PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 2005 - JUNE
DIARY 82: June - August 2005
2 June 2005
And early on Sunday morning, I drove up to Hampstead to take more pictures of the secret garden (The Hill) for English Heritage. I was able to get them all done, in fact, all the walkways and summer houses, and the ones of Inverforth House itself. I also walked down to North End, and took a series of photographs of houses connected with an old farmhouse called Wildwood. I couldn’t remember ever being in North End before. It’s a short road with a dead end leading on to the Heath, and has some large houses. While searching for the last of my targets (the Wildwood coach house), I asked a small old dapper man, definitely Jewish, coming out of one of the large houses. He was with a more casually dressed big young plump man. They were talking about where they’d meet up later, and the young one was confirming that he’d find his father later, but that it would be in one of three different places. I don’t know where the old man was walking to, but he told me had lived in his house for over 20 years, and he still didn’t know where the coach house was. I did find it, though, hidden between two others, and was lucky to find someone at home who was willing to let me in through a gate and take a narrow shot of it.
I do feel very lucky - a true bit of serendipity - to have been given these photographs to take. The archive record will now, forever, hold pictures of the Secret Garden taken by ME.
We might have gone to Cora’s parent’s house for lunch, but Cora was a bit undecided about how we could fit it in along with other plans for the day - notably going to visit another friend in Bounds Green, and going to my mother for tea in the afternoon. Latish morning, we headed off to the North Circular, which I said would be a quicker way to get to Bounds Green than through Hampstead/Highgate/Muswell Hill. But we got stuck in terrible traffic around Brent Cross (I was swearing at this ghastly consumer society we live in - longing for the time when shops were closed on Sundays), and only got round it by going north through Hendon. We got to Bounds Green eventually (which was familiar to me because of my London Cross walk), and were within 50 metres of turning into her friend’s road, when we were involved in an accident!
Cora was driving along the main road, on the outer of two lanes, overtaking a van that had stopped to turn left, and which was waiting for a car in the side road to pull out. The van (we later learned) flashed the driver in the side road, who then edged out into the main road, while still well inside the inner lane of the main road, she clearly saw us. There was so much time that I was gesticulating at her, through the window of Cora’s car, to stop. But she didn’t. She kept on coming, and Cora, who had no reason to stop because her subconscious would have assumed that the driver pulling out would stop, carried on too. The front corner of the other car, hit the passenger corner of Cora’s car, and crumpled them both up. It was shocking. Cora pulled up a few metres further on, where there was a sort of road inset sheltered from the traffic, and the other car reversed back into the side road. I was so angry in the moment, I told Cora I wouldn’t be able to go and help deal with the situation; and Cora was crying because she thought I might have been hurt.
Cora called the police at my instigation, but they didn’t want to come out because no one was hurt. But, because Cora had thought there might be petrol pouring out of the car, and she mentioned this to the police, a fire engine turned up 10 minutes later. But the liquid was pouring out of the front of the car, and was clearly water from the radiator. The firemen threw a bit sand down on the wet tarmac, and left within a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, Cora was talking to her insurance company, trying to establish what to do since the car was undriveable. I took down details from the woman driver. She was young and black and podgy. A rakish young man, who had been in the passenger seat, tried to pull off the bumper and wing of the car, to free the tyre so the car could be driven. Two people in the back never even got out. Once we’d got all the details we needed, the other car managed to drive away. Cora established that her insurance company would tow her car back to be parked near her flat for the weekend; and while we waited for the tow truck, we looked around Carla’s friend’s flat and garden, and had some lunch.
The accident cast a shadow over the day. Being honest with myself (but, of course, I didn’t voice this), I did think Cora could have avoided the accident. I felt - although obviously I can’t be sure - that if I had been driving I would have braked quicker and harder; or else I would have swung out further since there was nothing coming the other way. Or there might even have been time to hoot. But I was very clear in talking to Cora that I was 100% sure it was the other person’s fault, and that her reaction to carrying on (and not braking hard) was a very normal subconscious (which dictates rapid actions) decision, one most people would have taken.
We got a lift back (again very slow on the North Circular) with the tow truck; retired to bed for an hour or so, and then went to mother’s for tea. She had made an apricot cake, the first for a while. She had also bought me two plants; but, as with others she’s bought me in recent years, they are not hardy, and will probably be more trouble than they are worth. But she made some effort, and she is nearly 80.
The evening turned into a bit of a mess; and there was a messy argumentative parting with Cora in the morning. I had suggested earlier in the day that we might see a film at the Tricycle that evening. Cora had shown definite interest in it; and, although, I might not have made the effort to go on my own, I was happy to see it - especially as we could walk to the cinema. But, early evening, Cora said she didn’t want to go, she was tired and didn’t feel like going out. I said that’s fine, and that I was happy to spend the evening reading and watching a bit of telly. Cora cooked an omelette, and then watched an hour of TV while I read. In the middle of this, she came over to tell me that a friend of hers who lives somewhere up north (and who had arrived in London for a few days) had sent a text. It invited us to meet them somewhere, she said, or to pop over later. I nodded, and didn’t say much, except to point out to Cora that she was tired and hadn’t wanted to go out. I didn’t say, but I thought that if Cora suggested she invite her friends to the house I would be happy with that. But I didn’t like the fact that she seemed to be putting me in the position of having to say ‘no’ I don’t want to go out driving somewhere to meet your friends. We watched ‘Big Brother’, and Cora sulked for the rest of the evening. When we argued, she said she’d been afraid to propose anything; but I responded that simply was not true because she hadn’t been afraid to tell me about the text in the first place.
And then we had almost the same argument four days later. Cora had come down for the evening. After breakfast, I took Cora to the pine shop in Godalming and then to the station at Farncombe. I missed a train to London by two minutes, and so we sat in the car talking. Within minutes, though, we were arguing. Cora mentioned, tentatively, setting up a dinner with her parents. I put on a semi-serious/jokey grimace, which created the initial tension. I reminded her that I’d said ages ago I was happy to do something with her parents, but Cora wasn’t suggesting a specific day or occasion, she was just making a general plea. And so I ended up talking about our different worlds. Cora was saying she couldn’t help it if she wanted me to be more integrated with her family, and I was suggesting that I’ve already compromised a lot with her, and that we do a lot more of what she wants than what I want and so on, etc. Cora was crying, and quite emotional. When the next train came, she accused me of trying to get rid of her onto the train, so I explained I was only thinking of her getting to work, which was true, and she came back from the train, and got into the car again. And so we argued for another half an hour, until the next train. It’s not exactly arguing what we do, it’s more a kind of emotional wrangling.
But there is a clear escalation. Cora said things like, ‘I think about our problems all the time’, and ‘I’m upset almost all the time at the moment’, and ‘I hide my feelings from you’. They were quite strong statements, which I’ve not remembered exactly. I was trying to suggest that this wasn’t strictly true. She feels things acutely, and then blows up, when she’s alone for a moment or two, and she makes problems bigger than they are. Like on Monday, I know she had a fine day, meeting up with a friend, and going to the Science Museum; but she tries to say that she’s feeling it underneath all the time. I suspect there’s quite a lot dishonesty surfacing in Cora’s emotional world.
I’m kind of clear now that there is no way she is going to un-wed herself from her social world, and that there is very little point in me trying to decouple her. Much as I love and care for her, I am becoming clear there is no future for us. She did seem very keen to mature and evolve, but she’s glued with araldite to her social whirl. It’s the most important thing in her life. I see her almost as a kind of family pet - I know that sounds terrible, but it’s kind of true. She runs about all the time, visiting her family at the slightest excuse, never really considering her own life. I’ve talked to her about this in general and philosophical ways, so many times, and I’ve tried to advise her that she needs to pursue interests of her own. She says often now, as a kind of defence in an argument, that she’s so confused and doesn’t know who’s right about anything, and it’s as though she’s blaming everyone else.
I had hoped I might be able to keep things on an even keel through to the summer, and, hopefully, until she’s got a job, but I’m beginning to doubt that’s possible. I can’t let myself feel responsible for her - in her words - being upset and in a state all the time. I do feel a bit responsible, a bit trapped; but neither am I going to start giving way and compromising more than I do already, just to avoid emotional scenes.
What a crisis for the European Union. France, yes France, voted decisively against adopting the new EU constitution. A few days later, the Dutch voted even more decisively against it. EU leaders have no idea what to do. No one can conceive of going against the French, and yet a declaration by the conference that drafted the Constitution says ‘The Conference notes that if, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council.’ This means that even if five Member States reject the constitution, the constitution is not formally dead. Thus, those Member States that have not yet decided on the constitution (either by referendum or by parliamentary vote) are really obliged to continue with their arrangements. But, by doing so, they also have to counter the journalistic/political question: so, you can conceive of a situation in which the decisions of the French and Dutch people are ignored.
The French voted against the constitution for loads of different reasons, partly because they’re racists and they don’t want Turkey in the Union, and partly because they’re selfish bastards, and they’ve just begun to realise that France can no longer be king of the EU, and that it actually means having to compromise with other countries, and that can hurt some people, and some parts of society. As when the Eurosceptics got far too much media time (way out of proportion) during the Major years, and did great damage to public opinion about the EU, so, similarly, I think the anti-EU campaign in France also got magnified by the media, thanks to the referendum on the constitution.
Cricket. England won the first test against Bangladesh in a little over two days, needing only one innings and losing only a couple of wickets. The same is happening in the second test - Trescothick and Vaughn playing one day cricket, scoring lots of runs but eventually getting out. So, on the first day we already have 150 run lead (over the Bangladesh total of about 100), and we’re three wickets down. Galloping stuff. Let’s hope we’ve got something to show the Aussies.
I’m furious about my vegetable plots. I misused the manure I bought earlier in the year. It wasn’t properly rotted, and it’s hindered the growth of almost everything in the garden. I thought at least the potatoes (which grow best if bedded into a chunk of manure) were doing well, with lush leaf growth. I was pleased about this because I’ve had several years of not being able to get any decent potatoes. But when I went to dig some young ones up on Wednesday, I found that the new potatoes were no bigger than marbles, and that they were all growing upwards, i.e. away from the manure. Similarly, the little sweet corn plants that I grew up from seed, have barely grown a centimetre in a month, this can only because I’ve poisoned them with too rich compost. I don’t know about the beans. They were badly stripped by the dear when young, and they’re not recovering as well as they have done in other years. I don’t know if this is because the deer stripped them more completely or because of the manure. I planted several courgette/cucumber seedlings, but they’ve died on me. Usually, they are among the easiest vegetables to grow. Only one crop is doing better than usual, and that’s the spinach - but I don’t think I enriched the soil along the spinach seed line with manure.
The Diary Junction is going a bit slow. I would have hoped for many more hits than I’m getting. I sent out 50 press releases last week, but there’s no evidence that any one of them has landed The Diary Junction a mention. And I’ve been thinking about re-marketing Kip Fenn, under another name, and denying that fact that it’s printed. But I was supposed to do that this week, and I’ve not managed to get up any enthusiasm for the project.
The future is looking a little bleak.
9 June 2005
Adam is saying ‘hogwash’ all the time. He’s also working very hard for his A-levels. If only he’d worked half as hard for his As exams, he might have got into Warwick. But, I’m pleased that his attitude is definitely a positive one; he’s very determined to get on top of the subjects, working through lots of maths examples, and making detailed notes for his philosophy course. If he keeps this up, he should definitely get the grades he needs for Sussex, and may even bump up one or two of his As grades to As. Tonight he’s cycled to Max’s house, where he’ll probably book his flights for a trip he and Max are taking to Spain and Morocco in August.
I’ll watch some television later, a silly criminal thing called ‘Murphy’s Law’, and then ‘Big Brother’. I don’t bother to fight the Big Brother phenomenon, especially as there’s very little else to watch on television. It is interesting to note that the chosen contestants seem to get more stupid, less imaginative and less creative every year. I think this must be because the producers want them to be on the same level as those who spend money voting, the people who read ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Mirror’, and that since the more intelligent viewer (dare I say such as myself) is neither susceptible to the accompanying advertising nor to the temptation of voting, there must be little point in providing characters for them to empathise with. That said, however, Endemol (the producer) has opted for one person, who is intelligent and who stands out hugely from the other 12. In fact, he’s almost a celebrity and might have qualified for ‘Celebrity Big Brother’. It’s a black gay guy called Derek who speaks like an aristocrat, and is almost too pompous and arrogant to be alive. The Hamiltons claim him as a friend, which says everything. But he does come with significant credentials, having known many famous politicians, and having worked as a speech writer for Conservative ministers. He is very amusing to watch, especially as he thinks he’s so in control, and yet isn’t.
It’s been a tough few weeks with Cora. She’s been very insecure, and emotional. And, all too quickly, I lost sight of how wonderful and lovely she is most of the time. I got to thinking that she was playing games, that she was making up the drama, and that I’d been stupid to have let things go on as long as they have.
After last week’s arguments, we had a strained evening on Saturday in Willesden. Cora was in a workshop all weekend, so I offered to come up for the evening. She cooked a supper, and we watched a bit of telly, then went to bed. But, for almost the first time, we didn’t make love. Cora was tired and defensive, and I was unwilling to make any advances. So we both had a horrible night. We did love in the morning, and then I drove her to Hornsey (where the course was), finishing off the last of my Hampstead photographs on the way. But then our phone conversation on Sunday night was strained, and the one on Monday night was going the same way. Cora sounded quite down and distraught, but I didn’t feel there was anything I could or should do about it. She said she didn’t want to talk about anything, but she kept provoking me, and saying things like ‘why haven’t we talked about Thursday morning’, so we ended up having a very long conversation indeed. It was well over an hour, and by the end I was cold and shivering, desperate for the toilet, and needing water. Stupidly, I’d stayed on the corded phone, and so was tied to the sofa.
Because she seemed to want to talk about anything and everything, I did end up saying quite a lot of what I’d stored up for a big face-to-face talk in the near future, but one I wanted to have when she was feeling strong and well. In particular, I said, in as many words, that we would need to face up to the fact that our relationship might not have a future. I suppose I talked around this for a while, and then stated it fairly bluntly; and, thereafter, Cora seemed very disturbed by the idea that she might have been guilty of promising me a future which she now realises may not transpire. I assured her and reassured her that guilt was a completely inappropriate response, that I had never felt, not for a moment, that she had promised me anything. The talks we had had about the future, I said, always came (at least from my side) with a healthy dose of realism.
Cora seemed to understand very well that I thought she might be able to change, might want to take on some of the ideas about how to live that I have talked to her about so much over the last months, and that she thought she might want this too. But what seems to be happening now, is that she is beginning to understand that she doesn’t want to change much, that she likes her way of life, and that, maybe, she was being both unrealistic and unfair to pretend otherwise. I told her this wasn’t true.
Any how, by the end of the conversation Cora sounded much different, lighter, easier than she had during the first part of the call. And the following day, we exchanged sprightly emails. She had offered to drive down on Wednesday or Thursday, and on Friday, but we agreed she wouldn’t come until Friday
19 June 2005
What a brilliant day. It’s like best possible midsummer day, clear blue sky, hot sun, a very light breeze. Cora is lazing in the hammock. Adam is revising for his maths A-level tomorrow. I’m here at the computer, hoping to write a bit about my three day trip to Dartmoor. This was planned because I hadn’t been walking for a while and felt the need to get away, and designed around a visit to some of Dartmoor’s antiquities (which I’d learnt about in my Guildford Uni course), a Westbrook concert in Exeter on the Friday night, and a visit to Peter and Tony in Somerset. (Note from Peter and Tony, they have a friend in Portugal called Dr Manuelo - Bernie or Bernard - Landau, who’s a paleontologist, I think, and lives at Duarte Pacheco II in Albufeira.)
I set off about 9pm on Tuesday night. This is what I did last year when I went walking along Offa’s Dyke. I had a pretty bad night’s sleep then, because I’d been unable to find a place to sleep out, which affected much of the following day. The same happened this time round. I could have set off at 5am on Wednesday, but I like the idea of getting the bulk of the driving out of the way before my walking day proper begins. The drive down was ideal. I managed to keep a steady 70mph almost all the way (except for the 50mph sections) to Exeter; and I managed to weave my way straight across the city, and out the other side on the Moretonhampstead road just as I’d planned. And just as I’d planned (from the Ordnance Survey map) I stopped at a marked car park near a place called Steps Bridge. I chose it because there were no houses, and there was a nearby footpath by a river where I planned to lay down my sleeping bag. There was one house nearby when I got there, but I didn’t think much of it. Using a torch, I walked down the road to the bridge itself, found the footpath, and walked along the forest path by the river. The wood was denser than I would have liked, but I did eventually find a small flat clearing, where I spread out my blanket and sleeping bag. Although I was a little nervous, trying to get used to all the different sounds, I soon began to drift off. However, I was woken by footsteps coming along the path. I started and shouted out something, at which the person briefly flashed a light in my direction. Presumably he (for I doubt very much it was a she) saw that I was sleeping, and walked on. Adrenalin was pumping through my bloodstream, and my mind was racing trying to work out why anyone would be walking through this wood at half past midnight. I’d seen no one anywhere, it was as dark as nails, there’d been no traffic on the road, and there was only the one house in the area. After several minutes of mental exercise, I decided he must have been at a friend’s house for the evening, and was walking home to a cottage somewhere beyond the wood. My mind was just settling down again, when he (it surely must have been the same person, but of course I couldn’t see him) came back. He didn’t stop this time, but simply marched past quickly. Eventually, I assumed he must have seen the light from my torch from the house and gone out to investigate. Sleep took a while to come, and then - almost inevitably I suppose - rain came, and I was forced back to the car. The weather forecast had promised a drizzly Wednesday morning, and fine weather for the afternoon, Thursday and Friday. I had hoped the drizzly weather would not come too early in the morning, but, evidently, it did. But that was the very least of the weather forecast’s failings.
I drove into Moretonhampstead around eight and was pleased to find a tea room open, for egg on toast, tea and a bun. In fact, there were several stores, selling vegetables and the like, opening early. It seemed quite a thriving little place, maybe with fewer houses than Elstead but with a much bigger catchment area, hence the shops. I bought postcards, and posted two to Cora, and supplies (bread, cheese, water, fruit), and headed west along the B3212, past Postbridge, past Two Bridges, and to a car park near Merrivale. With three books from the library and the Ordnance Survey map I had planned three sets of shortish walks. Each one was based on a circular walk in John Earle’s ‘Walking on Dartmoor’ chosen to coincide with some palimpsets of interesting Bronze Age landscapes as set out in Sandy Gerrard’s ‘Dartmoor’. The first walk was to to take me to Great Mis Tor and then down along the Walkham River. I set off full of optimism. The weather was not good, but not bad either. And (despite a bit of a headache) it felt good to be on the wild moors. At first I couldn’t see Great Mis Tor very well, and because I couldn’t see a red flag, I believed what a local in the car park had told me: that the army were unlikely to be firing today. This area of Dartmoor, the high moor in the north, is home to three firing ranges, and entry is prohibited when red flags fly on certain designated tors. Great Mis Tor is one, and, I’d only got half way to Little Mis Tor when I saw the damn red flag flying. This wasn’t a tragedy (except that, the way things turned out, I was destined not to visit any other tor either - except Little Mis Tor) because I could cut across the valley and still see the antiquities which was the main purpose of the walk. Nevertheless, it was a frustrating curtailment of my first proper walk.
With the aid of the Gerrard book and the Ordnance Survey map I found a pillow mound and what must have been a Bronze Age hamlet, with its collection of near-circular low stone walls, where once Bronze Age houses stood. Many of them were easily distinguishable, although I couldn’t distinguish much other detail, entrance ways and connecting walls, for example, which were shown on the palimpset. There is so much going on in the landscape, what with the vegetation and natural rocks, and man’s interference over the last 4,000 years, it is all difficult to interpret without an expert eye. I did my best and was well satisfied with managing to match up at least a part of the landscape with the palimpset. Also, one of my main objectives in going to Dartmoor was to witness the reaves that I’d learned about in my uni course; and there was one here, running across the moor, down across the valley and up to Roos Tor. I was able to see the Great Western Reave in the distant landscape, more visible at some angles than others, and walk on another part of the same reave where it bounded one of the Bronze Age settlements. Very satisfying. Walking back towards the road and the car park, I managed to find one of three Blowing Houses, which were used by tin miners, hidden among the boulders and swamps of ferns.
Unfortunately, as the morning progressed so the rain and the mist got heavier. I sat in the car park for ages, eating my lunch, trying to sort myself out, but was eventually driven out by a party of loud youths who had the gall to disturb my peace, and carry on doing so. I drove to another car park, which would have been the base for my next walk, but for the rain and the mist. I sat there for a while, examining and re-examining my maps, and realising there was no way I could go out on the wild moors. Instead, I decided to do a well-trodden walk to Wistman’s Wood from Two Bridges nearby. This took me up to Crockern Tor (oh yes I did get to another Tor) which is famed for being the place where, in the middle ages, a stannary parliament used to meet. Apparently statutes and ordinances - for the four stannary towns Tavistock, Plympton, Ashburton and Chagford - were only effective if pronounced at this place. The last recorded meeting was in the mid 18th century. While there are records of rough piles of granite being identifiable as benches and a table, this is no longer the case.
At Littaford Tors, I cut down into the valley to Wistman’s Wood, one of the few places in the country of real ancient woodland. What is so special about this wood is that not only is it old, but it looks and feels as old as time itself. All the oaks are small and gnarled like very old weathered men, and covered in many plant parasites, such as ferns and lichens. Each tree seems to be housing its own fern eco-system. And the ground is covered in moss and grass-covered boulders which add to the atmosphere. Apparently (this is my euphemism for info culled from the internet), Wistman’s Wood is the place where the devil (known as Dewer or Old Crockern) kennels his ‘wisht’ hounds. On midsummer’s night he takes them hunting across the moor, possibly for unbaptised babies. I love Wistman’s Wood, and, one day, would like to take some photographs to make a framed set.
On the way back to Two Bridges, I passed a group with leader walking on the main and well-kept track, most of the party were dressed as if for lunch and carrying umbrellas against the wind and rain. They looked very unhappy, were still only half way to the wood, and were walking in the direction of the wind. I thought of them walking back, like me, struggling against the slanting rain, and all getting thoroughly soaked like me.
To Princeton next, Dartmoor’s centre, the grey damp place famous for its large grey prison. I raced into the big information centre but wasn’t ready to take in much of what was on offer - books, exhibitions, maps. Instead, I went to cafe where I had a welcome cup of tea with a cheeseburger and chips. At the local shop, I stocked up on a few extra foodstuffs, and then drove to a place called Whiteworks, a disused tin mine I’d picked out on the map, partly because it was at the end of a very minor road and had no houses nearby and partly because it gave me access to a walk I wanted to do the following day. I’d chosen well in the sense that the road was virtually unused and there was just a small parking place at its end which I could tuck the car into. But it was exceedingly misty, very windy and very rainy when I arrived. While I waited for the rain to ease so I could look for a place to put up the tent, I holed out in the back seat of the car, with a blanket and sleeping bag for comfort, and read. I listened to the radio a bit, to music, and read and read and read. And the rain came down and the wind howled and the mist stayed stayed thick and fast. The rain was so strong that I got nearly soaked through every time I went for a wee; and some of my clothes were already very wet. And the inside of the car was all steamed up and damp. I never got a chance to put the tent up, so I just slept in the car, in much the same position I’d been reading in for three to four hours, curled up on the back seat.
It wasn’t the most comfortable of nights, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. When the morning came, the weather was less stormy though the mist was just as dense and the air just as damp. There was only a drizzle so I managed to have a very satisfying crap crouching on top of a boulder (using the toilet paper I’d brought) without getting wet. I drank the milk and ate the nutrigrain bar I’d bought the day before, and then set about trying to decide what to do. My plan of a long walk to Norsworthy Bridge taking in the Meavy River valley was a non-starter: I could have used the compass to choose a direction to start walking in, but, without good strong clear paths (there are very few on Dartmoor) and in the absence of any visibility to take bearings, I would have got hopelessly lost very soon. Moreover, I wouldn’t have been able to see anything, and there was the possibility of having to traverse swampy ground.
After 12 hours stuck in my car at a remote spot, where I’d seen no other human or vehicle, and where I’d explored no further than for a place to crap, I drove back to civilisation, to the town of Tavistock. It’s a pretty place. I thought I had various options. I might spend the morning in the library, reading the papers and about local history; I might go swimming; I could even go to the cinema later on. I was a little restrained early on, though, by the fact that I couldn’t find a street map on display anywhere, not even in the window of the closed tourist office (although when it opened, the staff were very helpful). I wandered around the centre, watching the market open, taking a strong coffee (while listening to three women justify the development problems of their children with horrifyingly pseudo brain science), and peering into the many specialist shops.
Recently, I read about a study that had looked at English town high streets, and how so many of them were dominated my chain stores. I think it listed the ten town centres most dominated by chain stores, and the ten centres that had the most independent stores. I’ve long since been horrified by how uniform so many shopping areas have become with the near universality of stores such as Boots, Woolworths, WH Smith, Next etc, so it was good to see such a study get widespread media coverage. The reason I mention it here is that I thought Tavistock was a good example of a medium-sized town with a good selection of independent shops.
I did eventually find the swimming pool, but I wouldn’t have been able to use the pool until after 1 (various specialist groups were using it in the morning), and the library was small and did not stock any of the daily papers. I thought I might go for a short walk on the outskirts of the town over the viaduct, but I couldn’t find a short cut up to it, and, besides, although it wasn’t raining, there was a mist hanging over the town (though not as dense as on the moor) which would have meant I couldn’t see anything from the viaduct any way.
I decided on a plan to visit the antiquities in the Meavy River valley any way, but to do so by parking very close by, and using my compass to navigate less than a kilometre from the road. I parked in a lay by, and then - gritting my teeth - put on my wet trousers, my wet socks, my walking shoes, and marched out into the mist. Despite the wet clothes and the weather, I was relieved to be back on the moor, and quite excited about exploring for the antiquities. This was the only section of the moor for which I had a very detailed map (in Gerrard) of prehistoric archaeology (something like an inch and a half to 100 metres, as opposed to a kilometre on the Ordnance Survey), and I had high hopes of being able to match up the collection of stone huts and walls with the map, and, therefore, distinguish between prehistoric, medieval and post-medieval constructions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. I did find the settlement (called Stanlake) and was impressed by the extant structures, but with so much confusion on the ground from vegetation and stone rubble, and so little visibility, I couldn’t be sure of where I was on the detailed map. I did, though, find the Devonport Leat, which I hadn’t expected, and this was beautiful. It’s a beautifully constructed mini-canal that used to carry water from high on the moor to Plymouth; but now it just channels water into Burrator Reservoir I think. It was very full where I found it, and it looked like it had been built yesterday, so clean and tidy and free of any apparent deterioration. There was a mass of water racing down along it. I found several footbridges made with long granite stones that looked like they might have been megaliths. It is clear that many of the ancient constructions were raided by the tin miners who, in the last few hundred years, did most to alter the Dartmoor landscape. There was a good track by the side of the leat, so I decided to follow it upstream, with the intention of walking back the same way (meaning there was no chance of getting lost). The route took me across an aqueduct that must have been once built with stone, but which is now serviced by a wide metal gutter, and half way up Raddick Hill. In fact, the Devonport Leat stream rushes down the side of Raddick Hill in a cascade, which on the day, was so full it looked like a water fall. Since the leat curved round through 90 degrees, I was able to return to my starting point on the Devonport Leat a different way, with the use of a compass and by following a small brook back across the moor, and then crossing the Meavy.
Further downstream, I found a very pleasant flat grassy bank, right next to the leat, surrounded by old (but disused) stone walls, and with holly and hawthorn trees. This is where I had my ham and cheese sandwiches. I also thought about returning to the same place with my tent for the night.
There was no let up in the rain or mist, so, eventually, I returned to the car, and decided to drive a short way to Burrator Reservoir where I thought I might be able to do another walk. I tried following the instructions in the John Earle book to get to Sheeps Tor, but I never made it very far. I got lost among the forest tracks, and ended up walking up Deancombe, which was very attractive with lots of old beech trees growing through stone walls. Then I drove round the reservoir a little way and walked along the shore only to make an unexpected discovery - Longstone Manor. These are substantial ruins right by the side of the reservoir, all fenced off and protected by stinging nettles hiding pits in the ground, but someone had thoughtfully put up notices with a history of the manor.
Next, I had to decide where to stay that evening. I thought about finding a bed & breakfast, but, despite the weather and the obvious complications of camping, I felt I wanted to put the tent up at least once during my Dartmoor stay, and enjoy a more bona fide experience of being on Dartmoor than sheltering in my car all night. So I returned to my parking place on the B3212, and carried the tent and sleeping bags and other paraphernalia across the misty, swampy moor to the leat, and from there to the place I’d identified earlier. It wasn’t raining (I would have B&Bd if it had of been) so the only problem with putting the tent up was the stony ground. I managed to give it a reasonable chance of surviving the night so long as a strong gale didn’t blow, and then made my way back, once again across the misty moor to the car. This time, when I got to the road, I didn’t know in which direction I’d parked the car; and I ended up walking a long way in the wrong direction before realising my mistake. I then drove into Princeton, where I spent a bit longer in the information centre, before taking tea, buying a couple more things, and return to the parking layby, and from there squelching my way back to the tent.
I had my novel (A Patricia Cornwell crimmy, which was just good enough to keep me interested), a couple of the Dartmoor books, my portable radio, and a light supper to eat, all of which kept me entertained until it was nearly dark. I thought I was going to sleep solidly for the first time in three nights, since the ground was relatively flat and smooth and I was under the protection of the tent (from the weather and strangers and strange things), and because I was tired. I thought the noise of the rushing water in the leat would provide a soothing music for my dreams. Not a bit of it. I kept waking up all night long - for no discernible reason. I usually went back to sleep quite quickly (I wasn’t lying awake for hours), but it was most disconcerting to be constantly waking up. Afterwards, I decided it must have been the loud noise of the water disturbing my consciousness regularly.
I was aware that I could simply head into Exeter, and spend the day in the city. I didn’t need to carry on suffering on Dartmoor. But, as the weather was better, I determined on doing one more walk. I drove across to the east side, to a place called Michelcombe, from where one of the Gerrard walks started. It was a tiny little place, buried between very narrow hedgerowed-in roads, but I was lower down than where I’d been, and the air was clearer, and I could see further. Walking up to the moor from Michelcombe took me along a track lined with flowering foxgloves all the way. It was really pretty, and this was, perhaps, the only moment I might have wished that Cora was with me.
Once up on the moorland, I must have lost my way quite early on, even with a map, a compass, the route described in the book, and reasonably clear weather. When I decided it was time to worry about going too far west - knowing my return route lay directly to the east - I decided to go south, cut down a hillside to a brook and followed it to, what I thought, would be the second half of my walk. But it led me back to the beginning of my walk, and even now, after analysing what I did, I can’t see how I went so wrong. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant walk over open moorland with views across valleys. There were also interesting remnants from the tin mining age, including a disused leat, and a very deep man-made gully in the hillside.
I thought I might take tea in Scorriton, another small hamlet, seeing as how ‘cream teas in Scorriton’ posters were stuck everywhere. But when I got there, I found the pub’s tearoom didn’t open until later, and so I decided to head for Ashburton, on my way to Exeter. I should really have spent longer on Dartmoor, but I was completely dispirited by this time, having had two days of such bad weather, and then having got so lost, even on a simple walk. Also I was weary.
In Ashburton, I drank tea and ate an enormous strudel filled weird rhubarb and strawberry mash. I wasn’t sure how to tackle Exeter, which way to drive in, where to head for, or where to park. But I was lucky. I stopped on a route into the centre and asked a young man in a wine shop for a swimming pool, and he gave me excellent information. I found the pool easily enough, and a parking place, which proved to be in walking distance of the city centre too. So I swam for 20 minutes at The Pyramids, and headed into town. At the tourist information centre, I was told there was unlikely to be any B&B accommodation because the Exeter Festival had just started. I felt like saying ‘I’m sorry then I’ll go to another city’. But, instead I just asked for a few brochures and for instructions on how to get to the library.
In the library, I read the brochures which helped me decide what sights to visit, and then looked at an ordnance survey map for the coastal area between Exeter and Crewkerne, where I was heading to the next day to see Peter and Tony. I was trying to work out where I might sleep out if I didn’t find a B&B. I should have bought a map for myself, but I managed to decide on Beer as a suitable place, with a hill-top car park, to aim for late at night. Also, I was able to use a computer briefly to send a message to Cora.
Afterwards, I went strolling around the city. I loved Rougemont Castle, the remains of which stand at the side of a park, and the moat of which is grassed over and runs through the park. It was called Rougemont because it was Norman and because of the redness of the soil. It started life as a Roman castle, and was the seat of several Saxon kings, apparently (like the castle we visited outside Salisbury, I suppose). But after William conquered the city, he rebuilt the castle. The visible remains are his entrance into the castle yard, and are considered among the oldest original Norman remains. The Rougemont Castle park is surrounded by another park called Northenhay, in which there are some old wall remains, and these are special because not only do they contain a whole range of historic archaeology, going back to the Roman and Saxon walls, but there is a very clear and informative notice showing exactly which bits of the wall were built when, pointing out the differences between the stones. Apparently, Northernhay Gardens is the oldest public open space in the whole of England, being originally laid out in 1612 as a pleasure walk for Exeter residents, although what’s visible today is largely of Victorian design. I spent quite a lot of time in Northernhay Park reading and watching the people come and go.
I shopped for food at Marks and Spencers, and ate it in Northernhay Gardens. I may have gobbled a pack of cashews nuts down too quickly for I had a bit of indigestion for an hour, but it was gone by the time I arrived at The Phoenix theatre, where the New Westbrook Quartet was going to play ‘Art Wolf’. It’s a lively place, lots going on, especially music related. It looks like an old school or college, not like a theatre or venue at all, and it’s tucked behind one of the trendiest small streets in the city. I sat in the lounge observing. When it came time for us to go in to the auditorium, I noticed that anyone who’d been hanging around and was oldish went in, while none of the young people eating and drinking in the bar did. Indeed, once inside, I could see that the audience was made up mostly of people my age or thereabouts. About 100-150 seats had been put out and most of them were taken. I didn’t recognise anyone, although there’s no reason why I should have done.
When the four of them came on stage, all old timers as I knew from the billing - Mike and Kate Westbrook, Bill Wyman and Chris Biscoe - there was polite applause. The venue seemed very un-intimate: the players were on the floor in front of the stage, and there was a lot of space around the seat banking. And then the show started. My mood or the ambience may have affected my opinion of the show, but not much I doubt. I thought it was very poor, tedious in parts - dull music, dull composition. Only when the two saxophonists were allowed to improvise was the music at all exciting. But the concept of composing a series of songs about Caspar Wolf’s huge landscape paintings (and having them portrayed on a screen at the same time as the music is being played) seems a bit too forced. I don’t know about the dynamic between Kate and Mike Westbrook, but Kate’s lyrics seemed very repetitive, and Mike had composed very repetitive music. Maybe he was trying to say something about the paintings, or about having to compose the music for his wife or whatever. I felt the Westbrooks were tired and jaded, and this was the most uninteresting set I’d ever seen them perform.
I left quickly, walked back to the car, and drove out of Exeter on Heavitree Road, the A3052, towards Sydmouth and Seaton. It didn’t take long to get near Beer, which is before Seaton on the coast, only the A3052 was blocked, with a big sign saying ‘Road Closed’, and a red traffic light, and a sign saying ‘Wait here when lights are red’ or something similar. This was very confusing. I didn’t know whether the light would eventually change or not. There was one car waiting at the red light already. But, after a while, several cars that drove up behind me, pulled round and took a left turn down a side road. Eventually, I followed them, only to find that the next right (which would have been parallel to the main road) was also blocked with a ‘road closed’ sign. So, then I drove back to the main road, to find no one waiting there any longer. I looked at the map (only a road map, no Ordnance Survey) and saw that there was a way through to Beer nearer the coast, through the village of Branscombe. This was a nightmare decision. Branscombe turned out to be a rabbit’s warren of very narrow single-file roads, many of them crowded with parked cars, and lots of traffic, with full on headlights, trying to weave in and and out of each other using whatever few passing places they could find. There was no clear route through the village, and, at one point, I ended up at a private car park, at a small cove, with a notice that said I could park for the night at a cost of £5. And even the roundabout was private, with a £10 fine for stopping!
I weaved and wangled my way back through the village and along the coast, eventually finding some signposts which led me to Beer. In Beer, I found the very car park I’d picked out on the Ordnance Survey map in Exeter library; and it proved nearly perfect. It was large, it was grassy, it was on a hill top, there were no houses nearby, and it was virtually empty, but for one caravan. I laid out my sleeping bag next to the car, and thought I’d be able to drop off easily. But, the grass on which I’d parked wasn’t quite flat, and while the slope seemed benign, I felt I might slip a bit and wasn’t able to relax properly. More significantly, though, a car drove into the car park (this was after midnight) and I was right in the way of its headlights. This made me think I should move either the car or my sleeping bag. But, in the dark, I wasn’t quite sure of the extent of the car park, and I worried about where to put the car; and, when I thought about picking up the sleeping bag and taking it to another part of the grass, I worried about a joy rider coming into the car park and driving over me! Maybe if that car had been the last, I might still have managed to drift off peacefully, but it wasn’t. Another car came and parked not far away. I could hear people talking, and then, when they left, their headlights busted my peace. I did sleep a bit outside, but I never seemed to lose a feeling of anxiety, and so, in the end, I got in the car, and had a cramped second half of the night.
Early in the morning, I drove to Seaton, and was rewarded with, first a good parking place, and secondly, a cafe that was open by 8am. There was one fat man having breakfast in there already, and, after a while, he chatted to the lady running the cafe. They had been at the same place the night before, and were talking about some people who’d drunk too much the night before. The lady said the man wasn’t all there, he was ‘few pence short of a shilling’, and the man, who had a very strong accent and might have been a farmer, said ‘yes, he was two sandwiches short of a picnic’. Later, he told the lady that he’d already done a lot that morning, including packing, because he was off a for a week’s holiday - all the way to Cornwall, where he had a caravan.
The tea I was served was hot and wet but not much else. Still, I enjoyed the joy of having found an early-opening place, since there are so many times in my life I’ve been in towns early in the morning desperate for tea and there’s been nothing open. Seaton isn’t even a very big place. It’s very unpretentious I would say, with its late 19th century red brick jubilee clock tower, modest gardens, and an old fashioned sort of feel. The beach, though, is fine, and there’s a long stretch to the west, backed by high cliffs, which is quite private (not overlooked and far enough away from the main beach) where I was able to undress and get into the sea nude.
I sat on the beach front in the sun (the sun, how fantastic it was to feel the warmth of the sun) reading the paper for an hour or so, and then I headed cross country to Misterton. Peter and Tony were in fine fettle. Peter, who is nearly blind now, has a lot of leathery skin on her face, but, nevertheless, looks very good for her age - 86. She was wearing a rugger shirt-type top with broad bright bands of green and white colour. Tony, who is 70 this summer but could surely pass for 60, made me coffee and baked rolls, while we sat and talked in the kitchen.
We talked about all sorts as we usually do, Peter often racing off at tangents to explain some friendship or other, and getting cross should Tony interrupt. Later, Tony drove us down to Lyme Regis for lunch. There are some stories Peter told me which I’d like to write into my diary. Firstly, I’d forgotten or never knew, her father worked with Max Reinhardt, the famous German theatre director, and he had an affair with Marlene Dietrich! Both her parents were quite promiscuous, and very left wing. They divorced and her mother married again, but she lived with her new husband in the same house as her father. She said her father fled to Paris in the 30s, to escape Nazism, and then worked for the resistance. He might have been caught when he was taken to hospital (where being circumcised would have marked him as a Jew) but the German doctor who treated him was a resistance sympathiser, and spared his life by employing him as an orderly in the hospital.
There was an uncle on Peter’s mother’s side who was also a bit of a lad, and once, almost in passing, her mother told Peter that he had several illegitimate children, all of whom he’d called Mike. Recently, Peter told me, she’d received a phone call from a German in Singapore called De La Fontaine, asking after Peter’s sister. The sister, who has lived her life in a nunnery, is now going a bit senile, so Peter engaged the man in conversation. Out of nowhere, she had to gall to ask him whether his name was Mike, and whether he was looking for his father. It transpired that his mother, on her death bed, had confessed that the man who had brought him up was not his father, and another relation had provided the link that led the man to phone Peter. It turns out he is the head of the Goethe Institute in Singapore, although he’s leaving that position shortly. Peter is keen to meet this newly-found cousin, but he hasn’t replied to recent letters.
I tried to get a little more information out of Peter about my own childhood. She always implies, but without facts, that I was hard done by. She says she gave me a key to her flat in Netherhall Gardens, so I would have somewhere to go if necessary, and she says she gave me emotional counselling. She says my mother was very hard on me, very critical, but doesn’t say how or why. Interestingly, she also says it was my mother who liked expensive treats such as smoked salmon even when they had no money; whereas, my mother’s version is that Fred would often come home with expensive treats when they were hard up.
I got back to Elstead a little after five, after a smooth run along the A303. I had thought Cora would be here, but I found Adam instead. Cora did arrive about 6:30, having driven from Brighton.
22 June 2005
Astonishing. This morning I received an email from a stranger who had read parts of my journal on the internet. This is the first ever reaction to the publication of my journal (and the Pikle website has been going for a year now). This is it: ‘Sabrina Dechert, firstname.lastname@example.org, US - but living in France, name I’m Sabrina, 28, American. I studied in Java 5 years ago and now I’m considering starting a business on Bali. I was spending my evening looking up relevant information but got sidetracked by your 1974 journal, which inadvertently came up on a Google search. It was a good read. I followed you from the ship to Jakarta up to Bali. At first I thought you were an asshole because I came in at a point where you mostly complained about being ripped off, but after awhile found your narrative quite engaging. Have you ever been back? Well, thanks for a surprisingly descriptive and evocative slice of traveller’s lore. Makes me think I need to take up journaling again. This is email 2. I just realised that I am not actually writing to the author of the journal I just read, but more a website keeper. Well, good idea anyway. Journals are a wonderful way to document history. So much more engaging and informative than a textbook. Good luck.’
I’ve spent the best part of three days writing up my Dartmoor trip. Adam’s at home revising hard for his exams, most of which come in a flourish next week. It’s a bit disturbing having him here, always ready for a conversation about something (his politics revision, food, Big Brother, whatever).
And I’ve been sidetracked by my new initiative on shares. I’ve now put £23,200 into my account on the iii website, and, so far, I’ve focused on buying Astrazeneca shares. My aim is to try and make the limit of my capital gains allowance of around £8,000 in a year, by manipulating these funds, buying and selling, probably in response to articles in ‘Investor’s Chronicle’ (to which I’ve taken out a subscription).
Relations with Cora have steadied a bit. She is in an uncertain time, struggling to make progress in her career. Now that her training is over, the reality of the difficulty of getting work is becoming more apparent. At the same time, her temp work, which brings in money, has dried up. But we’re quite cool most of the time. We still have great sex. We still talk a lot, mostly about her and her relationships, and where she is going. I don’t think this is selfish on her part, it’s just that I like trying to help out, and I don’t much like talking about my own difficulties. But, at some point this summer, we will have to have a serious conversation, one which might lead to us separating. She got very itchy on Sunday. I wanted to laze around the house not doing much, but I felt C needed some action, needed to be heading off for a social encounter, or doing something that she’d be able to talk about later on. And, largely because she was a bit bored I think, we drifted into a bit of an argument that took up two hours in the afternoon. I suppose this is my fault as I should be strong enough to direct us into doing more things together.
23 June 2005
That was pleasant. About mid-afternoon, I decided I’d travel up to London by train to spend the evening with Cora. It was very hot - and still is today - but the travelling was OK, since I buried my nose in books and magazines. I just had time to go to the British Library, where I renewed my card without any difficulty, and still arrived at C’s by 6. After teaing, showering, and sexing, we drove to Primrose Hill, and sat beneath a tree in the low sun eating a picnic C had prepared. After, I lay in her lap as we watched a group of friends play softball, commenting on the various individuals. We then walked to the pub where, I think, I’d once heard Lol Coxhill play, although it’s very different now, to meet up with some friends of Cora. And then I took the train home. I was so tired I fell asleep between Clapham and Woking, but then, once in bed, I had that horrible restlessness, which meant I couldn’t stick in one position even for a minute, I had to keep tossing and turning.
The international cricket season has got off to a flying start. England have beaten both Australia and Bangladesh in the first of the one day internationals. New characters - Pietersen and Collingwood - have been stars. England was only a few runs short of being the first side ever to score 400 in a one day international. Bravo. Another one day match against Australia today. And in the tennis, well Rusedski is out in round two, and Henman had to fight for his life in a five-setter in round one. For the first time in ages, there’s a new name in the British tennis scene - Andrew Brown.
28 June 2005
On Friday, Cora and I went to Woking to see NDT2, Rob and Judy came too. I organised the trip to see the dance, partly because Judy suggested it (and I hadn’t see her for ages) and partly because Cora had never seen any modern dance. The performance consisted of four pieces. The first, and longest, had elements that were quite stunning, in the way the dancers performed in front of a series of screens, and the way they slipped between them, often at strange angles only possible because they were being supported by other dancers hidden behind the screens. The second piece made one glad to be alive; and the third was made up of two shorter pieces, the first one of which I recognised. It was a manic piece for two dancers set to repetitive strains of Gertrude Stein writings. Judy, though, didn’t recognise it, so I wondered how I could have seen it without her. As far as I could remember, in the last few years, I’ve only see dance with her and at Woking. When I got home, I found (from the diary) that we had indeed seen NDT2 at Woking just two years ago, and both of us had forgotten it (well me less Judy). After the show, Judy (who I understand is a psychoanalytical psychotherapist - I hope I’ve got that right) talked to Cora about counselling while I told Rob my (or rather Andrew’s) Balfour Declaration story.
30 June 2005
I was going to write more on 28 June, but as the day wore on so the virus that I’d picked up on Sunday took hold; and then it wiped me out for more than 48 hours. It was vicious. For some reason, though, by the third day, i.e. this morning, I wasn’t feeling too bad. The runny nose, the sneezing, the sore throat, the aching tiredness and heavy head have all largely gone, although there is still something in my lower respiratory tract which is churning out phlegm - but not as much as I would have expected. I’ve noticed this before that sometimes the really virulent viruses are the ones that last the shortest period of time. Is this because that’s how they are; or is it because their very virulence brings out the body’s defenses quickly and sharply (hence the very bad feeling for a couple of days); or is it because, if a virus is surreptitious, attacking slowly and carefully, the body’s mind doesn’t really bother to take precautions, and carries on regardless thus allowing some valuable resources to be taken up with other activities apart from defending against the invader, thereby allowing the invader to get deeper into the body’s systems?
I was, as I say, going to report on the Balfour Declaration saga as told me by Andrew on the phone at the weekend, so I will now. The package of papers put together for sale at Sothebys in New York on 16 June went for over $800.000. However, Aviva Simon’s estate, for whom Andrew and I did the clearance, has been heavily involved in trying to claw back some of the value. There was an attempt, as I understand it, to bring an injunction to stop the auction, but that didn’t succeed, and then Sotheby’s suggested a 50:50 split between the vendor (Weisman, I think) and the Aviva Simon estate, but the vendor was having none of that. And now there’s a legal battle under way in which the Aviva Simon estate (relying heavily on Andrew’s testimony and paperwork) is trying to prove that Weisman only bought the Simon books, not the papers - and it’s the papers that made up the Balfour Declaration lot. There were apparently two receipts, one handwritten by Andy which did not mention papers, and a second, months later, asked for by Weisman, typed up and on headed notepaper. For this second receipt, Weisman asked for the list of contents to be changed to include ‘papers’. Or so the story goes. The Aviva Simon estate (i.e. Andrew’s friend David) claims that Weisman committed fraud in the way that he obtained the second receipt. Although it does seem clear that Weisman did know of the Balfour Declaration papers by the time he asked for the second receipt, it’s not clear that he knew they were there when he bought them from us for £3,000. I’m not sure what will happen, but it may be a question of one side calling the bluff of the other. I mean David could ask for a police prosecution, and Weisman might prefer not to have to bother with dealing with that; on the other, David might be told by the police to bog off; or Weisman might be prepared to brazen it out. Whatever happens, my views about this are clear. When Weisman was buying the books, he was also buying a substantial volume of papers as well. The books were mixed up with pamphlets and papers and letters, and as far as Andy and I were concerned, he was buying the lot. Andrew justifies his position in supporting David by saying that he put aside some letters and papers and photos for family memorabilia, and that, therefore, legally Weisman should not have taken them. I can understand why Andrew needs to take that position, and I would probably back him up if the police came to talk to me. But there are two things wrong with that argument. Firstly, the family didn’t want the papers, and so we really didn’t place any restriction on Weisman’s takings - he could have taken everything in the house, we wouldn’t have minded, our main aim was to empty the place. Secondly, I doubt very much whether the papers in question were with the small collection of photos that Andrew put aside. No, to my mind, David is being ingenuous, but who can blame him given his mistake in wanting to clear the house up so quickly and thoughtlessly.
I haven’t got very excited about the tennis this year. I hate all the on court grunting. The women seem to be most guilty. The men’s games have been quite exciting. I watched a few minutes of a final between McEnroe and Connors from the early 80s this afternoon (rain having stopped play), and it was unbearably dull. McEnroe played so slowly and sulkily. And the skill and speed of those two players (both now in the commentary box) seem far less than those of players today. In the cricket, England play Australia in the final of the triangular tournament (Bangladesh having been dispensed with) on Saturday. In the initial stages they won one match each, and the third was drawn because of bad weather. Let’s see if England really have the metal to beat the mighty Aussies.
There’s so much talk about Africa and climate change at the moment, it would be prime publicity for Kip Fenn, if only, if only, if only, if only . . .
I feel hungry, so I’m going to have an early supper. The potatoes I’ve grown this year are DELICIOUS. Pentland Javelin. They melt in the mouth. I thought they hadn’t grown very well; but some of the plants are given me a good handful of perfect spuds. I’m going to pick some now, and have them with a fried egg and salad.
Paul K Lyons
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