Wednesday, June 30, 1982

Paraffin brain

I took my books back to school in the morning, a whole box-full for English alone. It was a long drawn out performance, with forms to sign, money to pay out (for a lost text) and hanging about waiting for non-existent teachers. School was deserted.

Up in the common room that familiar air of suffocating stillness and quiet was made worse by the sunny weather. Mr. Flatters trailed prospective 3rd year middle school kids to and fro, making sarcastic asides to me and using me as a cautionary example to them. I felt odd, thinking how grown up I must look to these kids and yet once, not so long ago, it was me who looked up at the 7ths. I don’t really belong any more.

Grant called round after Tesco and we took a bus to Royden. We wandered about for a while searching vainly for the Funtime Bar, and eventually we had to ask directions. Funtime is quite small, usual night club look of lights and mirrors, the bar a soft yellow glow, up one end a polished wood dance floor and a small stage already packed with amps and equipment.

We sat at a table. The place was empty apart from two blokes in their thirties at the bar, two barmaids (one in fishnet stockings and suspenders) and the support band, decked out in sleeveless T-shirts and long spiky hair low over face at front, leather jackets, studded belts. After an hour the audience dribbled in, leather leather everywhere, studs, bandolier belts, tight trousers, not an unspiked hair in sight. We watched, waited, and drank cider.

The support band had some long un-prounceable name and were pretty forgettable on the whole, and it wasn’t long before The Nightingales themselves stepped up to the stage. They were all very unassuming to look at, just ‘normal’ type blokes, the vocalist stocky and well-built. With his jacket, shapeless trousers, thick black hair and NHS specs, he reminded me of Grant.

They didn’t go down well but I enjoyed their stuff, which was Fall-influenced, although less noisy, more tuneful and varied. Their best number was “Paraffin Brain” which I’d heard before. I started to jig and shake my leg as I stood by the bar but after a few ciders I was fluidly waving my arms and rolling my legs until I was finally told to get out on the dance floor to join the three others dancing (including Grant). I quite enjoyed it. I’ll have to get a record.

We left at twelve and walked back through silent orange black suburbs and streets.

Perhaps I try too hard writing this and that's why I think it sounds so forced and contrived.

Tuesday, June 29, 1982

Fed through

I didn’t get up until eleven. It was a lazy day from then on and I did nothing at all apart from watch soccer on TV. Argentina lost to Italy and England drew 0-0 with W. Germany in a dour tactical battle.

I’m still angry that my painting got thrown away. I thought that it was one of my better efforts and it's such a waste. Mum said it’s as if now they’re done with us they couldn’t care less; we’ve been fed through the machine and now they're just not interested.

I was bored all day and it's like I don’t know where to begin. This holiday needs to be a time of mental stimulation and experimentation, but I hope I don’t drift into my old rut of semi-fearful torpor.

Grant rang in the evening. Late on I got out my 60mm telescope and set it up on the damp lawn. The half-moon was so spectacular, plus I saw three of Jupiter's satellites and two faint cloud belts.

Monday, June 28, 1982

Angel of enlightenment

My final exam’ went quite poorly; I certainly didn’t do well. My four questions were on the Russo-Japanese war, the October revolution and Marxism, the effects of the civil war on the CPSU and an assessment of Trotsky as an “angel of enlightenment.” I blundered in my Marxism essay, writing 3½ sides but not mentioning the October revolution until the third page. I also forgot about “Bloody Sunday” when I was writing about 1905. . . .

I sat in the common room for the last time; Claire was there, but there was a grey atmosphere all around, punctuated only by mundane conversations and bored laughter. I felt glad to be free but no great sense of release: a slight sadness pervaded most of the afternoon.

I found out that my picture for the Art exam' has been destroyed because I didn’t collect it on time.

Sunday, June 27, 1982

Ten thousand things

Mum and Dad were off on their hike by nine, and I rang Grant, spending a pleasant half-hour or so talking while lying on my back in the hallway, my legs lazily stretched up the stairs. I know I’ve said this before, but there’s so much to be optimistic about, if only I make an effort.

Grant and I are going to see The Nightingales next Wednesday and there's books to read, hikes to go on, trips to London, to Edinburgh . . . I want to start painting and to get the Moody Street newsletter. There's this Buddhist thing too, so many things. . . .

I can't get back into Russian history. Janet and Trev called round with Michael at half-six.

Saturday, June 26, 1982

Strange ways

The weather finally broke overnight and I got up to sun and cloud-blue skies.

Mum and Dad left after more post-mealtime despair and conflict (with Dad). They left me in the dining room to work. Ha ha. Finally, in the late afternoon, I ground into action and read various essays while lying on the floor.

Andrew rang; the threatened rail-strike is jeopardising his Denmark trip which is supposed to begin July 10th.

I didn't feel anything particularly strongly. Tomorrow I’m tempted to go hiking with Mum and Dad but revision anxieties wouldn't let me enjoy it. . . .

In a strange sort of way I feel content.

Friday, June 25, 1982


Continuous rain, inactivity and staleness.

Lee called round at one or so and at four off we set for Tesco, the big bore. I card-boarded all evening,  convinced that management had it in for me as I could see other, newer part-timers graced with pricing, doing loose stock, etc., etc., while I was left alone to my mindless and infuriating task. I felt really low and angry. Lee was doing the trolleys and got absolutely drenched. At least I got my £11.

Watching the news leaves me feeling that everything stinks: the politics, the arguments, the hoary old moralities, and I feel like fighting it all from some ridiculous quasi-spiritual and impractically purist position.

More late night aggro’ with Dad.

Thursday, June 24, 1982


No work again. I’m out of the mood.. Lee rang at one to say he’s discovered hundreds of psilocybin mushrooms growing in the fields near his house and is going to try them out tonight. . . .

Dad arrived home at two with an enormous three inch Bullfrog tadpole, green-brown and speckled black, with staring black eyes. He's put it in a tank on the kitchen window-sill.

So much boredom at Tesco, my brain glazed and dead, dull, tired movements, a waste. A watched kettle never boils.

Athletic have signed Roy Midgley from Burnedge Town so I rang Robert to tell him and he got round to enthusing about Gary Snyder's poetry and ecology and his newfound interest in Zen. Next week he and Carol are going to a monastery somewhere that was founded by Buddhists who fled Tibet after the Chinese invasion. He sounds like he's really getting into it. I felt all excited: it's only £6 for weekend board and food. I also told him about Compendium Bookshop.

Wednesday, June 23, 1982


More of the same. I ran across Junky, which I thought I’d lost months ago; there is nothing ‘romantic’ or attractive about the things in there. . . .

I left my overall for Tesco at Lee's so I stopped by his house to get it. He was in his bedroom filling in his diary and Jonasz Wiechec was there: when he saw me he rolled around on Lee's bed, pointing and cackling, his laughter mocking and puerile.

Lee and I visited our old middle school at Lodgehill which I hadn't seen since May 1978. It was a strange, sad and depressing experience. Nothing had changed at all, and the sights and smells sparked memory-recognition that drew me back across the years. Only the kids—and us—were different.

We visited Mr. Oldham, our old Art teacher. His hair and sideburns are white now. “Who’s this?’ he said on seeing me, obviously not remembering, then amazed at my height and changed-ness. I saw that our ten-minute ink sketches, the brass rubbings we did on a school trip to Felbrigg in Norfolk, and a planet-fall painting of mine were all still up on the walls, as if we’d just left them. He offered Lee £20 to paint him a picture, “with detail in it.” The current class, mainly Pakistani girls in sari bottoms, grey skirts and blue school jerseys, stared at us. “Yours was the best year . . . a lovely lot. . . .”

We cut through the cloakrooms, passing the tiny sinks, and I remembered that feeling of self-conscious anxiety standing in the dinner queue on the stairs. The main hall was so small, and in one of the classrooms around the perimeter we met 'young' Mr. Foyle, now bearded, who seemed awkward like he didn't know what to say. “Yes, nothing ever changes here.” It was like a time capsule with that familiar chemical smell and the rows of long brown desk tops probably still ploughed deep with our old graffiti. A toyland science room.

The dinner-ladies recognized us, saying “There’s them lads that used to come here” before we were finally moved off by a female games teacher because we were interfering with her lessons.

Our last stop was Mrs. Ryan down in the ‘terrapin’ in the yard, scene of Japs and Commandos battlegrounds and WWII Nazi massacres. . . . I was hot and blushing as I talked with her in front of the class about my American Studies course at Watermouth and her visit to Virginia two years ago.

On the way back I bought two Stan Kenton 78s at a Lodgehill Rd. antiques shop and caught the bus home. “Eager Beaver” has a loud crackle and hiss but it's good!

Tesco was boring and Jeremy rang late on.

Tuesday, June 22, 1982

The streets are full of mercenary eyes

Dad told me stories about his days in the police in the early '60s and about “The Watcher of the Night,” a mysterious figure who dropped notes through the station letter box at dead of night with tip-offs about local crimes, tip-offs that usually turned out to be right. The notes kept coming for two years or so, and made Dad and colleagues feel uneasy as they patrolled the dark cobbled gas-lit alleyways and backstreets, wondering if the all-seeing eyes of the “Watcher” were on them. . . . It all sounded so far off and primitive; the early shift stoking up the big coal fires, the Inspector living at the station, tunics that buttoned up the neck, police boxes, old scooters.

Mum is convinced I’m thinking of joining the force. I suppose if nothing else it would clear up my many prejudices, but I’d be too scared that I'd become bitter and twisted, just as Dad can be.

I continue reading Doctor Sax  and Kerouac's sad tales of Lowell childhoods. As soon as I play Charlie Parker, as soon as I put the cold dead vinyl on the turntable, blue smoke-filled visions of dingy ‘40s and '50s dives waft into my mind.

In the World Cup, Poland beat Peru 5-1 and Scotland were knocked out by the USSR on goal difference. Coverage was interrupted for more shots of The Baby accompanied by sentimental and sugar-coated comments delivered in a soft and smiley ‘here’s-what-you’ve-all-been-waiting-for’ tone, as though the whole cosmos should be rejoicing. It makes me sick. Planet-wide, countless babies arrive unheralded; this royal one will never have a chance to live a normal life and will be ruined by protocol and starch-stiff tradition.

Monday, June 21, 1982

Mess of my

The house was silent, dark and empty when I got up at eleven. Incessant rain and sheet grey skies. I started Doctor Sax; to be able to read for pleasure again! No more resentful and mind-dull analyses of set-books. . . .

Dad came home at two in one of his annoying bitter moods, his voice monotone as he dirged on about anti-police groups and the permissive “do your own thing” attitudes which are “undermining the fabric of our society.” I was “born too late to appreciate all the good things of our culture.” And so on and on.

I said I wanted to change things, and he said that wanting to change things is why the ‘new society’ mentality has been the downfall of Good Old England. “Things are best left alone.” He cited a Daily Express article about a school revolution engineered by “extreme left” teachers. What!? I thought back to yesterday’s inner city scenes of Lockley. How can he say things don't need changing? He is so opposed to anything new or different, anything which threatens the cosy simplicity of his patriotic black-and-white world.

The Royal infant arrived at 9.03. Instant TV lights, cameras, jostling journalists, chanting and flag waving. The Royals’ popularity is phenomenal!

Lately there's been so much tension, hassle, aggression all around: the media crap about the Royal baby; Scargill and his minions. . . . I feel knotted up inside at everyone and everything, an anger inside at people and their attitudes. Stuff the family of man as far as they're concerned. I don’t know how real all this is, yet here I am claiming to be the big humanitarian. But there are so many people I loathe at certain times.

Sunday, June 20, 1982

Fantastic life

Dad gave me a lift on to Grant’s late morning. The weather was foul, rainy and grey. I ate with Grant's family, listening to the conversations as Charlie Parker bebopped away in the background. He got quite a good reception.

Grant and I left soon after to go up to the Print Biennale, but we didn’t stay long, just a cursory walk round and a coffee downstairs in the dingy cramped café where we met Lee. We felt bored.

We walked on Musgrove Road towards town, passing derelict and weed-strewn houses, and turned off on Pine Lane. The rain had stopped and it was quite warm now. We saw hordes of scruffy children, streets filled with rubble, slummy decaying fabric of new prison tower blocks, paint-peeling gutted shells of houses with gaping black windows and gardens full of old mattresses, newspapers, weeds, and bricks, a dirty jumble of grey factory walls, dull glitter of glass, skylights hazy, all negative and depressing . . . I was suddenly filled with a sense of the reality of everything.

What a lie that humans masquerade as the pinnacle of Earthly evolution. We're the only creatures in the world to create such awfulness and to take so much from everywhere and never put anything back, to build suffocating mile-after-mile of congested decay and black sterilised ruination. We don't live ‘in harmony’ with anything, not even ourselves. The whole lot's an enormous, choked up, dislocated mess. Humans are shooting and bombing one another one minute, performing surgery-heroics the next. It's such a waste of talent and time.

The new houses they build are row after row of rabbit hutches, boxes. . . . Rioters are condemned in sanctimonious tones yet if those same patronisers actually tried to live this ghetto-slum existence they might know what to expect. There's no knowledge of the truth. We live in a ‘democracy’ but so many millions live grinding foul lives and are ignored. . . .  But now I sound contrived, such a teenage-youth-revolution-idealist. . . .

Grant, Lee and I cut back down Sunderland Street and stopped to look round an ex-cinema that's now a Pakistani bargain clothing warehouse. We saw so many possibilities in the ridiculous battered distorted dummies without heads. Went back through Woodhead Park, sat by the lake and indulged in crude murder fantasy stories etc., etc., which had Grant laughing hysterically.

Lee said goodbye and Grant and I got back to No. 44 for more music and food. I felt vague optimism about the next three months.

All this crap! What does it mean? Do I really believe in it all?

Saturday, June 19, 1982

If . . .

I was up at ten and into Easterby to collect my waistcoat from the dry cleaners and to buy a Charlie Parker LP. I called in at the El Dorado for a beefburger sandwich and to talk to Grant and got home at about one. “A Night in Tunisia” is unbelievable, especially the sax break. Its falling, rising, tumbling tremulous tones make my spine shiver.

I’ve been thinking about the exams. On the whole the papers weren't that difficult and if I’d revised thoroughly then I could maybe have done well. But it's always an‘if’. . . .

It's a good feeling just to be able to sit about with an easy conscience though: it was funny when occasionally a twinge of guilt overtook me before I realised that now I’m free. I watched Cameroon hold Poland to a 0-0 draw. The former looked much more dangerous in the second half.

Friday, June 18, 1982


My last but one exam: unseen English. Beforehand I trekked through torrential rain into Easterby with Lee. We went to Suits Me and I bought an ace checked windcheater reminiscent of a Chinese Maoist jacket. Lee bought some good shoes which I would have loved but they were just too tight.

By the time we got to school we were absolutely drenched and only had time to hang about outside the Sports Hall before going into the exam’. It was quite hard at times, and I felt rushed for time, barely finishing in the allotted two hours. Lee said he’d done badly again. There was a strange twilit, morose atmosphere, emphasised by the filth outside.

We set off for Tesco feeling really depressed, a combination of the weather, the exam’, a whole host of other things scarcely worth mentioning (for me it would require too much honesty), but something to do with a really low point in my self-confidence which worsened throughout the evening.

To cap it all I had to walk home through the damp depressing industry of Farnshaw.

Argentina looked excellent in their 4-1 win over Hungary.

Thursday, June 17, 1982

Dark gross chapel

My History exam was at nine and I was dreading it, but the questions were relatively easy, perfect for people who hadn’t a specific grasp of the course, probably poor for those who knew all the details but couldn’t use them differently or argue abstractly.

I answered my four questions on the Second World War. Was German defeat inevitable? Did Hitler rise solely as a result of Weimar’s economic problems? Was the war a result of mismanagement? And finally a superbly abstract question about the reasons for the arts “incomprehensibility”; I waffled on about angst, Burroughs, Kandinsky, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and punk. I felt quite pleased with my three sides per question.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll do well after all?

Dad was in a good mood when I came home so we drove to the pet store in Leckenby for some white worm for the newts. On the way we stopped to see the remains of what was once the old Methodist Chapel.

Over a wall by the side of the road lay a graveyard, thick with grass, weeds and sycamores, A rough path, beaten through the damp grass plunged down amid the leaves and overshadowing trees. Old yellowing newspapers were scattered all around, the gravestones barely visible, some green and moss-covered, others hidden under thick tangled grass. In a little clearing amid the trees were the remnants of the Chapel—a decaying, crumbling wall choked with glossy green ivy, a gaping glass-less window, its stone frame bare and old, a tiny dark room to one side, spidery fingers of ivy dangling from the ceiling, slugs everywhere. . . . An inscription bore the date 1642. It was incredible, the tall grass beaded with water droplets, hidden dank stones and, rising amid the saplings and bushes, the chapel tower itself, only the top surviving like a black stone summerhouse.

The church opposite is still in use but here across the road the bones of human beings lay forgotten. So much for Christian conscience. A hearse passed, the coffin new and gleaming, a huddled group of mourners in the back. . . . To think that in fifty years no one will care, that that body too will lie ignored beneath a black, sooty head stone, choked by weeds and tangled roots. And people still insist that there's a God? There's nothing, only the harsh fact of unseen graves, ignored and unthought of at the busy mindless roadside.

Dad and I set off again, up towards Bethany Head. Electric pylons strode everywhere, crisscrossed with power cables. To our left the fields swept down towards Easterby, vaguely discernible in the distance as a yellow and white smudge of industry, factories and misty tower blocks.

We stopped at the pet shop, Bernie’s Pet World (“Scruffy Dogs Bathed,” “All Breeds Trimmed”). Kittens, a puppy sleeping in a basket in the window, tanks, cages, cluttered boxes, animals everywhere, parrots, quail, finches, pigeons, a polecat, snakes, anoles, a slow worm, fire-bellied toads, a monkey, axolotls, bullfrog tadpoles, a superb colourful yellow and black tortoise, fish, a friendly terrier running free, solid and furry as he rubbed against us.

We got our white worm culture and were home for three.

Tesco was OK and I enjoyed stacking frozen stock in the freezers, which was a change from the monotony of card-boarding.

The N. Ireland-Yugoslavia game was a boring 0-0 draw. Argentinian General Galtieri has gone, replaced by a new general. Lami Dozo is tipped as the new premier.

Wednesday, June 16, 1982


I did nothing until the afternoon . . . I don’t know . . . I work even less than I used to for those History tests . . . Instead, all I've been able to think about is the future, in a sort of hangover from last night, feeling somehow optimistic and content. . . . I no longer feel the incentive to work; exam time is too near, and I've too much to do.

Dad ran me on to Tesco and we stopped on the way near the reservoir in Nunstead and looked round the ancient Quaker burial ground which was sad and overgrown. Only two tombstones were visible, one ancient and weathered, the other the most recent burial there, which had the date 1903.

I got my wage situation sorted out. I was on the wrong rate and I’ll get an extra £1.04. This put me in a fairly good mood.

A classic day of World Cup action, Algeria beating W. Germany 2-1, Honduras stealing a draw from Spain, and England thrashing France 3-1. Perhaps we could go all the way?

I made half hearted attempts to read Perry in bed but it’s pointless. This could be my worst failure so far. . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 1982


At nine o’clock I had my three-hour Art exam. I didn’t expect to do as well as in the mock and I don’t think I did. The first questions I answered (on fresco and the “hallmarks of a good painting”) were incoherent, dislocated and didn't flow; I just couldn’t think straight and kept on crossing words out or adding them. I got into it a bit more on the last two questions on abstract art and the relevance of art history to practical artwork, and I quite enjoyed myself.

Lee came back home with me after the exam and, in between cooking omelettes and making the house a tip, we slobbed around all afternoon watching TV.

More victorious TV crowing and newspaper overkill on the Falklands, much bandying about of “heroism,” “bravery,” “honour” and “our lads,” talk of the restoration of sovereign rights, etc. Over a thousand dead in all. Meanwhile God’s Chosen People continue their murderous progress in Beirut.

More soccer; Scotland 5, New Zealand 2. Hungary have just beaten El Salvador 10-1. Dad is cantankerous and constantly moans about everything and nothing. . . .

Grant rang, and when he said how well he’d done on the Paper 2 English question on Conrad I was filled with a sudden sense of failure. I’m going over on Sunday. We're planning a summer trip to Compendium Bookshop in London; much to do, books to read, paintings to see, records to hear, groups to see.

Monday, June 14, 1982


This morning I said something to Dad about Franz Marc and August Macke dying in WWI and he agreed that it was a total waste and then expressed admiration for Siegfried Sassoon's antiwar poems: “I’ve read Goodbye To All That three times. . . .” Sometimes I just don't understand him.

From eight in the morning on I did art revision which made me regret not taking an Art History course. The Art exam’ is tomorrow. I continued to revise most of the rest of the afternoon, alone in the dining room with Nanna P. Outside it was chilly and overcast. Occasionally a bird sang.

Paul Klee - “I want to be as though newborn, knowing absolutely nothing about Europe; ignoring facts and fashions, to be almost primitive.”

George Balanchine - “I want you to write a polka.”
Igor Stravinsky - “Who for?”
GB - “Elephants.”
IS - “How old?”
GB - “Young.”
IS - “If they’re very young I’ll do it!”

In the evening garbled news came through of a ceasefire in the Falklands, then it seemed, a lasting surrender. I watched Italy v Poland (0-0) and Brazil v Russia (2-1).

All is silent as I write except for the loud hiss of the gas fire.

Sunday, June 13, 1982


I'm bored with the writing in this diary. I use the same words and phrases over and over again. My ‘writing skills’ really are laboured and dull.

Mum was cleaning the brasses in the dining room when I got up. The strong smell of Brasso reminds me of days past: when I do go away it will be smells that transport me back. . . .

I didn't do any work until the evening. As soon as the first exam was over it was almost as if I’ve regarded the ‘A’ levels as done from a revision point of view. I haven’t done a thing since before Thursday’s exam’.

Fifty nine dead, seventy odd wounded in the Bluff Cove attacks last Tuesday. Civilians dead too, but Nott declared that setting up a safe zone won't hamper British operations. And they have the islanders best interests at heart?

The opening match of the twelfth World Cup wasn't televised because of the Falklands crisis. Absolutely pathetic. I revised into the early hours, really getting into and enjoying Expressionism, Macke, Marc, etc.

Saturday, June 12, 1982


Mum told me she made a frieze about the seaside on the wall at Marlborough Immigrant Centre by copying it directly from a book the kids like, but when she got in on Thursday her superiors told her to brown out the faces of the two kids in the frieze because “the board members will be upset” (!).

I am going to avoid working for as long as possible.

I went into Easterby with Mum and Dad. We paused on the way to watch the Lord Mayor’s Parade wend its way through rain drenched Lockley towards the park. I’d intended going to the library to do some Art revision but I only called in briefly. Duncan was there.

I bought an LP from Praxis, Distortions by Blue Phantom.

A sort of semi-jovial hostility reigned between Dad and me all evening. The attack on Port Stanley has started. . . .

Friday, June 11, 1982

Wage packet job

Lee came round after his exam’ finished at half-twelve; we hung about and set off to Tesco at four.

Before going in we climbed over the railings at Nunstead Church and sat in the sun and grass of the graveyard in the back. Although we were surrounded on all sides by the hum and hubbub of human noise it was really peaceful; everyone slaves their lives away and goes round with sightless eyes and the very thing they search for is here, right in their midst!

Lee, (about a big old tree nearby): “It’s never had to work yet it just lives.” Creatures exist in their natural state but humans are considered failures or social outcasts if they do so. . . .

I got my first wage, but it was only £8.63 instead of the £14 I'd expected.

Thursday, June 10, 1982


This morning I finally received word from Moody Street Irregulars and was pleased that the editors condemned the sensationalism and “sexploitive” tone of the standard coverage of Kerouac. Lee called round and we half heartedly tried to do some work but it was just too late, so we memorised a few quotes and left at about half-eleven for school.

Everyone (even Deborah) was infuriated by Duncan’s smug over-confidence as we sat waiting, cheerily pessimistic as usual. At one, feeling nothing at all, I drifted down to the Sports Hall for English Paper II. It was quite difficult: my first two questions, on Austen’s exploration of morality and the significance of Verloc and the Professor in Conrad, were awful; my next two (on Miller and Naipaul) were a little better, and at least read more fluently.

I got a lift to Tesco from Deborah. Time passed so slowly . . . I kept checking on the clock . . . . Another part-timer didn't turn up so I was cardboarding all evening. I felt weary and slow, and Mr. Thomas kept exhorting me to move faster.

More late-night aggro between me and Dad over, stupidly enough, a tin-opener.

Wednesday, June 9, 1982


I did little apart from go out for a newspaper; the weather has broken down and it’s now overcast, still and cool.

There are a few of Dad’s records I like: Dvořák’s American String Quartet (the ‘American’ 2nd movement is so sad and evocative); Vaughan Williams’ Synfonia Antarctica and Thomas Tallis (sums up the ancient atmosphere and spirit of medieval and Dark Age Britain); the Prussian march “Fehrbelliner Reitermarsch” (unashamed militarism and aggressiveness).

Lee called round at one or so and I felt pretty depressed afterwards for some reason. It was gloomy outside, despair inside over tomorrow's exam’ for which I've done no work whatsoever, over Tesco, the whole thing. . . .

Tesco was OK but tiring. I priced loads of things, blundering with the price gun. I got a lift home from Deborah in her VW Beetle.

Tuesday, June 8, 1982


I did nothing much apart from go into Easterby with Lee to trek around second-hand clothes shops in the heat. The only evidence of flood damage we saw was in a shoe shop down Harris Street, where workmen hammered and banged, the carpets ripped up. Lee bought some pointed suede shoes.

To say I’m in the middle of exams I feel nothing. I regard them as as good as over already.

Today it's two years up for my journal and although I want to try for some sort of say-it-all grandiloquent phrase to sum it up I can’t manage it. But I do feel proud of the fact I’ve been so conscientious in keeping it going.

On TV I watched the mouthings of Reagan on his visit to Britain and I was suddenly filled with trembling anger. Britain and the USA, the twin cockpits of democracy, all those stuffed smug dummies seated in Parliament, Thatcher herself, hawkish, condescending. . . . I want to say something. . . . As if ordinary people have any say in what goes on! Instead we are manipulated and pushed about as effectively (but more subtly) as if a dictator ruled us. Because our system decrees that Parliament is democracy, tens of thousands of people have their wished ignored. It's crap! All over the world, governments are wielding the big stick.

Dad and I got into teatime arguments over the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Monday, June 7, 1982

Gate beneath the stars

English Paper I. I was a little nervous when I woke up but really I was amazingly calm to say it was the real thing. I memorised a few quotes and set off: everyone in, nervous fatalistic laughter and talk.

My first two questions on Antony and Cleopatra were OK, and I did also OK on the Coriolanus question, but my answer to number eight on Sohrab was weak. I finished with 10 minutes to spare and was almost satisfied apart from an awful sickening moment when I thought I’d missed a question.

The heat was stifling and direct, clear sky and sun all day. Lee and I drank a bottle of cider as we walked home through the dusty Egley afternoon; he seems happier, less depressed. I got my hair cut and got into an argument with Dad at teatime, the friction stemming from my no-nationalism rant in response to his “I’m British . . . I’m bothered about our lads, not the Argentinians.” So annoying. So right-wing.

In the evening Simon rang and persuaded me to go to Darren Busfield’s party at Harvey's. We stayed about quarter of an hour, and I hated the hostility and utter crassness all around. As we wandered back we reminisced about old school friends of the 3rd, 4th and 5th years and talked a long while by his gate beneath the stars, a hedgehog skittering dark and mysterious in his garden.

Sunday, June 6, 1982


Suddenly it seems the ‘A’ levels are here: the first one is tomorrow. I haven’t revised hardly enough but I don’t even care. The last few weeks have gone quickly, so quickly that it doesn’t seem a moment ago since I was being told “you’ve still time left to work. . . .” I feel resigned to my fate. I know I'm on the brink of failure but at the moment I couldn't care less.

Lee’s problem last night has a lot to do with this feeling that he's wasted the last two years of his life by being a slob. I just wish it was all over.

In the Middle East fighting is now in its third day as Israeli tanks enter Lebanon. Robert and Carol left at dinnertime.

Gloom and steady torrential rain all afternoon, the rumble and crackle of thunder: occasional pink-blue sky flashes illuminate the page as I write. Floods in Whincliffe, someone dead after being struck by lightning. Depressing.

I made half hearted attempts to look over my notes but really it's too late now. I have a sort of deadened feeling when I think about how little I know; I can't remember the details of texts, plots, quotations. . . . I just have to hope for the best. Dad says he’s sure I’ll get through OK, but I wish I knew I would.

Saturday, June 5, 1982

This hideous replica

Mum and Dad came home about one. They are both as brown as berries. Rob & Carol showed up unexpectedly at two as well, fresh from their week in the Lake District, and the house was filled with talk. Robert is crippled by blisters, his arms red raw. Entertaining tales of respective holidays continued all afternoon and everyone was in a good mood. I really wish I could have gone to Calverdale with Mum and Dad. I remember its ancient, almost medieval atmosphere as timeless and uncommercial.

Lee rang mid-afternoon, his voice full of accusation: “They’re saying you broke into Laxton’s parents drinks cabinet and drank half a bottle of QC and a bottle of Scotch. Is it true?” I hedged and fumbled, half-denying, but sinking already into inner recriminations: “It’s exaggerated” was all I could lamely manage in reply. Why do I always make the same stupid hypocritical mistakes? I don’t know what to say. Should I be ashamed?

When Peter and Tim called round in the evening it was even worse: “You were too pissed to remember anything. There's half a bottle of gin missing,” and so on. Why?

Lee rang again in the evening, sounding despairing, depressed and utterly sick. His Mum is constantly on his back over his lack of work and he tried to persuade me to flunk the ‘A’ levels with him. He wanted to go away (“like your hero”) and muttered something about Norfolk and looking round churchyards. “You’re just going to get paper grades and get institutionalised at Uni.” He's right but I can’t: I have too much at stake. I’ve gone too far to fuck it up now!

We arranged to meet in Moxthorpe and sat in a bus shelter and talked as lightning flickered and flashed across the moors. He seems so lonely and says he has no-one to turn to, can't talk with his Ma, his step-sisters too remote and unknown. His ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude was so unlike his normal self and he went on mysteriously about not knowing where he was and feeling like he's going insane when he's at Tesco. My advice about “sticking it out ‘till September” sounded contrived and corny. He looked very alone as he wandered slowly back through dark Moxthorpe streets.

I feel so angry with myself, as if somehow I'm to blame for what's happened. I am filled with a despairing rage at everyone. Sometimes everything is too much.

Friday, June 4, 1982

We could stay here for ever

An early start again, up at seven thirty, working by eight. I hate being alone sometimes; I don’t know, I must be missing Mum and Dad or something. I got a postcard from them this morning and they seem to be enjoying themselves with hikes to Croft Castle, along the Blea Gate and up Gilsey Gill. They’ve seen bats, newts, owls, lizards, stoats, birds galore, and their postcard ended with “We could stay here for ever.”

I worked an hour or so, mainly on Persuasion; Lee called round early afternoon and we didn’t do a thing after that. Lee, bored: “I just want to go and stay in a tent in a really bleak place and lay on my back and look at the sky.” He left again at two.

At Tesco at 4.45 and I had to price stock and put it on the shelves. The heat was stifling. Got out at half-eight and had half a cider at a pub in Nunstead, and Lee and I called in on Jeremy and spent an enjoyable hour listening to Madness and laughing.

Walked home to distant rumbles of thunder and horizon lightning-flashes. Lee planned on coming back here to work all night but just rang up to say he's not.

I feel calm and strangely content.

Thursday, June 3, 1982


I felt absolutely terrible all morning and early afternoon. My head ached and I felt sick enough to puke a few times. Lee came about eleven and we didn’t really seem to get started. I ending up working for about 15 minutes or something.

Dad rang early on, as did Grant, who says he’s working quite hard. At four I set off for Tesco leaving Lee in the house doing revision; we promised to meet outside the Odeon in Farnshaw and go see Britannia Hospital.

Tesco was tiring, hot and thirsty work. I cardboarded most of the evening and talked to Stephen. I’m gradually learning my way round. I was dripping with sweat as I pulled out all the heavily laden palettes.

I met Lee as arranged but we decided not to see the film because of revision pressures. When I got home he’d accidently locked me out and so I had to clamber through the dining room window.

Wednesday, June 2, 1982

Plain truth

The telephone call from Lee came later this morning, and he showed up at half-eight. We didn’t do as much work as yesterday and lapsed more often into doodling and reading the Plain Truth mag’ Lee had brought. After another fish and chip dinner we did hardly anything except lounge around and mess about with the tortoise.

I was nervous. Set off for Tesco mid afternoon in dry searing furnace-heat; it was an uncomfortable journey but I got there early and hung about. Then a nice, young, suntanned woman showed me and another first-timer round the canteen, cloakrooms, prep rooms and warehouse before I was handed off to tall black Mr. Thomas who told me, “You work hard and we can see about being friends.” I heard Stephen Brown’s crazed jeer of anticipation from the dark recesses of the warehouse.

Nigel Muff showed me the ropes, teaching me how to pick stock and how to figure out how many boxes of, say, sweets were needed out on the floor, before taking me up to the flimsy steel-girder gantry floor in the warehouse where the sweets were kept. He also showed me how to “cardboard” on the shop-floor itself and how to operate palette trolleys. . . .

After 3½ hours we were told we could go home. Nigel gave me a lift back through wet twilight scenes of Farnshaw urban sprawl. I felt suddenly weary when I got home and fell asleep, only to be woken up at nine by Lee who’d come round to go to Sean Laxton’s party.

We bought some cider in Moxthorpe and were soon being ushered by Gary Abbott into the music babble and glass chink of the party. All the expected crapsters were there, and I stayed in the kitchen while the jeans and T-shirt brigade hung around laughing and joking. On the stairs, Carol Lancaster, Tina Margerison, Elaine B. and Karen were already woozy and semi-drunk. Lee sat glumly apart, apparently unimpressed by the ‘fun’ and loud laughter.

Spencer Haynes bared his arse and pubes to all and sundry and attempted to molest a reluctant Angela Watkinson. Over in the corner Abbott and Tracey were all over one another and someone joked about her having no knickers and she said, “I had them on when I got here!” Upstairs in the bedroom I blundered in on Lynn Norden and friend, her on top of him, hazy alcohol blur of bare flesh. . . . Darren Busfield kissed Tina and Elaine, who kissed Tim in turn and Sean L. snogged Karen. I rifled gin and QC from Sean's parents' cabinet.

Carol was celebrating her birthday outside, spattering vomit down the wall of the house by the kitchen door, surrounded by a comforting crowd of males. Then there was more midnight lunacy in the street and garden. Youknowwho staggered and stumbled around, making oafish comments. Why do I always fall into the same boring rut of stale repetition, the same frantic rounds of cider, lager, whatever's available? Why don't I have the willpower to just leave?

Pretty drunk as I swayed home.

Tuesday, June 1, 1982

In a wild moment

At last did some revision! Lee here by 6.30 a.m. and we worked conscientiously and silently all morning and into the afternoon, only breaking for a dinner of fish and chips and cider.

Late afternoon the humid, sultry weather finally broke and a thunderstorm rolled and clattered across the sky. We sat in the gloomy dining room, the Art Ensemble shrieking and wailing a storm inside to match the one outside. Lee fled upstairs with a headache.

We worked a bit more after tea and Lee finally left at 10.30 after watching In A Wild Moment.

The Ministry of Defence has announced that Argentinian casualties in the Goose Green/Port Darwin battles number 250 dead along with 1400 prisoners. Only 17 dead on our side. How did they manage that?
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