JOURNAL - 1997 - NOVEMBER
Saturday 1 November 1997
Rosemary died last night. Barbara was here with Adam and I. We were playing a game of Scotland Yard, and had just finished our Halloween supper by pumpkin candlelight. The telephone rang and it was Les to say Rosemary had stopped breathing. In fact she had been unconscious for days and not even drunk anything for three days. Barbara raced off almost immediately to Catford. Adam, with such feeling, said ‘so much for Halloween’. At first I thought he meant he was cross that his Halloween evening had been ruined, but then I realised he was angry with Halloween for, in some way, being implicated in the death of the grandmother that he loved. He was so upset and cried off and on until he went to bed. We sat on the sofa and I held him tight as I read him short stories from the Scandinavia/Dutch book (one of a short story books from around the world I have). I hadn’t looked at them for ages, and picked out a story simply because it was short. It proved an amazing coincidence though, for it was about an old couple, who lived a very insular life, and about how the husband grew so ill that he really wanted to die. Of course I could have stopped reading it, but it seemed just right, and the couple seemed so similar to Les and Rosemary. I tucked Ads in to sleep and then watched television. B rang on her arrival, and then again this morning. She explained all the arrangements she was making, with the doctor and the funeral company (the Cooperative), and seemed very organised.
Letter to Les: ‘Dear Les, I am so very sorry that Rosemary has died. As Barbara’s mother and Adam’s grandmother, she has been an important part of my family for many years and I cared for her very much, even if we didn’t see each other that often.
Les, it must be so hard to loose somebody that you have lived your whole life with. Rosemary did so well, not only to survive her first illness for such a long time, but also to profit from and enjoy several more years than someone less fit might have done. Barbara says that in the last few months she was suffering such a lot and this too must have been hard for you, as it was for Barbara.
I have such warm memories of Rosemary especially those occasions when we celebrated Christmas together. She was always so kind and generous. She treated me like a long lost son, and I loved her for it.
I am particularly grateful to Rosemary for being such a wonderful grandmother. Since he first learnt to talk, Adam has always expressed such enthusiasm and excitement at the thought of going to visit Grandma-Granddad as he called the two of you; and, on his return, he always told me what a good time he had had. I think both Adam and Rosemary were blessed in that they gave each other such a lot of pleasure.
And I loved Rosemary too, for having brought up such a special daughter. Yourself, Rosemary and Barbara have a very special relationship based on a deep and generous well of love and this will not lessen with Rosemary’s death, indeed her spirit is alive and strong in Barbara and Adam and yourself.
Finally, because both Barbara and Adam adore you, they fully expect to help you get over this terrible loss, and for you to help them get over their loss. I hope this means we will see much more of you in Elstead in the future. Very much love’
Today Ads and I did not do much. I made some rolls and bread before breakfast, and then read Ads a chapter of ‘Zenda’ (we should finish it this weekend - it’s been a real rip-roaring yarn). I worked on climate change stories for the next issue of EC Inform-Energy. There’s the 16 October Council which did very little, the US announcement of its Kyoto stance, and several statements by lobby groups (there is also a report from CEPS, partly written by Christian Egenhofer and the press release refers to conversations with specialist journalists, among others, I wonder if that includes me). I notice that Unice and Cogen have both questioned the Commission’s figures on the business-as-usual scenario (for different reasons). Andrew Warren also claims that the expected CO2 emissions in 2010 are a gross underestimate based on wrong assumptions. I think the Commission may be in trouble over its figures - I commented, in my last book, that they should not massage figures for political ends, because it will backfire.
After lunch, I went out into the garden and planted a batch of plants that arrived two days ago from the Beth Chatto garden. I’ve ordered several batches from several nurseries, but this was the largest. I was astonished to see that the dozen or so plants I’d ordered arrived in a smallish cardboard box, all closed up. The plants had been carefully squashed in with wood shavings to protect them. Most of them were ferns (and cyclamen and pachysandra) for the area behind the bamboos, but there were also two potentillas (for the front bed), and two stipas for the sunny area round the bonfire. Because it has been so frosty at night, I wasn’t sure if I should plant them up, but then it wasn’t a good idea to leave them in the polythene and paper wrappers, so I spent the afternoon planting them. I had bought at least four different types of ferns, but they all looked the same. If they survive and develop they should give the back area a bit more character.
I played football with Adam in the garden before the light left, and then a game of chess with him inside. I thought perhaps to go out to a firework display, but neither Adam nor I were that keen, since it was so cold and since we will go to the Godalming display next weekend. We stayed in to watch ‘Casualty’ instead, which was rather gory. As I write this, I am nipping into the lounge to check on the progress of ‘Abigail’s Party’, well not the party as such but the play called ‘Abigail’s Party’ by Mike Leigh. I’ve seen it on the stage, and Alison Steadman’s character is so familiar. The other husband looks astonishingly like me! I think it’s dated now, and the characters’ conflicts are a little cliched today.
I have reached 1977 in Tony Benn’s diaries. He is serving under Jim Callaghan as energy minister. It’s a rivetting read in parts. He documents his own growing ability to wind other people up and make a nuisance of himself. He’s not a fan of nuclear energy but doesn’t manage to make much difference. He also oversees the first sale of government shares in BP; and he notes, in his diary, the very first time the Court of Justice overrules the British Parliament, and he reiterates his opposition to the European Community. I was frustrated to read the entry concerning his chairmanship of the Energy Council - it lasted until 5:30 the following morning, but he does not say what they were discussing all day and all night, he simply says he does not think it worth mentioning in the diary. Being 1977, I imagine it must have been to do with the oil crises - security of supply measures or energy saving.
Saturday 15 November 1997
A busy hectic week because, effectively, Monday was taken out of my production cycle by Rosemary’s Funeral. In order to ensure there would be no serious delays to the delivery and publication of EC Inform-Energy on Tuesday, I worked a pretty solid weekend. Barbara returned from Catford early on Sunday morning to collect clothes and to clear up a little, and then, later returned taking Adam with her. We had quite a long discussion about whether Adam should go. I asked him, and he expressed a very strong desire to go, so he went. On the whole, I was quite amazed how well he coped and how much feeling he was able to express, in such a genuine, mature yet uncomplicated way as illustrated by the following: On the evening of the funeral we were talking after dinner, and B really just wanted to go home and cry, because she had been bottling it all up for ages. I was trying to cheer her up and said something like, come on, you know she was ready to die. And Adam chirped in with this: ‘Yes but we weren’t ready for her to die.’
The funeral itself was a simple affair. Les’s brother George and his wife Ruth, and one of their daughters with her husband, had driven up from Plymouth. My mother also arrived to the house before the funeral. The undertakers took ten minutes to carry the coffin out with all the flowers, and then Les, B and Adam travelled in the car behind the hearse, while the few other cars followed to the crematorium. A lady priest reader conducted the service, with a little music and a few prayers. I couldn’t help thinking how very different the life and death and funerals of the two Rosemarys had been. The one Rosemary so extravagant so extrovert, the other so introvert and quiet. The one funeral so packed with people and flowers, and overflowing with lifetime achievements, and the other with just a dozen people, and so few words to sum up a life. Yet they are both dead and gone, and none of it, not their lives nor the manner of their funerals, matters an iota to either of them now.
After the funeral, the relations and neighbours came back to 96 Longhill Road, where Barbara had prepared food and drink. The relations stayed in one room, and the friends and neighbours in the other. But it was a friendly quiet affair. My mum talked a little with the Plymouth relations, Adam read upstairs, and I made lots of tea. They all stayed for about an hour and a half and then I raced off back to Elstead with Adam, although I couldn’t do much racing with the traffic as heavy as it was. I think Les and Barbara were pleased with the way it all went. They will both take Rosemary’s ashes to Ashdown Forest, where she wanted them to be spread.
On Thursday, Les drove here to Elstead, and is staying with B. It was his birthday yesterday and I went over for tea. He seemed very well, and about as relaxed as I’ve ever seen him, I think. He was laughing and joking. The relief must be enormous, after a long illness and then all the tension of the funeral arrangements.
EC Inform-Energy 54 and EC Inform-Transport 10 were published on time this week, although it was a little hectic, the former ended up being 22 pages long, and the latter 24 pages. Neither of them were spectacular issues but workmanlike and competent, I suppose. We’ve had over 300 visits to our website, and we get one or two free copy requests each week, about half from students. When I think about it, I am astonished at how much I actually use, and rely on, the internet now. There’s the website and the e-mail enquiries, but more importantly we pull down a lot information from the Commission’s website, which saves us time in phone calls and tracking paperwork. The subs are not going very well and haven’t since the summer - I don’t now why this is. I thought I’d got a really good energy list, but it failed to pull any new readers, and a large UK mailing of the transport newsletter didn’t pull enough to pay for itself either. My financial year has ended, so I must do all my accounts, and that will give me a chance to look at the prospects for the coming year.
Am watching ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’, a Channel 4 series, which I videod, based on Anthony Powell’s novels. I am enjoying it, for soapoperaish (there’s a word) reasons, I suppose. It’s well produced, very well produced actually, there’s a huge range of scenes covering several decades and the attention to detail, photography and direction all combine to keep the viewer well entranced by the story rather than forever spotting the extra or hired carriage or rented period architecture; moreover the acting is luscious in parts, with very few well known actors not playing some cameo role or other. The most irritating aspect of the whole thing - and I suppose this is a fault of the book itself - is that so much of the story is told through chance meetings in hospital waiting rooms, or in train carriages, or seaside boarding houses; when such coincidences, even once in a serious film, stretch the belief system. Still, I’m interested in the characters, how they develop and fit in with the history of the times.
‘Eastenders’ spiked up its show this week, with an episode every day, to cover the abduction by Ian, with the help of Phil and Grant, of his two children, who themselves had been whisked away illegally to Italy, by Eastenders favourite wicked lady, Cindy. And, at the end of the week, Cindy, having also returned from Italy, stormed into the crowded Vic to warn Ian to be for ever looking over her shoulder because she was going to get all her children back. All the ‘Eastenders’ regulars looked on, gobsmacked as she stormed out of the Vic. Raucous stuff!
Sunday 16 November 1997
After a hectic production week, in which almost every other part of my life is put onto hold - daily chores and television usually fill the only gaps in the mornings and evenings - I usually like to spend the weekend cleaning and tidying the house and the office, and then making a list of all the things I have or want to do. This is divided into two: business and personal. For example, on the business list I compiled yesterday, I have written the following: David Phillips - conferences stuff; filing; send off a few issues; accounts - year; VAT - quarterly; VAT - number corrections; Theo pay; next chapter of book.
Under ‘personal’ I have written, so far (for I have yet to complete this list, having been interrupted by turning on the video and watching the last episodes of ‘A Dance to the Music of Time’, and an episode of ‘Casualty’, and then reading the last few entries in Tony Benn’s diaries): upstairs bedrooms: chase up Wreford, go to Kingston about carpets, get wallpaper sent, choose paints for rooms; photographs and frames: for hall, bathroom, toilet, downstairs toilet, kitchen; write to Lucy; buy Christmas cards; Christmas list. And then I got sidetracked into writing a Christmas list. I think this is the first time, perhaps ever, that I have compiled such a long list so far ahead of the event. Perhaps subconsciously I’m fed up of getting things I don’t want.
I am still typing up Diary 24 from 1984. I do an hour every now and then and should probably finish by Christmas: Indira Gandhi has just died, Barbara is surrounded by Sikhs in her Sumatra Road flat, Mireille has just visited me in London, and I am about to go to Brazil for a conference.
I got to thinking about three (yes, there’ve only been three) key decision moments in my career: the decision to leave MORI, the decision to leave McGraw-Hill and go to Brazil; and the decision to leave the FT. It is interesting to reflect on the fact that these were all backsteps; that, in each case, I castrated my chances for improvement and advancement in each of those three powerful and important organisations, and that, in each one, I could probably have had a successful and interesting future. And yet there is a slight difference between the three, inasmuch as the fact that the first two decisions were taken out of a need for change, because I was not happy in the type of work, but the third was a decision made because I couldn’t get advancement in the short term. I have pushed at myself my whole life long, but, it seems to me, that it has been a long slow uphill incline, on a bicycle. The world has always refused to motorise me, or offer me a tow. The kind of coincidences and opportunities that always, always arise in fiction and drama never occur in real life, well certainly not in my real life.
‘TomSpin’ has been returned from yet another publisher. I think there is really no hope now. I mean, to get a book published involves climbing several mountains, the first of which is to get a publisher interested, but it is by no means the last. I cannot even get a first hint of a hint of a hint of interest from anywhere, from anyone. I am banging my head against a brick wall with two inch spikes sticking out. My stories, too, have sunk without trace.
I was always so convinced that, when I did eventually write something I considered good enough, I would be able to get in published, by dint of my initiative and persistence. But I am having to face up to the fact that this is not the case. I am now one of those many people who have shelves full of crap writing which they have wasted their lives away writing - the sort of person I always knew I would never become!
It leaves me with a terrible yawning canyon in my future - can canyons yawn? What a great title for a play - Can canyons yawn?
The Labour government has been in turmoil this week over donations to the party by Chris Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, and the possible connection between those donations and the Labour government’s decision to exclude Formula One from a ban on cigarette advertising. I think it’s such a storm in a teacup, compared with the kind of stuff the Conservatives got up to. But the press is having their first real go at the Labour government. I do think this government is making the mistake of reacting too often and too quickly to the media. I don’t think there’s much difference between the media and a pack of fox-hunting hounds on the scent, or stock market brokers sensing the fall of a company - they all pounce on the vulnerable target, not for any other reason, than that its vulnerable. Thus, if the Labour government shows itself vulnerable to media attack, the media will only attack that much more, and more often.
The oak leaves have finally turned. I’ve planted two more plants from my spasm of mail ordering - two rosa Masquerades, but they are floribundas not ramblers, like the one around my mother’s house, which I so like.
Wednesday 19 November 1997
Middle of a working Wednesday. I do not usually write up my journal at such a time, and I’m not sure why I’m doing so now. Perhaps it’s because I’ve just had a long chat on the telephone with Michele. She’s been to Canada and the US to see friends and family. In the same way that Sasha and she always used to respond to any enquiry about their travels with a long and detailed itinerary, she now continues to do the same. After I’ve listened to all the places she’s been, we discuss the probate situation in South Africa and France. She tells me she has already paid £24,000 death duties in France in lieu of the inheritance tax on the flat in the Antibes. I said I thought she owned it already, but she fudged a reply about it being complicated. Also she told me that there’s a legal dispute over a huge central heating bill at the Antibes flat, stemming from a winter years ago when Sasha turned on the central heating in the whole block, and it still hasn’t been settled. She tells me she is going out to South Africa in January for one last visit to sell the house and finish up all Sasha’s businesses out there. But she doesn’t ever want to go again.
And then we talk about the business. She says she has given notice on the guarantee that provides the backing for IMI’s business. This will take effect in three months. The Midland Bank have asked for a business plan from Julian and I imagine this will press him to do something soon. She also says (contrary to what Norman Beckman told me recently) that she does want something for her shares ‘I don’t want to just give them away’. Well, we talk about that for a while, and I say I think the shares might not be worth very much, especially if the company is not trading too well. But, more significantly, her statement on the shares indicates to me that she can have no plans for distributing any of the wealth she inherited from Sasha to Melanie, Julian and I. If she had got such plans, then she would surely be thinking of giving Julian the shares as part of any such hand-out. I really want to ask her why she thinks Sasha did not leave his children any money, but, so far, I’ve not had the guts.
Thursday 20 November 1997
An evening out with Andy and Raoul. We meet in a pub in Barnes, and then eat in a Thai restaurant nearby. Andy has a lot of news. Firstly, he tells us that he has got a settlement from Barratts of something over £200,000. I have talked at length with Andy over this negotiation and I was convinced he wouldn’t get more than £120,00-130,000. But he’s played it cool all the way along, causing as much trouble as he can with the authorities. Then Barratts pulled him into a meeting at the Hilton hotel, and offered him first £130,000, then £160,000, but he and his solicitor still refused. The next day they were in Court over a tenancy application Andy had made to be awkward, and the judge gave Barratts a mauling. The following day, Barratts rang and offered £200,000. He’s a real cool operator is our Andy. And he seems so chirpy - he’s got two women on tow and a new life before him.
Raoul talked about retiring at 55. We both ribbed him that it was not possible. I tried to argue him out of his dream, while Andy placed a £1,000 bet with him that he wouldn’t make it by his 56th birthday. It was also specified that he must be doing no more than one and half day’s private practice. I promised to record the bet in my diaries.
I reminded Raoul about a party at Richard’s flat in Covent Garden in 1984 (I’m typing it up at the moment) when I was posted on sentry duty so as to avoid Raoul’s new wife Caroline having to meet Vonny, Raoul’s ex partner, but it didn’t work - the atmosphere, I wrote, could not have been cut with a saw-mill. Raoul said he remembered the evening very clearly, and we then launched into a post-mortem of the end of his affair with Vonny.
Because he’s settled with Barratts, Andy will have to move out of that plot opposite Olympia, probably within a few weeks, which means he has to find a new plot to park his several portacabins. I’m always amazed by the ease with which Andrew deals with seemingly, to me anyway, complex practical activities. Another tale he told, concerned some Nun doves he inherited. He placed the cages somewhere unobtrusive on his plot and allowed an acquaintance to look after and feed them. One day she said she would take them to a home in the country, but it transpired she had taken them to her small flat in London and they had colonised her kitchen - hundreds of them. The RSPCA did a raid and she was arrested. The case is due to feature on a TV programme about animal rescue. Andy says that, as soon as the doves are released to him, he will take them to a mansion in Oxfordshire which has a dovecote, with other Nun doves, and is willing to take the lot.
The morning is cut in half by a trip to Godalming; in the afternoon, I take advantage of some sunshine to sweep up the leaves and bag ‘em for compost; to plant newly delivered plants (heleniums, cornus, cystisus), and to lop back a couple of large branches from the amelanchiers so as to encourage more growth from the ground.
Of two mailings that went out last week, we have not heard a dicky-bird, not an enquiry, and certainly not an order - it is very disheartening.
Raoul rings to say he got my e-mail today. Knowing that he almost certainly doesn’t access the e-mails himself and that others probably see them, I teased him by pretending to start talking about the bet concerning his retirement, but of course I kept the message benign. He tells me he has two more children to put to bed, and then he’s off to a party in Soho! I wish I was going to a party. But instead, lonely little me, is going to head to the TV before I go to bed.
Monday 24 November 1997
I’ve now heard so many scare stories on the radio, TV and in magazines about the millennium time bomb - the pending disaster when, one second after midnight on 31 December 1999, microchips will fail to recognise that the year is 2000 and revert back to 1900, thereby cocking up all the inner workings of hardware and software that depend on an orderly progression of time. The problem, as everyone knows and anybody who doesn’t isn’t alive, stems from the fact that computer programmers have, for the large part, used two digits to signify the year, i.e, 96, 97, 98, 99, ?. No-one appears to know what will actually happen when the 2000 comes, because there are so many hidden time-references in the computer programming language. It’s not just a question of setting the clock on the computer back a year or two. I hear on the radio today that there is no clarity as to whether the PCs still being sold in shops today are 2000 compatible.
On an order for our transport publication from Manchester Airport, I noticed a legal demand that the product being supplied was 2000 compatible! - it’s only a one year subscription, I’m supplying at the moment. In fact, I probably would be in the lurch quite seriously if my computers all broke down irretrievable on 1 January 2000. I’m likely to have a deadline a few days later. However, I’m assuming that in the two years plus left to resolve the problem a lot more common knowledge will filter out, especially for small desktop operations like mine. There are already programmes that promise to flush out and correct all the 2000 hardware references, but I prefer to wait awhile, in the hope that the products get cheaper or better.
Theo’s off to Brussels for a couple of days. I will continue to work on the new report. I’ve made a start at least, but there’s a long way yet to go.
The weekend was dedicated to my quarterly VAT return, and to making a first assessment of my annual EC Inform income. The figures were reasonably encouraging, in the sense that the income was fair, but less so, in the sense that I don’t know where all the money went. For the record, the turnover - from Nov 96 to Oct 97 inclusive - was around £90,000, of which around £36,000 was profit. This compares with a turnover of £67,000 in the previous year and a profit of £39,000, and a turnover of £75,000 in the year before that and a profit of £43,000. So my income has gone down slightly over the last two years, but, apart from last year, the turnover has risen slowly over the five trading years. I am confident that the turnover will rise next year as well, perhaps topping £100,000, although whether I rake in any more profit depends on how well the two reports, I hope to publish, sell.
Crisis in Japan. A big bank has gone down. The European and US stock markets have remained relatively calm, but it could be temporary because it’s been a holiday in Japan today. I’m supposed to worry about the stock market, now that I have unit trusts and stuff. But I can’t see what would make me sell them. If the market goes up I’m happy, and if the market goes down I can’t sell ‘em because I’ll have to wait for it to go up again.
Why is the Blair government being so slavish to the press? There was an item a week or so ago about the removal of Humphrey, the 10 Downing St cat, and today the press wanted to know where he had gone. There was a suspicion that he’d been put down, and that the Blairs didn’t like cats. They haven’t been able to reveal where Humphrey is because his new owner doesn’t want to be interviewed etc. So now No. 10 has decided to get a photograph of the cat to prove he’s still alive, and the Blairs have promised to get a replacement cat. I mean, really. This pandering to the media will lead Blair into such trouble.
Apart from doing my VAT, I also went up to London at the weekend, to the Christening of Lucy’s baby Eliza. Because her mother is an OBE, she was able to use a chapel in St Paul’s Cathedral. The service was as mundane as they come. Eliza threatened to cry non-stop but then behaved herself in good time. Tim was wearing a suit, and Lucy was dressed in a smart dark velvet top and dress. She looks so much more relaxed than I remember her in Brussels. Janet was there, having come for the day from Brussels, and I sat next to her. After, we decided to walk back through Holborn to Drury Lane, where the reception was being held in a strange restaurant, Turkish I think. We walked with a barrister, Mr Blake, and his daughter Emma, who lived next door to the Walkers for many years. Lucy used to babysit Emma, and their parents were obviously good friends, but didn’t know many other people at the reception.
Unfortunately, I got rather sidetracked by these two people and Janet. Although I made a good start at the restaurant, chatting to the father of a schoolfriend of Lucy’s, who had been part of the whole Wapping experience, I then sat down and never circulated any further. I suppose I drank too much and was too content chatting to Emma about schools and stuff. And then, after most people had left but when there was still one group left drinking who I should’ve joined, Janet dragged me off to Waterloo station, 45 minutes early, bought me a cup of tea and kept me talking until I’d missed my train and had to wait a whole other hour - thus missing my volleyball. I was furious at the wait and missing the evening’s sport. And now, in retrospect, I’m really cross I didn’t move round and talk to more people.
Tim announced in the restaurant that he and Lucy had married a few days earlier in a registry office! The food was well calculated - not too ostentatious but sufficient, varied and tasty. But the toilets were something else. Using a kind of ancient Greek vase style, the walls were covered in highly pornographic pictures - I mean erect penises, women with their legs and vaginas wide open, women sucking huge dicks, and men with their faces in women’s fannies. I was intrigued to know whether the same images were in the women’s toilets so I sent the fearless Janet off to investigate both toilets, and sure enough they were equally pornographic. Phew, my first thought was that some people would be really offended at the pictures, but then someone mentioned children, and then I was really perturbed. There must be a law against it.
One thing that shocked me - and this really shocked me. All the diners at my table agreed that we recognised a woman at a table on the other side; we therefore assumed she must be an actor. I said she was very familiar, and that I ought to be able to work out who she was because I didn’t watch that much telly. But I was quite drunk, and none of us got there. Eventually, though, I worked out that she was in ‘Casualty’ (I’d actually seen an episode the night before), and there she was, the doctor called George. I was raging with anger. Why? Because I felt so strongly that I knew this person, and yet I hadn’t the faintest idea of who or what she was. How can television do that to us? Why can’t our brains hold on to reality and filter out these artificial presences?
Tuesday 25 November 1997
I’ve been trying to sort through my slides in search of some more which might be suitable for turning into pictures. Yesterday, I went through nearly my whole collection - flicking through them above the light box. There must be over a thousand slides, perhaps 2,000. As a rule I’ve picked out all the best ones for turning into pictures as I’ve developed them. But, I thought, maybe my eye might have changed or I could find a different theme - sometimes by choosing a theme, it’s possible to find a series of photos which will make a good set even if, individually, they might not make the grade. I was also interested to see if there were any worthy shots of my family that I could turn into portraits. I didn’t have much luck at all. There were no good mug shots, and there were very few slides that I picked out but which hadn’t already been selected for turning into prints once in the past already. The plain and boring truth is that the vast majority of my slides - 96% or more - do not work, are dull, ordinary!
I’ve found three whole slide reels, each with over 100 slides in each! I hadn’t actually lost them, but somehow I hadn’t accounted for them. In fact one of them contains a selection of all my best slides. No wonder the rest of the collection looked so impoverished. I’m amazed I didn’t miss them, for so many are very familiar.
Saturday 29 November 1997
A day spent sanding and painting three of the doors in the hall upstairs. I did three of them in the summer, and wanted to finish the other three before the decorator comes next week to work on the two bedrooms. After taking off the horrible hardboard, I thought again about whether it would be better to strip the doors and keep them as bare wood, like the ones downstairs. But I decide against this for several reasons. Firstly, there’s no natural light in the upstairs part of the hall; secondly, the insides of the doors will look better painted because, unlike downstairs in the office and lounge, there is no bare wood in the rooms themselves (and there’d be no point in just stripping one side); and, thirdly, the wood didn’t look in as good condition as that in the doors downstairs (some of the panels may have been replaced).
I’ve also done washing, swept up a mass of leaves in the garden, been shopping, watched ‘Casualty’ (with a new eye on George having seen her in the flesh at Eliza’s christening) and cooked a bolognese sauce for my supper. I’ve also spent an hour or so typing in more of the 1984 journal (24) from the period when I went out to Brazil for a petrochemical conference. This was the all important trip, when I met Jeff Ryser and Charlie Thurston, which later led to Jeff inviting me to become a stringer in Rio. I’ve just typed in a sequence, which I had completely and utterly forgotten, about a girl called Fatima, with whom Charlie must have paired me off. I write, in the diary, about my abortive attempts to make out with her, and even my lecherous pawing after she’s fallen asleep. She sounds the most ravishing beauty though, and it was all spoilt by her spewing up somewhere around dawn!
No sign yet of Julian and Sarah’s third child. I talk to Mum at length about the curtains she is organising for the two bedrooms.
An overwhelming majority of MPs vote in favour of banning fox hunting. It seems to me a vote against the upper classes, against aristocracy, more than anything else. I’m in favour of allowing such a traditional activity to continue because I cannot think of a good reason to stop it. I don’t even think bull fighting should be banned, and fox hunting seems far less offensive by the animal rights criteria.
Paul K Lyons
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