Sunday 10 July 2005

It’s a brilliantly hot day, the first for a while. We’ve had more than a week of unseasonably cold weather. I was tempted several times to turn on the central heating. But today I could do with a fan or air conditioning. Well, that’s not true. It just feels like that in the office, but I’ve moved to the lounge (to write on the portable by the back window) where it always remains cool and fresh, even on the hottest of days.

It’s been a newsy sort of week. It was always going to be a newsy week because of the G8 summit at Gleneagles and the ambitious agenda set for it by Tony Blair, on climate change and aid to Africa. Naturally the media managed to find armies of commentators to say that Blair wasn’t doing enough, and the G8 wasn’t doing enough, while at the same time managing to puff up their own role in the business. The media loves these kind of events because they are containable, because they can be talked about and analysed with short headlines and brief arguments on both sides. And there were also the Live 8 concerts trying to stoke up publicity for aid to Africa and the ‘Make Poverty History’ rallies. I found the whole circus quite upsetting. I’ve no problem with the G8 efforts, but I do have a problem with the way the media exaggerates and magnifies their importance, and, at one and the same time, does its best to belittle them and knock what achievements there are sideways. On climate change, for example, it was as though no one had ever debated the subject before, as though ten years of creating and enacting the Kyoto Protocol counted for nothing, as though suddenly the be all and end all of the planet’s climate change actions depended on a statement to be made by the G8. And the Live 8 concerts, and Geldof in particular, angered me, because of the way they focused on the idea of aid to Africa, as though Africa was one thing, one place, one identity that could be helped if everyone got together and hoped for the best. In effect, they were cartoonising the idea of Africa and its problems, and deceiving millions into thinking that the problems could be solved just by a few G8 leaders deciding to increase aid. And it made me furious that all these kinds of protest activities were being organised around the first G8 that was actually addressing these two issues (aid and climate change) in a serious way. Geldof is an attention seeker; his Live 8 concerts were about his own power trip. As some media commentators pointed out, the concerts could have done a lot more good if they had incorporated many struggling musicians and artists from African countries, instead of a gang of Bob’s friends. And as for the ‘Make Poverty History’ marches. What’s that about? How can you make poverty history. That’s absolutely and completely ludicrous. What kind of dream are the organisers trying to sell themselves and the young people that flock to the marches. We can’t even get rid of poverty in the richest countries in the world? Great headlines; but what do they actually achieve. Sweet F.A.

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee decided on the venue for the 2012 Olympics. There’s been a lot of news about the London bid over the last year. Paris was the favourite, with other bids coming from New York, Madrid and Moscow. Early on, London wasn’t given much of a chance, but the bid team, headed by Sebastian Coe and given strong backing by the government, managed to pull together a really excellent proposal; and, when the final votes were tallied up in Singapore, London won by a whisker from Paris. It was a great victory (not least because of the ongoing friction between Chirac - due at the G8 that evening - and Blair). I’m no cynic about this kind of thing. I think it’s fantastic that the Olympics will come to London in 2012. It will help regenerate a large part of London, ensure the transport system is working tip top, and bring a lot of excitement to the capital. Also, I’ll get a chance to go some events (I’m already looking forward to seeing volleyball for example), as will Adam who’ll be 25 by then.

London was still very much in party mood at 9am the following morning, when Al Quaeda type-terrorism finally hit the British capital. London has been a prime target for years, but our security efforts have foiled them mostly. This time, though, the terrorists managed to set off four bombs, three of them coordinated to detonate at the same time on underground trains, and one, an hour later, to blow up a London bus. All of the public transport system - trains and buses were shut down - and the media went to town. The BBC cleared its BBC1 schedule and there was rolling news with a huge red strap at the bottom of the screen ‘LONDON BOMBS’. It felt wrong. It felt like the presenters and journalists were enjoying it too much. It felt like the media response was pre-planned, and that it was their 9/11, and that they were going to make the most of it. And yet, this was not a major attack or major disaster by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, there were four bombs, and 100s of people were injured; but, in the final horrible tally, there were about 50-60 deaths, far less than in the similar attack on Madrid. In Britain, we have been used to regular and murderous attacks by the IRA, and there was no need to fall right into the terrorist hands by exaggerating the effect of their bombs so hugely. It was apparent, by the next day, that the BBC handling of the bombs was very much toned down - although I never saw any criticism of the media coverage. By the Friday, the government and its agencies such as the police were making it clear that it was impossible and would be impossible in the future to guard and secure against this type of attack on an open transport system (i.e. rail as opposed to air). Blair, in fact, made a point of stressing this point. And it is what I believe. I believe that such attacks should be accepted as part of the risk of being alive, equivalent to the risk of being mugged, or in a traffic accident, or suffering from cancer, and that we shouldn’t give them any more publicity or attention or importance than any other kind of tragedy. I am sure that we are already spending vast sums of money on our security services, far more, in fact, proportionally than is being spent on protecting us from other kinds of harms. This is certainly the case in the US, where the response to 9/11 has probably cost the average US citizen far more than he realises - not only in paying for homeland and foreign security services, but in time lost at airports etc. I am sorry for the families of the individuals caught up in the bomb attacks (and because one train was trapped deep underground on the Piccadilly Line, it has taken a long time for the all the victim’s bodies to be extricated and identified), but I’m very sorry for all those caught up in all sorts of horrors every day, and in every place around the world all the time. These kind of bomb outrages are taking place every single day in Baghdad, not just once in a lifetime, and I defy anyone anywhere to admit that the lives of the people in Baghdad are less important or less worthy of media attention than those in London.

The first indication I had that something strange was happening on Thursday morning came when I received an email alert telling me that I’d re-bought AstraZeneca shares (i.e. the price had fallen to a level where an automatic purchase I had preset took effect). This was very strange for the following reason. I had sold my AZ shares a couple of days earlier at a price I thought might be a peak, and then I’d hoped the price would fall so I could rebuy them. But the price carried on going up and up, leaving me stuck with over £20,000 in my pot. I wasn’t confident enough that the price would carry on rising, so I couldn’t just ignore the fact that I’d sold at too low a price, and rebuy into them at a higher price. I just had to sit tight. As I have been playing about a bit in this kind of day-trading mode, I had feared that this would eventually happen to me. My plan was to wait until I got hold of the ‘Investor’s Chronicle’ tips on Friday morning, and buy into a different stock. In the meantime, though, I had set up an automatic purchase for AZ shares if they dropped to a price that would have made my selling them when I did OK. Given the amount they had gone up in two days, though, it was extremely unlikely they would fall so far so quickly. Thus, I was very surprised to receive the email alert. Naturally I went straight to the iii site (which is what I use to buy and sell, and for information) to look at the figures. I was stunned to find that the average share prices in all the different sectors were down, and that, within a sector, all the share prices of the individual companies were down also. There were sheets of red down arrows, indicating lower share prices. Being a bit of a novice, I didn’t twig immediately that there must have been a really major cause for this state of affairs, but I did start checking around. And then, when the BBC website wouldn’t load, I started to get suspicious. When I turned on the television, there was the big red strap ‘LONDON BOMBS’. Somehow, someway (for I’ve no idea how so much money and shares can move so quickly) 2-3% or more had been knocked off almost every share price. And by chance - for it was a fluke of the highest order - my buy level was about the lowest price the shares hit that day. For, as soon as it was clear that the bomb damage was limited, the prices started rising, and many of them re-established the price they had been at the night before - including Astrazeneca. And then, the following day, they quickly climbed enough to hit a price at which I had an automatic sell action set. So, I managed to make a tidy little sum out of the whole business. I spent half the day looking at other shares, and eventually put the money into the ‘Royal Bank of Scotland’. That evening, I received two Google Alerts (fantastic thing the internet - Google will send me an email every time ‘Astrazeneca’ or ‘Bank of Scotland’ appear in a news item). One of them said that a major consultancy was recommending Astrazeneca shares as ‘overweight’; and another that it was recommending ‘Bank of Scotland’ shares as under-valued. I am excited to see what happens to them on Monday morning. Meanwhile, I’ve also diversified slightly, and put £3,000 into a company called Alizyme. I did this purely on the basis that their shares seemed to be rising unusually fast. The ploy seemed to work in the sense that the shares continued to go up fast, and, in less than a couple of days, I’d gained 10%.

This last week I’ve been really ‘into’ dealing my shares, and I’ve found myself thinking quite a lot about it, and the processes. I’m up a little under £2,000 at the moment (and that’s after seven or eight trades each one of which absorbs £100 or so in stamp duty), and wondering if I can really sustain earning money this way. The key thing for me is that I am actually in control - and the internet makes that possible. With my unit trusts, it’s always seemed too much bother to control and manipulate my holdings, because I’d have to make calls or write letters to buy or sell. But I love the fact that I can buy and sell almost instantly on the internet. I know I’m only a tiny little minnow and that the big boys are manipulating the markets in all kinds of unknown ways, but maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that by monitoring and watching the sharks, this little minnow can drift around in their slipstream.

11 July 2005

Another gorgeous day. I should probably go and water the garden. Two weeks after I went down with that vicious cold I’ve still got a bit of a cough, a bit of phlegm in my lower respiratory tract. But I’ve felt fine for most of the two weeks, just haven’t been able to go running, or felt like doing yoga much.

Two weekends to report on - like almost every other one for nearly a year, spent mostly with Cora. We don’t do much, certainly nothing very special or memorable, but we take a lot of pleasure in being with each other, and at my late stage in life I should treasure this warmth and pleasure taken in such togetherness. The weekend before last, the first in July, was dominated by two events: Cora’s charity run and my mother’s birthday lunch at Lemonia.

Wednesday 20 July

I seem calmer now, more dry-eyed than I’ve been since Sunday, and so I’m going to attempt to try and record how and why Cora and I have split up - after ten and a half months. I’ve been very cut up about the break, and found myself sobbing a lot, more I think than I’ve done for decades. I think I thought, until Monday, that I was in control, vis-a-vis the relationship, and that I would be able to engineer its end in the right time and in the right way. I never, for a moment, expected to be as emotionally distraught as I am; indeed, I never really thought about my own feelings, I just knew, I suppose, it would be difficult when it happened. My first real emotional response to the idea that it wasn’t going to work long-term with Cora came in mid-May: I had cried deeply one night in bed with her. I told her at the time that I was scared of losing her and scared of keeping her. Since then, I think, I’ve known the relationship wouldn’t go on for ever. While, I had no thought to end the relationship for myself soon - there were just too many positives for me - I felt that I had some responsibility to bring it to an end for Cora’s sake when, and if, it became clear to her that there was no future for us - indeed I’d promised as much early on. I felt I’d always said that I could do this, regardless of my feelings, because her future (being so much younger) was more important than mine.

There were several arguments or difficulties in subsequent weeks. Cora’s own concerns about me were growing. The idea that I wouldn’t or couldn’t integrate fully with her family and friends seemed to become more and more important. We talked about it a lot, and often times she admitted that she was trying to become more independent of parents; but, at the same time, she wouldn’t accept that I would not want to take them on our ‘journey’, if we took one. I was happy, I said, for us to live a life in which they were a part, but not one in which they were as important to her, as I was. I would not want to be in a relationship, where considerations about parents and other family members dictated a lot of social activity all the time, and, in fact, impacted on where we lived.

As a result of the conversation we’d had some weeks ago outside the station, I began to joke about the idea of a Big Chat. I felt it would be hard to have this Big Chat and then just carry on; in other words, I did know (although I didn’t allow myself to think about it too deeply) that such a Big Chat could only lead to the end of the relationship. I would have liked to have deferred Big Chat for a bit longer. I would have liked to try and follow through with one or two of our plans, to go to Bradford or the Cotswolds and possibly Poland, and or New York. I had also proposed that, if we don’t have anything better to do in August, we could spend a week in each other’s flats.

But none of these things were to be, because Cora, quietly and subtly I think, pressed for us to have this Big Chat, and it took place Tuesday before last. Cora had the day off, and had come down on the Monday night. Maybe she had planned to end the relationship then and there, I’m not clear now; but we talked for hours and hours and hours. The talking went on and on and was very draining, and I can’t remember much of it. But, on the whole, I think I communicated that I wasn’t ready to break up the relationship, and that if Cora wanted to, then she would have to take the initiative.

During the week we had various conversations about whether we should go away at the weekend. We’d been talking about Bradford and the Cotswolds and Poland, and Cora’s very good at communicating about the great things other people are doing, and I got a bit cross that Cora herself never took any initiatives, and I pointed out that most of her holidays have always been organised by other people.

She drove down here around Saturday lunchtime, and I’m not sure why, but we were sitting on the sofa; and I made a number of wise-cracks - it’s very hard to get across in plain writing an impression of our constant banter, but I joke a lot. We’ve always joked about dumping each other, and about ‘it’s never going to work’, it being the relationship, for example. Well, I must have made a number of such asides while we were watching television, I suppose, for I remember clearly finding it odd that I wasn’t getting a jokey or reassuring reply. So, after a while, I had to acknowledge that she was trying to communicate something, and so we got down to more serious talking. I listened a lot, I remember that, and much of what Cora said was based around her worries that I was never going to integrate with her family and friends as much as she wanted or dreamed of. And, because of this, and because this problem had been becoming more and more important in recent weeks, she had decided it was time to stop the relationship. But she wasn’t clear about how this was to happen, and I don’t think I took it in, at first, that she was kind of planning for it to stop immediately.

21 July 2005

On the Sunday, we did a day trip to the coast. I’m not sure I was aware how final Cora was making things, but perhaps I did I can’t remember, in any case we took a day off from the talking. It was a day I planned, having decided that if I waited for Cora we’d never go anywhere. I did have books, in case we found momentum for a trip to the Cotswolds, but, clearly that wasn’t to be. We left early because I was afraid of being caught in traffic, either going down to the coast or coming back. It was a lovely day and a lovely drive. Even at 8am, there were a fair few cars and motorbikes and cycles out and about. Our first stop was near Bosham, for I’d planned we do the pretty walk I’ve done several times before. I found a perfect parking spot, a couple of miles from the village, and we got to Bosham in time to hear the church bells, see an astonishing number of bikes parked outside the church, but the village itself was not busy with tourists, and nor was the coffee shop open. The tide had been high recently and was retreating, so the bay was still more water than mud. Then it was a bit of a hike through hot fields (some with very dried and dead beans and peas) to the Fishbourne Channel side of the Chichester Harbour. The end of the walk, as I do it, took us across the mouth of the river, through the tall bamboo-like rushes and to the duck pond where I’d parked. But what a duck pond it is. We were well thirsty and hungry by the time we got there, and our feet were blazing. The seat by the car by the duck pond was empty and so we sat there to eat sandwiches I’d made. Cora sat with her feet in the water, and we watched the ducks and the swans and the coots, and the otter or stoat that swam in and out of the reeds. I told Cora this was the most impressive duck pond I’d ever seen. There were so many different kinds of birds, so much activity, so much movement. We must have sat there the best part of an hour watching.

Next we drove to the outskirts of Bognor. I’d put the bikes in the car, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about what to do with the car, and so we could cycle to and by the beaches if necessary. In fact, it was quite easy to park in Bognor, but, nevertheless, it was nice to have the cycles because we rode up and down the long promenade, and to a park as well. Before heading for the beach, we stopped for tea at Billy Busters. I commented that it seemed to be a cross between a transport cafe and a middle class B&B. Once at the beach, we spent an hour or more swimming in the very shallow water. The Bognor beach is long and straight, but unlike Brighton has good sandy areas when the tide is a little bit down. The water was warmish; and the atmosphere on the beach, moderately crowded, was surprisingly calm and quiet. Cora ate cockles, and I explored the further end of Bognor, where there’s a huge Butlins. There is nothing special about Bognor at all. It’s a rather unpretentious seaside resort.

About 3:30pm, we headed back home, driving the way we’d come over the South Downs by Goodwood Racecourse and through Midhurst. It was still very hot, and we’d managed to avoid any traffic problems, so, once at Midhurst, we stopped for one more excursion, a little walk to the Cowdray Castle ruins. We knew there was a polo match on, because we’d seen the signs on the way down south, and I had a sneaking suspicion we might be able to get to see a bit of the polo. Half the ruins were covered in scaffolding, and we couldn’t get round the back either to get a good gander, so we wandered round the cricket field, where a match was in progress, and snuck through a huge temporary car park to avoid paying £5 each to get into the polo arena. Had we known it would be such fun, though, I’m sure we’d have been happy to pay the £5. There were dozens and dozens of marquees, all selling or promoting high class clothes or food; there were thousands of people all milling around or finishing off incredibly elaborate picnics. It was like Ascot or Henley, I suppose. Some of the women wore fancy hats, and there were many very young women wandering around in expensive clothes and stiletto heels; and there were plenty of young well-groomed studs admiring them. It’s difficult to follow the play of a polo game, because the pitch is so long and wide, but we were helped by the most astonishing commentator I think I’ve ever heard. His accent was a cross between Cockney and aristocratic, his knowledge of the game was limited, and his ability to string several meaningful words together was being sorely tested by having thousands of people listening to him over the loudspeakers. He had a wonderful habit of repeating his best phrases several times, and doing so with an urgency that suggested they had a huge significance, his best examples being: ‘whistle’s gone’, and ‘look at that horse’. Wonderful stuff. It seemed only Cora and I were appreciating the comedy of the commentary. Later we learned this was some kind of championship final, and that lots of celebrities and royalty were present - probably in the Veuve Cliquot marquee.

22 July

This is difficult, it’s Friday now, and I’ve been so busy trying to write an objective-ish account of the end of my affair with Cora, I’ve not yet had a chance to write indulgently about my feelings, my sadness, my pain. I’ve been crying all week. I cried almost all day Tuesday off and on, and then a fair bit on Wednesday. Yesterday, I had a difficult time in the first half of the morning and then was fine, but again this morning I’m feeling weak and weepy. Cora has been sending very emotive cards and emails, and, and I’ve been trying to send emotive messages back. Mine have all been by email. But just now I sent her a card. I had to compose what I was going to say on the computer first, and I had to do it in a hurry (because I wanted to catch the post).

To Cora: ‘It’s Friday morning, and I want you to have a card from me on Saturday morning, but I can’t find a suitable one. So here’s Mill Lane. It reminds me of that stroll we took one evening through West Hampstead, such an ordinary walk, yet it was fun, so enjoyable - because it was with you. It’s going to be the first w/e we haven’t been together (except for when you were away), and I’m sure it’s going to be difficult. I’ve been playing my early Joni Mitchell, and almost every lyric seems to be about some aspect of our relationship. It’s a fantastic thing, loving and being loved. This sadness is hard, but it’s rich and deep and the price one pays for being able to walk along Mill Lane hand-in-hand and in love.’

But back to the main story - and I have to get this out of the way today, because I can’t justify wasting more than a week on giving in to indulgent emotions. I think we must have got back to talking on Sunday evening, and we might have gone to bed earlyish - the day having tired us out. And it wasn’t until the middle of Monday afternoon that Cora finally left. But the substance of all the talking and crying on Sunday evening and Monday has kind of blended into a fog that I can’t describe. I think I did most of the prompting as to how Cora wanted to end the relationship, how the end would happen. I think it was teasing at first, but it got increasingly serious, and it slowly kind of dawned on me, maybe on her too (was this Sunday night, probably), that this was actually it, that we were actually breaking up there and then, and that everything we’d been doing (not least making love) had been done for the last time.

It was very hard, and still is. I’m crying as I write. Although I’ve cried over relationships in the past, this is a unique experience for me. I still feel very much in love with Cora, or very much in love with lots of things about her. And I’m also aware that she represents (in that wonderful ‘Babylon 5’ phrase) my ‘last best hope’ for more children and a non-lonely old age. But I have done nothing to stop the break up, indeed I feel that I am as responsible for it as she. I could have made more compromises; I could have offered Cora more; I could have asked her to marry me. But, as I’ve said many times to myself, I’m far from sure it would work in the long term, for her or for me, and this is why I’ve acted as I’ve done. In some ways, I feel I’ve edged and nudged her towards taking the decision, even if I couldn’t take it myself. And, actually, I found myself thinking she was very brave and strong for taking it. But, at the same time, it hurts like hell. Being with her has been such a joy, such a wonderful experience.

Oddly, I’ve experienced a new kind of sensation about this. Several times this week, I’ve felt real anger, to the point of crying out, that all the time spent with Cora, all the happiness, all the joys, all the loving WAS PAST. It was all gone. Time had taken it away. And it was as though I didn’t have enough memory . . . or what . . . I’m struggling for the right word, the right concept . . . . I didn’t have enough of Cora in me . . . that doesn’t make sense . . . to leave me with a full and rich sense of the year gone by. I was angry that it was all gone and I didn’t know where it had gone; I couldn’t get any of it back, the memories, the feelings, the joys, the happinesses. How could time do that to me, how could it be all over, and yet it feel like yesterday that we were in Sri Lanka. Where had all the time gone. I’m balling my eyes out as I write this now.

It was a very difficult day Monday. How could either of us decide when Cora would leave. She was crying as much as me. I gathered up her few things (from a shelf in my room, and the bathroom) at one point and put them in a plastic bag, and put that with her usual bags. We kept standing around, hugging, and crying, and trying to decide what to do. We made love once during the day, but it didn’t really relieve the emotions, the tensions. I think she went to leave several times before she actually did. Overwhelmed by emotion, I didn’t want to go out into the street to see her off as I always have done, but I did any way. She had her window open and was crying, and was saying ‘what if I’m making a mistake’. I was worried about her driving in such a state, but she called me once on the motorway, and then when she got home.

Since then I’ve not known how to communicate. This is what I wrote in an email yesterday: ‘It’s really hard to know what things to communicate to you, I don’t want you to think I’m blaming you for anything (you do keep saying sorry), I don’t want you to worry about me, I don’t want to say anything that makes you feel any more sad/bad than you probably are, and I don’t want to say anything that makes you think you have to be careful in what you say to me - god, what complications we weave.’ I tried a very plain email at the beginning of the week, but Cora mis-interpreted this as me closing up, being hurt. And her emails were so heartfelt, so honest, I was drawn into expressing more of my emotions to her than I had planned - in the sense that I didn’t really want to do anything to exacerbate her pain and hurting.

I’ve collated and edited our email correspondence up to the weekend and called it ‘The last six weeks!!!!!!’, since the previous collations were called ‘The first three months!’, ‘The second three months!!’ and ‘The third three months!!!’. I didn’t know what else to call the last batch. And, given the way I’d named the first three, I didn’t want the collation to contain emails from after the split. But, it’s the emails this week that talk about us and our relationship in a way that the daily emails didn’t, and so I’ll collate these for myself to store along with the email files for other friends.

Adam has been a brick. He has such a mature head on his shoulders, even if his face is still full of adolescent pimples. He’s not been phased at all by me crying - I was crying when I told him on Tuesday, and then I broke down in the car going to Godalming yesterday morning. And he’s been able to talk with me about Cora at length at different times, whenever I’ve wanted to. Last night, for example, we had one of our longest talks; I’m sure I repeated myself about some things, but Adam didn’t get bored or fed up with the conversation, and he took it into an area that, unconsciously, I suppose, I’d been wanting to talk about. He was asking whether there was any chance we might crack. What a good question. My immediate response was that I didn’t think Cora would, and, even if she did, I’m not sure it would be right for me to restart the relationship. It’s quite possible we’ve had the best there is to have between us. I also stressed that I wasn’t at all sure I would want to restart the relationship, not only because it might not be right for her, but because it wouldn’t be right for me. It would, I think, be giving in to a life more ordinary. If I stay alone, and on my own, I can live in more consciousness of life.

But, this doesn’t mean that my ego wouldn’t like to think she might crack, might want me back at some point. I told Adam it was hard for me to discern how my mood this week has been affected by emails, and that it’s possible I felt better when I heard from Cora that she was feeling worse, but, if so, this does not come from a good place, but the ego, from the power and games that people play with each other. Cora, though, is remarkably clear of such games, very pure spirited I would say. There is nothing calculated about the way she operates, other than a slight social manipulation sometimes. Her emails have been genuine attempts to communicate.


I’ve just received a long letter from Cora. It’s quite remarkable in some ways, for being honest and frank. It’s a bit self indulgent, but she’s very moving and warm about how she sees me and herself. There is a slight sense of this-is-a-permanent-decision-and-there’s-no-question-of-me going-back-on-it which my ego can’t help but find a bit hurtful; but I so want the best for her, I can’t really object at all, and it could so easily have smacked of much more in that ilk. There is also a back-justifying about the last few weeks, about how she had been withdrawing from me. But I find that a little difficult to take, because most of our relationship was much the same as it had been. What I wonder about is this: what would she do if she had the kind of doubts she had with me in the last few weeks once she’s married, once she’s fully committed to someone and with children in the picture?

When I went for a run before lunch, I was thinking about Cora - well, I’m thinking about her, or our relationship, almost all the time (I’m like an obsessive teenager). And I was surprised to find myself thinking such positive things about her, and saying yes to myself, yes, I might settle for a life with her. Astonishing really. And I thought about the whole family network thing, which is Cora’s biggest problem, and I found myself thinking that if, with some time, she could adjust her expectations slightly (well to the point of being able to live some elsewhere - not in sight of a synagogue - if it suited us) then I could also adapt. I felt that if only Cora could commit herself to me and the relationship, and decide to put me and us first then we might be able to make something work. And I thought, vis-a-vis Adam’s question, that it wasn’t impossible that in three months, or even six months time, she could change her mind, and if she did, I might be ready to say yes. Such hypotheticals. I feel fairly confident that Cora’s subconscious is very relieved to have divorced herself from such an old man, however much she loved and loves me; and that her psyche will ensure the decision is solidly fixed.

Adam has gone to Barbara’s for the weekend, and I am still playing Joni Mitchell. I’ve dipped into the cricket all day, which has been on Channel Four. It’s been an exciting two days, with both sides scoring under 200 in their first innings, and now Australia are about 300 ahead with only three wickets left. It’s anyone game still. I’m planning to tidy the house this weekend, and do a bit of admin, so that I can start getting serious, from Monday on, about my life and what to do next. It’s going to be an impoverished future, but I have to do something.

I don’t have much else to report about the week. My only potentially significant action was to go to an auction in Godalming. There were several lots each of which contained hundreds of prints and reproductions - they were quite fun. But the one I wanted went for £1,300 (not the £40-60 estimate)! I did buy one of the other ones for £18, but there wasn’t much of interest in it. Otherwise, I was very keen on some old photographic equipment: a magic lantern and slides (estimate £300-400), and a stereoscope viewer and stereoscope cards (estimate £100). Both went for too much, although I’m sure that if I was more settled (not thinking of selling and having to pack up everything at some time in the next few months or year) I would have happily bid higher. The viewer, in particular, was a lovely wood object. There were also albums of old photographs, and I would have liked to have bought one with views of Plymouth and Dartmoor, partly for B, but it also went above my budget. It was a very unsatisfactory experience.

Saturday 23 July

How am I feeling today? Better, definitely easier. I would have got through the whole day without a little weep, but for the fact that I decided to read through Cora’s letter again, and then, shortly after - after an exchange of emails - she rang. She was very tearful, emotional; and very honest about her feelings and doubts and difficulties. So it was easier for me to try and be a little bit strong. And whenever she says she feels guilty, I tell her there is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s strange how, because she is so generous and sensitive, I can be sympathetic and generous back. She’s said she might come and visit on Thursday, which is the first bit of nice news I’ve had all week. I’m not sure if there is anything else I can say about my feelings or Cora. I feel that it’s time to get on, and to stop being so self-indulgent in a teenagerish sort of way.

I’ve done a bit of tidying around the house, and I feel easier because it’s not such a mess. I’ve been able to sit down and read a little. And, of course, I’ve been watching the third day of the test match. Australia got right on top, and it would be a miracle if they didn’t now win by quite a large run total.

25 July 2005

It’s a week since we ended our relationship. I was alone all over the weekend, and fairly lonely too. I didn’t do much, a bit of tidying, a bit of reading, watching television. We had one angst-full telephone conversation on Saturday. Cora’s emails were full of repressed unhappiness, and I must have sent one back which tipped her over the edge. She’d been trying to be so brave about it all, but then, all of a sudden. just gave up, and rang me to cry and tell me how unhappy she was. I tried to reassure her, and the conversation swayed a bit this way and that. I cried a bit too, but I managed to get us back on to an even keel. Yesterday we didn’t talk on the phone, but Cora did send one very distressed sounding email during the day. A calmer email came in the evening, and I haven’t heard from her today at all - not at all, which is a bit strange. She has an interview this evening, and I’ve asked her to call to tell me how it went.

I am getting used to the idea of the split from Cora. It’s like my norm is to be alone, and that it doesn’t take much to be on my own again. A week of tears. Is that all. I was already tempted to have a look at the Love & Friends website, which I’ve been off for a year now, to see who’s there; but it certainly feels like a betrayal. It’s possible Cora might come here on Thursday, and we’ll probably end up just having another heart-rending conversation, I suppose. If she does, I wonder if - despite my vaguely positive thoughts about her this week - I should bite the bullet, and make sure she hardens her resolve, rather than play on her emotions and suggest we leave open the possibility of getting back together somehow sometime. I don’t know. I suppose I’m no less confused than Cora, I’m just much more able to deal with emotions that aren’t on the sunny side of the rainbow.

I’ve had a bad week on the shares. My funds had been climbing steadily, and I was definitely over £2,000 up at one point, but I lost £600-700 last week, and I’m struggling to find a route upwards this week. Still, as I told Adam, if my fund ever starts sinking so far that it’s back to my initial sum, then I’ll stop my fiddling. I’ll also have to stop fiddling, if don’t make any significant improvements: it’s not that much fun monitoring the stock market all day.

Bombs. More bombs in London and at a tourist resort in Egypt. A Brazilian was shot dead by the police on Friday I think, outside Stockwell tube station. He was completely innocent, but had been followed and then he ran from the police when approached (apparently because his visa was out of date, it was later discovered). Because he was wearing quite a lot of clothes, the police thought he was carrying a bomb, and had instructions to shoot at the head. I understand how twitchy the security services and police must be, but this is because so much pressure is now brought to bear on it by the media, a media which always demands action to whatever is the problem of the day, and can never put anything in perspective.

Three films: ‘Guru’, ‘To Have and Have Not’, and ‘Sideways’. ‘Guru’ was fun although I only seem to have recorded half of it, so I don’t know how it turned out. An Indian arrives in New York expecting to find the American Dream his friends have written him about, only to discover they are working in an Indian restaurant and living in a slum. Undeterred, and with the help of two women (one a rich spoilt kid, and the other a porn-star hoping for an apple pie life) he makes it onto the entertainment scene as a fake guru. Funny and real. I could say the same about ‘Sideways’ which Cora bought me for my birthday. It’s about two men in their 40s who take a trip to California’s wine country.

31 July 2005

Week two without Cora in my life, although not exactly. It has been a lot easier this week, I’ve hardly cried or been seriously sad. It’s a bit worrying actually that I can move so easily back into my normal state of solitude and aloneness. But I did see Cora on Thursday. She came on her way back from Brighton. I cooked her something quickly. We then sat in the lounge for a while watching the television, and then we talked, but it wasn’t an easy conversation because Cora was trying hard to be distant and formal. But then we cuddled, and talked more honestly about our emotions and difficulties. We also kissed. I didn’t initiate the first kiss, but when it came, and we touched lips, I pulled my head away to the side and gasped ‘that’s so sweet’. It was. Kissing Cora is an extraordinary delight. We kissed quite a bit more before she finally got away around 11pm, they were not dispassionate kisses, and it would have been quite easy for us to go to bed. But Cora did not ask to go to bed, nor did I take her: it seemed wrong to make love just for the sake of it, one more time.

A bit later

I think I was planning to write other things about Cora and about our relationship, but they’ve been all been thrown out of my head by an email that arrived as I was finishing the previous paragraph. In it Cora said she had booked to go to Ibiza on Wednesday together with two other friends. I felt really upset hearing this, and I rang Cora almost immediately. I was upset, I think, partly because she was going away, getting away, somewhere where she’d be a long way from our relationship, forgetting about US, having fun, etc; partly, because I’d miss the near daily contact we’ve still been having; and partly - mostly I think - because it was so sudden and unexpected. It felt like a real blow, a new rejection.

I’m very disillusioned with everything at the moment. Everything seems stale. Of course, Cora’s going has taken its toll on my psyche, but it’s only a partial explanation. I’ve been heading this way for a long time.

I’m utterly jaded as regards this house. I can’t find any enthusiasm to do anything to it all. That’s been the case for some time. I want to move, have a new challenge; and, unless, I know I’m going to be staying here for a few years, I simply don’t want to do anything. I just upkeep what needs upkeeping. I planted a few vegetables, largely out of habit, but also because I wanted to share the joy of them with Cora; and the garden only depresses me these days; it’s as though the deer, the poor soil and the slugs have all won their battles against me.

I’m completely defeated as regards my writing. I haven’t written a word of fiction for over a year. And I haven’t written anything worth writing since I finished Kip Fenn two years ago.

Now Cora is out of the picture, it’s clear my social relationships are even more distant than they’ve ever been. This situation will only be exacerbated by Adam leaving for Brighton when he gets back from his trip to Europe.

Workwise, there is nothing I am doing, and nothing I want to do - no projects in the pipeline which I’m burning to do.

My bread is tasteless, and the food I’ve been cooking recently is watery.

I can never find anything on the television to watch. Either it’s me, or the standard of programmes has plummeted. I can’t abide the ‘Today’ programme any more, it’s smugness has gone into orbit, and it’s so repetitive in style and substance. Radio plays are as dull as ditchwater.

And, if all that wasn’t bad enough, I can never find any books that interest me any more. I search and search and search, and they are all so boring.

Is it me, or is it the world? I like it less and less, there’s less and less of it that I want or can stomach.

Where does this all lead me?


I’m reading ‘Snow’ by a Turkish writer called Orhan Pamuk. His previous novel, ‘My Name is Red’ brought him international attention (including mine) and rightly so. And, so far, I’m finding ‘Snow’ the best novel I’ve read recently. But even in this novel, I find the writing not real, pretentious: ‘The sheik sensed the fear in Ka’s heart the moment he set eyes on him. And Ka knew that the sheik sensed it. But there was something about the man that stopped Ka feeling ashamed.’ First of all the author is in both minds in the same paragraph, but more in Ka’s than in the others. And, secondly, people don’t experience things in this way. The author is telling his readers that these people were conscious of these experiences in the moment; but life isn’t like that.

August 2005

Paul K Lyons


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