7 June

I was woken in the night by the most painful cramp in my left calf. It came so suddenly, and within seconds of being in the middle of the dream I flung myself out of bed and was hopping around the room in agony.

My vegetable plots are very poor this year. Nothing is growing properly. I did get three or four small potatoes from one potato plant I dug up yesterday (I was short of potatoes for supper). It was the first one, but I can tell it’s going to be a very poor crop. The spinach bolted before barely a leaf had grown, even though the soil has had sufficient moisture. The sweet corn seedlings are growing as if they want to spend two years maturing, not one summer, and the runner beans, usually the most reliable of growers, are also taking a long time to creep up the bamboo sticks. The only explanation I can think of is that the batch load of soil I bought from Homebase, which I used to help plant most of these things (not the potatoes, but then I bought the potatoes late, and the chits had become long and straggly), was far more devoid of nutrients than it should have been, or was too acidic/alkaline than it should have been. Nevertheless, we are in that period of the year, late spring/early summer, when I’m out in the garden pottering several times a day, weeding, pruning, examining the vegetables, admiring the flowering shrubs.

On Saturday I drove down to Lulworth Cove for the second of my mapping/planning/photography field trips. The first concerned the mapping of vegetation, and this one concerned the mapping of geological strata. I had thought to drive down the night before and sleep out, but, after my experiences last week, I decided against that option. In any case, there was no need, since it’s only a two hour drive. I left at 6:00 and arrived at around 8:00. There’s a massive car park at Lulworth Cove, along with a heritage centre and lots of shops. It cost me £5 to park for the day. I think it is the most I’ve ever paid for car parking in my life. I had hoped I might find somewhere for breakfast on the way in to Lulworth, but it was too early. As we weren’t due to meet until 10:30, I set off on an early morning walk. There’s a path that leads from directly from the West Lulworth car park to Durdle Door, it’s very wide and carefully upkept, and much used. It reminded me of the horrible scar-paths that one sees in the Lake District. I was here some years ago on a three-day walk, but I didn’t remember this. Later on, it was to get as crowded as Guildford High Street on Saturday morning. But at 8:00am, it was deserted. It only took me about 15 minutes to get to Durdle. It was such a beautiful day, blue sky, sun shining, no wind. And the sea was as calm as it ever is. I had hoped there would be no one on the beaches (there are two, one either side of a little peninsula) so that I could swim in the nude, as I had done four years ago. But, there were people camping on one side, and others lying on the pebbles on the other. But, I had my shorts with me, and so changed and was soon stepping in and out of the water in an attempt to get myself accustomed to the temperature. As last time, I opted to swim in the corner of the west beach, right by the Door itself, which makes for a lovely backdrop for swimming. It was very cold, and it did take 10 minutes or more to get myself fully in. Once in, though, it was fantastic. I swam and floated and let the gentle waters lap over and around me. Joy.

I must have stayed on the beach for nearly an hour or so, and then it was too late to consider a circular walk, so I just headed back over the hill (passing many a family with picnic hamper and Sun newspaper) to West Lulworth. By the time I arrived, the place was packed. In the tea-house I met up with a few other early arrivers, and chatted amiably until the entire group assembled (by about 11:00). Our tutor for the day was Kevin Attree. He runs the landscape side of the whole course, and is also (so a piece of paper tells me) my personal tutor. He’s youngish, tall and tanned, and very much looks the outdoor type. Others reported that he’s very enthusiastic, which is good.

The group was large and a bit unwieldy. There are two parallel groups being taught this summer (one on Saturday, my group, and one on Tuesday), and, although the Tuesday class opted for classroom exercises, rather than a trip to Lulworth, many of the people in that class decided to join the Saturday group for this trip. We first went to Stair Hole, where the famous Lulworth Crumple is very visible. Kevin explained, in very simple terms, the geology, and gave us time to sketch the geological lines in the cliff face. We then examined the rocks in more detail in order to be able to draw a stratigraphy chart. Since I had no knowledge of geology at all, and have never known anything other than to recognise the difference between chalk, sandstone and flint, this kind of information and exercise is so exactly what I’m doing the course for. It made me angry with myself that I hadn’t done something similar many years ago, so that the knowledge would have informed my many holidays and walks.

After lunch, we did a different kind of exercise. We walked around the beach of Lulworth Cove, in order to assess the geological boundaries, again so that we could sketch these and make sense of the geological structures in the area. We also visited, briefly, the petrified forest, where circular mounds can be seen in the craggy rocks, indicating where trees stood in the Jurassic period (the mounds having been formed my microscopic creatures building up around the dead tree trunks and leaving calciferous deposits).

It was a very hot day, and tiring (a lot of standing around). I was one of the people with most clothes on (I had a hat, long sleeves, a raised collar, and long trousers) but I still got burnt around the back of the neck, and on my ears. I talked to various people (most of them are intelligent and personable) during the day, but I can’t say I made a connection with any of them. I didn’t leave with the others, I stayed on the beach for an hour or so, in the shade, reading and watching the die-hards. The journey home took a couple of hours or so, and when I got there I ate, watched ‘Casualty’ and ‘Big Brother’ and went to bed.

Sunday 13 June

I’m having a garage clear-out day, and I’ll start on some house maintenance too.

I’ve finished reading through Kip Fenn, and, in doing so, I’ve created some family trees for him, and a timeline, which may, or may not, help readers to navigate their way through the book.

Monday 14 June

I’m in a strop this morning. When I ring the auction house, I discover that my written bid for an oak shelf unit in the Saturday sale was successful. This was the first time I’d ever put in a written bid (I was on a field trip - more anon). I suppose I should have been pleased that I had got the thing, but the price turned out to be the exact limit of my bid (£150) to the pound, which made me very suspicious. I had hoped I’d get it for considerably less, and I only put in a bid of £150 (estimate £80-120) because I didn’t want to lose it. So my mind was working overtime all the way to the auction house, and as one of the auctioneers was helping me move the unit to the car, I quizzed him over the price. He was quite happy to chat, and very happy to defend the auction house, explaining in detail why it’s not so surprising for a bid of £150 to be successful on the nail (it’s quite natural for a bidder to set himself a limit of £150, so that, when the bidding rises to that marker level, he/she stops). And he went on to give me lots of examples of where written bids have secured items at much lower than the limit figure. Me thinks, he didn’t protest too much. I’ve bought the unit as a possible house warming present for Barbara, but I’m not at all sure she’ll want it - Adam was bemoaning the fact that her taste in furniture is slowly but surely swinging round to that of Alastair - all mod cons.

My second reason for being in a strop was that I received, in the post (which came unusually early around the same time I phoned the auction house), my essay and exam mark for Lalage’s course. Lalage teaches the environmental courses, such as Plants and People. Quite frankly, I thought I had done an excellent essay, and I was quite keen to get it back and receive a good mark (such vanity), but she only gave me 69% which is not even an A grade mark (70% would have been). Last week, I got back my essay for the Medieval Archaeology course, and for that I got 74%. I thought I’d done a good essay for that course, too, and was already considering that I might write a letter, not of complaint perhaps, but seeking clarification of the marking systems. When I got Lalage’s essay and mark back I was galvanised into writing such a letter - I mean my essay was of a postgraduate standard, I would say, yet it should have been marked for the course level which was first year undergraduate!

Thirdly, I was still smarting from England’s astonishing defeat by France in the European Cup yesterday. It wasn’t so much an astonishing defeat, but an astonishing last two minutes in which France overturned a 1-0 lead to beat England 2-1. England had played well, and, after taking the lead in the first half, it had defended very well against France’s onslaught. After an inspired second half run into the penalty area, Wayne Rooney won a penalty, which Beckham took, and Barthez saved! The game continued until the 90 minutes were up with England looking increasingly like 1-0 winners. Then, in the first minute of extra time, Heskey conceded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, and Zidane scored directly from it. A minute later, Gerrard complacently kicked a short pass back to goalkeeper James, but Henry was still hanging around in the penalty area, and James had to bring him down to save a goal. Zidane did not fluff his penalty as Beckham had done.

I meant to write a lot more yesterday but I never got round to it, so I’ll try and catch up today (although so far it’s been a bit of a lazy day, I’ve been sidetracked by having to go into Godalming to fetch the oak unit, and by writing my moan letter, and Italy’s about to play it’s first Euro 2004 match).

I have a schedule. I set it a while back, a month or so after I finished London Cross (which, very roughly, took up the January-March period). It sets out a possible timetable for publishing Kip Fenn - which is the only active project I’m involved with at the moment (apart from my uni course which is taking up a few Saturdays). After being ill with a cold, and then going walking in Wales, I had to revise the schedule. But I’m back on track. Under this schedule, I was due to finish reading/correcting/assessing the book by the end of last week. This Sunday/Monday I was due to clean out the garage and do maintenance on the house, external paintwork. I set to these latter jobs early on Sunday, and made good headway. I’ll continue work on the paintwork this evening, when the sun has gone down a bit (it’s been very hot). Some of patchworking I’ve done in the past on the window frames at the front of the house is coming apart and letting water in to rot whatever remains of the wood frames. I’ve also been doing a hell of a lot of pruning in recent weeks, the rhododendrons, the conifers and the hollies. I’ve still got more to do.

On Saturday, I did another field trip in my level two Mapping/Planning/Photography course. After the geology one the previous Saturday, which was interesting if a bit exhausting, I wasn’t looking forward to this one so much. We have two field exercises with Steve Dyer, the course leader, both on survey techniques. I’m not very interested in survey techniques - I can’t see they are going to enlighten me or my life in any particular way. We spent the day at Woking Palace, the same place we had been to on the first day of the course, and set about working in small groups on preparing plans using four different techniques - all of them simple, all of them fairly similar. It’s a question of measuring distances and angles basically, and plotting them on to a chart. We didn’t have to work in teams on the geology field trip, but we did on this one, and I was fortunate again to team up with Angela, who I like and is both intelligent and easy to work with, and Roger, ditto. There’s a significant proportion of the group that I would not be happy working with! I’ve two more field exercises, both at Woking Palace, to go.

I need to say a word about ‘Big Brother’ - the fifth series. It has been billed as ‘Big Brother gets Evil’. The makers have chosen 12 characters, most of whom are more extrovert and exhibitionistic than previously (one of them entered the house wearing only leopard skin trunks); they have tightened up the house to make it more claustrophobic (less space, only one bedroom, no vegetable plots); and they have devised tasks and tests which are more gruelling or degrading (and the prize money goes down if they don’t succeed in the tasks). One of the 12 - Kitten - was expelled after only one week, for persistent rule breaking. She was a nightmare, a radical feminist political agitator, of the most unintellectual and childish type. In fact, she was almost a stereotypically naughty schoolchild, deliberately challenging every bit of authority - but only up to a point, and only in the most obvious of ways. Big Brother had pegged her from the start, and when, in a final show of defiance, she refused to leave the house when told to, Big Brother simply displayed the total amount of prize money on the screen and said it would go down £1,000 for every minute Kitten refused to leave. The most intriguing new aspect to the show, however, is the so-called bedsit, built into a separate part of the complex. Last Friday, the housemates expected an eviction, but got two instead, but the two that were evicted were not evicted (although the housemates don’t know it) and sent to the bedsit, where there is nothing to occupy them at all except a big wallscreen where they watch their ex-housemates. It is very surreal watching the two girls in the bedsit become utterly involved in the antics of the people they have only known for one week. Both girls in the bedsit are young, relatively naive, and highly strung in different ways. It is totally absorbing just watching their faces watching their television.

Elections for the European Parliament were held last week, on Thursday in this country, and on Sunday in many other countries. Although we in Britain had a higher than usual turnout, the turnout across the continent was down on five years ago (although I’m not quite sure how this was judged, since there were 10 new countries this time round). I think the Socialists have a majority, although, as usual in the European Parliament there are many groups, making many majority combinations possible. Of particular note, however, was the success of the UK Independence Party, dubbed Ukip (pronounced you-kip) which advocates Britain pulling out of the European Union altogether! I think they got 16% of the vote (12 MEP seats) and pushed the LibDems into fourth place (12 MEP seats), even though the LibDems increased their share of the vote unlike the Tories (27 MEP seats) and Labour (19 MEP seats).

15 June

According to my schedule, I am to decide today whether to self-publish Kip Fenn or not. If I decide to go ahead, I’ve got a rough plan of what I will do and when, starting with making a decision, today, on a publishing name and how to handle a Kip Fenn website (part of pikle or not). I spent about two weeks reading Kip Fenn. With nothing much else to do during one day, I could get the best part of two chapters read. But this was only so because there were so few corrections (one or two a page), and almost all of them were proof-reading type corrections, requiring very little thinking or re-writing. I was pleased to find the manuscript in such good condition. And, although I started off making notes about each chapter as to what might need improving or changing, I stopped after two chapters because I had nothing to say. Often, during these weeks, when Ads came into the study, I would exclaim ‘this is brilliant’ - it became a kind of running joke between us, although Ads became increasingly worried about my self-praise! Although I made these boastful exclamations in jest, I would not have done so if I hadn’t been happy with the chapters. If it had been appropriate, I could just as easily have stated ‘this is crap’. Thus, it would be true to say, I remain impressed with my own piece of work. It was only at the end, a day or two after completing my reading of the book, that I was surprised to find an absence of the same enthusiasm I’d been expressing while reading it. I couldn’t explain this to myself nor could I describe or explain it to Adam, although I tried. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the last chapter, other than that it is the last chapter of a biography, and so naturally deals with the end of the subject’s life. And, in fact, I think, by introducing Alicia, I’ve managed to make the last chapter more interesting than it would have been otherwise. I also think - modestly again! - that I’ve managed to tie up a lot of the themes, both personal and political, quite well. So why did I feel a sense of apathy about the book, a sense of ‘so what’. I realise now, while writing, that I did have this sometimes, when I was doing my original corrections and re-editing. I wonder if it’s to do with over-exposure, over familiarity. I don’t know.

None of which helps me move towards a decision.

Adam has been brilliant. Not only was his enthusiasm for Kip Fenn so important during the two or more years I was writing it, but he continues to be interested in the project, and happily talks to me about it whenever I bring up the subject. I asked, for example, the other night whether he thought I should self-publish. He knew all about my schedule and had been party to many other more general discussions on the subject, but in this instance, I put the question to him directly. His immediate response was to express concern that the only force leading me towards the idea of self-publishing was that he, himself, had been so positive about the book. He knows that I’ve not had real enthusiasm about it from anyone else. He knows that Julian has failed to read it, and told my mother he found it boring; he knows how many publishers/agents have rejected it without a kind word; he knows that Fiona’s comment was only faint, almost negligible praise. He also knows that he is just 16, and hardly the best judge in the world. So, I can well understand his concern. It is surely based on knowing the practical consideration that no one has backed my view of the book, but also, perhaps, on not wanting to shoulder any responsibility for my decision. It hadn’t occurred to me, until that moment, that he might worry about this. So, I reassured him - absolutely - that I would still be in the position now of considering self-publishing, whether he liked it or not. The only difference would be that, if he hadn’t liked it, or involved himself with it, I wouldn’t be discussing the project with him now. (I should add there are other things I’ve written in the past which Adam doesn’t much like - he’s not at all in awe of me or my achievements, whatever they might be.)

But then Adam came up with another interesting point. Perhaps, he said, my subconscious won’t let me waste a year’s work, and is directing me towards self-publishing as the only way of validating my effort. There are two ways to look at this. I could say, so what, my subconscious is me. So what, if I’m kidding myself about the worthwhileness of the book, if my consciously-acknowledged motives for publishing do not match up exactly with my sub-conscious motives. Alternatively, I could deny that my conscious self has slipped a shiny pretty veneer on to my sub-conscious motives. I could say that, in fact, I fully expect to lose, more or less, the entire amount of any money I invest in the project, and that although I will be trying to get some wider interest in the project, I fully expect to fail. If I print 1,000, and give away a 100, it’s possible I could sell none at all - NONE AT ALL. I’m aware of this. If, for example, I don’t manage to get a single review anywhere, then no one will buy Kip Fenn from Amazon (which will be the only outlet) without ever having heard of it before. No one would even visit the Kip Fenn page. I could also say that I have already included the pleasure of having a nicely printed copy of Kip Fenn as a factor in my decision-making process - so, in a sense, I’ve already taken account of my vanity and other hidden motivations.

None of which helps me move closer towards a decision than I was yesterday or the day before. But today is the day I’ve set myself to make this decision. Am I brave enough to face the humiliation of selling 0-5 copies or 95-100 copies? Am I strong enough to go through with the marketing efforts, 99-100% of which will be a waste of time. Or, conversely, do I have enough initiative/confidence/whatever to say no, forget Kip Fenn, move on, and find something else to do. The fact is I do not have any other project at the moment (other than ‘Screen Spun’, which is a kind of filler project, because there’s nothing I can do with it when if and when I finish the collection). And, consequently, I’d be back at square one, pulling my hair out trying to decide what to do in the future. Mentally, I’ve not prepared at all for not going ahead with Kip Fenn - and this in itself is advice enough. I mean I’ve always said in the past, about myself, that I need to trust myself (my subconscious!?).

I do make big decisions like this. The idea starts small, and then builds up - through thinking about it, writing about it in my diary, talking about it with friends. I’m sure it’s not a self-deluding process, but a real one, in which I subject my idea to a thorough attack of logic from all sides. This is what I am doing today.

25 June

England is in mourning, again. We went out of Euro 2004 after an astonishing match against Portugal. Sadly, we were again victims of bad luck and/or poor refereeing decisions. Apparently England has lost three times in more than 20 matches, once to Brazil who went on to win the World Cup in South Korea, once against France and once now against Portugal, and in each case it seems as though it was bad luck that defeated us, not being the poorer side. Last night, we led the match from the beginning, and when Portugal equalised near to the end, we scored again in the last minutes of the game, only the goal was disallowed, for no apparently good reason. The game went into extra time. Portugal then scored, and we equalised a few minutes later. And so the game went to penalties. This was the first quarter-final and thus the first time in Euro 2004 when penalties might be needed. Portugal had never faced a penalty shoot-out in a major competition; England has faced four or five and lost all but one of them. The names of the players who missed are etched in the memories of most football fans. Beckham was first up for England. He is the England captain, and one of the most famous footballers in the world, and he’s most famous for his kicking ability. During England’s first match in Portugal, he missed an important penalty against France, which led England to come second in the group, and not first, and thus be drawn against Portugal rather than Greece. And then he missed this penalty too. He kicked the ball and it flew sky high miles over the goal. Fortunately, one of the five Portuguese penalty takers missed one of their shots too, so the score after the set five shots was four each. Still stalemate. Although the Lisbon stadium was packed with home supporters there was still a very sizeable and vocal English contingent too, so the tension was really something special - my own heart was beating fast. This was fantastic entertainment. Vassels, who had come on as substitute for the injured superman, Wayne Rooney, was next to take. After five penalties, it’s sudden death - sudden death, almost inevitably for England. Vassels missed. All English and all Portuguese hearts stopped for the next shot - but cool as you like the Portuguese player slotted the ball past David James. Portugal erupted in happiness, England fell down in tears - again. The analysis this morning crucified the ref, gave Beckham a hard, but not fatal, time, and Sven less of a hard time; it also tried to stay positive looking forward to the World Cup in Germany in 2006. I’m glad it was Portugal that knocked us out. I like it when the home nation wins (unless it’s Germany, France, Italy or Argentina) and I like Portugal - I’d been listening to some of Mariza’s fados (can you say fados?) yesterday.

This evening I’m driving all the way over to Basingstoke for a concert of three Latin American singers.

I’ve spent the week doing a round of corrections on Kip Fenn, and I’ve printed it out on pages as they’ll appear in the book for the first time, 457 of them (there’s another 20 or so for contents and the index). Apparently, it’s most cost efficient to go for multiples of 32, so 480 is my multiple. I’ve set up a bank account for Pikle Publishing, and applied for VAT registration. I had to go the company route, even though it’ll probably only serve for this one venture, because I could save £2-3,000 by being VAT registered, far more than I could ever save by being pernickety over my stationary purchases and other expenses.

Last weekend, before I went off to set up the bank account, I tried to get my accounts in order for the last months of EC Inform, which I’ll have to include with my 2003-04 tax return due in this summer. I made a number of helpline calls, one of which - by a complete coincidence - mentioned ‘overlap relief’. I had no idea what this was, but, because this helpline guy had mentioned it apropos of something else, I trawled back through my previous tax returns and found a figure of some £13,000 for ‘overlap relief’ in 1997. It was to do with the ordained switch over of tax systems (from arrears to current accounting). I had no memory at all of having calculated this figure or written it into a tax return. But having found the figure, I then made more calls, and found that I could offset this entire amount against my last EC Inform profit. In effect, this means I’ll pay no tax on EC Inform’s £19,000 of net profits from November 2002 to June 2003 (I may even get a refund).

July 2004

Paul K Lyons


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INTRO to diaries