PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1986 - MARCH
Saturday 1 March
March 1 already and I am unprepared for the new year of my story. Workwise, things only seem to be tightening up, not easing. I took a trip to a dermatologist this week, worried not only about a growing mark in my groin but some red spots on my penis. Momentarily, I was worried that I had picked up herpes from E or E, but the more I thought about it the less likely it seemed. The doctor told me the problem on my scalp was psoriasis. Really has no one told me that before? Why have I never concluded that? The psoriasis clearly comes and goes with physical and mental well-being, but it is not therefore a direct result of my scratching due to nervous tension. On my feet, he said, it is probably a mixture of psoriasis and fungus. On my groin, there is a fungus. On my penis, psoriasis. He convinced me of the need to have some tests done, which I did later that day.
Then, the next day, he told me I have a lot of fungus. So much fungus that it has taken over half my big toe-nail. I did not even mention this, but he noticed it. Because the marked nail is affected by fungus, it could take up to six months to get rid of with pills. I am now on those pills. With a top spray, the fungus around the genitals has already begun to disappear. It is a sort of ringworm, the doctor confirmed, but when I said I thought I might have had it on my scalp too, because of the marked shaped of some of the sores, he dismissed the idea. Apparently ringworm goes to the scalp only in children. But I am so sure of the ring shape that appears sometimes, that I wonder if I am not an exception, and that I haven’t had this fungus for a very long time. It will be interesting to see if I stop scratching my head and feet in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, that badly crafted filling in my left lower molar has begun to hurt with chewing, perhaps it is coming loose. And a large lump has arisen on the side of my neck without explanation.
Now that March is here, now that carnival is over, now that the people, including me, have returned from their holidays, I must begin again, my routines which I so easily give up to the air. The getting up at 7:30, the reading over breakfast or the writing in the diary, the yoga, the regular swims, the thinking, the hard work. And another fiction story - two stories for the whole year is weak - it is not as if I have been very busy.
But what to do about Elaine/Emiliana. With Elaine who I see two or three times in the week, I am a passionate lover, lustfully enjoying the sex of bodies, gliding, sweating, teasing, fighting; but with Emiliana, I barely want to touch her. There is a need about her physicality that inclines me to turn off, the emotion climbing up above the sex demanding of attention, but it is more, I just do not seem to like her body enough. Is this because I have such good sex with Elaine. Would Emiliana be more interesting if I weren’t sleeping with the sultry brown flautist too. I may give Emiliana psychological headaches, she gives me psychological tirednesses.
While I sit here, in an unusual afternoon cool, writing of indulgent matters, of my brother and me, the whole of Brazil is moving. The very fabric of people’s lives is changing its woof and its warp. A courageous and daring economic plan has been announced to 130m Brazilian people: all prices (without exception) are frozen. The old price indexing with ORTNs is abandoned. The Cruzeiro is replaced by the Cruzado. The minimum salary is raised. Rents are to be readjusted to the Cruzado by a formula and fixed for one year. There is no control on wages and the government guarantees that purchasing power will not be reduced. Loan repayments are to be converted to Cruzados depending on a formula published in the papers. President Sarney, in his appeal to the people, declared it a war of life and death against inflation and called on the people to make sure prices remained frozen. Hamburger chains, McDonalds and Bob, were raided yesterday for trying to put up prices, but they claimed this was planned beforehand.
Olof Palme was assassinated last night while leaving the cinema in his home town Stockholm. This has rightly shocked the world. Sweden is a model of liberation, civilisation and moderation. Murder and Sweden are not two words that go together. Indeed, choose a European premiere to be assassinated and think of Sweden last. And no clues. No idea. No reasons. A senseless act, the Pope says. Not only was Palme a respected leader of the Swedes themselves but he had also developed a major international reputation for peacemaking, and as a leader of international socialists.
Sunday 2 March
We decide to rent a boat. The shop seems to be on a high street but the manager climbs into a motor-boat and proceeds to thrash it around in the small square of water inside shop until he can squeeze it through the doorway outside for us. This involves much manoeuvring in very rough water. One of us, four or five (I don’t know who they are) takes the helm but then everyone disappears as we dive down the high street of the main town. I am left holding the accelerator, gripping it, without knowing what to do. The boat is moving very slowly, but I fear if I let go, it will get out of control. When another boat comes I manoeuvre ours by pedalling my spare hand in the water. I see some of us in a long hall of a gift shop or gallery. I find my brother and realise that I must arrange for him to go home. One of us thinks of a taxi but then through the back entrance of the gift shop we find some lorries - one is willing to take him. Finally I deliver the motorboat to all my friends already in the water (a river or sea I cannot tell) they all jump in and dive off without me! Another time the lorry carrying a boat drives down the steepest of inclines right into the water to let the boat out, somebody explores it but can’t reverse. This time I am on the boat, it is on a lake which doesn’t seem very big. I remember an exquisite small beautiful woman dressed in white holding a beautiful baby almost too small to be true. I am folding the woman up in my arms and wanting to love her. Our cheeks are touching. Later this girl and Marcello disappear and I understand they are involved together. Emiliana is there too, very faintly.
I am sleeping so badly at present. Needing to go to the toilet so many times in the night. Always needing water. It may be the heat. It may be the pills. It may be my state of nerves.
An odd loop is occurring in my head. Several times a day now I stop and remember something that I just thought about and meant to do once I’d finished what I was currently doing. So I’ve put the coffee on to warm. I return to the lounge to open the window. I return to the kitchen - notice the empty water bottle and think to fill it - to check on the coffee. While I am pouring the coffee out my head nags at me - something, something, something. And I remember. This probably occurs to everybody in the world and has always occurred to me, but the frequency is now becoming noticeable.
A grey cooler day. Shosty’s cello concerto on the tape smoothing me. Letters from friends have been rare and welcome birds recently. Yesterday from Judy and Rob, settling into their Stoke Newington habitat, baby beginning to laugh, the socialist newspapers now being delivered, cats frolicking in the garden. A smiling contentment settles over Judy’s letter. There is a niche there that they have found. Perhaps I too aspire for a period of tranquillity embracing the middle and professional classes of Stoke Newington and Notting Hill Gate. Relaxing into the fold, having children, making friends as a couple and so on. Rob has given up public health engineering for the time being to join some colleagues in a new venture, involving more computing. He says the work is hard, and as yet not as satisfactory as his previous job for an Arab company.
Prior to Judy’s letter, the last one I had was from Harvey with pics. In a similar way to Judy, he highlights the details of a life of the relaxed couple - time for plants, food, wine, conversation. But Harvey is both more intellectual and personal in his letter. He was, I remember, rarely given to talking about personal matters but now, here in his letter, I get the following: ‘When we were in London I felt older than you. You were going through your Harold period. You lacked confidence. You are a slow developer. Part of you wants to belong to the English establishment, the other part of you needs the amoral stance of the artist. Your stories were more interesting than Henry Miller’s but like him you hadn’t left a certain little boy fixation behind. I remember reading one story about Amsterdam with pleasure. Does this mean our friendship has no basis of mutual respect. Respect is not pertinent here, interest is. Somehow I feel I will never respect anyone for their work, but mainly I think it is interest and stimulus. I don’t know you (why were you competitive over my women?), but we have a remote friendship. You are more like me than you think. We have no true nationality, we like independence. When I met your father I was struck by how caught up he was in the scene and how he had taken on the total promotion of his wife without being able to be objectively critical. You are not a sycophant. Where do we take it from here? The subjects must be raised, the observations. Commitment to make known the hidden. Documentation should be filled with real life scenarios, biased and full of writers’ gut reactions.’
Now the clouds have really come and taken over, mighty grey ones competing with the hills for size. It is Sunday evening, I have regained some of my peace. A quiet day swimming, writing letters to Angela, Dad, Mum and Raoul, reading and finishing Russell’s autobiography of his early days. It makes me so green, as I wrote to Angela, to be reminded of the rich lives some people lead from a very early age profiting from contact with others on an intellectual plane. So many people, so many friendships weave through his early life. So many influences, so many things learnt from contact debate with contemporaries and others. Look at my past, Colin from school, Philip from university, and a handful of friends made in the last few years. On the whole, though, I’m disappointed by the plainness of his narrative and the dullness of his anecdotes. It is more a record for prosperity than a literary work. Not enough of thy whys and wherefores, the forces that shaped his thinking, and the hows. I shall find a biography, and learn more.
Emiliana sits reading ‘Jornal do Brasil’. When Elaine rings my voice is non-committed and deadpan. Having written and read all day, I find the need to go out and be entertained. Oh but where?
Brazil learns to live with the Cruzado. For us foreigners life will not be so cheap. Already the black market has slipped back from 17,500 to 15,000. At one time, on Thursday afternoon, it was over 20,000. If I had changed by $700 cheque then instead of today, I would be nearly $200 richer. I don’t think anyone really expects inflation to fall to zero, but it will fall, for a while, to a low enough level not to give us foreigners the 30-50% black market advantage we have been used to.
In my ivory tower, I get little chance to talk to people, but the Paul Lyons straw poll on the Cruzado plan notes a) popular enthusiasm; b) newspaper support; c) virtually no criticism from any quarter; d) general favourableness among other journalists; e) ‘The Economist’ running a leader, largely favourable, but as far as it goes. Sounds like a standard ploy when it doesn’t know what else to say. Of course the gut reaction is to think that the measures are largely superficial and that there must be some bigger forces grinding away which will soon surface. But the reality is that the mechanisms of inflation are so fed by the symptoms that the cycle becomes engrained in the way of life. Cure the symptoms and you may go a long way to killing the illness.
Another plague has hit me: diarrhoea. All day I’ve been shitting buckets of brown water. Really, I seem to be some sort of illness depository. What has caused this load of shits I can’t tell - perhaps drinking a lot of beer with Neco last night. The pills for my fungus are hard on the liver, and I battered the whole system the other day.
Neco believes one of the clubs could have dropped a ‘bolinha’ in my drink. He says its common. Someone else also suggested it also. A Mickey Finn would make sense of my rather stupefied state and the consequent illness - too much for an ordinary drunk. Back to the boites to see why or wherefore. The first boite we visited, Don Juan, found its customers by the use of energetic boys, behaving not much differently to sheep dogs with sheep. The grass over there may appear a bit shinier, greener, taller, juicier but a forceful enough dog will keep his sheep in place trekking to the right pen. So we let ourselves be herded into Don Juan. The shock of being sat within touching distance of two naked youths having sex of some sort left Julian somewhat speechless. Here it costs 80,000 with the right to two drinks. The show, mechanical and unerotic, lasted 20 minutes. For another hour we glared at the half dozen prostitutes that danced and wiggled around us in various states of undress, barely one of them pleasing us with her looks or body. Was it in this rather seedy, low-grade, small club that I was slipped me a Mickey Finn, desperate for the custom I might bring them if slightly more stupefied?
We stopped at the higher class Barbarella’s for J to see the difference. It is altogether a different proposition, much larger and full to teasing with really beautiful girls. This time, the cost was 120,000, but the show was more subtle and varied. A rather plain girl tacked onto Julian, teasing his thigh, dancing with him, while I played/teased with two girls. I suppose I was already quite drunk and acted hellishly arrogant. How better to put off a girl than tell her I never paid for it, never will. Julian’s was asking for $100. I queried the bill when it came for being double what it should have been. The waiter said he thought we were leaving with the girls. The bill came back halved. But was it here in Barbarella’s that one of the girls took offence at my ugly arrogance and whispered to the waiter to make me suffer with a Mickey Finn?
Incidentally, John was here this afternoon to collect his final bits - he revealed rather too much knowledge about the boites to be consistent with his previous professed ignorance. He revealed, for example, that at Barbarella’s, the owner knows all the girls personally and if they come to the club they have to stay to the end unless they pick up a man - and there is a certain amount/percentage which they are obliged to pay him.
I don’t ever remember seeing green in the sky before (a vague memory stirs of a Bolivian sky but I can’t be sure). This evening the sky behind Corcovado possessed glints of gold, pure white, streaks of cloud still and areas of pastel green. No doubt. No trick of mine eyes. Pastel green clouds. (Now, I remember. That sky in Bolivia had a rainbow coloured cloud - extraordinary.)
Thursday 7 March
I am with a group of people visiting some gardens. Barbara is full of life and bouncing around. She is dressed in a white shirt, white trousers and a knitted pattern jumper, largely ochre yellow and sleeveless. In a large public toilet for men, Barbara entered and told me that the washing facilities in the women’s were no good and proceeded to stand at the central line of basins and wash her hands and face. She went on about wanting to be independent and different from the rest. When she left, a good looking man rushed after her but stopped at the small window to watch her walk away and said ‘that’s the sort of woman he wants’.
Then there is the motor racing track. At one moment I (and others) are in the commentary box. The others note, once the race is under way, that they can only see half the straight. It is true the view shows only half the main track. The others remember that I warned them of this. There appears to be lots of other traffic. I can’t understand but assume the rest of the traffic will be herded off before the racing cars arrive. I trek across the spectator area to the refreshment stand. There I am given a big chocolate and vanilla cone and expected to sell it. Lots of others have the same cones which they are being given from a central point and then spreading out to sell. I finally give mine to another seller who sells it to a customer. It dawns on me I won’t get the money or commission. The next time I find a customer for a chocolate and vanilla cone there are no cones available. (I notice there are some sorbet machines which people are now using.) I go to the counter for a chocolate and vanilla cone. There is an elaborate system for making them in quantity - well there is a machine to make six. The maker is not ready for another batch nevertheless he tries to make one specially for me. (This is really from a custard pie farce - and how very rarely does humour creep into my dreams.) A layer of custard, then cream, then a circular chocolate whirl are held in place by a metal framework - by this time it’s not a batch just one large ice cream, a six by two inches rectangle. The problem is the custard which hasn’t yet set and thus won’t come out of the metal frames. It all turns into a mess. Eventually the maker pours the various constituents into a long thin glass. I walk away unable to take my money yet again. I walk to a lively tent where, of all things, a tug-of-war is taking place. One side wins quickly, the side made up of women, while the losing team, I think are men.
Friday 8 March
I am on a plane or train. Creeping up alongside I see terrorists of the Baader Meinhof gang (dressed in one-piece leather suits carrying sub-machine guns). I move towards the back of the carrier (it is long and open). I don’t know whether to watch or escape. When I am spotted for some reason, they all start firing and chasing me. I flee, the terrorists have become primitive with bows and arrows. I manage to keep ahead of them, arriving at a forest first. I start going one way then backtrack through a little-known part of the forest. I am sure that my pursuers (now in their thousands) have taken the wrong track. Eventually, I come across a village almost frozen in time, so tranquil, so old-fashioned. I ask the barmaid if she remembers me and if my parents are still alive. She reproaches me mildly for thinking they might be. At the bar is a stranger who tries to overhear our conversation. I have a premonition that he will report to my pursuers where I am. Nevertheless I manage to forget him, and them, and spend restful days/weeks in the place, apparently where I was born.
One day a whole group of strangers appear in the town, mostly women and children acting as tourists. I recognise them as belonging to the race of my pursuers and denounce them. They are herded back into their buses and moved out of town. But my peace is gone. I think to escape or hide in a dugout. But the next thing I know is that an enormous troop camp has been set up with its battle front lining the road to the village and the encampment stretching way back into the fields. I am just arriving when the alarm is given. I dive behind one of the constructed protective stands, and cause some alarm because no one recognises me. But the captain or leader then leads me to the barracks where I have a room smaller than a toilet. I can barely shut the door with me inside. The toilet (always a toilet huh! because I need to go so often in the night) is in the hall in public view. When the enemy arrive, they appear to arrive as friends in truce and the stands in our troop front line are quickly converted into bars and the enemy buys drinks and chats with our troops. While we are completely off guard, they declare the amnesty is over and begin to attack (they actually run off to get arms, but I can’t say for sure because the dream ends).
The radio plays Mendelssohn’s ‘Dreams of a summer’s night’. It is delicate and pleasant. I like the sung middle part, but none of it blends in well with the hot sticky atmosphere of this hour of the evening which I loathe. I can never manage to concentrate or do anything constructive in these hours after dark.
What a rotten job this is. Look at it this way. Everything I write I expect to be used. Therefore I am constantly disappointed. It is an endless uphill struggle with only ever negative rewards. This week I was knocked off balance by a meeting with Shell, telling me that I would have to rewrite my reforestry piece because several interested partners were not in agreement with it. A matter of diplomacy, since several people were not consulted, and they have got in a huff. Then Paul Maidment at ‘The Economist’ rang about the petrochemical story which I’ve tried to sell him various times, he was persuaded in the end, but I hated my nervousness (and I can’t forget that Turner is now doing more work for him than me). Today a letter came from Oilgram’s Onnic Marashia, the first communication I’ve had, declining a long story I sent him calling it a stream of consciousness - very funny. Then Rik at Reuters tells me that Reuters pay journalists $800 a month for a weekly cocoa report. That’s twice what I get for my market reports. Why does every single journalist here seem to be on a better deal than me. And I am not progressing. If anything I think I’m going backward. Oh, and I forget one other thing: I got two ‘New Scientist’s’ in the post this week both lacking the stories I had sent. SOUR SOUR GRAPES
Before I forget I wanted to mention Neco, he with whom I play squash occasionally. I first met him in Buzios, a friend of Marcelo, a friend of Emiliana. He has a ‘jeito’ similar to that of Julian, and I thought the two would get on well, however I failed to fix up a meeting. It transpires that Neco was not well the last couple of weeks following a bust with his girlfriend. He had become very drunk at a party and insisted on going with a girl he had just met to the exclusion of his year-long girlfriend. He packed her off home (gave her a lift I think) then took the newly met friend to a hotel. In the morning, of course, he repented of his actions, hardly able to understand them. It took him three weeks to repair the damage. After telling this story, I told him about ___ and his manic behaviour, and how he had called his girlfriend from a lover’s bed with a delight he wanted to share. Then, I was about to describe how all those around him - doctor, girlfriend, parents - were recommending lithium, but before I got this far, Neco interrupted me to say he had been on lithium for two years; and he told me about his two manic attacks, one of which resulted in him being in a sanatorium for a month.
Monday 10 March
A very depressing letter arrives from Julian. 1) Mum’s friend Honzo Schneider has died; 2) Mum has lost her job; 3) Melanie has been made redundant; 4) Daisy [dog] has had a heart attack and won’t live for much longer; 5) Amy [lodger] is moving out of 13 Aldershot Road.
There’s a package of news to keep anyone happy. It depresses me almost to tears to think of Mum worrying so about how to pay the next car damage or roof bill, and to think of her moping around all week now with nothing to do. And to think of Dad’s problems, thrown as it were from a life of luxury back into the daily life of petty business just to keep his company afloat.
I spent most of the weekend with Emiliana, but there is a serious mismatch of personalities. She is trying hard to please me. What do I do but turn back with indifference. In bed is the worst. I find a dozen excuses to avoid too much physical contact. There is something cloying and anxious always about her. When she touches me, I feel like I am a doll of hers. She is not at rest with her body or her mind. On Sunday, it got worse. We left at dawn to drive to Mangaratiba, so from there we could take the boat to Ilha Grande. We managed to arrive four minutes too late for the boat. So the rest of the day we drove from village to village. I wanted to walk and stroll around, but I always felt this was not for the city girl, who is used to spending her weekends lying on the beach. She has a lazy mind, and a lazy body - it’s harsh but that’s what I feel. Certainly there was no enthusiasm at all to know or revisit these places. It drains me being with her, there is no fun, no joy in travelling with Emiliana. I am drawn often to think of Barbara. The one so lacking in spark, the other so sparkling. I don’t know where it will go from here. I was ugly on the return. She was worried about running out of petrol, but her worry irritated me. I was sure there would be gas stations open once we reached Rio. She mentioned it so often, I ended up shouting that there would be some open, and demanding to know how many more times would I have to say it. But I was wrong. Arrogant and wrong. I am battering her down. Her resistance is growing thin. If she would only keep her distance, not want so much adolescent snuggling, we could be friends. I can’t see much future.
Meanwhile, Elaine sits patiently on the sidelines. Like a secret mistress, we make love passionately and at every meeting. I do not feel good resigning her to that role, but she accepts and it is good for me. At the very least our bodies like each other, and we listen one to the other the troubles of the week. Sometimes, I think Elaine is wasting her time continuing to study flute, for she will never be good enough for a professional. I feel sorry and pity for her, throwing all that hope and energy into it. But I am only projecting my own failings without applying them to myself. My writing stories is no different, no different at all. I will never be a very good writer. I will never have the memory to enrich my writing to a publishable standard. Why do I go on. My dreams are just as hollow, as vain. I must find a modest ambition, an attainable niche, and run for protection.
Julian and I are travelling in a Mini, it is convenient to give Cecilia a lift. We have to wait a bit for her. I especially get irritated while she makes one final long call. She seems to have a lot of luggage. The beginning of the journey does not go well. We are just to arrive at the beginning of the motorway when a big crunch occurs. I stop the car off the road. I think a mechanic comes but the only problem is that my brace (I used to wear one as an adolescent) is broken. I throw it away wondering why I am still wearing it after all these years.
Can I really have been so pre-occupied with self not to record the coming of the Cruzado. The whole of Brazil has been talking about it this two weeks. Ah, there lies the error - initially, I only checked back a week, and of course the Cruzado is there in these pages, faithfully documented. Another moment of history. It seems that Brazil is creating history all the time. But of course, I am living in one of the most fruitful and moving times of the century. 20 years earlier, history wasn’t being made every day.
So, two weeks on the Cruzado remains popular, the government reflects in the glory. Problems are ironed out along the way. There is a risk, for example, of suppliers holding onto stocks, in the hope of inflation returning and their returns on higher prices would be worth the waiting. This seems to be the case with meat. The government has, however, learnt from the mistakes in Argentina and claims to have sufficient stocks of meat to meet demand. Our supergroup of foreign correspondents had an interview with Fernando Lopes, the economic architect of the both the Austral and the Cruzado. He hopes for zero inflation for three months, and an ideal would be 6-7% for the year. Argentina is running at 20% but even that is to be preferred to several hundred percent.
The ordinary people are still with it. Much of the attention continues to be focused on ensuring that stores keep prices at about the government level. Supermarket managers are being arrested every day, denounced by an ever-watchful public who go around with price lists in hand. A telephone service has even begun - ring for the right price. I suspect that many of the denouncements being made are resulting from simple errors. The case in the paper this morning concerns a man who bought a 100% tablet of butter. At the cash desk, he was charged Cz1.59 but he astutely knew that the set price for a pack of four such tablets was Cz5.75, so that the price for one ought to be Cz1.43 (this is a difference of 1p, i.e. between 8p and 7p). Valdir Short, 32, said it was the third time since the price freeze that he had been over-charged. Those times I just had a word with the manager, but this time was too much, he said. The check out girl took some of the blame. She said she should never have allowed one tablet alone to be bought. This is a quarter page story in ‘Jornal do Brasil’.
Even to go out to the cinema alone at 9:30 I have apathy problems. I tried Tuesday and failed. Last night I made it to the Flamengo cinema to see ‘Casablanca’. The cinema has at least 1,000 seats, I’ll swear, but there was me and one other couple. It has been playing for a while, perhaps they have nothing else to show. It is such a charming film, and the most charming character, the police chief, is a complete rogue, yet we love him. Bogart is wooden, and Bergman is melodramatic, but what a team, the screen takes on a third and fourth dimension, the latter being an emotional thickness - you want to send for the map when Ingrid tears, or pick up the glass yourself that Humphrey knocks over in distress. And Sam’s melodies ring in the ears long after the cinema has closed its doors. As for Victor Lazlow, he and his type will always win attractive women.
Thinking about tension: the new story I’m writing about Veronica and Vee needs tension. They’re on a trip to Rio, and Veronica gets caught up, as always, in a mystery. In London, she meets a Brazilian journalist who is on the track of the murderers of his friend. They fly to Rio on the same plane but he disappears. The plot relies on the journalist placing some important papers into Veronica’s hand luggage without her knowing. Up until seeing ‘Casablanca’ again last night, I had thought my reader would only discover this when Veronica did. Why do I make it difficult for myself. Add tension. Let the reader know the papers are there, waiting to be discovered. In ‘Casablanca’ the transit forms sitting on the piano form a hot spot on the screen that almost burns a hole in it.
Having a little rummage around in my past today. Why? There is no pressing work to do. An English girl just called, she had such a sweet crystal voice that left me with saudades for England. And why? Because I’m also on a downer. And I beg my indulgence. Several times today I’ve had that horrible sinking feeling. I don’t remember getting it so often and so regularly since my quasi-breakdown in 1980. I think I am losing a framework again. I am living in isolation, no supportive contact with colleagues. It is tiring and testing my already fragile security. The shock, the blow, the planned test it can cope with, but this subtle whittling away, this noticing of every small act against me, and dismissing all positives is getting serious. I need more involvement. Involvement in what?
The future worries me. The present worries me. My lack of society worries me. It worries me that almost all the poetry has gone out of my life and work.
This is not so different from my time on Corsica. I am imprisoned in a cell. The bars are language. I can see out, enjoy the view, but to travel truly in the land I need to be less restricted. If I were to lead my life on a light plane, a more superficial level I would click better with the natives, language would be less of a problem. As I am, I am a straight jacket here.
Yet laugh at me. I could not be better off. A lovely flat. A miraculous maid, providing me with food and cleanliness and adoring me too. Two girlfriends both supportive and undemanding of my security. Plenty of money. Freedom. No, it is the personality of the man that is at fault, that is crying again for more. That will ever want to leap up waterfalls till he come to the source of the fountain, and there bide his time bathed by the healing waters of the core of the world.
Richard Rodney Bennett: until the World Service programme a few days ago I had never hear of him. Resident in the US, he is a British contemporary of Maxwell-Davies. He has been around a long time already and is well known for his film scores. But the BBC programme emphasised how prolific he has been and how consistently good across a broad band of types of music, encompassing film, jazz and classical. On air was part of the first performance of a song cycle called ‘Love Songs’ composed at the request of Robert Tear I think. The music sounded good, I wanted more. How could I have gone all these years without his name in my head.
Philippa Potts called me. She edits the Latin America reviews for the Economist group. A useful contact because she knows the editor of the energy reviews and thinks they want some minimal stringer input. And when I go back, maybe, maybe, at least it opens up another door to a waiting room so to speak. How pleasant it was to talk to an English woman, soft, soft-spoken, a gentility in manner, lost among the sharper customs of Brazil. A nearer model to Barbara than I’ve talked to since being away from England.
Elaine Batista came round once I was home. Exercises with her magic sponge and a massage didn’t manage to arouse me out of my cold mood - silent and aggressive in alternative minutes. But the love-making culminated in that much sought after mutual orgasm, when the internal fire lights up a magnificent bulb of brilliance. Elaine has come a long way from a tense and rigid body (sexually any way) she has learnt to relax quickly and efficiently, often times taking her pleasure now before mine.
I am put in prison again (I don’t know why). There is a long queue of people waiting to register for the prison. But a second queue forms and I manage to register quickly. When I show my token, the man snorts out ‘international’ where all the others have been ‘national’. He goes behind to get me my new token, shaped like a wafer, it is black. He throws it to me. I catch it. Then I go back along the line, far against the wall are hundreds of games all neatly stacked waiting for the owners to re-collect them to entertain themselves in prison. Many of the games are jigsaw puzzles. (In Sears the other day I was looking for a chess set and I saw rows of jigsaw puzzles). Eventually, I find my pile. It is just a book (or map) and a pocket chess set. But all the pieces have spilled. I collect them up and count them (a stranger helps me). There are too many, and besides there are four white knights, and no black knights. I say it doesn’t matter I can colour them. There also appears to be a shortage of black pawns but I say to the stranger that this doesn’t matter. I make a mental note to ask a visitor to buy me one of the full-sized boards and book of chess problems. It seems I have been in the same prison before for two months or so. I don’t know if this is remembering another dream or an earlier part of the same dream.
A quiet day. The clocks moved back an hour, so I was up at 6am. The sea water was clean enough, inviting, so I swam early too. It is an entirely different sensation swimming in the early morning. I am struggling to describe it though. Perhaps it is the element of spartan-ness, the invigoration, waking, sensation stimulating alertness where before there was only sleepiness. Perhaps the air is still cooler than later in the day, and this too adds a noticeable difference.
Sunday Monday Tuesday
There’s very little left of this dream. It seems three people arrive at a virgin forest, or new world and decide (or have it decided for them) that they will settle in three different places all very near to each other and equidistant. One of the three is highly sensitive (this recalls the World Service science fiction play at Christmas) and is the first to meet the green people. He falls in love with one he sees wondering in the forest. They have a moment of telepathic communication. At first, the others don’t believe but later they come across whole communities - these people are more intelligent and advanced than they are (I think the green people must come from the ‘The Green Child’ by Herbert Read).
The weekend though was empty of interest, of excitement. Friday night I went to the cinema alone. Saturday with Emiliana. Both films were good. ‘Agnes of the Gods’ about a psychiatrist’s attempt to understand the deeper workings of a religious maniac. The plot was interesting, the development controlled, Ann Bancroft as the Christ-struck nun was fine, but I really can’t take Jane Fonda in the stereotyped middle-aged neurotic role. ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ is a straight thriller taken from Le Carre’s excellent novel. Emiliana had trouble understanding the convolutions of the storyline, but fortunately there was a film breakdown in the middle which gave ‘gente’ a chance to explain. Sunday night I took Philippa Potts to Degrau - the fish was lousy - but we chatted non-stop, UK politics, London, work, South America. How pleasant it was to converse so. I thought I had forgotten how.
During the day on Saturday, during the day on Sunday, I did nothing but write letters and write and think about the Vee story. I can’t imagine why my life is so dull, why I don’t have the facility to socialise with people. It has become a chronic problem. I write a long letter to Harvey trying to respond to his stimulus on hedonism. I decline to get too personal by not answering his accusations about women.
Last night also alone - reading. I am with two books only at the moment. Henry James’ ‘The Wings of the Dove’, and Russell’s ‘History of Western Philosophy’. Somewhat tired in the dark humid hours of 8-9-10 when I usually find it difficult not to fall asleep.
A spark of interest for a story about insurance for Brazil’s second satellite. A busy Monday, yesterday, included an interview with one of the people involved.
It was a good story. Details on insurance possibilities and what looked certain to be the final package. I wrote the whole story with some difficulty because the launch was Wednesday night which was between publication and deadline. But it as a hot story. During several phone calls on Tuesday, I tried to discover if the deal had been made concrete. 7:30pm the IRB guy rang asking me to cut the story, but it was already being sent, so I rushed down to the Reuters office to rejig the story to a blander style. At most I’ll rake in £50 for the article, assuming it’s used, after all this messing. (At Reuters, Sergio was still working - well freelancing: for a 35 second radio item he read over the telephone, he’ll get paid $50.) I have done nothing - did nothing for it is now Wednesday - but this insurance story. This morning’s paper carries an item saying the satellite will be launched with IRB insurance.
And another example of my incompetence. I talk about Anne Bancroft as the Christ-struck nun in the ‘Agnes of God’ film on the previous page. How ignorant can one be: Anne Bancroft, of course, has been around a long time and she plays the Mother Superior not the innocent adolescent. (Mind you this is not as bad as when I went to the Villa-Lobos ballet soon after coming here and, at the end, asked if that was Villa-Lobos on stage taking applause.)
Such a restless night. Waking with my body lying in different positions across the bed. I wondered if there was an ideal axis on which to sleep, or perhaps if there was a polar orientation to which I had become accustomed as a child and it was only sleeping in such an orientation that I could do so deeply. Suppose I spend the first ten years of my life sleeping with my head north and my feet south, the very particles of my being (one could almost use soul in this context) may have polarised ever so slightly, but enough to cause internal restlessness if not lying in the same position. I am increasingly worried about my propensity to sleep in the evenings. There is nothing that interests me sufficiently to keep the eyes open, the will functioning. I must find a practical mechanism to combat this. If, for example, I could pretend a publisher had given me a deadline for a short story and believe the pretence then I might be more stimulated. Already at 7:30pm last night my drive was sinking to 0, then the telephone call came from Hamilton at IRB and I was 100% alive again. It is all in the head. No doubts.
The Correspondents Association: what a gaggle of cluckers. This was the annual general meeting to elect a new cabinet. It was the first time I saw a concrete result arrived at. The Latin team, headed by the lanky wet Thomet, was challenged by the Anglo-Saxon team headed by Mac Margolis. The challenger was there almost as a grudge because the Anglo-Saxons had so out of the limelight during the Thomet regime. Most of Mac’s team, though, were not even there, and the only person to say anything, anything at all in support of what they might do was Juan who wasn’t even part of the team. But to come to my story. Before the meeting I was accosted by the secretary for my dues. I did not have enough money on me, so I was told I couldn’t vote. Seemed crazy to me. I borrowed the money I needed, just before entering the arena, from Mac, this was BEFORE I knew he was leading the challenge team. When we came to vote for president (it had already been decided to create a cabinet from the two teams, six and five or five and six depending who got the vote for president). Thomet got 33 votes and Mac 31. My vote for Thomet (much as I disliked him, he showed a damn sight more seriousness and dedication to the job than Mac who never said a word about his policy) was so nearly decisive. A strange irony (given that I could only vote because of Mac’s loan.)
As we drive up to a set of traffic lights, two men outside their cars try to make us stop, they are uniformed like AA or RAC, but the driver of the small sports car I am in recognises them as car thieves. He shouts out of the window that he’s going to call the police. As he pulls away from the traffic lights I get left behind as though I am in a trailer that has become unhitched. I can’t believe he can’t see what has happened in the rearview mirror. I am on the pavement when I see an ugly scene. Two big American cars are coming through the lights, the front one is like a Dodge open van. One driver gets angry because they has bumped him slightly a couple of times. I see the angry driver - he is livid - winding himself and his car up in a comic sense (car becomes a closed concertina for example). Seconds later, the angry one has battered the first with his large body and pulled him to an electric saw machine by the side of the road. Seeing all of this I flee into the nearest shop fearing for my life as a material witness. I am sure he is after me. The shop is thin and deep and full to overcrowding with hardware items. I shout to an old lady, as I disappear through the back, not to tell anyone she’s seen me. She shouts to me to take the small set of stairs at the back for they head to the garden proper. (This is like the garden in Fitzjohn’s Avenue [my home as a child] where the basement flats were lower than the gardens, so you had to take a few steps up to the gardens). I do this and escape home without further trouble.
Both Robert Cutts-Watson [schoolfriend] and I are walking down a grassy bank to a canal (perhaps Regent’s Canal). As we approach the corner of a tunnel through which the canal and narrow tow-path go, two other people join us, they are full of movement and talk. For one moment, I see the bigger one with his arm around Rob and his friend, but he has his hand in Rob’s jacket. Rob himself knows what is going on and manages to push the robber in the canal, but he too slips or is pushed. The friend disappears leaving the robber holding Rob prisoner, both standing up to their chests in the canal. I walk through the tunnel and find a police post. I whisper that there is a hold-up further back. They pay no attention. Then I see some quick movement, and Rob has taken advantage (though they are now on dry land) and has stamped on the robbers head and broken it - like a flowerpot. I ask him timidly if he has killed him - of course, he says. The police now employ him full-time - they had wanted to see if he was tough enough.
The fucking pills! It’s the fucking pills! They are screwing my moods, sapping my energy, my will, depressing my head and body functions. It’s only in the last few days I’ve begun to notice it. Twice now, I’ve forgotten to take the pill after lunch, and during the afternoon, when the pill’s effect has presumably worn off, I’ve felt light and energetic and well. And I notice how often since taking the pills I’ve had a problem to find drive to do anything in the evenings. Last night, for example, I actually wanted to go to Silvio’s party (despite it being a gay one), but having lain down on my bed at 8-8:30, I could not bring myself to get up - I just couldn’t. And reading back in here, I write similar things about other evenings. I surely have difficulty with the evenings any way, but there is no doubt that this drug Grisovin [Griseofulvin] is taking its toll. On closer examination, the notes warn against heightened effects with alcohol, and for people with a predisposition to somnambulance to not drive. It clearly affects the liver, because hepatitis is one contra-indication.
Gustav, who is a doctor in tropical medicine, told me that very often it is impossible to get the fungus out of the blood. When the marks on the skin appear, a topical ointment will control it, but once in the nails, that usually means it has settled for life. He told me, he wouldn’t bother taking the pill. But then he’s almost as opinionated as me.
And one more thing. Since I’ve begun taking the pills I’ve been remembering an astonishing number of dreams. In the last month, I’ve written nine in this book. In the whole of the last book, there were only three. Why should this be? I don’t believe I am dreaming more. I do believe it has something to do with the mechanisms that make me alert in the early morning, or not alert, but willing to remember, or just helping me remember better. Or even just having a relatively high drive in the morning (with the pill’s effect already diminishing) giving me the necessary motor drive to write them down.
The British Council had last minute pains about where to hold the do for the Royal Ballet (all 100 of them). The Gloria Hotel where they are staying is fearfully, frightfully expensive - but what alternative did they have? Ferry them down to the Urca office which is not big enough? I must confess to being a little excited, as I was with the Tippett evenings, for the chance to meet dozens of handsome youths. Of course, I knew no one there. After a while, I was introduced by Diane to Gustav who remained by my side throughout the evening. A clever arrogant man - maybe he will show me how to surf down in Barra de Tijuca. For at least, an hour I had no contact with any RB people - all so lovely looking, all so interestingly dressed, all so blonde, pale-skinned and English (apart from a few slinky Chinese). Having bolstered my courage and charm with a variety of drinks I plunged into the social foray. But for whom are these cocktails meant? Is the prime motive for to give the RB a chance to know some local people? There was Clair the tour manager, easy relaxed blond pretty delightful, we struck up an accord, she would get me a ticket for Sunday night and I would take her and friends to Circo Voador on Sunday. Then we talked for a while to Judy and another Clair, both dancers, and to Nick, all good looking young and with a sense of fun. Personally, I would have liked to have taken the first Clair to dinner, but by the end of the event she had settled in with cronies from the tour. But Gustav and I went with the other three to Belle Blue for pizza. This was Ray’s choice for he was with them, but then it transpired they weren’t going to dine. I would have preferred to have taken them on to the Garota da Urca for more life - Belle Blue in Botofogo is like a large railway station in a provincial town where the bus service is much better.
Such a punishing schedule their lives. Eight weeks they’ve been on tour, four in the US, now Mexico, Caracas and Rio. What a hive of interpersonal relationships must develop. When they return to London they have a week off, and then on again for a provincial tour. But I suppose for the youngest members, it is exciting - new countries, new cities, new faces, and the hive of intensity always around them. Nick and July in the same breath remembered sailing in New Zealand, wind surfing in Turkey. During the cocktail party they had already been invited to take part in a yacht race on Sunday - believe it - they are here two days and achieve what I haven’t managed in a year. But luck (on this level) was with me for once. Perusing their schedule for Sunday, they realised that their show was early and that they couldn’t sail, couldn’t make up the eight for Stan Haynes’ 43 foot yacht. Under the pretence of making arrangements for Circo Voador on Sunday, I gave Clair my telephone number. She remembered my wistful sorrow at not having been invited, and told Stan who said I should I call. I did. But will I remember any of my lessons.
More exciting even is the prospect of dancing one of them into my bed on Sunday night after Circo Voador. Paul! So crude! So hopeless! You couldn’t dance a whore into bed! Admit it. They are beautiful people and attractive company - and you miss (terribly at times) attractive company.
No prospect of love tonight. Emiliana hasn’t rung me since our midweek meeting. Again I declined to even embrace her in bed (how can I be so cold? - tell me sir, where in me, what in me has come to dislike her touch. I cannot explain it. The thought of making love to her has become . . .) It is the first time she hasn’t called me at the weekend. On Wednesday she left with her toothbrush. And I fight with Elaine, after buying her £25 worth of presents and even more generously wondering around with her through the million Rio Sul shops. She’s run off. I am left to dine with Paula Block and Mimi Bluestone of ‘Chemical Week’.
Monday 24 March
Lovesick! Or at any rate, the nearest I have come to it in a long time. Lovesick for a group of dancers. The evening was lovely. Dinner with Clair, July and the pianist Steve, and then to Circo Voador for the gafiera. And all was going so well until, really, I had to dance. How I hate my self-consciousness. It was a good night - a dozen of the others arrived including Clair (the other one) who is so attractive to me - such a simple beautiful face, wide open blue eyes. I could sink in them. They were all so kind and warm to me - I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to be part of a supportive group. So easy, all of them, so refreshingly English. The band was superb, and the dancing a joy to watch. At the end, I had lost my cool, had drunk too much beer. They were all walking back together to the Gloria Hotel. At the start, I was shepherding them on my motorbike, but then got scared. I was too drunk to invite someone home - who would it have been? July who had most eyes for me despite her husband Sasha, Clair the most vivacious but who was also talking of her husband back home, or Clair who I hadn’t spent enough time with to make it possible. Or am I dreaming again. I was reminded of the girls in my adolescence, Kay, Joanna and Susan always so shy. Then, one day, I was told anyone of them would have had me for a boyfriend. Then, in the morning, why did I feel dirty, frightened, desperately racking my head to see if I had behaved well, charmingly. Such insecurity battling against such security.
US and Libyan forces have clashed in the Mediterranean. US spokesman says the US training exercises were not designed to embarrass or humiliate Gadaffi. Talk about newspeak or is it doublethink.
OPEC has broken up without agreement. Prices have tumbled again - to $11/bbl. I never believed oil prices could fall so far so quickly. Really not enough has been written about it all.
Two Brazilian racing drivers Piquet and Senna come in 1st and 2nd in the Rio Grand Prix, the first of this year’s Formula 1 circuit. Rejoicing.
Pat returns from her trip to the North. Now she will go back to the UK - next week. I did not think she would stay longer. I wonder how she will look back on her time here.
I am in this flat, two or three people from a fringe theatre arrive. They have come in uninvited. They ask for their wages. Somehow I must feel responsible for the show we’ve put on together. I am unsure of my participation but for some reason hand over £3-4 in Cruzeiros, I think. Hans is there sitting on the sofa. The others I can’t be sure (there might be a PE instructor from NZ I haven’t thought about in years who lived in the same house as me). Then two or three others creep into the flat, clearly after payment too. But I begin to get angry because my responsibility for the play was minimal. I start shouting, especially at Hans and telling them all I never want to see them again. I’m angry that they think I’m a soft touch. Surreally, in the middle of this scene, Jaime arrives with all his tools, to start work, painting my flat. He too has come in, without knocking, through the kitchen. I order them all out and say that I never want to see them again - do they think it worth it, after all, to accept my £2-3 and never see me again. Then I notice Patrick standing at the door about to follow the others out. I shout ‘Patrick, shut that door’ - so he does, outside. I go outside to pull him back.
I arrive at the yacht club in time for meeting Stan’s yacht crew for the race. I jump in a boat leaving, but it is not Stan’s. I look around and recognise no one. It is only going to the mini-island complex with a heated swimming pool. I sit in a bar there wondering whether Stan is here, there or in his boat mooring already. Then, with a shock, I realise I’m only wearing my red shirt and no pants or trousers. I contemplate swimming across the water, the few hundred metres to here where I live.
27 March 1986
Villacombe is stuck, not for lack of ideas, but for lack of will. Reading the first few pages over they inspire me not at all. But I must make more effort. I do not yet have a style I can call my own. This is the hardest part, maturing into a flowing style that leaves self-consciousness so far behind, no reader can detect it. It occurred to me that perhaps I do not trust myself enough. I think many intricate things, and I have a certain amount of insight, but in writing I don’t let myself loose for fear of the reader. Mostly I am writing short stories and there is no room or reason (rhyme or rationale) to indulge. But, perhaps, I should be more undisciplined again.
My week has been taken up with the Royal Ballet, quite how I turned myself into a social secretary I don’t know. But they arranged a ticket for the gala. I had a superb seat (apart from the hairstyle in front) worth £35-40. The glitter, dazzle and costumes radiated throughout the auditorium. The jewels came in their thousands to reflect in the glory of the royalty present: Princess Anne dressed in white to match her pale expression and blonde hair could not have been more different from Madame Saucy [Sarney] with her stern dark East European face and dark dress. They stood like dolls for us to see, while photographers, like monkeys, crawled upon each other in the opposite balcony. Then heads had to twist further round to find the royalty sitting in the middle of the balcony.
The hairstyle in front of me was grotesque. An ancient mother with the look of a construction job about her made-up face - I would imagine she’d been at it a week full-time, her two daughters sat either side, equally manufactured showing off the maximum amount of make-up and jewels. Truly grotesque, yet I gained a thought. Here was a self-confident mother bringing her children up in her own likeness. If you believe in yourself then you can bring your children up to believe too; of course if you don’t believe in yourself then what the hell are the children going to grow up believing in. The mould in this case looked perfectly cast, with its casts gleaming self-contentedly.
So all my routines were upset and cast aside, and the underlying depression was left in the shadows for these days. There was an additional excitement: the attempted seduction of Clare. After the gala performance, I took them to Jazzmania to celebrate Clare’s birthday. I think about 12 came, but it was a bit disappointing, the music was too loud and the food poor. I felt guilty without reason. I sat between Clare and July, and felt obliged to keep talking to both. July was clearly not enjoying the music, neither I. Most of my contact with these dancers has only served to confirm what I already thought, they are quite conservative and narrow in their outlooks; dance is a sufficient world to keep their minds and hearts fulfilled. And dancers tend to be vain rather than exhibitionistic, aware of their looks, their posture, but not by any means theatrical. This evening, though, they (well a few any way) were loose enough to play. The loud music caused us all to laugh and put earplugs in. Then, later, Clare put on a pig costume that the others had bought for her. She eats so much, and so fast! We giggled hysterically - such a stuffed snout, more than a mask, but less than a full fancy dress costume.
It was a relief to walk along the beach after, just a few of us. The small waves crashing, providing sweeter more acceptable sounds than we had been hearing. The group was fluid. I could have taken either July or Clare aside, perhaps kissed or held their hand. But timidity was. Then standing on the pavement waiting for taxis, I managed to say to Clare I would like her to come back with me. Silence. A very short silence, for I broke it, too keen to ease her way, rather than get my own way. This is always the tricky point. I am too afraid, too insecure, to take on the responsibility of persuasion - for fear, I suppose, of disappointing, being inadequate etc. So I broke the silence with some babble about her husband and being faithful. (How foolish, for I gave her no option but to decline my invitation - it must be so simple theatrically to do the reverse, create conversation that makes a refusal difficult.) The next moment we were three in a taxi heading to my apartment. Why should they two want to come at 3 in the morning. I frantically considered the possibility of having them both, but decided I was just not capable, experienced enough to manage the situation. We sat talking of banalities for an hour or two. When I called for a taxi, there were none. I jokingly suggested they should stay here. Clare’s eyes lit up, but my timidity carried on to say the best thing would be to walk out of Urca. Which we did. It was five by the time I got home.
I could work little the next day. Both sad and disappointed at my inability to cross-over to intimacy with Clare, which I longed to do, and I felt sure she too wished it. And the tiredness in my mind and body made concentration on work difficult. I resolved to write a note: ‘Sad when you left last night, I would like to see you this night, call the motorbike taxi service after your engagements.’
Pat came round in the evening and kept me from thinking too much of the consequences of my note. I told her the whole story. This is Pat’s secret, she will listen to all the details of my scheming and self-consciousness in a way that no one else does. She asked me what my chances were, 50-50 I replied. I was sure Clare wanted me, but both tiredness and convention (of course the consciousness of it all, the decision making) I thought might get in her way. Then I thought she might have regretted the previous evening, and made her more ready to accept a second time. So I did not sleep well. I expected her not to phone, I suppose. I got up once or twice to look at the watch. By 1am, I gave her up. I certainly didn’t expect her to phone to tell me she wasn’t coming, which she did. I was asleep on the phone, asleep and nervous. When the first silence came, I eagerly asked if I should come and pick her up. I just hadn’t thought she would phone to say she wasn’t coming. ‘I don’t think so.’
The whole of the next day I felt such a fool. She said she thought she had better ring. Why? Because she thought I was waiting up. I have such pride, it hurts. We arranged then, when they would come for lunch (later today). And ciao. So ends with a whimper, my incredible mis-handling of a seduction. I remember Anne in Fordwych Road asking if I wasn’t afraid of a ‘no’ response when I asked her bluntly if she wanted to sleep with me. I have not changed in 10 years. If anything, I have become less pushy, less able to take the responsibility and the possible blow to the pride. I could end up being a very lonely man. I also thought of Ros in Berlin, and Karen who stayed here. Both women had blunt invitations from me, and refused. I did not persuade, and afterwards I was resented.
Today I have not shaved for their visit, whereas up until now I have taken care to be clean-shaven.
Britten’s ‘The Rape of Lucretia’ comes to its tragic epilogue: ‘Is this all? Is this all? Is this all?’
How would an objective biographer interpret my relations with women, my pre-occupation yet without significant results. I am neither a steady lover enjoying all the security and companionship of a stable relationship nor a playboy enjoying a variety of attractive and interesting women. Here is another story.
Relations with Emiliana have drawn almost to a standstill, but last night I went with her and Robert and Nilcea to see ‘Out of Africa’. More of the film anon. There have been few words spoken, I have tried to be as gentle as possible in letting her down from the dream of a grand romance. But, unable to make love with her for more than a month, it has caused some strain. After the film we went to a bar for a suco. Suddenly Emiliana spotted Z. Everything about her tensed into a giant nerve. Her eyes wiggled around trying not to look at the table where Z sat with his girlfriend, but unable to look anywhere else. Her head twitched from side to side as if to wrench her eyes away, but her body sat up straight as if to get more height for her eyes. My presence became superfluous. I could not draw her into conversation. With a jerk, she stood up saying she would go and wish him Happy Birthday. Seconds later, she returned, a mixture of sadness and bitterness developing on her honest childlike face. ‘Coward’, she whispered several times into the crowded air of conversation and traffic noises. I’ve never quite got the timing straight, but I think she has known Z for eight or so years, and lived with him for three or four. But he cheated on her, and she on him, and as far as I can make out they never had what sounds like a mature marriage. She tells me that she has met him in a bar once before by coincidence, four years ago, presumably when they were living together, and that he was with the same woman he is with now. We finish our orange juices. I would not have invited her home but for her sadness over Z. Real tears are spilling out, years of emotional involvement, cheating, negotiating, love-making, lying, promising. And now, to discover him with the same woman. I ask her if she can’t be happy for him, but she is overflowing with resentment, and, I suppose, self-pity.
Back home we talk about us. I am afraid that deeper feelings towards Z will be brought out in a clipped funnelled way against me, but she has actually lost the will to speak. I can imagine, in the quiet of her bedroom, examining the relationship over and over again, she had found a hundred points to challenge me on, but they fade away, face to face. I tell her, I am sorry for creating too much intimacy, too much intensity too early, it is a form of lying. Even way back at the party when I met her, I knew, I knew already she was way off the mark for me. But I can’t justify remaining alone. She wanted to stay. Tne, once I was sure she was clear of her dreams of me, I felt freer and easier to touch and caress her again. It was a kindness to make love to her, I suppose, horrible as that sounds, after the shock with Z and the acceptance of an end in the relationship with me. But I too wanted release. She came so easily, so quickly. I was grateful that, after, she licked me, for I was going to do nothing for myself. In the morning, she was again nervous, wanting to leave for her flat without a relaxing breakfast.
Will all these petty details be interesting to me in years to come?
Two Wednesdays ago when the work dried up I finally got down to the life revision I had been promising myself. It took me well over a week to go through it, but then the socialising with the Royal Ballet took the need away, leaving my thoughts and ideas and commitments and resolutions all rather watery, instead of allowing them to materialise into a watershed (!?!). Over the page, nevertheless, are the main points.
WORK: I am earning a minimum of $1,100-1,200 from McGraw-Hill. Most of the pubs I’m working regularly for are taking a good proportion of my files, and I don’t think I can increase much - the main exception being the nuclear pubs. But there are plenty of opportunities in metals, management, construction to work more at. It would be especially progressive to get involved with ‘International Management’ and ‘Business Week’. Outside of McGraw-Hill, there’s the FT newsletters. I earn about £150-200 a month from IGR and ICR, and I am just picking up on ‘World Insurance’. There are slight possibilities with other mags. Then there’s ‘The Economist’ which is now dying, NEI and ‘Gas World’. Areas to develop are the EIU thanks to Philippa Potts, ‘Today’ thanks to Derek Hudson, ‘Science’ mag thanks to Catesby, and maybe a different paper industry mag. One of the most important moves I can make is to go in for more feature type material. I think I have to do this without a commission. Topics that come to mind include, irrigation, homeopathy, natural colourants/flavourings, Indians, Rio’s architectural heritage, Antarctica.
SOCIAL: As far as friends are concerned I should try for a gentle upbeat with some of them: Marcelo, Neco, Fabiola, Stan the yachtsman, but a downbeat with Emiliana (already achieved) and a no change with Elaine. New clothes. Repaint flat white (starts tomorrow). Get a language teacher. Encourage hobbies - dancing, sailing, volley, and, most important, push the writing harder.
A pretty pathetic revision really. All short-term stuff - while I’m unlikely to follow through with much discipline.
I’ve written a lot today - 9 pages. I think I should stop now and input some into Villacombe.
Jaime painted the flat sparkling white over the weekend. The work is finished but I have not replaced the pictures, the plant, the little furnitures. There is a purged feeling about the place. I sit in a clean and fresh atmosphere, a new beginning. It is perhaps more real to my present state.
Paul K Lyons
Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG