leader. The fourth one since Labour got into office. He is young and bright, in both senses of the word, but I wonder if he has enough power to reform his party, to do a Kinnock. It took Kinnock a long time to swing the Labour Party back from the left, and the Conservatives, despite three fresh leaders in a row, have not even begun their swing back from the right. It’s so revealing listening to Conservative politicians in the way they still always talk as though the problem is one of the public’s perception, and all they have to do is to get a strategy for convincing people better (rather than getting the strategy itself right). David Davies must be a very unhappy man, for he surely thought, for many months, the Conservative crown was his.

I’m not watching much on TV these days. There’s a good serialisation of ‘Bleak House’ (crowded out with luvvies, but all doing a good job) running in two half hour episodes each Thursday and Friday after ‘Eastenders’ (which I haven’t watched for at least a year now). There’s a fun American import called ‘Lost’. Some 30 odd people are stranded on an island with, apparently, no hope of rescue. The hour long episodes dovetail back histories about the individuals (and why they were on the plane that crashed) with their lives on the island (and all is not well, there is inter-group strife, but there are also other beasts on the islands, human and non-human). Another American import, ‘Without a Trace’ is continuing. It’s always tightly written and original with only nuances of the main character storylines interfering with the disappearing-person plots. I can’t think of anything else I watch regularly.

10 December 2005

I was heading for a run earlier, but I didn’t have full confidence in my knee (post-gout attack), so I went for a stroll to the board walks. It was late afternoon (which at this time of year is mid-afternoon) and the sun was orange and low. It was my first time on the Common since before Morocco. On the return leg, I came back through the woods, and sang a mantra to myself.

Walking in woods
Walking in woods
Walking in woods
With the sun so low
And the mist rising
And my shadow as long as the trees
And my shadow as long as the trees
And my shadow as long as the trees

14 December

‘Nine Horses’ by Snow Borne Sorrow on the stereo. I heard some of the songs on Late Junction, and then bought the cd. The main singer has a low rumbling voice, and the lyrics are quite emotional. It’s catchy and interesting. I’ve recorded it onto minidisk, and will give the CD to Cora (whenever we get to see each other again) along with a wooden box I bought for her in the Marrakesh souks.

It’s Wednesday. On Monday, I drove down to Brighton (the trip takes almost 90 minutes during the day with average traffic, although I can do it in 60 minutes early on a Sunday morning) for more flat/house research and to collect Adam. It was a bit of a depressing experience - how could it not be. I’d made one prior appointment to see a house in Coleman Street, one down from Washington St, where Barbara and Adam lived for a year. The agent had sent a strange middle-aged man, a bit of bumbler, to open the door for me, and then show me round. But he knew nothing about the house, and could answer none of my questions, and yet hovered around me everywhere I went. Also in the house was a very smart looking man, with a moustache, doing odd jobs. He looked more like a banker than an odd job man, but he didn’t seem to know much about the house either. The carpets were all synthetic, and the lounge, in the lower ground floor, was dark and ugly; and the rooms, of course, were small. I stood around for ages trying to figure out what I could cope with and what I couldn’t, and I didn’t get very far. Afterwards, I rode around on my bike looking to see how far up the hill I would be prepared to live, and I saw another, nicer-looking house a couple of streets away. Later, I came back to the area (with a very dipsy novice estate agent, pretty but dipsy) to see another place. It was large, and lighter, and probably in better condition. But the bathroom and toilet were on the lower-ground floor, and the sink was no bigger than a large boot. And the kitchen was well tacky. It was useful seeing this house, because it made me think about whether I really needed as much space as was on offer (four rooms, apart from the kitchen diner). I did try to see another house not far away, but the agent was too busy to fit me in that day. Otherwise, I biked around a lot, to Kemp Town (where I nearly looked at a flat, only I couldn’t find the entrance or the agent who was supposed to be showing me in), to the Lewes Road area, and across past the Upper Lewes Road area. I may have garnered a bit more knowledge about the Brighton areas, but I’m also more confused about what I want. It’s the same old problem with me: if someone told me I had to live in one of these flats, I would make the best of it, and not worry about it, but when I have choice I feel the need to make the very best choice I can.

I picked Adam up (who showed me his single room on the third floor of Holland House, with nice views across Brighton, and, with a head turn, of the sea) and filled up the car with his bike, computer, dirty washing, and sundry other effects. Since he’s been back we’ve talked loads. He seems to have coped with the, relatively light, work programme without any problems; and he’s been happy and active. B came for dinner yesterday, brought me flowers which was really nice. I showed slides from when Adam was quite young. (I’m also showing Adam a few slides each night, hoping to remind him of holidays, and then I want to pack all the photo stuff away.) B seems chirpy, despite all the ongoing problems with her house. Well, they’re not problems, it’s just that the building works are taking so long, and causing so much chaos. First she was without a kitchen, then without a bathroom, then no heat or light, and so on. But the extension will add hugely to her house.

No news yet on my house. No word from the Thomases about the survey; no set date for exchange or completion. I grow restless. I want to start looking for flats in earnest. I want to start packing in earnest. I want to get on.

22 December 2005

Today is Thursday, Bing Bang Day (ish). And Monday was King Kong Day. Monday so called because Adam watched the original ‘King Kong’ on television, and then in the evening we went to see the new ‘King Kong’ at the cinema in Guildford. It was also the day that a final price was finally agreed with Mr Thomas for his purchase of Russet House, and the day that I found a house in Brighton to rent. And in the last 24 hours (which I’m loosely referring to as Bing Bang Day because I can’t think of anything else that is both appropriate and fits with the silly name for Monday) contracts on Russet House were exchanged (signalling no way back) and I signed a contract for renting 9 Stanley Road, Brighton BN1 4NJ. Impressive, no? Managing to secure a rental property within hours of having the security of an exchange of contracts on Russet House. It’s fantastic. If I hadn’t found somewhere before Christmas, I’d have been fretting all the way through the quiet two week period, and then, in early January, I’d’ve been tensely watching every day for new rental postings. Having assessed the market over the last few weeks, I realised I was never going to have a great choice, and that any property was going to have significant handicaps - hills, tacky furniture, small size, dark lounge, parking problems, and so on. I may not have felt so favourably about this property if I’d seen it a couple of weeks ago, but now it stands out head and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen. And it’s a good price. £875 a month, or £10,500 a year. This compares to the £18,000 (roughly) I’ll be earning by not living in Russet House. If one assumes that house prices stagnate and do not even rise in line with inflation, then I will be netting £8,000. If I must account for inflation, then I’ll be either side of break even. If house prices rise then I will be losing out. If they fall, even by 5%, then I’ll be doing very well out of the transaction.

So, 9 Stanley Road. It’s a terraced house, painted light blue, that starts on the ground floor (unlike so many Brighton houses which have basement levels). A very narrow hallway (problem one - storing bikes) leads to a lounge dining room (with bare, not very well varnished, floorboards, and - problem two - with furniture) and a galley kitchen (no place to sit down). Narrow stairs lead to a modern bathroom (with bath and shower), and two bedrooms, one with a nice bed (problem three - too large) and one with a futon. The views from the lounge and front bedroom are ugly (gateway to a fire station). On the top floor there’s another bedroom, but I should be able to make it my study (I’m hoping my big desk will fit in the window alcove). Fortunately there’s a phone socket there, although I will have to trail plug extensions. Outside is a good-sized patio with plantings and pots. The back of the house is north facing, but the patio is large enough to get sun for most of the year. Overall, I think, I’m well pleased to have found a place that doesn’t leave me with a feeling of dread and disappointment about the move. In fact, I feel quite positive. I’m going to be able to cycle to a library, cycle to a swimming pool, cycle to the beach. I’m going to be able to walk to an array of shops, pubs and nightlife. And, I’m going to have my very own cinema on the doorstop.

24 December 2005

Christmas Eve. This is going to be (is already) my least Christmassy Christmas since I was in Brazil. I’ve not put up any decorations (Adam said he was going to, but didn’t), I’ve not bought any presents for my mother or brother or sister, nor am I seeing any of them over Christmas. I couldn’t really face it. To my mind, Christmas is really for children, and I’ve no problems with adults celebrating around their children, but now Adam is past all that, I can’t get interested. And like every other traditional event, it’s been utterly hijacked by commercial interests. We’re inadequate people unless we spend hundreds and hundreds of pounds on presents and food and drink, and unless our social agenda is full to brimming with get-togethers. I did ask my family members to discuss among themselves to see if they wanted to come down one day over the holidays since I’m leaving Russet House, but for one reason or another they didn’t. Adam will come here some time on Christmas Day (with B), and then I might see B again on her birthday.

Actually, I’m quite sheltered here in Russet House, nothing from the outside world really filters in, unless I turn on the TV or radio. It could be any other day of the year. I will have to go out this afternoon to do a bit of Christmas shopping but I expect the shops to be fairly empty. On Thursday, on the way back from Brighton, I stopped at Secretts to buy a loaf of bread (forgetting that Christmas was just round the corner) and it was heaving, so much so I had to wait in a long line to pay for my bread. It’s worth recalling that the shops are only actually closed for ONE day, Christmas Day, and yet the supermarkets and food shops have been heaving for weeks.

I’ve been out this morning. I cycled to Puttenham. It was all very quiet everywhere. Yesterday, I scoured the ‘Surrey Advertiser’ ads, mostly wondering if my free ads would appear (they didn’t), but also looking at what was on offer. As a result, I arranged to buy a couple of things: some packing boxes, and a Sony Walkman. In order to make the pick-up trips worthwhile, I went swimming in Guildford first (competition pool was virtually empty). The packing boxes were being sold by a scared-looking woman in north Guildford. I expected them to be in better condition and more solid, but they were still worth buying (just) at a £1 each, for they will be useful for packing up my pictures. From there, I drove to Puttenham to buy the Sony walkman. (I thought this was worth while because Adam has a lot of minidisks and his player has broken down, and I’m a bit short of presents for him.) I checked the model before leaving and it was retailing for around £100, and I was going to buy it for £35. A very slim blonde woman invited me in to her large modern house with a running balcony on the first floor. It was a very busy property and garden, with all kinds of showy things everywhere. (Later, I decided Puttenham was nouveau riche while Shackleford was traditional riche.) The ad had said the walkman was hardly used, and so I didn’t expect to have to check anything. All the bits were loose in a larger box, and the original box was also there. I simply paid and took the box away. It was only when I got home that I found the transformer (to charge the battery) and headphones were missing. I rang the lady back, and then she rang me back twice, once to tell me she’d found the headphones, and once to tell me she’d found the transformer. So, I arranged to go back the next day, i.e. this morning. I made a bike ride out of it. When I got there, I insisted on putting the thing to the test, which took a while (because we didn’t know how it worked). It is slightly scratched, but, nevertheless, it’s a reasonable bit of kit. The ride was lovely, through the Surrey fields and farms. I’ll miss this all in Brighton.

I think of Cora a bit. Last year we were so luvvy duvvy and together it was my best Christmas for many years. On Christmas Eve, we went to Guildford Cathedral, and on Christmas Day we went to her parents and then to her flat. There’s a part of me that always wants to be feeling, to be feeling rather than not feeling. I’d rather be sad and maudlin about being alone (with the general memory of being with Cora still potent) than not feeling anything and just sleep-walking through the days. Mostly, though, my thoughts swing to 9 Stanley Road, and to all the organising I’m going to have do. I keep wanting to get on with it, but there’s no point yet. The first real action will come in the first week of the new year when we start moving Adam’s stuff to 3 Beech Lane.

Christmas Day 2005

Savinna Yannatou plays on the hi-fi. She has such a lovely clear voice, and I love this CD - ‘Mediterranea’ - I bought it not long after Adam and I saw her perform in a park in Amsterdam. I’ve been avoiding Radio Three of late because, for 10 days, it is playing nothing but Bach. Adam has been really keen on listening to it thanks to Max, who turned him on to Bach.

I’ve just finished typing up a diary I’ve called 17½! I found a shorthand notebook which I’d used for a diary in 1981 when travelling to Vienna to go skiing with Mu and to Slovenia to see Maja. There wasn’t much in it but what there was refreshed my memory a little. And I’m typing up Diary 21 (1983), which is quite a long diary. I aim to finish this before the move. I’ve made considerable progress in the last couple of years in trying to put my diaries into some order. And, although there is still quite a long way to go before I reach 1989 (when I began writing my diary directly onto the computer), I’m definitely now past half way. Some of the Brazil diaries (where I wrote extensively) have already been typed up so I might be nearer two-thirds of the way through the total (not counting, of course, the post-1989 holiday diaries which I may never type up). Then, of course, there is Diary 0, the five year diary which covers more than a decade of my youth. I might be tempted to have a go at that one day, since I’ve never read or looked at it in a consistent way.

Also, before I move, I’m trying to proof read and edit another section of my typed diaries in order for them to be ready for binding into A5 books. This is the section between the Egypt and East Africa diaries, December 2000 to August 2001. It’s quite a lot of work, since there are many pages to read through. But, I’ve already got a nice pack of A4 sheets ready to be guillotined into A5 pages, sorted and bound; but I thought before I go to a friendly printer who’s prepared to guillotine it for me, I’ll try and add another one or two A5 books worth.

The third thing I’m going to try and complete before I move is the publishing of ‘London Cross’ on the internet. This again is just a matter of proof reading and corrections - the production won’t be very onerous.

How sad is my life? I seem less able to bolster myself with the past then I used to be. I’m not sure why this is. Reading about myself, remembering stories about myself used to be quite a satisfying experience (didn’t it? perhaps not), but now I get frustrated, angry almost that I can’t be in those memories, inside them, feeling them, a part of them. I suppose it might be because, contradictorily, real memories of time spent with Cora are still a little bit extant, and the knowledge of having had a wonderful affair for a year is still very poor compensation for no longer having such extraordinarily nice emotions filling my days and weeks.

I saw Genny in the week. Her story has evolved a bit. Steve, the guy she met through the internet not long after I suggested she try internet dating sites, has moved in. He was living with his ex-wife and three children, and Genny was unhappy about that. We talk a lot about relationships, and I ask her if there’s any relationship she knows which she would want. She hesitates. Her sister and husband who now live in Kenya have always been wealthy and busy and active, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Genny wasn’t a bit jealous of her. And there are other illustrators she knows who are more successful than she. But, I say, the world and his wife always put on their best clothes even to their friends most of the time, and that you can only really judge a relationship when you know it well. I always felt Cora seemed to have a very rosy idea about many of her friends’ relationships, and yet this was only because she didn’t know them very well. It was my best estimate that she had a pretty high-scoring relationship with me, and that she might find one with different scoring parameters, but was unlikely to find one with a matching or better tally. This wasn’t an arrogant view, but one that came from experience of seeing many relationships, and knowing a bit about what really matters inside them. The fact that I was able to talk to Genny about a future together was testimony to the fact that I felt the same about her, i.e. that the tally for me was damn high.

In the 2001 diary I’m proof-reading I found a comment that I’d managed to produce one book roughly every year in the 1990s, so I thought I’d reproduce the list and update it: ‘East European Energy Markets’ (1990); ‘King Top-of-the-World’ (1991); ‘EC Energy Policy’ (1992); ‘Energy Policies of the EU’ (1994); ‘Love Uncovered’ (1995); ‘EU Energy Policies in the mid-90s’ (1996); ‘TomSpin’ (1997); ‘EU Energy Policies towards the 21st Century’ (1998); ‘BLR’ (1999); ‘Transport Policies of the European Union’ (2000); ’75 years of cooperation in the electricity industry’ (2001); Kip Fenn (2003); ‘London Cross’ (2004); The Diary Junction (2005). There are two gaps. I can be excused for not writing a book in 1993 (although I was probably working on the first EC Inform book in fact) as that was the year I started EC Inform. And in the 2001-2002 period, I had decided not to work on any projects, although I did end up starting Kip Fenn.

The challenge then is to forget 20 years of failures and to find a new book challenge for 2006. People climb mountains, sail across oceans, paint watercolours, play bridge, sit in pubs, watch football, why shouldn’t I write books. When I write a book, it is like climbing a mountain for me - a mountain in the head. I should continue to aim - as a minimum - to produce one project a year, regardless of what else is going on in my life. And for 2006, I should probably try to get back to some fiction.

Here’s an original (but ironical) thought for Christmas Day 2005. When I’m moping a bit, feeling maudlin, thinking that I might feel less maudlin if I wrote down a few thoughts, engaged with my counsellor, the diary, I also come across a sense - it’s quite a lightweight one - that I don’t have anything fresh to say about myself, as though I’ve written my emotions out, exhausted the counsellor’s resources. It might be that this comes partly from having spent so much time in the last year with my past diaries from different periods, and reading, in them, about my emotions and feelings. Sometimes, the writing surprises me, as though I didn’t know I had thought or written about myself in that way already many years ago.

31 December 2005

It’s New Year’s Eve, another one, my 54th. Thirty years ago, I was in North Island New Zealand staying at Lisa’s house near a beach; 20 years ago I was with Eliane in Rio, probably strolling along Copacabana beach intrigued by all the offerings to Iemanja (there’s a framed photo of this which must have been taken on 31 December 1985), and 10 years ago Adam and I went to the Woolpack (B having gone to a concert with Alistair) but came home by 10pm and fell asleep before midnight. This evening, I shall probably be alone, and - thinking about it now - it might be the first time I’ve been alone, possibly ever. Gosh. I thought I would be alone last year (since, for the first time, Adam went to a New Year’s Eve party), but I ended up going to Andy’s house from where I recall texting Cora (who was in Switzerland). Before last year, Adam was always with me on New Year’s Eve (and with B on Christmas Eve). It this is true, that tonight will be my first ever New Year’s Eve alone, then it’s utterly appropriate, since this is a low point, a very low point in my life. I don’t want to say it’s the lowest point, because I fear there is further for me to fall, but it feels like it’s the lowest I can remember since 1980ish. I promised myself that I’d write in my journal today, and this would take precedence over anything else. I have done some editing and proof-reading and some clearing up in the garage, but this is what I want to do. I want to reflect on the year just gone, encapsulate it, preserve it and get it partially, at least, out of my system.

Judy and Rob came over on Wednesday. I cooked shepherd’s pie for lunch, we went for a walk on the Common, and then Barbara came over for tea and fruit cake. At one point, I found myself telling Judy how these years, now gone, in Russet House felt like the happiest of my life, the most fulfilling. I’m not sure how true this is, but I said it. And, as I think about whether it’s true or not now, I can’t really deny it. I’m not sure why I said it, maybe I’d been thinking it, and maybe it’s true. And if it is, how interesting. For most of the ten years, I had no intimate relationship to speak of, no sex, no loving. I worked alone most of the time, and my social life was minimal. So why do I ‘feel’ that it was the happiest period of my life? Well, Barbara and I arrived at a workable modus vivendi, with her house round the corner; so there was always someone who needed me, and with whom I could share my trials and tribulations. Most importantly there was Adam who gave me focus, my life meaning, and lots of opportunity to make each and every day fun, interesting, worthwhile. Moreover, I had my business and my writing. Together, they did actually give me quite a lot of fulfilment. I may have been frustrated at time with the writing, and I may have got very bored and tired of the business, but it did always provide me with interest and challenges. And, in a professional sense, I was reasonably successful. It’s quite possible I will look back on the Russet House days with great affection - as I do on the Fordwych Road days, on my time in Brazil, and on the Aldeburgh/Brighton period. Where are my regrets? Only that all those days are gone. This surely is a good thing, indicating a life lived well, with development and richness and colour and feeling. And, despite the horrors of this autumn gone by, I have at least enacted changes to give myself a chance of finding a new era.

I’m not sleeping well. I can’t remember ever sleeping this badly. I’m not sure when it began exactly, but I’m finding it very difficult to get back to sleep when I wake some time between 2am and 4am. I listen and half-listen to the radio for several hours. I’ve had to try all sorts of remedies, a glass of hot milk, a wank, reading, taking the duvets downstairs to sleep on the sofa. It’s so damn cold and dark outside of the bed that I usually lie awake a long time before frustration leads me to get dressed. It feels like anxiety is keeping me awake. There isn’t any one thing looping in my head. It’s as though my whole brain is on alert, and nothing I can do - deep breathing, thinking of holidays, listening to the radio - can relax it. I’ve talked to Barbara about this. She has some sleep problems too, and has looked into the subject a little bit. She recommends not lying in bed awake too long, i.e. trying to preserve, in a psychological sense, the bed for sleeping; getting up and changing locations. She also tells me, and I didn’t know this, that anxiety is more common and stronger at night, and that, in general, the body is in a more depressed state. It’s why people often die at night she says. I’m not sure how true this is, but the anxiety I feel in the night is definitely at a more heightened level than during the day.

What a roller-coaster of a year. The highs were the highest highs I’ve had for many years, and the lows were the lowest I’ve had for many years too. Yet, I sit here at the computer, tapping away at the keys, and I feel sane, in control, very resigned it must be admitted, but OK, and the highs and lows feel distant, far away. I wish I could remember the highs of times with Cora, but I can’t. They are there in my diary, and I can read about them, but I can’t touch them (I know I’ve written this before). I do still touch, every day probably, the loneliness and aloneness. I can’t see a couple kiss on television without thinking about how loving and happy we were together for almost a year. And, because I know I had that intimacy and friendship recently, it’s harder to do without. Before meeting Cora, my angst, my emotional sadness at not being in a relationship, surfaced less often, and had less depth to it. But I don’t mind the angst, the sadness, because it’s part of being alive, and I’d rather have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. On top of the sadness, as I’ve also written about, is a more complicated level of emotional thoughts which are linked to the idea that there may still be a future for Cora and I. I have no compunction in admitting that I have doubts about whether I could have children with Cora. I mean to say I was fairly sure I couldn’t, but in hindsight, I’m not so sure. I am very sure, though, that Cora is clear I am in her past, All she’s been worried about, more or less since we broke up, is how she can rein me out (that’s a good phrase I’ve just invented) without feeling bad in herself about it.

I watched the film ‘The Quiet American’ again the other night (I’d seen it in the cinema with Adam when it first came out), and was particularly interested in Michael Caine’s character’s relationship with his much younger girlfriend. Older men will do a lot to keep hold of a younger woman, but I did nothing really to hold on to Cora. I just encouraged her to doubt that I was right for her. Caine’s character played a patient game with his woman, letting her leave him for someone else, before she eventually came back. If I decide that I do want Cora (and from where I sit at the moment, spending the rest of my life with her - assuming she can be happy - looks a very attractive proposition), I’m going to have to let her know eventually, however certain I am that she’ll not want me.


I’ve been for a run. Unusually, I went mid-afternoon, and the wrong way round. But I ran all the way, as I did two days ago, when I last did a run. Whenever I run all the way round it leaves me feeling good, fit and able. Adam has just rung, and he’s on his way over. It will be nice to see him today, even though he’ll probably head off to a party in Thursley later. I found some garden candles in the garage that have been there for ages. I was about to throw them out when I thought I might take them to Waverley Abbey tonight, and have a spiritual one man celebration.

So, yes, it was a bit of a roller-coaster year. Six wonderful months with Cora, during which my social life was tenfold what it had been for years, during which I had company every weekend, and most of every weekend, and during which I had more sex than I’d had in the last 20 years put together, and all of it - almost every last minute of it - was wonderful, uncomplicated, and full of warm loving intimacy. Thereafter, though, with Cora gone, and Adam having left for Brighton, and the rest of my life in tatters, I had very bad times. Feelings of acute depression, horrible sadnesses, and hurtful resentments. Barbara, too, is now emotionally and geographically gone, but I’m also grown further and further away from my friends. Now that I could need them more, it’s only even more apparent how little connection I have with most of them. We are friends because of the past not of the present, and I have, in fact, no friends of the present - none. There is no one I can rely on seeing next week, next weekend, tomorrow.

So, as I sit here on this New Year’s Eve evening, I do wonder what will the future bring? Where will it take me? I’ve no idea. I’ve applied to do the TEFL course in Brighton, that would be in March. But then what? I’m hardly likely to get any work in Brighton. Do I feel any hope for the future? Not really. There’s a tad of hope in the sense that there will be more diversion in Brighton, but not much else. Interestingly, the relationship with Cora has doused my hopes of finding a partner with whom I can have more children. Yes, being with her gave me a new emotional confidence, but it also highlighted the difficulties of having a serious and long-term relationship with someone young enough to have children.

Paul K Lyons


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