JOURNAL - 1995 - JULY
Saturday 1 July
We leave at 6:30 for Brighton - the route through south London along the A23 is my most horrible journey - that is why I always choose to drive it very early in the morning or late at night, at least I can travel quite fast. But now they have installed speed cameras along the whole route, I daren’t even drive close to 40 even if the road is entirely clear. Pah! I hope the house gets sold this time so I don’t have to that journey much more.
The day is busy with this and that, shopping for Mum’s birthday, going to the beach for a swim, reading the papers - that kind of thing. About 5, Adam and I set off for Park Farm near Bodliam Castle. We had been invited by Judy and Rob, who, along with several else of their friends, have organised a camping weekend and a barn dance. The journey took about an hour. The roads were not too bad. We stopped off first at Bodliam Castle. A pretty little thing with a wide moat - a restful place for picnics. Park Farm camping site turned out to be two huge fields with hundreds of tents pitched around the perimeters. Between them, a large ugly barn and some wash rooms sat as a kind of focus and control point where many children were playing. We found Judy and Rob sweeping out the very dirty and dusty barn in order to make it ready for the dancing later on. It took a while for me to find James for Adam but as soon as he did, there was a gang of children who went off exploring to the woods. It looked dangerous to me with a deep ditch-stream and bramble-hidden pits but none of the other parents were worried and they must know the place, so I didn’t worry either. Judy and Rob were too busy to talk to with a lot of their friends around, so I attached myself to couple from Horsley and talked to them for a while. He was a librarian from Lewisham originally around the same time as Barbara but has since moved on to become head of leisure services for some borough or other - Lambeth I think. I also talked to a cousin of Judy’s for a while who is currently moving to a house in Tring. We left a little after 10 and drove home - many of Judy’s friends were camping over, but I didn’t much see the attraction and, besides, we didn’t have a tent.
Sunday 2 July
We drive back to London early in the morning. I went to Homebase to buy Mum some gardening tools. And in the evening we congregated at the Camden Brasserie with Mum and Melanie. Mum seemed to enjoy herself, and I picked up the tab. Adam spent most of the time at the bar talking to one of the brothers who own the restaurant.
Monday 3 July
I caught the first train of the morning to Brussels but I’d forgotten to pack a book to read nor did I have any work to do, so I curled up on the seat trying to sleep. At the flat my first task was to get the gas back on - it was off last time I came and still had not been turned on. I tried to find the concierge but there was no answer from his flat - it’s half a year I haven’t seen him. Then I tried the gas company and was fortunate to talk with someone who spoke English. She suggested that the gas might be turned off in the basement, and gave me the meter number. Down in the basement, I could only find the electricity meter, but, as I was about to give up, I noticed another door with a key in. I proceeded through that to find a whole new area of the basement I’d never visited before. And there I found the gas meters, and my meter and sure enough the lever had been switched off.
I have brought my new tea strainer to Brussels - B bought it for my birthday and it makes a brilliant cup of tea with far less tea - the simple design is a strainer with a deep well that sits down into the mug and a little peg to hold it by at the top. It’s much quicker and more economical than making a pot (and the tea is hotter), and you can use better tea than you get in tea bags.
In the early evening I make a bad choice of films - a Western with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman. Sharon Stone is hopeless, the plot is hopeless, the direction immature, although Hackman, as ever, is fun to watch.
Tuesday 4 July
I can’t remember anything about this day (I write on a day far into the future) except that it was the day of the Conservative Party leader election, and so I was glued to the radio most of time. Not that there was much news through the day - although the hacks tried hard. And when the votes came through about 5:30, Major had won 218 (I think), there were 80 votes for John Redwood and about 30 abstentions and spoilt papers. I was shocked by the low number of abstentions, and so, it transpired, were all the commentators. What had happened (and this only transpired a few days later) was that Major and Heseltine had done a deal during the day and all Heseltine’s voters, who had held back from voting early, came in late to sign up for Major. Heseltine must have calculated he did not have enough support to win in a second ballot, and Major must have calculated that he could not win outright in the first ballot if Heseltine voted for Redwood. But we don’t know this. Why? Because, when every single politician was interviewed about their voting intentions, they refused to speculate or discuss beyond the first vote. The implication was always that nobody was bothering about this, nobody was discussing the second ballot, and the dear little public, the dear little hacks, shouldn’t be worried about such things. None of the commentators had talked about pre-voting deals, but one can imagine the brinkmanship involved in the whole process and Major, astute party man as he has always been not forgetting his period as chief whip, knew he could set up a deal with either side if necessary BEFORE the vote. The hacks all worried about damage to the party in a second ballot, but knew that Major was the best positioned politically and couldn’t quite see the logic of that, and the logic was that the mathematics of the Tory animal was not so opaque as the hacks would have us believe, and Major and Heseltine were able to fix up the best deal. Of course moving the forces of government towards the centre, rather than away to the John Redwood positions, was obviously the right move for the Tories given their losing position in the polls. The following day we learned that Heseltine had become Deputy Prime Minister with sweeping powers and several right wingers were shifted or demoted. However much one wanted the Tory Party to pull itself to pieces, however much one wanted shambles, however much one wanted such disarray, unfortunately the Tories have done it again and found the best solution for the moment.
Wednesday 5 July
Not a very productive morning at DGXVII. I discuss the friction over the location of the Energy Charter secretariat - Paris or Brussels; and I pass by Rex’s office. An old timer, close to retirement, explains to me that several Member States have not fulfilled their obligations under the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive. A younger guy talks to me about priorities in East Europe. In the afternoon I make phone calls, and in the evening I list to radio plays. Mum rings to tell me that June, wife of her brother John, has died.
Thursday 6 July
A largely wasted morning as I trek over to DGIV in the hope of getting an English version of a competition document, unfortunately when I open the package waiting for me, it is only a French version - and I have to carry the 700 pages around with me for the rest of the morning. At the Council, there are still no English texts for the Environment Council, nor are there any at the UK Rep.
On the train back to London, I meet up with Michael Brown and we natter away for much of the journey. Adam is still awake on my return although he has left a bit of a mess in the kitchen.
Friday 7 July
I spend the day producing EC Energy Review 10 - it runs to 18 pages. I write the summaries of the Key Issues and fill in the few gaps here and there. I slip down to the lounge to check on the test match but England are losing, and will lose, disastrously.
In the evening, I go by tube and train to Raoul’s house for a giant dinner party. I have a lovely evening talking non-stop to a variety of their friends. Jonathan and his wife, Fiona and Richard, a young chap, whose name I don’t remember, with the enviable job of head of light entertainment at BBC TV - we engage horns over the lottery. I drink rather a lot, stay to the end, and some people give me a lift to Notting Hill, from where I catch a taxi home.
Saturday 8 July
I spent most of the day recovering from a hangover. I was so dizzy and drunk in the morning that I nearly fell over on my way to the toilet. Adam and Barbara went to visit Rosemary and Les and I slept and read and took pills. Fortunately, I do not have much that needed doing on the newsletter. England’s cricket team played about as badly as I felt. I watched two ‘Superman’ episodes with Adam (we had one on video from last week), and retired early and hurt so to speak.
Sunday 9 July
I am flicking through the days in a desperate attempt to get up-to-date, to Saturday 15 July. My memory is so poor I had to ask B what I was doing last Saturday and she reminded me about the party on Friday and my hangover on Saturday. This day I think I did some work in the morning and in the afternoon we visited my Mum. Mary and Roger were there with a box of old photographs, originally from my grandmother Dolly’s flat, and two vases which she had painted in her youth - one is dated 1919. They have flowers painted on them, and are rather attractive. Kind of Mary to give them to me. By contrast we agreed to throw away a series of sketches of models, mostly nude, which were neither attractive or of any sentimental value. I talked with Mary for some time about her brother (and my cousin) Martin, and how his life seems to have some parallels with that of his father (Mike). We sat in the garden for some hours enjoying the summery weather and talking about all manner of things, not least the lottery (again).
In the afternoon, I watched three full episodes of ‘Eastenders’ on the trot - Nigel’s wife Debbie died in a tragic accident and the whole square is mourning. Poor Nigel, one so wants him to be happy without complications, but what is he doing in a soap, by definition he’s set for troubles.
Monday 10 July
I finalised EC Energy Review and let Artigraf know they could collect it, and proceeded to work on the monthly. Complicated choices and difficult production this time - and not a strong issue, nothing much to talk about because all the Energy Council stuff went into the June issue. Reporting properly on the IPPC and air quality Directives was difficult because I never managed to get English versions. I could have gone for a 16 page or 18 page issue but neither option was a clear choice. I listened to the afternoon radio play. After school, we went swimming as usual on a Monday - Adam got a certificate for swimming 100 metres.
Tuesday 11 July
I keep thinking about my two pieces of work - the children’s play and the short stories - sitting out there in the great void of the world, nobody looking at them, nobody responding. The post comes, and even it is disappointing - there are no orders these days - it’s all very quiet on every front. I so want to get moved so I can stoke myself up again.
I beaver away at the monthly newsletter - still debating how long it’s going to be - and then early afternoon I get a fax response to some questions I posed ten or more days ago. There is a potential for a two-page feature, but have I the time, the energy to do it? Of course, I have - it seems to me I so hate to let good material go to waste that I always opt for the longer option. I work late into the evening sorting out how to present the material on the ExternE study - it concerns the internalisation of actual costs.
Wednesday 12 July
I am in good time this morning, and finish the 20 pages with a generous proof reading allowance and time to have a relaxed lunch before driving off to Ealing. I even shop at Tesco’s on the way home. The problem with these superstores is that one needs to hike a mile just to pick up half a pint of milk. In the afternoon, I am relaxed - my summer holiday starts here - I had hoped to be working on a new home. As it is I plan to work on ‘TomSpin’ throughout my free time - see if I can do it.
Thursday 13 July
Adam and I drive down to Wisley at about 6 this morning. We took breakfast with B - she has a toaster in her flat now as well as a microwave. About 8 we drove to Farnham, a town we hadn’t looked at so far, but despite some interesting buildings it is totally wrecked by traffic. I looked in a few agents’ windows but found nothing in the area east of Farnham, i.e. towards Elstead and Godalming. From there we drove to Godalming. I did a quick run through all the agents, even had a quick chat with Henry at the Halifax. Saw a couple of extra houses but didn’t follow them up. At 9:30, we arrived at Elstead school where we spent some 45 minutes with Miss Loveluck. She talked with us at length and showed us around the school. It is currently turning itself into a 5-11 primary school but its oldest pupils are fourth year. Next year, the existing class of third and fourth years will become a class of fourth and fifth years with a new teacher, Mr Fife in charge. There will only be 23 in the class. The third year will only have 13. The school facilities looked good, plenty of space and a large hall, and Miss Loveluck seemed to have loads of ideas.
The Witley school which we saw later, could not have been more different. Firstly, it is only juniors, not infants, secondly there are three classes to each year! It is huge with lots going on, even while we were there. Two final-year pupils showed us around and they did a very good job. On the plus side for Witley was the fact that there are a lot of activities and a lot of real competition for places in school teams - it has a cricket team for example, and it has a wide variety of subjects and interests taught by the teachers. On the down side, I thought the head was a bit too administratively minded and the teachers too dull. All three classes of what would be Adam’s year were colouring in an identical frog outline.
While in Elstead we looked at another house called The Orchard - owned by a sweet Christian woman. I liked the house itself but not the painted brickwork. Also there was a giant pine tree in the centre of the garden, which was in the front not the back.
Friday 14 July
Today I spent clearing up and tidying my study. Putting papers away, clearing my desk, dusting, hoovering. It is a very satisfying experience to refresh my office, and I love having a clean tidy desk with a fresh sheet in my blotter and clean notepads waiting for lists of to do items, short term and long term. I also do regular chores like the index and a few invoices.
After school I take Adam to Brent Cross and buy new exercise books. B stays in Wisley tonight because of the train strikes. I cook ratatouille for our supper.
Saturday 15 July
A busier than average weekend. I make bread and rolls for breakfast which we have late after B arrives. I get on with work. Adam works on his dodge book - I am much impressed by this, although it could have been punctuated better, and the spelling could have been more accurate. The ideas contained therein are delightful. In fact, Adam types this up on the computer, spell checks it, so by the time he is ready to take it into school, it is in much better condition.
After lunch I took Adam to the 150 anniversary service at Emmanuel Church. This was led by the Rev Hope, currently bishop of London, and soon to be archbishop of York. He gave a sweet sermon and the children sang their hymns sweetly. The whole service was mercifully short. A reception in the school playground provided tea and cakes. I was supposed to sell the Souvenir Programmes but no one was interested. The commemoration plates were given out to parents.
Lyn pulled me aside at one point to tell me that there was some disgruntlement over the rejection of Ms Oliver as head and the appointment of a Catholic. It transpires that a petition was being circulated calling for Ms Oliver to be considered again. I counselled against this and said the Oliver supporters should wait until the governors meeting to find out why the decision was made. I also talked to the Rev Galloway and advised him there was a brouhaha evolving, and that transparency in the way the decision had been made on the headship would be necessary on Tuesday at the meeting. It was quite obvious to me that there was little to be done but, if after hearing the reasons for the appointment or if after not being given any reasons, the protesters still feel strongly then they could try for a resolution.
After the service I drove with Adam to Grandma’s. Julian’s family was invited for tea and I wanted to see Julian, but also I had a little job to do - to pin up some roses. In fact, we ended up staying and having something to eat. J has been all over the shop recently, Poland, and goes to the US next week. He is trying to drum up new business. J agreed to let us use his new house in August. My nieces were sweet as cherry pie, and tickled me, as A & I tried to watch ’Superman’.
[Original of Adam’s ‘doge book’ glued in]
Sunday 16 July
A & I took a bus to Marble Arch and walked through Hyde Park to the museum area in Kensington. We played lemmings as we walked. I made up the name of a lemming, and he did the action - Runner, Hopper, Blocker. When he was a blocker, I would need to tell him to explode (that’s the only way to remove a blocker in the computer game Lemmings) so he did that beautifully, standing rock still with his arms stretched out, counting down to 0 from 5. But then he had to explain to me that unlike in the game where the blockers are dead after their explosion, he goes on living!
I was aiming for a new exhibition connected with evolution at the National History Museum but it turned out to be a small gallery affair. In one exhibit you could walk on a magnified and coloured projection of nematodes and roundworms. In another you walked under a giant cage; and in a third, large screen images of a forest move as you walk across a white square giving you the impression that you are going deeper into the forest. Every now and then, the images were replaced by those of monkeys playing.
Adam spent 45 minutes in the creepy crawly room, filling out a children’s activity sheet, and then another 45 minutes in the Discovery Centre. We ate lunch in South Kensington and then spent 45 minutes in the V&A but without much purpose. At 3:30 we arrived at Luke’s flat in Soho. He lives in a relatively new tenant block with lots of communal space and a roof garden. Adam played happily with Sydney (Luke’s four year old) and a few other children for the entire time (making a huge mess of Sydney’s bedroom) and I talked to a number of characters from Luke’s life, one of whom I haven’t seen since Edinburgh and the Phantom Captain.
Monday 17 July
I had planned to be ready to start work on ‘TomSpin’ and focus on it for the rest of my holidays - I need something to do, something to aim for during this four week period. But I wasn’t ready, and instead spent the entire day on my accounts, preparing my expenses and income sheets for two months and the VAT sales list for EC countries. This shouldn’t take all of one day, but I have little incentive to speed up. I calculate that I have turned over in the region of £48,000 in the first six months of the year, with a net income of £30,000. This is quite gratifying considering I have only been working two-thirds time this year - but, in fact, I calculate also that I am unlikely to take much more than £20,000 in the second half of the year with expenses running up close to the same as in the first half so that I shall probably only break even.
I go swimming with Adam. It is his last lesson of the term. I fall in love with a beautiful maiden in a white swimsuit, but she is more interested in swimming than in me, and I am not the only male to have noticed her.
Tuesday 18 July
After endless fannying around, I pulled out my ‘TomSpin’ drafts, and read over them very slowly, making a few corrections here and there, and making a few notes. But I never got round to writing a word. After a long lunch break, I got a call from Lyn about the headship problem. We talked for about half an hour or so. A new problem has arisen - her friend Victoria has been quite intimidated by John Inniss, through phone calls and by taking the petition off her. Clearly, Lyn and Victoria are quite emotional about this issue. I try and calm Lyn down by telling her there isn’t much we can do, and that we need to wait until the meeting. I get another phone call (or two) later on saying that Victoria seems calmer now because John has agreed to bring up the issue at the meeting. But the hatred towards John is still there, and I seriously doubt whether he can do his job properly if so many parents dislike him.
There are a lot of parents at the meeting, but my first concern is to see to Adam - he is the only child who has been brought by a parent, and I can’t leave him in the playground for a whole hour. Andy Page comes to the rescue, gives him a story title, and sits him in Class Two. The boy does not budge from his desk for the whole meeting long, and is still writing away at the end, having completed over five sides.
There was only one issue of substance discussed in the whole evening and that was the the new appointment. John Inniss brought the concerns of the parents up, and the chairman Rev Galloway took his time over explaining the decision. Then, about half a dozen parents challenged the decision or expressed their concern in one way or another. I said I found it astonishing that a decision could be made on a new head without reference to the existing relationship between the teachers and students. But, in the end, there was nothing for the parents to do, it is not in their prerogative to decide on the head.
During the afternoon, I got a call from Christian Egenhofer at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies. He confirms that he wants me to take part in a study session as a ‘discussant’ to balance Michel Ayral at DGXVII - Ayral has agreed, apparently, and the meeting is now set up. I have no qualms about this because I must take every such opportunity that presents itself - at the FT, I could afford to be shy - not any more.
Wednesday 19 July
At last, I manage to get to work on ‘TomSpin’. I don’t complete a new chapter, as I had hoped, nor do I much like it, but at least I’ve got going. Let’s hope I can keep up some momentum.
Mum rings at lunch time. I talk about El Rosco again, and fax her the details. I think about going to see it again - maybe with her to provide an extra sounding board. Otherwise the day is very quiet. It is Adam’s school prize-giving, but I decline to go. He comes home with several certificates, but none as advanced as the 100 metres he’s done at the independent swimming pool. The certificates are glossy and colourful but are prominently advertising Kia-Ora drinks.
We go to the library and discuss his summer project. I decide he should do two - one is a newspaper, and the other is to create a sticker book about buildings. We eat supper in the garden (as usual) - B is in Wisley - and I talk to Adam a little bit about punctuation and grammar, as a prelude to some English lessons this summer. We bath and watch a silly ‘Batman’ episode together.
I spend the evening tidying up papers in the sitting-room and writing up a few days of this journal.
Thursday 20 July
We are up early this morning, 6:30ish. Adam goes all coy and says he doesn’t need lessons because it’s the school party today. How can I be so mean, so firm, when he is so cute. When we are walking out to the car, I notice he is carrying his lunch box - inside he has hidden a hand clicker ball game and a tin of meccano poles, nuts and bolts. I look at him in disbelief, what is he trying to do, what does he intend to do with them. I tell him screwdrivers can be very dangerous. I want to confiscate the lot, but I weaken and let him take in the ball thing (but it gets confiscated any how).
Back at home I manage to find enough chores to keep me busy until 10:00 and then I start on ’TomSpin’. I work through till 1am with a short trip to the bank and supermarket and a break for coffee. After a long lunch break, I do another hour or so on ’TomSpin’ before leaving for school early. All the children are still seated in rows at trestle tables almost filling the tiny playground. I see Adam in the middle. I have brought his camera to take photos but then I think to give it to him to take photos. He loves dashing around taking pictures, and some of his friends take some too. Adam wants one of himself and Raff alone but Marcin keeps popping up behind them. It is a happy afternoon. Miss Goddard is presented with a cake and a present (or at least the promise of a present because it has not yet been delivered). It has been a good moment for her to retire after the year of the 150th anniversary celebrations. All the children are stuffing themselves with cake and jelly and squash - more and more parents come, waiting for the festivities to finish. I don’t think I’ve seen so many parents all at one time before.
I make myself a delicious banana milkshake on my return - it is so hot today, almost tropical. We go for a walk in the cemetery and play a little catch and some sports. I tell Adam about the latest chapter of ‘TomSpin’, and read some to him later.
The evening drifts by - I lie in the hammock for a while reading ‘Rob Roy’ and thinking about my future. How used we all are to the noises of the city - what would life be like in Elstead?
Friday 21 July
Adam’s last full day at school. My last day free - that is unlikely to be true since next week or thereafter I might send him to a local camp or play scheme, and, for course, B will have sometimes. This morning I get down to work on ‘TomSpin’ a little quicker than on other days. I finish off the chapter about Pootren and Ko, and start on ‘The Evil Place’. Sometime during the day, I hit on the idea of having TomSpin meet up with Pippo again in the Evil Place. Somehow I don’t manage even to do more than 2-3 hours - it is amazingly easy to fill in the rest of the hours - a bit of shopping, a game of chess on the computer, listening to the radio, or even watching television. I am not averse to putting on the TV when I stroll into the lounge. Today there is golf from St Andrews and I am pleased to remember my short stay there.
At school, there is much activity as parents collect the work from classrooms and as some pupils say goodbye to their teachers. Adam tells me there were lots of children crying - those that are leaving for secondary school next term. I catch a quiet word with both Andy Page and Jane Oliver. Adam tells me several times that he is sad to be finishing school - he says everybody was very nice to him because they thought he was leaving.
Saturday 22 July
I drive down to Godalming with Mum to have a second look at El Rosco. A & B go to Brighton. We spend about 40 minutes there. Mum sees clearly that the decoration and decor is downright awful but that the house itself is not too bad. Most of my original dislikes are reduced on second sight: the back extension is not so bad after all; the lounge could be much improved with plants; the garden is large; and the upstairs rooms are not that bad. We stroll down the road - Redhouse Lane - and Mum agrees with B’s comment that it is not a great road. There are a lot of small houses. I think it’s local tradesmen mostly. For some reason the street has become to worry me more than other aspects, but I find ways to look at it positively. Firstly, it will probably provide more anonymity than a different kind of situation; secondly it is difficult to imagine myself in the kind of middle class road inhabited by Judy and Rob for example. It will be a huge advantage to be so close to the school, to be in a quiet road, to be a few feet from countryside. What if Adam doesn’t get on at the school? That’s a risk indeed. Mum was very helpful discussing all the rooms and garden and general layout.
Afterwards we went to look at a couple more houses from the outside, and drove to Compton for breakfast. Mum ordered a buck rabbit which took over half an hour to arrive - I did warn her. But it is such a nice place. We drove back to London and I was home about one.
In the afternoon, I listened to a lightweight play by Robert Graves about a stamp collector while washing clothes, watched golf, wrote a few lines of ‘TomSpin’, did shopping. Listened to the evening play as well while cooking a supper of liver, boiled potatoes, beans and salad. Tried to watch a thriller called ‘Mortal Thoughts’ but gave up half way through - tiredness born of boredom!
Sunday 23 July
So much sunshine these days - hot temperatures, bright light. I sleep with the French doors wide open and the incessant chirping of the sparrows in the clematis waking me before 6:00. I cannot go back to sleep for long. I notice hanging down from above one of Adam’s teddies held by a string. He is bungey jumping, I remember, but he’s been hanging there for several days now. I have bread in the oven and, in three minutes, 8:44 am my breakfast rolls will be ready.
What a pleasure to be outside in the morning sun eating fresh made rolls with black cherry jam and drinking a cup of strong breakfast tea. I decide not to go down to Brighton today, instead I stay here in Kilburn and do nothing in particular. By turns I read chapters of ‘Rob Roy’, a Stephen Jay Gould book about geology ‘Times Arrow - Time’s Cycle’, sometimes in the hammock on the roof, sometimes in the garden. Sometimes, but not often, I write a paragraph of ‘TimSpin’. I have given myself a deadline to write 25,000 words by Adam’s birthday on 4 August - that’s 2,000 each working day from last Wednesday when I started; by doing some at weekends, I am putting words in store, as it were, in case I do something with Adam one day. Tomorrow, Adam and I start our holiday routine.
I do watch more of the golf. It seems to attract a lot of devotees to the course, but it must be a deadly boring game to watch live. Coverage on the telly is so good. I spend part of the morning trying to plan under the scenario that I purchase El Rosco for about £190,000. I so look forward to having lots to do all the time - there will be no more weekends like this once I’ve moved.
I take a walk around the cemetery to think of plot developments for ‘TomSpin’. A & B return about 6:30. A goes straight on to the roof to read his ‘Beano’ in the hammock. Later, we watch him fighting an invisible foe through the skylight window. He cannot see us but we can see him perfectly. With what passion and ferocity he fights, using a swordstick, his fists and his feet, kung fu style. He laughs a lot when he discovers we have been watching him.
The Italian Rocca makes the most amazing putt on the 18th to draw level 1st, but, in a four hole play off, the American Daly wins easily.
Monday 24 July
Another blindingly hot day. Maja and Rastko, who leave next week, have asked me if their friends from Yugoslavia can stay for a week. They have been staying in a B&B but even at £20 a night for the couple, it is too expensive. I said yes, but, like last night, I can see it will mean lots of noise in the night if they roll in drunk at 2am banging doors. Despite a disturbed night, I get up at 6:30 - somehow the time to 9:30 disappears, washing up, getting breakfast, listening to the radio. Bosnia still dominates, a peace conference in London last week was not as decisive as it could have been to deter the Serbs from over-running the UN safe havens.
I oversee Adam’s lessons - handwriting, maths, grammar. I work on ’TomSpin’ for the morning and aid Adam a little to develop a concept for his newspaper, one of his summer projects. He disturbs me a little too much in the office and I tell him to get on with his work and leave me to do mine. He says I’m not working because story-writing isn’t work! I have no answer for that. We lunch on sandwiches and grapes in the garden.
An order comes through on the fax machine - amazing I’d forgotten what they look like. At around 3, I take Adam to the park. A magician is weaving his magic on a large crowd of children. Adam joins the audience. He would like to be chosen to help the man but he is too far back. It is hot in the park, many people are sunbathing and at leisure. We practice catch, and walk over to the paddling pool. Adam doesn’t want to swim until he meets a friend from school who is there with his cousin. They all splash each other silly for 20 minutes.
I try to get back to work on ‘TomSpin’ but Adam pesters me, and then B arrives home early. She cooks supper, trout and broccoli. I watch ‘Eastenders’ and read. We discuss El Rosco one more time.
Tuesday 25 July
Finally, the Unicorn Theatre returns my script ‘King Top-of-the-World’. After nearly nine months and a reminder letter a few weeks ago. But I have waited in vain. The letter says nothing, nothing at all of interest to me. When I first sent the script last year and received a card saying it might take six months, this gave me hope that at least I would receive some kind of feedback. There are good bits, funny bits, but on the whole it is hackneyed, the characters are wooden! something like that would have suited me fine, but to say nothing at all, to give me no feedback at all.
The day proceeds very like Monday. Adam does his lessons much better and is finished before 10:00, and spends the rest of the morning working on his projects. This morning he finishes his long list of building groups and chooses 10 to be the core of his own-developed sticker book. I continue beavering away on ’TomSpin’. Sandwiches in the garden for lunch. Afterwards, Adam watches some more of ‘The Mark of Zorro’ which I videoed for him last week - but so far there are only a few quality things on TV for kids this summer. I finish the chapter called ‘The Evil Place’, and am keeping up to my 2,000 word a day schedule, but only just. What worries me about this writing is that it doesn’t seem to be taking up any thought time, when I’m away from the computer, and therefore I don’t feel it can be any good.
We go to the park, catch a bit more of the magic show that happens every day, Adam plays football with a friend he finds, and takes a dip in the pool.
At home we have a drink and read some science from ‘Quest’. I prepare a salady meal which we eat as soon as B comes home. Adam plays with B for a while and then I give him a first lesson of backgammon. I watch an episode of ‘Martin Chuzzlewitt’ which I have on tape. The characters are wonderful. Then I sleep on the floor in the parlour, although I don’t find it very comfortable.
Wednesday 26 July
And another day along the same pattern. I start work - a little later because I go to the launderette first - on a new chapter called ‘Disaster’.
A heavy storm waters the garden and sends me scurrying around to close all the windows. Sandwiches for lunch. After lunch, I ring Henry at the Halifax and place a bid for El Rosco. I tell him I am concerned about the price and the chain. Later in the day, he rings back to tell me the owner is considering my offer and there might be a possibility of her moving quickly! The reality of having two houses, both empty apart from Adam and I, begins to impinge on my consciousness.
I finish my 2,000 words by 3:00pm, and we go to the park. H watches the show while I read about how Rob Roy and Francis Osbaldistone escape from English soldiers. Afterwards he finds the same playmate as yesterday, and this time they go together to the playground. In the evening I watch another episode of ‘Martin Chuzzlewitt’, and retire fairly early to bed.
Thursday 27 July
Another day, same pattern more or less. I do not hear from the Halifax estate agent. I just finish my 2,000 words by mid-afternoon. We go to the park, Adam meets his friend Rhys, and they swim in the pool. On our return, I start preparing for tea with Mum. But it is all a bit of a panic because we are going to a Prom that starts at 7:00, not as I thought at 7:30. We have bread and a few goodies: tinned salmon, lean pork, dolcelatte, chicken, redcurrants and raspberries with cream. Maja and Rastko look after Adam. Mum and I fight our way through London traffic, to get to the Albert Hall. What a fabulous concert. It started with the sparkling ‘Cockaigne’ by Elgar; and Maxwell-Davies’ unfinished ballet ‘The Beltane Fire’ took up the rest of the first half. This was an interesting work conducted by the composer himself. He explains the music in his programme as a battle between pagan rituals and Christianity. The second half was devoted to Rachmaninov’s 3rd piano concerto - one of my favourite pieces from the early 1980s. I have never heard it played as well as this evening. The Russian pianist, Grigory Sokolov, was amazing, he melted into the music, gave it such richness and depth. Tortelier conducted with great skill too.
Friday 28 July
I finished off chapter six, ‘Disaster’, which more or less took me as far as my rough outline. I had no idea what to write after this.
Saturday 29 July
I woke a little after 5 and so prepared to leave for Brighton a little earlier than I intended. B elected to stay in London. On our way down, Adam and I discussed the story title, ‘The Green Cat’, although we didn’t come up with any satisfactory plot line. We arrived early in Brighton and I thought we might go to sleep but instead we got active. I went to get my haircut, then to Sainsbury’s. Breakfast and to the shops. Most of the day I was focused on buying presents for Adam’s birthday. The morning was a recce excursion. I then discussed ideas with B on the phone; and later in the afternoon bought a large selection: a Scaletrix car, a Subbuteo team and goals, paper games, books on football, chess and cars, a Boglin, a plastic sword, a space pen, a yo-yo, an airfoil model. We spent a while on the beach in the afternoon, Adam playing in the sea while I ogled the girls. No work on ‘TomSpin’ today.
Sunday 30 July
A thrilling day with the cricket. Cork got a hat-trick, the first by an English player for nearly 40 years, and we finally bowled out West Indies leaving them a lead of 94. The English team got into a bit of a mess making the runs but got there in the end. Very exciting cricket, and the series is now 2:2 with two matches left.
Adam and I worked in the morning. I am writing chapter seven now, called ‘Rosefulness’; it’s largely about TomSpin discovering jealousy and the pleasure of girls. After lunch, we went to the beach again - very crowded, very hot although the sun was behind a hazy sky for most of the time.
In the evening, we drove up to Stanmer Park and went for a walk on the Downs - a lovely evening - and when the circular walk took a long detour we passed the time by telling a competitive story - i.e. one where we take turns on telling, but we made it difficult for the other person to carry on.
I’ve been going to bed at 10:00 or so, the sun makes me tired. Adam, though, barely sleeps more hours than me, and he’s far more active. I watch a Bob Monkhouse stand-up comedy show and an episode of ‘Mastermind’. I’m getting stuck into Le Carre’s ‘Our Game’. I love his books.
Monday 31 July
Adam spends the day at the nearby summer camp. We leave about 8:45 and I register him, then come back. It is a twenty minute trek by foot - in the past I took my bike so that one way was much quicker. I got on much quicker with my writing without Adam here, and I have plenty of time to go to the beach after lunch before picking him up at 3:30. He has had a good day - swimming, tennis, sandcastle building and messing about in the gym. We have an early supper and go to Brighton races. I’ve been trying to get to a meet for years and years because the race course is so wonderfully situated way above Brighton. It is a modest affair, but we get close to the race track and feel the horses thundering by.
Paul K Lyons
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