2 February 2003

The snow has finally cleared, and it is a little warmer this morning. The news this morning is dominated by the explosion of a US shuttle, the Columbia, with seven crew on its return through the earth’s atmosphere.

I will spend another day on Kip Fenn. I am far from finishing the chapter. I’ll try and reserve two-three hours a day in the coming week (when I’ll be doing energy stuff), to see if I can’t catch up on my preliminary schedule (Ch5 finished by end January, Ch6 by end Feb, Ch7 by end March, and Ch8 by end April/early May, and completion by end June.)

Last night I took Adam to see a play at the Young Vic in London. It was a nightmare evening, and I was only at peace once I recognised it as such. Adam didn’t arrive until 5:00 to the minute. And I hadn’t done the sandwiches, or had a cup of tea, and nor was I dressed. So, somewhat crossly, I delayed our departure until 5:35 to catch the 5:56. When we arrived at Farncombe station to park (after one of the slowest journeys on record behind a car that travelled at 30mph, and braked every time she approached a bend or a car came the other way) there was lots of activity and double decker buses. It seemed there were no trains and people were being coached to Guildford. So, we raced on by car to Guildford. After a hell five minutes of trying to park, we discovered the train station was closed, and that the coaches must have been going on to Woking. Adam had said something about Woking, but I had distinctly heard one of the station officials talk about the buses going to Guildford. Quite honestly, it did not occur to me that Guildford could be closed. But it was. Driving to Woking was not an option because I wasn’t precisely clear of how to get there or where to park, and because it takes a while to drive there. So we headed up the A3 towards London with about 80 minutes to go before the start at 7:30. I drove too fast, and didn’t know exactly where to go, or how to get to Waterloo by car (I don’t think I’ve ever driven there). I stopped to look at the map, and decided we should just plough straight on up the A3 which would take us somewhere near Waterloo. Once approaching inner London, though, the traffic was very slow. When I realised we would be passing nearby Clapham Junction, I decided we had a much better chance of getting to the show on time if we dumped the car near there, and took a train into Waterloo. It took us about 15 minutes to travel two miles to Clapham Junction, and we had about five miles and 30 minutes left. With a touch of chutzpah, I found a parking place en route, so to speak, and we jogged the half kilometre to the station (but my bloody calf went too - I’d already done a jogging exercise earlier in the day). By then, I was fairly confident we would actually make curtain-up. But I didn’t reckon with hefty delays on the routes into Waterloo. All the trains were stacking up from just outside Clapham Junction. Our train was full and crowded, so we had to stand, and it crawled along taking over half an hour to cover the 7-8 minute journey. We jogged a bit more round the back of the station to the theatre. We were 15 minutes late. I desperately needed a wee, so desperately that my urine would only come out as a very slow trickle. While weeing, I noticed that our tickets had no price on them, and that there was no credit card slip, so I had to return to the ticket counter to check why that was (but there was an innocent explanation - the tickets had been bought through the internet). And then, finally, we were led up to the balcony. The theatre was packed, and half a dozen actors, dressed in Bhagwan-style clothes, were on the open central stage. Within a minute, I exaggerate not, I realised that this was the biggest load of rubbish I had subjected myself to in years. ‘Red Demon’ was billed as the European premier of a new play by Japan’s foremost writer, director, actor. I should have twigged when I saw ‘writer, director, actor’, no one can be brilliant at all three, especially not at once. But the play was also billed as physical theatre by an astonishing cast of European actors - and, I confess it, I had stupid visions of another ‘Tenjojasiki’ performance. But if ‘Tenjojasiki’ was the Rolls-Royce of theatre, ‘Red Demon’ was a broken baby tricycle; if Tenjojasiki was champagne, Red Demon was meths; if Tenjojasiki was a lion, Red Demon was a maggot. Have I made my views clear. The writing and the fable-kind of story were immature, without depth and riddled with cliches (language and story cliches). The acting was of a kind you can find in any group of night-class wannabes. The physical theatre was characterised by an actor rushing across the stage screaming and throwing himself on the floor. The mime, like the acting, was all surface actions, and lacked real training, real skill, and any real understanding of what it means to act. After five minutes, I cut my mind out, and concentrated on Kip Fenn, on his trip to the World Puppet Festival in Barcelona, and on trying to flesh out the characters of Didier and Helene Rocard who will also be in Barcelona. I felt quite peaceful and relieved. But, after an hour or so (having thought it would finish soon) I realised it was going to go on and on and on - so I whispered to Adam, I would be down in the cafe and I left.

‘Dear Which, I notice your feature on Desktop Gardening (Which? February) does not bother to indicate whether any of the software considered can be used on Apple computers. This is typical. As a subscriber of many years (and with no affiliation to the computer trade), I have noticed that, despite occasional recommendations, there has been a chronic prejudice in Which? against Apple computers and software. I comprehend that you believe this prejudice is based on cost and choice factors. But, to my mind, Which? has always failed to recognise that you cannot assess a computer system in the same way you assess a kettle or even a car. The interaction between system and software, and the use of software, involves a huge amount of ongoing learning and operation time. If one type of computer is significantly easier to use and operate than another, and significantly more reliable, it can save a user so much time over its lifetime that a 10% difference in price between the two is repaid many many times over. And on the matter of choice, sometimes a restricted choice can be a benefit: have you ever analysed, for example, how much trashy PC software gets sold, and how much time PC owners waste on such trashy software.

It seems to me that, from its early days, the computer sector has been one in which an organisation like Which? could have been very useful, and provided really important guidance. But it didn’t - even though it was one sector where, quite surprisingly given the market dominance of PCs, there really was a shining example of a product living up to Which-type ethics and expectations. And today that prejudice lives on in your Desktop Gardening feature.’

4 February 2003

On Sunday night, I was journeying to Waterloo again, this time for a date with Cathy, a woman I’d ‘met’ through the L&F site. She contacted me first, a couple of months ago, and we sent intermittent emails (very short ones). In her picture, she looked quite pretty, so I suggested we meet at the RFH. She agreed. We spent about two hours chatting. She seemed to laugh a lot, and we talked fairly easily. She’s slim and attractive, and capable. She’s a bit light on imagination, spark, colour (as I could tell from the emails), but I could fancy her - and that’s a first. I’ve suggested we go to the theatre together, so I’ll see if she responds. I felt she liked me. But, if we do have another date, I’ll have to face up to the twin questions that I faced with Clare nearly two years ago (my first L&F date): when do I mention my real age?; and do I have the fickleness, the double-facedness to proceed into a relationship for little more than the hope of sex? On the latter, after such a long absence, I think I really need to worry about me and not try and make decisions for someone else. I expect the decision won’t be mine to make, since Cathy’ll probably blow me out now or soon; and, any way, I won’t be able sincerely to move towards a relationship, and I can’t see Cathy making any first moves. She’s an odd mixture: a Maltese father (retired tax inspector), and a German mother who lives in Stratford upon Avon. But I did notice her blue eyes.

Another L&F contact is just taking off. A 40 year old lady called Naomi who lives with her two young children near St Albans. She’s lived in Mexico and Seville and writes educational material for children, and play/composes flamenco I think. She looks foreign in her picture, and only moderately attractive, I would say. But she does sound intelligent and interesting. She contacted me first, and I told her my real age fairly swiftly. Meanwhile, the dialogue with Sue shows no signs of burning itself out, and our letters continue to range over wide and deep panoramas of our lives. There was a pretty girl in the swimming pool today; she might have only been 23-24. She was messing around with a fat friend. I really wanted to smile at her, but she wouldn’t take a glance towards this old hairy man.

I see February has arrived, and my life is just lurching forward with very little direction.

7 February 2003

Here I am on a Friday morning, a Friday before an EC Inform-Energy production week, at my diary. Because Newzeye has put the production back by a day (to Wednesday from my usual Tuesday) I have an extra day. Also, I’m not working very hard at the newsletter (obviously) and there isn’t much going on either. So, I’m writing a little diary, and then moving on to Kip Fenn. I have grand hopes of concluding Ch5 today or tomorrow.

But I must say some more about Stephen Pinker’s book ‘The Blank Slate’. I have taken it slowly, but I am nearing the end now. I can’t help but think it is a brilliant book and that Pinker is a brilliant communicator and thinker. He is a debunker of myths, a clarifier, a let’s-look-at-this-properly kind of person. I agree with a huge amount of what he has to say, even if I’ve been surprised at the seriousness with which he takes some issues (gender feminism for example) before knocking them down. I mean I don’t think I have ever had any doubts that men’s brains are different from women’s and that this is a genetic difference not one dependent on nurture. But he goes to some lengths to explain gender feminism and then to crush it with a sledge-hammer. Perhaps this is because gender feminism has been more influential in the US than here. But his argument is that our brains are predetermined in lots more ways than recent mainstream thinking has been prepared to accept. He believes, and shows effectively, that the idea that our brains are blank slates when we are born and are thus open to every kind of manipulation is unscientific and dangerous. He explodes various myths about why genetic determinants for race, sex, violence etc are politically or sociologically unacceptable; and explains how our attitudes and public policies are being led up blind alleys by this mistaken belief that the brain is perfectly malleable. He sits fairly comfortably behind Richard Dawkins ‘selfish genes’ idea, and is a firm believer in evolutionary psychology and behavioural studies. Personally, I think that in trying to support a genetic and evolutionary view of behaviour and personality, and to shift thinking, in his zeal, he goes a little too far. Often, he is surprisingly lucid about drawbacks to evolutionary explanations, and about the uniqueness of man, but all too often the comments are asides, caveats, and not integral to his explanations.

But my main purpose in mentioning the book again is to reflect on his chapter about children, and the nature/nurture debate. He reproduces the three laws of behavioural genetics presented by Eric Turkheimer: all human behavioural traits are heritable; the effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the effect of genes; and a substantial portion of the variation in complex human behavioural traits is not accounted for by the effects of genes or families. Pinker says that by the standards of psychology, these laws, based on a large amount of empirical data, have proved remarkably robust. He proceeds to look at the implications of these laws, which, he says, have not been fully understood by most psychologists or intellectuals. As a crude answer to the nurture/nature question, he suggests: genes 40-50%, shared environment 0-10%, unique environment 50%. He believes, in essence, that families have almost no impact on a person’s main behavioural traits. Which is a pretty remarkable claim. He says this falls out naturally from the three laws of behavioural genetics. He also examines what he calls the mystery of the third law, and analyses a theory put forward by J. R. Harris about peer group pressure! Pinker goes along with a good deal of Harris’s theory, but dilutes it by proposing that chance (fate!) plays a key role in a child’s development, from the environment in the womb onwards (neuro-developmental roulette).

My head is full of half-formed, half-baked ideas of my own vis-a-vis Pinker’s ideas. Firstly, I have become convinced, over time, of how important peer pressure is in shaping Adam’s behaviour and tastes. And therefore the Harris theory comes as no surprise; in fact, it’s rather helpful to have my own ideas legitimised to a certain extent. I realise, though, that I’ve fought too hard against it in different ways as though this peer pressure influence were not inevitable, as though there were something I could or should be doing about it. I’ve persistently chastised Adam for following peer pressure, for allowing himself to be shaped in his thinking and his behaviour by what his small group of school friends do. And I’ve tried to explain why he should guard and fight against it. But, I think, if I had realised that this peer pressure force was real and definite and general, and not necessarily confined, or exaggerated, with Adam, I might have treated the matter differently, more subtly. When he was younger, we (Barbara and I) had done a good job in that Adam was nowhere near as affected by peer pressure as other kids; but in the last two or three years, I’ve almost reversed my position, believing that he’s too influenced by peer pressure. But, perhaps, I’ve exaggerated the problem, perhaps partly in relation to how independent he used to be, and partly because I don’t know how other kids are responding to peer pressure now. The clear implication of Harris/Pinker model is that the best parents can do to influence their children’s development is to be careful about which peer populations they place them in. Of course, this knowledge has been around for a long time - which is why the public school system survives so well in this country. (I would add that the public school system is not necessarily better, just much better adapted to developing/moulding - through a peer pressure process - the kind of individuals that fit so well into our society and our institutions.) But perhaps these new ideas are telling us something about the degree to which this is important, and that parents should be looking less at the academic records of schools, but at their society and playground culture and ethics.

That was just one track. Another is Pinker’s idea on chance. He writes about this as though he is thinking aloud, without any of his own scientific data or investigation or that of others. The language is full of ‘may’ and ‘might’. But I have already gone there, and, in a way, further. Here is an extract from the first chapter of ‘Kip Fenn’. This is part of a letter from Kip’s mother to her brother:

‘I’ve been reading a fascinating new book - ‘The Snowball Effect or Parenting made Difficult’ by Julia Derwent, an American Professor. I don’t know how fresh the ideas are, but I’d never read anything similar. She explains the role of genes and of nurture, taking a fairly average line (as far I can tell - I don’t know much) on that debate, but then argues that some very early influences - in the first year or two or three of a child’s life - can have a much more profound influence than has ever been recognised. In essence, she argues that an event or a pattern of events, which seem benign in themselves at the time (with no obvious directly-related consequences perceived in the behaviour of the child) can lead a child into behaving in a certain way, which then leads to the original event or pattern to be repeated and the reinforcement of the behavioural response - thus, the snowball effect. She cites some fascinating studies of siblings brought up together, showing how sometimes they grow up with very different characters, which cannot be explained by either their genes or their environment. She also sees a link between this analysis and some childhood development problems such as dyslexia. She suggests this might be caused by parents being over-attentive to their babies education, and this causing a kind of snowball resistance effect in the child’s response to being taught reading, for example. The book only came to my attention because of the media furore this latter idea caused, but I know from personal experience with Neil how close I came to forcing on him too much teaching at too early an age. God knows what damage we teachers do in class. Although according to Derwent, much of a child’s character is already determined by the time they reach school (even if, according to the snowball effect theory, this might not yet be apparent), and any characteristics that are likely to change significantly during school years will do so in response to peer pressure rather than what teachers do or say. She has quite a lot to say about this also.’

I’ve sorted it for Adam to do his work experience at Julian’s office. The school uses a company called Trident to find situations, but, a week ago, the school told Adam that Trident had failed to find him a place because his criteria were too strict. I’d already told him earlier it would be foolish to rely on Trident/the school since they would only offer trashy jobs. When he was told there was nothing, he didn’t come to me, but told Barbara, who said he could work in her library for the week. When I complained to Barbara that she had resolved Adam’s problem without talking to me, and without making Adam sweat a little for not having shown any initiative, she had a go at me for always moaning. But now I’ve sorted it, for Adam to live with my mother for the week, and to work at IMI for five days. Julian says he should have fun, since there’ll be lots of jobs he can do, and they’re a young team. Adam was so grateful, that I realised his earlier satisfaction about being able to work with B at the RHS had been all bravado.

10 February 2003

It’s production week on EC Inform-Energy 112. I’m supposed to be going to Newzeye on Wednesday to do the production, but I can’t see any reason for this. Newzeye’s guy seemed surprised I even wanted to talk to him about it; and he told me it was no problem transferring a quark file from a PC to Mac. It’s only a 12-14 page issue, and I’ve written all the material; and I’ve started putting it together. There are bound to be problems, though, when Newzeye send it to their new printer - but I won’t be caring in the way I have in the past. I won’t care if the bold fonts are missing, or the leading has reverted, meaning a line has got lost. And I won’t be caring, if it goes out a couple of days late. The only thing I care about is not having to drive up to Kensal Green unnecessarily. I’ve got my second cheque (for £12,000) now so - at worst - there’s only a maximum of £3,000 they could cheat me out of. Today I chatted to a couple of old contacts, ones I’ve always liked. They were pleased to hear from me. Did I say, I got another really flattering email about EC Inform-Transport expressing sorrow about it closing down - so that’s at least three I’ve had. They almost make me feel nostalgic for those early days when I was so enthusiastic about EC Inform-Energy and about its prospects, and mine.

I have been for a run on the common. Yesterday, I walked for two hours across the Heath from Mum’s house across to South Hampstead, via the Highgate ponds, and back. It was wet and slippery and very enjoyable. During the morning I was struck, on two counts, by how much people’s lives have changed. Firstly, it can only have been 15-20 years ago that there was only one coffee house at South End Green, now there are at least six. I went into one, Polly’s, and it was really very pleasant: the coffee was good, the newspapers were there, the clientele looked interesting, the service was friendly.

Secondly, as I set out on the drive to London I turned on the radio. It’s usually on Radio Four or Radio Five, but it was tuned to Radio Three, and there was an interview under way - with someone, I learned later, called Tony Wheeler. Within seconds I heard him talking about the BIT information guide, and how this had guided him across Asia in the early 70s, and how it was made up of other travellers’ dispatches, many of them written when they were eight miles high. He described how he kept a diary and noted down hotel names and prices, and that, when he got to Australia, he was forever giving the information to his friends. Out of this experience, he explained, came the idea for doing travel guides, and so the Lonely Planet guide book company was born. It struck me, though, again how much the world has changed for Westerners: guide books to major countries like India or Peru simply did not exist, now every corner of the world is covered by Lonely Planet and guide books galore. We have become so rich in less than 30 years that we can travel extensively, and eat out so much more than we ever did - and we don’t realise it.

I had another sequence of thoughts also involving Tony Wheeler, but starting somewhere else. As I was replacing all the books and papers back into the hall cupboard (after the roof leak nearly got my diaries), I came across the early examples of ‘Performance Magazine’. I hadn’t realised that I was involved from very early on, from issue 4 in fact, while Luke, who brought me in, contributed an article to issue 2 already (an interview with Mike Alfreds! who he later went to work for). He also became joint editor, while I only ever contributed one or two theatre reviews and organised the listings for a while. I had not realised (or remembered) that Angela Carter also wrote for those early issues. But I’m allowing myself to be sidetracked. Seeing these old issues, gave me to wonder what the founder and editor Rob Le Frenais was doing these days - so I did a Google search. It seems he’s running some institute in the East End, trying to blend art and science. The website looked intriguing at first sight, but when I examined it in a little more detail, it didn’t seem to have much substance, several past arty-farty projects, but nothing substantial. And I noticed that his editorship of ‘Performance Magazine’ (70 or so issues in all - my involvement only went up to issue 20) is the most substantial thing on his cv and on snippets about him in various other places. But there is a lot there - a lot of apparently interesting stuff in his life and works. On the website, I noticed he’d recently experienced zero gravity for the sake of some art-science project.

So when I put Wheeler (and Luke perhaps) with Le Frenais, I see pictures of men from my generation who believed in something and therefore stuck with it, followed through as it were in their lives, and thus made marks on the world around them. I was travelling with the BIT guide in the early 70s, and then writing for Performance magazine, and becoming involved in the theatre. But it was all a game, like my relationships. I never believed in anything; and I still don’t. I blame Frederic first, then God.

11 February 2003

I’ve been for a swim today, and finished of EC Inform-Energy 112. It’s only 12 pages long. I had a good 14 pages, but Newzeye’s printer can only manage multiples of 4, so I trimmed it back to 12. Astonishingly, I got really mentally tired even proof-reading the 12 pages; I was yawning, my eyes were tired, I kept getting up every five minutes, I didn’t want to go on. Well, I can understand that I used to feel like that when I was producing two 24 page issues within a couple of days of each other, but the fact that it happened this morning shows conclusively, surely, that it’s a psychological thing. It’s a deep, deep tiredness with EC Inform. But, there’s only two more issues, and then I’m a free man - free to sink in the swamp of my inert life.

12 February 2003

Today, straight away, I’m back on Kip Fenn. I’ve read through Chapter Five, and updated my planning sheets. I wish I could be more excited about what I’ve written. Last year I thought I was thrilled with it and some of the text, or was it just the idea of the book that excited me. Is it inevitable, now Kip’s with me every day, that it’s going to be hard to be enthused all the time. I mean when I come to look over what I’ve written, it’s never going to seem fresh.

16 February 2003

Two main subjects on my mind this morning: Iraq and Valentine’s Day - international politics and intimate self-analyses.

Raoul wooed me up to Chelsea for a dinner on Thursday. He told me old friends of his, and people I knew, the Harrimans, would be coming along with Andrew and Susie, so I thought it would be churlish to refuse. He’s become a member of the Chelsea Arts Club, so he wants us to meet there. I arrive on time, at 8pm, but, because he’s not there I can’t get a drink. I think it’s 8:30 before he arrives. So for half an hour I watch the people in the crowded bar (which could be more crowded if there weren’t a full size snooker table dominating the central area). The atmosphere was good natured, and I suppose I felt more at home here than I would have done in the average pub, but I couldn’t help thinking that the place would be empty on Saturday (when the anti-war march was due to take place) and that there was a fair crop of ex-communists still talking about Cambridge days. When Raoul did arrive, he came dressed in a cardigan! A cardigan! It was as if he had put on a uniform for the place. We had about 20 minutes to talk before the others arrived, and we talked about the war and about interpretation of dreams. The others turn up but it’s not the Harrimans (who, although I don’t like them very much, are always interesting to meet and chat to) but Andrew and Susie, looking good and on good form, and Richard. Mostly I talked to Susie; the food was good; but the dining area feels a little cramped and is very noisy. The older I get, the less I can hear in crowded places. Towards the end of the evening, Susie got onto the subject of my love life again. She proposed signing me up for a new yuppie (I know the word has gone out of use but it fits here) scheme called Chemistry that’s just hit town. It’s basically a huge organised party for singles with structured activities (like speed dating) within the evening to help people get to know each other. I said it wouldn’t suit me at all; but Susie’s quite taken with the idea.

The next day was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t send or receive any (as has been the case many years). But on Saturday, I had a date - with Marobasi, otherwise known as Naomi. She contacted me first on L&F, and I responded cautiously. We had quite a sparky dialogue, which Naomi wanted to focus on the business at hand. She sounded, by her words, sharp, talented and together, although the details of her life sounded quite the reverse: separation from her husband soon after a second child was born (two kids 5 and 4), parents dying of cancer in NW London, a rat infestation in her house at the moment, problems with her knee, an inability to drive on the M25. We had email fun arranging a meeting, and I conceded to meeting at the Barbican to go and see ‘Midnight’s Children’. The play was pretty much as I expected: it brought out well some of the main themes in Rushdie’s book, and in particular Rushdie’s brilliant way of mixing up the personal and the political. At three hours it was over long, and it lost me in places; the adaptation was too literal at times, and the direction was too loose here and there also. But I was glad I went even if the afternoon’s entertainment did cost me over 50 effing quid. Naomi never offered to pay me back for the ticket (and I paid for a snack). But most of all, of course, we were there to sniff out if there was any chemistry between us. Well, from my side there was. Negative chemistry! I knew within seconds of meeting her, I’d completely over-estimated her (as I had with Anna) (am I the only person on the L&F site, or anywhere for that matter, to under-sell myself, to keep something back, to be more than I advertise not less?). And, as if to reinforce my feelings, she seemed to have a smell which I found distasteful; it was a strange odour, which I couldn’t trace, I kept thinking it was coming from the room; but perhaps it was a kind of perfume she was wearing. I found out quite a lot about her in the 90 minutes we had before the show; none of which endeared me towards her. There was nothing about her I liked - not her face, her personality, the way she lived her life - although I couldn’t be precise about exactly why. The show went on and on, and so, when it was over, I was able to race away saying I needed to get home. As I made my way back to Moorgate station (having got lost around the Barbican), I kept finding myself surprised at how quickly I had departed. I mean, as the play was finishing I hadn’t planned what I was going to do (well not consciously), and so it was a shock to find myself having departed (and therefore finished with Naomi) within minutes of walking out of the theatre. As I left, I could see Naomi’s face was crestfallen. Of course, I didn’t need to get home. But, if she had stopped me, and said: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I would not have been able to answer the question.

On Friday night (between dinner at the Arts Club and the theatre at the Barbican), Richard rang me! It must be only the second time in my life that he’s rung me (maybe I’m exaggerating a bit). We talked for an hour about being single and trying to find women. On the phone (as opposed to a dinner table), I found him much easier to talk to. He was trying to interest me in an EST kind of course down in Devon run by an organisation called Hai. Apparently Roneet (Niema’s daughter) is involved in this. I checked the website and found a course called ‘Pathways to intimacy’ - as if the course itself would be a pathway to intimacy. All you have to do is sign up, pay your excessive fee, and heh presto, intimacy will be yours. I wrote to Sue that I couldn’t sit through a weekend of such crap even if I was being paid. I wasn’t quite so direct to Richard. I tried to persuade Richard (as I did Sue) that he should try internet dating.

Also inspired by Valentine’s Day, I wrote to Sue in provocative mode. I suppose I’m concerned that she might be consciously hoping that one day we will meet and fall in love, and I want to keep that hope deflated, which (because I don’t know her) inspires me to prick out, to rudely puncture now and then. But she’s very sharp, and knows what I’m doing and effectively blunts off the end of my pricking action. Why do I worry about her hopes? Because she has no boyfriend, and makes no attempts to find a manfriend; and because she told me about her hopes and feelings about a friend who she has secretly fancied for years, and how she more or less buried the feelings and never told the man. I think she doesn’t see him any more, and maybe transferring some of those buried feelings to me. And why do I think I wouldn’t want to have a relationship with her? Firstly, she smokes, which is not an insurmountable barrier; secondly, she’s in her mid-40s and is definitely past child-rearing/wanting age; and, thirdly, although she would make a good companion, this would be at the expense of ambition, action, movement, development.

Iraq. Oh there is so much going on about Iraq, but it’s all candyfloss, talk and more talk and more talk; all air and no substance. No, that’s not true, of course there’s lots of important talk going on, but it’s the media that is always so self-important in the way it deals with such issues; it can never reflect and editorialise in a way that acknowledges it might not know everything. And the media sets the agenda for public opinion. This last Saturday gone by upwards of a million people collected in London to protest against the war on Iraq. Similar protests took place all over the world, although the BBC did not give me an accurate view of this. It told me there were protests in Athens and Paris and New York; but none of those was as big as in London, and yet there was one in Barcelona, which according to Roser, collected one and a half million people. Perhaps if I was in the US, I might have protested; I can’t tell because I have no proper feeling for the Bush administration. I fear that Bush is bullied on by his hawks, in a way that Clinton was not, but I can’t be sure of that.

So far, however, I maintain my confidence in Tony Blair. As I’ve said to several people in the last few weeks, I don’t believe Blair will join an attack on Iraq without a UN Resolution; but the stronger and more effective the threat of an American invasion is, the more likely it is that Hussein will disarm as far as possible. With France threatening to veto a second US resolution, and with protests around the world, the US-led threat becomes less threatening, and therefore Hussein needs to make less concessions. It’s a very simple formula. The size of the demo in London has now undermined Blair’s flexibility, and Hussein will know that. At the weekend, Blair’s cabinet colleagues rallied round in support of the UK position. Prescott, for example, who’s on the left of the cabinet and has still got street cred with Old Labour and the unions, said loud and clear I trust Tony Blair to do the right thing, to make the right decisions. In other words, he was telling the people of Britain, not to be deceived by the apparent look of things. My point exactly. Prescott also owned up to realising that he had been wrong at the time of the Falklands, when he had opposed Thatcher’s decision go to war against Argentina. Why do all these lefties think that the world can be a better place if we don’t go to war against tyrants - the logic is very clear.

But, it is true, that in this case, I do not believe we (not the UK, not the UN) should attack or invade Iraq (I’m not clear about whether a second UN resolution is a good idea - that’s complicated. It may be that the French are doing the right thing.) And it does concern me that the West is still on a steep learning curve with regard to dealing with international pariahs. It did well with the Falklands, and with Kuwait, and not too bad with Kosovo - but now the US has mixed it all up with international terrorism, and is much more gung ho, I’m not confident that mistakes won’t be made. If Blair was pulled into a war against Iraq without a clear UN mandate I do think that would be a very bad mistake. More subtlety and patience is needed; perhaps new mechanisms. The West needs to spend more time dealing with the causes of terrorism; and it should not necessarily be fooled by a green light from some Arab states which may happily see a renegade Islam state crushed and, at the same time, more fuel stoked on the fire of Islamic fundamentalism.

18 February

Two dream manifestations of Sue. One in which she is handwriting letters and scanning them into a computer. I ask why, and as I do, I see that her arms and body are deformed. She has got cancer, she tells me. In the other, Sue is slim and rather attractive, in a plain Tomboyish sort of way, and I chat to her for a while.

IRAQ. This is what I mean. The headlines last night and this morning are all about the EU compromising over a statement for Iraq: we hear of ‘papering over the cracks’, or, marginally less bad, ‘this statement is a bit more than papering over the cracks’ or ‘thinly veiled divisions’ or ‘this summit was billed officially as an extraordinary summit, and it was extraordinary’ and so on. Why do journalists and the media expect 15 sovereign states to all have the same view about such a big issue - that is really extraordinary. Why can’t they see how impressive it is that these countries can sign up to anything at all. And why should there be anything wrong with France and the UK having different views. It’s normal, for god’s sake. Why report this as though a nuclear bomb has gone off.

23 February 2003

Adam’s work experience at Innovative Marketing International appears to have gone OK. He stayed at Mum’s and was fed well. I spent most of the week engrossed as much as I can be in Kip Fenn. Walking each day, swimming, doing yoga, reading, watching TV, listening to the radio. This weekend has been much the same in fact.

I had been looking forward muchly to going out this evening, to see Mariza, the Portuguese fado singer. I booked my ticket ages ago, at the Anvil in Basingstoke, after I discovered her RFH concert had sold out. For some incomprehensible reason, I wrote down the wrong date - the 23rd instead of the 16th. This morning, I checked on the internet for the time of the concert only to discover my mistake. I nearly wept. She’s an artist at the peak of her powers, popular, vibrant, exciting; and I so adore that type of singing. I really am gutted to have missed it (the lost £13 ticket price is peanuts next to the £50 or so that I wasted on the meeting with Naomi/Marobasi last weekend).

Surprisingly, I am still on a rough timetable that I set at the beginning of the year to finish one Kip Fenn chapter each month, but this is only because I work through the weekends as though they were weekdays. But I’m sure I only work at the weekends because I don’t have anything else significant to do. Despite this plodding progress, I still find it difficult to feel good about what I’m doing - there’s no sense of achievement at the end of the day. And yet, sometimes, when I’m away from it, say on the train going up to London or walking on the Common, I get excited by the idea of the book and some of the stories I’m telling in it. Two or three times I’ve been tempted to summarise, in a letter to Sue, something of the story I’m writing that day or week, but every time I try a quick synopsis, it sounds crass or naive, and so I delete the paragraph. I can make more sense of it when talking sometimes, as when I told Barbara the other night the Ander’s Day story. (She and I went to see ‘Chicago’ at the cinema - very cleverly done, but not really my kind of entertainment.)

I’ve been thinking about China again, and whether it’s really worth spending £6,000 on a three week Explore trip with Adam. I did promise him such a trip if I sold EC Inform, but I didn’t realise quite how expensive it would be. I mean the same money would buy two cars like the one I have at the moment (which, at £3,000 was the most expensive car I’d ever bought), or cover all our living expenses for four months.

March 2003

Paul K Lyons


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INTRO to diaries