PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 2005 - SEPTEMBER
DIARY 84: September - November 2005
2 September 2005
I need to try and be as specific and clear as I can about choosing to sell Russet House, and so I’m going to try and pin down some of the nitty gritty. If I put Russet House on the market and get an acceptable offer, what happens. 1) I have to make a decision on where to live, maybe Brighton. 2) I have to decide whether to rent or buy. 3) I have to decide on how many of my possessions to move and to put into storage. 4) I have to find a place to move to (lots of trips to Brighton or wherever). 5) I need to make a database of all companies I deal with, and advise them of a change of address. 6) I need to close down and start up utilities, including, especially pikle.
Reasons to sell Russet House: 1) If I manage the sale properly, I could cover my living expenses for the next couple of years, just by the fall in property prices. 2) To get out of Elstead, out of my current patterns, to move on. 3) I can’t bring any enthusiasm to developing RH further. I worry about the next door plot. I’m really fed up of the limitations of the garden. 4) There’s no culture nearby. 5) It’s cold in the winter. 6) It’s too big for me alone.
Reasons not to sell Russet House: 1) It’s in a very good position, close to amenities, close to London. 2) It’s a very pretty house, and I love lots of things about it. 3) Everything about RH is convenient, space, garage, light, privacy, coolness in summer, quality of building. 4) No reason to be anywhere else.
4 September 2005
I’m not sure any of this is helping. I can’t really pin my thinking down as clearly as I would like to be able to. I talked with Barbara on Friday night, and she was adamant that it was a bad idea if I went to live in Brighton. The conversation got quite heated, and she eventually put the phone down. But I should think about the consequences of moving to Brighton, albeit temporarily, since Adam is going there too. As Cora pointed out, it does seem a bit strange. But, if Adam were going to Manchester or Warwick, I would still be going to Brighton. I’m not sure I care whether other people believe that. I suppose I do if Barbara or Adam believe it. Do I believe it? Absolutely. I’ve no doubts my focus on Brighton is simply that it’s the most interesting place I can think of to live at this moment. And no one can accuse me of manipulating Adam into going to Brighton, since I was the one that got most upset about Adam’s failure to press his wish to go to Warwick sufficiently.
All that aside, what are the consequences? Adam may travel back to Guildford less often, but that would be the case wherever I was living, and, in fact, he might travel back to Guildford more often if he was seeing me regularly in Brighton; i.e. he wouldn’t have to alternate his trips. If I was in Brighton, there is no reason why I would see him from one week to the next. I doubt we’d run into each other very often, or at all. Once he realises I’m not going to be in his face, he might actually like to have me nearby. We do get on well, and talk a lot; and I don’t see why he and I wouldn’t want that to continue. What might happen in the summer holidays? He will need to live somewhere, and this might cause strife with B, if he wanted to live with me. But, if I was in London, it would be no different.
I really can’t see that it would be a bad thing for any of us, if I moved to Brighton. And, in fact, I think there could be some positives all round - not least if I end up buying a property that Adam could then use, one way or another, in his second and third years.
So back to the main event. To put RH on the market or not? I’ll miss the space, and the garden. I’ll miss the kudos of having a large house, a pretty house. But then I have so few visitors, that who cares. And - interestingly - because of the last year with Cora, I have actually enjoyed showing off/using/sharing the house with her when she’s been here. I might have preferred she took more part, but it has been fantastic to have this place, available always for us to be relaxed and free at the weekends. But I look forward to being warm in the winter, and not having to freeze when I get up in the night, or heat rooms I’m not using. I look forward to reducing my overall responsibilities, and my frontage on the world. I am not as big as this house any more. I do not need all this space. I do not want all this space.
Moving to Brighton opens up lots of superficial opportunities, and I could do with a few superficial opportunities. A little bit of colour around me, would not go amiss. I don’t like the fact that the train goes into Victoria, not Waterloo. I love taking the train into Waterloo and walking along the South Bank, or across the river to Covent Garden. Nor will I like the cost of trips to London. Further away from Heathrow, but Gatwick is as easy.
What about what happens to me. I put RH on the market tomorrow, 5 September. Immediately, I start work on making the house and garden look better, full spring clean. This takes the best part of the week. I start putting together a database of all admin/address-sensitive connections. Do I write to Brussels based companies for writing work? Do I do another Kip Fenn mailing? Do I continue applying for jobs? Yes, to all the above. If I get an offer on RH, a good one, one I accept and have faith in, then I’ll head on down to Brighton and look at potential places to buy/rent. Must also look for the best place to put the money.
5 September 2005
So, what happened somewhere around mid-morning yesterday, Sunday, was that I made the decision to sell Russet House. I’m going to call the estate agent in an hour or so, then I’m going to start on odd jobs around the house and garden to improve the property’s look. It’s a big decision, and it’s difficult not to be superficially excited by it, by the thought of lots of activity and change, But then, when I re-realise what the activity and change is about, and that I’m actually downsizing, downbeating my life, trying to cope with my pathetic situation, all the excitement evaporates in a second. I am making do, not moving forward.
My fingers are full of pyracantha thorn wounds. There’s a gorgeous display of red and yellow berries on the pyracantha bushes that line the east side of my property, along the fence. The plants are mostly ones I’ve planted from cuttings, and they’ve just grown like mad. Some are taller than my apple trees. But trying to keep them trained back along the fence is a real pain - the thorns are so big and sharp. I’d let them grow wild but I need to pin them back so the garden looks reasonable, and to provide as much as a screen as possible against the mess next door, in Curlew Cottage’s garden. I’ve also painted the plaster repair in the porch ceiling, a job which had needed doing for months and months; and patched up the garage ceiling with hardboard (the plasterboard came down as a result of the leak from years ago, before I had the flat roofs replaced). The estate agent will take photos tomorrow, and prepare the details, and, I suppose, I might get my first interested customers next week, so I’ll have to do a few odd jobs in the house also.
Went to see Andy and Susie yesterday. It was an unusual invitation. They’ve invited me before when there’s been a bit of a party, or at least some other people there, but this time they asked me for Sunday lunch on my own. It was a pleasant afternoon. We sat in the sun, and talked about Cora, and Adam, and the Balfour Declaration, and Andrew’s attempts to sell Jack’s property in Ireland, and Darcy. And we played water fights with Darcy a bit too. I timed the trip back perfectly to arrive at Ash Manor at 7pm, only to discover that the volleyball session this week wasn’t there at all, but at Spectrum. So I came home, took a couple paracetamol (the wine and the hot sun had done me in) and went to bed early, only to be woken by tremendous thunderstorms. One thunder crack sounded like an explosion in the garden, it was huge. And the lightning - visible through my bedroom window - went on for ages.
Cora has invited me for supper on Wednesday to celebrate our one year non-anniversary. Things between us are a bit confused.
Katrina was a bitch, a real bitch. She wiped out New Orleans. Most of the city’s inhabitants were evacuated in good time, before the dykes (levees) were breached and the place flooded, but there were lots of people left, and it took the US authorities five days to mount any kind of effective rescue mission. It’s not clear how many people died, over 1,000 perhaps, but the whole city has been wrecked and abandoned.
Last I heard from Adam, he was in Barcelona and had just avoided being pickpocketed. He’d also fallen asleep on a train and ended up half a day’s ride in the wrong direction.
Sunday 11 September 2005
I’m sitting on the sofa in the lounge, with the portable on my lap. It’s 10:35am and the fourth day of the last test match (at the Oval) on Channel Four. Assuming the match lasts into a fifth day (which it almost certainly will, even though most, if not all, the other test matches didn’t) tomorrow will be the last day, for at least four years, that a test match will be broadcast live on terrestrial television; and, as I’m unlikely to subscribe to Sky in the next four years, I won’t be watching any test match cricket into the foreseeable future. Given that this Ashes series has been one of the most exciting ever, and that test match cricket has become trendy all of a sudden, an excited debate has arisen as to whether test matches should be on the privileged list of protected sports events that must be aired on free terrestrial television - I think, it’s because test matches were taken off the list (when England wasn’t doing very well in international cricket) that Sky was able to outbid Channel 4 for the next period of television rites. Of course, the BBC will continue to broadcast ball-by-ball coverage on the radio - thankfully. Cricket is, of course, different from any other sport, in that matches take so long to complete, and, at the same time, are very weather dependant.
I am more involved with this match than other matches because I was there, at the Oval, yesterday. All day, I was there with Barbara. Val, her colleague at work, had bought a whole batch of tickets a long time ago, but two of the party opted out, and she offered the tickets to B. They were £40 each. B didn’t invite me initially, thinking she might take Adam, but when she realised Adam would be away, she suggested I might go with her. Alistair, it seems, isn’t the slightest bit interested in cricket, but she and I have always chatted about test matches. Occasionally, when she was living in London, her weird gay friend Tim used to take her to Lords, so I suppose her interest stems from that.
Unfortunately for her and for me, and for everyone at the Oval yesterday, it was one of the most boring of cricket days there has been in the ashes series this year. The players were more off than on, because of rain, and there were only two wickets all day, and only 150 odd runs. All through the lunch and tea intervals, the weather was fine; and the weather was fine for a lot of time when the covers were actually on. It’s really odd that they can play cricket through light fine rain, but if the covers are on, the umpires will never consider coming back if there is any rain at all, and will almost always wait 20 minutes or so longer after it has completely stopped before they’ll come out to inspect the pitch. Thereafter, it’s always another 15-20 minutes before the players come back on.
I can’t remember actually being at the Oval before, though I seemed to know that it’s a spacious ground, perhaps even with people sitting on the grass outside of the boundaries. Not so today. It’s a very closed-in pitch, with a huge modern stand at one end, curving round the Vauxhall End, and the old Pavilion at the Pavilion End, and banks of stands between them on both sides. The closest seats are within feet of the boundary rope, almost all the way round. And outside of the stands, within the actual Oval grounds, there is very limited space. You can walk all the way round, past tea stalls, beer bars, betting shops, merchandise sellers, but at times the space between outer and inner walls is very limited. There is nowhere to sit down outside (unlike Lords which has various grassy areas), and very little shelter if it rains. The whole place is a bit ugly, and claustrophobic to be honest.
Our seats were square of the wicket, and most of the time I couldn’t see the ball, so - as with most sport - I couldn’t follow the actuality of the game anywhere near as well as I can on television. But there is so much else to occupy the eyes and ears. For most of the day, for example, Pietersen was fielding close to us, and so we could observe his rather haughty manner (and a strange little hop he does as he walks in towards the wicket in time with the bowler). Because he’s missed a few catches during his short career for England, he was roundly cheered every time he fielded a ball successfully. Earlier in the day, before play started, I was standing down by the boundary line and was able to watch Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath warm up. They look quite different in person from on television, which is strange, because the English players look just the same.
There were a lot of beer drinkers there, and by the afternoon they were quite vociferous, whether there was any play or not, messing around, shouting out, playing games with balloons and balls. It was as though football louts had invaded a genteel cricket game. No it wasn’t AS IF they had, for they actually had.
I didn’t really talk much to Val’s crowd. I don’t know why. All day, I never felt fully well. There was a threat of a headache which hung over me most of the time, and, by the time I got home I was ready to die from the pain. (As soon as ibuprofen lessened the pain, I fell asleep - around 8pm - and slept through until 6-7am the next day.) Also, I felt claustrophobic, and wanted to be walking around rather than sat down when there was no play. Moreover, I should say, no one talked to me at all, or made any effort to communicate. I’d prepared a nice a picnic lunch for B and I: mostly stuff - cheese/quiche/trout - bought from Secretts, but with freshly made bread, and cucumbers/apples from the garden. But again, because of the space restrictions, there was nowhere nice to eat it, and so we just sat where we were, and I tried to manipulate the food in and out of the bag. Overall, though, it was a good day. It was very sweet of B to take me.
Adam rang last night, just after I got in from the Oval. He’s been to Casablanca and Marrakesh and Rabat already, and is loving it.
It’s been a very grey day. At the Oval, England bowled out the Aussies for six less than they scored, and the Aussies have England at 40 for 1. They need to win this match to draw the series and retain the ashes. England only need to draw this match to win the series and the ashes. And if this match is a draw, then Australia only have themselves to blame. Hayden batted so slowly for his 100 you could be forgiven for thinking his name was Boycott; and then Australia were twice offered bad light when it wasn’t that bad. So, tomorrow’s the last day, of the match, of the series of live cricket on television. And I’ve felt quite grey all day. I’ve done nothing else but write diary, write a letter and watch the cricket. There are other things I should write about, but I’m feeling grey, dull.
I saw Cora in the week. She invited me for supper to celebrate our one year anniversary. It was a bit of a non-anniversary since we’re not together as such any more, but we had a very pleasant supper, and then we made love for most of the rest of the evening - with as much passion and loving as we’ve ever had. In fact, considering we used to make love half a dozen times a week before, it’s no surprise we go at it a bit more urgently now when we do manage to get our clothes off. It’s a bit of a dance. Neither of us wants to carry on the relationship just for sex (well I suppose I wouldn’t mind - beggars can’t be choosers) but we do find it difficult to keep our hands off each other. I think it’s a fairly balanced thing, I mean Cora likes the sex at least as much as I do. I don’t find it (that we like each other so much sexually) frightening, but I think Cora does.
I had a couple of things I wanted to say about recent news. Firstly, I’m so pissed off at the way the media (well it’s the BBC mostly) is reporting the New Orleans tragedy. It just goes on and on and on about it, as though New Orleans were part of Britain. Why are the editors of the ‘Today’ programme not introducing news from Germany or Spain or Italy or Poland, our European partners, politically and geographically. It’s as though they, the editors, are too damn lazy; they just carry on reporting endlessly about the same one big issue because it’s easy. Barbara put it very well when I was griping to her on the train up to London. She said that whenever the media get a bone, they gnaw it to death. That’s exactly it; the reporters/editors have no real initiative, they just carry on gnawing old bones rather than finding new ones.
And then there was thing about John Humphrys. I used to tolerate him, up until the latest Iraq war. Since then, he’s gone off the rails. He’s arrogant, and self-righteous, and he cannot keep his unjustifiable and prejudiced disdain for politicians, but especially Tony Blair’s gang, out of the tone and direction of his questioning. It appears that, during a private lecture, he implied that, basically, all politicians were liars, and, somehow, this was reported in the press. The BBC then chastised him publicly for the comments. There was a question about it on ‘Any Questions’, and what horrified me was the way three of the panelists and the entire audience pandered to a kind of common populist view, in support of Humphrys. And I bet Humphrys doesn’t realise that this kind of popular, sheep-like support is really not that different from the kind of support that ends up voting near-sociopaths as winners on ‘Big Brother’. Only Clare Fox, who I listen to sometimes on ‘The Moral Maze’, talked sense, but her views were entirely dismissed by the others. She accepted that the whole thing had been handled wrongly (the private speech should never have been made public, the BBC shouldn’t have reacted so strongly etc), but, she accepted, that there was an issue here, i.e. that unelected hacks set themselves up at the same level as politicians, and they hack away at them, without any respect for their position or accomplishments or public service, and, in so doing, undermine the public’s general perception of politicians.
13 September 2005
England managed to bat through most of the last day of the final Ashes test match, and, thereby, draw the match and win the series by two to one. The bland draw did win the Ashes for England, and the result was headline news on almost every news programme, and on every front page this morning. There is a celebration in Trafalgar Square today, and more presentations will take place at Lords this afternoon. Andrew Flintoff was named England man of the series, and Shane Warne Australian of the series. While Flintoff is definitely a key reason that England are so good today, he is not the only reason. However - and none of the commentaries picked up on this either - Australia would have been very roundly defeated without Shane Warne. Although he is close to retirement (this will be his last tour of England, for example) and has been playing for Australia for a decade and a half, he delivered his best test bowling figures ever in this Ashes series. Although this is a reflection on his brilliance, it is also reflection on Australia’s near total reliance on him to knock over English wickets - England’s batsmen were too good for all the other Australian bowlers. In the first innings of the Oval test, he took the first four English wickets; this is highly unusual, since, more often than not, it’s usually the seamers that bowl out the openers and high order batsmen.
Adam, meanwhile, is back in Spain, having loved the Morocco experience. His inter-rail pass runs out on Thursday, I think, so he and Max are aiming to be in Lisbon by then. He flies back on Sunday.
‘The Guardian’ has revamped itself - radically. Over the last year or two, most daily broadsheets have reduced their size to tabloid; but the ‘Guardian’ has gone European, to a mid-size, called Berliner. And, in doing so, it’s changed a lot about itself. Full colour on every page; a new font; new design. It’s going to take some getting used. I am already, though, finding it a little heavier to read than in the past. I don’t like that stories on the front page are continued elsewhere in the paper. There seem to be more opinion pieces, which have never interested me very much. And G2 is now much smaller (half the size of the Berliner). Reserving judgement.
Thursday 15 September
I was travelling on a train, and sitting next to Prince Charles. I kept thinking I must talk to him, engage him in conversation, and tell him about Kip Fenn - but I didn’t. I vaguely recall we might have talked about my trousers being tucked into my socks. A bit later I realised it wasn’t Prince Charles at all (or he had changed) and was one of his sons who was going to see his brother, whose birthday it was. I asked if he had bought him a present, and he said yes and he told me what he’d bought (some classical musical in a CD set).
After remembering and writing down the above paragraph early this morning, I heard on the news that it was Harry’s 21st birthday today. I did put the radio on early this morning, and dozed for an hour and a half before I got up. So this is proof positive of how the subconscious absorbs external information and turns it into dreams.
It’s a grey wet day, a kind of foretaste of winter to come. Horrible. When I think of the forthcoming winter, I feel glad to be selling this house. A couple from Wormley just came round to view it. They were so dour, and so uncommunicative, and they spent so little time here, I couldn’t imagine them being the slightest bit interested. The agent hasn’t yet put up a board, but the house should be advertised in the local paper tomorrow, so, hopefully there will be visitations/interest at the weekend. I’m not doubting my decision to sell at all. Occasionally, I suddenly remember that - all going well - I won’t be here in a couple of months, and the chances are I’ll be in a fairly grotty flat in Brighton, still completely unsure about what to do with the rest of my life
I had a rather interesting afternoon/evening on Tuesday. It was based around a visit with Cora to the Goethe Institute, in South Kensington, at 6:30. When Adam was on his way to Morocco, I did a little research to see if I could find an address for the Associated Press in Rabat. My thinking was that Adam might be able to scrounge a meal or a beer from the current AP correspondent simply by going along and saying he was the son of Mike Goldsmith’s nephew - Mike being, I’m sure, still well remembered there. I didn’t find an address, but I did discover that Mike, with the German film director Werner Herzog, had made a documentary about Bokassa, the dictator that had arrested and tortured Mike; and that this documentary - ‘Echoes from a Sombre Empire’ - was being shown in a few days time at the Goethe Institute as part of a Herzog festival. I mentioned in to Cora, who expressed an interest in seeing it.
I went to London by train in the afternoon, thinking I should take advantage of the trip to do other things. I tubed to Green Park, and walked through Green Park, along a path I may never have walked on before (running parallel to Piccadilly), across Hyde Park Corner, and through Hyde Park to a tea house by the Serpentine. It wasn’t a very long walk, but I felt tired, so took tea, and read a book (while trying to fend pigeons away from a tray of leftovers). Then, walking along the Serpentine I recalled a time 25 years ago when I’d come here with Harold and Rosie to do some clowning. I think I only remember it because I was editing my diary entry about it not so long ago. There’s lots of ducks and Canadian geese along the embankment, lots of women pushing babies in pushchairs, lots of rollerskaters skating for fun or as a means of transporting themselves home from work. A couple of row boats were on the water. I saw a sign that priced the boats at £4 for half an hour and £6 for an hour.
At the Serpentine Gallery (which has changed substantially since I was last there), I was not impressed by the Oliver Payne & Nick Relph films playing simultaneously in various darkened rooms. The bumpf says that these two artists ‘chronicle contemporary culture through their eclectic style of film-making, which is part documentary, part music video, part surveillance tape and part video diary’. I had a look at four or five different films (admittedly only for a few minutes each), and I thought they were little better than an art student might have created in the 1970s or 1980s. For example, a recent work captured, on grainy crackly film, a young man and a woman sitting on a sofa watching the television. The film cuts backwards and forwards between various views of the couple and the tame wildlife documentary on the television, with carefully counterpointed backgrounds of a mounted stag’s head for example. Then, with one switch back to the TV, the audience sees that the documentary film is now showing the vicious killing of wildlife by men with guns, and their pleasure in the killing, but when the camera turns back to the couple on the sofa, they are now kissing and not watching it any more! Nothing I saw made me think the artists had anything original to say, nor any skill at film-making.
I moved on, swiftly, intending to get to the V&A before it shut. But, on the way, I chanced by an open door to the National Geographic Society, where a small exhibition was waiting for me (and me alone, since no one else came when I was there). It contained a few early 20th century photographs of the Caribbean by Sir Harry Johnston (1858-1927), most of them first seen in a book called ‘The Negro in the New World’. Seven years ago, a Dr Petrine Archer-Straw curated a full exhibition of NGS’s Johnston photographs, which was shown at the NGS and in the Caribbean. The mini-exhibition I saw seemed to be a small reprise of it. A few captions explained that Johnston’s photographs were interesting not only for what they recorded of Caribbean life, but because he viewed and showed black people quite sympathetically, yet in a kind of Darwinian hierarchy below white people. A debate has raged about the photos, apparently, because some see them as racist by today’s standards, and others prefer to see Johnston as an enlightened individual, ahead of his time on race issues. This little exhibition - focused on farm life, the environment and markets - also included a few comments by those whose memories had been stirred by the original exhibition. These photographs were taken quite contemporaneously with those by Marc Ferrez in Brazil, but I much prefer the Ferrez photos. There was only one by Johnston which I really liked.
And then I did go to the V&A. I thought it would close at 5, and I’d miss it, but it didn’t shut until 5:45 so I had nearly an hour there. I started in the South Asia room, thinking to find some Sri Lankan treasures, but I wowed at the tapestries and swords and sandstone screens. I visited the wonderfully ornate William Morris and Gamble rooms, which I don’t recall even knowing were there before. The Morris room is immediately identifiably Morris, because of the design of its green and gold plasterwork, stained glass windows and gilded ceiling. Next door is the larger Gamble room, which is one of the finest examples of high Victorian decoration. The room is completely tiled and features a painted enamel ceiling and stained glass windows. They are sufficiently exotic today to justify the absence of any exhibits, but in the late Victoria era, both these rooms were used to serve refreshments (they were built and designed to do so, with many illustrations, and even texts on some windows, inspired by food).
Strolling back towards the exit, having perambulated a long route through the huge museum, I passed by a long gallery with wrought iron exhibits of many types, and from many ages (including lots of firebacks, crudely made from moulds in the sand, often as a side product at the blast furnaces set up to manufacture cannons - many of these were in the Surrey Weald I learned recently on my course).
Cora arrived not long after me at the Goethe Institute (which is opposite Imperial College). She was looking slim and pretty and happy to see me. I was happy to see her, am always happy to see her. We sat outdoors overlooking a small park, watching a tiny dog, people playing with frisbees, and had time for a drink before the film at 6:30. I thought we might be the only two people at the screening, but there were 30 or so others there. This is how ‘Echoes from a Sombre Empire’ was billed: ‘Journalist Michael Goldsmith re-visits the Central African Republic where Jean-Bédel Bokassa had him tortured and sentenced to death. This documentary is unusual in that it is Goldsmith and not Herzog himself who conducts the interviews with the dictator’s family and enemies. Whilst the self-fashioning of Bokassa is real, including the crowning of himself as ‘emperor’ of his country, fragments of the dialogues are invented. The Herzogian hero is here split into a positive and a negative figure: the sympathetic survivor and the apparently mad ‘king’.’
This is quite a grand analysis of a fairly crummy documentary. The print we saw was awful, crackly and lined; and the music, some of it exquisite once upon a time, was so poorly reproduced that it grated constantly on the ear. The film is, in essence, a sequence of interviews conducted by Mike with people who were involved with Bokassa in one way or another, intercut with lots of original footage of Bokassa at various points in his life. Very incidental to the story was Mike’s own experience. He does provide the very flimsiest of details about his arrest and incarceration, as part of the conversations with his interviewees, but much is left out, and this is most definitely not Mike’s story. It’s also worth noting that Mike is not the most incisive or entertaining of interviewers; and Herzog has done nothing to add any pace to the film. It’s all quite turgid and tedious. And where there might have been a really interesting documentary about Bokassa, his rise and fall, the politics and reality of it all, or indeed about Mike, Herzog just gives us a dull collection of interviews and old footage. Sorry Mike, sorry Werner, that’s what I think.
By the evidence of the film festival brochure, since his famous art-house film in the 1970s and early 1980s, Herzog has found a niche for himself making off-the-wall documentaries, often, presumably, without too much money. Take ‘Incident at Loch Ness’ released last year. This is how it is billed: ‘This film of the making of what appears to be a Herzog documentary about the Loch Ness Monster features amusing scenes in which Herzog as the director accuses his producer Zak Penn of not telling him which scenes are staged. Incident, in turn, is directed by Penn and produced by both, Herzog and Penn. This apparent mock-documentary takes on the form of a horror thriller in which nobody is sure any longer what is staged and what is real.’ It sounds like the kind of thing I would have loved 20 years ago!
After the film, Cora and I strolled to South Kensington where we had a less than fantastic Indian meal. We then sat in a bus shelter waiting for a bus to Green Park, from where I could catch a tube to Waterloo and she could catch one to Willesden. But the bus took ages to come, and we had a little dance, of words and facial gestures, about whether I should go back to Willesden with her. This is quite hard to manage, since we are in different places. We both, apparently, like being together, and we particularly like being in bed together; and yet we have split up as a couple. I feel that I’ve adjusted to our break-up, and can quite happily see Cora as often as she wants to see me. Cora, however, worries about the fact we are still seeing each other, and having sex. So far, since my return from Greece, it’s once a week. But one minute she’s worrying about her own position in carrying on the relationship in this kind of half-mast way, and the next, she’s worrying because she thinks she might be leading me on, and that I might resent her in the future when the weekly thing, or whatever, does stop. I constantly reassure her that she shouldn’t worry about me (as I did her all the way through the relationship), yet it doesn’t always stop her worrying because she needs to/wants to worry about it. And, I think, it’s easier for her to justify carrying on seeing me, by telling herself it’s to ease my pain!! All very complicated. But there in the bus stop, with us being warm with each other, somehow the idea that I could go back to Willesden was raised. Neither of us did it explicitly, but it got acknowledged, and then there were the little gleams in the eyes when the idea was accepted, and the little pouts when it wasn’t (I’m speaking for both of us). And then, once the conversation norm had become that I would go back with her (i.e. and not go home) suddenly doubts and self-consciousness crept into Cora’s face and words. And then I accused her of playing games, and she got upset, because she hates to think that she might play games.
I suppose I should have stuck to my guns, and gone home. But we have such a nice time together, and we touch and are warm with each other, and then a kiss comes, and then our tongues kiss, and all we want to do is get home, be naked, and make love. It’s very hard to resist, especially without a good reason. I tell Cora that if she’s really clear that she wants this to stop, then she just has to tell me. I can be disciplined about it. I told her as much when we first met - that I would never stand in her way if she wanted to separate, I would never make it difficult for her. But she doesn’t know her own mind, and she is conflicted over her reasons for calling an end to the relationship.
Any how, I did end up going back to her flat, and we had - as we almost always do - delicious sex. We made love twice before sleeping, and then a third time in the morning. I was depleted for the rest of the day, but I’m not going to complain. If I could have loving and sex like that once a week for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy man - a bit like the narrator in my story ‘Loving Alex’. I told Cora she had a gift for friendship, and a gift for loving. It’s true, it’s what I feel about her. There’s much about her that’s gorgeous.
When I got home late Wednesday morning there was a letter from Gail, saying she’ll be in London in mid-October. It’ll be the first time we’ve met in nearly 25 years.
Other very slight coincidences slide together. I’ve only recently re-established contact with Harvey, and the same day an email arrived (in response to one from me) in which he tells me he’s now with a woman called Sylvie. I’m currently typing up my diary from 1982, when I was living in Iverson Road. An Australian girl called Sylvie has just moved in, and I am about to start an affair with her. It was while I was in Iverson Road, that Harvey and I were good friends, it’s when he was arrested and tried for blackmail; moreover Harvey is the only friend I’ve ever had who has met Gail (them both being sculptors).
17 September 2005
I am talking to Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London. He says he purchased a copy of ‘Kip Fenn’ and read it. I am astonished but have the presence of mind to ask him what he thinks about it, explaining that I’ve had far too little feedback. He declines to comment.
I have been depressed about Kip Fenn again recently. In ‘The Guardian’ there were several stories directly related: Image Control - The plethora of illegal pornography on the internet requires international policing; Does Dyslexia exist? Not according to education experts due to appear on a Channel 4 documentary. . . They argue dyslexia is an emotional construct used, in many cases, to save children who are poor from embarrassment; A hurricane produces anarchy. Decivilisation is not as far away as we like to think. Also there’s lots of talk at present about the UN’s 60th birthday, and the need to increase the amount of aid to the developed world!!!
Days, weeks, months disappearing into the void. Now this house is for sale, I’ve got a perfect excuse to wile away the days, always waiting or getting the house ready for viewers. A youngish couple came round yesterday morning. They live in Elstead already but want a bigger garden. They seem very nice, very cultured; and they may come again soon. Another Elstead couple are coming at lunchtime today.
And Adam returns today. He should be here by 2 or 3.
Elections in Germany tomorrow. Interesting. The country could have its first female Chancellor.
20 September 2005
I’ve fallen into a rather deep depression - been crying today in fact - and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious cause (over and above all the main ones that are ever present). Already at the weekend, I felt very short of zest; but this was very surprising because Adam returned on Saturday after his longest ever sojourn away. I had felt very little excitement during the week about his return, and by Saturday I was already in the doldrums. His arrival and presence occupied me, but underneath I was not feeling strong, and that lack of chirpiness has only worsened to the point today where I’m crying.
Hung Parliament in Germany, although I’m not sure they call it ‘hung’. The two main parties have won almost the same number of seats and so both Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schroeder have been claiming they are the rightful Chancellor. All will depend, though, on which of them can patch together a sustainable coalition. The big problem, a BBC report says, is that the two obvious coalitions - the governing SPD plus Greens, or the Christian Democrats with the pro-business Free Democrats - cannot form a winning majority. Thus unlikely alliances are being considered, not least a so-called grand alliance of the SPD and the Christian Democrats together.
Adam returned from the Continent, his hair bleached nearly white, his face reddy brown, and looking fairly ragged. I suspect he wore the same pair of jeans and the same shoes non-stop for four weeks (occasionally taking them off to sleep, if he was staying in a hostel). Most of his tales concerned railway journeys, stations, expensive sandwiches. He had a great time in Morocco, really loved the different culture. And things seem to have gone well with Max, who seems to have talked a lot about Bach and English grammar for some reason.
26 September 2005
Moany, whiney, grey, lethargic, pathetic, that’s what I am these days. My life has come to a standstill. I’d love to blame it on external circumstances, or internal ones, but the truth is far more prosaic. Where I am now is simply a product of the choices I’ve made in the past. I do look back on the past (often, in fact, in editing my diaries), and there’s a lot there which makes me feel good. But it doesn’t help very much, because I still have to face the fact that I’ve nothing to do today, or tomorrow.
I was vaguely hoping I might get an offer on the house today. This would have allowed me to think I was still in control by the skin of my teeth: I may have left it until the very last moment (effectively, Adam left home yesterday to make his own way in the world) but I could still have said I’d managed to move on to the next stage of my life. There have been about a dozen viewings, and one couple has seen the house twice; but, as yet, there doesn’t seem to be a sniff of an offer.
This morning I received a call from someone called Henry at Emery & Orchard. I’ve spoken to loads of people at Emery & Orchard so far, but not, as far as I know, one called Henry. Well this Henry is a special Henry, because it’s the very Henry that sold me the house in the first place. He was working with Halifax at the time, and I’ve always remembered him as being very instrumental in helping me find and buy this place, even though he was being paid by the seller. We chatted about that bit of business, and he’s coming tomorrow to show a client round.
Adam has gone to live in Brighton. Barbara took him yesterday morning.
I’ve just finished reading a book, and it’s the first book I’ve really enjoyed for a long time. It’s called ‘The Mapmaker’s Wife’ and was written by an American journalist Robert Whitaker. It tells the story of a French expedition to Spanish Peru in the middle of the 18th century to carry out scientific experiments near the equator. The expedition lasted the best part of 10 years, and was replete with difficulties and adventures. There is much of interest in the detail, about early colonial Peru, about the ways of life, about scientific expeditions, about the individuals involved; and one realises that the details are being so well relayed, so expertly knitted together, that one just relaxes and is carried along for the ride.
28 September 2005
There were two jobs advertised in ‘The Guardian’ on Monday which interested me enough to cut them out, and plan to apply. One was for a government correspondent for a stable of magazines, and the other was for a senior managing editor for the British Ecological Society. I put off considering them too carefully yesterday, but I’ve done so this morning, and come to the conclusion that I haven’t a chance in bat’s hell (bat’s hell??) of getting either of them. It’s very discouraging. When I look through my jobs folder, I find that I’ve applied casually for a dozen or so jobs, some managing editors, some contract writers, without so much as a thank you letter, let alone an interview. Looking back, the fact that I got an interview for the job at the RSC (a year ago now) seems quite remarkable. I’ve just read through the letter I wrote even earlier for the SciDev job. It was a good letter; and when I went to have a look at the SciDev site, I noticed that the managing editor they did employ is no longer there, and the site itself hasn’t really developed at all.
So I’m left with few choices. I’d like to do something more on Kip Fenn, but I’ve really run out of ideas/options. I could write to a dozen Brussels institutions in search of a job or writing work or I could send my cv off to a dozen recruitment agencies in London, but I don’t have the . . . I can’t think of the right word . . . need/drive to do so. So what else can I do, sitting here, stuck in Elstead. I think I’m just going to have to spend the next couple of weeks doing a bit more Diary Junction.
Paul K Lyons
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