PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 2005 - OCTOBER
1 October 2005
The last quarter of the year has just begun. I am - there’s no doubt about it - in a very low state. I’ve started doing another batch of diarists for The Diary Junction, but my heart is not in it. That’s the trouble my heart is not in anything at the moment. I know it. I know I have to move on. I know I have to go through a bad, inactive depressed winter. I know. I know it will take months, if not a year or two, to get on a new track, re-establish my psyche and morale in some new way. I know, I know. But it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with day to day. I even think of going to the doctor and asking for a low dose of anti-depressants. I suspect they’d give me more psychological fervour, even if it would be fervour made of fluff rather than fibre. But, actually, I don’t really want to feel better. I know it sounds bizarre, but I need to go through this or else I won’t be able to be at reasonable level of contentment in my new and smaller life. The failure of Kip Fenn still chimes like a damn church bell in my head almost every day. It’s not only the failure, it’s my failure to be able to do anything about it, to be employed in doing something which might lead somewhere for it.
Julie Felix is playing on the hi-fi, before her was Laurie Styvers - they’re both on the same minidisk. I love those Laurie Styvers songs (‘you be the tide, I’ll be the bay’). But I’ve now switched minidisks and am listening to Bob Dylan. This is because I watched, on the television, a long documentary about Dylan this week. It was made, lovingly, by the famous film director Martin Scorsese, but only covered his early life. It took me a while to realise why I liked the film so much - because the whole thing was made up of authentic footage: clips of Dylan, his contemporaries and those who influenced him taken from various sources, intercut with short pieces of interviews with Dylan and others. Pieces of the modern interviews with Dylan’s contemporaries were used effectively as a minimal narrative. It reminded me, once I’d clicked as to why I liked it so much, of the documentary ‘Death of Yugoslavia’ which was the same - archive footage intercut with modern interviews (without the interviewer being heard or seen). Dylan struck me as surprisingly small and elf-like when young, an image somehow reinforced by the huge head of hair he sported. I was never a great fan of Dylan, but I do remember that his music filled the first flat I ever lived in, in Cardiff - that was in 1970, quite a few years after he first came to fame.
Interestingly, I had another flash back to my youth the following night, when I went to the West End Centre, Aldershot, to see a flamenco group called Jaleo. They were good, better than I expected. Six of them, four men and two women, performed a variety of, what looked like, authentic flamenco songs. Two of the men played guitars and didn’t do much else, an older man stood behind them most of the time, and did some of the singing; a younger man was a dancer and the star; and then there were two women, an older one who danced, and a younger one who sang. The young female singer wasn’t very good, and she sometimes looked a bit bored and distant. The guitar playing was mostly accompanied by hand clapping and tap dancing. There was a lot of tap dancing, which was the main component I would say of the dance. In parts, the show was quite thrilling, mostly when the man was dancing; but the guitar playing was also well worth listening to. I read two reviews of the show on the internet (the group seems to travel all over the country). One of them was quite complimentary, largely in line, I would say, with the opinion of the very appreciative audience at the West End Centre; and the other was from a professional dance magazine which pulled the show to pieces, and didn’t clear up the blood. The writer was simply showing off his knowledge of authentic flamenco, and wasn’t prepared to make any allowances for the work Jaleo was doing in taking reasonably authentic flamenco (not in itself an art form that lends itself to stage performances - a thought I had on the evening, which was echoed in one of the articles I read later) beyond the borders of Andalusia, and enthusing audiences with it.
But how is this connected to any flash back to my youth. The only props on the stage for the Jaleo show were Spanish chairs with wickerwork seats and elaborate strip panels at the back. I spent a good twenty minutes trying to think how to describe them, and I couldn’t do it, even with them in front of me. But they were very Spanish (I thought they were red, but it might have been the lighting). And these chairs triggered two memories. Firstly, I remembered that I must have had a very similar chair in my room in Hoddesdon. Secondly - but I think this memory is wrong - they reminded me of the chairs I used to fly over when diving into the pool at Sasha’s holiday home in Chiclana. I remembered how the local boys used to line up the chairs, adding one after each successful dive, to see who could dive over the most. I thought, when I was in the theatre, that we dived over that type of chair (they were from the outdoor bar next to the swimming pool), but now on reflection I think the chairs we dived over were simpler, the backs weren’t so tall, and they may have had less ornate cross-panels.
I’m heading down to Brighton tomorrow, to take Adam his bicycle, and a few other things. It’s difficult not to worry about him. He’s decided already - after less than a week, and a very unusual week - that he would prefer to be off campus; and, on the phone at least, he was in no mood to take advice.
3 October 2005
I’ve tried to think more seriously, project more deeply about taking a TEFL and, possibly, going abroad to teach. I’ve got a book from the library, which goes into a lot of detail, and helps me project more carefully. The book says, for example, it can be quite a good idea to learn to teach abroad, because then, as you’re doing the course, you become more plugged in to the local market, which increases your job prospects. And so I got to thinking about Lisbon. Perhaps, I shouldn’t go to Brighton at all, perhaps I should go to Lisbon for a year. The thought of living abroad, in Portugal, has been on my mind for a year or two. It would mean putting everything I own into storage; and being an expat again for a while. But, then again, I could rent or buy a two-bedroom flat in Brighton, as I’m intending to, and do the TEFL course in Brighton, and then go to Lisbon; and Ads could have the flat. But then I couldn’t leave my best things in the flat. It’s all messy thinking. It seems a shame to throw out so much furniture (assuming I ever sell this house, and there’s no news yet) when Ads could benefit from it in the near future.
I had a fairly acute attack of gout in my right ankle last weekend, and took two anti-inflam tablets a day for two days and then one a day for two days. I don’t think I quite got rid of it because this weekend, again, I’ve had to take one a day to keep the ankle pain at bay. Oddly, it is the same time of year again - September. It must be something to do with the vegetables. But, in the past, I’ve thought it might be the beans, but I haven’t had any beans for weeks. Home grown cucumber is the only thing from the garden I’ve been eating regularly over the last few weeks, and never very much of it. Maybe parsley too. But I stopped eating both last week. And then I wonder about tomatoes. I was having a very tomatoey goulash almost every day last week, and cherry tomatoes, which I always think are a bit more acidic than normal ones. And, I did have a couple of portions of spinach. I remember, one of the first times I got gout was in Brussels, and I always wondered then whether or not it was from some frozen spinach I’d had a day or two earlier. I might have gone to volleyball last night, but for the ache in the ankle. Otherwise, though, my health has been solid. Head scratching got a bit worse than usual in the last week or two, but that may have been because my hair was long.
10 October 2005
I went for another walk in Hampshire yesterday. I drove about 40 miles to just outside a tiny hamlet called Crux Easton. It’s about three miles south of Newbury. I used the same book that guided me on the watercress walk a month or so ago. This walk wasn’t quite as interesting overall, I’d judge, but nevertheless was definitely worth the effort. The first third is mostly along a longish distance bridlepath called the Wayfarers Walk, which is about 70 miles long all told. It uses old trails along which sheep were taken to markets. Parts of it today are very rutted making walking difficult (and cycling even more so I imagine). The first part was largely through woods but then the path rises steadily until it’s on a ridge with fantastic views across the flat land of Oxfordshire. There were lots of copses along the route, just below or above the path, and these were full of game, pheasants and partridges I suppose (but I also saw a small group of guinea fowl), which screeched out loud and flew away whenever they were disturbed. I was disturbing game for at least half the walk, and so I must have been in an area being well prepared for shoots. I saw blue plastic containers, standing on three wooden legs, everywhere. Are they used to store food for the game, which is periodically sprinkled around? I would have asked someone, if there’d been anyone to ask. But I barely saw a person the whole walk.
I was in a reasonably buoyant mood, I would say. Neither my ankle nor my groin gave me any problems. I’ve had a bit of gout in the ankle, and only stopped taking Feldene a few days ago. And I’ve had a persistent ache in my groin, which doesn’t hurt, but rises a bit towards the end of my daily jog. I stopped running for a week, hoping it would go away, but it doesn’t seem to get worse or better. I didn’t notice it at all on the walk. I thought about Cora quite a bit I suppose, but there weren’t any new thoughts, really. I just keep on persuading myself that she is very spoilt, and that I spoilt her too, without really realising it. Out of my thinking, though, I did have a bit of a eureka moment. I don’t know how it’s going to sound on paper, I may just have been a bit high on oxygen. It went something like this.
Ever since I was young, I’ve spent a lot of time on my own, especially walking, in parks and cemeteries, but also at home, living alone. And I’ve always found it necessary to cogitate a lot about social contact, with friends and strangers. I’ve needed to examine how I’ve behaved, what others have said, what I’ve said, and so on. And it seems to me that social interaction, which has become very complex in today’s Western world, is the main cause of many psychological difficulties. It often seems to me that more people than not are living lives of ‘quiet desperation’ (as so eloquently put by Thoreau), and that most of this is because of the complexity and difficulties involved in social interaction. What I’ve always done is limit my social interaction (the quality and quantity of it), AND I’ve spent a lot of time processing the information from it. In so doing, I have kept control, conscious of who and what I am. But most people do not do this. Most people have lots of social interaction, and do not spend time on their own. (One of the provocations for this line of thought was Raoul saying that he hated being alone, and he felt a sense of miserableness, or something similar, if he was putting the key in the lock of his house thinking there was going to be no one there.) Therefore - and this was my insight - most people’s social worries and fears and excitements are left to be dealt with by the subconscious. They are not processed consciously, given conscious cogitation, and so it is left for the crude subconscious to deal with all the information as best it can. To my mind, the subconscious is primitive, it’s not interested in truth or future psychological well-being, it is only interested in the here and now. It’s self-justificatory, self-protecting. A very simple example would be the following: a man goes to a party, has a conversation with a stranger, and the stranger insults the man. The subconscious would process the insult by deciding that the stranger was very stupid or very horrible, perhaps, it would not look to examine whether there was any truth in the insult (perhaps it had come because the man himself was being insulting without realising it). With time and space and confidence, the conscious mind, however, might try and consider the incident in the round. Such conscious processing, I think, keeps an individual more closely attuned to reality, and, consequently, in psychological health. Obviously, this is a gross simplification (given how much variance there is the human brain/mind), but maybe there is some truth in it.
Once I left off walking northwest along the ridge that overlooked Oxfordshire, the path ran southish past lovely landscapes of rolling fields and woods. Eventually, it brought me to Faccombe, an estate village named after a Saxon chieftain (Facca), clustered around a tidy green and a large Georgian manor house. The houses and estate walls are all built with a characteristic combination of brick and flint. The next couple of miles were less interesting - this was prime game country, and the blue feed holders, if that’s what they were, seemed to litter the countryside. I was quite intrigued by a couple of fields with tall dead stalks and flower heads, because some of the stalks were a strong purple colour. I also saw fields of, what I assumed, were failed sweet corn crops.
A little before midday, I sauntered into Ashmansworth, a larger village with - and here’s a real claim to fame - the highest pub in Hampshire! The village itself is said to be the highest village in England, well I need to put a couple of qualifiers there - it’s the highest MEDIEVAL village ON CHALK in England. Lots of thatched cottages here, some not that old. I stopped to eat my sandwiches by the war memorial on the small green. Barely a car passed the whole time I sat there. But I was greeted, out of the blue (or out of the green I should say), by a huge smiling topiary man, which suddenly came into focus on the verge across the road from me. I would have had a high-up-in-Hampshire beer but for the fact that the small pub hadn’t yet opened. The main attraction of Ash-is-all-a-man-is-worth, as I couldn’t help calling it, is the church. Unfortunately, the church is not in the village proper but over half a mile south. So I had to trek along the road a bit further than I would have liked. But it was worth it. The church is un-modernised, and dates from the 12th century. It’s not very attractive, in fact, but it is unspoilt. Unspoilt, that is, apart from a modern bit of etched glass that has been glazed into the porch wall. This is a memorial to the composer Gerald Finzi engraved by Laurence Whistler. Finzi lived in the village, next door to the church, for 20 years until his death in 1956. Apparently he is best known for his musical settings of poetry, but he also instigated concerts in the small church, and was thus something of a musical presence in the village. The small glass window (which looks completely out of place in fact) shows a picture of a tree with more roots than branches, and each root leads to the initials of a British composer, the latest of whom is Benjamin Britten. The full names of the composers and their dates are painted on the sides of the window. The church itself is also interesting because it does have some very faint wall paintings, which were recently uncovered, the earliest of which date from the 13th century, which is pretty old.
From Ashmansworth, I walked to Crux Easton, an even smaller village, which has a couple of claims to fame - although none particularly visible. One is that a former rector of the church was Charles de Havilland, and it was his son who became the famous aircraft designer and maker. And, Sir Oswald Mosley was interned at the rectory during the Second World War. There’s an unusual metal wind pump (which is visible) designed to pump water to the nearby manor house. My guide book tells me it might be the only one of its kind in southern England.
My car was parked not far from Crux Easton, and from there I drove to the base of Beacon Hill, where there’s a car park right by a main road. The noise of the traffic was abominable, and I could hear it all the way up Beacon Hill, only near the top did it seem to vanish. It’s a steep climb up Beacon Hill, Hampshire’s highest point, and also the place where de Havilland first flew his first aircraft. Once at the top, there are splendid views, all around. In the distance one can see Highclere Castle, a magnificent Victorian building used in the summer for all kinds of events (I’d been thinking of taking another walk that would have brought me to the castle, except that it’s closed).
12 October 2005
It’s only 5am. I’m still in bed, but I’ve got the portable, and because the air is still not chilly (there’s been a bit of an Indian summer the last few days), I can sit up and not feel cold. For most of the winter, I can’t even sit up in bed and read without putting jumpers on my top half. I worry about the coming winter, think to put a mattress in the (warmer) lounge and to camp in there for three months.
I’m alert and awake largely because I’ve been thinking about Cora half the night, and I can’t get back to sleep. I don’t really know why. She rang last night and we talked for an hour or more, mostly about her grandmother and her recent interviews and job prospects. For the last few weeks, though, I’ve been very deliberately slowing the email traffic between us, and I’ve discouraged phone calls. Over two weeks ago, I put a stop to us meeting. And, actually, it was working for me, in the sense that I had become quite even-mooded again, with occasional relapses, but generally feeling OK, and not thinking about her too much. I did feel I wanted to see her a lot one night last week, when I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, but it didn’t last long. Last night, though, after the phone call, I found it really difficult to get to sleep, and then I woke over an hour ago, and have been unable to get back to sleep. I feel tired, and my head feels messy.
Has my careful and controlled distancing of Cora simply been a device to win her back - because if so, it’s not going to work. I can’t believe it has been a device. Because, all my thinking about her, every bit of it, is about how spoilt she really is, how wedded to her jewish network patterns, and how impossible it would be for her to adapt happily to being with me. I think the distancing has been much more about protecting myself from exactly the kind of mental restlessness that I’m now experiencing.
In another time, in another place, I could deal with Cora’s vagaries, and seeing her irregularly, but I am in a very low place, a very low state - my worst for 20 years (and it’s going to take a while to move on), and I’m vulnerable.
I did sleep, through till about 8:30. I’ve finished another batch of diarists for The Diary Junction, it’s the only thing I’ve been able to think of doing this last couple of weeks. At my slow pace, it takes about two weeks to research, write and prepare around 50 pages for the website. I’m thinking of doing another 50 in the next two weeks.
15 October 2005
I met Gail Goldsmith (my real father’s widow) yesterday, it was 23 years ago, since I’d last seen her. I swear I didn’t manufacture this coincidence, but I started typing up Diary 20 this week - the very one that documents my last meeting with Gail and Fred more than 20 years ago. Another coincidence is that, yesterday, on my way through the London tube network, someone get hold of my shoulder - it was Judy. What are the chances of running into each other on the crowded London tube network?
Gail is in London for the start of a two week trip to Libya. Today, the tour was taking her to the British Museum, to look around and for some lectures. But yesterday, she was free, and we agreed to meet up at Tate Modern. I arrived about 4:30pm, and we then sat in the tea room for an hour and a half or so. My plan had been that we would stroll along the South Bank and meet Adam, who was coming up from London by 7:30pm, and then go and eat. But Gail wanted to go back to her hotel in Holborn, because she hadn’t been allocated a room yet. So we took a taxi, and I tried calling Adam without success. This meant I had to travel to the South Bank to pick him up. We walked back, across Waterloo Bridge, round past Bush House and up Southampton Row, which didn’t take very long, partly because we were chatting such a lot - the same was true for the train ride home at 10-11pm. Adam and I picked up Gail from her hotel, and then wandered a bit in the locality, until we found a PizzaExpress, where we ate and drank for a couple of hours.
At the Tate, I’d been a bit worried about recognising Gail, but strangely she looked very familiar. She has a round face and nervous eyes that, nevertheless, can be firm. Her hair is grey and wispy. She wore grey or khaki clothes, no colour - a bit like her unglazed clay sculptures. We did talk about Fred, at first, but mostly about the positive memories I had of him in New York. We avoided the Block Island incident (but came back to it in the restaurant later, because, evidently, I was determined to tell my side of the story). Oddly, she kept asking me what my earliest memory of Fred was, but I kept saying that I had no memories of Fred before I met him in New York, in fact I had none of my childhood at all. She told me about how she had noticed how happy Fred had been when I first came to New York, but that he himself wouldn’t acknowledge what she saw.
Gail told me about her other adventurous trips, one to Uzbekistan and one to Bhutan. I think she’d done these with a friend some years ago, but this was the first one she was doing alone. She told me about her teaching and tai chi, and about extending the Block Island house. I told her my Games Box story, and a few other things about the Goldsmiths in Europe; and about Vera’s book ‘Secrets of Grown-Ups’ which I’ve promised to send her.
Later, while we were looking for a restaurant, and Adam had crossed the road to check one out, Gail said he - Adam - was very cute, and thus was being generous, I suppose, in complimenting me on having brought up an apparently charming son. Over dinner, I quizzed her about Fred. She told us how they met. It was on Block Island. Gail had been cycling, and Fred had just been given a lobster, and they got chatting in the street. This was at the end of Fred’s time with Judy, and he and Gail quickly started an affair. Two or three years later, they got married on Block Island. She told us how Fred had been asked, at the registry office (or equivalent), for evidence of his divorce. With some flourish - or so it seemed from Gail’s telling of this story - he not only presented the papers of his divorce from Judy, but also those of his divorce from my mother, Barbara. The clerk said - according to Gail - the most recent one would be sufficient. This was all very amusing, to Gail then apparently, and to her now. This was one revealing little snippet. And here’s another. Gail used to share ownership of her Chinatown house, and when the other owner, who was a good friend of Gail’s wanted to sell, Gail and Fred decided to buy it. But the lawyer of the other owner advised her to cut off contact with Gail and Fred, for fear that they might have an undue influence on her and manipulate a cheaper price. This upset Gail, because the woman was a good friend. Whatever happened through the process, it appears that Fred made Gail promise never to talk to the woman again, even after the deal was complete, and to put that commitment in writing. With a look of glee on her face, Gail finished the story by saying ‘of course, after Fred died, I tore up the paper.’
Gail was almost exactly how I remembered her. Everything she said about herself and Fred fitted in perfectly with my understanding of who they were, and who she is. I didn’t expect anything different; but I would not have been phased if she’d turned out to be different from the person I thought she was. We did eventually get round to talking about the time, in 1982, when the two of them had thrown me out of their house on Block Island. We’d both had a couple of glasses of wine. Gail became noticeably more nervous, fidgeting with her napkin incessantly. She claimed she didn’t remember very well, and kept referring to the fact that there are always several sides to a story. However, when asked directly - by Adam I think - why I’d been asked to leave, the fullest explanation she could give was that I had accused Fred and her of being pretentious about their position as summer residents on the island. I said I may have thought they were pretentious, but I was unlikely to have accused them of it. I did accept, though, that if that was in her memory then it was probably true. What was also true, though, was that there had been no discussion, no explanation, and that I had never known why I’d been thrown out. I did keep on insisting that I never laid any blame on Gail, since whatever was going on was between Fred and me, and she was clearly in Fred’s world not mine. I also emphasised to Gail how little I worried about the incident since I had been clear at the time that the fault lay largely with Fred, that he was a difficult man, and even paranoid.
Gail talked a bit about Fred’s death. He’d gone away for a few days, something he did occasionally, but Gail didn’t know where he’d gone. Fred had talked about going to France, but equally she thought he might have gone to Atlanta to gamble, which he did sometimes (to gamble? what with?). They hadn’t separated - I had thought Gail might have left him. It seems he went to a motel on the route to Block Island, where he’d stayed before many times. I’m not sure how long it was before the motel owner called Gail, but it was certainly a day or two. Gail didn’t give any more details about Fred’s death, other than to say that she felt his chronic pill-taking was, in some way, to blame. Apparently, he had been addicted to sleeping pills, which he started taking when young because the itching of his psoriasis kept him awake. Gail explained how, when she first knew him, she didn’t understand why Fred would always want to know what time they would be going to bed - so he knew when to take his pills. He had two doctors, one for problems and one for pill-dispensing. He also took Librium fairly frequently, Gail believes this addition to popping pills affected him physiologically. She said he was often very depressed.
What else? She mentioned briefly the book they had planned to write together about Gail’s parents. But, whereas I remembered it being talked of as some great expose of her family’s jewish background (this information may have come from Sasha or George Marlow), Gail now says she and Fred had very different ideas as to the kind of book they wanted to write. Now Gail seems more interested in a straightforward re-remembering of her childhood and youth, and in being able to write about it in an interesting way. I think she’s a member of a small writing group.
We talked about her work as a sculptor, but it seems she’s doing less sculpting and just indulging in more enjoyable activities, such as teaching disabled children, and writing, and going on holidays. Adam acted surprised when he found out that that Gail was an artist, but I don’t know if he was being disingenuous or not. He was very good with her most of the evening, except once or twice he let his head fall down on to his arms at the table - which is so very rude. I’ve told him it about many times, I’ve even got angry when we’re alone together; but he’s always dismissed my efforts to improve his table manners.
17 October 2005
To more literary matters - unfortunately. Two big prizes were awarded this week. Harold Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature!!! And John Banville’s book ‘The Sea’ won the Booker Prize. If I needed any more encouragement to give up writing FOREVER (god I so hate the way media people use FOREVER these days, such and such did something, or such and such happened, and everything changed FOREVER). Banville’s prize came first. I don’t pay much attention to the Booker Prize any more, because it’s a bit like the Turner Prize for art - up its own arse. Decadence. The avant garde of trends can always be found in literature, and the literature world is beautifully decadent, awarding prizes to books and writers that are living in a dream literary world, where description is all, where the ability to string a few words together in some original descriptive style is all. There is little room for truth or plot or story or the real experience of living and every day life. Zadie Smith was on the short list for her new book, for example. Well I bought and tried to read ‘White Teeth’ which won the Booker some years ago, and I thought, yes, it’s mildly interesting, it’s well written, but I couldn’t get through it, didn’t want to. So what, I kept thinking, there is nothing special about this book, except it describes, with some ability, the world in which Zadie Smith lived and had observed. I have read a Banville book but there’s no mention of him in my diaries. He was an outside choice to win, and the book is no wonderful read, some might describe it as turgid. And what does it have to say about the reality of today’s world? Nothing. It’s about one man and his memories: ‘a lyrical, intensely compelling account of the return of his protagonist, Max Morden, to the coastal town where he spent a youthful holiday following the death of his wife from cancer’. One reviewer called it worthy but forgettable.
And then, towards the end of the week, it was announced that Harold Pinter had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. What a disgrace. This tells me so much more about the prize than it does about Harold Pinter. (As a correspondent noted in ‘The Guardian’ letters today, neither Ibsen nor Tolstoy were awarded the prize but Winston Churchill was!) Pinter wrote only a handful of celebrated plays, none of which I much like, and some screenplays, but this was 30 years ago. Today, he lives off his reputation occasionally writing and performing. But, it seems, he’s very political, speaking out frequently against Bush, and especially the war in Iraq. And this is why, I’m sure, David Hare, wrote a long piece in support of the award to Pinter. I mean they are both left-wingites who feel utterly let down by Blair because he supported Bush in his war against Saddam Hussein.
Adam rang yesterday, after he got back to Brighton. He’d seen a copy of the ‘Sunday Times’, and there was a big article by Bryan Appleyard about how the lights were going to go out, and that we little understood how much of a golden age we’d been living through. It was all so reminiscent of Kip Fenn. I found the article on the web, and then wrote to Appleyard and sent him a copy of the book.
There has been a terrible earthquake in Pakistan, and it has killed tens of thousands of people, and made millions homeless. Isn’t it funny how the media which became utterly obsessed with Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans disaster didn’t start criticising the rescue efforts there until four or four five days afterwards; and yet within 48 hours of the earthquake in Pakistan which has caused much more damage and suffering, the media starts having a going at the organisation of the rescue effort. And, I expect if anyone were ever to tot it up, they would find that the New Orleans disaster probably attracted 50 times as much media coverage as the Pakistan earthquake (the country’s most damaging ever), and that the cost in lives and homelessness of the latter was 50 times that of the former. But that makes sense because one American life is worth 2,500 times more than one Pakistani life (in both senses of the word ‘life’).
Friday 21 October
Well and truly settled into my depression now. Every day is the same. I’ve nothing much to do, nothing to look forward to. I just keep myself reasonably calm with routines and basic activities. I run most days. I swim once a week on Thursdays. I do yoga most evenings while listening to ‘The Archers’ and the start of ‘Front Row’. I get up between 7 and 8 usually. Maybe I do the washing up, make myself a cup of tea. I might spend an hour typing up diary, or editing diary for the website. I have muesli for breakfast. I try and do Diary Junction research. I watch television. I listen to music. I read a little, but not as much as I should. I don’t call anyone. I don’t email anyone. I’ve even pressed Cora away. Last week, after a long phone conversation with her, mostly about her problems, I did let out a muted/coded cry of help to her in a short email, but she didn’t notice, or chose to ignore it, and I retracted it half a day later. Winter is coming, and I barely know how to keep myself warm.
I was struck to tears by a human interest story in ‘The Guardian’ yesterday. A child of three was found alive, only just it seems, in a flat with her mother, who had died two or three weeks earlier. The child had kept itself alive by eating whatever it could find. But she didn’t know how to use the telephone or open the front door. If she had screamed or tried to attract attention by shouting, no one had heard her. The only distress signal she managed to send out to the world was ignored by her neighbour. Apparently - and this is what made me cry - she had pushed letters delivered by the postman back out through the letterbox. When the postman had asked the neighbour about this, the neighbour told the postman to post the letters back into the house!
On Tuesday, I took myself to the cinema in Guildford to see ‘A History of Violence’ directed by Cronenberg. The film had had good reviews, and I’ve always found Cronenberg to be an interesting director. I wasn’t bored or irritated by the movie, and I liked the way it dealt honestly-ish with human relations. But it seemed a rather small story, and I couldn’t quite understand why Cronenberg had bothered to make it. A happily married man with two children turns out to have been a killer in the past, and - largely because of a coincidence - this past slowly emerges to the horror of his unsuspecting wife and children.
Nothing has happened about Russet House. I have an offer that might be pushed to £500,000, but I’m holding out for £520,000, having told the agent, I would drop to £515,000 if it was a deal clincher.
Sunday 23 October 2005
Last night I watched a great film called ‘Sarfarosh’, dating from 1999 and directed by John Matthew Matthan. It’s an Indian film, and set mostly in Bombay. However there are scenes set on the border between India and Pakistan, in a desert with sand dunes, which looked a bit peculiar. I had to go and check the atlas to find out about the geography of the region, and sure enough there is a desert there, The Great Indian Desert, or Thar Desert. Matthan was interviewed in a short broadcast just before the film, and he explained that he wanted it to be about divided loyalties, especially the conflict between loyalty for one’s religion, and loyalty to one’s nation. He said, for him, the important loyalty was to one’s nation. And this came across in the film, very clearly. There’s a magnificent scene at the end, between the bad Muslim gun runner (who’s also a really pleasant character, an intellectual and poet, but someone scarred by the partition of India) and the good Bombay Hindu cop who’s finally run him down. It was a long film, but I loved every minute of it. Even the songs were fabulous, and I’d put the video on pause if I had to leave the room during one of them. The fight and car chase scenes looked a bit quaint by Hollywood standards, but no less watchable for that.
Also this weekend, I’ve dipped into two old books, two very old books. I decided ages ago that I would make a start on clearing out the book cupboard, storing those books I want to keep in boxes, and throwing others out. But I only got round finally to taking out and looking at some of them this weekend. The lot I took out were all the black Penguin classics, Homer, Plato etc. I think most of them came from that very large lot of books I bought at auction a few years ago. Adam has had some of them. I decided I should have a closer look at each of them, and the first one I picked out was a book of three plays by Terence. The one I read was called ‘The Girl from Andros’. It was a delight, a kind of comedy farce, which made me think of Shakespeare or Moliere, yet it was written before 160 BC! Many years ago I did read Euripedes and Aristophanes, so I had a faint memory of how interesting Greek playwriting was, but I don’t think I’d read any Roman playwrights, such as Terence who followed the traditions of the so-called ‘Greek New Comedy’ style, just a couple of hundred years later. Terence only wrote six plays before leaving Rome when only 25 and disappearing, but all have survived.
The next book I picked up was even more interesting: Seneca’s ‘Letters from a Stoic’. I’d never heard of Seneca, but was surprised to find how interesting and intelligent a man he was. Some people consider it the greatest advice book of all time. The advice stemming from Seneca’s letters to a student is very Zen-like. Here’s a bit: ‘And this is what we mean when we say the wise man is self-content; he is so in the sense that he is able to do without friends, not that he desires to do without them.’ And then further on: ‘ ‘The wise man is content with himself.’ A lot of people put quite the wrong interpretation on this statement. They remove the wise man from all contact with the world outside, shutting him up inside his own skin. We must be quite clear about the meaning of this sentence and just how much it claims to say. It applies to him so far as happiness in life is concerned: for this all he needs is a rational and elevated spirit that treats fortune with disdain; for the actual business of living he needs a great number of things. . . Self-contented as he is, then, he does need friends - and wants as many of them as possible - but not to enable him to lead a happy life; this he will have even without friends. The supreme ideal does not call for any external aids. It is home-grown, wholly self-developed. Once it starts looking outside itself for any part of itself it is on the way to being dominated by fortune.’
About Seneca (just culled this from the internet): Born in Spain in 4 BC, Lucius Annaeus Seneca was educated in Rome and became famous not only as a playwright, but as an orator and philosopher as well. He served as tutor to the young Nero, and when the boy became Emperor in 54 AD, he retained Seneca as his advisor. For several years, Seneca exerted a calming influence on the young emperor. After he retired in AD 62, however, he lost favour with his former pupil, and in AD 65, he was accused of conspiring against Nero and was forced to commit suicide. Apart from these letters, he wrote a good number of plays too. These were adapted from earlier plays, but are considered to have been an influence on Shakespeare.
Monday 24 October
I’m having the occasional flashes of creative inspiration. Sometimes, the idea for a book flips into my mind (and then gets dispensed with fairly quickly). This morning, while I was eating breakfast, I was looking at a reflected pattern on the knife. It was rather intriguing and beautiful, and I thought of the idea of an exhibition of photographs, with similar beautiful images, but with each one sat next to another photograph, covering a larger area, allowing the viewer to put the first photograph in context. And then I thought to myself that I’d never seen an exhibition where photographs were put in pairs, with the second one providing more information to enhance the understanding of the first. Another example would be a photo, mostly full of a figure, doing something or expressing some feelings, and then another photo, taken from further back, providing the reason as to why the person was doing or feeling what they were doing. Another idea I had was for a novel. Every now and then, in the prose, the author could put in a set of adjectives - similar in concept to those used by wine-tasting buffs - to provide abstract colour on the events current in the novel.
It’s a dreary Monday, and I must carry on with my dreary dreary life.
25 October 2005
Leonard Cohen playing on the stereo: ‘Travelling lady stay awhile until the night is over. I’m just a station on your way. I know I’m not your lover.’
Another quote from Seneca: ‘It does not profit a man much to have managed to discard his own failings if he must ever be at loggerheads with other people’s.’
Worked quite hard today on The Diary Junction. I’ll finish off this batch, and then give time to thinking whether or not I can find a new project. I’m going to be in this house through to the spring now, and so I might as well try and find something constructive to do, no matter how low I am.
Thinking I might try and mention as many books as I can, here in the diary, as I sort through them in readiness for storing or chucking. The latest two I’ve flipped through are ‘The Twelve Caesars’ and ‘The Annals of Imperial Rome’ by Suetonius and Tacitus respectively. They are both history books, and I’m not very interested in the history of ancient Rome or Greece. The latter is, though, considered to be an historical and literary masterpiece, providing the earliest record of the times. I looked up and read a bit about Seneca, which only confirmed what I’d learned from the introduction to ‘Letters from a Stoic’. I read a few pages of Suetonius concerning the last days of Julius Caesar, the first of the 12 caesars in the title. There is all the detail - more familiar from Shakespeare’s play - about his assassination. This history is not only considered one of the most vivid histories of Rome, but the raciest as well - more readable than Tacitus. Suetonius says this about Julius: ‘His affairs with women are commonly described as numerous and extravagant’ and then he lists the names of various married women and queens.’
Out of my Leon Simon library, I’ve decided I should sell the two sets of Churchill books. I’m never going to read any of them, and they are the only books I don’t really want that might be worth something - £50 a set perhaps. I looked on Abebooks and on Ebay and found them selling for reasonable amounts. It’s a shame they’re not signed, because that would increase their value tenfold. The two sets are: ‘A History of the English-Speaking Peoples’ and ‘The Second World War’. I’m also putting into the auction bundle ‘John Leech’s Pictures of Life and Character’ which might also be worth £50. It’s a sweet book, full of Punch cartoons, and with a nice red and gold cover and binding. The only other books which might be worth selling are the Far East travel books which I acquired with a lot of old photography books some years ago. But I like having them too much.
Autumn’s here. Rain and storms and falling leaves. Though, mercifully, it’s not turned cold yet.
26 October 2005
Started going through some of the books I’ve moved to the Blue Room. There’s rag-bag collections of old Grantas, poetry, foreign language books, and play scripts. At first I thought to sell the Grantas on ebay, but when I went through it all, I realised I’d be lucky to make a fiver, and it just isn’t worth the bother. I’ve got seven old copies I think, about travel, biography, Prague, London, parents, and so on. I might keep them, or offer them to Adam. The poetry was a bit easier to deal with. I’ve got anthologies of certain favourite poets - Blake, Auden, Elliot, Whitman, Yeats - and I’ve kept a couple of other books, Wordsworth, or smaller paperbacks with some of the favourites, which can be taken on a journey for example. The foreign language books were fairly easy to discard, even though I brought some of them back from Argentina over 25 years ago. The books themselves aren’t very good quality, and my Spanish has sunk so low that I’ll never get a chance to read them. I’ve kept one or two: a copy of Gabriela, a book of Lorca’s poetry, and two scruffy anthology books, one of Contos Eroticos, and one of Machado’s poetry, just because I thought I might one day want to read out a bit of romantic Spanish. One book I’m throwing out is called ‘Mad, Sad & Glad’ which is a collection of poems from something called the Scholastic Creative Writing Awards. The only reason I have this book, and have kept it, is because it has reminded me of the sad, mad, glad poetry that I wrote with Mu all those many years ago. But really I don’t need this silly little paperback. In memoriam, here is one poem called ‘Logic’ from it.
‘The Wind came and put
wrinkles on the lake.
so I stayed (inside)
because I didn’t want to get
I can’t resist quoting another one, now I’ve seen it, on the same page, and by the same high school student. It’s called ‘Because of D’
come into my
life bright and burning
and then turn out
to be wax
In the foreign language group, I found a rather nice paperback which shouldn’t have been there. But, it was because, obviously, I’d brought it back with me from Brazil: ‘Escolas de Samba - A descriptive account’
I haven’t sorted through the play books yet, there’s quite a lot of them. Looking at the latest couple of ancient Penguin classics, I discover - by coincidence - that what we know about Seneca comes largely from the histories written by Tacitus and Suetonius. I learn this in the introduction to a group of Seneca plays ‘Four Tragedies and Octavia’. But I am not inclined to read them, for I find, in this same introduction, the following: ‘If we look among the idiosyncrasies of Seneca’s tragic style for ‘faults’, we can find plenty: excess of rhetoric, irrelevance, iteration, banality, bathos (how could he have passed that line where Oedipus, blindly groping for his final exit, with Jocasta lying dead beside him, pauses to say ‘Mind you don’t fall over your mother’!).’ The author of the introduction even suggests that reading the plays in translation today could be considered a waste of time, but what he wishes to stress is that Seneca’s plays were great hits during the Renaissance period.
Confusingly, the next classic I picked up was Plutarch’s ‘Fall of the Roman Republic’. In fact, it is a collection of six lives, including Caesar. But Plutarch was a Greek, and he is considered to be one of the last of the Greek classicists. But I’m not interested enough to read any of this. It’s all history again. It seems he might have known Tacitus, but that he spent most of his life at Chaeronea in Boeotia, where he had a school.
I’m proof-reading and correcting my journal from 1999, and I’ve just arrived at the point where I employ Krysia, and then sack her after two weeks. It was so difficult dealing with that situation (and I felt very guilty and worried about Krysia); in retrospect, those two weeks that she worked for me proved to be the zenith of my little company. It went down hill after that. I only mention her because, having seen her unusual name in my diary, I did a quick Google search. It seems she’s doing OK. She worked for a newspaper in Manchester but is now corresponding for ‘The Guardian’ from Germany. There can’t be two people named Krysia Driver working in British journalism.
It gets very confusing - has been for a while - with my diaries. At any given time, I’m working in four different periods. (I’ve explained this before but it bears repeating.) At furthest distance in time, I’m editing my journal from 1981 to put on the internet. This is a chronological work, and progresses steadily forward. Slightly nearer in time, I’m typing up my journals from around 1982. For many years I typed up my hand-written diaries in a rather ad hoc way. And, irritatingly, I often only typed up parts of them. For a while now, though, I’ve been working my way forward chronologically from the beginning trying to ensure that all my diaries are fully typed up exactly as they are in the original. I stopped hand-writing all but holiday diaries around 1989, so I’ve a fair amount of work still to do to on this. Also, obviously, I need to keep ahead of my needs for the Pikle site. Thirdly, I’m currently proof-reading and correcting my typed diaries from 1999 so that I can print and bind them up in small A5 hard-back covers. Fourthly, of course, I am always in the present, writing my current diary, as here and now.
29 October 2005
Actually, I have a lot more poetry books I realise, and I’m sorting through them now. I’ve found reasons to throw out about half of them, all the anthologies such as those with titles like ‘Contemporary British Poems’ or ‘Georgian Poetry’, and a number of books of war poetry. I’m also going to chuck out any books that I don’t like, because they don’t touch well, or are damaged. I might have kept, for example, Dylan’s ‘Under Milk Wood’ but the copy I have is covered in notes. It’s horrible having books that have been defaced by others. What’s left, apart from those already mentioned, are some collected poems of Tennyson, Coleridge, Browning, Lawrence, Betjeman, Nash. There are also Penguin Classics such as Dante, Homer, Beowulf, Chaucer, Milton. Perhaps the most interesting poetry book, though, is a scruffyish hardback ‘R Browning’s Poetical Works’, and this is because it has a book plate inside which tells me it was awarded to A Litzyinski in 1943 for ‘good work and general progress’. This has to be the only book of 1,000s I own that belonged to Sasha. How did it happen to survive all these years through various of Sasha’s households, and how do I happen to have it? I don’t recall ever knowing I had any of Sasha’s books.
I had a problem with half a dozen copies of ‘Ambit’, a literary magazine with poems, stories and drawings in. They’re quite nice journals, paperback size and bound, but they have white covers which are a bit grubby. J G Ballard is one of the editors, and I found poems by Dannie Abse, Adrian Henri and Jeff Nuttall in them. But do I really want to keep them any longer. I’ve had them 25 years. I went to the internet - how fantastic the internet is, to have all the information so readily available - to discover that Ambit is still going strong in much the same format as the old copies. The man who originated it in the 50s, Martin Bax, is still named as the editor, but now it’s subsidised by the Arts Council. I might have considered keeping my copies if the magazine was no longer extant, but the fact that it’s still going, in the same form, and that back copies can still be bought, takes away any incentive. It’s not as if the magazine meant anything to me. I’ve found only one passing reference to it in my diaries, in 1977.
Well I’ve been through my books of plays now. It’s not a bad collection with Shaw, Moliere, Wilde, Lorca, Osborne, Sophocles, Ibsen, Chekhov, Coward, Priestley, Miller, Euripides among others in no particular order. They’re mostly paperbacks, and I can’t really justify throwing out many. Gone only are the scruffy books, and the ones with writing in. There are about 50 books all together, very roughly the same number as poetry books. I could throw them all out, but who knows when I might want to consult one or other of them.
Also I’ve been through a small suitcase which has a collection of theatre/opera programmes (from a time when they only cost 10p), and lots of papers about exhibitions or events or plays (such as the Fools Festival, and - very interesting this because I’ve just typed up my New York diary for the very first time - a programme for the Medieval Fayre I went to when in New York). I haven’t bought or kept such programmes or papers for a long time, but these in the suitcase go back to the 70s, and give a good idea of what kind of plays I went to see, not only in London but in Cardiff when I was still a student, and in New Zealand. The weightiest programmes are those for opera productions, they are so glossy and full of advertising. But I can’t bring myself to throw them away.
31 October 2005
The clocks went back last night, so it’s getting light this morning already before 7am; but that won’t last long. It’s been a most unusually warm October. I’ve needed very little heating throughout the month, and it’s a pleasure to go outside. On Thursday, I spent an afternoon in the garden, clearing up, weeding, mowing the lawn, it was just like summer. And on Saturday night, I cycled through the common - along the one good track that brings me out at Milford Road - in the late evening, long after dark. There was no moon either, so cycling was quite tricky, but I had a torch. It was so balmy, mild, a Mediterranean climate.
But what an empty weekend. I felt OK through most of it, just keeping busy, switching between reading, watching television, listening to the radio, finalising the latest batch of Diary Junction data, and sorting through the books upstairs. Most of the time I had familiar music playing on the stereo loudly, warding off the silence, the emptiness. I haven’t been running the last few days, because the gout returned in my ankle, the same ankle. That’s three or four times I’ve had gout in the ankle this last few weeks. Maybe it’s the same attack which isn’t going away. I’m still struggling to understand what causes it. I do feel it must be diet triggered, and ever since I’ve been getting attacks regularly at this time of year, I’ve wondered if they are caused by produce from the garden, the beans, the courgettes, the cucumbers, parsley. I’ve got a really good crop of parsley this year, but I’ve stopped using it for fear of gout. I recognise the pain when it comes early now, and take the Feldene tablets straight away. By this means, the gout is usually gone in two or three days. But I am a bit worried because I don’t remember getting several attacks in row like this before.
I did some research, and found that a substance called purine in food is the main contributory factor with regard to gout. Foods with ‘very high’ purine levels, ones which should be avoided completely: anchovies, bouillon, brains, broth, consommé, dried legumes, goose, gravy, heart, herring, kidneys, liver, mackerel, meat extracts, mincemeat, mussels, partridge, roe, sardines, scallops, shrimp, sweetbreads, yeast (baker’s and brewer’s), yeast extracts (e.g., marmite, vegemite). What sticks out here and now is sardines, because I used a tin of sardines on my sandwiches over two or three days last week.
A Mr Thomas came back on Friday for a third viewing of the house. I rejected his second offer of £495,000-500,000 and waited patiently. Henry thought he would not make another offer, but I felt he would, and he did. His chain, I’m told, is still in place, but could break down soon if the Thomases don’t make a move. Henry suggested I absent myself, so I did. I just drove up to Hankley Common and sat in the car park for an hour listening to the radio - Desert Island Discs with the fashion photographer, Mario Testino. I’d never heard of him, but the programme was moderately interesting. Sue Lawley prodded away to try and discover how he’d made a name for himself. Having lived in poverty in a hostel for seven years, he took some famous photos of Diana, and never looked back. Quite a simple guy, very hard working, very committed. All his music was pop, and his luxury was a pillow. Any how, so today, Monday, I’m waiting for the phone to ring. I’m hoping Henry will tell me that Mr Thomas has offered £520,000. But I fear he’ll offer £510,000 (I fear because I won’t know how to respond), and I wouldn’t be surprised if he withdraws altogether (although Henry did say he felt the viewing went well on Friday).
While on the subject of radio programmes, which I wasn’t but I can be if I want to be, I listened, in the middle of the night, to 45 minutes of Hugo Chavez being interviewed by Robin Lustig on a World Service programme called ‘Talking Point’ (which uses listeners questions). Chavez is a very interesting leader. He’s extremely popular in Venezuela, and has survived several coup attempts, and strong opposition from right wing interests. He believes the US has done almost everything it can to get rid of him, short of the kind of shenanigans the CIA used to get up to (in Chile for example). I don’t know how good a president he is. He might be bankrupting the country by bankrolling wasteful social programmes, or he might just be showing how high oil revenues can be used to improve the lot of the poor in a poor country, rather than the rich. I respected much of what he said, and listened with interest to his claims. But the programme did leave me with a huge questionmark about his judgement. It seems, according to the questions put to him, that he does seem rather prone to siding with the world’s renegades, Cuba, Iran, Libya. He drew short of justifying any of their bad actions, but he was much more ready to criticise the US than the Arabs. I’ve just had a look at the BBC website where comments on the interview have been posted. All the ones from Venezuelans are negative about Chavez, and it seems to be mostly left-wing foreigners that like him.
Each week, I’m throwing out two-three boxes of Kip Fenn. Since all the storage boxes are of a standard size they’re perfect for repacking with other books - I don’t mean my books, but those written by other people. So far I’ve filled three, neatly and easily (not including the children’s books I repacked a few months ago when I brought them down from the loft). All the poetry I want to keep fits nicely into one box, and all the plays I want to keep fit nicely in another. All my pre-EC Inform publications - I have a copy of every issue I edited, and copies of freelance stuff - fit nicely into a third. Is there any point in keeping all the old issues of ‘European Energy Report’, ‘International Petrochemical Report’ etc.? As they fit neatly into one box, I can’t bring myself to throw them away. I’ll probably need two boxes for EC Inform-Energy and EC Inform-Transport, but I’ll surely have to keep them.
I’m on to English literature, essays, philosophy, politics now. I’ve decided to offer my politics (and probably my philosophy) books to Adam. Some of the hard back political biographies might be of use to him in his course, and he’s more interested in philosophy than I am. There’s quite a lot of room in Barbara’s house, and she has offered to take some books already. So it makes sense for me to give Adam those. So far, I would say, that of all the non-fiction I’ve been sorting, at least half are going on the scrap heap. Which is good.
Today, the Channel Four programme ‘Countdown’ has returned. It’s been off the air since its charming host, Richard Whitely, died. Channel Four have chosen Des Lynam, the retired, or semi-retired sports commentator, to take his place. I watched the first five minutes, and that was enough. I’m not given to watching rubbish tv, or just anything for the sake of it. I get annoyed or bored easily. But, for a number of years, I was drawn to watching ‘Countdown’ in the afternoon. I’d often pop in and out of the lounge just to watch the quiz bits, or do something else. Or else I’d plan to have my afternoon tea and cake while watching the last 20 minutes or so. It was a programme largely for elderly women, I think. My mother watched it regularly; and the audience was invariably made up of senior citizens. Adam teased me mercilessly for watching it; and I teased myself. Yet watch it I did. In some ways, I was in a similar position to that I found myself with respect to ‘Big Brother’, since most of my friends and family couldn’t understand why I watched that programme either. But it’s a question of trusting myself. If I find myself watching a programme, the question should not be what’s wrong/sad about me, but what’s right about the programme. And now I realise that there was something right about the programme, and it was Richard Whitely. He had a marvellous combination of characteristics: irrepressible good humour, outrageously colourful ties, an unrepentant love of puns and punning, a childishly endearing relationship with Carol Vorderman, and an unashamed love of the programme. Despite Vorderman, and one of the most popular ‘Countdown’ celebrities in ‘Dictionary Corner’, five minutes of Des Lynam was enough to make me realise how ‘Countdown’s’ appeal stemmed largely from Whitely.
More on TV. I’m dismayed to learn from Channel Four advertisements that ‘West Wing’ will not be returning. My favourite programme has been sidelined to Channel Four’s new digital channel called More 4, which I can’t get. I read somewhere that the execs thought ‘West Wing’ simply wasn’t pulling in enough punters to justify it’s prime time slot on Friday evenings. But, it’s more likely they’re using it to sell More 4. Boo hoo.
I’ve watched a few crimmys in the last week. Last Monday, I watched three in a row: ‘Waking the Dead’, ‘Spooks’ (which I’d recorded, but which is more spy than crimmy), and ‘Without a Trace’. All three were good, although I continue to like ‘Without a Trace’ more than any other similar programme. It’s an American import that has long runs, but manages to find fresh and original stories every week. Moreover, each story always unravels in a satisfying way, avoiding the obvious as well as the illogical. It’s very strongly based on character, mostly of the individuals involved in each story, but also, quietly mostly in the background, of the FBI team members in charge of cracking the cases. ‘Waking the Dead’ is a more traditional British crimmy focusing on old cases. It’s a bit of a vehicle for Trevor Eve, but also gives Sue Johnston (who I’ve never much liked) a comfortable and well-suited part. The stories are a bit over the top, and logic does get left behind now and then. But the actors/characters make it watchable. ‘Spooks’ is also fun. It’s quite political, and the writers try hard to make the stories contemporary and relevant. It doesn’t have the believability of Le Carre’s ‘Tinker Tailor’ series, but nor is it ever after laughs in the Bond style. By contrast, I watched a three hour drama, ‘Class of 76’ I’d recorded earlier. This was such crap, such poor writing, such a poor story, such bad direction. I mean it was all professional and watchable in a kind of I’m-half-asleep way, but one only had to throw it into a critical light for a half a moment to realise how dreadful it was. How does so much money get spent on programmes like this. I swear a good half of the three hours was spent watching Robert Carlyle’s face stare meaningfully into space as though he was working out some great truth from the papers or photographs he’d just been looking at. There were endless shots of him driving or doing nothing in particular. And there was a sub-plot (which seemed reminiscent of ‘Waking the Dead’) but which turned out to have no purpose or resolution. And the denouement of the main plot was that the killer was the dead twin brother of a very nice and beautiful woman who lived on as a split personality of the nice twin sister! Really.
Henry has rung. The Thomases have increased their offer to £510,000. I’ve told Henry I’ll settle for £515,000 but not a penny less. We’re very close, but how painfully slow the Thomases have been.
Paul K Lyons
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