PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1980 - APRIL
Tuesday 1 April, Madrid
What happens in the sunlit hour close to midday? Head blocked, trying its hardest to control aches that want to come; cigarette smoke swirling like traffic in the arteries of the brain; noises filtered and stacked away in some corner. And then, like jet engines roaring through alcoves, come thoughts, and attempts to control the explosions through frantic nervousness. Needs of the day, of the body thrust onto the mind, choke it. The need to burst, to sweat, to open it all up and let the confusions roll on the side-walk like cigarette ends blown in the wind. There is the need to bathe, to shit, to be touched, to forget.
It took me some minutes of concentrated thought to remember what I'd seen at the Camden Plaza with Dominique: 'Wise Blood'. I hadn't thought or talked about it with anyone, and so it had sunk down into my consciousness. Nevertheless, I could instantly see John Huston and certain scenes, faces and action in the film. In other words, by remembering the name of the film, I was suddenly able to open up more memories of it. It is interesting to realise how visual memory is so much stronger than, say, audio memory. Surely with more rigid and careful training when young we could be taught to have photographic-equivalent memories for each sense. The potential is surely there and only needs the right development/education programmes. It strikes me that we are wholly uncivilised, for we know nothing really concrete about the effects of external stimuli on children. How young the human race is. Perhaps, when the mechanical age burns itself out, we will have a biological age. Perhaps we will be trained to have disciplined minds. I am acutely aware of my laziness, the apathy of my mind. The future of the world is in the hands of teachers. Teachers of children should be the most highly paid, the mostly highly skilled people in the world.
Plaza Dos del Mayo. The air is a perfect temperature, it's almost like swimming in salt water that has the same density as the body. There is no wind, I feel more perfect than I've felt for a very long time.
I feel I should go into the bar Sol de Mayo and I'm sure I will soon, but why, when I'm perfectly happy here sitting on this broken stone bench. I play with my body - moving it, then freezing, and from the freeze, I release only my eyes to follow whatever is moving around me. Then I release a breath, to breathe as a mime does; then I let my whole body sway. I feel eyes on me, but they look away when I challenge them. Instinctively, I can't understand why anyone should look at me, but then I project and consider that I am, in fact, a strange person sitting on a bench waving my hands around for no apparent reason.
Lovers in this country embrace for hours in courtyards, cars, cinemas. The full moon alternates between a clockface without hands and a street lamp without a leg.
MISSING THE BOAT TO IBIZA
At first I didn't even know if I wanted to go to Ibiza, I thought I might go to Barcelona and thence to Menorca. So, right at the beginning, I was full of indecision. As the weekend turned itself over slowly, so I began to make plans to go to Ibiza. Pepe rang a friend who worked for the shipping company. Although the boat was already booked up, she said she would get me a ticket. On Monday I went to collect it - leaving at midnight Wednesday 2 April. I had to go to her office, and then to the shipping office, where I had to wait only a few minutes. In the afternoon, I went to the Corte Ingles travel agency where I'm told there is no place on the Wednesday afternoon train to Alicante, I swear under my breath, and let her book me on the 10am train. I am not happy because this means missing the chance of working most of Wednesday. Back at the flat, I talk with Pepe and Pia, who suggest I go by bus. It takes some effort, but eventually I get the number for Estacion Sur and am told there is a bus leaving at 2pn on Wednesday. I run to Estacion Sur, but, on arriving, my heart sinks for the longest queues are for the Alicante buses. I suffer for two hours of waiting. Fights and arguments break out everywhere, tempers are high. I finish a novel before arriving at the ticket office. Once at the buying window I discover there is a bus at 3:30 (arriving at 9pm) as well as at 2:00, so I buy a ticket and head back for the apartment. I am pleased with myself that I've managed to sort out an itinerary. The following morning between work appointments I squeeze a visit to the Corte Ingles to cash in my train ticket. I lose £2.50 on the refund, but at least everything is organised. I begin to look forward to Ibiza. I spend Wednesday morning on the telephone trying to accumulate more information, and make several visits to banks, but none of them prove very useful, and I could so easily have taken the 2:00 bus. So then, finally, I took the bus. But all the way there were long queues of holiday traffic, and long, long waits, and the bus was three hours late. A taxi sped me through the streets, clocking up pesetas, faster, faster, down the port, along the quay, yet by the time I got to the quay, the boat had left - 10 minutes earlier! Now there isn't another boat for two days.
I am by the stone columns of a church that is now three-quarters cinema and one quarter cafe. Flocks of thoughts stroll around in my meadow. (Now, right this minute, I see the back of a girl, perhaps she is 17. I imagine her nubile body rolling across mine. I think of prostitutes, and the relative cost of other pleasures. But the truth is - always has been with me - that the thought of the pleasure of the nubile body rolling across mine includes not sex alone but love and intimacy). I walk around the old city of Alicante, looking for a smile, a meeting, a hand to touch. One area seems very alive with hip youth. They move about from group to group, bar to bar, stand around drinking wine and rolling cigarettes fuelled with grass. Not far away another mass of people - the old, the mourning, the middle-aged, the regimented young, the crippled and the scarred - are pouring out of mass.
Saturday 5 April
I made it. Ibiza. I managed to use the wrongly dated ticket, but only just. My adrenalin was on its racing track. There was some confusion as I was checked against the cabin list but the official failed to notice the wrong date.
In the queue to get on the boat I befriended Ronny, a guitarist who says he can live from playing, but is not good enough to get rich. He has blond hair curling all over his brown-tanned face. He has just spent two weeks on a boat skippered by his brother. It's worth half a million job and its owner hasn't been near it in 18 months. He tells stories of contracts with ATV and MAM and the guitar centre in Palma where he hopes to work. When he has money he spends it, first class all the way. He doesn't believe in guarding it at all, and explains why: he had a girlfriend who had used all her savings to start a hairdressing business, then, after a year or so when it was going very well, she was riding her bicycle and was killed by a lorry. He tells me that he also knew the daughter of the pilot that was flying the Trident in which hundreds of people were killed near Heathrow ten years ago. Apparently, the pilot put the wrong signals into the computer at the time of take-off and then knew there was nothing he could do to save the plane, and died of a heartache!
Although it started to rain on arriving, I was not unlucky. Within half an hour, I had met a man called Manu. He happened to be at the Lecoq school in Paris and knew Harold, and had a house on the other side of the island. Manu's father is Troekes, a German painter, who lives half in Berlin and half in Ibiza. Manu himself speaks at least five languages, and is an accomplished accomplished musician. Right now, though, he's into theatre. We drink yierba at Ibecenco and wine at Pepi's with home cured sausage and baked bread.
Alicante only got better and better. I started writing the fictional history of a meeting between two people, neither of whom should really have been in Alicante. This gave me a chance to practice description and notice places, people and things more concretely. I discovered El Castillo de Santa Barbara and some beautiful terraced houses. I watched Easter processions with all those shiny satin clothes and dunce hats. I wrote my business report. I ate a meal, I talked to some English people. I took lots of photos. The two days weren't so bad after all.
I'm a little drunk. I feel good. Ibiza is alive, the people generous and rich of heart. It is incomparable with Corsica. Would I be happier living in Ibiza than in London? A waiter brings me bread, wine and paella - and now I wait for chicken. I cannot, I can not justify my impoverished life in London. I am a failure unto myself until I can do what I want and when I want. I will not accept the compromises life proposes to me. Basically, there are people living more fulfilled lives than me and I won't stand around and take it lying down.
It's good that this book should start and finish in Spain, as though it has waited for me to be in Spain for it to end. I am in Ibiza airport. There is time. There is time for us all to take a sip of hot black sweet. I can see the plane in the foreground and salt flats in the background. In the lounge, there is a very beautiful woman with rainbow beads in her hair. She is with a handsome middle-aged man with grey hair.
Leaving Manu was difficult, I mean in the sense of the actual parting, things to say. He has many ideas similar to my own. We talked so much about everything - cock fights in Bali, Nina Haagen, therapy, concepts del universe, history of the Mediterranean etc.
DIARY 14: April - October 1980
10 April 1980, Leyton
Including my very first (the five-year) diary I have now have 14 completed books, 11 of which were completed during the last four years.
I have recharged myself with Spring. I am light and airy. I have a room clean and pretty and mine, even if it is only for a few weeks. Suddenly I am alive again - it's true I have not much to be alive for, but I am neither morose nor grey. I am whites and yellows and songs.
I go out - to the People Show, No 85 Fear of Dentists. I am pretty, young and desirable, I know it. I feel women's eyes on me, some in scorn, some in fear, some in desire. What do they see? I meet several people, old acquaintances and new faces. I notice my own timidity, yet, there in the film of people's memory is a slick-talking Paul. I talked to Johny, Rosy, Rowley, Vonny, Chihane tonight. Raoul growls. Rosy makes £40 busking. Vonny draws me a picture of what she makes at college. Chihane gives me the programme for future People Show performances. Johny goes with a bus to Europe, with Tessa etc. I think Dawn is beautiful - but I'm too timid to talk to her.
Rosina comes in. She has been with Richard.
Sunday 13 April
Rosina and I go for a trip, hitch-hiking around the marshes of Essex - Wallasea, Burnham, Wickford. It is not a pretty area, too flat to hold secrets. Bright sun, brilliant green fields with hard-baked earth, people's smiles, kite-flyers, dog-walkers, strollers along dikes, and gardeners. Throughout the day the only person I did not like was the ferry-man's wife - she robbed us indiscriminately. We saw ladybirds, butterflies, magpies, hawthorn, cherry blossom, last year's potatoes. We walked along the Crouch, watching the sailing boats fly up river with their spinnakers puffed out by wind. I took photographs of a derelict boatyard using it to frame the bright colours of the sails as they passed in the waters beyond. Another high point in the day was a small game with R on a railway crossing: for a few minutes I was a train getting closer and closer, then pulling into a station and pulling out, getting faster and faster and faster. I really was a train.
Rosina never held my hand; the only times she came close were in cars. I thought much about her today. I am unsure if she is scared of me. But I find myself scared of falling into some kind of stereotype relationship, behaving/acting in the hope of sex. She never makes advances to me, and I don't like having take the initiative all the time. For me, it seems similar to times with M two years ago, We grow up on the surface but grow down on the inside.
Among our rides today was a young man from the Criminal Intelligence Unit at New Scotland Yard. He was quite straightforward, and answered my pertinent questions openly. He told me about the disappointment of putting a case together over a long period of time and then having a jury bring in a non-guilty verdict. He said it made him feel sick - all that work put in brought to nothing in a moment. But he was enthusiastic about the job and over-emphasised the possibilities of getting on in the force. He responded to probes about corruption and maltreatment of prisoners with an aware-but-of-course-it-can't-be helped attitude. We are all humans after all. We also had a ride from an older man who talked of an accident five years ago. A car, on the wrong side of the road, drove straight into his VW van - a 120 mph impact. He had 27 fractures in his legs. Three of the four occupants of the other car were killed. The driver was a headmaster with three girls. They were part of a school party, which included a bus load of pupils, travelling to Holy Island. Every now and then, the headmaster had stopped and the girls in the car had swapped around with others on the bus. Two ten year old girls had died along with the headmaster. It was Valentine's day. Our driver said he had received £20,000 in compensation, but was always too timid to go and see the parents of the girls. And then there was a street trader from Petticoat Lane. He has a regular pitch every day except Sunday when he has go early to compete with others and the inspectors for the few spare pitches. Officially, he said, it costs £10 for a pitch, but unofficially he might pay £50. On a Sunday, though, he could take £400.
On Friday, I took part in a MORI meeting with Citibank. I noticed Esther's nervousness when it was her turn to speak. Her mind went blank once, and I was scared mine might do the same. How angry I get when my expectations of myself never meet the reality. Sometimes my timidity shocks me and sometimes my flamboyance does the same. At MORI I met a lady called Annabel.
Wednesday 16 April 1980
I live so quietly now. Listening to music. Journeying in to MORI. Seeing old acquaintances like Judy and Jean-Christophe and talking far too much about my yearnings. I am not sure what sort of relationship I have fallen into with Rosina. There is still sexual tension and yet there is not. Sometimes, I feel as though we are two characters left to make the best of the vacuum created by Harold leaving. But this quietness is my choice. I could go to Ibiza, Greece, Paris but I need to go through this dark career-seeking stage again. I have to.
I read a friend's poetry, it is like wot I used to write in Cardiff. I read my own creation - 'The Cruel Garden' - and realise a hippy wrote it. I am so far from any employment as a writer. So far from making a living in a style that I would.
Mum waters my plants while Julian is in Cornwall. H returns from Greece, he has been with Marielle. Colin is smiling. I get letters from Lynn and Jorgissimo. I suspect I am on the brink of an important love affair. Pray let her be English. I discover Kabelensky's cello concerto.
I met with Jan. She played the stoned hippy and I the charming playboy. She couldn't take my cynicism or my seeing straight through her. It feels like she had been treated as a queen for three weeks and expected me to do the same. We parted on a stupid and bitter note. Will she become a film star?. I went to the RFH and heard Shostakovitch 9 and Rhapsodie Espagnol. Divine. Concerts are a treat.
Did anything happen to me today? Did I go into the office and hear Michele's monotonous voice? Did Bob Worcester say hello? Did I write letters to looking for research work. For the third or fourth time today I feel like an adolescent. I am losing the flurry of confidence that the sun gave me since Ibiza. I see young professional companies, and notice, painfully, what I lack and how the world must me. It is quite frightening.
I am at the National Theatre very much wanting to see Amadeus - Shaffer being one of the best living playwrites, Lindsay Anderson one of the best directors and Paul Scofield one of the best actors. The NT is an impressive complex. One feels that it is working, alive and vital.
I do not remember what I did on Monday to Thursday. I realise absolutely the folly that runs screaming with laughter between my vain hopes, expectations, ideals and the reality. I feel a fool sitting here in the NT writing, but I keep telling myself so what. Beresford Egan reminds me of Aubrey Beardsley with a touch of futurism. Justin Todd is a paperback cover designer (but his name has too many syllables for a song). I hang around (that is the correct expression) waiting for free tickets to a Berlioz concert in the RFH.
Why do people spend their lives repeating conversations they heard the previous hour, day, week, year?
I read in the 'Economist' an appraisal of current theories about how the universe began. It described space and time as inseparable. The universe appears to be constantly expanding. So where is it expanding from? This question is a central point which has led to the development of the big bang theory. And before the big bang there was nothing? This does not seem probable, more likely the universe is expanding and shrinking in alternate eons. Why not a universal pulse with a beat every several hundred billion years. The problems with such a discussion - How did the universe begin? - are many, not least of which is the difficulty of enmeshing macro with micro sciences. To me it seems plainly obvious, why can't the whole universe just be the atom of another universe? The article goes around in circles and finally disappears into one of its own black holes. Why can't the universe always have existed and continue to exists for always? Trying to twist time into a mobius strip theory is just as foolhardy as using God to explain the bible. This article is like calling the colour of a wall green and then trying to explain the structure of the wall, with scientific definitions, in terms of the word green.
I write to Harold: 'Half words, half phrases, half worlds. I am in bits and pieces this morning. The straining ear - whose conversation is that? Filling jig-jag saws of all the words, who or what is hearing them? How are they heard? Indecision slaughters hours, and days lie bleeding between Tesco and the launderette. Attrition of weeks, even the months need their name in order to be remembered. And who would you believe to be the only white rose among the congealed blood of Time's war, but the old favourite, the water-baby, sitting on the paving stones with knees bent, pretending to be a mermaid, sitting close to a rectangular pond whose night was once more cold for than any un-realised dream. I talk in riddles and use words too strong for their compounded sense. I am left unsatisfied talking to you from this room famous for its whispering walls and Ziggy the lover, the dream of streams of complex reproductions. I am left unsatisfied like Ziggy when she has her sign - 'Technician coming' - hanging. Love Paul.'
21 April 1980
L phones from Argentina at 4:00 in the morning; my voice is loud, false and decidedly unpassionate. Rosina is poking me in the side wanting to go back to sleep. I do not like the way I am handling this. I cheapen it because L is so serious. In a letter today I tell her I am a drop of honey. Lick it and it is gone. Things happen as they happen. It is a cooler of a letter.
I start to call this year a fallow year. I listen to Shostakovitch, a Russian voice and choir emotionally describing an execution. At the end of Atkins Road, two boys throw a white frisbee between them; to my left the sun glints its last rays across the rooves of the terraced houses of William St. This is Leyton.
Just as L saved me from loneliness and self-pity at the beginning of the year, so now Rosina warms me as I love her. I let myself love her quiet and sweet ways. She only gains, because she knows me too well to fall for me, and yet she has me here when she wants, when she has finished with her social life for the day or week. I am grateful that she is here. It is now almost three months that I lie in this vacuum.
I finish 'Meeting in Alicante' which attempts to portray the inevitability of an encounter between two strangers in a strange place and the inevitable outcome. It is a touch sad and a touch comic, though the characters are only half drawn and weak. I have started writing nothing new.
I gave the house plants a shower. It hasn't rained for almost two weeks. Mum says she wants the cannabis out of Hodford Road (but I think she is secretly swinging, liking a little touch of danger in her life).
'Apocalypse Now' at the Walthamstow Granada. It was about one man's mission to find another soldier who had set himself up as a guru in the middle of the Vietnam War, in the middle of the jungle. The whole film is a forced tribute to the war, it over-stayed at almost every set, and every take. Yes, there were some beautiful images, some gritty-zangy music. Some of the helicopter shots in the film were magnificent.
Tuesday 22 April
I hear my hamburger sizzle. Now it is bought. Almost everybody I have visited in the last week has been out, its almost as though I will them to be out. I have never really learnt to socialise. I notice Rosina goes hither and thither with her men friends whereas I go to see 'Apocalypse Now', Shostakovitch, 'Cymbeline' all alone. It is difficult not to question this behaviour. I hear the steaming of my coffee. I am in the middle of the Hammersmith roundabout.
Janet's simple praise of my report made me feel good. So did the simple ditty I left at the Coombes and Ball residence when they weren't in: 'Just popped in for some popcorn but when I pressed the button nothing crackled.'
Sartre died last week. Small, stolid and bald. The critics compare him to Voltaire. Yet I find some of his beliefs and ideas naive. For example I was talking to Rosina the other night about how we are all subject to trends in fashion. I mentioned Simone de Beauvoir's autobiography in which she writes about how she and Sartre were susceptible to trends, something they only realised late in life - most of their lives they had thought themselves individualists. And then, this afternoon, I read an interview in the Observer (found on the tube) in which Sartre talked of hope and despair. His attitude to despair, he said, was taken from Kierkegaard until, that is, he realised he didn't know despair. He was just a victim of intellectual fashion, he said. In the interview he also talked of Hegel and Shakespeare in the same breath. I must read some Hegel. The Observer sports a large picture of he and Simone, old and weary, arm in arm, walking the streets. Despite all the turmoil of their relationship it survived all their lives.
A peer from the House of Lords, an MP, barristers and even vicars were discovered at a brothel raid in south London!
I flew in the Science Museum. A television camera is trained onto a ramp. Upon this ramp you can lie or lean your body. The camera picks up your image but filters out the colour of the ramp, and then superimposes the picture on film of an aerial voyage. The composite is shown on a screen in front of the ramp. I am Superman. Now I swoop across the river, now across the fields, now I am high in the air, now I feel the air, now, at last, I am free.
Thursday 24 April
I discover microscopic insects in the soil of my favourite plants. I have a dull headache today.
I spend most nights with Rosina at the moment. I am happy to have her warmth and affection in these days.
I finish 'The Shepherd', the last of the Corsican stories. I think it is well written and constructed, but not very exciting.
Will I go to Aldeburgh this weekend. I doubt it.
On St George's Day, red roses arrive from Spain for Rosina. Also Georgissimo and George's wife Michele both rang. I speak to Colin on the phone, he has a good time but lazes. He met Emmanuella on the boat.
Saturday 26 April, Aldeburgh
Cold. I am chilled to the bones. It is difficult to be comfortable. It's suddenly winter. Although Phil is not here, I hear from Andrew that he is in good form. He has a new lover and a new job, at Westminster School!. I toss around ideas for stories/novels based here in Aldeburgh, perhaps based on the small pink house with turquoise roof tiles that stands isolated on the promenade. It is called Fantasia. My hand is too cold to write any more. Perhaps I'll go back to London.
Saturday night, Leyton
These really are depressing times for me. I feel incapable and very small. I continue to visit people who are not in. I go away and the fates conspire against me. My restlessness eats away at me. I am directionless and very nearly friendless. I treat life too playfully. I cannot take it seriously. Back in Aldeburgh I trailed behind Andrew and Bambi walking to the pub, and suddenly curled up in uncontrollable and hysterical laughter. If either of them had turned around I would not have been able to explain myself. And sitting in a car on the way back to London I sensed all the other lives overtaking us and being overtaken by us. I see myself a puppet: the driver says something, I respond. This constant self-perspective is fucking hard to live with. There are tears in my eyes and sadness and loneliness tonight. It would all disappear in a trifle if Rosina came home, but she has her own life, and she is right do so, because I use her. I am so fickle. Nothing holds me. I cry at my own isolation once again.
I drink too much whisky, and, for the first time, perceive the possibility of turning to drink. Similarly, I perceive of the possibility of having a nervous breakdown. I listen to Peter Grimes. The light is dim, the curtain drawn, all contact with the world is shut off. But I don't want this, I want to be at a party, in bed with a woman, on a boat across oceans, dancing. . . My hold on reality is very light.
I should mention the abortive attempt by the Americans to rescue their hostages in Tehran. Apparently, there was a mechanical failure in three helicopters, two of them crashed before the hostages were even collected. A world sensation. Nobody quite believed it had happened. Especially us Europeans who had just offered to support the US if it took no military action. The whole operation was a farce, and might have sparked off a war.
Sunday 27 April
This weekend the diary really is a substitute for someone to talk to. On the underground I met two fat girls. They live in the YWCA. When I asked why they had come to London, one of them said because in London you get the chance to sit next to attractive men on trains. It was such a spontaneous comment that I kept remember it all day and felt silly for doing so.
DREAM: A child fell down a hillside couldn't stop herself rolling. I rolled super fast to catch her but by the time I was level with her she had stopped. She was not hurt.
Analysis of a morning: Finally dragging myself out of bed at 10.30, I go to the newspaper kiosk to find there are no papers left. I make toast and tea and wonder what to do today. I put 'Spartacus' on the hi-fi. What am I going to do today? I know Peter is coming at 7pm. My thoughts are a mixture of: 1) I want to be with someone. Who can I ring Paul, Michele, Mum, Julian, Rowley, Vonny? But I don't ring any of them, I just keep thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of each one. 2) Rosina hasn't been here all day and I would like to be not here for a while too. 3) Wanting to write. Logically looking at the day, all the hours, and telling myself this is the time to write. Hating myself for not having the discipline, just to get a story together. The music, the clock, the cars outside, the thoughts of loneliness etc all invade my concentration. Inevitably, I take another cup of tea. My mind does not want to think. I don't want to read, that's too easy an escape. It is almost as though I refuse not to feel my loneliness, as though I must wallow in it.
This morning I cried and cried and cried. I truly wept. And Rosina comforted me. Why did I weep? What depths of depression? Where did such reserves of tears appear from? And Rosina made love to my tears. I don't think I've let anyone be so sweet and kind to me before. It occurred to me that I had never cried in someone's arms. Rosina these pages are for you. I give you my love and kisses. No te vayas. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Paul K Lyons
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