Wednesday 6 December 1995, Russet House

Issue No 33 of EC Inform-Energy has gone to bed - the last issue of 1995, and the last issue of my third year in business. The three years have gone like the flash of a studio photographer’s camera, like the flash of a studio photographer’s camera, like the flash of a studio photographer’s camera. I have also organised the first mailing from Russet House, using about 400 names from the World Energy Congress delegate list.

I feel quite exhausted now. Adam is drawing at the other desk, a card for Grandma and Granddad. I didn’t pick him until 4:15pm today because he went to the textiles club. The school is proving much better than Emmanuel in so many ways.

There was a snowstorm last night and the gardens are covered in a white blanket. It has been bitterly cold, although it is warming up a little now.

The decorators have finished in the hall and lounge and we now await the carpets which should be fitted on the 21st. The decorating has cost £1,000, the materials have cost £500, and the carpets are costing £2,000. £3,500 seems a huge cost for two rooms, to someone who has never paid for a decorator before or bought fitted carpets. And that’s before I’ve started thinking about curtains or wall fittings.

Friday 8 December 1995, Russet House

It has remained very cold, with the snow on the ground is only partially melting. The snowman Adam built in the garden, which is bigger than he is, still stands, its carrot nose poking a little further out than it did yesterday and its wide smile drooping somewhat. It’s 4:45pm - I just cycled round the corner to the post office and was frozen by the time I got back.

I have been wasteful these last two days. Yesterday, I spent the morning in Farnham, looking around and doing a bit of shopping here and there, and this morning I drove down beyond Haslemere to look at an auction house. I also stopped off in Godalming on the way back to get quotes from printers on business cards and stationary, and to shop in Waitrose.

Tuesday 26 December 1995, Russet House

A cold and frosty day. When it is this cold, the house never warms up properly, especially the kitchen and the hall. It is better now the carpets are down but the house is not as snug as either Aldershot Road or Tidy Street.

Two weeks have passed since my last entry. It has been a very busy time. Christmas is always busy at the best of times, since I must get to the shops to buy presents for B (and for her birthday) as well as for Adam and my family. But this year, there has also been the move. The weekend before Christmas we spent entirely in London, emptying the loft, packing up boxes, moving things down to the front room, and generally organising to be ready for Friday, when the man and his van were booked to take us to Elstead. It proved far more difficult to take heavy boxes of books down from the loft than to put them up there in the first place. Consequently, I fell once or twice from the ladder as I was trying to manoeuvre a box down, until Adam suggested we use two rather than one sofa cushion on the floor. From then on, I just dropped the boxes squarely on the cushions and B ensured they didn’t tumble over after bouncing. Almost all of the books survived the move, and are now in boxes on the floor in the large empty bedroom upstairs, awaiting a major sort through. I estimated there must be close to 1,000 books. The bags of material were less saveable. The moth infestation in 1994 alerted us to the dangers of storing cloths; and, also ,I could no longer see any potential need for many of the exotic but tatty clothes and sheets I’d been hoarding. Some I have taken to be dried cleaned and may use again one day, others went to Oxfam, and others were dumped in the bin.

By the end of the weekend, the front room at Aldershot Road was filled with boxes of all shapes and sizes. There was one large pile of Barbara’s things, which was not going to be moved, in the hope that she buys a house before Aldershot Road is sold. Another pile was Adam’s old but quality things which I am reluctant to throw away; and the rest was my boxes, mostly books. I also moved some of the furniture into the room in readiness for Friday.

I had chosen a man by the name of Charles from Bloomsbury who said he had a large Luton van. He agreed to arrive by 8:00am on Friday and was as good as his word. B had come up to London on Wednesday, and I went up with Adam on Thursday afternoon, after the carpet fitters had finished in Russet House (how wonderful it was - it is - to have carpets throughout the hall and lounge). Although expensive at £20 an hour, Charles proved to have been a good buy. He worked quickly and efficiently, with an expert knowledge on how to pack his van in order to use the space to its maximum. We got in the sofabed, which was the most difficult to move, the old book shelf units, the modern book shelves, a table, several chests of drawers, the wardrobe from my room the garden table and chairs, the new bed and the old bed, all the boxes, all the other paraphernalia, and just as I had hoped, there was space at the back for a line of large pots. It took about two hours to pack, an hour and a half to drive down here, and another hour and half to unpack. We put all the boxes in the garage but that was a bit silly because the next day, B and I carried them all upstairs into the empty room. I paid £160 for Charles, good money for him, but a good service for me. All the rest of the stuff left in Aldershot Road, I can bring down in the car.

Over the weekend, B stained and waxed the new bed, which is now installed in the newly-decorated back bedroom, which also has a carpet now. Adam is in the front room which now has a bed, toy cabinet and shelf unit. The small side room has two wardrobes and two chests of drawers.

So between the demands of moving and of Christmas, I have had little time for much else. I did make a start on the new book during working hours over the last ten days, but I have not done as much as I should have done.

On Christmas eve, I had told A that he could wake us up at 6:45 or, if we woke earlier, we would call him in to our room to open his stocking presents. In the middle of the night, B and I exchanged a word about the duvet or something else, and suddenly a little voice chirped, as clear and wide awake as if it were tea-time after school, ‘Can I come in?’. It was 3:30am! I had to be stern to tell him there was no chance until the morning and that he should go back to sleep.

We did all get back to sleep, then at 6:30 he came in with his stocking. We had breakfast and installed ourselves in the sitting room by the tree where we each had a large pile of presents. Adam’s presents included: the game Dungeons, a football, two or three lots of Lego, a one volume encyclopaedia, and a Subbuteo team. I had bought for B, a box file, a Compton-Burnett book, a book on Origami to do with Adam, and an expensive malt; but her main present is a new handbag which needs to be ordered from John Lewis. B had bought for me, a mattress and duvet cover, some garden tools and books, apricot jam, liquorice allsorts, and a few other things.

We drove to Catford, where we spent a pleasant hour with B’s parents, and then to Aldershot Road, and then drove on to Child’s Hill to Mum’s house. There was a further exchange of presents with Mum, Melanie and Phoebe. Julian and family elected to stay in Devon for the holidays. Adam did particularly well, and I received lampshades, and a handmade sign for Russet House which Julian had had made in Devon. A turkey lunch, too much wine, a little kip, some tea and sandwiches, then home to bed. I do like contact with my nieces. Phoebe is growing up to be rather sweet, if a bit timid. I hurt myself once and she volunteered to kiss it better, and when I was lying on the bed she kissed me goodnight. Mum was in good spirits - neither particularly up nor down. On the one hand I think she was glad that the company was not too chaotic, but, on the other hand, I think she missed not having a full complement of family around.

I should report that on Friday 15th we had an armed siege in Aldershot Road. I had driven there on Thursday night, and was about to leave on Friday morning for Westminster when a bunch of police cars pulled up a few doors along. I stood to watch for a while, trying to understand what was happening. One policeman ran down the street, another one walked down past me and then asked if he could look out the back. Once out the back, he looked around and decided to stay. I heard his walkie talkie going constantly. He told me that an armed robber had been tracked to the house up the road and they were surrounding the house while waiting for the armed police to arrive. When I went out to the front again to see what was happening there, I was immediately told to put my hands up and walk towards a policeman further up the road. I protested, and said there was an officer in my garden. He insisted (well, I was dressed in a black leather jacket and black leather gloves) and I walked up Aldershot Road with my hands in the air. He frisked me and then I was free to return. After about half an hour (and giving the policeman in my garden a cup of tea) I said I wanted to leave. He said he was waiting for an armed policeman to take his place. I asked him to close the door behind him and left. Later, about mid-morning, David told me he saw the police drag a man out, and that a couple of hours later the police cordon around Aldershot Road was still in place.

This was the second incident in the year that I have witnessed - in the summer there was a police swarm around a woman with a knife against the railings next door. And, of course, there was, just a few days ago, a tragedy outside the school in Maida Vale, only half a mile down the road. The head teacher at the secondary school, Philip Lawrence, was murdered by a knife wound outside the school when trying to defend one of his pupils. The murder dominated the headlines for several days, and is again today in the news because the head teacher was named Personality of the Year by listeners to ‘Today’ on Radio Four. Also the Bishop of London, Cardinal Hume, has not missed a media opportunity to sympathise with the family and stick the poor man on a pedestal - ‘he was a good teacher, a good father, a good husband, he was a good man’.

Tomorrow, my Mum, Melanie and Phoebe, and Roger and Mary are coming to visit - another day in which I won’t get much work done.

Thursday 28 December 1995

The boring-but-benign Christmas celebrations are over, thank goodness. I am feeling fat and furthest-from-festive, and, as I sit here at my office desk, I do not want to work. My mind is dull and dim-witted. I know what I should do but I cannot summon up the energy. I always find it difficult to work when it is so cold, and the body is battered by artificial heat. Adam and I have been out for a ride on the bikes, and that was fine, because the weather is clear and crisp, but it has tired me out. I sit here and wonder if I will get down to proper work today. There is so much to do, not only on the book, but also around the house. How can I slack so. It is not as if I have been over-working. Yesterday was spent looking after Mum, and the day before I took it easy round the house, and the day before that was Christmas Day!

B’s birthday yesterday. I went off to Godalming before Mum’s arrival to buy a few odds and ends, food and flowers. We went for lunch at Elstead Mill. Ads and I had great fun playing on thick ice which had formed over large puddles on the grass. Even if the ice broke, there was firm grass underneath so it was quite safe. In the afternoon we played a game called MindTrap which B had bought me at my request.The end of the year approaches and I have little to say or philosophise about. I fear the future.


Paul K Lyons


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