PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1987 - OCTOBER
Monday 5 October
Mummy and daddy and Adam when to little Japan
Mummy and daddy and Adam when to little Japan
Mummy and daddy and Adam when to little Japan
And when they got there
They found a big white swan
And they called it Rin Tin Tan
Actually after a distressful Saturday, things between us all improved, and the weekend turned into a grand success. Daddy got lots of goodies in jumble sales, Mummy and Daddy did lots of work in the garden, Daddy cleared out the front room and treated the floor three times with Cuprinol wood treatment. Poo what a pong, all our clothes smelled of the stuff, but I had to kill off the woodworm in the floorboards and protect them against the evil rot. The next thing to do is pull off all the plaster, and get the room re-plastered. Then we’ll be ready to paint and decorate.
On Sunday, we went for a smashing walk, late in the afternoon, to Little Japan. Many years ago, I had been taken there by Rix, the weekend I met her in Aldeburgh, but I’d never been back, although I had tried, and failed, to find the place with Colin. This time, though, B and I persevered, testing several private un-made-up roads between the main one and the estuary. Little Japan is a group of wind-swept fir trees or evergreens that have an oriental look from afar. We couldn’t drive up to the trees for a giant diamond-shaped field - all newly ploughed - so had to walk around. Daddy sung the above chant, and you were so happy in the pouch, swinging your head from side to side, as though you had perfect synchronised control of your neck. Grouse hid in the undergrowth, and scared your Dad out of his skin once. The other side of the field, we had to climb over a barbed wire fence and scramble through dense undergrowth. Clearly, Little Japan seemed to have lost its claim as a sightseeing spot, for there was little evidence of other visitors: a track across the top of clifflet was all grown over, and the ground underfoot felt mushy as though we might sink the 10 or 20 metres down to the level of the estuary. The water stretched before us for miles in serenity and peace. Below the bank, in fact, there was a small sandy beach which invited me to bathe, but it was cold and late, and the sun already glancing pink in the sky. Several white swans (I tell no lies) floated idly in a group near the beach, while another, further away, glided across the scene, thus creating the most picturesque scene.
Dear Adam, this was your first walk in the country, the very first time you saw cows, trees and green, the first time you felt the country air. I am pleased it was such a beautiful walk. Coming away from the idyllic spot, your Mum walked one way round the diamond field, and you and I came the other way, for we were not sure which was the quickest route. All the way back round the field I sang to you.
Mummy and daddy and Adam when to little Japan
Mummy and daddy and Adam when to little Japan
Mummy and daddy and Adam when to little Japan
And when they got there
They found a big white swan
And they called it Rin Tin Tan
I don’t know why I sang Rin Tin Tan, the name just came to me. Rin Tin Tin was a famous TV series dog. But it is funny, you know, as my mother would say, because now I write down the words Rin Tin Tan I realise they do have a Japanese feel, and the switch to Tan, of course, came instinctively to rhyme with Japan.
Back in London your Dad had a hectic week. My first week as editor of European Energy Report was the hectic week that really was, but this was the second most hectic week that was. (The newsletter is published every second week, so there’s one busy week, one not-so busy week.) Well, you see, I went to Spain just for fun. My employers have told me that I cannot travel, there is no budget, and beside and I am not on the staff payroll. So, when design company Wolff Olins rang to invite me on a press jamboree to Madrid to witness the launch of the state oil company’s (Repsol’s) new image, I could hardly refuse. It was just a shame the trip coincided with my production week. The full jaunt lasted two days but I could only go for 24 hours. Still, I met a group of other journalists which was most useful, mostly specialist oil reporters. I left Tuesday morning, there were about eight of us who met up at the airport. On the aeroplane, I talked to Lew who seems to have had as chequered a past as my own. He now works for ‘Petroleum Intelligence Week’ (PIW) - only only eight pages long yet charging $1,200 for an annual subscription. I couldn’t work out why it was so expensive. Lew said it was well-connected, and often scooped rivals. He separated from his wife last winter, and was divorced three months later. I never knew you could do it so quick.
Which brings me to an aside - ‘The Times’ ran a report last week which said that 60% of first time marriages in UK end in divorce; 900 children a day are victim of separations. These figures, Adam, tell a story, while society goes on telling another. Your mother and I do not want to pass through such traumas. We believe stability is more important than convention. If we had married, you would have had a 50% or more chance of being victim to a traumatic break-up. This way, you keep your Mummy and Daddy in consistent roles. Yet, despite such figures, other people never quite believe Barbara and I planned out how we would bring you up in this way. Aside over.
In Madrid, we were driven to the Palace Hotel, the plush Palace Hotel and were told we had about two hours free. The rooms, by the way, were magnificent, they even had dressing gowns - your Dad wanted to steal one but restrained himself on leaving. I indulged in a hot deep bath before racing off to the Prado, just round the corner.
Tuesday 6 October
Nine weeks old today, which I calculate is about 1% of the time you will be spend dependent on your parents.
Well, the Prado is one of the world’s most famous art galleries, renowned for its Goya, Velazquez, El Greco and Bosch paintings. I tried to limit myself to just a few paintings displayed in the guide book I bought, ‘Las Meninas’ by Velazquez with its radical use of depth, ‘The Nude of Maya’ by Goya set right by the almost identical ‘Dressed Maya’. Half way through the gallery I met Kate, we talked about the representations of angels. I loved the small portraits by Velazquez of old human beings, the dwarf-like creature in a red cloak is it, or breaches. I bought you a postcard of the Medici gardens by Velazquez, but the actual painting was on loan to Paris. Kate is a freelance designer, employed by Wolf Olins to design the launch brochure and annual report. At first, I was told she had created the Repsol logo - a particularly child-like image of a rising sun - and was eager to hear her justification for this style. Then I discovered that she herself was not responsible, a team at Wolf Olins had invented it. I found out, though, that that she had used this type of logo already five years ago. We debated the sunny logo for some hours, in the bar, in the bus, and at the proto-type petrol station launch.
The naiveness of the logo design does stick in the mind, and indeed might work to create an image of open-ness, flexibility etc, and one far away from the conservative, rigidity of business and financial worlds. But, I argued that a company such as Repsol, with international pretensions, and the need to appeal to a very large mixed consumer base domestically (not just an intelligent financial group), should have a definite, not foggy, image. Maybe, a smaller company could utilise a logo to be changed and adapted overt time, but the Shells and BPs of this world need to find an image and stick with it for a long period of time - the costs of a changeover being so great. I think the designs are fashionable, new, catchy, but a mistake.
Later, we were driven to the wastelands of Madrid’s suburbs. Behind a bunch of oil storage tanks, Repsol had set up an enormous shell-shaped tent. Hundreds of filling-station owners and Repsol managers were milling around in a smoky, noisy atmosphere. We sat through a few speeches and three films, each of which really punched the Repsol logo at us. After the speeches, we filed out through another entrance to the tent to discover the prototype petrol station all lit up and ready for our inspection. All rather surreal, for being magically there, but otherwise mundane. Only the bar stood out as a rather novel idea.
The next day there, I just had time to breakfast, check out, and got to an interview the board along with other local journalists before hopping on the plane back to London. I wrote most of the story on the plane. I raced into the office, beginning to feel slightly ill but in an unspecific away, checked what I had to check, and raced to meet Martin at the tube station, all this before going to my night class in navigation skills (looking for chart symbols, and finding their meaning). I went on feeling bad all evening. Not till 2am did I vomit. Utterly restless night, very little sleep.
All of which set me up for my production day, Thursday. Nevertheless I came out with a super issue, 20 pages long, something for everyone, new Turkish plant contracts, Greek gas deal, Spanish oil company launch, coal problems in Russia, German refinery sold and so on. Friday, I felt much better already, and was bouncing around the office.
Ah, my dear Adam, you are so sweet at present. Your grin stretches so wide and full. You are becoming human, responding already after only nine weeks.
This evening, we discovered your fear of the dark. We were eating in the parlour, you had been fed and were probably ready to sleep. I put you in the bid bed, where, by this time, it was quite dark. You screamed. I took you out, believing this was a usual problem, wind or being left alone. But you stopped as soon as I had brought you into the corridor. I could see your eyes and something akin to tear-washed fear. Back in the bed again, you cried, but stopped as soon as I turned on the light. So I picked you up, and your Mum and I chatted to you, hugging you tight, as we moved very slowly from the lit corridor to the dark bedroom. Then, we sat in the darkness with you for ten minutes talking away, a little light was entering from the corridor, only a little, and we could see you look around keenly, able with wider irises to perceive some things. You then fell asleep in the bed without a murmur.
Last Friday, we dumped you on Mum, Julian and Sarah while we nipped around the corner to the Kilburn Odeon to see ‘The Untouchables’. So sad, the Kilburn Odeon, it is a tarted up back room to the Gaumont State bingo parlour. Once upon a time, the Gaumont State was a magnificent cinema. One walked up a wide stairway, carpeted in red, took a drink in a plush bar, or stood around in a royally-furbished foyer before entering the auditorium - with stalls and balcony. Now it is a bingo parlour, slave to the trend of popular taste. Cinema is less popular than bingo, at least here in Kilburn. The romantic dreams that once the cinema gave, are being replaced by the greedy hopes for a Lady Luck bingo win.
Brian de Palma is a good film maker. He understands that a good story is the essence of any commercial film. In ‘The Untouchables’ we get a touch too much violence, and a touch too little basic investigative work for Ness, but the film takes us into the world of Al Capone, gutsily portrayed by Robert de Niro (one of the stars of our time). Sean Connery (another star) acted a role not dissimilar to that in the ‘The Man Who Would be King’.
Saturday night we tried to watch, on video, Bresson’s film true story of a convict. It was slow, so we fast forwarded and were still able to read subtitles. It made no impression on me. Then we began to watch Hitchcock’s ‘Secret Agent’ but despite the appeal of its age, and a youthful John Gielgud, it didn’t keep us awake. What did keep me awake last night was another film in the BBC Screenplay series called ‘Road’. It documented the lives of a handful of people in a truly rundown inner city. Essentially, it presented a series of monologues, some of which were delivered direct to camera while the actor marched past starkly uninhabited rows and rows of terraced houses. The inner city troubles - as displayed by the creative union of writer, photographer and actor all blended into something special by the director - did move me - the no hope or the need for hope.
Off to Aldeburgh tonight. If we don’t go to A for a couple of weeks we begin to feel restless, tense, congested. The clean air, the wind, the sea refreshes us, cleanses our spirit and our lungs. You too, young man, like it at A. The country walks, the strolls by the shore.
Direct conflict now between Iran and the US. US graduates killed 3 Iranians last night, almost every day, the conflict escalates marginally. As someone commented on the radio this morning - there’s a hell of a lot of military vessels there now wandering around waiting for something to happen.
Much publicised negotiated agreements in Fiji and Sri Lanka have fallen by the wayside with another coup in Fiji and a republic declared, and more killings by Tamils. Reports emerge of terrible oppression, continued terrible repression, of the Tibetans by the Chinese. 100 people are eaten by sharks in the West Indies as a boat of migrants sink. The Conservative Party conference gives a hero’s welcome to the returning Cecil Parkinson - our dearly beloved energy minister.
Raoul comes over one evening during the week. He bicycles from Wandsworth all the way to Kilburn. I feed him and we run, we run to the Tricycle Theatre for a drink. But he never stops clock watching, as though he mustn’t be late back. We talk mostly about babies. His children, Jack and Sophie, are fine.
Last Saturday B & I and you went to dinner at Judy and Rob’s. It may sound strange, but it was the first time B & I had ever gone to dinner somewhere together, other than family. No, it is more serious than that, as I write my concentration finds the landmark more important. It is the first time we have ever made a visit to friends together (other than family - Julian, Mum, Mary etc.). Astonishing. The evening was very low key. Sophie was already in bed. Adam did not stir. We updated each other on the banal events of our life, and discussed the current round of books and films. Having just managed to work out the causes of and reasons for the friction between B & I, I was anxious to discuss with Judy whether she had had similar problems. I tentatively approached the subject, but was answered very vaguely, and B skilfully changed the topic, fearing she might cry. I had not even considered her feelings in bringing up the topic - it had not occurred to me she might be upset by such a conversation.
Do I feel guilty spending my Friday afternoon at the office writing up this diary? Outside it rains again, autumn is upon us.
At home in the garden, the apples are full and ripe, ready for picking; quinces too though there’s nothing to be done with them. It’s just satisfying to see a bush laden with fruit. Otherwise, the garden starts to die in readiness for winter closing-up. Two of this summer’s new plants - the salix and the honeysuckle -have not fared well, have lost their leaves early to a bug-caused yellowness. Hopefully, the cold will kill the bug, and the plant will be left in tact, to flourish in the spring. I’ve cut back the ivy - four year’s growth. What a parasite it is - but I must have mentioned that already.
Mum calls. Edith, her Fitzjohn’s Avenue flatmate, who she hasn’t seen for 14 years, visited her on Monday, so she was full of beans. She has knitted you a little top - the first of many we hope.
Andy has finally moved out, leaving such dirt behind him. Martin returns from Moscow to take the room. He is thoroughly depressed with his feelings in Russia. He felt so oppressed and watched-over, and cannot treat it with levity, find it funny, because of his background. It just depresses him terribly.
Dear Adam, Some sort of celebration is in order, you are 10 weeks old today. You are quite a splendid child. You invariably sleep well at night - from about 7pm or 8pm through till 7am. What a boon to B and I. You need quite a lot of attention during the day, tend to cry if left unattended. We had a lovely weekend in Aldeburgh. For a change we didn’t have much to do - a little digging in the garden, and a visit to the builders. We may as well wait until the roof works are done before we start on the decorations proper. We arrived late on Friday night - torrential rains had turned the roads lethal, and most cars were crawling along the dual carriageway. B got scared as we skidded through enormous puddles at 80mph whenever the roadway cleared. (We are in uncle Julian’s BMW, since the Morris Ital, in which I rarely exceed 60mph, is at Grandad’s undergoing a major service.)
Saturday morning, as usual, I strapped you to my front and we marched off to the village, leaving B to grab a bit more sleep. I am always singing to you.
Early on Saturday morning
Early on Saturday morning
Adam and Daddy are walking to the breadman
Early on Saturday morning
Early on Saturday morning
Adam and Daddy are walking to the breadman to buy some bread and cakes
I love the moment, after we’ve marched along Alde Lane, I think it is, and turned left and arrived at the top of the Town Steps. From there we can see the sea stretching beyond the Aldeburgh roofs in a vast and beautiful panorama. The sight of the sea is a wonderful stirring sight, and is the moment that I feel I have really arrived. We dance down the steps and along the high street navigating by means of the smell of fresh bread issuing forth from the bakery. We join the inevitable queue, to buy delicious baps, granary bread, pastries and pies. Then we walk back along the High Street to the newspaper shop to purchase a copy of the ‘East Anglian Daily Times’. Maybe, then, we go to the beach for a quick close-up fix of the ocean, otherwise we head home, licking our lips at the thought of butter-soaked baps and a fresh cup of tea.
On Sunday, you and I make a similar trip, only this one is for the Sunday papers which, if the weather is fine and we’re both well wrapped up, we take to the beach wall where I sit and read for a while. This particular Saturday, we met your mother all togged up and running. Yes, jogging down to the sea. Her first run since you were born. And when she got back, she revealed she had also swum in the sea. Daddy had made her promise to go into the water this weekend - do her good, he said, shock her alive. The run and the swim together, though, were a bit much, and she felt quite faint all the way through breakfast. (Now, at breakfast, your Mum won’t eat the bakery rolls and bread any more - her mother found out the bakery uses animal fat for all its baking - and Mummy won’t eat no animal fats.)
Monday 19 October
Dearest Adam, I’ve had no time to myself this last week, quite why or how I don’t know. Well, there was Martin’s room to paint - that took all free evenings in the week and all the weekend. Martin, cunning lad, was hardly around, and slipped off to Paris for the weekend. I prevaricated for ages over which colour to paint the woodwork, the rest of the room being white. In the end I chose a mustard colour gloss, but now, with the room painted, I see I’ve made a mistake, it doesn’t look well at all, not well at all, and only makes the crummy furniture look more crummy.
Ah but to more important matters. One news item in particular took Britain by storm last week, last Thursday night to be precise - Hurricane Len. The first your Dad knew about it was waking at 6:00am with no power. At first, I thought there might have been a short circuit in my house due to rain leaks. But I went out for a walk to the High Street to see what I could see, the howling wind cut through layers of cloth to my back. Everywhere was in darkness - no traffic lights, no street lights, no shop lights. Difficult to understand what had happened. A phone call to Barbara established there had been widespread havoc throughout the country. She had power, and consequently access to a radio. I had to wait for the first shops to open to buy a battery for my radio. With the radio alight, I felt happier - access to information a vital factor at all sorts of levels. Winds of 94mph had struck London during the night. Mum rang to report she had passed a most horrific night, with the most enormous bangs frightening her through the dark - a tree falling had caused one bang, and an aerial breaking and cluttering down the roof another. Slowly, horror stories emerge from all over southeast England.
Still today several thousands of homes are without power, many without telephones too as British Telecom along with CEGB struggle to restore cable networks. But many houses have suffered damage from falling trees or broken windows, or flying slates. Old age pensioners will suffer the worst, those who are unable to manage repairs themselves or will be taken advantage of by cowboy builders. B’s parents have a fence down, a tree crashed into their garage roof, and slates fell off their house roof.
News reports say the Friday morning winds - Hurricane Len - were the strongest ever to hit Britain since records began. Weathermen at the London Weather Centre were interviewed about the events, they looked vaguely bemused and complacent, as though they couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, and that, most certainly, whatever had happened had nothing to do with them. Well the truth of the matter is more serious - they were negligent, a negligence born of weather conditions in the UK, a lifetime of weather conditions that have never been dangerous. Surely, with some warning, millions of people would not have woken half scared out of their wits in the middle of the night, millions would have secured unsecured things outside, the authorities would have tensed themselves for action, as would transport and service companies. Following reports that continental weathermen predicted England’s weather better than we did, they - those at the London Weather Centre - have grudgingly admitted to an internal inquiry.
In the long run, the most permanent damage will that to trees, ancient oaks and semi-ancient planes, which have been uprooted everywhere. Parks and gardens are a wild mass - Kew Gardens has closed until further notice, thousands of trees are said to have been destroyed. Kate and Duncan’s Physic Garden has also been beaten up, according to a front page report in ‘The Independent’. But wood from these rare, fallen trees is already being aggressively sought after. Duncan is quoted as saying there could be tremendous symbolic value in seeing something beautiful created out of the destruction. The carpenters and furniture makers are already queuing up.
But I have one other thing to add about the trees. From what I have seen, the damage is not as bad as it looks - lots of branches, twigs and leaves everywhere seem chaotic, but there are not so many uprooted trees. Most of the blown down trees have broken at the trunk, revealing a rotten core. And I wonder whether this won’t lead to the discovery of a new disease. It does seem to me odd that so many oaks have blown down - have they really not experienced such winds before?
And dear Adam, as if in consequence of the weather turbulence, a mighty hurricane has blown through the world’s stock markets, wiping off billions and billions of dollars from the paper value of thousands of firms - all in a day. The crash began in Wall St, accentuated, they say, by computer programmes which decide automatically what should be done following certain events. If a certain pattern of falling prices shows, for example, then the programmes yell out ‘sell’. Well, Wall St tumbled, the London Stock Exchange tumbled, and so did most other major stock markets in the world. Share prices fell by some 10-20% worldwide. How might this affect a young man of 11 weeks? It might mean that the Western world has enjoyed a bit too much of a boom through the last years, and that country economics and world trade might not be so rosy for the next few years, which might mean your Daddy doesn’t earn as much money as he might. He might even lose his job if things were to get too bad. And all that would mean for you, is less toys. But, the UK economy is said to be pretty healthy; the US trade deficit problems, though, coupled with growing fears of conflict in the Gulf have caused a major hiccup for US investors which in turn has caused a sharp re-adjustment of (over-inflated) UK prices.
Unfortunately, this will cause a major embarrassment for our government which has launched the world’s biggest ever shale sale. Planning to attract lots of citizens to the once exclusive game of shares-watching, they have been caught with their pants down. Six million Brits applied for information on the highly advertised sale. Now they’ve gone on sale and no one wants them. They cost 330p - but on the open market you can buy them for under 300p. Government will get rid of them, for the sale is fully underwritten, but it won’t have involved the Mr Citizen.
Today’s joke: what is the difference between a stockbroker and a pigeon? Answer: a pigeon can still put a deposit on a porche!
Let me say a word about your grandfather’s 60th birthday. It’s a long way, is it not, from 60 days to 60 years. Inconceivable to imagine what will happen to you in that stretch of time; or to have imagined, when Sasha was born, what would happen to the world around him in the years 1927-1987. (He was two when the last great Wall St crash happened.) Who could have said in 1927 there would be a Second World War, a man on the moon, nuclear power and weapons, computers, even jet aeroplanes? But now at 60, he runs his company at a slow trot, un-eager to expand further, content to earn enough to pay for his leisure activities - betting, owning a few race horses, taking a few holidays in far flung places - none of which are straining his finances too much.
His wife Michele organised a small dinner party at one of London’s more exclusive restaurants, Annabel’s. We, the children, had been booked for the date, 17 October, some months back, and it was my poor fortune that Raoul had a party that same night.
Oh Dear Adam, I don’t think we’ve ever had such a bad day. Your father is totally guilty of causing the arguments, of brow-beating your mother, of demanding excessively. It is I that creates the disquiet between us, that constantly bickers and picks on your mother. But why have I started now. I know I cannot change her ways - so why do I cause her such misery? A postcard of David Tenier’s painting ‘El Alquimista’ to B: ‘Here I am still trying to work my magic. We have never had such a bad day - and really the guilt lies all with me, but in defence, we have had a multitude of magical days in our time - and the guilt there often lies with me too. I do have a tendency to undermine and whittle away at your best intentions, and you do maintain your spirit magnificently. Please do not respond by trying to please me - inevitably I will see through it. At Aldeburgh we have a new situation, new dimensions, which have Adam at their centre. It must not - it cannot be that even there you revolve around me. We have both a lot of work to do to establish an Aldeburgh modus vivendi. Take heart we have a great stock of happy times to draw on before we go into the red. But never never doubt that I love thee as myself.’
I suppose we were handicapped by your health - a troublesome little cold caused you to struggle for breath most of the time, and by the damage to the cottage. Those storms seem to have wrecked more houses in Suffolk than in London. Our poor little cottage had lost dozens of slates and half the ridge tiles - the loft was as light as a greenhouse. Adam, imagine, the trouble inside if it had rained during the week - thank the gods it didn’t. But it did rain Friday. Daddy rushed here there and everywhere to find a builder to patch us up. Steer, whom we have commissioned to do the building work once the grant comes through, said they would come Monday to make us ‘watertight’. At first I was happy with that, until the rain got worse.
The locals were ever so friendly, said they had wanted to get in touch but no one knew our names or telephone numbers. Most of our neighbours’ roofs had been repaired by Vernon Watson, I discovered, who, decades ago, had been an apprentice to Bill who lives at number 11. Bill is retired now, and physically unable to clamber on the roof but, until recently, he repaired his own roof and that of Mrs Holmwood at number 13. Well, I first got onto Vernon through another of my neighbours who could only remember his wife’s name, Pat, and that she works at the Cragg tea house. There I found her, and she gave me a telephone number, but said I couldn’t ring until after five (this was Friday afternoon).
All Friday afternoon, as it happens, I was popping back and forth from Leiston Road to the High Street because the nearest telephone box was out of order. At one point, I saw a Reade van and wondered if it were Vernon. I approached the drive, and was told Mr Watson could be found at the back of the Reade buildings. Indeed, there I found a Mr Watson who told me that Vernon Watson had gone home soaked through. He himself were a carpenter he told me, while the other Mr Watson, what works for Reades, is a bricklayer. Must be the other one I be looking for! But this time I had left behind Vernon’s telephone number. I was in the process of thinking about what to do, when this Mr Watson finally volunteered that they were brothers. Oh, do you have his telephone number? No, he truly didn’t know his brother’s four-digit number. In the end, I got hold of Vernon just after 5, and he promised to come on Saturday if I was ‘letting in water’.
As good as his word, he came Saturday afternoon with a younger colleague. Quickly and efficiently, he patched up the roof, stopping only for a cup of sweet tea and a chat with Adam. He used £5 of felt and charged £15. The same job in London would have cost £100 I swear. Not only does the wind blow fresh sea air here, largely unpolluted by the exhalation of vehicles, but the people are a breath of fresh air. It’s true I can’t claim it on my insurance because he didn’t bill me, but still it was worth the £20 I gave him. Wouldn’t have come, he kept saying, but that you were letting in water. The rain on Friday dampened much of the loft insulation, the lounge ceiling developed some ominous stains, and the bedroom wall turned damp overnight - but how fortunate there was not more damage.
In the garden, havoc came. Our old and ivy-laden fence was knocked down by Mrs Holmwood’s wild rose and sycamore trees. Other neighbours judged she should never have planted them so close to the fence in the first place. Now, both trees are partially in our garden - if we leave them to re-establish themselves then we lose a part of our garden, which is quite small enough.
Although the arguments between your mum and I soured much of this weekend, I do remember a walk I took ever so early on Sunday. I had already reached the church by the time the sun was coming up - a great fireball. I carried my camera looking to snap the pinkish dawn light over the village’s natural beauty. Drawn, as always, to the beach, I saw much activity of boats and boatmen. Fishermen heaving their boats down the artificial slipways, created with moveable sleepers, one by one taken from back to front of boat to aid it across the pebbles. Once in place, ready to slip into the sea, restrained only by the taught hauling-in line, the men step back to their dark-stained huts to fetch nets and tackle. I noticed that each crew tended to wear the same colour water-and-weather gear - all yellow or all orange - thus making potential photographs more photogenic. I waited for the boat launches, and I waited for boat returns - several had already made their catches and were landing their craft - but neither were at all dramatic, racy or worth a photo. Before long, there were half a dozen other photographers out on the beach too, all armed with tripods and telephotos. Your humble dad retired gracefully, taking just a few pictures, from lower down the step inclined pebbles, of beach vessels lined up with the roofs of buildings behind. Ah, you should have been with me Adam. You usually are. But for your cold you would have been.
It is light again at seven in the morning. Since the clocks went back at the weekend, but it is a dark and dreary light. The sun comes up so slowly, and the sky is so often clouded and grey. The light affects my spirit, how can I feel anything but dark and dreary too, my spirits may rise with the morning, they may not. The hour change also means that I leave work in the dark, most people leave work in the dark, Winter upon us. Adam’s first winter.
Here I am now in my small office at work, it has just turned 9:00 and the energy group rooms are still silent, no machines on, no buzz, just the incessant sounds of traffic filtering through the tall buildings from the Strand. Today I should write stories on the disastrous BP share sale. Lawson is to give a statement to the Commons, and there is still a faint chance he will cancel it. Certainly, the much-buffeted city is putting pressure on him to do so. All the stock market doesn’t need is another $6bn worth of cheap shares floating around. And then I ought to write a brief word about the power cuts caused by the storms. I should ring the CEGB for an estimate of lost revenue and clear-up costs. There’s another story about the energy ministry’s R&D budget, and one about investment in new plant at Shell’s Stanlow refinery.
I’ve been in this job now almost two months. I consider the last two issues, 249 and 250, as the first with my stamp on them. 249, which didn’t carry my name at all due to a mix-up with the printers, was the best. 250 might have been fine but for some pretty awful errors. Firstly, and this Andy pointed out to me, I let a story slip into print that called Ian McGregor the chairman of British Gas; secondly, all the pages carried the issue number 450 instead of 250. And this was the first issue with my name on. Your poor ignominious Dad.
Apart from managing the fortnightly issues, I am supposed to be finding direction for the newsletter. I went to the City Business library last week to find out what other magazines are in the field. There doesn’t seem to be a weekly magazine devoted just to energy issues, which seems odd. When I think of European Chemical News with its circulation of 10,000, it seems to me that a publication, not dissimilar, called European Energy News, could make ten times the profit of EER. Another idea of mine was to, is to, set up a section in the newsletter of research and development briefs. I enlisted the help of one of the librarians to track down whether they had any publications on energy research. He spoke to me in such a loud voice, as though he were completely unaware he was in a library. He couldn’t tell me, and he couldn’t locate where they might hold some copies of one particular publication. Then, later I heard him spending ages talking to a telephone enquirer. He used the same voice, and I understood then that he was performing. He wanted the world of the library to hear all he was saying, and to be aware of his erudite solutions to enquirers’ questions. But the library helped me not a whit.
Adam, are you missing me? I hear fire crackers in the air, and earlier I saw a guy in the street (they don’t make guys like they used to), so I assume 5 November is near. We might take you along to one display or other, but you’ll sleep through it all.
For the moment, I must return to Sasha’s 60th birthday. Julian, Melanie and I had all gone through great anguish in drumming up ideas for presents. We decided on a joint presentation but still chose items in keeping with our personalities. J bought a gold-plated biro which he had had initialised, Mel bought a variety of extravagant things also from Asprey’s - a shooting stick, a leather photo album, and a tie-pin - while I bought £55 worth of ‘The Noble Horse’ at Hatchards. Although a general look at horses - and Dad is only interested in the racing aspect - I thought the forward by the Duke of Edinburgh would give it distinction enough even for his bookshelves.
From Asprey’s to Annabel’s. If I lost sleep over presents, then B lost sleep over what to wear. Sarah too had the jitters. Both of them said Saturday morning they would make do with what they’d got and then both went out shopping Saturday afternoon. In the event, the do was much lower key than we had imagined, despite the best efforts of Annabel’s staff to make us feel the full extent of our mediocrity and lack of fame (or am I imaging things!). I entered the cocktail lounge but got no further than Noldy, and then John Bull. Talk of storm damage and insurance. Polite conversation. Before long, we were ushered into dinner (generous helpings of smoked salmon, followed by beef Wellington). Michele had sat me next to her mother and John Bull’s wife, Cynthia, the mother of Mel’s husband Julian.
I didn’t talk much to Cynthia, except once when I tried to explain my job, and before this day, I’d never talked to Michele’s mum. I liked her much more than Michele, and found her more interesting. She is somewhat crippled by arthritis, and eats with difficulty - but her mental faculties remain sharp. In occupational therapy classes she made you, dear Adam, a cute white teddy bear. I took the opportunity of trying to find out a bit more about Michele. Perhaps the juiciest titbit was that Michele nearly became a nun. She was educated in a convent school and brought up under the strict moral code of practising Catholics. Moreover, her father was a policeman - a chief superintendent by the time he retired. When Sasha went to their home near Dublin, over 10 years ago, to ask for Michele’s hand in marriage, her parents were completely shocked. First of allk Dad was so much olderk and second he had already been married. I got the feeling from Michele’s mum that she had not got over that shock to this day. Several times, she told me how much Michele had changed in the last few years, how her language and behaviour had coarsened, and implied that it was through associating with Dad.
At one point. Michele’s mother asked me point blank if I liked her daughter. Well, I did stumble a bit. But how could I say no. Surely, in all politeness I had to say yes, with qualifications. I wonder, though, in hindsight whether I could have asked her the same question, and whether she might have said no. Poor Michele, she does try hard. At one moment, she came over to see how we were doing, her mother said she looked a picture and that Sasha should get her portrait painted. She responded, quite good-humouredly, by saying that he wouldn’t think her worth a portrait.
Then there was Dad, quietly passing the evening, without striving towards the excesses of drink or humour as he does sometimes, and wallowing in his stately position as head of a large family, dining together. I slipped round the table at one point to take photos with J’s camera. J said Michele had asked him to say a few words, but he had prepared none. I said, be sincere. I could give him no other advice. When he did get up, he was full of confidence, a wry smile promising a good speech, but could say no more than half a dozen words, finishing with ‘here’s to a fine father’. He could really have said more, been a touch more emotional, warm. He came across so dry and short that I felt sorry for Dad. He would so have liked a good series of after-dinner speeches to go with the cigars and brandy. One of his friends spoke briefly, and was full of kind and praising words. Then came the call for Dad to speak. He showed reluctance, said he wanted to speak later, when tongues were loosened by the good cognacs; he wanted to be able to reply wittily and heartily to compliments showered on him. Alas there was no opportunity. He said, instead, how glad he was to be surrounded by his family and friends. Before leaving, I chatted to Dad, told him how I much I appreciated him, even loved him. He returned the affection - always keen to tell me how much he loves me. David Messiahs told B that he talks about me in glowing terms. B and I had to leave early, to return to Mum to collect you. I thought midnight was quite late enough if she’d spent the evening alone. Fortunately, Yarn had kept her company, and you had slept soundly through the evening. B said she had quite enjoyed herself, and the food had been good.
I get up at 7, make a cup of tea, tidy up a bit, listen to ‘Today’. I find the radio addictive, living alone as I do. Sometimes, it is impossible to turn it off. I sat for 10 minutes looking at this blank page and listening before I could turn it off. So far this morning I’ve heard an item about a Welsh firm off to set up a marketing company in China - an indication of the Chinese version of Glasnost. China, it seems, is set on course to follow the Western path after all, no toying with the idea any more. Then there was a story about how many fostering relationships break down, and another on the Spurs football team that has signed up Terry Venables. The 7:30 news tells me the BP share offer closes today, and that stock markets worldwide are very nervous.
Saturday 31 October, Halloween
Very little Halloween about tonight, except that perhaps we saw a spooky film last night - ‘Angel Heart’, a film by Alan Parker of ‘Midnight Express’ fame. I suppose it’s best described as a voodoo mystery. B said it was full of photography similar to my photographs! The end was a little unsatisfactory with Lucifer apparently winning out.
You and your Mum are at home spending a quiet weekend - B trying to make some bolsters to turn one of her many beds into a sofa, while you are showing distinct signs of growing up. You can now swipe and hit out at a ball that hangs in front of you on a string; you now kick deliberately; and, most astonishing of all, you have started talking. Not to me, but to your mother. After feeding, when are in a good mood, you and B sit there staring at each other, she says ‘Hello Adam’ or ‘Have you had enough to eat?’ and you, so consciously, make a few sounds from the back of your throat. B talks again and waits, and sure enough you say something back. The sounds are varied, unrecognisable, but distinctly talking from the throat. It makes me cry just to think of you, Adam. And I cry when I haven’t see you for a few days, and then pick you up in my arms.
Paul K Lyons
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