Wednesday, July 18, 1984

Fleapit


I restored my room to something like its natural state, removing the TV and the debris of everyone’s meals.

In the afternoon I called round to Maynard Gardens to see Pete. Alex answered the door wrapped in a dirty blanket and said that Pete wasn’t in and had moved a lot of his things out. The downstairs of the Grey House looked semi-derelict, and this irritates me. Sarah now appears to be a permanent fixture there too. Her room (ground floor, at the back) is an untidy fleapit, walls pinned with scraps of paper, drawings, ‘collages,’ etc.

I spent the evening up at the Westdorgan with Lindsey or Susie or Stu or Barry or some combination of all four.

Tuesday, July 17, 1984

Other life


I returned to my other life today, a journey that took nine hours marooned on a coach and no one to talk to, getting back to Westdorgan Road to find my room occupied once more by the TV, numerous dirty plates and ashtrays and Stu, immobile before the screen, fag in hand. Barry was sleeping in my bed.

I don’t think Stu really understood why I was getting so uptight. I suppose my current mania for order and privacy (of belongings if not of person) does appear a little neurotic and overblown. But I can’t help it. It’s hard to pin down the subtle mental change that takes place as I travel the miles from Easterby to Watermouth, and I think really it’s the losing of full mindfulness of home as the familiar topography flows away and melts into flatter and more modern lines, one life flowing out of direct perception (like the scenery), the other flowing in.

Some sort of perspective on that other life.

Lee is coming back to Watermouth on Thursday. He rang me up last night to ask if I wanted to go across but I had too much packing. It was a tranquil sunny evening and later I half-regretted not going. He’s just got back from a weekend in North Wales with his Dad. They visited Portmeirion which was full of Prisoner  cranks saying “Be seeing you” to one another. He spent £6 on ‘Prisonerbilia.’ His Art College course seems to have gone quite well, although he, Gav and Ian Tropp have been ‘referred,’ so he has essays to write over the summer vacation to make up for it.

Jeremy enters the 3rd of a 4-year course at Edgestow in September and he’s staying in Easterby over the summer, despite Steve Bates’s insistent attempts to get him to go to Spain.

Steve is still at Debdenshaw U. doing Chemistry. He was mugged a week last Monday and was almost proud when he told me about it when we went out on Saturday. He doesn’t like me and I’m not too fond of him with his wooden student stereotypes.

Tommy is now at Brynmor Poly.


Richard Houlding works at the tax office in Farnshaw and is in a band, The Metros. When I saw him last he was wearing stone washed jeans elasticated at the ankle, bright red specs, and low cut blue loafer shoes. I thought he’d changed a lot at first, but beneath it all he’s still the same person he was in sixth form.

Peter Wood is working on his Dad’s fruit and vegetable stall in Whincliffe market.

Robin Quinn makes good money working with computers in London . . . he and Tim Moyles went potholing in the Dales at the weekend.

Andrew Boyd is leaving Ecclesley Poly because he doesn’t like the people there and is going to do a journalism apprenticeship at the Echo. He’s going out with Louise Metcalf, and according to Jeremy says he wants to “change her.”

Deborah is still working for an accountant and is still going out with Tony Megson. She’s undecided about taking up a place on an accountancy course at Brynmor in the autumn, her doubts apparently springing as much from her Mother’s keen promotion of the idea rather than from any real misgivings. Needless to say, Tony doesn’t want her to go.

I haven’t heard from Claire since April. I never wrote back in reply to her last letter, a decay in interest that occurred as I realised all my feelings for her were false and overwrought. I was more attracted to the idea of her than the reality of her. I suppose I should give her my new address.


Grant Riley is home for the summer and is planning a new magazine venture with Nik Gordon and intimated that contributions are welcome. A friend of his at Gloucester is making a film and he’s playing the role of Charles Bukowski. Although I keep inviting him to Watermouth and he keeps expressing enthusiasm for the idea, I somehow doubt he’ll ever make it down.

His mate RJ is still living with Jackie in Lockley. Nik is in his last year at Camberwell College of Art.

I reread my journal for January and February of 1983; how becalmed in non-emotion I am now! Then, every day seemed to pass in a blaze of raw hypersensitivity. Lindsey was a symptom of my despair and lack of direction and I think I was in love with her at one point, something I hadn’t felt before, or since . . . But that was over a year ago, I was 18 then. Now I’m 20 and  a little older.

Monday, July 16, 1984

Cull


I went with Dad into town at one, he to work,  me to buy Mum a card and a present for her birthday on Wednesday; I bought a copy of Marc Riley and The Creepers album Cull. I got Mum V. S. Naipaul’s Area of Darkness. I have doubts over how she’ll like it.

I packed at a leisurely pace in the evening.

Dover and Belfast dock workers have joined the stoppage and the High Court declared that the government’s ban on unions at GCHQ contravenes “natural justice.” There’s much talk of “banana skins” and “the deepening industrial crisis” etc., etc.

I watched a World-In-Action programme about MI5 ‘molehunts’ in the 1950s, ‘60s and ’70s. In 1955, MI5 broke into the offices of the Communist Party of Great Britain and stole fifty-five thousand files on membership while the staff were gone, copying them all onto microfilm and returning them before dawn. MI5 found that thirty one MPs and numerous trade unionists and “top public figures” had links with the pro-Soviet CPGB, and it was believed that numerous spies of a similar operational status to Philby and Blunt evaded detection. Even the head of MI5 was a suspect based on strong circumstantial evidence!

Imagination and memory


I went on a walk over Oaklass Moors with Mum and Dad. We set out very early, and were donning our boots and thick socks in Oaklass car park at ten o’clock.

Our route was a familiar one that we’ve done at least a couple of times before so I knew every part of it well. We walked through Oaklass to the waterfall, which is very popular this time of year, filled with lots of tents and cars and families. We struggled up the steep path to the ‘pavement’ of scree at the back of the waterfall and then through the desolate landscape beyond, leaving all the people behind. Oaklass Pond was soon opening up before us, its wooded borders contrasting with the high limestone scarred fells beyond.

We ate our dinner at the water’s edge.

The rest of the walk was a gradual climb beyond the Pond, following a tarmac road some of the way before cutting across the boggy moors to Ewedar Edge. I clambered into Albert Cave and briefly relived my potholing days as I crawled on my belly between boulders to emerge thirty yards away, much to Dad’s amusement. It was warm as we slogged along the foot of Ewedar Edge, the unchanging limestone precipices gleaming remote and glittering in the sun, the call of curlews and the lone silhouette of a hawk high above the rocky skyline.

Dad reminisced about a day out he had had as a fifteen year old, pushing his bicycle up past Ewedar, and the high crags and rock faces had never seemed so awesome and alone to him as then, and he’d wished he’d someone to share the feeling with. . . .

Soon the sun was swallowed up by grey rafts of cloud and we were climbing again, past Cartdale Hall in its bowl of black forbidding hills, overlooked by the dark granite peak of Coneyford Haw. Spots of rain began to fall but we trudged on and on, up and up, past herds of cattle and young calves, through limestone boulders breaking through the turf, up to the very head of the pass and a sweeping panorama back down to Oaklass Pond and beyond to Ainderdale.

In the plains towards Sandhow and Parson’s Moss, a grey pall of rain blotted out all but the faint whaleback outline of hills and threw the distinctive twin peaks of Owl and Black Crag into sharp, dark relief against the all-consuming grey. The rain still spat, and although we were still shadowed by a black cloud bottom its fringes were bright, and we could glimpse placid skies with towering yellow cumuli far away on the horizon.

It was late afternoon by the time we had descended once more to Oaklass for tea and toasted teacakes at Braystone Lodge. The journey home took fifty minutes and those vistas I can never capture in words were relegated once more to the land of imagination and memory.


The country is in the grip of what some would call a crisis. The miners have been on strike for seventeen weeks and the dockers are out now too, tightening their grip with today’s announcement that all lorries are banned from ferry services. Dad is convinced the two strikes are part of a larger plot by “subversives” and “left-wing types” to overthrow the established order.

I find it hard to understand when the leaders of the striking dock-workers are quick to deny there are any political aspects to their strike and that it’s purely economic. I suppose on one hand it’s easy to see why: The union leadership is scared of losing its stake, scared of destroying their bourgeois respectability—scared of making plain what they know deep down to be true. Instead of shrinking from the truth, the union leadership should broadcast it.

No doubt the workers themselves know it.

Striking is obviously political because economic relations dictates political power in the country—employees and employers, workers and state. When scenes of police clad in riot gear battling with stone throwing miners appear on our TVs who can deny that the strike isn’t for purely economic reasons? The miners and the dockers are engaged in a fight with the police, the judiciary and the media—all the apparatus of the State. I doubt they can win—indeed, in most peoples’ eyes they are the villains of the piece anyway.

A compromise, in famous British tradition, will end the dispute and life will again return to normal . . . . I hope I’m wrong.

Saturday, July 14, 1984

Misanthropy


I finally bought my coach ticket and I return to the South on Tuesday.

I can’t say I’ll be sorry to go. A fortnight is just long enough here. Mum and Dad went to Rob and Carol’s in the morning to fix up a shelf but I stayed bed-ridden until the very minute of their return, throwing clothes on in a frantic shame (it being 1.30 p.m.), and as a result, I didn’t get out of the house until three. I was quite looking forward to the evening; I planned to meet Deborah, Jeremy and Steven Bates in Farnshaw, but as it was only Jeremy and Steve turned up.

Peter Wood, plus a large group of his friends and other Egley Grammar School types, occupied one corner of the Red Grouse. My entry into the pub’ was greeted with jeers of ribald laughter, so I stared back unsmilingly. Steve has confessed to Jeremy that he finds me arrogant, so things began a little awkwardly but alcohol soon loosened us up; we met Richard Houlding in another pub and went with him to the Builder’s Arms and from there to a curry house.

The macho men were out in force, their aggression fueled by alcohol, and one particularly foul example of humanity called Glen threw his weight around, threatening to “deck” the stony-faced waiters who clustered around him. As we left, a separate group of soul boys scrapped it out on the pavement and I cursed them and all of humanity out loud.


 I think my enthusiasm for this narrative is lacking somewhere, because deep down perhaps I know I’ve reached the end of the line with this. I must not lose all voice while I struggle to resolve my ‘problem,’ which to outside eyes appears as no big deal, but because I keep thinking how I want to go beyond the simple day-to-day reportage level of usual diaries and desperately want my writing to yield something other than half hearted characterisations of the typical days events.

In short I want to become a writer—this is the crux of my dissatisfaction. Because of these things and more I must discard the present format. . . . Four years and no progression, no evolution onto better things.

The days glide innocuously past and present no real challenges or remarkable events. All the better, because my romantic notions of home demand that things here remain perpetually the same. It’s a pity but true. I’ve noticed even at this early stage (my past not being too far removed from my present), that Easterby is changing.

Old familiar landmarks are being demolished, roads are altered, junctions widened, and to my horror I find myself adopting a reactionary attitude, which is one aspect of my mental outlook I particularly want to change. Just for a moment the full impact of Dad’s influence on me emerges. I doubt it’s something I shall ever be free of.
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