PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1988 - NOVEMBER
Tuesday 1 November
A new era for Adam, he has started nursery school at only 15 months. B took him in yesterday, his first day, and picked him up. I was thinking of him all day and then was anxious to find out how it went. I kept ringing B every five minutes to see if they were back. I relished all the details.
B at work in the kitchen, A gone to nap for an hour, me at the bureau in the sitting room. With both B and I now studying frantically we have to negotiate over time, who is responsible for looking after Adam. Because we are both basically generous it’s almost funny when we attempt to be selfish - thus the bargaining process for piecing up the weekend was little more than teasing and double teasing.
I am still behind with my course. Just to keep pace with a single week’s work as it comes I have to gallop, both physically - backwards and forwards between Euston Square and Covent Garden - and mentally - from energy to paleoanthropology to primate social systems and genetics. Next week there are no lectures so I hope to catch up properly.
This weekend I am reading half a dozen or so papers marked essential for Leslie Aiello’s course. It is working through the fossil record from the earliest possible hominids, and these first papers are about when hominids branched away from apes. There is much controversy about the fossil evidence and how to interpret it. Bipedalism is one key feature. An early Australopithecus in Africa was thought to be bipedal (and thus well on the way to being human) but that has now been disproved. Other Australopithecus in Africa initially thought to be close to humans now also look likely to be closer to chimps. And so it goes on.
One scientist who figures prominently in the Leslie selection of papers is Peter Andrews from the British Museum department of paleoanthropology. In one of his papers, I learn that, according to the current fossil evidence, about 20 mya there were some 10 species of hominids in East Africa, but by the late Miocene there were only two. Andrews plots the percentage of species diversity against time and finds a remarkable correlation. The data suggests extinction about 3mya, and this is confirmed by the present relic distribution (using mt DNA analysis).
What an exciting week it has been at University College. I listened to no less than four invited speakers, experts in their fields, each one bringing alive debates raging around the subject of human evolution. On Tuesday, during our roundtable meeting, an Australian fossil hunter gave us a talk about the place of Australian hominids and current theories. The oldest remains in Australia are only 30,000 years but, nevertheless, remains of robust and more gracile hominids have been found. He explained at some length how the aborigines are lobbying to return all fossils to the ground, and how they have vetoed a study of newly-discovered fossils. This poor man was almost in tears as he described his frustration at this. The aborigines are, apparently, afraid of their indigenous status (and thus land rights) being put into question - were they just immigrants too, a bit earlier than the whites?
Later that day a scientist from Cambridge demonstrated a new model for looking at evolution, but I had to leave half way through to collect Adam from the nursery. On Wednesday, a stranger joined our small tutorial with Robin. He turned out to be Carel van Schaik whose test on predation theory versus competitive group theory is used in Robin’s course, and in his book. It was quite inspiring to be involved in the debates between Dunbar and van Schaik. On Thursday, a lady called Holly spoke about her work with mapping fossil teeth, and how it showed the South Africa australopithecines fit better with chimps than hominids.
How is Adam getting along? At 15 months he remains a charmer. Handsome, smiling, his long blonde hair falling over his ears and down to his neck. He now builds bricks up instead of knocking them over, he can put lego together, he can open doors, take lids off, take keys in and out of doors, put pen caps on, climb up almost anything, feed himself at table. He understands so much. When asked he will fetch things, close doors, put back books on a shelf, sit down, point, go to mummy. He will try and make sounds, he tries to copy us when we want him too, Ma ta da poo woo and so on. Some sounds better than others, but he knows what to do. We think he must be teething because his cheeks have been so red, and because he’s been waking in the night regular as clockwork. A real pain.
It becomes clearer that there are benefits in showing A things before he’s ready, in playing with toys too old for him. He’s now loving several toys which, initially, failed to interest him. I think this is true of the piano as well. He begins to make real progress. He uses a single finger now, and will play several notes in succession. I know he hears the difference in notes now, too, and enjoys the difference! We continue to discipline him over finger sucking. I have won B’s full support on this. We also try and vary his milk quotas so he doesn’t become too dependent on them.
Saturday 12 November
George Bush has been elected the next president of the United States. A sigh of relief from across the world, for stability and predictability. The Kremlin is probably just as pleased with the result as No 10 Downing Street. Bush is the first vice-president to be elected president for ever so many years, and this is said to mean there will be a greater degree of continuity from one administration to the next than is usual.
Caroline is back from her tour of the US, and leaves tomorrow for another six weeks, this time to West Germany. Her dancer friends sense her presence in London, and call to swap stories of broken ankles and superb performances. She says the tour went well, though the amount of travelling and her own poor health meant it was something of a nightmare. The company, or rather the couple that run the group, she says, really suck. In six weeks, they have had only two days off, and now they’re back in London they don’t get a single day off. The working conditions are appalling. She tells me a gruesome story about her friend Nile who lives in a council flat in King’s Cross. He woke up one morning to find his ceiling crawling with maggots. I tell no lie. It turned out an old man had died in the flat above some two weeks previously. The council came and cleared the mess up, but now Nile’s flat is full of bluebottles.
It was an odd and unnatural week. It was not a production week and neither did I have lectures. Anthropology stops mid-term for a reading week. I have spent much of the time catching up on the paleoanthropology side. I was so completely lost before. It does seem that the whole science is fraught with complex difficulties. There are so many variations by which man and his antecedents could have developed. We are working with such little evidence, it is like trying to understand the picture of a 1000-piece jigsaw with a just seven pieces.
How to ruin a perfectly respectable cup of milk - add some Nesquik banana milk shake powder.
Barbara got sicker and spent Sunday in bed. Adam and I went to the Rosetti to meet Dad. Adam was dressed in smart little cords and green jumper given him by Michele. I too was in blue cords bought the previous day at John Lewis. Michele’s mother Anne was in attendance. She becomes older and more crippled month by month and has just returned from three weeks at a convalescent home in Clacton. Adam is not well. He sits on my lap, most obediently for forty minutes or so, never trying to get off, nor wriggling, just sitting. He must be ill. He has promised Adam 100 BP shares, maybe they will be useful to him one day.
I went to a party at Rosy and Andrew’s on Saturday night. The first party I’ve been to for a very long time. I think Rosy must have made a special effort for her 45th birthday. As big a gathering of the old crowd as I can remember. Raoul (Caroline), Niema and Tim, Roneet, Susie, Richard. But whereas 7-8 years ago the group would have been an enviable crowd of highly charged, colourful people, now they seemed old and grey. Only Rosy tried to pretend no time had passed. Dressed in the skimpiest of clothes, she danced as exhibitionistically as ever, demanding everyone to take off their knickers! I talked to the foreign news service editor at ‘The Observer’ who Rosy had met at a performance of the ‘Mahabharata’ in Glasgow (Peter Brook’s most recent work). We had a fair amount in common so it wasn’t difficult talking to him, but every time I moved he was right there by my side. Gay or what.
I learned from Roneet that Vonny is pregnant (and after all her exhortations against motherhood). She and her husband Stephen are thrilled even though it was an accident. Stephen has a new job at Sainsburys, and all appears to be hunky dory after a difficult year or two.
It snows. For the second weekend in a row, B stays in bed. She has the nastiest cough, and is probably recovering from a minor bout of pleurisy (after going birdwatching last Saturday when already sick with the flu). I look after both she and Adam. Yesterday, A & I went to the library, then, after lunch, we drove down to Hyde Park to meet Raoul, Jack and Sophie. We met at the Serpentine Gallery, which was showing a collection of paintings by Paula Rego, whom I’ve never heard of. It is difficult to concentrate on art with toddlers running around, trying to put their greasy hands on the canvases. There was a bit of a snooty atmosphere, a seriousness, as visitors examined the art with great concentration. Our children, I thinking, counterpointed this, to the point of comedy. But the paintings themselves were comical, while some weightier works seemed to carry the message that a woman’s work is never done. We then walked down to the lake. Adam found it hard to walk on past a duck even though there were plenty more to see. Jack and Sophie sat obediently in their double buggy, but demanded a boat ride, and then popcorn.
Adam and I came back home for less than an hour before nipping off to see Grandma. She has been to the Bar Mitzvah of her neighbour’s son, held in a converted Christian church by a young lady rabbi.
I feel it is time to do something new at the office. But what I need least of all is more work. I’m imagining a project that will enhance EER, bring greater respect for me, expand my mini empire at FTBI, and satisfy anyone who might criticise my excessive coming and going. If I sit down just to think of ideas, it’s amazing how many come.
1) An energy atlas. This would be an 8 or 16 page booklet of maps that display basic energy stats. One might be borrowed from Nuclear Engineering International which pinpoints all the nuclear plants; another might show each country as a measure of the energy efficiency; and yet another might use windmills to show the level of renewable use. I do rough costings on this, but worry about how much use it will be.
2) A reader’s research feature. This would be a questionnaire about current topics in the industry. Subscribers would be invited to answer the questions in return for which they would get a copy of the results. The results could be written up briefly in EER, or at a later date for the respondents. But what sort of questions? The best ideas I could come up with were connected to company and organisation images.
3) A chronological list of the major events in energy during 1988. I think I’ll restrict this to one page, and put it on the back of the first EER in the New Year.
4) A monthly supplement on the EEC. This is the most exciting. It would rely heavily on my correspondent in Brussels, but I could fill it out with graphics from the Eurostat statistics, and profiles of Member States - each month a different one. This would be given away free with EER or sold separately for a £100 or so.
Peace continues to break out. Palestinians have gone some way further to accepting Israel by declaring a government in exile, and similarly there is optimism in Angola, where Unita has concluded a secret ceasefire with the Cuba, which is providing military support to the MPLA. Maggie says no to a visit by the Queen to Russia.
Thursday 24 November
Adam is so much better after his cold. He appears joyful and gives joy. He eats with a hearty appetite, and sleeps through the night again. This evening he has been playing in the lounge while I watched Channel 4 news. He has learnt a new game. Having climbed onto the centre of the round coffee table, he uses the tiniest of footsteps to reach the edge. Throwing his hands high up in the air, he leans forward, confident I’ll be there to embrace him as he falls off. He loves it, and races down off my lap to do another circuit.
I take Raoul to the theatre, to the Almeida, to see Théâtre de Complicité. They are very talented and comic actors. This show, ‘The Visit’, went on too long, but I wouldn’t hold it against them. The story seemed so familiar to me, yet I don’t recognise the Swiss playwright’s name.
Andy Holmes is a star for a day or two. He has been given details of the forthcoming privatisation bill, details no one else has. His newsletter ‘Power in Europe’ was quoted on ‘Today’ this morning, by Sue McGregor no less. TV stations have been queueing up to interview him, and to put him on film. It is a coup for Andy no doubt about that. 10 out of 20 pages in this week’s issue are taken up with the bill, which is due for a first reading next week, so I’ll be able to synthesise media opinion for my newsletter then.
Talking of newsletters, I presented a proposal to Dennis. In fact, I had the idea on Friday afternoon. On Monday I didn’t arrive in to the office until after 1:30. I’d written my proposal by 3, and seen Dennis by 3:30. He gave a very positive response, and has copied my proposal to other editors for reaction. It is a damn good idea. Apart from giving my correspondent in Brussels, Brooks, a good living, and turning Kenneth into a trainee journalist, it will greatly ease my life if I can get Kenneth working for me full time. That will be crux for me, getting the other half of Kenneth’s time - I’ll feel I’ve failed if I don’t.
I seem to spend more time at University College these days than at the office. The course is hard work. I am constantly surprised how much information we have to pack in, and how many hours I have to spend either physically present at the lectures or reading. So much reading, and that’s just what recommended. I’d like to read wider and deeper about other things, but there is no time. I feel my eyes are beginning to suffer.
The two other MSc students (full timers), Nilofer and Cathy, have chosen their research subjects - N will study orangutans in the zoo, and Cathy is going to assess some of the hominid finds from Java. I have been invited to discuss projects with the course tutors, but so far don’t feel comfortable with any of the subjects. I want to get a feel of genetics (which doesn’t start until next term) before making a decision.
I like almost all the people I’m dealing with here. Robin is very chatty. He sometimes comes into the MSc room to make a cup of coffee, and doesn’t leave for half an hour. I throw at him all my doubts about his approach, but he answers them very satisfactorily most of the time. I’ve noticed he tends to wear the same clothes all week. Fred Brett is the old-timer, somewhat jaded. He says his brain has been addled since he had malaria in Ethiopia and suffered a temperature of 108 degrees. He has a dry sense of humour, but reacts to humour by others in a pedantic manner. His tutorials are rather scrappy, and I fear he may not be much of a teacher. I reserve opinion until his lecture course. Robin was his research student 20 years ago. Leslie Aiello, an American, is full of energy (and a mild stutter). She actively engages speakers as often as possible, and makes her lectures as up to the minute and interesting as possible. She takes the trouble to use both slides and an overhead projector. She looks and dresses rather eccentrically, but one guesses her heart is in the right place. Both Nilofer and the PHd student Kristin are attractive, physically and characterwise.
Paul K Lyons
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