Friday, July 22, 1983

Dole penicillin

I got another cheque from the dole office today, this time for £47.30. So in a week I’ve received nearly £120; maybe I’ll be able to afford to go to Greece with Gareth if I’m very careful. I revealed this idea to Mum and she reacted predictably: “You young people make me sick”—the word spat out—“you’ve got all your priorities wrong.”

This signaled a bitter tirade against me over the bike incident from a year or so ago (“Thirty pounds for a rusty, unused bike . . .” etc.) and I was angry that she was dragging out this skeleton.

Jeremy rang and says that Lee is keeping to his friends from Easterby College and going out a lot with them. I haven’t rung Claire—I’m a stupid bastard, and no doubt my thoughtlessness and paranoid uselessness has reaped the harvest it deserves. I promise myself I’ll do something about it as soon as we get back (we're leaving tomorrow for a week in Calverdale).

There’s been much fussing and packing from Mum the last two days but now we’re set. Dad has been cleaning the tanks in preparation. This morning, he, Andrew and I went to Dengates to let a dozen or so little frogs go. The grass was teaming with them.

The weather has been warm again today after the drizzle of the last few days; thunder and lightning rumbles and flashes threateningly in the distance, beckoning us into the empty spaces and the sweeping skies.

Thursday, July 21, 1983


We went to see Nanna Beardsley at Easterby District Teaching Hospital, where she's had a hysterectomy. The sister told Dad that the operation was straightforward, but Nanna B. looked weak and pale, stranded in her small white bed like a whale.

I felt painfully uneasy with cousins Susan and Mark and his tight-faced wife in yellow dress. I’ve never met Mark before and I felt so uneasy. I stood silent at the end of the bed parrying questions, red with embarrassment.

Susan made some comment about “wogs” as we sat waiting outside the ward. Dad erupted into laughter and Mum flashed me a meaningful look.

[Audio version]

Wednesday, July 20, 1983

Y-reg Chevette

I signed on again today and got home to find a £47.30 dole cheque waiting for me. My overdraft now stands at £77. I also bought Mum a card and present in Farnshaw; she’s forty nine today.

I got a letter from Shelley who's very busy in Watermouth. She has a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Penny has a temporary job as a receptionist in a psychiatric unit which, predictably, “is cracking her up.”

I started a library book on Nietzsche but did so with little-to-no-enthusiasm. I aborted it a half-dozen pages in. I’m suffering through a state of majestic boredom, an almost irretrievable state of brain death.

Outside in the nightmare suburb, everything’s frozen into an afternoon calm; the petty little domestic rituals and the soft sound of the garden hoe are the only evidence of human activity. No strife, no “anti-social” behaviour permeates this self-satisfied little world of privet hedges and Y-reg Chevettes.

Easterby is a shit-heap and doesn't raise its sights above its own red-tiled rooftops. But then I suppose the whole country is the same.

Tuesday, July 19, 1983

TV eye

I got a dole cheque for £23.65 today and a postcard from Lindsey. She's in London at the RCP Conference; Pete’s there too. She sounded surprised at herself for enjoying it.

Carl Cotton rang me last night, very late, just after I’d gone to bed under a cloud and feeling none too healthy (I haven’t felt too good since I went out with Lee and Jeremy at the weekend and I keep getting irritating aches and pains that are probably my body’s protest at enforced inaction). My absence I put down to poverty (coward), but I went back to bed thinking I probably should have gone, if only for my own good.

Suddenly wide-awake, I lay in bed thinking about Carl and the RCP. I felt my mind filling with a great empty nothingness and I couldn’t focus properly on anything. I finally lay my head down unable to think at all. My ideas were indistinct and weakly formed, like I was seeing them vaguely beneath the surface of mud.

I watched two TV programmes with Andrew and Dad. Both were on the subject of war journalism and censorship. The first roused no comment from Dad, but the second raised his hackles and he came out with all the hoary old arguments and platitudes, and the old huffing puffing “I love my country, I’m patriotic” crap.

I just couldn’t see how he could trot this out yet again after sitting through two hours of (what seemed to me) fairly honest stuff. How can anyone be so blinkered and totally bigoted? I felt an impossible anger—anger that he should be so infuriatingly blind to military ideologies, anger at the lies and falsehoods and that censorship keeps people from understanding the true horror and violence of war, and anger from wanting an end to the fucking mess once and for all.

But I think I ought to shut up now as there is nothing so boring as a zealot and I suppose I’m the wettest liberal of all in that it takes a TV programme to get me going.

Monday, July 18, 1983

Genius Loci

In the afternoon I went to the library in Easterby and wandered around at a loss. The weather has turned and it was a breezy perfect day.

Dad and I went to Dengates in the evening and collected moss for the amphibians. The marsh field bloomed in all its high summer splendour, a tangle of green nettles intermingled with yellow ragwort and purple thistles that grew three feet high in some places. Dad found a large common toad and two small frogs, but let them all go. I found a newt and, in the long grass under the trees, a number of little frogs that hopped away whenever we approached.

Dengates is idyllic, especially past the gypsy camp where the grass is short and meadow-like. This area is dotted with rocks, and bordered on the lower side by the reedy marsh itself, on the top by the weathered decayed ruins of an ancient stone wall, half-hidden beneath trees and bushes.

Dad and I sat amid the pink grass, admiring the view beyond the stone-walls of the fields across towards Keddon and the dark moors brooding on the horizon. In the foreground was a long low red brick factory with twin chimneys at one end, drifting blue grey smoke across the valley. Dad says the area is called Marystown.
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