DIARY 54: August 1995 - March 1996

1 August

Adam talks every day about his birthday. This morning he mentions it apropos of nothing. I take him to the camp and already, before 9, it is blisteringly hot. I advise him to do indoor games in the afternoon. On my return, I press on with ‘Rosefulness’. At 11, I go to the beach, it is not very busy so I plant myself near the water. A lovely dark tanned girl comes and parks herself very near me, and sunbathes topless - she has a beautiful young flawless body. I talk to her, an Italian girl staying with her sister, but her English was not very good.

I lunched and rested and finished chapter six of ’TomSpin’. I’ve no idea what will happen next. At 3:30, I collected Adam. I will make supper shortly and head for London about 8pm. This diary will go down as one of the most boring and uninformative in the whole canon of my works.

2 August

The day was dominated by the departure of Rastko and Maja (although they returned on Thursday to wait for the Post Office to collect some parcels) and the arrival of Amanda. Amanda is into mountain bike riding and I’m not sure what else. I’ve yet to find out much about her. I certainly don’t trust her yet, and I’ve been worrying about leaving her alone in the house for a week, but I have no choice.

3 August

During the morning, Adam worked on his lessons and project. We went to the library briefly for books about Devon and holiday reading. In the afternoon, we went to the park briefly but there was no sign of Adam’s friend, so we didn’t stay long. B came home in the evening. She wrapped Adam’s presents while I watched ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’.

4 August

Adam’s birthday - he is 8 years old and the years roll by. We let him open a couple of presents early, ones he had been sent by Grandma Todd and Cousin Mary, but we had decided holding off giving him our presents until Sunday morning when we were settled in Devon. This was to make his visit to the Collecotts more exciting and to spread out the pleasures of his birthday. Adam and B spent most of the day in Catford with her parents. I devoted the morning to EC Inform. First I cycled to the EC library and photocopied material for July and then I went through my editorial papers cleaning up the pile. In the afternoon having bought a copy of the ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook’ (the first I have purchased in ten years) I repackaged my children’s play and short stories and sent them off to different publishers.

At 5:30 all 3 of us met up with Dad in the pub next to his house. I had brought a present for him to give to Adam, so that pleased both of them. We stayed until about 7 and then drove to Mum’s where Adam received a further helping of presents. Technics, Joke File, a water squirter and an Airfix model of a racing car. We ate fish and chips in the garden. Mum seemed well but for her feet which are troublesome at the moment. Back at home, B & I had to pack ready for an early departure in the morning.

5 August

We left at 6:30, which I thought would be early enough, but I misjudged by an hour at least, by the time we reached the part of the A303 which narrows down from a dual carriageway, near Stonehenge, the queues were horrendous - every car had a caravan or trailer, or bikes stashed on the back, and thousands of them were heading for the West Country. Thereafter, there were jams whenever the road narrowed - very frustrating. Once at Barnstaple we stopped at Tesco to buy food, and then arrived at Julian’s house, Leys Cottage, a little before midday. Churchill is a tiny hamlet of one or two farms and a few other houses. The front of the house has exposed stone work on the lower half and white painted render on the top, with an annex also rendered and white painted. The back is wholly painted over the stone work, and Julian has created a second story, adding a bathroom and a fourth bedroom - previously there was only a second story on the front of the house. Inside on the ground floor there are four rooms: a large lounge at the front end, a large long kitchen and diner at the back. The annex houses a study at the front and a utility room. It is a lovely peaceful spot and one could not have wished for more tranquility - the occasional car sounds, or cock crows, or duck swanks only add to the atmosphere. There may be too many flies because of the proximity of the cow sheds but I have yet to smell the whiff of cow dung.

We unpacked, gobbled up some lunch for we were all starving and then drove to Ilfracombe, which proved an interesting, almost intriguing place, not unlike Tenby with its rocky hills dominating the town and providing attractive views and curves of houses. Like Tenby also, Ilfracombe is a working class holiday town, full of families. We enjoyed a walk across the Torrs with its views of the sea and back to Ilfracombe.

Then we drove round the coast to a small village called Lee. We parked the car and walked down a lovely track past very preserved cottages until we came to the beach. This was about 6pm, and the tide was out leaving a rock filled beach. But when we walked out along a concrete causeway we found the sea covering a sandy area, and we both swam in our underpants - after such a long and sweaty day. This was a magnificent swim, cool, still, shallow water and every few people around. From here, we drove back to Leys.

Sunday 6 August

The day started with a quick breakfast and Adam opening a huge pile of presents. This year we seemed to have hit the mark and bought presents which he really likes. This is also the first year in which Adam has learned to be generously responsive, so we got statements like this - ‘Oh Daddy these presents are really excellent’.

After present opening, we head for the beaches. As we drive towards Woolacombe so the traffic builds up and by the time we are dropping down into the village, with the beach and massive car park below us, we are in a traffic jam of sorts. We drive on through and pass by the place Julian recommended to park, and choose instead to park on a track on the hills above in the middle of the Sands. It takes us 20 minutes or so to climb down to the beach. The tide is out and we have to walk for an age just to swim. Still we have a nice time with Adam’s new rubber ring. We find a jellyfish and have a contest to see who can draw the best image of it in the sand. We stopped at a pub in Georgeham which I didn’t like. The churchyard was more interesting with over 25 gravestones for Tucker!

After lunch I explained the rules of Risk to my little family (they have changed slightly since my day) and we played our first game. Although I was apprehensive about Adam grasping the rules (the box says from 10 years), he played very well, and in a second game on Monday night beat me hands down with hardly any help.

After the midday heat had cooled off, we drove to Marwood where Julian has said we would find splendid cream teas and a great garden. We arrived in time for tea in the friendly village hall, but missed the last of the scones. B looked round the garden. I hiked around the village. Then we drove along the estuary road through Braunton to Saunton Sands, where we swam again. But again this was another characterless beach, full of people and flat sands.

Monday 7 August

The day began with a horrible morning in Barnstable. I had meant to explore Barnstable and do essential shopping, but we ended up just shopping, going up and down the high street several times, and then we still had to go out to the Tesco superstore and suffer all the traffic problems of getting round Barnstable.

After lunch, we set out on a local walk to Arlington Court. Although I tried to follow the public footpaths for a circular route, I was frustrated several times by the footpath vanishing. It vanished first within a few hundred metres of the hamlet and we had to make our way across fields heading for gates where we could see them. We crossed the main road, and where I had hoped to follow a track, I found a huge high gate obviously put there to deter hikers. My map showed the path would take us straight to Arlington Court in the simplest of ways. So we all climbed the gate, found a lovely path which proved to be part of the Arlington Court Estate. We had no worries about being accused of trying to cheat the entrance price because B has family membership of the NT. The estate was donated to the NT by Rosalie Chichester in 1947 - she was the last in a long line of Chichesters and was an inveterate collector. Her house is rather plain though attractive in the context of gardens, and is full of shells, pewter, model boats, pictures of boats, snuff boxes and the like. There is an original painting by Blake, a beautiful rich amber elephant, and two interesting beds, which I liked. We strolled through the gardens but missed the stables by the time we got there. Our walk back was no less adventurous than the walk there. We found ourselves locked in fields of maze with no discernible route for the path. We got stung, we got scratched, but eventually found our way back.

I don’t remember much about the evening, except that I watched ‘Eastenders’ and I called Adam down from his bed to play a game of Risk - what joy for him to be called down, escaping lying sleepless, and to a game of Risk as well. Adam played surprisingly well, and knocked me out in a few moves.

Tuesday 8 August

A rest day today after the exertions of three days, we needed to slow down somewhat. My body always feels stiff and tired on the second and third day of a holiday, from the unusual exercises of swimming and climbing rock and so on. Also, I am very fed up of driving in this heat, and always encountering traffic queues every time we hit a main road.

I spend the day writing up this journal, reading Le Carré, looking a little at ‘TomSpin’, looking at some other books I’ve bought. The time just slips by as I laze in the garden. Adam goes off exploring on his own sometimes, taking his plastic sword for protection or to beat down stinging nettles. The weather is a little cooler but still warm enough. I move the table round the garden to stay with the sun. Later, I mow the lawn and put up a washing line.

At about 4, we set off for a beach, all of us being desperate for a swim to wash off the hot weather, and B wanting to try out her new bathing costume. Combe Martin is a strange town, running for about two miles along the main road down to a tiny and crowded cove beach. As we came late in the day, we were able to find a parking space. We swam in the cool refreshing water but Adam was more interested in climbing the rocks to the side. He is quite a proficient climber, and I watched as he tried repeatedly to find footholds to take him a bit higher. I saw one section which looked quite difficult but then promised to lead on to an easier path, so I went with Adam. Although we were only four or five metres above the water with sloping rock between us and the sea, we went a little too far, and both experienced a touch of fear and panic as the footholds and handholds appeared to disappear. Also we were both scratched by a strong half-cut branch sticking out overhanging the most difficult ledge. Once past the dodgy bit, we found ourselves on a small perch with nowhere to go but back. On my own, it would have been no problem, but trying to ensure Adam didn’t fall was more problematic. I only mention this because at the time I was cross with myself for miscalculating, but later I realised it had been a good idea for Adam to experience the fear of having climbed too far. We bought and posted postcards in Combe Martin before returning home.

Wednesday 9 August

Barbara had arranged to visit Rosemoor Gardens this morning (Wednesday). It is owned by the RHS and has a small library which is now B’s responsibility. We arrived half an hour early at Torrington, so left the car in a park (with a beautiful view overlooking the valley and Rosemoor as it happens) and found a cute little teashop in Torrington centre - The Green Lantern Bakery and Cafe. We ordered tea and cakes but the tea never arrived and we had to leave for B’s appointment. Adam and I dropped her off, and then drove to the Dartington glass works. We watched from raised galleries as men worked in teams taking out the molten glass from furnaces and turning it identifiable objects. Back to Rosemoor, where we joined up with B. We returned to Torrington centre and to the Green Lantern Cafe. I think the lady remembered us, and pressed the old man with slivery hair who was taking our order to deal with us speedily. We all had a jolly fry up, tea and even a cake, and the bill was only a fiver.

Back to Rosemoor, B wanted to look at the garden more carefully, and she organised for Adam to be given a leaflet for the children’s trail, which proved an excellent way to keep him occupied while leading us through the whole garden. Unfortunately, it was extra hot, being midday, and I found it a bit tiresome waiting around for Adam to finish each question. About half way through I remembered I had a message to ring Henry and the Halifax. He told me that everything was in place for me to buy El Rosco in Elstead, and the seller had agreed to £185,000. El Rosco will be my destiny it seems.

After Rosemoor we drove to Bideford to have a look around - it was pretty enough but nothing much stood out, except how the estuary cuts through the old town. It was so hot that we all desperately needed a swim. The nearest beach I could find was Westward Ho! But when we go there, the tide was in the and the sea came up to the boulders which dyke the back of the beach. These were difficult to walk on, and it was even more difficult to get in and out of the water. Still we all got wet and refreshed ourselves.

Thursday 10 August

I was going to go for a walk today but felt too lazy. We all lazed around for much of the day, watching the test match sometimes. At lunch time we strolled down to the Pyke Arms for lunch - the pub was deserted, which was strange since the food was excellent, and the pub itself very pleasant. In the afternoon, I mowed the lawn and watched more of the test. Adam wrote a series of postcards and thank you notes. About 5pm we drove to Woolacombe. This time we parked near the dunes (only £1 after 5). The tide was high so we didn’t have far to walk to the water. Adam found some fun by running down the side of the dunes on the soft sand but on his third go fell badly and twisted his knee. I had to carry him up the dunes to the car - not an easy task - and our plan for a walk on the following day was scuppered.

Friday 11 August

Our last full day. It is Friday morning and I sit in a most lovely place - Watermeet, a few miles from Lynmouth. I have walked along the coastal path, climbing high out of Lynmouth and onto the moors, and following the dramatic coast line. Behind me I could trace the ebbing tide by the growing grey sands that surround the Lynmouth (Lyn mouth), and in front of me the incessant sun beats ever stronger. Then, after a few miles, I switched inland and dropped down from the moors into a fabulous forest of spindly oaks, and further down until I met the river and Watermeet. The NT has a tea house here and I sit under a magnificent pine tree in lawns overlooking the river and with steep wooded banks all around. When I look up at the mighty trunk and branches of the pine, I see glowing drops of orange where the sun catches the beads of sap dried and hardened after branches have been lopped. Around me small shy birds fight their own timidity to steal crumbs from my cake plate, a leopard-wing butterfly lands by my feet, and all around there’s the roar of the waters cascading down through Watermeet towards the sea. Some people are arriving now, spoiling the tranquility, so I shall be on my way.


I walked back from Watermeet along the Lyn - a very light stroll, passing many families heading for Watermeet. Then I drove back to Leys Cottage arriving at midday. Adam had been running around all morning without any trouble. B had been enjoying herself with sewing and the test match. In the afternoon we went to Combe Martin, partly to get a bit of shopping and partly to take in the beach again. The tide was lower than on our previous visit, and a causeway round the rocks was exposed, but it soon covered up while we were there. We bought flowers and a few household items before returning. The evening we spent packing and cleaning.

Saturday 12 August

We were up early but there was still a load of cleaning and tidying to do. We got away by 8:30 or so and drove straight to Tiverton. We walked into the town centre, enjoying the Saturday morning atmosphere. We took a tea outside and employed the services of a bank and a chemist. We walked around the outskirts of the town centre to look at the old mill and its retail shop. It only sold material - no clothes - and so we took the rather long diversion for little more than seeing the buildings of the old firm’s factories. From Tiverton to Knightshayes - an NT garden B wanted to visit. Although being billed as one of the finest gardens in Devon, we didn’t think so. The midday sun was hot, and Adam and I preferred to lounge around on the lawns, throwing pine cones into Adam’s cap. At least we benefited from B’s family NT membership. The house looked interesting but wasn’t open until the afternoon. Then another trek in the car along the M5 and A358 to Crewkerne and Misterton.

Little Manor, Church Lane, Misterton is the handsome central wing of an old manor house. It has several small rooms at the front and two beautiful large rooms at the back - one a lounge, the other a bedroom above it - both of which have wide bays and large windows overlooking their gardens and the countryside beyond. The rooms are simply decorated with the best of the furniture they have accumulated over the years. There are three gardens, one in the front which runs at an angle to the mansion, a thin strip at the back, and then an orchard below connected by steps. The building is very attractive with lichen patterns all over the yellowing sandstone. Peter had an abscess in her tooth but otherwise was in fine fettle. Tony, too, was unchanged. He has spent the best part of the last year building a studio in the front garden. Many of the neighbours were horrified at the temple-like structure, and planning permission was only granted on a temporary basis for ten years. We stayed for about three hours. There is never any shortage of conversation with those two. Sometimes I find we are repeating things we have said before; and they are very good at the sly knockdown. On the whole Adam behaved himself even though no one paid him any attention. The house made me think of Ravenswood a lot and diminished El Rosco in my mind.

We arrived back mid-evening all tired and hot. Ads went straight to bed, and B managed to get to the supermarket and cook fresh salmon with boiled potatoes.

Sunday 13 August

I spent the morning sorting through the post, watering the plants, unpacking. In the afternoon we visited Mum who was in low spirits. I got on with some chores - taking cuttings - while B sympathised with her. Later, B worked on her minutes, and I read them before going to bed. David came over and we watched a strange US students movie with overtones of Greenaway and echoes of classic US students-coming-of-age movies.

Monday 14 August

Trying to get back into our daily routines, but Adam must finish off his holiday diary before getting on with his project. I am not clear what I am doing, but gravitate towards working out a schedule for EC Inform in 1996. I decided to drop the quarterly (EC Energy Review) and substitute it with an annual report, but I must find a way of presenting this change to subscription agencies and subscribers that is both clear and attractive. This turns out be not so easy and I spend quite a lot of time during the week fiddling with the wording and presentation of the note to subscription agencies.

I also fill out a mortgage application form for First Direct. A question regarding use of the building for business purposes sends me scurrying around to find out more information. I am satisfied, finally, by an adviser at the London Enterprise Agency who tells me informally that no one will worry much about running a one man business from home - ‘no one’ meaning the mortgage lender and the local authority - so long as as the business is small and doesn’t involve trading from the house with people coming and going.

Tuesday 15 August

I spend the day mostly on the computer continuing my admin work. I completed my expenses and VAT accounts. Adam continued with his mental arithmetic and English lessons and his buildings project.

B went with Mum to the Proms in the evening, and Julian came over to visit me. Sarah and the kids are in Devon. We talk about work and houses and Devon and things like that, and pig out on a take-away from Vijay’s. He is relaxed and friendly.

Wednesday 16 August

Colin and Elizabeth arrived around 12:00. I prepared a lunch outside for us, sweet corn and home made bread. Later we went to Queen’s Park. Colin’s father came about 5 to collect him and Elizabeth. Colin told me he is worried about losing his job, and that his salary is not all paid on a formal basis so that if he were made redundant, his pay-off would not be adequate. However, he has become adept at computer programme work - so hopefully he will find work quite easily if his company were to go down the tubes.

Thursday 17 August

Routine day, more or less, for the summer holidays any way. Adam doing lessons while I try and work. I try to redesign my subscription database, to simplify it, and organise it to allow for the new combined offer of newsletter plus annual report. But this takes a lot of time, and there are many layouts to change. I wonder if I should wait until I have a new address before changing all the layouts. And then I wonder if I should have letter-headed paper, meaning I wouldn’t need to worry about an address on the database layouts. I can’t make up my mind.

In the afternoon we go to the park for half an hour, and then to the library. In ‘Eastenders’ Mark, who already owes thousands to the crook running the gambling games, is drawn into one last bet. Mark’s sister and wife who have not known about his gambling discover the terrible secret in the evening and race into the cafe pleading with Mark not to play. The whole of Albert Square appears to have got in on the scene. The police chance by, and everyone hides the gambling stuff. Then, when the police go, Sanjay declares the pack has been spoiled (he tried to tell Mark previously that the guy was using marked cards) and produces a brand new pack. The cheat cannot withdraw because there are so many witnesses, and, inevitably, Mark wins, clearing his debt and winning enough to pay the mortgage share on a new house for Ruth and Michele.

Friday 18 August

I received a reply from Paul Taiano to my letter complaining of high charges. He does not offer any reduction but tries to explain his fee system. He justifies the full bill. Well, I am not satisfied and I have composed a further letter arguing his points further. I also telephoned a couple of local accountants who said it would probably cost me in the region of £250-300 a year to do one tax return and one set of accounts. Taiano is offering to do it for £750 a year. How much money have I wasted over the years using Nyman’s.

Lucy Walker came visiting today. She wore all white to go with her long blonde hair. Adam acted like a shy four year old at first and then turned into an extrovert comic making a joke out of everything. I cooked a pasta and salad lunch with fruit salad, and we drank wine. Lucy told me all about her new job at the BBC on the Africa Service which gives her more spare time than at ‘The European’. She has moved into her boyfriend’s flat in Stockwell.

After lunch we went to Queen’s Park. My idea was that Lucy and I could play pitch and putt while Adam watched the kids’ show or played in the playground. But the clown insisted on staying with us and pinching our clubs and even picking up our balls (although I put a stop to that). Lucy was the only one to get a three. Adam used a tennis ball on the last holes, and then got side-tracked by the sprinkler.

B came home from Wisley and we ate our meal while watching a 1966 Paul Newman film ‘The Moving Target’ which neither of us had heard of before, but the RT gave it five stars. Newman plays a Chandleresque private eye, but in glorious technicolour it didn’t have quite the right feel. But I knew that Albert did it - he was, after all, the least likely.

Saturday 19 August

The scorching hot dry weather continues. The great drought of 95. The dryest summer since records began etc. A & B are off to Brighton for a long weekend. After they have gone I continue to mope around. In fact all the gaps in the day - in between eating, watching telly, going for a walk - are taken up with this wretched diary. I have a week of entries to fill up and do so with one aim - to finish this book. Perhaps the greatest error with this return to a hand-written diary was to try and make an entry for every day.

In the afternoon I took a stroll in the cemetery. I wore a Walkman and listened to ‘The Drowned World’ by J G Ballard. It hasn’t gripped me, being over-ripe with description, but I decided to finish the six tapes. As I entered the cemetery driveway and glanced behind me along the pavement I noticed a beautiful girl - all in black, very slim, young. I must have almost caught her eye, I couldn’t tell, but when I looked back two seconds later she had halted her walk along the road and stopped to look at the notice on the gate. I walked on manfully determined to ignore this fantasy, but then, when I looked back again, sure enough she was in the cemetery and walking around a side path.

Since I was a young man, I have had fantasies about meeting lovely women in parks, but I can honestly say that in the 12 years of living here and visiting this cemetery, I have never seen a single girl walking around it in a contemplative way. But today, somehow, I felt I had ‘pulled’ the girl in. What was I going to do about it? First, I tried to engineer that our paths would cross but I failed to do this well enough. I sat on a bench and watched her from afar, and she chose to take the only path that would bring her walking directly in front of me, some 10 metres away. As she passed, I waved at her, and tried to beckon her over. I tried twice but perhaps my gestures were too insipid for her to understand. So then I took to following her a bit. She neither slowed down nor speeded up, but gave no indication of trying to avoid me. After a while, I cut across the grass and called over to her, asking if she had ever been followed in a cemetery before. I suppose I thought she might smile and say ‘no’ or something but she ignored me completely. So, I called back and apologised for intruding, quickly retreating to a bench in the opposite direction, and to listening again to my tape.

In the evening I cycled down to the South Bank to see people coagulating for the VJ Day celebration fireworks. There were thousands of people on all the bridges, lining both banks and on all the terraces of the various public buildings open. I arrived in time to see the Red Arrows fly past leaving a stream of red, white and blue smoke, and then had to wait half an hour or so for the fireworks - but they were worth waiting for.

Sunday 20 August

I spent the first couple of hours searching for the print-out of ‘TomSpin’. I couldn’t find it anywhere, which was very frustrating because I’d planned to do some editing today. I rang Julian in Devon because I thought I might have left it there. I rang Barbara who remembered bringing it in from the car. Eventually, I found it, but by 10am I’d lost valuable early hours. Mid-morning, I rang Mum to find her phone wasn’t working, so I drove round to see if she was OK. She was fine, taking a late breakfast with Audrey Ford in the garden. I stopped to talk to them for a while. I continued my very lazy weekend, falling asleep once or twice because of the heat, walking around the cemetery. In the evening, I cycled to the Albert Hall and met B, who had come up from Brighton at a moment’s notice because Mum, who had taken a queasy turn, gave me her tickets for a Tippett/Mahler concert. It was not spectacular - I couldn’t relate to the Tippett, and the Mahler was all jolly and hopeful.



DIARY 54: August 1995 - March 1996

Sunday 27 August 1995, London

What a relief to be writing my journal on the computer again, and not to be ordered to write something about every single day. I am too old, my brain is too tired to recall the details of each day.

I have just dropped off A and B at Queen’s Park. They are travelling to Salisbury for the day to see Liz and Sam.

Many mountains have moved this week past; they seem to presage, finally, a real earthquake in our lives, rather than just a rumble.

1) I have the results of the structural survey on El Rosco. Jim Sweetnam, who goes under the name of Acres, conducted the survey on Wednesday and I had the full report on Saturday. There is nothing major to worry about - no subsidence, no bad rot or woodworm infestation, the roof does not need replacing. However, the house is shabby and there are a lot of smaller things that should be done prior to any major redecoration. There is damp in places, there is rot in the window frames, there are signs of woodworm, and there are a dozen other things that need to be done. Sweetnam values the house at just £170-175,000. There is nothing, though, that provokes me to reconsider purchasing.

2) First Direct sent a valuer to El Rosco on Friday and I should have the results of that survey on Tuesday. I will wait for its valuation before talking to the estate agent about reducing the price. I am sensitive to the fact that the vendor Mrs Bartlett accepted my price of £185,000 without haggling. If First Direct come in with a similar figure of £175,000, then I shall make a determined effort to reduce the figure to £180,000.

3) Finally, finally a survey was carried out on 31 Tidy Street for Mr Love’s mortgage. After so many stops and starts, we again feel hopeful that maybe this buyer will go all the way. Rosemary and Les were in Brighton on Friday when the surveyor came and they plied him with tea and biscuits and chat; and the surveyor said he couldn’t see any major problems.

4) Barbara bought a car, well I did everything but pay for it and drive it away. It was a neat piece of business and I’m very pleased it took so little sweat - I hate buying cars, almost as much as houses and the only decent way to do it, is to buy the first one you see. Last Wednesday, I decided to drive B down to Wisley for various reasons: she needed supplies at the flat, which is miles from any shop; I had promised to spend a night there during the summer holidays; the Wisley garden had special events for children on the following day; and I thought we should check out the garage in Cobham that B had been recommended by others at the RHS.

I hoped that the Cobham garage might sell second hand cars and we could buy one instantly, but it didn’t. B talked to a mechanic there who said she should spend at least £3,000 on a second hand automatic and he offered to check over, for £25, any car she wanted to buy. We went into Cobham proper and bought the local paper - it looked to have much the same information in as the Surrey Advertiser, which we get mailed, but it was called the Cobham News, or similar, and it was actually published on Wednesday, i.e. that very day. We scoured the adverts for cars, and I came up with one only, which I thought was worth following. I rang; a woman answered and gave me sufficiently positive information on a Honda Civic (Y reg) to warrant going to have a look at it. The car was in Camberley, miles away, the other side of the A3 and M3, and we could easily have decided not to bother, especially as I had forgotten to bring my street maps book. But we did bother. When we arrived about 45 minutes later, it was pelting down with rain so our examination of the car was cursory, and we could hardly hear the engine during our test drive. Nevertheless, it looked good, the paperwork was in order, and so I decided to leave a deposit.

We drove off, but I could see B was all worried. I was worried too, so we considered getting in the AA. But then I had a brain wave and started looking for a garage. It was about 6pm and I was in a panic to find one, but, as hard as we looked, we couldn’t find one anywhere. We stopped to ask an old man, who could barely speak, but he pointed us toward two. We drove and drove and had almost given up when we came across a small garage and petrol station. In the workshop, I found a very obliging young man, called Grant, who said he would go the next day after work and test the car for £20. I rang the owner, set the meeting up, and paid Grant. We drove back to Wisley. On Friday, Grant reported the car was in good condition and that he had even talked to the mechanic who had done the last MOT (he saw the name of the garage on the certificate and knew the guy there). On Friday, I organised and paid for insurance. The rest I left to B. She took a cab early on Saturday morning, paid £1,375 (having bargained £75 down) and then drove back alone to Aldershot Road. It was the first time, she had ever driven alone. I was worried during the night, and wondered if I should have been there with her. But heh presto, she managed it with very little problem, and now she’s got a nice little car, with very little bother. Magic. For me, it was important, because I wanted to be sure that once El Rosco is purchased that B can move freely between Wisley and Godalming; and Wisley is so isolated from public transport.

5) On Friday, I sent out the very first notices about the EC Inform plan for 1996: about EC Energy Review ceasing; about the annual business intelligence report that I will publish in March/April 1996, and about the personal service to subscribers. Thus I am committed now to writing a new report each year.

It is 11:20am and I am reluctant to turn on the radio to find Lara has scored 200. The West Indians were scoring so prolifically yesterday, it made England’s bowlers look like village green players, and our 454 score look rather modest.

I went to the Proms last night with Mum. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra played a popular programme: Beethoven’s ‘Triple Concerto’ with Kathryn Stott at the piano, Sibelius 5 (which I used to listen to all the time) and ‘Finlandia’ also by Sibelius. Sandwiched among these popular items were excerpts from a new work by British opera composer Thea Musgrave. I know the name but I cannot associate any music with her. And by the example of the excerpts from ‘Bolivar’, I can see why she doesn’t get much play. It was completely undistinguished, it seemed to carry very little musical connection with South America, and nor was it modern or innovative in any sense that I could detect. It seemed to me simply a theoretical piece of music. She got massive applause for it, but not from me.

Tuesday 29 August 1995, London

The weather has turned. Cloud and a distinct chill in the air.

Adam spends the day working on his project, making an Airfix model MIG 21, drawing a picture for the Wisley RHS competition and watching an early Dr Who movie.

I write up some stories for ECI-E 30, they are all stories from documentation received, they require little work though and no telephone calls. In between times, I play a game of backgammon on the computer.

Also today, having heard from First Direct that it has valued El Rosco at £170,000, I have sent a fax to Halifax estate agent requesting a further £5,000 off the asking price. I worded it carefully and now await the vendors’ response. If they refuse to come down, I will lose a week, maybe two, and then accept £185,000; but, if they come down, say £3,000, I will accept immediately. After all the expenses, I should be left with about £10,000 to spend on the house before raising the income from selling Aldershot Road.

Despite a brand new tyre, and a brand new inner tube, I got another puncture in my rear cycle wheel this morning. Try as I could, I found no source for the pinhole in the inner tube. I repaired the puncture at lunchtime.

We drew the last test match with the West Indies. Overall, I think they deserve to win. Their bowlers were more dangerous than ours, and their batsmen more proficient. I think they were short of motivation, and their captain Richie Richardson is getting on. Atherton has proved his worth, as have Thorpe, Hick, Russell and Cork. A tour to South Africa is next for the English squad.

Barbara and I have a long talk about logistics and when to move Adam to Elstead. Assuming I can complete on the house by the end of September, I might be able to get some of the major work done by the end of October, and Adam could move to the new school in November. Barbara could stay at El Rosco or Wisley. And I could aim to move my business down as soon as the decorations in the dining room were complete. I think its probably an optimistic scenario, and we may be looking at moving Adam during the Christmas break.

September 1995

Paul K Lyons


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