DIARY 72: October - December 2002

3 October 2002

Sometimes, random memory flashes occur in my brain. Just now, for example, I was double clicking on the letter ‘a’ I think and thereby highlighting it when, out of nowhere, I suddenly found myself thinking of the Northland Peninsula in Northern New Zealand (not that the name came to my mind - I’ve just looked that up - but an image of the striking long thin bit of the North Island where I travelled once, and where there is a long beach called 100 mile beach or something like that). It’s not the first time this odd, vague memory has flashed up - I feel sure it’s a neurone location thing and that some bits of my memory I was using at the time happened to ‘touch off’ a stray bit of memory. As I write, I realise there’s a real difficulty in describing this because the word ‘memory’ is far too imprecise - all that happened in my brain was a ‘reminder’ of the shape of the Northland Peninsula - an outline diagram, hardly anything more, with ‘knowledge’ that it meant something to me - thereby inviting a digression into thinking about it - but in this case leading to a digression into thinking about how my mind works.

5 October 2002

The funniest thing happened to me on Thursday. When I left Spectrum and was walking back through the car park to my car, I noticed a car was blocking the aisle between two rows of parked cars. Immediately, I thought to myself ‘what a stupid bugger’, and then as I got a few paces closer I realised there wasn’t anyone in the car at all, nor was there anyone standing near it, which there might have been had there been an accident. I continued to think some driver was a bloody fool. Then, a few paces nearer still, I realised, with some horror, that it was MY car. I quickly realised that I must have left the handbrake off (which normally wouldn’t matter, because I always leave the car in gear - or I thought I did) and the car had rolled forward. Fortunately, it had stopped just a few inches before hitting the car opposite. The oddest thing, though, was that no one had apparently noticed - it was though the universe had remained unaffected by this event. And yet I had been in the pool for the best part of an hour, and surely some driver or other must have seen my car - did they not think to report it to the Spectrum office? did no one do a tannoy call for a car that was blocking the car park? Weird, I just got in and drove away.

This week’s trip to Brussels was uneventful - no eventful encounters on Eurostar, no eventful discussions in the Commission (although I did overhear a conversation between two people which seemed to imply that DG Tren’s Director General Lamoureux, who I have vilified once or twice in my newsletter, is the subject of an OLAF investigation). I saw an eventful but utterly unmemorable film (‘The Bourne Identity’ - which oddly featured a couple of second tier British actors even though it was an American movie - perhaps because it was largely set in France!). I read two Truman Capote short stories, and wasn’t much impressed, even though he clearly sets out to impress. Is it Capote that Martin Amis is in awe of? There’s one US writer/friend who he talks about a fair bit - but I can’t recall who it is - I know it’s someone I’ve never read or ‘got into’. From the small sample of the two stories, he seems to be a WRITER in capital letters, one who wears his profession, like Amis father and son, like a heavy trench coat. Blimey, where did that metaphor come from, that’s writer-class! And I also got stuck into a Turkish novel about illustrators in the 15th or 16th century - it’s similar in style, I suppose, to the ‘Name of the Rose’. It’s not the easiest of reads, but I am enjoying it.

Autumn has struck all of a sudden. The silver birch leaves are all yellow one day, and the back garden amelenchier has turned a gorgeous russet red (although the ones at the front have already lost their leaves). The azaleas’ leaves are yellow and dried and about to drop. The virginia creeper leaves are on the turn, all the vine leaves are still full green - there’s a couple of bunches of grapes which have ripened. I’m still picking green beans to eat, and sweet pea flowers to scent the house. For the first time ever, I got a decent crop of russet apples, but the other apple tree only gave a single fruit. The mornings are cold now, though, and my bedroom, without heating, is unwelcoming at night - I may put the electric blanket on soon.

The media coverage of the Currie revelations has been extraordinary to my mind. Most of the time I just stroll along with the news, agreeing with some points, disagreeing with others, taking a view here, and not taking a view there. But, every now and then, I feel I KNOW the truth, I UNDERSTAND the truth of a matter and it annoys me enormously that the media/others aren’t party to this same understanding. This is the case with the confrontation over Iraq right now, and in particular Blair’s role. This is also the case with the Currie revelations about her affair with Major - which is what I want to mention here. I have no doubts at all that Currie has done the right thing - the right thing not to reveal this before now, and the right thing to do so now. To hear ‘important’ people up and down the land focus on Currie’s act of revelation as though this was the sin, the indiscretion, and to sidetrack from making any comment about Major’s behaviour makes me sick. Why isn’t anyone willing to call a spade a spade, to stand up and be counted, to call an adulterer an adulterer. Currie went on to be sacked and to leave the government, Major went on to be Prime Minister. Why is everyone focusing on the publication of the diaries, and not on the four year affair itself. Why? Because all these high and mighty commentators have been caught short, have had their understanding uprooted, their analysis of past times shot through with a twist of spice. Anthony Howard, he of whom it is said that Radio Four gets withdrawal symptoms if his voice isn’t heard once a day in some programme or other (I just made that up), was on ‘Any Questions’ this week. I really dislike Howard on current affairs - he’s useful on history, but not on anything else. He started by saying he had amended his opinion a bit since the beginning of the week, having realised that other diarists, such as Alan Clark, have not been universally criticised for naming names. But he made this admission really grudgingly, and you couldn’t help imagining his opinion between the lines - something like that Clark was a formidable politician and a man and therefore his diaries matter, while Currie was a nobody and a woman. But this is surely sour grapes. Currie is much more of a decent human being than Alan Clark ever was, and Currie had an affair with a man who became Prime Minister. That makes her, her diaries and her revelations important - no self-respecting historian should be able to deny that. I heard a man who’d written a biography of Major discussing this last week, he was denying its relevance, and being really nasty about Currie. What a fucking idiot. But back to ‘Any Questions’ for a mo: none of the panellists put up a good word for Currie. Now she’s left politics, she’s got no political friends, so no one has an interest in supporting her. The media should be turning to other writers, and to independent historians and academics for opinions.

On politics still. Polly Toynbee wrote an article in ‘The Guardian’ this week saying that this government is the best Britain has had (I think she meant since the Second World War). This followed the Labour Party Conference at which not only Blair and Clinton gave tremendous speeches, widely praised, but other ministers across the government, according to Lee Potter, also demonstrated five star abilities. I’ve been toying with talking, in Kip Fenn, about Blair as the greatest PM of modern times - but it seems too crass to say it, even if I believe history will come to judge him as such. Similarly, I think history will judge Clinton as a great president, his sexual peccadilloes (how do you spell that) should fade with time - is Gladstone’s political reputation sullied by his private weaknesses; and I doubt that France will forget Chirac (when he eventually leaves office) just because he’s got a second secret family somewhere!

There are still a number of outstanding enquiries about EC Inform, but none of them have yet moved to a serious stage or a meeting of any kind. Let me see: Informa, Context and International Newsletters all have fairly detailed information, and I’m waiting to hear something back. A media broker also has details, although he intimated he usually deals on the basis of £25,000 up front (is that what he said) - well, we can stop right there, I said, since I don’t intend to pay anything up front, since I don’t believe I can sell EC Inform for a penny. Never mind, send me some details any way. So I did. But I haven’t heard from him. Then, there’s a newsletter association that might put my ‘for sale’ details in their monthly email. And, finally, a subscriber from The Waterfront Partnership rang me on Friday because he wanted to take out a second subscription. I told him why I wouldn’t sell him one, and we got chatting. He seemed vaguely interested in both the newsletters, and in me. Frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t had any other interest in me as a commodity. But, since I want six months to write Kip Fenn, I’m not really courting opportunities - which is probably a bit silly, because when Kip Fenn is done or dusted, I’ll not have any links or leads or intros for jobs. I’ll be cold, so to speak. Oh yes, but I wanted to recall what the guy from The Waterfront Partnership had told me. He was very complimentary about the newsletter and said about it that ‘it doesn’t get much better than this’.

Have I ever mentioned my cacti. Maybe I haven’t. Along the shelf by the large side window at the back of my lounge I’ve built a small collection of tall thin cacti and succulents (to complement the figures on the shelf of the main back window). One of these (don’t ask for a name, because I can’t get to grips - ha ha - with cacti names, let alone remember them) which is a single tall stem with some nasty long spikes sticking out all the way up, but which also grows fleshy spikes which eventually wither, overbalanced and fell down in the spring. There was soil all over the carpet, and two lengths of spiky cactus - one still with roots about 18 inches tall, and one, the ex-top half, with no roots and about two feet long. I planted up the bottom half anew, and this has grown three new parallel stems from the top. The other part I stuffed into a pot of soil and left by the garage wall (with a coil of wire attached to the wall giving the wobbly stem some support). I never touched it all summer, and allowed the soil to get as wet and damp as the rain would have it. Because it didn’t look dead, I inspected it about two weeks ago to find it had rooted well, and was fully alive. I repotted it, and brought it inside, making sure it was positioned in such a way that the tall and still-fragile looking stem was leaning carefully against a wall. Within a few days, it had straightened itself and was no longer touching the wall. Since this one is twice as tall as the other, I must now consider it the senior survivor of the terrible fall.

It’s coming up for 6pm and ‘Jazz Record Requests’ is about to finish. It’ll be a reading evening, since I’ve banned Adam from watching television for two weeks.

12 October 2002

Wayne Shorter quartet plays on the stereo - Saturday afternoon/early evening is a time for jazz. Often in the morning on Saturdays and early afternoon, I might play folk music - June Tabor, or Joni Mitchell or one of the compilation CDs I have. The stereo on Radio 3 has gone off slightly. All through the summer there was a slight hiss, which meant my recordings of a few of the proms are not quite as good as I hoped. At one point I did make an effort to go into the loft to see if I could readjust my wonderful radio aerial - but it was full of wasps. This discovery solved the mystery of why we kept finding so many wasps in the bathroom - I had thought there might be a wasp nest under the bath, and that they were finding their way out through a hole in the board-side of the bath, and that they would eventually all die. But, in fact, there was a live and active nest in the attic, with an exit to the outside through the eaves, and an occasional stray wasp was getting lost in the attic and finding its way down through a wall cavity to behind the bath, and then out through the hole. The journey must have exhausted them, because, once having escaped from behind the bath, they died rather quickly. But I went up there a few days ago, for something else, and there were only two wasps left. I did ring the Council and they told me the nest would become inactive as soon as the cold weather arrived. Earlier in the summer, though, I did try and block off the entrance to the eaves. I found it was in the gully between the roof tiles and the chimney, and so I threw a heavy wet cloth across it. I’m still not sure if it worked a bit or not. I know there was a nest in roughly the same place previously because I saw it when I first went in the attic.

So Wayne Shorter plays, and I’ll probably watch television for most of the evening. Although now I am two-thirds of the way through Orhan Pamuk’s ‘I am Red’ I am well drawn into his world of 16th century artists and illuminators. It was a bit hard to get into at first, but, as one reviewer has said, it is a sumptuous read. Will it be Butterfly, Stork or Olive that proves to be the murderer of Elegante Effendi and Enishte Effendi? I suppose I could criticise the book: narrator’s voice, where he/she/it is a horse, an artist, a messenger, a wife, a gold coin, varies very little in style - the book is too focused on differences in painting/illuminating style, and relies on the substance of what each narrator says to distinguish them from the next narrator - but the writing style is the same. This means that the characters themselves are not really ‘drawn’ well and the reader does not engage with them. Also I think the book unnecessarily long. Nevertheless, it is about such a different world, and so well crafted, and so unusual, I am enjoying it.

It’s been a very difficult week, not least because of production. I kept energy down to 16 pages (but I got tired even finishing that one off) but transport was 24 pages.

I had another enquiry about EC Inform’s newsletters on Friday. The guy who rang (he’d seen my press release on the newsletter association NEFA monthly email - the one my printer had put me in touch with) seemed very intent, and I was convinced he might be seriously interested. He asked lots of good questions, and explained why my title might be just right: as a small publishing company that has just taken on a full-time marketing person they are looking for one or two acquisitions, and he likes the size of my titles (he couldn’t handle anything too large), and he likes the subject as his company already deals in construction and transport issues. But it was as the conversation progressed that I realised that he hadn’t even looked at the website yet, or seen any copies of the newsletters - I emailed him some, but I shouldn’t wonder if the complexity of the subject hasn’t put him and others off. The really important thing from my point of view is to know that I have really tried, and explored every avenue. Even if nothing comes of any of these leads, at least I will KNOW there was no opportunity for a sale, and there’ll be nothing to regret - also whatever happens, I feel I’ve done the right thing in keeping going for a couple of years without marketing to exploit the bulk of the commercial value before closing down.

Interestingly, I hear the UK government - it was Jack Straw this morning, and Tony Blair a week or so back at the Labour Party Conference - taking time to explain the ‘paradox’ that the tougher the anti-terrorism alliance (read the US and the UK) talks, the less the likelihood of actually going to war. I’ve understood this since day one, which is why I find the constant media examination and re-examination, discussion and re-discussion of the issue, hashing and re-hashing of the views of unimportant left-wing pacifists all rather dispiriting. In other words, our leaders are coming clean at last and saying, in effect, look people we can’t say we won’t go to war against Iraq (and I personally still don’t believe we will without the UN or European allies) because then we lose all power to persuade Iraq to allow the weapons inspectors in and to ensure that the country dismantle any weapons of mass destruction. S. Hussein has to believe we will invade and depose him, or else he won’t play ball. Perhaps, if the commentators were a little bit more perceptive, instead of simply trying to score points against the government all the time, they could explain this, without our ministers having to weaken their position by explaining this publicly all time (Iraqi intelligence, of course, monitors what our politicians are saying to their domestic audience).

18 October

A Friday night. I’ve eschewed the pleasure of listening to ‘Any Questions’, to spend a few minutes with my dear journal. (There’s some irony in the ‘dear’ - despite being such a friend and confidante for so many years, I’m not yet at the point where any personification of you, dear diary, is anything other than a little joke with myself. The interesting question is why do I feel the need to explain this. Perhaps because, having typed up a few letters I wrote in my youth - see below - I’m more aware than usual of how my simple humour might not stand the test of being written down and read by someone else - I found this to my cost also in the email dialogue with Anna.) I’m feeling very warm towards my journals this week. After I’d done the EC Inform admin and messed around for half a day, I had to make a decision about whether to spend a week and half digging myself into Kip Fenn (I still might do so for a week) or how else to use my time. Well, I got diverted to thinking about my diaries. And this is because Barbara has tempted me with the thought of having my diaries properly bound. She has, at work, a new binding system (called Unibind) which will bind A4 and A5 bundles into a good strong spine and hard cover, thus making them look as good as a hardback book. The machine works quickly and easily, but the binders are not that cheap and have to be bought in bundles. B’s had a standing request from me to bring the machine home for months, but I’d half forgotten about it. This week, she gave me some more information, and showed me a sample. So I’ve been thinking about preparing printed texts of my diaries into good order. I set to work putting my Asia travel diary - i.e. Diary 1 - into good order, but this proved more time consuming than I expected. Firstly, as the existing print-out was ‘produced’ in Word, I had to transfer it to Quark; in addition, I decided to give it a bit more style by putting my poems and letters/cards sent at the time (which Mum gave me a few years ago) into boxes. This meant I had to type up the letters, and organise the positioning of the boxes. I also double-checked quite a lot of the text, especially where there were question marks; and I spell checked the whole thing (over 1,000 unknowns!). Then having produced it with one template, I decided I wanted to make it double sided, which meant creating a second template for the even pages. But then this proved complicated because all the boxes had to be moved too. In the end I created a single template which works for both odd and even pages (i.e. with the text box centred, making no allowance for a margin and putting the page number in the middle etc.). Then I had the problem of printing. The printer does not like printing on both sides, and kept on jamming, which meant I lost the original prints, and all the sequencing went to pot, loads and loads of times. In the end I resorted printing quite a few pages individually. But, having succeeded (it’s 120 pages long, 60 sheets) it does look good in the hard-back binder B has shown me - not yet secured in place obviously since this can only be done on the machine she has at work. So that’s what I’ve been doing this week. It took me more than two days to get Diary 1 into order and printed out - but it does look good double-sided with the boxes etc.

It’s no hardship to go over my travels again - I get frissons (can I say that?) of excitement reading about the adventures and the things I did and places I went, and frissons of wanting that excitement, that adventure again - but knowing it can never be. I like to remind myself what an extraordinary trip it was, and how many amazing places I saw and experienced, even if I was only whizzing through. Although many of the entries in the diary proper are familiar, the letters were new to me, not having read them since I wrote them nearly 30 years ago. There’s a very naive, somewhat childish tone to many of them, which is it at odds, oddly, with the skill or maturity or wit or wisdom or something that I had which enabled me to travel so well - richly, yet cheaply - to do so much, and to fall into so little trouble (considering the kinds of things that might have happened to me), and to keep to my schedule and arrive in Darwin in time - and, once there, to get a job immediately, and so on. Unfortunately, the letters do not add much to the narrative - being so poorly written, and carrying far less detail than my diary.

I’m not sure what I’ll do next week, whether I’ll continue producing my diaries or have a look at Kip Fenn. I’m getting keener and keener on the idea of spending an extended amount of time on my diaries and putting them into good order, indexing them a little perhaps, and yes binding them up nicely.

I now have two serious prospective buyers for EC Inform, and I believe we’re talking in the region of £60,000-80,000. That would be enough to see me comfortable for a year or more without working, and allow some travel too. I know I have enough money to take the time off and travel any way, but I just know I would live much more frugally if I was taking the money from my savings than if I could convince myself the payment for EC Inform was like a salary for 2003. Both prospectives are small companies looking to expand, and they like the idea of small volume newsletters, because they wouldn’t be expensive to buy or manage. I should be going for meetings with key people from both companies next week. The timing is getting a bit critical, since the renewal invoices should go out in November. I was just about to send out notices to the subscription agents telling them not to renew any subscriptions when these prospectives came along.

Have I said this before - I’ve promised to take Adam to China later this year, if I sell EC Inform. I only hope my leg would be up to it.

A car bomb blows up a nightclub in Kuta Beach, Bali, and kills 200 or more, including some 30 or more Brits. There is much speculation about whether this is Al Qaeda or an act of terrorism inspired by that organisation. Clearly it is Muslim fanatics of some description - one could have almost guessed they would pick Bali - a Hindu island in a Mohammed sea, and full of Westerners at play. The Indonesian government is accused of not doing enough in the war against terrorism (not surprising since it depends on the support of a mostly Muslim population), but now the terrorists have made sure that Indonesia will be cajoled and bribed into stepping up its efforts against Al Qaeda and its ilk. The terrorists, who have not taken responsibility and claimed the atrocity was in aid of some specific cause, would have done better to keep their home base clean, so to speak, for surely they are Indonesian Muslims responsible.

By the by, ‘European Voice’ this week publishes a letter from Dominic Paine, its advertising manager, who I’ve dealt with several times over the years. He says that he himself was in Bali all through August and spent every night in the Sari club, and that a colleague from ‘The Economist’ (which owns ‘European Voice’) died because of the bomb, as did someone from his home village in England (which has a population of only 600).

I saw Mr Paremain on Wednesday. I was due to see his registrar, I think by the note on the letter I was sent, which didn’t please me because I was sure he/she wouldn’t have a clue about the back of my knee. I was kept waiting for an hour; this led me to enquire why I was being kept waiting and to one of the nurses explaining to me, quite apologetically, that there was a new registrar in place and he was very behind. So, I had a chance to ask the nurse if Mr Paremain was actually around, and to tell her that I didn’t think the registrar would be able to help me much. Because of this, I did actually see Mr Paremain. For the first time, he paid attention to the back of my knee, found a lump of sorts (which is clicking a lot these days) and decided I should have an MRI scan. I didn’t remind him that six months ago, on our first meeting, he had said there would be no point in having such a scan. He confessed really having no idea what the problem was, but that he would go ‘the extra mile’ - i.e. with the scan (but the scan will take ages to come through). In the meantime, I’m continuing with my own programme. I’ve stopped going to physiotherapy because it’s a waste of time, when I can do the same stuff at home. I’m still swimming once a week, I’m doing yoga almost every day (with special attention to the stretching exercises), and I’ve started a little jogging which I hope to pick up over time.

On Sunday last, I drove down to Bosham for a walk; one I’ve done before on several occasions. I could have just walked on the common here, but I do that all the time, and I wanted something a little more structured, more deliberate. It was about five miles in all, and I managed the whole journey with hardly any knee trouble at all. Surprisingly, although I’ve been having a lot of knee clicking lately, I didn’t have any on the walk. I can only suppose it was because I walked at a fairly measured pace, slower than I usually hike. I had planned to get the walk done before the weather turned - rain was supposed to come in from the West by lunchtime - but it was raining most of the time. Yet, I loved being out, and walking across the fields, around Bosham and across to Fishbourne, and around Chichester harbour. It wasn’t too cold, and there was no one else out walking. Apart from Bosham which is so pretty itself, there’s a splendid part of the walk where you get views across the water to Chichester Cathedral and where there are pools and little oak copses, and the grassy way is littered with debris from recent floodings.

19 October

There was a hard frost last night, the first of the autumn, and there was a substantial skein of ice on the water in the wheelbarrow. This morning, though, was bright and cheerful, with barely a cloud in the sky. Thus I decided, mid-morning or so, with nothing else pressing to do, to take myself off for another five mile walk - for the sake of my knee of course. I didn’t go quite so far this time, just over towards Cranleigh. The first part of the walk took me along The Lions Path, a bridleway enclosed by old oaks and hedgerows, although the distant trees still looked well green, the path was strewn with fallen leaves. Apart from scavenging squirrels and a posse of pheasants scurrying along in front of me, the path was deserted - delightful. After a mile or so, the walk led on to a path following the route of a disused railway into Cranleigh itself. I stopped for a while in the library, to buy and eat a pastie, and to sup on a cup of tea in Tiffins Tearooms. The weather remained bright and cheerful with a crisp bright light. The second half of the route took me across fields, past one beautiful mansion, Uttworth Manor, along the route of the long-disused Wey and Arun Junction Canal, through a farmyard swarming with geese, and to another lovely house, Great Garson. One of the highlights of the walk was seeing a large grassy area covering a shallow hill with dozens of horses, some of which were on the crest of the hill, making them into a silhouette picture - it reminded me of the Wild West!

My knee held up as well as last w/e, although I was aware of it by the end of the walk, and I had been walking slowly. What did I think about? Not much, a bit about Adam, a bit about what I want in the future (this is exercising me a fair amount at the moment, and so it should be - I was wondering for example, whether I could be happy being a recluse somewhere more rural than Surrey - but it always comes back to people - I’m not finished with people - I may eschew them a lot more than most others, but I’m not ready to give them up altogether and hibernate for the rest of my life - at least I don’t think I am), and a bit about the possibility of selling of EC Inform.

I’ve never read Camille Paglia before, although I have read about her, and heard her talk on the radio. Among the lot of books I bought at auction a couple of months ago, was a collection of Penguin 60s - little pocket books which Penguin published to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 1995 - there were 60 of them, they cost 60p each and had about 60 pages. I have about 50 of them. So far I’ve read two short ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ stories by John Mortimer, which were amusing enough - I’d recently heard similar stories dramatised on the radio - and two short stories by Truman Capote, an author I’d never read before. I thought they were both a bit laboured and pretentious. By far the most interesting, so far though, is this the third, ‘Sex and violence or nature and art’ by Paglia. This is the first chapter of a book called ‘Sexual Personae’. If I recollect correctly she has argued vociferously against the feminist movement, and has been vilified for doing so. I’ve never been interested enough in the feminist movement or its critics to bother with her before - and it’s only chance that brings us together now. But I find her writing persuasive, if a little exaggerated and deliberately edgy. Her main thesis, as far as I can tell, is that male violence and aggression against women is not caused by society (by pornography for example) but comes directly from nature, from our animalistic selves, and that society actually acts to restrain the natural violence and aggression. She sees a direct link between her own beliefs and Freud, Nietzsche and de Sade (who is much misunderstood she says), and she completely rejects the liberal tradition stemming from Rousseau. Every time we say nature is beautiful, we are saying a prayer or fiddling our worry beads, she says. She sees the achievement of man over history (as opposed to the lack of achievement by women) as a natural consequence of man’s directedness, concentration and projection which are tools of his sexual survival. She sees the inability of the Judeo-Christianity tradition to control sexuality as its biggest failure in its war against paganism; and believes that it is currently facing its most serious crisis since Europe’s confrontation with Islam in the middle ages.

23 October 2002

Last night Barbara and I went with Adam to Godalming Sixth Form College to listen to the principle expound on why student’s should choose it as the place to study for their A-levels, and to pick up leaflets about all the different courses on offer. It would have been a good opportunity to talk to students and staff only Adam, but every time I suggested he do so, he riled like a cat arching its back and baring its teeth. He was a lot easier to talk to once we got home. We ran through a list of the A-levels he’s thinking about: English Language and Literature, Drama, Psychology, Law, Philosophy, Geography, Mathematics. Having had a discussion in the summer with Judy, Rob and Sophie about Sophie’s choices at the College, I know it’s a bit of a minefield to try and influence a 15/16 year old - I don’t think it was in my youth, but it seems that today the pressure on teenagers to reject adult advice is greater than it has ever been - and yet, ironically, it’s probably those kids who are guided, either by choice or force, that end up being successfully academically.

25 October 2002

I have a large loose lump on the back of my leg that wobbles and moves around. As I am sliding it down under the skin at the back of my calf it bursts and the whole lower half of my leg and foot turn blue and red as if the area is subject to fluorescent bruising.

I see Adam jump in a car and drive away at top speed. Afterwards I give him a very stern warning about driving too fast, and I forbid him from driving until he’s old enough.

Another day, another meeting about EC Inform. I’ve had two this week, both in London. I had hoped I’d be able to do other things in London around the meetings, but, having bought ‘Time Out’, there was nothing that appealed to me apart from a festival of Brazilian films at the ICA. I raced back from my meeting yesterday (in Kensal Green) to arrive in time (much to my surprise) hoping to see a particular film, only to find that it was sold out.

Meeting one, on Tuesday, was with Nick Barret. Nick writes mostly about the construction industry. He has fingers in different pies, working freelance for some journals, writing and producing PR journals, and half-owning a small magazine (‘Construction Marketer’ or Marketeer), three-quarters of which is written by others. Of all my enquirers, he sounded the most serious and the most likely. We met at the Royal Institution where he was attending a construction marketing conference (yawn, yawn, yawn). With conference sandwiches in hand, we stood for an hour talking and then moved to a pub where we stood for another hour talking some more. His basic plan, it seems to me, is to take over the EC Inform name, bank account, website as if nothing has changed, and to pay me only with the money that comes in from subscription renewals and from a small marketing campaign. The marketing campaign would be based on my databases (and presumably my effort). Editorially, I would also be doing a fair amount. In effect, I would need to put 100% trust in this man, trust that he would pay me all the subscription income over say a three month period, and that he would continue to publish the newsletters after I’d gone. But he seemed to have no ideas of his own, and I could foresee a gruelling succession of problems and difficulties with getting the deal done in the first place (which I doubt it ever would be), and then in getting them to put the marketing and editorial effort into place, and then getting my money out of them. The whole idea sucks.

Yesterday, I saw Ian Grant and Chris someone or other of Newzeye. They have a small newsletter operation in Kensal Green. Here at least are premises, a bonafide newsletter operation with marketing and editorial personnel, and a genuine interest in taking forward new projects. Ian, the editorial director (one time user of Lucy Walker as a stringer), has the driving interest in the subject. He’s dealt with EU stuff, and knows a bit about it, and is keen to expand in that area. Chris, the finance director (and perhaps the guy with the money), was much more hard-nosed thinking out loud about the financial implications of the deal. Every time he thought of a new expense (hiring an editor, marketing pushes, the payment to me) he seemed to in the process of trying to stamp his foot on Ian’s idea to buy my newsletters, and I found myself the salesman - before his foot hit the ground, I would jump in and say, but this would always be the case when you are buying some titles, or when you are starting a new project. If my newsletters had a circulation of 400, you would expect to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds. I had been led to believe, by Ian, that they’d bought titles before. But they hadn’t, they’d just thought about buying. I can see now, that they don’t really understand that what you are buying are the potential renewals - and unless they understand that, they are not going to be able to see their way to paying out more than twopence.

I had fairly dramatic mood swings during the experience, though. As I sat in the waiting area to see Ian, I watched a couple of young marketing people at their desks and computers. I felt very experienced and wise, and confident, and somehow able to sweep them off their feet if I’d wanted to. And then, after the meeting had finished and I was racing away to try and catch my Brazilian film, I felt really small and insignificant and insecure, and angry at myself for daring to have any feelings of confidence or ability. (I’m not explaining this well.) The particular reasons for this stemmed from things I had somehow said in the meeting which were not actually true. I was astonished to be faced with the memory of having behaved and talked in a way that made me ashamed. Chris had caught me out twice, although out of curiosity not aggressiveness. I had said I had not done any marketing on the basis of the electronic delivery of the newsletters (meaning the pdf versions), but I’d forgotten about the email summaries that we’d done, and I’d brought a marketing letter to show them which, by chance, mentioned the email summaries. Also, I said I hadn’t actively been looking for a buyer until the advert in the NEPA newsletter in October which they had seen. But, he then found the advert on my website dated July! They seem rather trivial as I write them down, and born out of misunderstanding rather than deliberate lying - but I felt, on leaving the meeting (which in general had gone well), that I had somehow been caught out deliberately obfuscating the facts - and I wondered if my unconscious self, the one that acts on auto-pilot in social situations - had. Bizarre.

The news soap opera had a few dramatic turns this week. Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education, resigned, saying she couldn’t cope with the job, and obliquely blaming media intrusion. On the whole, she’s had a very good response to her resignation, Labour politicians to a man/woman have praised her efforts, and even the Tories have been somewhat shocked to find that their calls for her resignation (over several issues in the summer) have been heeded, as though they didn’t really mean it. BUT she does not get a good press from me. I have two reasons: firstly because she resigned at all. That’s a coward’s way out; she’s whimping out on the job that has got too difficult. She has been appointed to do the job, and she should carry on until her boss decides otherwise. Secondly, she gave as one of her reasons for leaving - that she doesn’t ‘enjoy’ the job as much as she did when she was in a lesser job concerned only with schools (and not other types of education as well). Well, really, I’m so sorry she wasn’t enjoying her job. I didn’t know we elected people to ‘enjoy’ their jobs; she’s no right to enjoy it, it’s her duty.

Then the Chechens have taken hundreds of hostages in a theatre in Moscow. Some of the terrorists are wired up as suicide bombers to deter any storming of the building. They are demanding the end of Russia’s war against Chechnya - nothing less. And to think, it’s almost fireworks night. And, over in the US, the police have finally caught the sniper that has been picking off random citizens in Washington state (about 10 people have been killed I think). He (or maybe they, I think they’re were two of them) single-handedly (well double double-handedly to be exact) had sent the whole of Washington State and beyond into hibernation - schools had closed, individuals had only came out of their houses to do urgent shopping - everyone was living in fear.

26 October 2002

The Moscow Theatre crisis is over - after a bloody bloody mess. The Russian equivalent of the SAS pumped the theatre full of sleeping gas and then charged, killing all or almost all of the terrorists/guerrilla fighters, and failing to stop the death of some of the hostages. There does, however, seem to be some general relief that none of the explosives, wrapped around the female Chechens, were detonated. Information about the tragedy is still emerging today.

I find myself mentioning a TV celebrity called Ulrika Johnson. She started as a weather girl, I think, and then became more famous as a presenter on ‘Gladiators’. Now she’s famous for being famous, and presents various mindless programmes. She rose from B list stardom to the A list during the World Cup when her affair with the England coach Sven Eriksson became public knowledge. Now she’s published a book in which she claims that, a good number of years ago (when she was still a weather girl), a man, now also a TV presenter, raped her. She did not mention his name, nor give any clues to his identity (not even that he was a TV presenter), and, she says, she never had any intention of telling anyone. However, within a few days, yet another TV presenter (on Channel Five) slipped the name into a conversation, and instantly the name was on everyone’s lips. As I am not the BBC (which is the only media organisation, it seems, that has decided not to name the person), I can name the man as John Leslie. I only know of this person because, whenever I’ve heard him mentioned or seen the name written down, it reminds me of my John Leslie, the John Leslie I employed to edit the East European Energy Report. It’s not the same person of course. Since all (or almost all) the newspapers have now mentioned the man, and thereby, in effect, accused him of being a rapist, a legal and moral quagmire has risen up virtually overnight. Ulrika’s claim in the book is only a claim (I mean she could be lying or making it up), moreover she hasn’t named the person, or confirmed the rumours, and despite these two facts, almost everyone in the country now suspects that Leslie is a rapist. I think this is intolerable - and wrong. Ulrika should either have gone to the police and reported the alleged rape, at the time or later - a long time before writing about it in the book; or she should have written about the event in the book, in such a way as to steer clear of claiming a rape. She could have explained that he was quite aggressive and violent, and that had in some way been responsible for the situation, but that she could not go as far as calling it a rape. She may in fact do this in the book, but I saw her in one interview and she clearly accepted and talked about the event as a rape. But perhaps the situation is not quite so clear: several other women have come forward and claimed that John Leslie is a ‘sexual beast’ (I think I saw that term somewhere) - and maybe the newspapers and the media have only decided to name and shame the guy because there is a groundswell of opinion that he is a rapist. But, even so, the papers are still taking the law into their own hands, and are accusing a man before he’s even been charged (assuming he is ever charged) let alone convicted. How can this be right? All the other women who have claimed Leslie is a beast should first go the police and, at least, make a claim, before attacking the man in public.

More about my diaries. I am continually surprised about how well written my diaries are. I’m now proof-reading the entries for 1990. Not only am I only making one or two changes each page, but they read so smoothly, and, on the whole, cover quite interesting material - my life may have been boring (well it wasn’t that boring . . .) but I managed to find plenty to write about. I am also typing up Diary 3 - the one which takes me from Lima to Argentina (which starts after the real Diary 3 was stolen with my bag in Huancayo). I’ve typed up the poems and the stories in the past, but never the text, and so I’m discovering the narrative of my journey afresh, as new, after 25 years. I’d forgotten that I fell in love with a Peruvian law student called Maria in Ayacucho, for example.

Vis-a-vis a vague feeling of guilt about spending so much time with my old diaries, I had an original thought the other day: It is so much more interesting to explore and researche one’s own life than it would be the life of one’s father, or a moderately successful relative; and it’s more interesting, in fact, than researching anything (for a book, for example, or just out of curiosity). No wonder, I get drawn into typing up my diaries and into considering how best to bind them etc - what subject could be more fascinating to research than my own life!

31 October 2002

For the first time ever, I missed my trip to Brussels this week - not because my train from Farncombe to Waterloo was too late (I’ve had one or two close shaves over the years), but because all the Eurostar trains were cancelled on the day I was due to go. Quite how I never got to hear this news on the radio all through the day, I don’t understand, but on my way to Farncombe station I had Radio Four on, and heard a news presenter say something about EuroTunnel trains restarting, but Eurostar trains still being cancelled. At Farncombe, I had about 10 minutes before my train (to London), but I only had a pound coin. I first rang directory enquiries, expecting them to be able to put me straight through to Eurostar information - but they don’t do that anymore, and they charge - I was given the number twice, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember it - all 0s and 1s and 6s. So, using the next call button (so as not to lose my £1), I rang Adam and asked him to call Eurostar for me, and to wait for my return call. In the meantime, I kept pressing and repressing the new call button (being afraid that if I didn’t the money would drop), and looking out to see if anyone else wanted to use the callbox (I was prepared to offer them the 60p left in the machine for a new 20p coin) but no one came. Finally, after several minutes I called Adam back and he had all the information I needed - all Eurostar trains for the day had indeed been cancelled. By the skin of my teeth (and the loss of a pound), I avoided a wasted trip to Waterloo. As I was due to return first thing on Thursday morning, I never really considered trying to get a seat on the Wednesday. I’ve just stayed here and worked away on the material I’ve downloaded from the internet - because this is a five week gap between deadlines, there’s actually plenty of material to work on. I do find it odd, though, that I am completely unable to relinquish my standards (vis-a-vis the quality of the newsletters), even though I know it can’t make a ha’porth of difference now I’m so close to closing/losing them. Despite, in theory, still having four potential buyers for EC Inform, not one of them has made any contact this week, which must mean they’ve retreated into the shadows. However, I would have thought, if nothing else, they could email to say they are no longer interested. People are so impolite these days.

Similarly on the L&F site - I emailed someone calling themselves WildRose last weekend. It was the first person I’d contacted on the site for many months. I liked her picture - she’s only 30 - and I liked that she’d mentioned Francois Sagan, an author I’d never heard of until I bought that lot of auction books earlier in the year. Also, I tried out the site’s compatibility matching info, and WildRose was the best match of all the people I tried. I sent her a thoughtful letter, at the limit of the characters I’m allowed to send - and she hasn’t even bothered to give me a polite nod off.

November 2002

Paul K Lyons


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