Wednesday, September 30, 1981

American dream, tarnished

It was an OK day for me; I spent a fair bit of time talking with Claire about Universities, etc. In fourth lesson we all had a discussion about immigrants and racism. Claire confessed, “I suppose I am racist, really." I didn’t feel at all uneasy and tongue-tied as I normally always do.

Our General Studies lesson was excellent. Two visiting speakers came and gave a slide show called “The American Dream, Tarnished,” interspersed with readings from the letters of George Jackson, Catch 22 and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. I got totally absorbed by it.

The school mag’ came out today; it looks quite good.

Tuesday, September 29, 1981


A horrible day at school. I had a flare-up with Jeremy which must've seemed so bitter, cantankerous, and unprovoked. I found myself getting tongue-tied and speechless and told him to “piss off.” So eloquent. I also felt impotent in my dealings with Claire and she snapped at me in History. I can’t help sounding so bloody pathetic now. I detest the trap I’m in, and yet it’s purely in my own mind.

In the evening, I eagerly listened to Athletic’s match at Scawcroft. When I heard it was 2-0 I could hardly believe it and I felt something akin to total joy! Then it was 2-1, and then 3-1, so that's now 23 goals in 7 matches, 15 in just the last 4 games. Athletic are now second, behind Cross End, and surely they must be promoted this season.

Monday, September 28, 1981


When I walked into the common room, there was Claire. I was glad to see her and we talked a lot, but on my part I sensed her lack of enthusiasm and she laughed silently when Duncan kept making insinuations about us. I couldn’t work on my History essay, couldn't shake that old, old feeling of lethargy; no motivation, overwhelmed by work, reduced to crawling at school tomorrow. . . .

I'm so full of wishes about Claire, but I'm so incapable.

Sunday, September 27, 1981


My intention to work didn’t materialise until late in the evening when I finished my art essay on political and social change in art, concentrating on the Constructivists and Suprematists. I found it all highly complicated! Weather wise, it was rainy and cold.

I watched Ken Russell’s superb film about Tchaikovsky, which was horrific in parts, especially Glenda Jackson’s asylum scene.

Saturday, September 26, 1981

Game of two halves

Woke up late to leaden skies and a torrential, steady downpour. The prospects for the match looked poor.

At two I rang Athletic up. The match was definitely on, so at two-thirty Dad and I set off. It was the first soccer match he'd been to for years and I was glad he was going, and prayed there'd be no trouble. The Shed was packed, and got even more so as people flooded through the broken fence from the Easterby End to avoid the rain.

Athletic started well, attacking toward the Easterby End and the Whitehill goal in typical fashion; Whitehill looked quick and sharp but could rarely get in shots. After half-an-hour, Athletic got a free-kick on the edge of the box; virtually every Whitehill player in there, and up steps Wild, shoots the ball straight over the defence and past the statuesque goalkeeper. 1-0! I catch a glimpse of Dad’s obviously delighted face. Several more chances after this but then it was half-time.

The rain was steady and continuous for most of the second half and Athletic looked less confident and Whitehill started to outpace the Athletic defence making them look ragged. Sure enough, just before the hour, someone missed a cross and the ball was volleyed into the net. Then almost immediately, McArdle got a penalty. Unbearable tension and—wham!! Straight over the crossbar. Whitehill dominant now, the Athletic players looking jaded and slow, and it was a siege. They looked to be holding out for the draw when, right at full time, Broome took the ball and shot home for the winner. Total jubilation, everyone, clapping and leaping about. It was an unfair result but I don’t care!

Dad seemed to have enjoyed it, and when Robert rang he said he was glad he had. I’m going to Hydebeck next week.

I’m really getting into my Floyd album. . . .

Friday, September 25, 1981

A second scene

I went into Easterby with Dad after school, primarily to take back my library books, but I’ve lost my ticket so I couldn’t get any more out. But I also wanted to buy a Pink Floyd record, which I did, getting The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn for £4.99. It's good. I also bought a book on Modern art.

The day at school dragged on in a weird way. I’ve changed in position, and somehow I seem to be hovering half-way and people don’t know how to react. Claire is away in London and has been all week; I’m looking forward to her coming back. Duncan keeps making comments as if she’s all over me all of the time.

Thursday, September 24, 1981

Didn't, couldn't . . .

I didn’t bother going to school because I had no lessons, but I didn’t do anything else either, merely reveling in my good fortune. It rained much of the afternoon. I wanted to go into Easterby but couldn’t make a decision.

At three-thirty I went down to Art; beforehand, had to sit and listen to Steve reliving tales of Chapelside to Deborah; I didn’t know what to feel. I thoroughly enjoyed Art again.

I watched TV all evening.

Wednesday, September 23, 1981


A full but completely bland day, Mrs. Slicer’s lesson the only noteworthy event, a class discussion about our relationships to staff and vice versa and the uses of studying literature. It was really interesting and I emerged from this predictably smitten. Education in schools should be be less rigidly timetabled, be freer, and have more discussion groups.

After school, Elaine B. asked me if I fancied being a member of a quiz team in the evening against a team of ex-students and staff. I agreed. There were about twenty five others there. The quiz questions were pretty hard and our team came in last with 34 points (ex-students 43, staff 50). I was in a kind of ‘post-Chapelside’ mood; stilted conversations with Wendy and Tim Moyles.

Newsnight had an interesting story about the “Mutants," the Pembrokeshire ‘Anarchists’ (“legalize crime,” “Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll”). They have quite an idealistic thing going there, and I thought about how I would love to go to a place like that and stay smashed out on drugs and music all day long. Why bother doing anything else?

Tuesday, September 22, 1981


I resolved to carry on as I left off yesterday; everything went well and I felt content, realising that the ‘problem’ is at my end, one of communication. Spontaneous comments came more easily, and felt less forced, but I felt things turning a bit towards the day’s end.

After school, we had a meeting of the Film Society but only Mr Gray, Ms Hirst and six of us bothered going. It's going to be quite an interesting program and will cost us each £5. I was looking forward to Art and really enjoyed the collage and experimentation with pieces of paper.

Monday, September 21, 1981


I woke up worried about school and the inevitable comments and snide remarks re. Saturday night. I got in late yet again and sure enough, come break, there was Steve eagerly spreading exaggerated tales of my nudity, drunkenness and general idiocy to all and sundry. Horror, laughter, criticism. Apparently I was talking in my sleep.

Despite all of this, despite feelings bordering on self-neglect and recrimination even, for once I got on really well with Jeremy and Duncan. They seemed more open. . . . It was a strange, half-and-half day.

I have to buy one of Pink Floyd's early albums!

Sunday, September 20, 1981


A raging headache. Knowing laughter and comments all round, and I felt vaguely guilty all morning.

After breakfast, everyone from school set off for a walk across Skelknott Gate to a pub but I couldn’t face it in the rain so Johnny Truswell and I stayed behind while a few of the ex-students rode their trial bikes around and dossed outside. We all got talking about Universities and it was quite entertaining and helpful. There was a kind of hangover from yesterday, of a different kind, of an attitude. The ex-students left, our party returned; tea, packing up, an impatience in the air, and we were off. I regretted leaving Relics behind. I felt ill and so wheedled my way into the front with John.

I rang Robert up about the match (Athletic drew away at Carrstall), and he said that Newlands scored yet again.  We're third and I reckon he’ll go before the end of the season.

Saturday, September 19, 1981

Drink-a-drink, a-drink-a-drink

I woke up early and laid there for hours in the top bunk just awake, not moving, everyone else up and and banging about, shaking things, quiet laughter and murmurs.

All of the Egley lot set off for Chapelside, Steve, Nigel Muff and I all playing gooseberry to the affectionate, all-hands-and-eyes lovers Robin and Wendy/Tim and Sharon. We wandered around the shops dodging downpours and sauntered down toward Chapelside Tarn. I’d kept promising to go for a swim and so, although the choppy water was a steel slate-grey with skies to match, Tim Moyles and I stripped off in some bushes and gingerly padded into the icy water. It was freezing, but once we were in it got a little warmer and I quite enjoyed swimming and splashing about. The lake bed was pebbly and shallow but I felt ill afterwards, with an aching jaw and a headache. I hung around the cottage most of the afternoon, venturing back into the village with Sharon and Tim where we visited the C. L. Nolan museum.

In the evening, after tea, everyone else went down to the pub but I stayed behind reading Kerouac and listening to a Pink Floyd tape (Relics) which was just superb. People started dribbling back at eleven or so, and then a big party of former students turned up, some of whom I recognised. Someone brought 20-gallons of homemade beer that stank of urine but tasted OK, so I started to drink, dropped a bottle which smashed, and drank some more. I wanted to get drunk.

Things started to get freaky, the ex-students smoking things in the other room - marijuana someone said. It did smell strange. The beer was potent and I ended up drunker than I've ever been, swaying to and fro and talking to anyone within earshot, trying to assimilate my school self with this bloodshot, swaying fool, slurring like an idiot. But then I couldn’t care less, loving the carefree feeling I'd been captured by. People were slumped in the other room, glassy-eyed and murmuring, some of them lurching to and fro with glasses and cups in their hands.

Graham Sykes, who's doing a degree in Political Science at Gloucester Poly, was arguing with Mr. Scott about Tony Benn and “fighting the system from the inside.” To me: "That's why you've got to get to Oxbridge because from the outside you’re banging your head against a brick wall.” There was a confontation in the kitchen, angry words, and Jackson and Robin threw some people out and it was raining outside and in my drunken stupour I was all for letting them stay. I went upstairs, then down again for black coffee, back up, lurching about, my world really spinning now, hurtling backwards, forwards. . . . I streaked in the dorm, looking for my underpants, lying on the floor. General amusement at my performance.

In the dark, everything was spinning round.

Friday, September 18, 1981

A mere shadow

I made a point of getting in in time for registration, saw the very first copy of the new school magazine, Interface–it looks pretty good–and also went and talked to Mr. Giles about his American Studies degree at Watermouth. He said it would suit me, and everything about the way he spoke and his tone seemed to say that this is the thing I'll be doing next September. Other than that, school as piteous as ever, feeling empty, a nothing, a mere shadow with no depth or interest. I endured several embarrassing moments where I collapsed into blushes and glaring inadequacy, self-recrimination then developing into hatred for others.

At three I wandered home. Claire called round with some carbon paper and then I packed and and went back to school for five-thirty, where the seven others going on the Chapelside trip were waiting. Jackson, Liz Buckle and Tina Stanley turned up with the minibus and we all piled in and wallowed and roared our way over to pick Mr. Scott up. We got to Chapelside and Sawthwaite Valley at about ten or so after stopping in a couple of pubs on the way.

We were soon all busy preparing food in the cold whitewashed stone kitchen of our cottage. A few ex-students arrived–Michelle Sands, Tracy Bairstow, Andrew Thornber. . . . I hit the sack at one.

Thursday, September 17, 1981


I don’t have any lessons timetabled on a Thursday so I stayed at home until eleven, half-wanting to go down to school, half-hating what would inevitably happen when I did. I did my Art homework, listened to records and decided to go.

I really hated it: Angela Reid's prattling and sneery jibes about my clothes and my attitudes, Jeremy’s stony silence, Deborah’s total indifference, as if I don’t exist. I sat there silently, watching it all pass me by and yet helpless to alter things. I went and played football in the Sports Hall with Peter and Abbott. It's all so sour, and when I think back to last year at this time everything seemed so good, Deborah, Claire, everything so much easier, so much more enjoyable. And now. . . .  I must have changed or something. At least Art was quite enjoyable.

At eight Mum and I went back to school for a parents’ evening to discuss my report and "career prospects." A typical stifled and forced situation. As I was waiting, Claire arrived with her Mum and as she passed she said bent down close to say something to me--that feeling in my stomach, the thought that sometimes I seem so near, at others completely out of it. The usual good-humoured criticisms, Gledhill telling Mum that the staff thinks I’m knocking off because I’m always missing registration. Barkston wanted to see me and we discussed the usual thing, my American Studies/Politics dilemma, and things seem to be tilting towards the former. Apparently Mr. Giles has been on an American Studies course. I need to see people to discuss all this with, and it’s all so horribly confusing.

I got the usual lecture from Mum on the way back, “you're a fool to yourself,” etc., etc., and it’s all true, but I just CANNOT motivate myself. We ended up angry at each other, and I felt like a slob, discredited, vowing once again to work hard yet feeling absolutely overwhelmed at the prospect of all that revision. . . . I’m at the point now where school is just a drag. But I MUST work, the pressures are so heavy. It's no wonder people commit suicide.

Wednesday, September 16, 1981


I get sick of writing “nothing much happened” all the time, but that's really how it is. Mainly lessons all day, and a re-emphasis, an underlining, of all the things I’ve been writing the last few days.

Tuesday, September 15, 1981


An unremarkable day, the only novel event being a discussion during last period of History between Mr. Gray, Jeremy, and Duncan about Coronation Street. I asked Gray about University courses and he told me to pick a “doss subject.” I couldn’t believe it. I was dreading Art because once again I hadn’t done the work–I keep promising myself so much but end up feeling daunted and overwhelmed. I had a Careers interview with Mr. Beech, but it didn’t help my dilemma at all.

Comments people have made have lead Claire to think I’m selling the bike she gave me, and now I’m sure she’s being funny about it. But, when I catch her eye–that longer-than-usual-look, that smile–well, the fantasy scenarios are never far from my starved mind and I report them here only for the benefit of any future psychoanalysts, and I suppose in an effort to convince myself they are true.

Monday, September 14, 1981

Poor me

Dad took the car in, I got  my hair cut, and I got into school at ten. Poor poor me, how badly things went. Surface normality, but my puerile, fanatically insignificant mind had a field day, and I couldn’t stand anyone, myself even less.

After History, Mr. Emsley started acting friendly all of a sudden (he saw me at the match on Saturday) and called me by my first name. Several indolent hours in the common room later I walked home with Tim Moyles, Darren Busfield and Peter, ending up at the latter’s house for coffee, and we acted childish and silly, giggling like little girls, being crude and making rumours up about one another. It was gratifying to see Peter uneasy for once: it’s usually the other way round.

Sunday, September 13, 1981


I dreamed I was near some trees, with someone else but out at sea, and the rising tide covered the trees completely and one of us decided to spend the time underwater, in the branches. The sea was really wild, with foam and spray everywhere. When the tide receded it revealed an island covered in short grass where rabbits lived and I remember thinking how strange it was that the sea could cover this place. Then I was on some sort of rig, near the shore, holding on to a pipeline and I nearly fell backwards into the sea but was caught by one of the other people there. A really weird dream.

A pretty average Sunday. Dad got home at two and at teatime Ken and Shirley picked up Nanna P. I had a bath and watched TV all evening. I tried to get something worked out about a University but there's so much choice and my desires feel so tenuous I was overwhelmed. The work I have to do! I'm interested in English with African and Caribbean Studies.

Saturday, September 12, 1981


I slept all morning and got up at eleven-thirty. Uncle Kenneth and Shirley had dropped Nanna P. off and Mum and Dad were discussing the merits of three cars: Viva, Lada or Fiesta? Our old one has failed the MoT and will cost £500 to put right.

At quarter-after-two I set off to Cardigan Park. Athletic were playing second-in-the-table Bishophill, and as I got off the bus I met Robert. As we walked down to the ground he told me that they've been given another kitten, a tabby they've named Spike.

Athletic got off to a good start but an old bloke next to me kept tapping me on the shoulder or arm and droning on about how the team’s gone downhill since the ‘30s. I missed Athletic’s first goal because of him so we moved and shortly after Athletic scored again. A Pattison penalty put them 3-0 up by half-time. The atmosphere was exciting although that old uncertainty at the back made things tense and a bit nerve-racking. Ten minutes after the restart, Athletic scored again, a good header from a McArdle cross and then, unbelievably, scored a fifth; such a superb, happy feeling in the crowd! Bishophill never gave up, but they had such a poor defence that you could just tell when Easterby were going to score.

A typical Saturday teatime and evening of watching TV and drawing up league tables.

Friday, September 11, 1981


After torrential rain last night, today was clear and sunny, but an undefinable autumnal feel was in the air. More of the same at school: I can't help feeling like I do and I really am quite on my own. In the afternoon, Lee, Tim Moyles and Peter came round to see my bike and stayed for a bit. After that I did nothing but watch the box.

I’ve been thinking just recently about joining CND and getting involved in meetings. This desire springs partly from watching such idealistic things as Cosmos and The Making Of Mankind but something stops me from making a final move; I mean, why stop at nuclear weapons? Conventional weapons disposed of 55 million people in the last war!

There are also other aspects that make me reluctant. CND's the “in” thing to be into at the moment and there's a hint of the pro-Soviet about it. I get the feeling that many of its young supporters are there just for a laugh and they'll drift away when fashions swing. I really wish I was decisive. Mum says she dislikes “the feminists and extremists” that CND attracts, and Dad says he basically agrees with CND but expresses the usual ‘Moscow's-out-for-world-domination’ Daily Express rhetoric.

Thursday, September 10, 1981

On the road

I was completely free all day, and so I didn’t go in until after Andrew had left, which he did just before nine. His taxi came, he loaded up and was gone, as if he’d never been. Our goodbyes were casual ones; I'll see him again at Christmas. I’d only just got to know him again too.

At school I pretended to complete my art notes and stayed out of things, ignoring everyone and being ignored, finding communication difficult. Later, in the library, I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Claire said she had a bike she wanted rid of, so she invited me down to her house to collect it, and after Art Lee and I walked over. She was out and Lee went home for his tea, so I sat and waited uneasily until she came back. The bike's a bit small and rusty but better than nothing, and I gladly took it. She's been very friendly of late. Her new boyfriend must be giving her confidence, or making her happy or something.

Wednesday, September 9, 1981

Completely and utterly

I really am beginning to dislike school, mainly because of the boredom, but this is my own fault anyway. But I also find my interactions with people there so unimportant! All of these pages, so full of crap, completely and utterly. . . . Total boredom. . . .

Tuesday, September 8, 1981


I had a lot of lessons today, mainly English and History, and after school we had our first Art lesson of the term. Nothing much happened worth mentioning; it goes without saying that I felt lacking, with no obvious outside interests. What am I trying to do? Impress people? I must sort out Uni’s soon!

Monday, September 7, 1981

Self . . . imposed

The air of depression around the house is heavy and made worse (or just made?) by Andrew’s moroseness. Mum seems affected by it too.

At school, my anger lingers on, the pettiness and nasty comments seeming to reinforce and justify my self-imposed isolation. Claire was in a good, confident mood: after all, she’s just had a weekend with her new boyfriend! I left at one and walked back home to the depression and to Andrew’s reflective mood. I hate the atmosphere here at the moment. It's so stifling and featureless.

I write too much and too little of it is of value.

Sunday, September 6, 1981

Last words

The kitten cried all night and Rob & Carol didn't sleep. We played with it most of the morning, but were still depressed. The kitten is uncoordinated and falls over when he shakes himself and Carol is affectionate with him but still seems halfhearted and unenthusiastic. There are signs of George everywhere; it was as if he might just come padding across the floor, his tail in the air.

We went to a pub in Upper Sike and took Wilmott with us. He whinged all the way, and then Robert and Carol drove me back to Easterby, getting there at seven. It’s funny, but getting back home made me sink back into sadness I felt really upset again, and after they'd left, I again felt like crying. All over a cat! Dad showed me Thomas Hardy’s "Last Words To A Dumb Friend,” which brought hot embarrassed tears spilling down my cheeks.

Saturday, September 5, 1981


A hot, sunny day. In Dearnelow with Robert in the morning to see about a picture he’s having framed, dreading getting back because he had to ring the vet at twelve. He said he thought they’d have to put George to sleep, but the vet said he wanted to operate and would ring back, which raised our hopes. Carol prayed to God, and while she was upstairs we played knockout cricket. No football, wasted journey.

Then, at two-thirty the ‘phone-call, and I suppose I knew really, and Robert’s subdued voice told me I was right. The vet had put George down. Robert went and told Carol, who sobbed her heart out, and we went down to pay the vet. All this sentiment over a cat sounds quite stupid, but we were really sickened and I felt close to tears myself. Robert’s eyes were watery and he kept damning Fate and life.

The vet looked upset. He told us that George’s bile duct had been ripped away in the accident and his digestive juices had turned his insides bright yellow. Robert and Carol's force feeding probably helped kill him, although they weren’t to know. If only it hadn’t been a Bank Holiday when the car hit him! As I waited outside the vet’s for Robert in the sun, George’s collar and little bell in my hand, I felt so bad I could’ve cried. We set about looking for a kitten for Carol, reasoning that a replacement would take her mind off things. The people at the pet shop told us about two, and at five we went down to a nearby warehouse to get them, but the kittens were hiding among the bags of corn and grain. The woman from the pet shop woman told us she’d deliver a tabby tom at nine.

By the evening, Carol had got over it a bit better, and we were playing dominoes when the kitten arrived. He's only five weeks old, a tiny yelping thing with big feet, a surprised expression and a bright red nose. Robert and Carol named him Wilmott.

It's been a really horrible, unreal day that has seemed to last forever. I can’t get George out of my head.

Friday, September 4, 1981


At school, more of the same, more dislike of people and my circumstances.

I set off for Robert's at six, getting there at eight to find Carol on the settee tearful. George is at the vet’s again and is a “very sick cat.” He's being kept in overnight. Carol burst into tears as she told me this and is still upset. The house is heavy with sadness, and I keep gazing at his basket, his cushion, his little furry ball. . . .

We went out to the pub’ and I had two pints of cider and we all cheered up. Carol seemed better and we really quite enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 3, 1981


Back at school. All my old feelings, dull rage at myself, people around me, my trap.

Then, surprise surprise, Andrew arrived, ladened with presents and LPs and full of the joys of Denmark's geniality, generosity and aggro free environment. He seems really sad to have left, and was almost in tears at teatime when he told us about his friends waving goodbye at the station.

In the evening, as he, Mum and I watched Top of The Pops, he told us what had happened, occasionally stopping as if embarrassed, or sitting with head in hands. He was staying with Sten Mortensen and had an affair with Sten's girlfriend Amalie. I could only listen completely amazed at the drama, like it was something out of fiction, and writing this I can't help but reduce it all to triviality, and I still don’t really comprehend. "Things snowballed" he said. "I couldn't stop them, and sometimes I'd tell her we couldn’t go on, that it must stop, but she said No and that it was too beautiful to end and we got really involved.”

He said he felt guilty and ashamed at the furtive way he was behaving, and was jealous of Sten. “I’ve never cried so much as over this.” But eventually Sten found a letter Amalie had written Andrew and so for the last fortnight things were a bit uncomfortable, Andrew writing letters of apology, Sten answering them coolly. "I don’t blame him.” It throws my infatuations into the correct perspective. He says he has a photo of her in his diary, but “I’ve just got to forget.” I have got to see this girl who loves Andrew!

Wednesday, September 2, 1981


I went into Easterby to change my jeans (the first pair faulty, the second too small) and also to go to the library. I also photocopied eight double page spreads from Picasso and Braque, and this done, sat reading Nietzsche for much of the day. I read A Reader carefully, slowly, puzzled by the contradictions, sometimes quite amused by the immodesty. Met Dad and came home in the car.

I'm feeling good about school, but it’ll all be just the same; optimism at home, then boredom once I'm back at school, filled with feelings of self-indulgent regret.

Tuesday, September 1, 1981


I went into Easterby with Dad at twelve to go to the library, but it was closed.

When I got home Mum had come back from school; she had to go to get things ready for the new term. She was depressed, a woman at work in tears because her husband's got cancer and he's been sent to Bakersford cancer hospital, a virtual death sentence. One of those cruel situations, just managed to buy their own house, etc. . . . The woman's a Sunday school teacher, a Methodist . . . If there is a God he must be a real bastard. But if there is a God, maybe his ‘form’ is some sort of spirit of continuity, within everyone, that links us all to our past and to the future.

I'm looking forward to school. I saw Sean Barker, and he said there's a chance of a job at Topshop in a fortnight. Also, Robert and Carol's cat is OK apparently, and only has shock and concussion.
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