Tuesday, June 30, 1981


It was a hot, clear day and uneasy conversation with Deborah and Evelyn brought it home to me just how useless I am. I’d forgotten completely about my General Studies paper, and at nine we were shepherded into M-3. The questions were difficult; we were given a  Karl Popper extract for comprehension. I didn’t do well.

I played tennis after. The courts were boiling, the heat reflecting back from the tarmac. I played Lee, then we played a doubles match with Wiechec and Jeremy, and Claire and Evelyn came out, dressed in their white tennis stuff, and we played alongside each other until we left at three. I had a ride on Lee’s bike; I surprised myself after six years, for although I was wobbly I stayed on.

Later I went into Easterby and met Lee outside Smith's. I took along £13, including £5 Nanna P gave me for my birthday and bought a sweatshirt thing from Burton’s. We toured a few of the second-hand shops before I went and got some passport photos and said adieu to Lee. I bought him a sarcastic “Who Killed Blair Peach?” birthday card from Praxis, and a couple of books. As I was standing there browsing, one of the women came upstairs saying “We’re going to have to do something about these fucking fascists; one of them hit Chris in the face.” The victim was quite reticent about it, brushing off the woman’s sympathetic attentions. I was quite shocked, yet when I got home Dad said the “fucking fascist” in question was a soldier who had been looking at books there when he was asked to leave. He resisted their bouncer impersonations, hence the punches. Who do you believe?

In the evening Dad and I went to Grant’s to pay him the £44.65 we owe for the YHA holiday. Grant's house smelled strongly of cat and sawdust  and his Dad Barry, who's a probation officer, was soon holding forth about their hosteling trips to Germany and Norway. God, he can talk. What with their pleasant, untidy house, interesting life, enthusiasms, and his Dad’s casual references to “Grant’s Dadaist group” I was quite impressed. I mean, our family is turgid in comparison. Grant is a bit like Eddie Carbone in A View From the Bridge; he doesn’t seem to “settle for half.” I do, to a hypocritical degree, and therefore can never tell what is really me and what is a front.

Monday, June 29, 1981


We got our history results back, and I was exceedingly jammy to get a B- overall, with an A- for my peasant essay. Claire got a ‘0.’ I do zero revision; others do more yet get less. It’s so unfair and I really couldn’t help thinking guilty thoughts. The rest of the day was a blur; I played tennis, and Art went OK.

The new sixth form came in today.

Sunday, June 28, 1981

Fine form

At seven in the morning, Dad took Mum out driving to Royden and back, and after that nothing at all happened. I lazed about reading, eating, doodling and whiling away the hours, and I could’ve just as well been dead for all the good I was.

Nanna P., who came yesterday, has been in fine form, tactlessly talking about running sores, skin cancer and green-mould at the meal table and boring us all with constant references to Kenneth and the clan. She was hauled back to her house at seven, and I spent a classic evening in the bath listening to Alexis Korner and Peter Clayton.

Saturday, June 27, 1981


Lee came on his bike and at eleven or so we set off for the school tennis courts again where we met Wiechec. I played him and lost 5-7, played Lee and won 6-4, and finally Andy again and lost 1-6. It was thundery and ominous with bulging grey mammatus clouds low overhead. We ended up at my house listening to records and sitting around feeling bored.

The rest of the day idled away doing nothing. I didn’t feel as bad as yesterday but still got occasional twinges of mopiness over school. . . .

Friday, June 26, 1981


At eleven-thirty I trudged reluctantly down to school in intermittent rain, feeling depressed and fed-up for some reason. I played Jeremy at tennis  and lost a three hour game 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 0-6 and got back at three.

During teatime I got embroiled in an argument with Mum and Dad over crime. I was accused of ‘siding’ with the criminals and I suppose I was but I didn’t see it like that and ended up doubting my entire belief-system. Socialism! Does it really “go against the grain of human-nature” as George Gale claims? I always think not, but then I could be just repeating a load of Utopian rhetoric because I feel I ‘ought’ to. I don’t really know what I believe. I was plunged into self-piteous silence for the evening, and never stopped looking at the black side of things: my failure to invite everyone over (have I snubbed Claire?); my dilemmas about what to wear; my doubts about my ideals. . . . Now it all sounds so childishly heart-rending that I’m embarrassed, but these things bother me, I can’t deny it.

I tried on my new boots with my blue trousers. Thought I felt silly, but wasn’t sure.

Thursday, June 25, 1981


No exams today. I went into Easterby with Dad and took along the £19 allowance Mum gave me to buy some baseball boots and a sheet sleeping bag for my holiday.

I wandered around for ages without getting anything, and eventually bought a pair of bright blue, childish looking boots for £8.99. I got my sheet-sleeping bag for £5.75 and there was almost £15 gone in a flash. I also got a jumper in a sale. How easy it is to spend money. I felt totally bored by the narrow range of colours/styles offered in all the shops and somehow (typical rebellious juvenilia crap) I felt a real urge to buy something different. With this in mind I trailed over towards the Poly and looked round a second hand clothes shop there, trying on the too-small jumpers and bemoaning my height. I bought a 1952 copy of Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki Expedition from Oxfam and went home dissatisfied.

In the afternoon I wandered into school to play tennis and felt a thrill of anticipation at the thought of seeing Her! As it was, just caught a fleeting glimpse and she totally ignored me. I felt completely despairing and stagnant.

Wednesday, June 24, 1981

Out of it

Our few days of summer have ended and we're back into the dull, sullen weather.

I was really nervous about the History exam and had that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. There was a lot of uneasy, artificial laughter among we seven. The questions were slightly more difficult than our other test essays and at first sight I was pretty stumped, but gradually I engineered three decent essays on Trotsky and the peasantry, managing about two sides per essay. To say revision was nil this was quite good I suppose. I felt relief that I'd finished all the ‘revisionable’ exams, but I also felt out of it. I played tennis again.

My time is free now and I can’t really believe it. In the evening I watched Carl Sagan's Cosmos; its deification of the natural selection process and our internal chemistry was really interesting and I was impressed. This was followed by the Book Programme on nuclear war. I'm totally opposed to all arms spending and can't see any justification for it whatsoever; patriotism, nationalistic belligerence and the ‘Soviet threat’ stinks. The way British politics works is unnatural, letting other, incredibly incompetent individuals manage our affairs as a whole while they deliberately keep us all in the dark. Who the hell do they think they are? Yet supposedly rational human beings still persist in adhering to these petty veneers of morality.

I hate them all!

Tuesday, June 23, 1981


I felt nervous when I woke up; Hirst's exam on Persuasion and the Miller plays began at nine and lasted an hour and a half. After doing those chapter summaries I felt quite confident in dealing with the question, “Persuasion is a study of family life. Discuss,” and reeled off a couple of sides. Then another half-an-hour before Paper III; I had an hour to answer a question on either prose or poetry. I was relieved to finish the English papers. Got a C or a D maybe.

I played tennis afterwards until five o’clock and spent the evening pretending to revise for History.

Monday, June 22, 1981


I got in at eight. Funnily enough I really couldn’t care less about the exams, despite their importance, and didn’t have the usual pitsy feeling in my stomach. It was really hot already - 80°F in the shade. I played tennis and at the appointed hour we trudged down to B10. Deborah was in a black mood. The exam was Mrs. Slicer's English Paper I and we had two questions to answer, one on Antony & Cleopatra and the other on Sohrab & Rustum. It was easier than I expected, and I waffled on expansively throughout.

I played tennis afterwards. Wimbledon began and McEnroe erupted.

Sunday, June 21, 1981


A pretty good day weather wise so I didn’t feel at all like revising. Lee brought back some of my Persuasion notes and I carried on in lethargy and frustration. I had to do something. I came to bed after minimal revision.

Saturday, June 20, 1981


It was a grey day and I set off for Easterby in the morning because I wanted to get to the library and do some revision, but I wandered about spending for the sake of it and got to the library at eleven. I worked more or less continuously until tea-time. Lee showed up early afternoon and we waded through Persuasion, getting warned for excessive talking. I’ve more or less finished that now.

I’ve got a lot to do next week; write off for university prospectuses (American Studies or History/Politics?), get train times for the holiday sorted out, buy some equipment, army surplus gear, baseball boots, etc. Lee and I are thinking of joining Castlebrigg Bowling Club.

Friday, June 19, 1981


I got in really late again; we had our computer forms checked for the umpteenth time. I spent most of the day in the library working on Persuasion summaries. Claire was talkative, so talkative that Lee got annoyed. I was happy to talk with her. She told me about her brother, how she ignores him, and refuses to get him a birthday card. It's really strange; he sounds as if he’s mad, and suffers imaginary pains, etc. Lee got me to play tennis and I was reluctant to leave, but grudgingly trudged to the courts. We had a marathon four set game but I lost 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 2-6.

I was pleased with the day and continued working all evening.

Thursday, June 18, 1981


Slicer was away so we only had one period of English. I was supposed to be revising but inevitably socialised instead. I’ve been writing up my Persuasion chapter summaries as revision, but that’s about all I’ve done. I've had no real contact with anyone at all. I played tennis after school and lost again. Botched off my oil painting in Art and watched telly all evening.

Wednesday, June 17, 1981


We had both periods of English cancelled as half the group went to Manchester to see The Misanthrope. I maintained a façade of revision all day but inevitably didn't do a stroke of work. I didn’t have a school dinner; I had vegetable soup instead. Alison Hudson gave me my ticket for the party on July 8th; Deborah asked why I’d suddenly decided to go and backed me up when Duncan attacked me for being ‘trendy’. The high point in his bloody life is Coronation Street.

Tuesday, June 16, 1981


Deborah came back today. Pleasantly nondescript. Lee and I played Peter and Jeremy at doubles after school; we lost 4-6, 1-6.

Monday, June 15, 1981

The making of mankind

I pretended to revise. Exams start on Monday next, and Jeremy, Claire, and Lee worked in bursts, me not at all. Deborah is still at Queen's Club, at the tennis; how dead it seems when she isn’t here.

Making of Mankind was ace. It was the last one, and made me feel angry at the artificial veneer of culture which dictates our habits, values, actions etc. I hope Thatcher was watching it. By the end I felt angry at the army, the government, and society. Shirley rang; Janet had her baby at nine-fifteen and Shirley announced that I was an ‘uncle'. His name is Michael John Carter.

Sunday, June 14, 1981


I hate it when Dad’s on nights. The house is plunged into brooding silence and I can’t do a thing for fear of waking him up, so today I just sat in total boredom reading the ‘papers.

When I was younger I couldn’t really comprehend that other people thought like I did or saw things like me. And now I have high flown ideas about changing the world and perhaps the way I write this journal is with a constant eye on the future, yet other people get three ‘A’ levels (with good grades too) and here I am struggling. It’s all because of laziness. I must start revising. I really do pose as an intellectual and just use this journal as a justification for my hypocrisy and neurosis.

I started on my Persuasion chapter summaries as revision, but Duncan rang and so I ended up getting a lift on to Lodgehill from Dad where I met Wiechec and exchanged my £8.50 for the rucksack. Then we went to the park, played bowls, and generally had a doss about. I met Trevor Buxton on the bus home; he's still as cool as ever.

Saturday, June 13, 1981


I went to Woodhead Park at one thirty to meet Lee and Andy Wiechec but had to wait for an hour or so before they arrived. The park lake’s been drained; I felt sorry for all the ducks, huddled on the litter-strewn mud flats and dodging bricks hurled by the hordes of kids who spend time there. It was swelteringly warm. We wandered up to the bowling greens for a couple of hours, Andy winning, me coming last, then had a look round Hainsworth Hall where I bought a Simone Cantarini postcard. The attendant pointed out the original. Wiechec gave me a lift to his house on the back of his bicycle, which really made me want one even more. We left at l five after I’d agreed to buy his rucksack off him for £8.50.

Someone fired blanks at the Queen. She looked quite shaken afterwards. The six year old Italian stuck down a 200-ft shaft has been abandoned to his fate and I feel really sorry; he’s been calling for his mother, which brings home how lonely and scared he must be.

Friday, June 12, 1981


Did my oil painting for much of the day, occasionally venturing into the common room to listen to Claire and Duncan indulging in petty small talk or reminiscences. Me and Lee stayed at school painting until almost five.

In the evening I met Lee at the Easterby Film Theatre to see Eraserhead and The Tempest. The place was quite crowded, mainly with student types. I felt quite alone, and when I saw Julie Walker sitting with David McCall I was struck by my complete lack of contact in that sphere. The films were strange and I didn’t know whether to like them or not. Eraserhead was especially weird and quite gory in parts. I hadn’t a clue what it was on about but the images were good anyway.

Thursday, June 11, 1981

All quiet on the northern front

I hate everyone’s shallow chitterings. I spent most of my time in a virtually deserted common room, talking to Deborah and Jeremy. There are only thirty four of us now that the seventh years have gone. Exams begin a week on Monday. Great lethargy once more. Deborah and Evelyn are going to see the tennis at Queen’s Club tomorrow, and they are borrowing school’s Praktica, so I went home and got them Andrew’s case to borrow over the weekend. I played Mark Pittock at tennis and lost 1-6, 1-6.

In Art we continued with our oil pictures and I got stuck into mine and so was loathe to stop at six; me and Lee took our masterpieces home, to continue tomorrow. We could only raise three people for the six-a-side so we didn’t bother.

I watched All Quiet On The Western Front. It's brilliant, but quite harrowing in parts.

Wednesday, June 10, 1981


Torrential rain on the way to school and I got soaked. After listening to Ingham telling us about some University thing, school was serene, mundane and totally unremarkable. I was extremely bored and tired of everyone rabbiting on and on and on. We all knocked Slicer’s lesson. Hirst’s lesson--wow!

When I got home, I drifted in and out of sleep, the sleep of boredom. I’m in a rut, I really am. At school it’s worse, and when I'm home I eagerly await the next day yet can imagine exactly just what will happen. What is it that I look forward to? It must be my longed for and totally shallow interactions with everyone. I like them all so much, but I feel guilty that, almost nine months after meeting her, Claire still hasn’t been to my house. I’ll have to invite everyone over for my birthday.

Tuesday, June 9, 1981


Samey day at school, but nice and sunny all evening. Me and Mum watched a programme on immigration from Whincliffe. The audience was predominantly Asian/W. Indian and pretty hostile, and with a liberal sprinkling of white do-gooding band-wagon types the whole situation soon got quite ugly; proceedings ground to a fractious halt at one point as one Asian youth accused his elder of being a “bald-headed so-and-so,” and I felt it could’ve become even become worse. Extreme fanaticism is the problem, and no one is willing to listen anymore, too willing instead to blindly shout and scream. The whole problem seems to be one of education, because nobody knows anyone well enough which leads to false and superficial misconceptions. Mum says she is frightened by it all.

I got involved in an embarrassing debate with Mum and Dad about communism and capitalism. I don’t know the subject well enough and blithered on really vaguely and they whipped me. Talk about hollow ideals. I never do a stroke of work yet complain about inherited wealth!

Monday, June 8, 1981

Greetings from Easterby

It was an OK day, pretty fine weatherwise and OK in other respects too. Deborah left early on and after History we spent two pleasant hours talking and generally dossing around (Claire!). Jeremy is really weird in his dealings with Claire; he humours her constantly and never takes her seriously. She asked us all if we fancied going to Blackpool on the Thursday or Friday after the exams. Definitely!

I went to the doctor after school. Dr. David told me much the same as Drake; just “puberty” according to him, and nothing to worry about.

Watched England slump to 165 all out in reply to Australia’s 237-8; Australia take the three-match series 2-1. I then frittered the evening away playing records and was glad I had nothing looming and nothing to worry about. I wrote Andrew a “Greetings From Easterby” postcard.

Sunday, June 7, 1981

'At my age'

Rain once more today; sighs, curses, from one and all. Dawn of a new ice age, ‘when I was a lad’, etc. etc. We set off for St. Mary's Abbey but I was in a black, depressed mood which was irrational and really quite unfair on Mum and Dad. I don’t know, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there I was, out with them ‘at my age,’ when I could be out with friends or even a girl.

My depression didn’t lift until we'd wandered up towards Kirk Aislabie, seen two large herds of deer and a small herd of entomologists, and Mum promised me a second-hand bicycle (“after your holidays”) if I can get one for around £40. I bucked up a bit after that. We wandered up a path that didn't, as we'd thought, link up with the Abbey grounds but climbed instead up into woods, farmland, and through herds of over-friendly and under-milked cows. Mum's face was taut and panicky, her voice tinged with the usual “where are we” whining, but I must admit I was glad to see the ruins as we plunged down a field and climbed over a barbed wire fence in pouring rain. After some tea we headed home.

The evening passed listening to Sounds of Jazz or my new LP and watching Dad fit two speaker-shelves in my bedroom. One whole year of this diary! 365 days! Amazing.

Saturday, June 6, 1981


Mum and Dad went in to Easterby do the shopping and to watch the Mayor’s Parade so I went with them and toured my usual haunts, racked with indecision over what to buy. There were dozens of good books in Smith’s sale, but I felt as if I’d be buying one for the sake of it. I did buy The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists and a 1908 art criticism book by John Ruskin from a second-hand book shop. I wanted to buy an album (Lennon?) but ended up getting linseed oil and turps to do oil painting instead; bloomin' expensive - £1.63! At Praxis I got Ascénsion by Malo, Jorge Santana’s 1974 group, and a May ’81 Socialist Standard. Fairly enjoyable. My record is ace.

Did nothing the rest of the day except watch telly. Dad and I (!!?) watched England beat Hungary 3-1 away and surely they’ve got to qualify now. The weather was pathetic; Dad and Mum really got depressed over the gale force winds and lashing rain.

Friday, June 5, 1981


Events in days seem really important and often dog me at the time but when you look back they are so trivial. More pleasant contacts with Claire; I even dreamt about her last night. She rushed out of the common room after Jeremy made loud remarks about M. Barnwell’s appearance. I could never be like him. After Deborah went home, only Jeremy, Lee, Duncan and I remained. Total lunacy, loud crudities and constant jibes. I couldn’t do a thing for laughing. Duncan and Lee ended up at my house, and long periods in their company makes me think that my friends are really different from the majority of people. This explains a lot.

Andrew's going to the Copenhagen jazz festival!

Thursday, June 4, 1981


I talked with Duncan and Deborah and she was really quite normal and communicative. Lots of talk from her about cars and Tony etc.; they really seem steady. She’s a nice, friendly person and I like her a lot. I’m more at ease with her than I ever am with Claire. In Art I began painting up my vehicle composition in oils.

I got home after and it was quite obvious I was going to be late for the soccer; I felt in a black mood. Dad wouldn't give me a lift and it really annoyed me. I arrived half-an-hour late. We had loads of new team members and the team was better than previous fixtures; today was the first I felt outclassed. We lost all three games. P12, L11, D1.

Wednesday, June 3, 1981


English was quite boring, especially Hirst’s turgid dissemination of a Raymond Williams article on Arthur Miller. After school, a few of us raided our personal files in Ingham’s office, which caused much hilarity, and then spent ages moving various lockers around in the common room to make it less partitioned. Afterwards, Lee and I went down to Easterby Library to finish our art essays; it's an excellent work-place.

Tuesday, June 2, 1981


Deborah never seems to speak to me; what have I done to change her opinion of me? As far as this is concerned, Claire summed it up; “she gets on with Jeremy better . . . . anyway you know her feelings about you . . . .”

In Art I got my picture squared up on board.

Monday, June 1, 1981


Back to school; I liked seeing everyone again after a fortnight. Within a few minutes though, it was obvious that there was nothing different, just my eternal self-criticism and frustration and a complete feeling of ineptitude and obscurity. I hate it. It's just blatant self-pity I know, but who cares?? In the afternoon, we had a talk about universities, which was quite informative.

The evening was superbly still and warm and I was going to go to Easterby Astronomical Society but was secretly relieved to discover I only had about 50p and couldn't afford the bus fare. I watched Making of Mankind and Credo instead. This last programme was really good and makes me think about the superficiality of everything, including everything I’ve just said. How pathetic it is. I seem to lack originality of thought and depth of feeling.

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