PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1990 - APRIL
9 April 1990
Oh dear, what has happened, more than a month since the last entry. I think it is the longest period without an entry since my first journal in 1974 (there may have been one other gap, when I decided not to write as an experiment, but this one is pure omission.)
Let me try and explain it: as ever, I think there is a value in reflecting from time to time on the diary writing process. Firstly, I must confess to a shortage of time. I cannot actually remember a period of my life when I have been quite so busy, workwise. I told FTBI Management Reports that I would give in the East Europe surveys by the end of March. I hate to miss a deadline, even if I know I am expected to. So that was a big chunk of work, and one which led me to be working until 10pm some nights, and one night till after midnight. Certainly three weeks of weakness set me back on that schedule but so much of the writing depended on new information which didn’t arrive until the last minute, so that I probably would have been in just as much of a rush in late March anyway. My college also decided it was time I presented them with a resume of my project to date, and for a few days I had to panic over that. It went reasonably badly, I have to say. There seemed to be fundamental flaws in my thinking, but I shall come back to write more about that later; for the time being the project and college have disintegrated out of my thought processes. My ordinary workload - EER, ‘EC Energy’ and the profiles - also seems to have multiplied this year, leaving me with very little time for anything else. So, I truly have a time excuse.
I do, however, suspect there might be a second and more worrying reason. The last diary period was the first to have consisted entirely of entries composed on the word processor. I printed out the entries (September to December) in January and proceeded to proof read them. I do not usually my reread my diaries for some years after they were written. Thus, in this case, I was immediately presented with the rather banal and overwritten details of my uninteresting life. And more than at any time since the fluorescent days with Harold and Mu, my character is devoid of imagination, sparkle, spontaneity. I do not have things witty, intelligent or original to say any more. Neither is there time to search for them.
Good Friday 13 April 1990
This will be the first weekend in months without an element of panic for either Barbara or I. Neither of us has brought any college work here to Aldeburgh, and we have three days more or less with little else to do but clear up the house and pack a few things. This house, 15 Leiston Road, is now sold subject to an exchange of contracts which is likely to take place next week. Completion would then be early in May. I have decided we can probably move all our stuff from here without hiring a van. There are only two big pieces of furniture to move - the sofa and the bureau - and we can take one on each return journey. Otherwise we can fill up the car with boxes and chairs. The bed and the cot will be sold locally and we shall probably try and dispose of them this weekend. Julian and Sarah may drive up today. It would be nice to see them. Sarah i snow pregnant and Adam may yet have a cousin before he is too old to play with him or her.
Julian and Sarah have since arrived at the cottage. Sarah is much better, feels generally brighter. Julian sits on the sofa trying to complete the ‘Independent’s’ concise crossword; I help with WordPerfect’s Thesaurus, though it doesn’t help as much as I thought it might.
Now I sit writing these notes on my new Toshiba portable computer. I have taken the plunge and invested £1,500 in this tiny little machine (along with a miniature 3.5’ disk drive). It weighs just 6lb (although when travelling anywhere one also needs to take the battery charger plus cables), but has a full screen size, a 20 MB hard disk drive and a very neat keyboard. I fell in love with it before I’d even seen it: the specifications on the Toshiba brochures were just enough to spark my passions; and now that I finally have the real thing beneath my fingertips, I am just as impressed. I have one or two minor gripes: on batteries alone, this machine will run for just about two hours I suppose, perhaps three if I don’t access the hard disk too often; one could hope for slightly more time. Secondly, this machine emits a rather strong hum; I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect any noise at all from such a small machine, even though it carries the power of my IBM at work.
Barbara is suitably in awe of the Tosh; like me she sees what a fabulous asset it is to have flexibility, to be able to move around the house; for example if Barbara were listening to the stereo I could nip upstairs to the bedroom with Tosh and carry on. Likewise, at home in Aldershot Road, if I get tired of working in the study I can carry Tosh into the lounge and continue there. I have a suspicion that we (me and Tosh) are going to be very happy together; but only time will tell.
Not this week just gone, but the previous one, I spent in Denmark. Yes, I finally got round to making the trip. I think I first talked about going a year ago. Denmark was the last frontier of Western Europe countries for the great itinerant, Paul Lyons, who has now been across every frontier of note (excluding, to be exact, Malta and Liechtenstein and Andorra). Needing to make this trip in order to compile profiles for ‘European Energy Report’ and one for ‘EC Energy Monthly’, I therefore booked myself a full week in Copenhagen. Fortunately, the foreign office press centre did an excellent job in arranging a list of interviews, so I had little phoning round to do before I went (which was just as well since I was so busy with the East European surveys management report) and indeed after I arrived. The programme was not exhaustive but it contained sufficient meetings to fulfil my needs, and it left me enough time, or so it seemed, to tour round the city and its environs. However, I did not count on the Danish energy ministry announcing its first energy plan for ten years; there could not have been a more major story from Denmark, unless it had decided to build a nuclear plant, and I was thus obliged to chase it in order to send a file to Kenny who was busy editing ‘European Energy Report’ in the London office. There was, however, a minor hitch to my plan to file the page one story - my interview with the energy minister Jens Bilgrav-Nielsen on Thursday afternoon. The timing could not have been worse. Had the interview been on Friday I would have just written the story without input from it; if the interview had been any earlier than Thursday, I could have used quotes from it for my story. The actual timing meant that I had to write the story once on Wednesday, which was difficult enough since the plan was only published that day and I had no official papers only the word of one industry person who had skimmed it quickly; and then, on the Thursday, rush back from my hotel, following the interview, reread the page print out which Kenny had faxed to the hotel, and then call them with as few changes as possible so as not to completely ruin their schedule for getting the final pages on the 6.00pm messenger to the printers.
I should write a few notes about the Danish energy plan, for it is really quite a radical and forward-looking scheme, one that is completely subservient to environmental concerns, and the first in Western Europe, or anywhere that I know of, to specifically define the need and the political aim of implementing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The plan document, Energy 2000, states quite bluntly that its aims are purely environmental. In itself this seems utterly strange; it is usually the job of the energy minister to try and defend the energy industry from too high costs, or too great a reliance on foreign imports, or to encourage exploration of domestic resources; but this energy minister told me that his obligation was to make sure that he had done everything in his power to protect the environment. Denmark also has an environment minister, but, it is interesting to note, both the energy and environment posts are held by the radical party (which has a minority role in the coalition government, but which, out of government through the 1980s, held the balance of power and wielded an disproportionate amount of control over the energy sector). I ran my stories about the plan under the banner of Denmark throwing itself into the environmental limelight and trying to trail blaze for Europe. However, it seems quite clear to me that the country has gone too far, and that its energy policy will now cost the country dear in higher energy costs; which will, ultimately, reduce quite significantly the Danes’ standard of living.
There are a number of basic flaws in the energy plan: firstly, most people accept that the problems of global warming and carbon dioxide emissions must be tackled on a global scale; it is pointless for a small country like Denmark to attempt corrective measures alone, since not only might they have so little affect as to be negligible, they might actually work against resolution of the problem. A recent Swedish study highlighted this: should a major carbon dioxide emitting industry be severely hit by a carbon dioxide tax in one country, it will tend to move its operations into another arena more financially amenable. Thus the country loses the business but there is no net gain on global carbon dioxide emissions.
Easter Monday 16 April 1990
A few words about Adam. Every month, his development becomes more subtle and more difficult to document; I do not have the language nor the sociological/psychological knowledge to describe in detail the progress of his mental development; I no longer even recognise new steps.
We went to Kenwood, a kind of traditional spring visit; this year, though, we had missed the daffodil and magnolia blooms. Adam started out rather grumpy, wanted to be holding my hand all the time, and began crying when we tried to play football against his wishes. It didn’t take very long for him to come round and begin to enjoy the park. We walked down to the pond where he wanted to stand right on the edge; when I held his hand and said we should jump in together - one, two, three - he stepped back a couple of paces on the count of two. He kept wanting to know whether the ducks liked leaves, and why there were leaves in the water.
After a while, we got him to play football; he seems to love chasing for the ball when either one of us is chasing it too; we always let him get it first, of course, and encourage him to dribble it past us, or through our legs. Once or twice he kicked the ball too far downhill and I had a tough job getting him to kick it back up; he kept wanting to give up and leave the ball at the bottom of the hill. I think it important to encourage Adam to achieve difficult, painstaking and boring tasks like fetching the ball up from the bottom of the hill, like tidying up his room, like putting all the chess pieces back into the box when he’s finished playing with them, like walking further when he wants to be carried. However, I also think that in order to build his character, to help him develop self-discipline, he must not be forced into these tasks, because he is far too young; rather it is important for him to be encouraged through a variety of means: positive reinforcement for achievement obviously, but also through deviousness if necessary, through calculated use of sternness, through bribery, and perhaps most important of all through helping myself. The important thing is to see projects through to their end. It would be foolish and counterproductive to choose projects which are too difficult or tiring for a child of Adam’s age, therefore I try not to challenge him when the task is too tough; though I do make mistakes sometimes. Bringing the ball back up the hill, Adam several times left it behind and ran back up saying he couldn’t do it. In the end I moved down a bit towards the ball, and he picked it up rather than kick it. But that showed initiative.
Even mid-morning Kenwood is full of people; this morning there were dozens of saintly-dressed strollers who looked like they had been let out of some religious conference for a few hours. Adam ran about very happily. He was carrying his bright orange plastic pliers (he’d found them in the car) and was using them inventively to cut the grass and fix screws. On leaving Kenwood, he expressed a strong desire to sit down on a bench; he has always liked sitting on benches, perhaps because of the benches round the boat sailing pond in Aldeburgh. Since there is a whole line of benches above the daffodil bank, I suggested that the seats further along might be better, so as to keep him moving towards the car (he’d drunk a giant orange juice in the cafe and I began to fear him needing a toilet during the car journey home). Instead of running along the path to a bench further along and sitting down there; he climbed up onto the first bench and walked along it; he climbed over the arm rest of the one bench and onto the next, situated flush with it. Like a young commando, he climbed along the line of benches negotiating ten or more of them until the distance between one bench and the next increased, from the width of the arm rest to a foot or more. Adam tackled the challenge with gusto, stretching out his foot and grabbing a handhold on the new bench thus swinging himself over successfully. When the gap was too great to climb across, he simply climbed down, walked along to the next bench and climbed back up. Towards the end of the line, he found a bench where one of the narrow wooden planks was broken leaving a hole; Adam asked me for his pliers so that he could mend it. I obliged, and he tried to wangle a bit of wood with his tool. After a few minutes, though, he muttered to himself (but we could hear): ‘I can’t fix it, I’ll have to leave it for Grandad’. Precious, so precious.
Adam still has not progressed past the ‘why’ stage; if he can’t think what to say, he says ‘why?’ with a real upward swing of pitch on the Y. Here follows a typical exchange: ‘Let’s go home and have some lunch.’ ’Why?’ ’Because we’re hungry.’ ’Why?’ ’Because we haven’t eaten since breakfast.’ ’Why?’ No answer. ’Why haven’t we eaten since breakfast?’
He is also good and trapping us into these exchanges. I might say to Barbara: ‘It’s a good idea if we have lunch now.’ Adam might then chirp in, ‘Daddy, it’s a good idea to have lunch now isn’t it?’ ’Yes, Adam, it is.’ ’Why?’
’Look Adam, there’s an aeroplane.’ ’Why?’
He is still excellent about going to sleep. Right now he’s in bed. These days I ask him to go to bed for a little rest, but allow him to take some books to read. He will usually go alone, and then fall asleep within minutes. At night, he is equally good. If I go in to see him after a few minutes, I see him lying perfectly still and calm, face up on the pillow, contemplating the universe. Similarly, in the morning, if I go into the parlour I might find him wide awake, just lying with his head on the pillow staring into space. As soon as he sees me, his face lights up with a big smile. I say ‘Good Morning’, he says ‘Good Morning Daddy’. This morning, it was just seven when I went through into the parlour, Adam was wide awake so I told him he could get up and play. However, he came through to the bedroom, and made a fuss when I wouldn’t give him a cuddle, so I actually gave in to his pleas and allowed him into the bed. For about half an hour he lay quite still (for him anyway) and quiet, then, when I asked him to go and play, he slipped quietly out of the bed and disappeared without a word.
I have rechristened him Adam Lyons Cuddlicott. Often he comes up to me and says ‘Daddy, I need a cuddle,’ or ‘I need cuddles all day long,’ or ‘I want lots and lots and lots and lots of cuddles.’ The dear of him.
I have not managed to catch up reporting the news of last five or six weeks. Every time I sit down to write up notes, I get sidetracked into writing about something more current. Let me, briefly, try to set down the main events of recent weeks.
Work: I had a real panic to finish my Management Report of East European Energy Surveys. I gave myself until the end of March, but the Friday of that particular week was the day we had scheduled to move Barbara out of Sumatra Road, which meant Thursday 29 March was my actual deadline. That week I was working so late, even until half past midnight on one occasion. I really complicated my life by trying to organise the purchase of this Toshiba; but I shan’t go into that just now. I did manage to finish over a 120 pages of the report and deliver it to Vivien Korn of FTBI Management Reports a day early; but what a lot of sweat. The week I was in Denmark, it became apparent that I would have to rewrite three of the chapters; my German correspondent Sara Knight filed some good material from East Germany; my Hungarian pleas for information finally came good and a mass of data plus text in English arrived in my office; and, while I was in Copenhagen, I attended the press briefing which followed a seminar devoted to the Polish energy situation and picked up a lot of papers about Poland’s energy sector. Great. My first draft is with Korn and a hired reader, I don’t know when I shall get it back to make corrections. I don’t expect the Report to sell very well; much of the material has been recycled, and besides it will be out of date shortly. I will net about £2,000 from the project, unless I start getting royalties from sales in which case my income might go up a bit. The most profitable bit of that £2,000 though will have been the £750 which is the fee for doing the production; £1,250 is the fee for writing 120 pages.
For some reason there seems to have been a lot of pressure from our normal workload: ‘European Energy Report’ plus the new look profiles, plus the indexes; and ‘EC Energy Monthly’. With ‘EC Energy Monthly’ in a different week from ‘European Energy Report’, it means we only get one relaxed week in four. But the pressure in each of those weeks does not seem any less than previously. Perhaps that is not exactly true, perhaps my ‘European Energy Report’ weeks are more relaxed; I am thrusting more of the responsibility of EER onto Kenny. I went to Denmark, for example, in an EER week leaving him to edit the whole thing. I gave a fair amount of guidance over the telephone having received the pages on the hotel or press centre fax machine. More and more I use the EER week to do other work - like the Management Report, like going to a conference, or even like doing my college work, not that I’ve done any of that recently.
Interesting to note that at the recent team briefing ‘EC Energy Monthly’ received high praise or so I’m told on the grapevine called Becky, of course nobody told me directly. Kenny, Miriam and I work our butts off, never to hear the slightest murmur from a boss as to our endeavours.
The Aldeburgh house is all but sold and we will probably only make one more trip. This last Easter weekend we spent three days, prior to that we had spent a rather stressed weekend at the end of March. Both Barbara and I were at the peak of our workloads and yet we opted to leave work behind and entertain my mother and Julian and Sarah in Aldeburgh. Well it was Mother’s day on that Sunday, and Julian’s birthday on the Monday. Melanie and Julian were due to come for the weekend, too, but they shied off at the last minute. We had a few fine hours: at the Butley Oysterage where my salmon was as good as the first salmon I ever had there, but the sauce was a touch greasy; and in Framlingham, though it rained and the pub we chose to eat in was not particularly good. B and I had one big row with Mum in the house, it’s the first real row of ours she must have ever experienced. She put on a brave face, though, and seemed to enjoy being away from London.
That weekend already I had brought a few things back to London; but the bulk of the load we transported yesterday: chairs, the bureau, some of the crockery, all the pictures, and so on. Having taken all the legs of the bed, and folded the divan in half, it still wouldn’t come through the door linking the kitchen to the stairs. The new owner had already told me he didn’t want the bed, but I rang him on the Sunday when he said he wouldn’t mind if we left it in place. So that saved us a headache.
Wednesday 18 April 1990
It is common now for me to leave Kenny in charge at the office. He takes more of the responsibility for the day-to-day managing of European Energy Report; this leaves me free on at least one day a week to get on with something else. Today I am at home to write up my Danish energy profile.
News of friends, present and past: Andraz rings to tell me his twins are born: he sounds about the most depressed I have ever heard him. I think the full realisation of his situation is finally becoming apparent. He is distressed by the fact that the mother asked her mother, who Andraz hates, to call him with the news of the birth. I explain that when a woman gives birth to a child (children) she has absolutely no time to worry about the feelings of anybody else. The brain body and soul are all utterly blinkered by the need to provide a full service to the baby. If Andraz is going to become so upset by such a minor detail, he has got a painful time ahead. Again, I advise him that his best bet, still at this juncture, is to distance himself from her; she decided to have the children without his consent, and, I think at least, there is no obligation for him to try and support the twins. But he does not see it that way.
Raoul has taken a new job as professor at Charing Cross hospital; he will move in October I think. He inherits a massive staff, much of it un-motivated, he thinks, and on National Health Service contracts which last for ever and do nothing. He has been given a tough assignment to streamline the operation and swing it around to be of service for his own ideas: he may have bitten off more than he can chew. More details may emerge tonight since we are due to dine together at a Fulham curry house. Andy will also come. He has closed his pine shop, and is converting the premises into offices to rent them out; each day that passes Andy becomes more of an estate manager, the perfect job for him. The parking lot, however, still provides him with the bulk of his income.
I went to a dinner party at his house on Sunday. There was the usual motley crew of brightly coloured people: Niema and Tim were there. Niema has just published her book about Tibet (I went to the launch at Neil Street East shop a couple of weeks ago). There is a foreword by the Dalai Lama which must be a useful boost to publicity and sales. I haven’t yet got myself a copy although I fully intend to do so. Tim will go off shortly to work in Wales for half a year with his sister. She is starting a mineral water bottling plant.
At the dinner, I encountered again a Moroccan called Jamyl, first met at the Tibet book launch. He works for Amnesty International on African concerns, but is intent on starting up his own newsletter. While in the course of his job he picks up a lot of valuable political information which he thinks could make the basis for a monthly publication, so he was pumping me for details on how to finance and operate a small newsletter operation. Since we first met, he said he had been given about £30,000 to start up the newsletter, and his assistant was looking for a small office somewhere. Jamyl (how do you spell the name?) is a round-faced, soft spoken man, probably in his thirties; behind his eyes I find a deep streak of serious concern, presumably born of political commitment, that does not often break into smile. With me he is at pains to draw out the full extent of my knowledge, without necessarily revealing how much about the subject he already knows; this way he can gauge more accurately the quality of what I tell him. His wife, whose name I don’t recall, and who I have not yet spoken too, has a sallow countenance but a lively manner; her laugh is a touch gritty, a touch hysterical and, unfortunately, displays her forward slanting teeth. There is a mountain of political commitment in her too, but it seems to be based on more naive principles and on fashionable feminism (vis her overt support of a lovely lesbian couple she knows and their recent adoption of a child.) Jamyl says he will come by my office to pick my brains further, but when he explains that he is interested in our filing systems, I throw up a red flag. He must know, I tell him, that we work in a very different way from his operation; we are cheapskate; we do not triple check facts before publication, it is just not possible on the kind of budgets we run.
There was such a gap in my diary writing entries that I cannot be sure I have entered details of the extraordinary coincidence of letters in recent weeks. In any case, the facts bear repeating.
Firstly, it is to be remembered that a letter arrived here at this address, in January I think, from Mayco. Although it was to my mother and mentioned me not even in passing, not even a how-do-you-do, it was the first communication from her in many years (I did mention this letter, I must have done, about how she has twins and is living in Rio and was living there when I was there.) Then, in February, I received a phone call from Maja in Yugoslavia. This is the first direct communication from her in a very long time; although I have kept up a flow of cards. In March, I received a card from Harold. I agree that is not so unusual, since he does send me one every two years or so. On the back of the envelope he asked if I had an address for Mu. He has asked this question before but not for many years; and why should he think that I do have such an address, I was much less acquainted with news from Vienna than he was. The card’s message was, as usual, a rather indecipherable jumble of poetic prose. The unusual aspect about getting the card was that that very same afternoon, cycling home from work I had spent a few minutes exploring my memories of Harold in response to having seen a person in the street whom I thought, just for a second, was him.
Less than a week later, my mother rang to tell me there is a letter from New Zealand from Mu. Not only has there been no contact at all between us in nearly ten years, but I have not even had news of her since her flight to Australia to get married and have a child. No news at all. I am surprised even that she has my mother’s address. The letter tells of two children, some years of inner turmoil, a considerate husband and a house with several acres of forest in the Coromandel peninsula. She lives just a short walk from beaches ‘Greece can only dream off.’ She says it has been hard living in paradise. I intend to write to Mu with two letters; one describing the real Paul Lyons and another detailing a different and perhaps more successful man.
If that were not all, just days later a letter arrived from Roser. I never expected to hear from her ever again either. She has a child too, David, fifteen months old; she married Wally the man she met while living with me, and the two of them live entirely in a world of pots and potters. The letter says she is coming back to England, (and in fact is already here). We met a few days later (in a few free hours I found between finishing my management report and moving Barbara out of Sumatra Road and heading off to Denmark). I found a more mature Roser but one very little different from the sweet lover that had helped me through bad times. She said she never wrote because she preferred to freeze her English relationships so as to pick them up again one day, such as today. She said recently she had finally consumed Durrell’s ‘Alexandria Quartet’ after several failed attempts. It had struck her suddenly that Harold and I had been trying to create Durrell’s world and that Mu was a Justine figure. We spent a few hours talking about this and that; her child David was so good the whole time; barely demanding any attention or food or drink. Roser said David neither slept in the day nor went to bed much before 11; leaving very little free time for herself. They live not far from her mother, who visits often and looks after David while Roser continues with her potting. She said she does write to Harold occasionally though she hasn’t seen him in all these years.
7 41, Monday 23 April 1990
A US hostage has been released. But what more do we know? The volume of diplomacy behind such an event has, of necessity, to remain an absolute secret. The US and the UK have always maintained a firm stance against any deals, nevertheless journalists speculate and speculate. It is of utmost importance that those nations suffering from the pressure of hostage capture be seen to be doing nothing at all differently because of who the hostage is. The more information terrorist groups worldwide gather reinforcing the value of holding a hostage, the more likely it is that further hostages will be taken. It seems to me extremely unlikely that the behaviour of nations towards Iran, for example, has remained un-modified; diplomats must act and react to events in Iran with one eye for ever on the hostage crisis. Under such conditions, it must be in the interests of Iran to maintain the influence of hostages, even if indirectly through the terrorist groups. Also important in this scenario is that the victim nations always feel there is hope for release; if not, their diplomatic efforts, the degree of modification of their behaviour will start to wane. Thus the West is shooting itself in the foot by getting all excited over one hostage release: in the short term, at least, it probably means that the US, the UK and others will be that much more careful in their diplomatic relations.
I have probably missed mentioning the release of Nelson Mandela - an event that attracted worldwide media, as did a concert at Wembley he attended the other day. It does seem somewhat extraordinary that a man, so long in prison, can appear into the daylight of a very different world and maintain such a high profile and such a powerful presence. Britain continues to argue against sanctions on South Africa, while most other EC and Commonwealth countries prefer to keep the pressure up.
There has been a furore over six people in prison judged responsible for the Birmingham bombing over a decade ago. Granada TV produced its third documentary on the subject. This one, more of a drama-documentary, followed the progress of some journalists in trying to discredit the police evidence against the Birmingham six, and it followed the trail of Chris Mullin who chose to find the real bombers, by poking around in the IRA’s dirty linen. Having never taken much interest in such cases (four men accused of the Guildford bombings were recently released after years in jail), I found the programme most convincing. For years I have believed the police are far more corrupt than is generally accepted by the public.
18 31, Sunday 29 April 1990
I am listening to a programme on Radio Three about political diarists. Anthony Howard pieces together interviews with Richard Crossman, Barbara Castle and Tony Benn from the left and Julian Critchley and Alan Clarke from the right. Neither radio nor television can properly provide any depth to a subject, so that more often than not one is left trying to recall what was said. And they both suffer from a vice that is worse then heroin addiction: a presenter making a point and then following it with a single snatch of interview to justify the point of view. QED - on to another point. Howard looked at why there should be more political diarists from the left than the right: he concluded that for the right there is an element of it not being the done thing, and there being more of a tradition for secrecy; but that on the left, politicians take their work more seriously, that they are more interested in change, and more interested in revelation, in transparency. He explained how confidentiality is a problem, and that some might act and talk differently in front of a colleague known to be a diarist. Roy Jenkins, however, says this is not so: in the moment so much of import is going on, there is so much drama about the day’s events, that changing behaviour to avoid possible exposure a decade hence just isn’t possible.
Although the importance of diaries was emphasised particularly in revealing how much immediate drama there is in a politician’s life and how human they are, Howard also found that diaries are less useful as source material since they are almost always written with an eye to publication. Jenkins says that those of Castle, Benn and Crossman are by and large honest.
Adam and I have been in the Peak District for a few days; our first real trip together. So far, Adam has has had no other holidays but in Aldeburgh. This trip was something of an experiment, one I’ve been planning since Judy told me she had hired a cottage in Matlock, and that it was during one of my free weeks. B brought Adam to Victoria Station on Wednesday night, handed him over, and went straight back to Brighton. This is the first time we have ever done such a cold swap over. But Adam was well prepared. All week, at the nursery, he has been telling friends about his trip to the Peak District, and about going to bed and breakfast with his Dad. Since we couldn’t see Judy et al on the Thursday, we didn’t set off until about 1.30. We both pottered around during the morning, tidying up the house and getting our bags ready. At twelve we went over to Mum’s for a spot of lunch. At 2 we were stuck in a wretched traffic jam on the M1. The waste of time makes me so cross, thousands of people just inching their way along the motorway for five miles. The roadworks, when they finally arrive, appear to be insignificant compared to the massive disruption being caused to people’s lives. I see perhaps fifty workmen on the site; but, in a single day, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people’s lives lose an hour or more. This is a calamity of modern life. Why do motorists accept it? Why is there no lobby group more politically active, demanding that such road works be confined to non-jam hours and be carried out with the maximum of personnel? In protest, I am tempted to put my foot on the accelerator and crash into the car in front. It never ceases to amaze me that more motorists don’t crack up, or that road networks don’t seize up altogether for days at a time.
Late afternoon, we arrive in Wirksworth. Adam woke half way along the journey, but behaved relatively well. He became more fractious when we got out of the car to walk around the town. I notice how much traffic thunders through the high street. From my last visit, I have retained a peaceful, quiet image of this forgotten place. The heritage centre and cafe are there just as I remembered, but I am set back by the information centre’s inability to offer me a B&B in the town itself. I notice the estate agent Paul Rogerson has been taken over by Nationwide.
We move on to Matlock Bath and find ourselves a B&B right on the main road, a little beyond the centre. Two dogs bark loudly, and frighten Adam for a second. The house is all pine, spick and span and pine: pine furniture, pine doors, pine toilet roll holder. The landlady gives us a sunny front room. I think about the road noise but choose not to quibble. There is one double bed but, she says, she can set up a camp bed for Adam. We are charged £15 for the two of us. It seems a very reasonable deal, since Adam probably causes as much dirty washing and creates more mess than an adult.
We wash up a bit, and then go out for a walk along the river. The house nests at the end of a terrace right below a small cable car operation to the Heights of Abraham. I point out the cable cars and tell Adam we are to go in one of them tomorrow or Saturday. The cable car will prove to be the highlight of this short holiday for the young man. When it starts to rain we make a beeline for a bandstand situated on the river path. There we perch on the floor and eat a picnic. I teach Adam to tell B that we had ‘a picnic in the rain in Matlock Bath’. Quite a mouthful but he manages.
This is such a pleasure: sitting with my son, sharing each bit of the picnic, talking about the food, about the river, about the rain. Here we are Adam and I alone, enjoying our first trip together; the first of many, many such trips. We wipe our hands on the grass and walk on a little more. The rain, however, gets heavier and we are forced to return to the B&B. I read Adam some new books I have bought. One of them - ‘Kimi and the Watermelon’ from New Zealand - he asks me to read again as soon as I’ve finished. He has never asked me to reread a book. I oblige.
By the time he gets into bed Adam is exhausted, too exhausted to sleep. He takes a while to settle down. I have been looking forward to an evening’s quiet reading - I have brought two books (Marquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and ‘Kisses of the Enemy’ by Rodney Hall) over which I have been dawdling. Both have a wealth of rich language that needs concentration and time, but the only time I’ve had in recent months has been on the tube, and it takes me the whole of the Kilburn-Charing Cross journey to re-orientate myself to a book. Anyway, as I say, I was really looking forward to the idea of a night in the bedroom, with Adam asleep, and me reading quietly. Unfortunately, I had not calculated quite how late Adam would go to bed or how tired I would be. Before very long my eyes were drooping with the heavy tiredness known to every parent. Marquez just isn’t the author to keep one awake against the forces of fatigue.
In the night, Adam woke up rather distressed. I hauled him into my bed, so neither of us slept for a couple of hours, at least until I told him to go back into his bed, a command which he obeyed without a murmur. We repeated this play on the Friday night as well. (Back in Aldershot Road, on Saturday night, I was really looking forward to an unbroken night’s sleep. However, somewhere in the middle of darkness I heard a child screaming. A certain smugness entered my dream that I, at last, wasn’t subject to such interruption, somebody else would have to deal with the child. Slowly, the screaming penetrated further until it finally cracked through into my consciousness that Adam was crying. I went to him immediately of course. He was crying out loud: I want to go into your bed, I want to go into your bed. I sat by him for a while, explained that everybody was still sleeping and that he too should go to sleep. He was calmed very quickly and within minutes I was able to leave him.)
Breakfast was a mite traumatic from worries that Adam would spill egg down his front and onto the cushion which the landlady had so generously provided. But what a treat for him - weetabix, orange juice, egg, sausage and bacon, toast - all for breakfast. Adam’s meal time manners are a long way from perfect; add to that a certain difficulty in accurate time and motion management of the logistics of spoon handling to and from plate and mouth and you soon have a messy table, floor and clothes. I do have great difficulty in knowing how much to expect from him. How can I properly gauge what his manners should be, or his ability to co-ordinate, or his ability to occupy himself, or could be. I have no experience. I did find myself, at that first breakfast anyway, trying to discipline him every few seconds.
After breakfast, we packed up a few things for the day and sped off to Matlock. We bought rolls and a Bakewell tart for the Warrens, I thought they might appreciate them for breakfast. Even with my ordnance survey map and full instructions I didn’t find their hired cottage very easily. This was largely because I assumed it to be a free-standing independent building whereas it turned out to be a conversion on the side of a much a larger building. I was looking for Splash cottage but never expected to find it on the side of Splash Farm House. The Warrens were in various states of undress. Adam behaved somewhat shyly for a few minutes before involving himself in the toys scattered across the floors. It was almost as though he switched from a being in Daddy-mode to nursery-mode. I thought we would sit around for hours, and was thus pleased when they got themselves ready to leave quite quickly. I made a bid to visit the Rowsely flour mill and the strange deserted-looking castle above Matlock, while Judy wanted to do a walk near Alport which some friends had told her about. There we had our day’s agenda.
Paul K Lyons
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