PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1991 - DECEMBER
18 55, Sunday 1 December 1991, London
I fly to Brussels tomorrow for my last visit of the year. It should be more relaxed than of late, since the book is finished and I have simply to catch up with what I’ve missed and prepare material for the next ‘EC Energy Monthly’. I intend to spend a couple of days at a DG XVII conference on energy technology.
A and B have just left for Brighton. They’ve been here since Thursday. On Friday we went to the Moving Image museum on the South Bank. It’s an impressive celebration of cinema, a rather dense experience with so much to see and so many images badgering the sight for attention. But, since there are no toilets and no refreshments within the museum proper, one has to fairly race through it before failing from exhaustion. Adam enjoyed it, although so many of the images which found echoes in mine and Barbara’s memories are of course completely foreign to Adam. He did, however, catch on quick to the Daleks, and was a total fan by the time he left the museum, having never seen a programme of Dr Who in his life.
On Saturday, we all trooped over to Julian’s to celebrate Rebecca’s first birthday.
I meet up with Raoul in Holland Park. He looks as haggard and as stressed as I’ve seen him for some long time. His mother has been ill and in hospital, which was very worrying, plus he’s had a site visit to his hospital by the funding organisation - the Cancer Research Fund. He tells me they gave him an Alpha star, which is not as good as an Alpha plus but is better than a Beta or some other mark. On top of all the work and family problems, he still manages to go out most nights of the week to some engagement or other. One engagement a week more than tires me out, I don’t know how he manages.
Monday 2 December 1991, Brussels
The EC summit is but a few days away. The newspaper coverage in the UK is at fever pitch. Somebody said to me today that the British newspapers have really gone over the top with their coverage of Maastricht; but it is never the newspapers that provide the lead on EU stuff, it is the politicians. Major and his merry mates have been carefully grooming public opinion so that it expects and hopes for exactly what he knows it will get out of Maastricht. I understand that the idea of a chapter on energy policy in the treaties has been dropped. This is a real shame for me and for ‘EC Energy Monthly’. It means, in essence, that the Member States have agreed to continue limiting the competence of the Community in the strategic area of energy - no leaps and bounds in the internal energy market and no communal energy policy. There will, though, be a chapter on trans-European networks as expected, and one on industry. The Maastricht meeting will, presumably, decide on the final details, if they haven’t already been finalised.
Interestingly, almost nothing has happened here in Brussels in my areas of interest since my last trip nearly five weeks ago. This has been my longest absence all year but there is nothing to catch up with. Sources tell me Delors has put all proposals and plans on hold until after Maastricht, until after the new shake-up of competences has been settled among the power-brokers.
Whilst I’ve been off the air, so to speak, a few more hostages have been released, including Terry Waite. I was sure he would be the last, but there is still another American to come after today’s release of Michael Cimino. Waite was lauded from all sides. He gave a long and coherent and passionate speech on arrival at RAF Lynham before disappearing from public view. A number of criticisms surfaced at the same time: he was accused of being foolhardy in returning to the Middle East when he had already been warned of a possible attempt to kidnap him, and when the Archbishop of Canterbury had advised him not to go (he was apparently not acting as the Archbishop’s envoy when he was kidnapped). He was also accused of being naive, since it appears that he had had several meetings with Oliver North, and that North was engaged in secret arms-for-hostages deals. It seems that some of the hostages that Waite managed to get freed were in fact released because the US had provided arms in return. It will be some time before the media gets to the bottom of all this. While there are still hostages in captivity the true stories are not being told - this is blackmail working: however much the West insists it has not bargained for the hostages released, this small concession of saying nothing bad about the hostage-takers, and the hostages being advised to say next to nothing about their ill treatment, is in fact a concession to the terrorists.
On a similar theme, there has been a flurry of publicity recently concerning Salmon Rushdie. The Iranis will not remove the death threat (who would want to change an edict by the late Khomenei?), neither is the UK government insisting on it doing so. Salmon thus believes he has been forsaken for the cause of international diplomacy. His defenders appear on TV and radio, indignant that the government is not taking a stronger stance. Churchmen, although believing the death threat is wrong, say they can understand how offended muslims feel; some literati believe Rushdie went too far, so the voice of those writers staunchly defending freedom is attenuated by others with a less we-must-be-liberal-at-all-costs view. My own feeling is that Rushdie manages to present a rather arrogant front. I believe he should have withdrawn the book from publication and perhaps re-written the offending passages. There would be no shame in admitting he was mistaken, but he steadfastly refuses to submit; yet, he is but one man against a world religion.
Friday 6 December 1991, Brussels
In an hour or so I head back to England and Brighton. I cannot say it has been a particularly successful trip. Part of the problem is that several issues are due to be discussed at important meetings next week - there’s the Maastricht summit at which the economic and political union treaties are to be signed, then there’s the joint energy and environment council on Friday, and then a few days later is the Charter summit. Actually, I have most of the information I need. The most annoying thing is that the key decisions which have not yet been taken - that on the energy tax - will probably be resolved at the joint council on Friday, the day I go to press with the year’s last issue of ‘EC Energy Monthly’. It really will be a panic to track someone down on the telephone on Friday afternoon to tell me what has happened. I just hope the council is in the morning.
The Red Stripe, I must report, is selling like hot cakes. Louis did a hand count in the middle of the week and came up with the staggering total of 104. Considering, the newsletter has had no pre-marketing and there has only been one mass mailing (30,000), the results are extremely encouraging. I’ve thought of a little gimmick for the December issue which will be the last one to be sent free to my European Energy Report subscribers (and which is also going out to all the ‘East European Markets’ subscribers). I had planned to run the first Red Stripe profile (of Slovenia) with this issue, but then one night this week, I had a real brain wave - to give away mini-copies of the European Energy Charter. The timing is perfect. The Red Stripe goes out on 11 December so that all those lovely potential punters out there in the big wide world will be able to hold a copy of the Charter in their golden-toned hands - care of my ‘East European Energy Report’ - on the very day that the newspapers will be reporting on the Charter signing ceremony. I spent much of Wednesday, I think it was, trying to convince the podgy Frank Abrahams at PRT printers that he could manage the extra print run. Now I’ll have to go into the office on Sunday probably in order to try and prepare the photocopy I have of the Charter text into a reasonable condition for the printers - I certainly don’t want to have to type it all out again.
11 13, Monday 23 December 1991, London
Here we are at Christmas time, and isn’t it fun. Life is one long party. My social life revolves entirely around work or family. I have not had one meeting with a friend - nor will have as far as I can see. Maybe, next weekend in Brighton, we will see Annabel and Julek. The sum total of my social life, then, this Christmas is a lunch with my works lads and the two marketing girls; the works’ party, at which I dallied just a couple of hours; dinner at Dad’s with the family minus Mum; an evening out at the theatre tonight minus Julian; and Christmas day at Mum’s.
A and B came up on Saturday morning but I have been crabby most of the time, and I do not find myself very constructive with Adam. I bought a microphone but when, finally, we sat down to tape some conversation it was flat and uninspired. Today B has gone down to Oxford Street to buy presents. She has been so busy with her course that she’s barely had a moment to organise herself for xmas.
Adam sits downstairs drawing. I encourage him to do a special picture for B’s birthday, but he doesn’t really have different levels of doing yet, he other does or does not - thus he cannot be persuaded to draw something more carefully than he does at other times.
Presents bought for family: Mum - three Aldeburgh pictures, a Malvern picture of she, me and Adam, some chocolates and a kitchen knife; Julian - an encyclopaedia on golf, an old gold lessons book, two cassettes of Brahms symphonies; Sarah - a book by Sue Lawley about Desert Island Discs, chocolates; Rebecca - two books and some more Duplo; Melanie - a toaster, a Doris Lessing reader, chocolate horse; Julian - a book on motor racing.
19 06, Thursday 26 December 1991, London
Christmas over. I can’t say I much enjoyed it. Days and days just seem to slip by without really doing anything. I have become lethargic and rather depressed. Presents this year include a sweater of dark autumn colours, two pasta dishes and two cups (from Mum); a pair of gloves and a belt (from Julian and Sarah); an envelope holder and pen holder with flowers painted on the side (from Melanie); cutlery, cutting knives, biscuit holders, two cassettes (Williams/Britten and Sinead O’Connor), flower pot (all from Barbara). For Adam we bought Junior Monopoly, Junior Meccano, two puzzles, a batmobile, and some books. I thought he might get more fun things from others, well he did from Rosemary and Les - a mask, a wig and a false beard - but my Mum bought him exactly the same lego as we bought him, despite clear instructions, Sarah bought him a shirt, and Melanie bought him a walkman!
Sunday 29 December 1991, Brighton
Nearly the end of the year. Tomorrow, in London I start my planning for 1992, my fortieth year. The dull Christmas season carries on. I have nothing much to do this weekend, I do not even have a book to read. We watched ‘The Third Man’ last night and my dreams were full of strange angles and zither music. We will probably go for a walk later on.
Having tried to book a Christmas lunch for my small at a popular restaurant and found it already booked, we ended up at a new French place called La Boheme. Although, initially, the atmosphere was strange since we were the only customers sitting amidst spanking new decor, the lunch seemed to take off, and went on almost seemlessly until about eight in the evening. The food was ropy, I would say, but the others liked it. At about three, we moved next door to the pub. In the restaurant we drank four bottles of wine; thereafter, in the pub we must have had eight rounds of drinks (only once did I have a glass of water). By the time I got home, I was so drunk, I could barely walk. I cannot remember the last time, I drank so much, it must be years and years. And I paid for it! From about three or four in the morning I began vomiting - ugh. I must have been sick four more times after that, every hour or so. I also had a foul headache which, in the end, drove me to the pharmacist to ask what pills I could take for a head pain if I was still vomiting. He gave me some travel sickness pills to take first, followed by headache tablets. The concoction worked so that by mid-morning I was feeling alive, if very weak and tired. I thus spent the whole day in my dressing gown viewing television (with Mark as it happens because he was down with a cold). We watched a super police thriller ‘Prime Suspect’, which I had on tape. It was well made, starring Helen Mirren as the tough cop who makes it to the top against entrenched anti-female biases.
On Thursday 19 December, I took off for a long walk. Each year I try to do at least three days walking. In 1990, I went to Snowdonia, and the year before that I walked part of the Offa’s Dyke path on the Welsh borders. This year, I planned to do a chunk of the South Downs Way simply because it is so close and accessible, but I had some trouble squeezing in the time, and thought I wouldn’t be able to get away. But, having travelled down to Brighton on Wednesday, I found myself without much to do the following day, and it occurred to me I could still get a day’s walking in - my boots, all the maps and the guide book I’d bought were all here. I set to work on devising a one day route, and before long I had planned to walk the eastern end of the South Downs Way, along the Cuckmere and then over the cliffs across the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head to Eastbourne - a twenty mile trek.
I planned to take a train to Southease, an obscure little village beyond Lewes marked on the map as having a train station but the train I caught at 7:30 didn’t even go in that direction. Instead, I got off at Glynde, which proved just as near the South Downs Way as Southease. I walked a mile or so along tracks and there I was on the SDW bridleway, on top of the downs. It was not that easy, though, with what seemed like gale force winds blowing from the west. I was so glad I had checked the weather the previous night and thus switched from walking east-west to going west-east. Just walking up the road from Glynde at an angle to the wind was a truly arduous business. Once on the ridge, with the wind in my back, it was like being in a hovercraft - I could hardly stop even if I’d wanted to do. The sky was overcast with cloud so thick I couldn’t even see it moving, but at least it was sufficiently high that I wasn’t in fog and had reasonable views. During the morning, the wind was dry, but the pleasure of walking was somewhat attenuated by the noise of the wind: it was howling past my ears non stop. After a while, my right ear began to hurt so, thinking I didn’t have a hood, I wrapped a handkerchief around my head so that it covered the ear, unfortunately, it also covered either an eye or my nose and, in any case, kept slipping. By Alfriston, the first and only town on my journey, I was desperate enough to purchase a woolly hat. The only one I could find was in a craft wool shop, was hand dyed and knitted, and cost £8. Only two weeks later did I discover that the windproof jacket I was wearing had a hood - such a dumbo me. Almost all the walk to Alfriston ran along the ridge of the downs, with grassy fields running down both sides towards farms and villages in the valleys. There was little of interest other than the pleasure of being on top of the world, completely alone and in the midst of the weather.
Indeed, with the weather so foul and the wind so strong, I was not at all sure I could reach Eastbourne before dark, let alone in time to get to London (as I’d planned - for the big office party), but I knew there was a road running close to the last section of the walk along the cliffs. I arrived at Alfriston around 10am, and was thus making good time. I would have loved to have stopped for tea but no cafe was yet open - a sleepy quaint village Alfriston, largely catering for tourists. The next part of the walk ran along the valley of the Cuckmere right through to the beach where it outpours into the sea. Along here, the route was not without interest - hamlets, woods, duck ponds, mansion houses - as it wound up and down the wooded hills that run on the east side of the otherwise flat valley. Near the sea, the river bed widens out and a number of winding channels run alongside the river. The path follows an embankment and right in my way, I encountered a swan, seated, comfortable and not at all ready to give up her position. Although it was the middle of winter, and the spot she had chosen was about the most exposed in the entire valley, I assumed, by the way she snarled at me, the swan must be incubating eggs. Not wanting to disturb her any, I descended the grassy bank to circumnavigate her. She watched me all the way.
All day I had been looking forward to arriving at the sea; no matter that the wind had become rain sodden and my back was wet through to the spine, the roaring, raging sea was a wonderful sight. There is a small stony beach at the mouth of the Cuckmere, and it is from there that the path climbs rapidly up the cliff to the first of the so called Seven Sisters - these are seven small hills of grass fields connected together like a Big Dipper and cut cleanly along the sea’s edge leaving a picture of white cliffs. With the driving wind behind me, I could only run down the descents and let myself be blown up the ascents. Under normal circumstances, I can imagine the seven hills would get a bit tedious but the wind was really so strong, I only had to stretch out my arms to turn myself into a sail. I had waited to reach the sea to eat my picnic lunch, but I had to guzzle down my sandwiches because there was no shelter and every minute I sat on the ground I got twice as wet and cold. This was a truly exhilarating stretch of the walk - the cliff’s edge often just a few feet away, with the roaring sea below, and the wind blowing me ever closer to a some kind of fate. On a few occasions I sang out as loud as my throat would manage - roaring and shouting, trying to match the wind and exhume dense stores angst.
I had crossed the Seven Sisters (and survived the worst of their tempers and tempests) and reached Birling Gap by little after noon so I was fairly sure I would make Eastbourne in good time. Birling Gap is a nasty group of grey houses built at a low point on the cliff, within striking distance of the beach - an observation platform and steps leading down have been built for tourists. The cafe was open and served me a most welcome tea and fruit cake. I sat dripping for half an hour and tried to warm up. The last stretch, over Beachy Head, was further than I thought, but even so, as I strode through the last part of my twenty mile marathon, I enjoyed it immensely. I was fully prepared to walk across Eastbourne to the train station but, fortunately, there was a bus waiting for me, right there where the SDW path ends and where the town begins - what a god send.
I had some 20 minutes between arriving at Brighton Station from Eastbourne and returning to the station to catch a London train. My life was made none the easier by having to take my bicycle back to the city and by B leaving me a large bag of Christmas presents (some fragile) to carry. I just made the train and, once in London, decided to cycle with the big bag to Convent Garden. By the time I got to the office I was more ready for sleep than a party.
Sara, my German correspondent, didn’t turn up because her passage across the Channel was delayed by the bad weather; Nick Lyne did show so Kenny, Henry and I entertained him for an hour or so down the Loose Moose in the midst of all the other FTBI boozers. I talked a while to John McLachlan, Louise and Louise and my lads before heading for home. I sure as hell was not going to repeat my performance on Monday.
New Year’s Eve, 31 December 1991, London
The end of 1991. I don’t feel very end of yearish at all, I must confess. I am certainly doing nothing in the way of celebration. Adam is tucked up in bed (a little late since we went to Grandma’s for a light supper), and I am planning to watch a Mad Max movie. I saw ‘Mad Max 2’ in the cinema and was agreeably surprised by its invention, and by how entertaining it was, so I thought I’d give the original ‘Mad Max’ a viewing tonight. So far my week with Adam is going well. More or less, I keep to a schedule as follows: a time lesson, a reading lesson, breakfast, drawing time, play time, a story lesson (I read a story and A tries to tell me the story back), go out to the playground or somewhere, lunch, rest time, play time with puzzles, writing lesson, number lesson, games, television, supper, story time, bed time. Adam continues to insist he doesn’t like lessons but, in fact, he does enjoy most of what we do together; I am more careful than before to make sure he finds it all fun - I can see so clearly now how turning anything at all into a trial for one so young can only harm their interest. Still, there is a fine line to be drawn between sheer silliness and non-stop play and the process of assisted learning.
But, on this New Year’s Eve, how can I sum up the year. The most important event for me, I suppose, was setting up a flat in Brussels, and spending about a week a month there. Connected with that, the Management Report on EC energy policy was probably the second most important thing over all - I spent a good solid three months writing it plus at least a month at the beginning in planning and a month afterwards in production. Taking on a new person at the office to start the new newsletter ‘East European Energy Report’ was also a milestone of sorts. It is clear looking back on the year that my work has predominated - I have raised my responsibility and my rewards more than any previous year. My salary is now around £34,000 with a £4,000 extra payment on contract for the Red Stripe. On top of that there is the 10% bonus for net profit over budget for each newsletter, and that might total some £3,000 for EER in 1991 (although I won’t see this until June or July 1992), and the income from the Management Reports (a small payment, perhaps £1,000 from the second half of 1991 for ‘The New Markets’ and then, hopefully, by August there should be some money coming in for ‘EC Energy Policy’ - I’ll be unhappy if I earn less than £7-8,000 from it over the course of the next 12 months. I have now savings of £40,000 which is waiting patiently for some purpose. As is plain to see from my diary entries over the year, the very fact of earning more money has, in itself, made me more interested in counting and assessing my income and savings. But what to do with it?
In other spheres of my life there has been no real development at all. In terms of friends, I have continued to draw further away from some but not make any new ones at all; indeed, I haven’t even met any people socially. Brussels proved to be a real disappointment, in the sense that I haven’t made any social contacts there at all there, nor even acquaintances. When I’m there I tend to just work. In terms of leisure pursuits, all of them have slipped - my diary writing, my photography, my reading, my play-going, my travelling and/or walking. The only positive output has been the transcribing of my Asia and New Zealand travel diaries to the computer.
All that said, the year has been one of near harmony with Barbara and Adam - we had a wonderful week’s holiday in Malvern, we spent a lot of time together in Brighton during the summer, and generally supported one another in our work endeavours. Adam has come along a treat and continues to be such a joy box, such good value, whether in creating fun or taxing us with difficult questions. I have absolutely zero complaints with regard to Adam, I could not wish for a more wonderful son.
It has been a good year for my health, with no lung problems and few colds. I have done yoga more regularly this year than ever before, and I feel sure it has helped with general health and well-being. The psoriasis on my head has spread, although I think ring worm is the more worrisome problem.
Since Caroline left in 1990, and Rolf last February, I have had a succession of not very inspiring lodgers - Clare and Melinda, both of whom have now gone, and Mark. I am advertising again to fill Caroline’s old room. Fortunately, I have not been here much so there is a kind of order, I suppose.
All in all then, a stable year of consolidation and some stagnation; a year that has readied me for risk and change in 1992 - the year of my fortieth birthday!
Paul K Lyons
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