Monday, July 16, 1984


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


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.

Friday, July 13, 1984

Dress code

The funsters had risen early with their thick heads and bloodshot eyes and were all gone by eight thirty, because some people still work in Thatcher’s England.

I didn’t get up until noon. Jeremy and Tommy came with me into Easterby where we split up and I tried unsuccessfully to get a coach ticket back to Watermouth, before I got a lift back to Egley with Dad. Grant Riley called round late afternoon and stayed for tea. We went for a drink in Farnshaw.

We were refused service at the Windmill at Moxthorpe Roundabout because Grant was wearing “faded denims.” He’s moving off Gloucester campus next term and intends spending most of the summer in Easterby.

We met Jeremy in the Red Grouse.

Thursday, July 12, 1984

The thing

I went into Easterby again, to Suits Me to peruse their suits, and then to a Heel Bar to buy dark brown dye for my DM shoes that I’ve still only worn once—I dyed them from their original oxblood to black and now to a deep brown.

Jeremy rang me in the evening to persuade me to go to his house; I declined at first, but when he rang back at eleven saying I just had to go, I half-heartedly acquiesced—he said his step-brother Colin was having a party and it was “quite amusing” to watch. So I walked into Farnshaw and met he and Tommy beneath St. Anne’s steeple.

Tommy has transferred to Brynmor Poly and is on a design course, to which he commutes from Easterby. Jeremy has also transferred, from Bristol University to Edgestow, so in September he will be a new boy again. We walked the remaining miles up Whincliffe Road to Jeremy’s, where the beery gathering was reaching an inevitable and time-honoured finale. Jeremy’s Dad has married again, and so Jeremy has inherited a new family, a step-brother and step-sister, plus their friends and girlfriends/boyfriends. He says he feels like a stranger in his own home and wants to spend Christmases away now because he feels he no longer belongs.

For some reason, when we got there all the males present were stripped to the waist, Colin barely coherent, his eyes bloodshot, soon to pass out on the living room carpet. We then had to play host to one of his drunken acolytes, a self-professed biker who constantly impressed upon us the favour he was bestowing on us by actually speaking to us.

“Some of ‘em think yer should speak just to bikers, but me, I think that’s wrong.”

He demanded we share an opinion of him: “If yer think am' a shit then say so, I don’t care.”

Jeremy’s step-sister was pissed as a newt and flopping giddily about, falling onto Tommy and making him flush with embarrassment, before she disappeared upstairs with her boyfriend for a giggle and a grope. She came back down in a dressing gown, saying she felt embarrassed, “in front ‘er so many men.” Jeremy, Tommy and I watched The Thing on video while the revelries subsided and Colin locked himself in the toilet—he had £100 stolen that evening too.

I went to bed at five.

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