PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1992 - NOVEMBER
6 51, Wednesday 4 November 1992, London
Bill Clinton is in. Several states have yet to declare but the result is a landslide. For the first time in twenty years or so the US President will be of the same party as the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. What will this mean for Europe, the UK, Us, Me? I think it will mean a greater likelihood of a Labour or coalition Lib-Lab government here in the near future; it will mean less chance of a good GATT settlement despite what Clinton has been saying. Looking after a domestic economy in the short term, a Clinton priority, and freeing up world trade do not sit comfortably together as policies. There has been much talk in Europe of a trade war between the EC and the US, this may well come about now. I think there will be more turmoil in world affairs simply because antagonists will be able to get away with more; it was great for the world having a responsible policeman for a while in the form of George Bush, but without him the world will be a less safe place. Without the Maggie-Reagan connection or its pale shadow Bush-Major, the UK’s shining star will continue to diminish. Any profit we have been able to derive from our privileged position in the two camps - the ‘heart of Europe’ and the US lap - will now disintegrate and we had better make our peace with Europe.
But these international affairs concern me little these days. My head is bursting with my own business, however dull and small it might be. Even though I shall be running a tiny operation, and most likely from home, I have a hundred things to think about and a hundred things to get right. Even buying the equipment is proving a time-consuming task. I went to the AppleExpo show last Friday with Barbara exclusively to gather information about the equipment I should buy but I was left more confused than ever, of course. I think I have decided for a relatively cheap option - £1,400 for an Apple IIsi, £650 for a Radius mono Pivot, and about £1,400 for an OKI Laser Printer; but I am compromising over speed by buying an si not a ci, over display area by buying an A4 display and not a double page display; although I am going for a slightly better quality on the display and printer than I need to. But having spent days deciding what to buy - do you think I can just find one dealer who will give me the best price? So far I’ve talked to half a dozen suppliers and each item is cheaper in a different place.
I seem to have won a small battle at the office with John McLachlan over my leaving date. He and the new editor-in-chief believed I was going to edit the December issue of EC Energy Monthly and advised me that my leaving date was 4 December, the Friday after the last production. I had calculated that my leaving date would be 2 December, a day before production. This is all rather crucial to me, since I want the December issue to be as poor as possible and the contrast with the November issue as strong as possible. Many subscriptions for ECE run on a calendar year, so that they are more likely to fail to renew if the December issue is very poor. It will make less difference if the difference is only noticeable in January. (I add a caveat here, I know full well how little notice subscribers take of who the editor is and of the quality of the newsletter - nevertheless I must do everything I can to further my prospects.) After receiving John’s note about the leaving date, I rang Personnel who took a day or so to confirm that my leaving date was as I had calculated. For a short period though I had a nervous attack. Personnel told me that, since I resigned on 2 October, my last official day would be 2 January, and I had calculated my last day would be 1 January (I have 19 days holiday which have to be accounted for as well). My immediate calculation was that my leaving date would then be 3 December and not 2 December, which would have been a disaster because that is the actual production day. However, fate, in this small small matter, was on my side since 2 January happens to be a Saturday and therefore the new calculation was no different from the old. I have yet to have a response from John to my memo which says, quite firmly, that I do not wish to edit the December issue.
Meanwhile, I hear rumours that the Bonds have withdrawn their idea to edit ‘EC Energy Monthly’ but that Chris Cragg is orchestrating a move to make Lucy Plaskett editor. I always thought it might materialise as an easy option; but can management take a risk on Lucy when she has not yet recovered from her RSI problems.
18 36, Monday 9 November 1992, London
A grey miserable day. It has been raining all day and this evening the rain continues incessantly rattling on the metal off the roof-hatch and crinkling crustling on plant leaves outside in the yard.
This is the first time in four days I have been calm enough to sit down and write. Last Thursday, at the end of the production of the November issue of ‘EC Energy Monthly’, FT Newsletters’ new editor-in-chief David Hurst dismissed me on the spot. He told me to pack up and leave immediately, although, on persuasion, he did allow me to come back into the office (today in fact) to collect my personal belongings and my files and books connected with my management reports.
How high I’ve flown this year, and how low I’ve now sunk. Where at one point I thought I might be editor-in-chief of the largest newsletter operation in Europe, and at another that I might buy one or two newsletters and start a significant business, I am now leaving on the worst of terms with the FT, without even a leaving party, and with nothing in my hands at all - not even the Mac in Brussels, which I have to give back.
An ignominious end for the maverick! How could it be otherwise I wonder. In some ways it is such a fitting end, a story book finale, with the successful applicant for the top job dismissing his rival contender within days of taking up his new post. I must give some of the petty details of this sordid affair since it is far more on my mind than any other thing in this world, more on my mind than the breakdown in Gatt talks or the revelation that the government won over some Maastricht rebels in the crucial debate last Wednesday by promising to delay the third reading of the bill until after the second Danish referendum, which might not be until June or July.
I see I have related, on 4 November, my small victory over the dates. Well this small victory has cost me, and cost me dear. Having received the note from John and replied to it, I warned my lads, my ex-lads, that there would be fireworks this week; and indeed the fireworks came on 5 November. On Thursday morning, the day of production for ‘EC Energy Monthly’, David Hurst came into the office at one minute past 10 and asked to see me at the end of the day, he said it didn’t matter how late it was. I told him I was hoping to leave at four or perhaps five and would prefer to see him in the middle of the day. He chose three. I was due in Brighton that evening so as to look after Adam on Friday so B could go to her interview in Hoddesdon. I had decided to go by train and, as usual, wanted to avoid the rush hour.
I sweated all day and couldn’t concentrate. I suspected a show down and that I might be asked to leave, but I didn’t know and I couldn’t see clearly in my mind what was going to happen. I cannot really have believed the company would do it to me because I didn’t make any preparations during the day - I didn’t clean up my hard disk of personal files, for example.
Well I went in to see him at three, with the newsletter more or less finished. I had put on the front page a comment about my having conceived the idea of ‘EC Energy Monthly’ and my leaving. David presents a young, intelligent and bright face to the world - he may well prove to be the making of Newsletters. We talked about the December issue and I explained why I didn’t want to do it. I gave him some background about the Newsletter, and I also veered off into an intense moan about the new office space. This was occasioned by trying to explain why it was so difficult to work in the office.
David moved on a pace and said that legally the company could oblige me to work instead of taking holiday. So I was obliged to explain that such strong arm tactics wouldn’t make any difference. I was tired and I did not intend to go to Brussels for the December issue. I didn’t say I wouldn’t do any work for it, but rather that it would be difficult to do the issue, if I didn’t get to Brussels. So then, David said he had no choice but to ask me to leave straight away - I was connected to the network (so what! there’s no commercial info on the network) and with me in the office it would be difficult for any one else to work on the newsletter. And that was it. I was fairly stunned. Fortunately, David did not actually frog-march me off the premises, although it was talked about, since I had so much material on my hard disk (legally, I could have been, may still be, in a very awkward position if somebody had explored and found EC Inform designs on the disk).
I went back to my office, hardly able to speak to Kenny, Henry or John, and proceeded to fill my bag with as much as I could grab - all the floppy disks, two directories that I’d ordered and had just come in, and a number of papers. I copied on to disk and then dumped all my personal files into the wastebasket (but Robin could retrieve these if he used his Norton utilities). Afterwards, I realised that although I was fully prepared with regard to the commercial info (subscription lists, budget statements, that sort of things) and although I had taken a number of important documents and files that I needed editorially, I had far from finished the process of cleaning up my operation. There were a number of things I had still failed to do - redirect some of the mail for ‘EC Energy Monthly’, take some FT headed paper, finish going through all storage files and adding the odd name and address to my database, and removing all the energy and statistic books I wanted. Having packed my bag as full as it would go I was anxious to leave in case David came round and wanted to check my bag. I thus rushed out, hardly saying anything to anyone. I realised afterwards that I had made a number of mistakes during the day, one of them being leaving so fast, as though I were guilty, rather than going around to everyone to say goodbye.
I felt awful on the train down to Brighton and for the rest of the evening. In the morning, B left very early and I took A to school. I felt quite positive and set about making a list of what I had to do in the coming weeks. But around lunchtime two phone calls set me back. I talked to Dad who said that I should not make any move at all until after my employment with the FT is legally over, i.e. 2 January. The only thing I can do is write to some subscribers and contacts and explain that I have left the FT and will be able to tell them more of my plans after 2 January. It might be very dodgy, he said, if I were to start selling EC Inform before my employment is terminated. He also confirmed that Julian was unable to find me any office space at IMI (‘he’s doing new organisation charts every day’.)
But worse was to come. I then talked to Kenny. I rang him because I needed a telephone number, and also I wanted to suggest that a drink gathering be organised if they feel it appropriate and they want to do it. Kenny told me that David had come into the room straight after I had left and checked the newsletter proofs. He ordered that the comment about my leaving be deleted. This was a tough blow: I felt that it was important for my subscribers to know I was going so they’d be more ready to subscribe when I come to write to them. I also began to wonder about Kenny. Had he called David in to show him what I’d written? When I left the building, a messenger had been called and the newsletter proofs were sitting in a plastic folder waiting to be collected. How come David came into the office, as Kenny reports, at just the right time? He says (for I saw him on Saturday night at a Coalfields Community Campaign reception in Brighton) that he thought David had just come round to check on me. Damn, damn, damn. If I had just waited until the messenger came, or if I had seen him at the very end of the day, as he suggested, the copy would have been well settled at the printers. If I had done the production myself and not asked Kenny and Henry’s advice over running the comment, I might have got away with it too. Damn, damn, damn.
All weekend I smarted. I felt awful about the whole business, and my resentment started welling up. Early on Saturday morning, I began writing a letter to Will Gibson, and throughout the weekend, with B’s help, I worked it round to a poignant and somewhat self-justifying piece which should, at the very least, cause Will to question John as to what actually happened. I acknowledge fully that the letter’s main purpose was to make me feel better, and I expect no reply. All in all, I do feel the action taken was not justified and that my five years as a successful and innovative editor should have allowed the company to be a little more moderate.
This morning I went into the office for the last time. David had agreed to let me collect my belongings and plants. He had wanted me to do this at the weekend or during an evening but, even in the unthinking mood I was during my one and only interview with him, I felt I should do such a thing in full view of everyone. Fortunately, again, for I still did not have everything I wanted, he did not stand over me. So I was able to clean up the hard disk a little more (although Robin had been at it) and take a lot more papers. I also managed to talk to a number of people such as Alan and Frank and clear up admin things with Jeanette. I had been rather dreading the occasion but it went off OK. Even so, I realise, I didn’t clean up my computer properly - that should have been done days before the issue, and I should have reformatted the hard disk. Silly boy.
Today, finally, I have begun to feel a bit lighter about the whole event.
Sunday 15 November 1992, Brighton
A miserable wintry day. My hair is wet from playing on the beach with Adam while Barbara practised her three point turns nearby on a deserted industrial estate road in Shoreham. I take Adam climbing and scrambling on some huge rocks piled up for breakers. He loves the thrill of climbing but is properly scared to jump across from one to the other where the gap below is two or three times his height. I give him confidence by holding his hand and persuading him to take leaps and climb in the right place. We’ve never been exploring there before but it’s quite interesting with the port and the industrial estate. There is a huge chimney which is all that is left of the Shoreham power station. I couldn’t get in today but I’d like to go back and look inside.
It has been a relaxed few days. Although I came down to Brighton early on Thursday morning and brought all my work with me, I haven’t done any. On Thursday itself, after taking Adam to the dentist (he’s lost his first tooth!), I went on a long walk across the Downs. I took the train to Worthing and from there a bus to Washington, which lies, more or less, on the South Downs Way. I walked from just south of Washington to the famous Chanctonbury Ring. This is most well known as a large ring of trees growing on a high outcrop of the South Downs ridge and visible for 30 miles or so in many directions. Many of the trees were decimated in the 1987 gales and the ring is now broken, but even so it still has some magic. The trees were planted about 200 years and mark the site of an iron age fort and Roman remains. What makes the ring special to look at from a short distance is the fact that the trees are not planted on flat land but on a sort of undulating ridge-like circle, and that the tops of the trees also undulate.
From the Ring I walked on, with the wind behind me and bright blue skies above. To the north the Downs give way quickly to the very flat Arun valley, it is largely farming land but must once have been marshes or sea-covered. To the south one can see the hills slope to the coast and the urban sprawl that follows the sea. But the scenery changed very little for the whole day as I made my way through Botolphs, once a port and salt-making centre but now just a quiet hamlet, across the Adur, over Truleigh Hill and finishing at Devil’s Dyke. The land was almost invariably very green and open, but there was little of interest on the walk apart from Botolphs and the Chanctonbury Ring. Also I don’t much like the fact that the Way is a bridle path because that means that much of the walk is actually on wide tracks or even roads thus one never feels one is getting into the heart of the country. Nevertheless, I did need a good hard walk and the weather was perfect.
On Friday, I found myself kicking my heels again and unable to start any work, so I strode off for a walk around Brighton with my camera in hand. I set off along the Lewes Road then strolled up through the various cemeteries which lead right up to the crest of the hill and the race course. From there I walked down through a new housing estate, a large school for deaf people with lots of charity coaches waiting outside to take people home, Brighton College School playing fields where I saw pupils playing rugby in purple shirts and remembered that I used to play rugby in a purple shirt at Broxbourne (I could see my shirt as clear as day), then through Kemp Town and back to Tidy Street.
The government has fallen into more hot fat. Allegations are mushrooming that Major and several other ministers deliberately went behind Parliament’s back in allowing arms and supplies for the arms industry to be sold by UK companies to Iraq, long after the government policy was to ban all arms sales. The apparent deceptions came to light during a Court case against three people working for a company called Matrix-Churchill. Although being prosecuted for supplying arms to Iraq, a former minister, Alan Clark, gave evidence that showed the company was simply following government guidelines. Certain documents came to light during the trial, which ended last week in the prosecution withdrawing its case, and these documents illustrated ministerial knowledge. In Parliament, last week, Major announced a judicial investigation of the facts surrounding the Matrix-Churchill case, but the allegations, by Robin Cook and Paddy Ashdown, have continued unabated with more and more documentary evidence emerging out of the woodwork to show government involvement. Major, himself, is heavily accused. This government is bankrupt and the sooner it is replaced the better; it has no imagination, it lacks proper experience and authority to carry out ideas. It is living on borrowed time.
After an afternoon of odd jobs around the house, I do lessons with Adam. We have moved on to the multiplication table and he is making good progress with the two times table. I am anxious not that he learns the answers necessarily but that he sees and knows the patterns, that he understands that seven times three is the same as adding up three seven times or seven three times. I have also been teaching him to count in twos and to understand the difference between odd and even numbers, both of which are different versions of the two times table.
Right now, he’s doing a Do It. In these I get him to sit down in a particular position with his arms folded. I then give him a series of instructions, seriously, which he must carry out to the letter - usually they are a combination of fun things and tasks or lesson-type activity such as copying letters. When he has finished he must return to the starting position and say ‘finished’. We then discuss how well he’s done the Do It. Usually, he’s not allowed to talk or ask questions in the middle of a Do It, they thus carry a kind of formal atmosphere about them. When he has finished I will give him his supper, cottage cheese and parsley on bread, a piece of cucumber, a piece of coconut, and a little water. After supper, he’ll wash and get ready for bed, and then I’ll read him a chapter of Raoul Dahl’s ‘The Witches’.
My main action of the week was to spend £4,000. After much soul searching and much research in ‘MacUser’ magazine and at the Apple show and through ringing dealers, I finally plumped to buy a Mac Si, a 21 inch Hitachi screen and a QMS 410 printer. Total costs, including VAT, was a little under £4,000. I eventually plumped for Camelot, because it has an office nearby on the Edgware Road, and because I thought I had a good deal on the Si - I was quoted, several times, 1,195, I think, for a 9/80 configuration. It seemed incredibly cheap so I went for it. But a few hours later (and in my zeal I’d already put the cheque in the post) a more senior sales rep rang me to say he just couldn’t do the Si for that price and bumped it up £150 or so. Moreover, he said, I needed a Nubus card (another £110), something I hadn’t realised - and I was grateful to find this out. Since I felt the price on the Si was too low to begin with and since he made some concessions on the other prices, we were able to agree before long. Odd as it may seem, I felt far more pleased with the deal once I’d spoken to the sales guy and agreed the higher prices because then I felt confident that my purchase was valid and was actually being processed. Having simply ordered several items from a girl on the telephone, I was never sure I had made real contact with a real company to buy real equipment.
Saturday 21 November 1992, London
A cold miserable day. Adam and I have just come back from Lauderdale House where A watched a show put on by Jactito puppet group. As usual I sat in the coffee bar reading the newspaper. These days I only buy the ‘Times’, ‘Telegraph’ or ‘Financial Times’, since I will be able to read and cut the ‘Guardian’ that Mum saves for me and the ‘Independent’, when and if B buys a paper. I can’t be wasteful with costs now that I’m on my own.
The future stares out at me like a bleak wintry landscape. I can find nothing to look forward to; rather the reverse, I can see weeks, months and years of disappointments as my one-man newsletter publishing outfit takes off slowly and painfully. B knows all this, but for her the future is interesting and risky. So to for Adam, he is well provisioned, his life is a good one. I am exchanging the emotional safety of B and A for a cul de sac in which I find myself friendless and society-less. I say to myself that my internal life, my home life, is rich and varied, that it is harmonious and trusting and that I need not the trappings of supportive networks, but I am unsure if that is true, and, if I am unsure that it is true, then it isn’t true. Intellectually, I know that each individual is utterly alone and cannot hope for any more out of life, but at the same time I am bombarded with information (perhaps TV is partially to blame) that tells me I should be meeting more people, making more friends, involving myself in more activities. I have begun to feel incomplete and unfulfilled in my tiny world. Having now left a work environment where some of these problems were minimised through the society of ‘my lads’, these feelings are only going to intensify.
The very fact that I find myself writing in this journal so often about internal feelings is illustration of the fact that I am either already in, or close to, descending into a real depression.
I have finally got my new computer system set up on the desk in my study - a Macintosh IIsi, a Radius 21 inch monitor and a QMS410 postscript printer. It seems to work quite well. After I made a certain amount of fuss about the IIsi - it seemed to make a funny noise and the hard disk was clearly not new - I ended up getting a 120 MB hard disk and 18 MB RAM, when I had only ordered a 9/90 configuration. Until something else goes wrong, I have two worries. One is that I seem to get an eye tiredness from this new monitor, similar to feelings I used to get after periods in the Tower House office. I have yet to assess whether this is a real effect or one of coincidence. I do remember the Radius executive telling me at the Apple Expo show about the company changing the emissions of the monitors. The other worry is that the monitor occasionally shows a mild surge or reduction in power. Hopefully neither of these will develop into actual problems.
I had an awful sleepless night during the week between the day when I bought the equipment and discovered it was less then perfect and the day when I took it back and got a better deal. Even now I am not at all convinced that the guarantees and so on will operate properly if I have a major problem. Incidentally, the FT has agreed to sell me the computer I currently have in Brussels for £400. It seems a reasonable deal, so I’ll probably buy it. Then, I’ll own four computers, including B’s Mac and my Tosh.
A terrible fire has consumed a third of Windsor Castle. It started in the Queen’s private chapel and raged for 10-12 hours. Hundreds of firemen worked to stop it but huge flames poured out of the building for most of yesterday. The media has reported variable facts about the castle such as that it contains the world’s most important private collection of art, that it is the most continuously lived in castle in the world, that with Westminster Abbey it is the most important building in the country.
Sunday 29 November 1992, Brighton
A and B have gone to the swimming pool this afternoon. I usually take A on a Sunday morning but I was keen to catch up with some writing today. I have spent much time with A today on his reading and writing. Although he has started to get book-lessons, no one at the school has really taught him to concentrate, or how he should work on them. The teacher tends to throw exercises down in front of him and explain nothing. His reading is coming along a real treat, his mental arithmetic is excellent. Most important at the moment is to get his writing legible - he has a tendency still to write mirror images of several numbers but on occasions he can write beautiful figures.
I met with Kenny, John and Henry on Friday lunchtime in a Covent Garden pub. It was supposed to be my leaving drinks, finally arranged. Frank Gray, Alan Archer, Chris Cragg, Denis Kiley, and Miriam came along, but that was it. I was bought a couple of glasses of wine, but there was no card, nor present, nor a generous word from Kenny, John or Henry. It is quite astonishing really that no one seems to have bothered to climb above the superficiality of the business (not personal) decision made to remove me quickly from the FT and considered that I might be in need of some moral or personal support. Have Kenny, John and Henry been lazy, warned off, or do they just feel no warmth towards me at all? Yes, it is true to say that I am a little hurt by my colleagues treatment - the business decision was one thing, but my work-mates shrugging me off so easily is another thing altogether.
How do I explain or justify this to myself? I have talked with B about it for a while. I cannot believe that I am just not a very nice person, or so unliked that nobody really cares whether I come or go. On the other hand, I do carry an arrogance and show little vulnerability so that generosity to me is not at all easy. Perhaps I have always held myself up to be rather superior, so that it is difficult for Kenny or John to rise up and find a way of thanking me at my level. When Dennis left, the whole tone of his leaving party was set by the company (John McLachlan) backing (and I remember my leaving party from McGraw-Hill which was organised by Jim Trotter and was very generous in its tone). Surely, what can have gone through the minds of Kenny, John and Henry? That I didn’t want a token, that they had nothing to thank me for, that their jobs might be in jeopardy if they bought me something or asked other people for money. I suppose, it was really for Kenny to take the lead as he has worked with me for the longest and as he is the most senior person next to me. But I wonder whether he doesn’t secretly harbour resentments - over what I have managed to earn during the last few years, and over how many freedoms I took. Yet, I think Kenny has done extremely well. I have brought him from secretary status to an editor in the most easy of stages. I have coaxed him and coaxed and, just now, when he might have really begun to complain that his responsibility wasn’t increasing, I have moved on leaving him the editor’s job. I have a lot to thank Kenny for, but I have often said as much. I can never remember him thanking me for being a good boss!
As for the others, well I was surprised Chris was there since he is actually orchestrating Lucy to take over ‘EC Energy Monthly’, although he always said to me personally that he would recommend to the company it sell me the newsletter. Frank and Alan were there, as their prime role in life is to be wherever there is controversy or gossip, and I surely must have provided some gossip over the last few weeks and months. Dennis came simply because I bumped into him on the way to the pub, and Miriam came really late because she was busy doing other errands! David Tudball was too busy, Dan Rigden probably wasn’t even asked, and Louis was working from home so wasn’t around. Kenny had clearly done a great job in letting people know early enough about the drinks session! I am not cross, just disappointed.
Paul K Lyons
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