Thursday, February 24, 1983

Dread hand of sloth

I missed another tutorial today, my first for American Lit., but luckily for me, it was cancelled anyway because Miriam H. was ill. I haven’t even looked at Uncle Tom’s Cabin yet.

Last night Pete and I went down to SocSci just as a crucial meeting about the occupation was breaking up, people streaming past us as we hung about in the foyer. SocSci was occupied all night and this morning pickets were being organized. Mike said some of the more militant occupiers wanted to starve the campus by preventing food getting to the supermarket and Co-op and by trying to stop the Administration from getting supplies of paper, but this would have needed an occupation longer than 24-hours.

We witnessed an argument going on between Jim Nightingale and Giles Osmond of the Student Union Executive Committee and the Socialist Worker's Student Organisation over the necessity for five extra Executive sabbatical posts. Nightingale and Osmond argued that three could adequately do the job five do at present and said the Union spends 70% of its budget on administration, but SWSO was hostile to this and wanted more sabbaticals. The Executive motion was defeated and the five sabbaticals were retained.

The closing speeches about the occupation had an air of self centred blindness about them. In a way I feel guilty at not being more bothered about any of this maneuvering, because these issues do have a bearing on me personally. It’s just the sort of thing I used to get quite worked up over at home, but here the ‘dread hand of Sloth’ holds me too securely for me to ever do anything about anything. I’m uncomfortable writing about this because I know I have no excuse. It seems I never do a thing constructive with my time nowadays.

The rest of today has passed in typical empty and lethargic fashion. We have only a fortnight to go until the end of term—already! Reports will be written next Wednesday and I expect to be thoroughly slated, especially by Bonnycastle. I have another wearying night ahead of me trying to get at least one of his essays done.

Wednesday, February 23, 1983

Half-live at the witch trials

Lethargy yesterday, despite my 8.30 a.m. start. In the evening I watched a programme about William Burroughs, who's now 70, thin, corpse-faced, with an odd slit mouth that twitches at the corners. He read extracts from his novels and I saw previously unseen (by me) photos of Kerouac and Burroughs clowning about in the latter’s apartment.

His friends said he’d be the perfect prisoner for solitary confinement because of his self-sufficient ability to live on his own. Emily Dickinson totally isolated herself from the world in the family mansion in Amherst. Thoreau cut himself off in his shack at Walden Pond. Sometimes I wish I had the courage and character to cut myself off and live a self-contained life, but I’m too gregarious. No matter how much I try and kid myself, I need people too much.

Today Pete, Shelley and Penny and I went into Watermouth, intending to give blood. It was a fine spring-like day and there were lots of holidaymakers and kids on their half-term hols about. Although I was quite apprehensive as we approached the Watermouth Centre, fortunately for me Penny had made a mistake and no-one at the Centre knew anything about giving blood, so we went and had something to eat at McDonald’s instead.

Then Shelley and Penny went off on their own. I bought Live At The Witch Trials by The Fall and also a grey-green great coat for a fiver.

Everyone on campus is seemingly preoccupied with the occupation of the Humanities and Social Science buildings, which is part of a national 24-hour action by we students in opposition to the cuts. Quite a lot of Wollstonecraft people went down there but, for me, the whole issue would have been hypocritical. I never go to the Union General Meetings and really, in my soul, I cannot muster up any interest in the thing whatsoever. A selfish stance no doubt. . . . I went out for a drink instead.

Tuesday, February 22, 1983


Yet again, last night’s darkness saw me crumple in on myself. I went to bed in the afternoon after staying up all night, got up at 9 p.m. and half heartedly worked until I was dragged into Marco’s room by Penny and Shelley.

Marco was in typical drunken and explosive form. He’d already covered the kitchen in bleach, created havoc down the corridor, and now sat in his room with his friends, surrounded by bottles of whisky and cider. Everyone was drunk and we ended up at a party in Rousseau Hall with Gareth, Barry, Lindsey and Marco & co. I just couldn’t bear the crowded cramped din of people and had to leave, so I climbed up on the roof, stood about at a loss, and came back down. Back in my room I smashed glasses against the walls, and made a big dent. Shelley came and laid on my bed and joined in too, the Fall playing at full volume. . . .

Daylight helps put everything back in it’s proper perspective. Morning comes and everything from before looks so pointless . . . . I think back with shame on what I’ve done, that I could be so weak.

Doris, the Wollstonecraft porter, throws bread down on the grass in the central courtyard outside my window and soon, a flock of seagulls wheel down out of a clear sky, great white flapping things, twisting in the sun, soaring and circling between the dingy redbrick walls.

I went to my American Studies lecture on Dickinson and Thoreau and on the way back stopped at the Tuesday market and bought Elvin Jones Live at the Lighthouse and an LP by Monk.

Monday, February 21, 1983

Fleeting moments

I stayed up all night but did nothing, and so it was with little remorse that I decided to miss today’s tutorial. I suppose if I’d really tried I could’ve finished the essay, and in a way it’s a little self-defeating to not go after reading the whole of Woolf, but at least I now can see the continuity between Joyce, Eliot and Woolf and their preoccupation with deeper levels than ordinary conversational consciousness.

More important for them are the meaningful ‘internal dialogues’ the characters have with themselves, and also (perhaps this a clue to reaching these ‘deeper levels’) the fragmented mental influence of immediate sounds, colours and experiences, their sudden breaks in continuity and shifts in time and character.

The everyday is important, for it’s in the everyday that we constantly live. No longer does a story have to be epic, tragic or noble in scale or character. Now mundane ‘average’ people and the fleeting moments of their lives take up centre-stage, sparking deeper resonances: Bloom and his breakfast and toilet, the Ramsays and Lily Briscoe and their everyday desperations and revelations.

There’s an incomprehensibility to this too, a new sense of confusion and doubt, a sense of not knowing anymore, a vision of a chaotic universe that replaces the old Victorian world of ordered morality, Church, and faith.

Sunday, February 20, 1983

The great revelation

Hit the sack at nine last night feeling completely drained and weary, and as I lay in bed I could hear short bursts of Lindsey’s laughter as she talked with Gareth and Stu down the corridor . . . I ended up thumping the radiator and putting a record on to drown out the sound. I woke up briefly at midnight to get some food and didn’t get back up until 12.30 today.

I have a lot of work to do still, and today’s schedule has to accommodate writing two Modernism essays and reading the entire three hundred pages of Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. I need to change, perhaps something drastic, maybe become a recluse and lock myself away in my room from day to day . . . but I'm too gregarious for that. I really hate living here at times: I turn into such a pathetic bastard, spending my time so pointlessly, always gripped by lethargy. It's horrible, these dull resentful feelings, baulking at the thought of the effort needed to do anything. Will I go through my life doing nothing, merely because I “couldn’t be bothered”?

"What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with the years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark . . . In the midst of chaos was shape."

Now I'm faced with staying up all night to get at least one of these essays done . . . Eliot so obscure, so ephemeral, so difficult to pin down. If “The Wasteland” does reflect the intellectual sterility of the post-WW1 world then it's only on the level of reflecting its incomprehensibility, its confusion and dislocation.

I've been more or less been shut in my room all day, reading and listening to the sounds of others outside. Mr. R in To the Lighthouse.
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