Monday 3 June 1996, Russet House

I ring 0171 328 7566 - ‘Sorry the number you have called is not available’. I have had that number for 15 years, and it is now gone, gone, gone. I have left 13 Aldershot Road for the very last time; and possibly 31 Tidy Street as well; although we are still waiting to hear whether exchange has taken place today or not on B’s Brighton ex-abode.

I have spent most of the last week organising the completion of my removal from 13 Aldershot and the removal of most of the furniture from Tidy Street to the Russet House garage. Contracts were exchanged on Tuesday. On Wednesday I went to the house to organise getting rid of the final pieces of furniture and especially the piano. Adam had to come with me because it was half-term. I tried about six junk shops and none of them were interested in stuff at all, one offered to remove the piano for £75. We ate lunch in McDonalds, and I drove back to Elstead mid-afternoon, having achieved almost nothing. However, I had learned that Humana in Wembley might collect the piano. I rang in the evening and was told they did their collections on Thursday, and someone would come between 2 and 4pm. So, I went back to Aldershot Road again on Thursday, packed a few more boxes of bits and pieces and refilled the car. We waited and we waited, at 4:10 I rang and was told they were coming, and at 4:50 I was told they were running an hour late. I never really believed they would come nor that they would take all the furniture I needed to be rid of.

Fortunately, the dustbin men had come during the morning, and I had paid them to hump the piano down the stairs for me and into the street. The bin men relied on their driver who was much older to organise the hefting. When they actually started moving the piano I noticed a change in their attitude from a lackadaisical relaxed ‘been here, done that, life is all a drag’ attitude to one of accomplishing the task at hand which was marginally more taxing than the usual stuff in the street. The driver opted to take a back corner, and barely lifted a finger while the three others did all the humping. Jokes galore flew backwards and forwards between them as they almost lost control of the piano down the stairs. I gave the driver £12 and hoped he’d share it round equally. I had felt much relieved once the piano was on the street because I knew it would be much easier to get rid off from there than from the first floor lounge. Indeed, when the Humana people finally came, they did take the piano, but they would never have been able to had it still been on the first floor. The Humana people came about 5:30 in the end, but I was glad I had waited because they took almost everything, only refusing the old kitchen cabinet and a mattress. This saved me having to take them to the dump.

From there we went to Mum’s for something to eat because we had missed out on lunch. I planted a honeysuckle in her garden, and at about 8:00 we left for Surrey.

Barbara spent most of Friday in Brighton and returned to Elstead on Saturday. At 5:30am on Sunday we left for London in the Luton van I’d hired from Jordan’s in Godalming. We arrived a bit before 7 and I packed the final things: the hall mirror, a few boxes, a bicycle, a step ladder, a single bed, and the few items that needed dumping. B hoovered up around the house, and I triple checked every room before leaving for the last time. I had no time for nostalgia because I was still tense about getting on with the rest of day’s work.

We drove on to Brighton and arrived by about 9:30. We took breakfast in a cafe close by and then began packing the van some more. B had done a good job in getting everything ready. It took about two hours to pack it all in. The only setback to my carefully arranged plans was the fact that I couldn’t, in fact, take anything to the dump. I had planned to get rid of items from Aldershot Road and Tidy Street at the Brighton dump, but then, half way down to Brighton, I realised the Luton van was too tall to enter in through the height restriction of the amenity site, and so we had to leave the large things at Tidy Street for B to organise their removal later. We got back to Russet House before 1 and, after lunch, we emptied the van in time for me to return it to Jordan’s by 4.

The garage is now full of B’s furniture, although there is still room to reach the bikes, take out the garden equipment, and reach the shelves where all the tools are stored. However, there is no room to put a motorbike, were I to buy one.

My right hand is full of cuts and abrasions, mostly from stripping the ceilingm (polystyrene tiles and their glue) in the spare bedroom, and from the moving and this has stopped me gardening today. In fact, I’ve done next to nothing today. I watched an interesting film called ‘Equinox’ this morning, and this afternoon I had a nap. The twins came round to play with Adam and they gave me a preview of their magic show. They are aiming for a royal gala on Saturday for both sets of parents and some other people in the street. They have created a running order, tickets, a programme, interval refreshments - they’d done a really good job. There’s been a bit of bickering but they have managed to prepare a whole show and I am very impressed.

The beef crisis lingers on. Major’s policy of non-cooperation with Europe is irritating the other Member States. A first solution on tallow and gelatin is thought to be closer now. The right wing Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud party won an extremely close election in Israel against Shimon Peres. This will mean a tougher stance in the peace negotiations with Palestine; and this has worried many liberals. Elections in Northern Ireland have selected the parties to take part in the peace talks. Sinn Fein did well but the government will not allow them in unless the IRA declares a ceasefire. There has, though, apparently been no major IRA activity for months, so I wonder if Sinn Fein will claim that, because there is an effective cease fire if not a declared one, and because they got such a large vote in the elections, they should be allowed in to the talks. They have already won the fight over decommissioning of weapons. It was once a government prerequisite for any talking with the IRA, but that demand is no longer mentioned.

6 June 1996, Brussels

Colin’s birthday is on 19 June. I trawled and trawled my diaries and address books a few days ago, trying to find a record of Colin’s birthday and I couldn’t find it anywhere. So now, in the future, if I do word search on ‘Colin’s birthday’ I should come up with it.

What a sweltering day. All day I have sat in this room, with the windows wide open, and there has not been a trace of a breeze, and the temperature has been up in the 30s. I’ve just wanted to slouch on the bed and sleep. It reminded me so much of lazy days in Rio.

I may go to the cinema in a minute. Early in the morning, I have a meeting at the Energy Charter and then I head for home on Eurostar. I’ve got up to date with a lot of stories but, as usual, there are several that won’t be ready to chase until Monday or Tuesday. The Parliament’s second reading on standards for fridges and freezers for example. There are some last minute attempts to avoid an Opinion which would, if passed, lead to conciliation with the Council. I’ve two people primed to inform me on Monday night on that. Then there’s the Euro-Mediterranean ministerial energy meeting in Trieste at the weekend which is sure to finalise some Conclusions. I can try the Spokesman’s Service for those on Monday, or possibly Carvounis in DGXVII who is usually helpful. I have heard that Carvounis has won promotion to head of unit in charge of energy policy. Then I must get the most up-to-date information on the electricity dossier, and for that I will have to ring around the permanent representations on Monday or Tuesday. It won’t be a startling issue, but it is shaping up reasonably well.

I have spent much of this tropical day listening to the Test Match. England have done well. They bowled out the Indians for 214 and were up to 60 without loss by close. Nick Knight’s fielding was the highlight of the day, and he has also held his bat in the opener’s position competently. Another new face, Irani, got a wicket (thanks to the best catch by Knight) with his fifth bowl in test match cricket.

Barbara rang yesterday to tell me that Beckman had rung to say the buyers of Tidy Street now want to exchange and complete on the same day, Monday. If only . . . and we could be down to a one-house family for the first time since before Aldeburgh.

Monday 17 June 1996, Russet House

Unbelievable but true. B finally sold Tidy Street last Monday. The buyers kept us holding our breath until the very last minute, and exchanged and completed on the same day. Fortunately, B had cleared up the house fully during the week (after the previous weekend when I’d hired a van and moved stuff from both Aldershot Road and Tidy Street) and we did not need to go down again. In any case, I was overly busy at the weekend with issue number 39. I worked mostly from early morning to lunch and then worked in the garden. Although I did take Adam to his swimming lesson as usual.

Thursday 20 June 1996

If I’m at Russet House, I’ll dispense with the dateline from here on.

The first round of Euro96 is over and the cockles of every Englishman have been warmed by the qualification of England into the quarter-finals. And, unusually, they didn’t just scrape through. In the last of their three matches, last Saturday, they thrashed Holland by four goals to one, ended top of the group and ensured that they played their next match at Wembley, against Spain. If they had maintained the 4-0 scoreline to the end then Scotland would have qualified also, but, as it is, Holland managed to scrape through on goal average. The last two matches were played yesterday and they were exciting.

Adam is very keen on the football, and can sit through watching most of a match, although he finds it far easier to do so when it is after bedtime! On Saturday afternoon, when England was playing Holland, he was out on his bike and coming in to check the score every few minutes. He has developed some dribbling and ball control, but he’s still rather small and therefore has little shooting power in his legs. He’s also developed quite good cricket ball catching skills, which I encourage during short sessions in the garden.

Tonight Adam stays in school for a night camping on the field! I’ve warned him not to be silly and foolish, or else I might not let him go on the three-day Cub camp due to take place next month.

Saturday 22 June 1996

That’s another working week gone. The first half I spent preparing for the second brochure mailing - I’ve decided to put a small sticker on the front with the date and a message to try and give the brochure more credibility as a piece of post. And the second half, I spent financial planning. I find it very hard to pin down my priorities and to focus clearly on what and when I might need money. I have put £3,000 into a Tessa and another £6,000 into a PEP. These are safe investments with 6-7% interest tax free. I will lend B £15,000 to help her buy her house. I will spend £3,000 on a new computer. Then I need about £25,000 in a readily-available pool to feed the launch of my new newsletter if and when I can get on with it. All that leaves about £30,000, which I could invest in equities. But if I do that then it would be unwise to remove the investments, say, next year, to fund a book venture. For a unit trust investment I would need to consider a three-year investment in order to make up for the initial and annual charges.

Adam spent Thursday night in a tent at the school. On Thursday morning he left waving and saying: ‘See you Friday, see you Friday.’ There was one tent for the boys and one for the girls, and the teachers slept in the school. Adam reported on various raids to the girls tent, a midnight feast (comprising just one pack of Polos), and general chatter until 2am. At 4am they were up again playing football and waking the teachers! They had to go through a day at school on the Friday before coming home, but it was Saturday morning that Adam really felt zonked. He didn’t get up until 9:30 which must be the latest I can ever remember him coming down for breakfast!

Wednesday 26 June 1996

The country is in fever with the England-Germany semi-final at Wembley tonight. The France-Czech game is being played as I write. I hope the Czech Republic get into the final along with England. Adam is lobbying to watch the match tonight, but it goes on until 9:30 without extra time or penalties. I’ve a mind to let him. Especially since he just corrected me over the name of a player. I said it was David Pearce, and he said it was Stuart Pearce. I repeatedly insisted it was David and he didn’t waver. Only when I offered to bet him did he decline because he wasn’t 100% certain. I was wrong and I gave him a pound for not betting. The reason we were talking about him was that when Pearce scored the third penalty in the penalty shoot out against Spain, the camera caught him thrusting a fist into the air, and with an extraordinary expression of resentment or defiance on his face, but not one of joy. Adam wanted to know why. I explained about the last World Cup and his missed penalty, and how it has never been forgotten by the public and media. But everyone now considers Pearce to have been exceptionally brave to take the third penalty (and score it). Then, today, I read in ‘The Independent’ that Pearce was invited to attend Chris England’s play ‘An evening with Gary Lineker’ which focuses on the night that England lost that match. The play contains a sequence in which Pearce scores (rather than misses) the infamous goal (can a goal be infamous?), and this happened Pearce, apparently, stood up and shouted ‘Yeeeeeeeeeeees’, and brought the house down.

A quiet week. Yesterday, I spent the entire day drawing a scale plan of the grounds of Russet House, complete with trees, grass and concrete areas. I felt I needed such a plan to consider properly how to change and adapt it.

Today I have been working, albeit slowly, on editing ‘The Tyrespinners’. And on Monday, I took another look at the transport newsletter, but I’m finding it hard to make any kind of decision which will commit me to it.

July 1996

Paul K Lyons


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