JOURNAL - 1995 - MAY
Monday 1 May, Brussels
I dream of going to a church and being reviled by the vicar for no apparent reason - the only possible cause I can think of is that I am chewing bubble gum. Similarly, my boss comes in to talk to me after work, he is gentle-spoken but his message is that I am not matching up to expectations - especially in the behaviour/dress department.
Several triggers for these dreams (of which I recall only a small part now) occur to me. Lyn, the mother who is helping me with the Souvenir Programme, was chewing gum when she came to visit me last week (nicotine gum). I have been in Emmanuel Church twice recently to talk to the vicar. And, yesterday, in the park, I told Adam that perhaps he shouldn’t climb in the trees in the middle of flower beds because although he might be able to pick his way through the flowers the younger children copying him might damage the flowers. And this reminded me of the reprimand I received at MORI years ago from Bob Worcester for dressing and behaving unconventionally. It may suit me, he said, and be supportable in my case, but now that I was no longer the most junior person in the company, it could not be tolerated because of the example it set. And see, I still remember it to this day.
Interspersed with the effort to remember my dreams, I felt repentant this quiet morning as I lay in bed. Repentant again for telling Adam off such a lot, repentant about filling up every gap in the day with the radio - I must allow more silences around me - and repentant that my life has not amounted to more.
It is a Bank Holiday here today and I have no writing to do or work that can be done for the newsletters. I may wonder the streets looking for an apartment. I may even clean this one. I may read.
It is a lovely warm day. I have taken a stroll. Almost all the shops are shut and there is a relaxed ambience. So far I’ve written the first two or three one-page chapters of ‘The Pet Shop’, almost exactly in line with the way I first told it. I spent quite a lot of time sorting through my papers and dumping many of them. I also cleaned most of the flat while listening to radio programmes. A walk up to the Grand Place.
Tuesday 2 May
Down to work. I look through a few papers I have already collected for this month’s issue and make a few phone calls between 9 and 9:30. There is an energy working group today so all the counsellors are busy. I decide to head into the institutions early so as to give myself plenty of time. First the Parliament where I pick up the minutes from the April plenary sessions and look over the apartment advertisements. Then the Commission where I flick through the recent press releases - not much to pick up on I must say. I bump into Paula in the coffee bar - she works in Oreja’s cabinet and with de Miguel, the front runner to head DG17. She says no decision has been made yet with respect to the posting but she does suggest a new name might come in from Spain. She says de Miguel might lose his temper but he is straight and you know where you are. I don’t stay for the briefing because I can tell from the press notes there is nothing of interest. To the Council, the new building is ready and will be in use on my next visit. Boxes everywhere in the old Charlemagne building, and the restaurant has all but closed down. The steak bar remains open so I grab lunch before returning home. I do very little for the 90 minutes or so before I leave for DG17.
I have mistaken the time I was due to meet Leydon. I arrive at 15:00 and I should have been there at 10:30. He still sees me, but not till 16:00. I also snatch interviews with Sainz, Angelini, Van Steen, Westerhof but fail to see Fee, Capouet, Busby among others - there is still a holiday mood in the corridors. I come away with no papers, no source material for stories.
By the time I get home I am knackered. I spend 40 minutes on the telephone to lobby groups before calling it a day. I listen to the radio, eat open sandwiches, fall asleep with the ‘Archers’, and just now I have turned on the computer to write a little more ‘The Pet Shop’.
Wednesday 3 May
The day starts well with a call from the German energy counsellor, Dour. He is ringing to say he cannot meet me at lunch time - he says he has a family crisis. We talk briefly about freezers and energy policy, and he promises to fax me in London the draft Council Resolution with M.S. comments. I think to myself that, at least, I have one reasonable feature in the bag.
I spend most of the rest of the day talking, although I do a little paper sorting and a small amount of writing. I talk with Cenelec about the Europe-wide plug, to VDEW about procurement issues. At the Commission I listen to Van den Brock and Mantil talk about the white paper on integrating the East Europe nations with the Single Market.
Over lunch with Brooks I listen to stuff about a family dispute and talk about my house problems. I make a few phone calls before strolling down to the EP building - such warm sunny weather. I am wearing no jacket. I spend a few minutes in the library before trying my luck at Jacques’ office (administrator for CERT). He is there with his daughter (rather pretty) - it is his birthday. His daughter leaves and he gives me 20 minutes. He is the reverse of James Spence. I could talk to James for 10 minutes and get the essence of four or five dossiers - strong material usable in articles. But with Jacques I can talk for 20 minutes without getting a thing. He is too interested in putting forward his own opinions - he talks about the committee and its actions as his ideas, but he doesn’t have the intellect of James.
From the EP I walk to the Phare office, pick up papers, and get into a debate with Patrick Worms about the feasibility of the East European nations ever acceding to the EU.
Back at the flat, I make more calls until time runs out and then I start writing. B rings late to tell me not much, and I go out to the cinema at 10:00, Dustin Hoffman and Donald Sutherland in ‘Outbreak’. A great story about a new infectious disease. This is a thrilling movie, and had me on the edge of my seat - but the plot leaves reality standing at the opening credits. Fun to see Hoffman try out an action man role.
Thursday 4 May, Eurostar
In the tunnel - going home. Another busy day, often frustrating. This has been a difficult trip, one of those weeks when I go chasing down all sorts of alleys without finding any story material of substance. I still don’t know what I’m going to fill the issue up with.
Yesterday Simon rang to tell me there were problems with Thermie, and we discussed what to do. It looks like I will have to write a summary now. Simon has couriered the papers over to me and asked for a structure for such a summary. Just what I need today.
I have a first meeting with Svend at 9:30. As usual he is very helpful. We go through most of the issues and he gives me a copy of the Resolution on the green paper (so I may have it twice) and a Danish position paper on the freezers Directive. Svend explains how his minister, Auken (energy and environment) is very anxious to strengthen the environmental angle of energy policy. He also tells me that there is a bust up brewing between the Council and the Commission over the Euratom-US accord. The Commission believes it has reached the best possible compromise, the Council unanimously rejects that view and believes the US should give more.
I return home - make more calls - and then go out to the Council, the Commission, the EP. The same tour as always. In the EP, I pick up, fresh off the presses, the draft report on the InterGovernmental Conference (IGC). In the draft report, the EP supports a chapter on energy but one that incorporates elements of Euratom and the ECSC. In other words, they have confused the issue a little and this will make it more difficult for the Commission - there is zilch likelihood that the Council will accept amendments to Euratom at this IGC.
I have an hour or so at home before heading off again - this time to the Finnish delegation to meet with Pekka Lindros, and then to the French delegation. Corallo, who is chairman of the energy working group during the French Presidency, takes me to an outdoor cafe (where I proceed to knock my beer over the table). The French Presidency has a draft set of Council Conclusions on the Single Market, but is keeping them secret until after the French elections. The issue is so sensitive in France, it could affect the outcome of the elections. Corallo says he has promised to send the draft to the delegations first thing on Monday night. French trade unions are already planning to stage a demonstration. Corallo tells me that France will compromise on electricity liberalisation in every area accept distribution access. From Corallo I go home, tidy up, head for Gare du Midi. The train is being delayed 20 minutes in Kent.
Friday 5 May
B is in Wisley and Adam put himself to bed last night. He comes into my bedroom and gives me a gentle hug and tells me has missed me. The weather remains mid-summerish even though it is only just May. On the way to school Adam tells me about his week.
As usual I have admin to get out of the way - too few orders and too few cheques as always. (However, the school magazine has pulled in about £200 of ads so I am quite pleased about that.)
I spend most of the day writing although I do make one or two calls. Andrew Warren promises to send me the draft of the new SAVE Decision which is just what I was hoping.
I pick Adam up from school and would like to go to the park the weather is so fine but we have no time. Adam has to correct his English lesson from this morning and I must carry on working too.
I have supper ready for 8 when B arrives back from Wisley. We exchange notices about the week.
Both A & B go to bed soon after supper.
I watch the two hour ‘Prime Suspect’ story. Good television with Helen Mirren as the tough but good-hearted cop.
Writing a diary in this form is a neutered process because I am just recalling events - not feelings, not thoughts, not paraphernalia. The most lively material comes when I write about now, about my thoughts and actions now, the colour and taste then comes in naturally. I think I am leaning towards the old style. That way I can give colour when I sit down to write and date it accordingly and then fill in all the material and background I want to. Themes can be developed, events connected up, priorities established. Perhaps to ensure the best of both methods I should make a point of writing up sample days on a regular basis - perhaps the same numerical date each month, say the 2nd and 22nd of each month.
Saturday 6 May
VE celebrations this weekend - everywhere - in Hyde Park, in the papers, in St Pauls, on the TV. A typical Sunday at home. Me working at the computer - breaking off every now and then to chat with B or A or to do some chore, and B trying to get some housework done, but playing with A half the time.
I feel quite a lot of pressure because of the missed Monday and the dearth of stories in the early part of the week, and I therefore need to work most of the weekend. I don’t usually resent working at the w/e, I even quite like it, especially since I often don’t work at other times, but this w/e with the weather so fine it would be nice to be on the beach in Brighton.
B cooks a huge lunch which we eat outside surrounded by the brilliant clematis and honeysuckle flowers. Afterwards, I feel so tired I can’t work properly. By the time I get back into it, the time has come to head for Mum’s house. As usual we talk about her garden for a while. I get stuck into the pile of ‘Guardians’ that she keeps for me, and Adam wants to play with the sprinkler. Mum has set up a lovely high tea with meats, smoked salmon, and cheeses. She tells me Julian is in Devon with the family.
B and I take the tube from Golders Green to Embankment (£6.30 for two returns!) and walk across the horrible bridge to enjoy the views over the Thames. We are at the Lyttleton Theatre to see ‘The Man Who’ by Peter Brook based on Oliver Sacks’ book ‘The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat’). The stage had been brought forward a bit and seats put around the side to create a more intimate atmosphere. We were near the stage. But I hated it. For all sorts of reasons. Brooks only gave us representations of the illnesses discussed by Sacks, there was no evolution of the illness or progress to cure, there was no plot, no purpose. And the play was produced and acted so clinically - scrabbled, cleaned so much there was no depth left. And pretentious and condescending.
Sunday 7 May
Breakfast outside. David from next door has dropped in a press cutting over night. A columnist in the ‘Independent’ has written about how the kids’ craze of collecting football stickers took him over to a point where he was swapping them at work with other kids’ dads. I don’t actually believe him - columnist’s license I’m sure. But I’m pleased to see that my own perception of this publishing coup has been echoed, recognised. If I was a columnist, I would have written something similar at just the same time. It would only have needed a bit of research about who was a popular footballer at the moment.
A&B scoot off to Brighton. I scoot up to the study. Apart from a short lunch break, I work from about 10 to 5 and finally break the back of the writing that needs to be done. I scoot off to the park to enjoy the remains of the day and read the papers while I’m there. (Ishiguro has just published a new novel, a fat dense one, which the critics are unsure of. Also just published are new novels by Le Carré, Robertson Davies and Adam Thorpe - what a delight.) In the evening I watched ‘Prime Suspect’, but the stories and production have become like ‘Morse’ and lost the distinctive, gritty forcefulness they had in the first two specials. I suspect, Helen Mirren is taking the money and running.
Monday 8 May
It is now Saturday and thus the longest I have fallen behind with this supposedly daily record.
I too took a break mid-morning and rode to Hyde Park on my bike. Although there were a lot of people milling around it was nothing like as crowded as later on when the various events were under way. A&B saw the fly past of old war planes but not the fireworks. I was surprised how few displays there were. The army and navy had tents, which already had long queues to enter, but I would have expected many more props on show. I can’t say the VE 50 celebrations touched me much. I do agree with them. I think it is supremely important to keep alive the memory of war past - although, inevitably, it is impossible. As a writer (of sorts) I feel the need for more reference to war in general fiction of all sorts. I don’t feel this responsibility of myself, however, because I have no position as a writer and my first responsibility is to write something, anything, to be accepted by the world at large. If I ever got a ‘name’, which is clear I can’t now, won’t, then I suppose I would start worrying about the message as well as the career. I think TV has a strong responsibility here. But what happens when there are no longer people alive who remember the war. At VE-75 for example, there will be almost no surviving people who fought in the war. We can use, though, the memories, the example, the experience of the wars, and infiltrate them into our writing films, images etc.
Tuesday 9 May
I had even less success today calling Brussels. I must have tried twenty phone calls before thinking to check my holiday list. Sure enough Tuesday 9th, Schumann Day! Sometimes with my newsletter I am ahead of schedule, but one or two stories stick, and I feel I should get more on them. So it happens, that I can end up chasing stories, wasting a lot of time, never getting anywhere, and end up under as much time pressure as in other weeks. One story that occupied time for this issue, for example, was the CO2/energy tax. I had spoken to Leydon in DGXVII who gave me a broad idea of what would be in the new proposal, but no details and no timing. He gave me enough to write a 3-4 paragraph story but I thought I should try to get more. I called reps who sit in the Council’s environment group but didn’t get through to any until Monday, and the Dutch guy said he hadn’t seen the proposal yet. In my mind, this convinced me the proposal couldn’t be so near fruition. But still I tried to check with others. On Wednesday, I rang the Commission press service to find out if anything had been passed at the Wednesday meeting of Commissioners. I couldn’t get though to anyone. I called the London office. All they could tell me was that the IGC report was expected. But, on Thursday morning, there was a small report in the FT saying the Commission had passed its new proposal on a CO2/energy tax!
Wednesday 10 May
I was up and at the machine early. B was due to leave for Wisley and not join us again until Friday night in Brighton. Not only, this morning, did I have to finalise the 18-page newsletter but there was a four-page mailing letter, a wrap-around, and instructions to the printer. I wanted to get all this out of the way early and get on with my own jobs. Unfortunately, we had a crisis, a real crisis for us. B fell over in the hall, stumbled over her Wisley bag of clothes. I saw her fall but didn’t think much of it. Then Adam came up to me in the office and said Mummy wanted me. I asked if it was breakfast, Adam said no. I was tempted to finish what I was doing but something in Adam’s tone made me go immediately. I found Barbara sitting on a chair staring into space. What’s the matter, I asked, no response. I repeatedly asked her to speak to me but she wouldn’t, she just kept staring into space. I was confused. I went to the telephone to call for an ambulance, and she managed to say, ‘I think I’m all right’ or something like that. I returned to where she was sitting. She was in considerable distress, having lost consciousness for several minutes. I got out the medical book, and I been to think B had had a mini-stroke. I rang the surgery, and the receptionist said to come straight away. We did, but it wasn’t that easy, for when B fell over she hurt her foot, and couldn’t put any weight on it at all. She hobbled to the car, and I helped her into the surgery. We waited half an hour while Dr Braunold who though B had just fainted. The nurse was surprised the doctor hadn’t sent her for an x-ray. I drove us home but it was difficult to get back to work. B was in shock for most of the morning. For me, it was a panic to finish my newsletter by 2:30 which is the time I need to leave, to deliver the pages to the printer and get back in time to pick Adam up from school.
On my return, I was whacked, but after a short rest I continued my pre-production manic zest with much tidying round the house. B was completely incapacitated by her foot.
Now my newsletter is out of the way I have a little more work on Thermie to do - a four page summary. Simon wanted it today, but I said I couldn’t manage before Thursday. I think about it a little bit and decide I can do it all tomorrow. I spend the evening tidying up all the papers in the study and leave it ready to start work early in the morning.
Thursday 11 May
B showed me her foot last night, it is black from heel to toe. I say she must go to casualty or at least phone the surgery. This she does, and the nurse tells her to go to the hospital because they will give her an x-ray there. I ask her to take a taxi because I have to get on with Thermie. She goes about 11 and doesn’t get back till after after 3. Sure enough she has a fracture, and it will take up to six weeks to get better. At least she has some crutches so that she can get around. I pick Adam up from school on the way home from the hospital. I stop to chat with Miss Goddard about the school magazine. Back at home there is a message from Simon - whoops I’ve forgotten to send the fourth page.
Nigel is proving a real winner in ‘Eastenders’. He started off as a part-timer friend of Grant but he’s now got a wife, a step-daughter, and a central role in Albert Square life. His new job as Queen Vic football team manager is showing off his talents even more.
Friday 12 May, Brighton
I continued working feverishly all day yesterday right up until 11pm - cleaning the house, tidying, packing for Brighton. I felt alive enough to drive down late and I really wanted to start Friday in Brighton, have a lay in. But when it came to it this morning, I didn’t feel much like lying in bed. The weather was fine. Because of B’s incapacity, I was burdened with all the preparations and work for Mum’s visit. My first stop was the town centre with Adam. We did a few book shops and bought B an Oliver Sacks book. Adam found a shop that hadn’t sold out of football stickers. I bought key foods from Marks & Spencer (what a queue).
About 4, A & I left to walk to Preston Park for the Cirque Surreal’s 5pm performance. This is the main reason we are in Brighton on a Friday. The circus was quite fun - it was fast and lively with lights and sounds and some vaguely odd happenings trying to make up for the lack of any truly amazing circus feats. There was juggling, and acrobatics and trapeze work, but almost all of it was marginally above busker standard. Our favourite was a trick bicyclist who even managed to use his front wheel to play football. Oddly, the most intriguing act was a juggler who oozed ‘real circus’ - not one of the others had this same quality. The juggler carried his sparkle-full costume with the confidence of one born to the business of making circus, and he showed off his skills with a zest and cockiness that suggested he was just messing about in the playground. I wondered why he was there among the crowd of pretenders. Had he opted out of the pressures and tradition of the old-fashioned circus life, and found liberation within the culture of a modern bohemian circus. And then later, at the close, something suggested to me he might be the boss, and that presented the situation in a different light. Had he grown up with different, modern ideas, and left the old ways to try a new approach and pulled together a group of new idealists. Adam enjoyed it. I wasn’t too bored.
In ‘International Affairs’, I read about the composition of the Algerian internal strife and the various scenarios for peace and not-peace in Northern Ireland. In the ‘New Scientist’, I read about ways of estimating how many people are using the internet, and growing evidence that HIV is simply a virus.
Saturday 13 May
Mum did not arrive mid-morning as expected but after lunch, so we sat down to a high tea lunch straight away. Mum and Adam went for a walk to the shops while I stayed back to type in some work for the school magazine. At about 7:30, I drove Mum and B to the sea front and then cruised around Brighton looking for a parking place. Such is Brighton I had to park almost back at Tidy Street, and canter back to find the two women drinking wine outside a pub. I had ordered B to sit still and tell Mum which direction to go to find a restaurant but they had given up. So I had to go off in search of one. I chose one for its proximity rather than anything else and we all ate a respectable-if-boring pasta dish. My aim in organising all this was to catch an outdoor performance on the sea front at 9pm. By the time we left the restaurant, it was already 9:20. In the event, the performance was delayed - all the action took place above head level, and high wires were used to carry flying angels and boats - while puppet monsters on tall sticks moved through the crowd.
Wednesday 17 May
I am beginning to count the cost of producing the Souvenir Programme, counting the days. There are visits to the library, to the photocopy shop, endless hours in front of the computer. But then I tell myself, it doesn’t matter, why should I not spend as long as this on my newsletter. I am enjoying it, and it may have more permanence than anything else I do. I’m very pleased with the final product. I’m pleased that I’ve managed to raise the right amount of money and that the ads fit neatly on one page. I am hoping that the magazine has a nice mix of items and looks quite professional. I am pleased that the timing has worked out so that I can do as I promised and have it ready in time for the reunion. I take in a draft final copy to Miss Goddard to look after and give her until Saturday to make corrections.
Thursday 18 May
‘Eastenders’ has just finished. David was at the centre of the episode - getting stuck overnight on a country lane when the car breaks down. Bianca’s driving lesson goes wrong! We see David looking for Bianca, and noticing her legs, her short skirt. We are meant to think how hard it is for men without a girlfriend. Then, at the end of the episode, David and Cindy fall into a wild embrace. So, once again, adultery is back in the Square. We also have a developing plot line connected with sexual harassment at work (Nigel’s wife).
The light is pleasant this evening, shining underneath the clouds and whitening their edges. It is mild again and windless. In the past I might have raced up to the Secret Garden on an evening such as this, but I cannot with Adam in bed and Barbara still down in Wisley. B just phoned. She is miserable. Being restrained by her broken foot is a major handicap, and she is finding things in Wisley difficult.
Having gone to bed early last night, I was up quite early this morning but with a headache. As a consequence I was a bit unfocussed most of the morning. I took Adam to school, and by chance took my camera - it was my last chance, in fact, to take a photo of the school for the magazine. I went to the door of the block of flats opposite the school, hoping to be able to ring a bell and get into the hall - I wanted to take a photo from the top landing window. But, when I looked through the glass in the door, I saw a notice pinned to the board warning residents not to let anyone in the front door without proper identification. I was just about to turn round and give up when I saw a bell saying ‘Tradesmen’. I pressed it, thinking it might link me with a caretaker - and, like Aladdin’s Lamp, it opened the door. I couldn’t believe my luck. I snuck up to the top, and took half a reel of photos. But, I determined to come back later when there might be more sun and more children in the playground. However, when I came back later, Aladdin’s Lamp had lost its magic (I suppose the bell only works for milkman hours). Nevertheless, I persevered and rang a couple of bells until somebody let me in. I stayed at the top for about half an hour, waiting for the sun and waiting for Adam to be in the playground, so that I could him get him in the picture.
From the school (having by now taken a full roll of photographs), I stopped off at the new bookshop in West Hampstead, and persuaded the owner to invest £20 in an ad. That makes a nice tidy complete page of ads, and £330 to cover costs. Next, I took the tube into Oxford Circus to deliver the film to Sky. On the way back, I stopped off at Swiss Cottage to make photocopies of the map and architect’s drawing for the magazine. On the way back to West Hampstead I bumped into Peter Galloway (chairman of the governors) on the tube. We talked about the application for head of Emmanuel (seeing as how Goddard is leaving). He said it would be very difficult to get good calibre applicants because the school size means a low salary, and even a deputy head to another school might have to take a cut in salary. So, he said, we can only expect somebody to use the post as a stepping stone. Later, I also talked to Andy Page who said he very much supported Miss Oliver’s application. But I have my doubts about her.
I got home about 2 and have done little since then. I hoovered the study, collected Adam from school. Read a few estate agent details for houses in Surrey. One prospect has got me excited again - a 5-6 bedroom wing of a Victorian mansion. It’s a repossession and is being offered at around £200,000. The agent told me it is vacant possession, and the owners must be out on completion. It is effectively owned by the Halifax Building Society. The agent, also Halifax, is having an open day at the house on the 27th.
This evening I expect I shall watch television again. I have quite a lot of eczema on my hands and I wonder if it is an allergic reaction to strawberries, which I had for the first time this year a few weeks ago. I discovered today that the teacher who lives over the road has had a baby, six weeks ago. I didn’t even know she was pregnant, that’s how fast time flies by.
I did a major mailing of EC Inform-Energy to prospective buyers last week and today I discovered a mistake - the last line of a story was clipped off. I’m supposed to check vigorously for such things!
Friday 19 May
6:15am. I am drinking tea made from mixed dried fruits and sweetened with honey. I haven’t not had tea early in the morning for years. I used to drink a lot of hibiscus tea, but I doubt whether drinking this tea will transport me back to then.
I am supposed to be writing up Saturday 13 May but it is so much easier to be here now in the present than there, six days ago. I could ramble on fill up the page - the bird song, the clematis which is still in bloom, the state of the nation - but I must fill up the blanks of the past first.
At 8.00am I sent a fax to Judith Nichol at Eurelectric in response to a message on my answering machine. At 8:05 Hughes Belin rings me, also from Eurelectric, says nothing about the fax, but invites me to the big Unipede/Eurelectric conference in Paris next week. My fax to Nichol must have jogged his attention (the gen sec had, apparently asked him to invite me a couple of weeks ago). The invitation sent me into overdrive. Unfortunately, I am committed to going to Artigraf at 10:30 Monday morning. I check the times of trains to Paris. I call Mum about Adam-sitting on Wednesday, she’s not there. I call B as soon as I can, but I have a huge difficulty in finding her number. I spend the next couple of hours trying to organise the trip am handicapped at every turn. Mum can’t look after Adam on Wednesday. Maja and Rastko are out, so I can’t check details with them. B is utterly imprecise about her details next week. In the end, I book a return trip going on Monday afternoon, back on Wednesday morning. The most important thing for me will be to get the names and addresses of the conference attendees for future mailings.
Although I have no pressing EC Inform or school programme work, I am in a tizz for most of the day - messing about. At the school, I hope to get back the proofs of the magazine but Goddard is not ready, and she is rewriting her interview - god damn her! With some spare time, I return to ‘A Suitable Boy’. The net is beginning to tighten around Lata, with three possibilities. I feel sure she will end up with the poet, Amit.
Saturday 20 May
I drove to Wisley to collect B, and later she helped with the corrections finally provided by Miss Goddard. There were not many, but she had rewritten the text of the interview, which B typed up anew. I received a call from a Mr Souhami who told me that he and his mother and his brother and sister had all gone to Emmanuel and his wife’s mother had been there in the last century.
I popped into Mum’s to pick up the papers, and do some chores.
Saturday 21 May
I spent most of the day finalising the Souvenir Programme. I was ready to print out the final pages by tea-time, then B & I spent the evening making up all the pages with the photographs and illustrations. This took until midnight. I also worked a little on my quarterly accounts for the VATman.
Monday 22 May
I took Adam to school and then drove to Artigraf to take the Souvenir Programme proofs for printing. On my return, I did washing at the launderette, and shopping to make sure B had enough until Wednesday evening. At lunch time we had a snack in the garden, then I packed and cleaned up. I left about 3:15, arriving at Waterloo in good time to pick up my tickets and buy a map of Paris in W. H. Smith. Oddly, the best one I could find, with a street index, was the cheapest. The train journey to Paris was uneventful. I began reading two books ‘Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter’ by Mario Vargas Llosa, and ‘East is East’ by someone I’ve never heard of. I arrived at Hotel Lotti at about 9pm. It is an old-fashioned hotel which I took an instant dislike to. Costing around £150 a night, it offered no more than a bed and breakfast would - indeed less, because breakfast is not included in the price. There was no radio, no BBC television. I strolled out to explore the conference venue, Le Carousel de Louvre, and discovered the new underground world of smart shops and bars connected to the Louvre and the pyramid structure from which the three wings of the famous museum fan out. I can’t ever remember reading about this extraordinary development. However, the conference area was all shut up, and there was no sign of anyone. So, I returned to the hotel and went to bed.
Tuesday 23 May
I knew breakfast cost Fr120 extra (and with the pound at only Fr8 something that is getting on for £15) but what I couldn’t be sure of was whether Eurelectric would be covering the cost of breakfast as well as the room. It was early when I got up at 7, and I was still a bit sluggish. And then, when I arrived at the breakfast room where the waiters were hovering in a sycophantically sticky manner, I chose not to try out the delicacies, but to stick to a roll and tea.
At eight, dressed in my finest suit, I stroll along the rue Rivoli to the Carousel de Louvre. I register only to find there is no pen in the conference folder. and that I have not brought one with me from the hotel. I can’t ever remember going to a major conference of this type (700 delegates attend) and not being given a pen - and neither is there paper in the bag. No problem you might think. Carousel de Louvre is full of shops. I can surely find one that sells a pen even if it carries a tourist price tag. But, firstly, none of the shops are open this early, and secondly none of them will open at all, because they remain closed on Tuesdays. I am faced with the choice of going the whole day without a pen or leaving the Carousel and trying to find one out in the real world. I do the latter, but it is still surprisingly difficult to find a newsagent in this area of exchange and tourist shops which are not yet open.The next fault I notice is that there is no full listing of the speakers for each session. The programme given out only provides the name of the rapporteur, chairman and keynote speaker. There is, incredibly, no listing of speakers, so it is difficult to decide which one of the three rooms to go to. Next problem - no press room, no telephone, no seats, no synthesis of what’s going on. The rooms were technically well-endowed with video equipment and lights but the main hall between them so sterile - no seats at all, none, just a few counters: at the coffee break one had nowhere to put down one’s papers or drink or croissant. All three failings. I was much disappointed. The only positive aspect for me is that, sure enough, the documentation does contain a full delegate list complete with addresses!
I barely know any faces at all. I talk to one or two people - a Veba man over lunch, Hughes from Eurelectric, Barrett from Powergen - but I find it a rather alien atmosphere. I do not find the papers very interesting, the themes chosen for each of the session are not as clear cut as they could have been, and the discussions not well focused.
I escape after lunch to visit my cousin Martin. I meet him at his firm Louis Dreyfus & Co (LDC) at the end of rue de la Grande Avenue - Porte Maillot. We sit in a sidewalk cafe and discuss the past, the present and the future. It is some while since I last saw him. He tells me many confused stories and seems to relish the fact that his life is becoming as complicated as that of his father, Mike. For example, he tells me almost immediately that he is leaving Valerie to live with a Belgian woman in Sofia. Valerie apparently knows about the affair but Martin is waiting for the situation over his father’s flat to be resolved (following his death): the flat is due to be sold finally within a few weeks, but there will be after-shocks because there are various law suits connected with the sale. As for his work, Martin thinks he can persuade his firm to set up an office in Sofia, otherwise he will just leave, and start up his own. He talks as though this will be as easy as anything - perhaps it is in Sofia. My other cousin, Michael, is wheeling and dealing in Sofia, very successfully, Martin says.
Wednesday 24 May
8:30am. What a waste of time this trip has been. The best part of three days to achieve what? nothing but the mailing list from the conference. Well, also I’ve had lunch with Martin, and experienced the ‘new’ Louvre. After meeting Martin yesterday, I returned to the conference but didn’t stay long. I returned to the hotel for a short nap, bathed, then went back to the Louvre for our free open trip to the new Richelieu wing. The wing has been built, I think, from a previous ministry building and includes lots of French sculpture from the 17th century, some Dutch school painting and a few objets d’art. Perhaps most interesting, apart from the splendid reconstruction and design of the building itself, were the sumptuous apartments of Napoleon III. I spent about an hour in the Louvre before returning to the central area underneath a glass pyramid which has been built in the middle of the Louvre courtyard.
For the gala dinner, the majority of delegates had prescribed tables in groups of friends. I wandered round looking for a familiar face, a space, some minimal invitation to sit down but none came, and I was afraid to plant myself at a table and discover the other occupants were only French-speaking, so I went home, changed, and wandered around the streets of Paris, as far as Harold’s old haunts. I ate a McDonald’s and an ice cream. Not much in the streets excited me. On Wednesday morning, I spent a couple of hours with the conference, talked to Barrett again, and then made my way slowly to Gare du Nord. I was home by 3, in time to pick Adam up from school.
Thursday 25 May
I filled up the day with admin and diary writing. B trekked to Wisley on her own. I made her promise to ring when she arrived at the library but she forgot for over an hour.
At about 3:15 Miss Goddard rang to say the brochures had arrived! I was upset they been delivered to the school - I had been looking forward to taking them and handing them out. Several people congratulated me on the Programme when I arrived to pick Adam up, but not Miss Goddard. I was too busy looking at the thing to worry about what others were saying. Artigraf had done a good job, and the photographs came out beautifully. My only complaint was that the paper was not as as heavy as I had hoped for, and so the A4 Programme is a bit floppy.
Friday 26 May
I cycled to Westminster, to the Commission library. I thought it would be empty with a Bank Holiday weekend coming up, but there was plenty of competition for the photocopier. I discovered quite a bunch of material and confirmed my worst suspicions: I missed three major stories last issue, all of which broke on the Wednesday I went to press, the day B broke her foot. The rest of the day, I spent sorting through all the editorial material and arranging it according to subject. There will be masses of material for the June issue.
Saturday 27 May
A busy exciting day. Adam & I left about 6:15 and arrived at B’s flat in Wisley via the newsagents in Ripley at about 7:00. We read the papers over breakfast and admired the neighbour’s work in preparing his garden so quickly and so attractively. Since I last came he has erected old-fashioned fencing, rescued from the Wisley Garden, around his lawn and flowerbeds.
We drove to Godalming, where A & B took a second breakfast and I hopped around the various estate agents. At 10:00 we drove to Ravenwood, Charleshill, Tilford, Surrey. This is a property which has been repossessed by the Halifax from a family who have lived there for 25 years, so we understand. Because of the repossession, the agents (also Halifax) have organised an open day, which is the only opportunity a prospective buyer will have to see it. Tables, posters, Halifax staff were all about and we were taken through the many rooms and cupboards. There are 5 or 6 bedrooms in all with a large lounge with beautiful wood panelling. There are fabulous views over the landscape to the south, and a garden that stretches out 120ft down several terraces. The whole property seems in good basic state but unlooked after for years. It is the central portion of a Victorian mansion - so that the two wings are larger properties with larger grounds. There are many disadvantages to Ravenswood: the poor decoration, the steep garden and the lack of access to it (only through the kitchen, not from the road), the lack of public transport nearby, the huge amount of space which will need to be decorated and furnished, the small kitchen. But there are huge advantages, at least over most of the other properties I’ve considered: the amount of space means I could rent rooms and run my business there - it’s flexible just what I like and need. It’s in the A3 corridor allowing easy access to the A3 and Wisley. The views. The beautiful lounge. The character. I wasn’t allowed to wander around on my own, and there was a certain amount of pressure from the agents to move on and out.
From there we headed straight back to Aldershot Rd. and talked most of the way about the house and its possibilities. After a quick lunch I went with Adam to his school, for the ex-student’s reunion. The PTA had put on a spread of drinks and cakes. My Programmes were on sale, and raised over a hundred pounds I think, and all the school staff were happy with it. I wandered around trying to talk to anyone on their own, I looked at their old class photos, marvelled at the uniforms, and listened to stories from long ago. I had expected the delight of ex-pupils reuniting with past friends and there was some of that, though not much, but I had not expected the delight of teachers seeing their students grown up - about half the visitors were teenagers or young adults - some very attractive girls among them.
The star of the show to my mind was Miss Sinclair. Somebody, somehow had organised for her to come. I watched a nurse arrive, and help her across the road. She was as thin as a needle, dressed in a plain purple dress with fine white hair. She looked terrified as cars came to a stop as she made her way ever so slowly to the pavement. Once sat down in a class room, a circle of fans surrounded her. Miss Sinclair had taught at the school for 30-40 years, and was much loved. Almost everyone who rang me, mentioned her, and some were staggered she was still alive - I think she is 99! She stayed for about an hour, but the excitement was too much and she was barely able to hold a conversation. Mr Souhami was one of her admirers and was disappointed not to be remembered. But Mr Souhami was a star in his own right - several of family having attended the school, not least his grandmother who was there in the 1890s! Souhami turned out to be one of only five professors of oncology in London - and my friend Raoul is one of the others, they know each other quite well. I liked him, he seemed rather a gentle man. I talked quite a lot to Andy and some of the other teachers. It seems Miss Goddard will be replaced by Miss Oliver. I imagine the changes will cause disruption. Oliver is sure she can keep things rolling with little change, but I suspect she underestimates the powers and responsibilities that whirl around the school leadership. Adam behaved himself well for the three hours, playing mostly with Baila, the boy who goes swimming at the same time on Monday.
Sunday 28 May
We woke quite early. Adam popped into the bedroom to tell me not to come into the sitting room. Presents for me were brought down to the parlour. There were books, chocolates, individual knick-knacks for tea and coffee-making (!), a new keyboard for my computer. Breakfast. More chatting about houses. Later in the morning we drove up to Kenwood. B’s foot is starting to heal rapidly, and she has become quite proficient on her crutches. We had a very pleasant time on the Heath. Adam and I played football and rugby while B sat on a bench. We ate lunch at the Kenwood restaurant and took tea in the garden.
A lazy afternoon listening to the third and final one day match against the West Indies. We won comfortably with Atherton scoring a century - winning the short series 2-1. We, being the England team of course. About 7 we drove over to Mum’s - Mel was already there on her own as Phoebe is in Portugal with Julian Bull. Sarah arrived shortly after with Rebecca and Naomi, and just on 8, Julian arrived from Lords. The kids stayed up for the whole evening and were delightful. Mum had cooked roulades - an annual tradition now on my birthday. I talked about the house and the school magazine. Mum’s present - sandals I’d asked for; whisky glasses from Mel; books from Julian. I wore two ties (at Adam’s suggestion) but no one noticed until B gave the game away!!
Monday 29 May
This was a quiet relaxed day. I don’t think I went out of the house other than into the garden or to empty the rubbish. I worked mostly, there is a plethora of material for the June issue. Sometimes I head off to Brussels without the faintest of ideas of what will be in the forthcoming newsletter, but not this time. I took a break to read a bit more of the ‘Wouldbegoods’ to Adam. We are on the penultimate chapter. I am surprised by how much he understands - the writing is so full of little tricks apart from using language a century old.
I have a couple of house tasks. I mean to talk to Alliance & Leicester about an offer on Tidy Street at £66,000. I think this is a bit derisory. B might settle at £67,500 but not until after survey. The agent says he will go back to the buyer and see what he can do. I also compose a fax to Halifax Property Services - an offer of £200,000 for Ravenswood. I put on the fax that I can proceed immediately and that I will be using a mortgage for a max of £70,000. A man at the branch rings to say he has got the fax. And that is it. I must wait and see what happens.
In the evening we watch some interesting programmes about censorship. One purports to be quite an objective look, but had a tone decidedly anti-censorship or at least anti-censorship as tough as it is today. Lots of points were examined, but the question was never really asked or answered: why should anyone really bother about a seven second cut of violent sex? why can’t man live perfectly happily in a censored world? why take the risk of removing censorship even if there is a slight chance that violence in movies encourages violence in real life?
Tuesday 30 May
A panic to leave on time this morning. As it happened, I managed to arrive with 20 minutes to spare. I walked up to the main concourse at Waterloo in search of a comb. At 7:00, Boots opened but it had not 10 types of combs, not three, not two, not one comb! I did find one in the Eurostar area at W. H. Smiths. An uneventful journey. Straight to the Commission - a race around picking up documents, into the new Council building, to rue du Canal. At 4, I walk over to Emile Jacqmain to the trade union house where EPSC are holding a press conference about their demonstrations in Luxembourg on Thursday outside the Energy Council. I feel sorry for them for they have a series of interpreters but only 3-4 journalists come. We talk about the first ever European demonstration over an energy issue. I sleep for a while and then, in the evening, go to the cinema to see Barbet Schroeder’s ‘Kiss of Death’.
Wednesday 31 May
I dream that I must be an actor to take over Ravenswood but I am frightened of acting, scared stiff. Again I am up and about for much of the day. 8:30 at a Eurelectric breakfast. I found the Eurelectric position a bit untenable and said so in so many words. To the Council at 10 for a French Presidency briefing but it was in French, and I didn’t understand a word. Corallo, the French energy counsellor, was giving the briefing. To the Commission, collecting papers, at 11:30 Santer gave a press conference on the green paper on monetary union. I stayed because I was curious to see Santer. He has little presence, and resembles a St Bernard without the hair. Lunch in the canteen, a tough steak and chips costing £4. Home. Tea, chocolate, sorting through papers, phone calls. 4:30 to EP, collecting papers, sitting in on the energy committee debating the Euratom-US accord. Home. Tea. Work. Shower. Yoga. Work. Diary. Tippett on the cassette. Bed 11:30.
Paul K Lyons
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