Saturday 13 March 1993, Brighton

A beautiful spring day this morning. It has been such a horrid winter, cold and grey, that a bright sunny spring day is all the more welcome. Yes, I replied to the florist when buying three bunches of daffs for a pound, it is a lovely morning and we deserve it. Just now though, late afternoon, it has begun to cloud over and the temperature has cooled rapidly. B plays snakes and ladders downstairs with Adam while I take a few minutes to write up my diary.

Write up my diary, huh! there is no diary any more. This is my first entry in March. I have neither anything to write about nor time to write it. I have just published issue three of EC Inform-Energy. Each issue so far has contained 20 pages and about 13,000 words, every sweet one of them written by yours truly. It’s not surprising therefore that I don’t find much enthusiasm to write down the banalities of this life. Between the moment I go to Brussels - which is two weeks before publishing day - and publishing I barely think or breathe anything other than stories for EC Inform-Energy. Once the issue is out of the way, though, I tend to relax for a week or so. After issues one and two, I’ve had a fair amount of admin to sort out - cash books, subscriptions that sort of thing. This time I could truly have relaxed but for my decision to launch a supplement in April - EC Inform-Energy Review. This needs a new marketing approach, a new marketing letter, a subscription form, a design for the front cover and inside, and, of course, some content. This supplement, a modest 8-page quarterly, is aimed at associations who will buy a number of copies for distribution among their members. I have no idea at all whether it will work but, at the very least, it is a marketing bonus for the main newsletter and also justifies my use of the slogan ‘Independent Quality Newsletters’, i.e. with an ’s’ on the end.

The shocking truth is now apparent. I may have 35-36 orders from my first mailing - much better than I expected perhaps - but I have not got a single order, not one from the second mailing. Indeed there was such a silence from that mailing that I was in real doubt as to whether it had existed at all. I did get a few returns from the Continent but not a single return from the UK, so I have no evidence at all that the UK mailing went out. I know I should have rung a few of the names on my database but when it came to actually humbling myself to do so I couldn’t face it. I had a word with my printer Frank and he called the post office. The PO don’t, of course, check every item but they do have some checks (like monitoring the numbers of a particular PPI against the number from the client) and those all proved positive. I must just face the facts that some mailings go awry. I suppose, if this new mailing fails altogether then the result of the second mailing will be more believable; if though it is reasonably successful (I would like 9-10 new subscribers to keep me on a roll) then I will go to my deathbed believing something happened to that second mailing.

We have booked a cottage on a farm near Dartmouth for a week at Easter. That will be just after issue number four and the first edition of the review. I will need a rest. I’m already looking forward to it.

Life altogether in Aldershot Road is no picnic, but I am very glad to have Barbara around. The pressure of trying to get EC Inform off the ground is keeping any serious depression out in the cold, but the moment the pressure falls off, like today for example, I wonder what the hell I’m doing.

Politics - the Tories continue to do nothing right. Lamont is still in place and about to give another budget. Writers who say it is his last chance seem to have very short memories. I just cannot believe Major will survive the distance. I am shocked that he has survived so long. Unfortunately, the one thing that could bring him down is Maastricht and that would be a failure for the country as well.

John Birt, the new Director-General of the BBC, has served the great corporation poorly before he has even got his seat warm. A daily newspaper recently revealed that he was not an employ of the BBC but had a contract through his own independent company. If he were an actor or a freelance director, such a ploy would have been standard practice but when we are talking about the DG of the greatest and truest radio and TV broadcasting company in the world, the affair sniffs all wrong. A man placed in such a position of importance should not be fiddling his tax affairs. Ah fiddling you say, but was he fiddling or was he doing what every citizen is entitled to do and reduce his tax burden through legitimate means. And, on this subtle point, will rest his future. If there is the slightest whiff of improper practice then I fear, brilliant as he might be (the right man for the job and all that), he will have to go. I suggest there are already two indications that there is a tang in the air: firstly that he has moved so swiftly to become a staff member; why, if what he was doing was perfectly valid, change his situation in such a hurry. And then there is the question of payment for secretarial services which almost certainly seem to have gone to his wife. Does the taxman know it was his wife who received that payment.

I cannot comment on the ruins that were Yugoslavia, I have insufficient knowledge. Daily the atrocities continue. I blame Tito. he may have done a good job in keeping Yugoslavia together during his lifetime and bringing the country to the brink of the Western world, but at what cost now. How many racial tensions were kept unnaturally below the surface?

Famine in Africa. More pictures hit our TV screen. I am immune. The only thing that can really help is a world government with the money and muscle to restrict settlement in inhospitable areas. What is the point in keeping these people alive in order that they can then spend the next few years in semi-starvation waiting for the next famine to kill them off. The only winners in this game are the West - politicians can appear to be doing good, the aid workers can feel righteous and fulfilled, and the public who donate can pat themselves on the back for being so generous and caring.

Saturday 27 March 1993

I have not had a good week. Firstly, I have not been properly well, although I haven’t been unwell either. One of the thorns in my side this week was finding out that my successor at the FT had carried an interview with Abel Matutes (the Energy Commissioner) already. She has been very persistent around the place replacing my name with hers on various mailing list - like the Parliament’s Info Memo. I want NOT to be reminded that my creation ‘EC Energy Monthly’ still exists and that there are 400 or so readers, as compared to only 30 or so readers for my newsletter.

To add to my distress this week, a key interviewee, Galanis at DGXVII failed to turn up for our meeting. I have promised my readers a story on infrastructures and may now be unable to give them anything in the April issue.

Then there was the news from Barbara that Adam had got himself involved in an incident at school . . . bullying and being bullied. B and I will go in to talk to his teacher Miss Barret next week, but I really cannot see any solution other than a change of school.

Otherwise there were a couple of positive aspects to the week. In the first place I did get my Press Card - which will last until October. Ushi seems to think I shouldn’t have much trouble in getting a replacement then.

My speech to the Scandinavian electricity seminar went reasonably well, although I received virtually no feedback. Mine was the last presentation after a day of speeches in Scandinavian languages, and I think many of the 60 or so people there didn’t understand English that well. Nevertheless, Cecile Baux, the very active public relations person for Eurelectric liked the speech, and she wants to run a shortened version of it in her monthly newsheet. Personally, I don’t think she’ll get the idea passed her bosses but I’ve given her a copy any way. Much more interesting for me is that she has agreed to give me gratis a copy of her mailing list (with some 700 names on); not only that but the mailing list exists in Macintosh Filemaker Pro database and she’s sending me a copy.

In a similar vein, I received a call from the US National Coal Association. The editor of Coal Voice wants to do a swap - I give her some European mailing names and she will give me a free ad in Coal Voice, which has 15,000 (repeat 15,000) subscribers.

More generally, editorial data collection has been easier this visit than last. I had to make hundreds of calls last time just to get one interview or one piece of information; this time personal or telephone interviews have been easier to arrange. Moreover, other useful material has fallen into my lap which will help me fill up the newsletter quite easily.

Monday 29 March 1993, Brussels

Such a quiet weekend passed. I went out once on Saturday to do some shopping and once on Sunday to check the time in the metro station. I knew the clocks went forward in the UK but I wasn’t sure when they went forward here. The sky was bright and blue but I have had a cold clinging to my chest. On Saturday, I simply tidied up papers and organised my work load, listened to the radio and tapes, did writing in the afternoon, and then in the evening I listened to the Radio Four play until I got bored. Sunday, similarly, I shared my time between work, the radio and reading. Very dull.

Today, I have been out and about but was stood up by my lunch date - George Kouzoukos, the Greek energy rep to the energy working group. I waited half an hour, which I thought was enough, but he seems to have turned up very shortly after that. Otherwise, I had an interview with Michael Cornaert at DGXI about the future work of the European Environment Agency, and one with Cianni Vittoria, also at DGXI, but about shipments of nuclear waste. Later in the day, while trying to clarify what is happening in the Council on the shipments proposal I bumped up against another and more interesting development - a nuclear trade agreement with Russia. The European Community is on the brink of signing a three-pronged agreement with Russia in the nuclear sphere - fusion research, nuclear safety, and nuclear trade. There is agreement within the Council on the first two but no qualified majority on the third as trade in uranium is a highly-charged business. According to my source in the Danish Representation the issue is of some importance to the Yeltsin regime - Yeltsin needs as many good deals as he can lay his hands on. As usual, I think I understand what is going on, I’m all set to write it up, and then I make another call to someone else to check one thing and find a different story all together. But I don’t have time to ring dozens of people on every story - it’s just not possible

Shit - why aren’t more people buying my newsletter - it’s the best, I know it is - the bloody Financial Times - buckle you bastards, buckle, let me have my ‘EC Energy Monthly’ now before its too late.

My Mum is ill. She’s been in bed for days and very sick. The doctor says its a viral flu, but I think it’s gone on a bit long.

Barbara makes enquiries about other schools but finds that the moment she makes an enquiry the headmaster rings up Adam’s headmaster to find out what’s wrong, and, unfortunately, we haven’t approached him yet. Why? Because we can’t see what good it could do. Our problem is with the school as a whole.

April 1993

Paul K Lyons


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