DIARY 49: January - June 1993

Saturday 23 January 1993, Brighton

I start my business, EC Inform. It is two weeks since my first mailing went out. I have a total of about 14 orders and possibly two more. However, only eight are paid and I anxiously await cheques in response to my first invoices. In the first week, there was a certain amount of fun associated with the waiting and hoping for orders, but during this last week the reality of needing orders for the business has struck home more forcibly. Only on Wednesday was I reasonably buoyant as I got three orders in the post and two on the fax machine making five in all. One more day like that I could rest fairly satisfied. However, I only got two more orders the rest of the week and on Thursday I received a cancellation.

The most distressing information though is not the absolute number of orders (if I end up with 20 say that will not be so bad - 20 orders will mean a return of about £6,000 on a mailing cost of £1,500 and a 2% return) but rather the fact that I am not getting orders from any ‘EC Energy Monthly’ subscribers. No one at all (bar one subscriber I think) appears ready to follow me from ‘EC Energy Monthly’ to ‘EC Inform-Energy’ (ECI-E); I haven’t been able to get the message across or else the whole market (100% of it) believes that they will be able to get the same level of info from the FT with someone else in place as editor. And, of course, I have begun to suspect that perhaps they can.

I have a new lodger in Aldershot Road - Charlie Harvey. she works for a computer company in Covent Garden. She seems to have a pleasant personality and a busy social life. During the first week we hardly saw her at all but last night she made her presence felt by entertaining a friend and making a racket of giggles until 2 or 3am. At one point I woke up to hear the two of them singing. She also smokes heavily, and the smell from her room has begun to pervade throughout the rest of the house.

Although I have not worried about renting only one room for the last year since I was keen to ensure that, even though A and B are now in the house, I continued to have one other person in the house. I would have liked someone who might have shown more inclination to become part of the house-family in some way. I don’t quite know how I thought this might happen in our new environment, but it seems unlikely that Charlie will be that person.

The rail privatisation bill has been published; it appears to be as cackhandedly put together and irresponsible as most of the other recent privatisations.

The Yugoslavian civil war continues. Bill Clinton was inaugurated as a President of the US, but I failed to understand why our media had to give it so much coverage.

Adam has not yet settled down at his new school - St Mary’s C of E. It’s almost brand new, purpose built, and only a few minutes walk away, but Adam comes home some days asking why everyone is so rough and exuding an unhappy countenance.

Saturday 30 January 1993, Brussels

I am enjoying two novels - ‘Poor Things’ by Alasdair Gray and ‘Stick’ by Elmore Leonard - both are first rate. ‘Stick’ is a high class thriller as good as anything I’ve read by Leonard. It is so easy to read that one could easily digest it at a single sitting. ‘Poor Things’, too, is an excellent read but at the same time could be classified as classic literature. This book is so good, I am shocked that I haven’t read Gray before. I love the idea, I love the style, I love the words. It is pure delight. If anything one might criticise it for being over easy to read so that, like ‘Stick’ which is meant to be read quickly, one is tempted to consume it too quickly.

I had endeavoured to stop reading ‘Stick’ half way through and save it for the return journey - I like to have a fast and enjoyable thriller, an easy read so that time spent on trains, on planes and waiting goes faster. My ideal scenario is to finish a thriller just as I arrive back in Kilburn on the bus or train.

Generally speaking, it has been a useful three days in Brussels. I attended an interesting session of the energy committee. The Italian Green Virginio Bettini had prepared a draft report on the Altener programme which was highly critical and recommended rejection of the Commission proposal (the Council has already agreed its text). But attached to the report, was a draft legislative Resolution setting out Parliament’s approval of the Altener programme. Very embarrassing - several of the MEPs were enquiring as to how that could have happened. Bettini’s strategy is to hold up the report for as long as possible in an attempt to get more funds allocated to renewables.

I was fortunate enough to bump into Cleutinx, who was there to answer questions on coal policy and the possibility of subsidies to the UK. He said he had been present at the meeting between Michael Heseltine and Abel Matutes and that he saw no reason why the Commission couldn’t grant the UK a levy on electricity to pay to keep some coal mines working.

I spent half an hour at the most boring reception organised by the Economic and Social Committee. It was held in one of the city’s palaces and every Tom, Dick and Henri had been invited. I had to shake hands with five people to get in; they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them but we said hello any way. And when I got in, I was so unhappy to be there. There were thousands and thousands of stuffy grey people, all of whom knew each other, and all of whom smoked, and all of whom seemed to press so tightly together I could barely make my way across the room. The champagne on offer was lousy and the sandwiches were stale. I saw a few faces from the Commission I knew but talked to no one. I ate enough sandwiches to avoid having supper later and slipped out without having to shake hands with anyone.

On Friday, I enjoyed a very pleasant lunch with Brian Ragett who runs the E&P Forum here in Brussels. He originally contacted me to ask what was going on with all these EC energy mags that had my name on. I explained, on the phone from London, the situation and he said he might take ECI-E as well as ‘EC Energy Monthly’ to see which he thought was better. He took to me to an excellent restaurant, where industry execs often dine the Commission staff. Unfortunately, he has a rather slow and plodding way of speaking which makes it hard to get through subjects and extract information from him. He was a useful sounding board for a number of rumours I’d heard from Gunter Waschke at the German representation. Gunter had told me the US were now clearly obstructing progress on the Energy Charter. Brian said it was not the case. Gunter had told me the Danish had postponed the Energy Council partly to avoid the embarrassment of causing a fuss about the hydrocarbons licensing Directive just before the national referendum on Maastricht. Brian said the Council had been delayed because the Commission requested the delay.

Brian is an industry man through and through, he likes to wine and dine and talk about people in the industry. He was for ever looking around him at the other diners to see if he recognised any faces. We spent most of the lunch discussing the Energy Charter, and, before I knew it, my time was up. I was supposed to be at rue Belliard by 2:30, but I didn’t get there until 3:10 despite not having any pud or tea.

The weekend I pass in splendid isolation. I have worked most of today, apart from a short run when I must have strained a muscle above my ankle, and some washing and reading. Tomorrow, I will do much the same.

February 1993

Paul K Lyons


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