Saturday, July 31, 1982

Dead fingers talk

When Robert got home in the early hours he found the house locked, and made futile attempts at waking us up, even banging on my window with a clothes prop'. But all to no avail. Dad got up at six and found him slumped blearily on a garden chair in the greenhouse.

Later on, Dad, Robert and I went to a book fair at Heber. The weather grey and dark. I’d expected a big jumble sale affair but I was disappointed that all the books were incredibly expensive. There were book dealers from all over the country. I saw copies of Dead Fingers Talk, The Soft Machine and The Wild Boys by Burroughs but they were all £6 each. A copy of The Paris Review with an interview with Burroughs was on sale at £8!

This really annoyed me because it seems like total exploitation. These books were not even first editions. As Robert said, it's a class thing, and successfully excludes ordinary people by pricing them out. It's the same with all the arts and it stinks. Robert bought The Gentleman’s Magazine from 1766 for £9 and Dad a two volume 1908 edition of Vaughan’s The Harp of the Sky. I got a 1962 1st edition of Into Orbit written by the Original Seven Mercury astronauts for £1.50.

We got back in a good mood and all in all it's been a good day. I didn’t end up going out: Lee rang to say the pub crawl had been called off. I’m glad; it’ll help me save money. Sometimes I feel so pissed off with the way this is written: the excessive length and turgid style is so dull and too repetitive.

Friday, July 30, 1982


I couldn’t sleep at all so to pass the time I wrote down everything I can remember about my childhood. It was cold grey dawn when eventually I fell asleep.

Robert arrived mid-morning; he's staying the weekend because he's going to a stag party at a rented house up Greenhead Lane. He's reading Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson and his enthusiasm is so infectious it makes me feel quite happy. Mum's in a real depression however; a culmination of things I suppose. She sat out on the lawn in the sun looking totally miserable.

Before I came to bed I watched News at Ten when suddenly, without warning, photos of the brown skinned grinning corpse face of dead nurse Helen Smith were flashed up on the screen. It shocked us all and then the next story featured shots of a fingerless fireman with toes grafted on to his bandaged stumps. Horrific. In cold and appalled tones, Mum told us she's heard there's been a brain transplant in Sweden or somewhere.

My paints finally arrived today. All I could think about was how, at £45, they're expensive for what they are. Lee and I are joining Steven Brown tomorrow for a pub crawl round town followed by an all-night do at Darren Harriman’s house which sounds as though it will be insane.

Thursday, July 29, 1982

Blue shadows pass

I was alone most of the morning and into the afternoon reading Zen Buddhism. Silence.

Taking up a point I mentioned on Saturday about Helen Vaughan; her poems seem to describe satori-like experience, especially the famous stanzas that begin: “Blue shadows pass . . .” and “The harp of the heavens. . . .”

In the evening I watched a BBC programme on the Falklands and, when I objected—naively I suppose—to shots of Marines singing “We’re all going to kill a spic or two . . . we’re going to blow them to bits,” Dad got all worked up and we got into an altercation. I should learn to keep my mouth shut.

I waited up into the early hours to watch for Perseid meteors but when I eventually looked again at two it had clouded in.

Wednesday, July 28, 1982

Brighter later

Grant was already up and blundering quietly about when I woke up. I was going to leave early but he suggested we go see a poster exhibition at Hainsworth Hall.

The posters were very good, all American and more thoughtful and artistic than their GB counterparts. There was even one advertising a memorial to Kerouac which pictured him standing as a spike-hatted Buddha before an idyllic scene of a road to mountains beneath cloud-flecked summer skies. Downstairs, Indian craftsmen and women performed to a crowd bearded self-sufficients and kaftanesque stereotypes in long flowing skirts.

Robert rang shortly after I got back home, asking anxious questions about Athletic and telling me about his trip to the amazing Rainsley Hill: “I was stopped four times by Rastas and asked if I wanted to buy drugs. I want to go back there again . . . it’s another world,” and so on.

After Tesco, Mum was upset because Dad has put in his resignation from the police today: he'll retire in August. She was crying when she said, “I remember when he was young, striding out with all his life ahead of him and now it’s all just gone.” Dad offered up a despairing reassurance that sounded a bit half-hearted. He has no job to go to.

Cool and overcast today, but brighter later.

Tuesday, July 27, 1982

Sheep heads

Last night Mum and Dad talked about Easterby as it was, before the late-sixties redevelopment, when the city centre was still filled with quaint old Victorian streets and buildings. When I went into town I looked at it with new eyes; places such as Felgate Road and the top end of Easterby near Northgate really are old. I looked for trousers but no go. I’ll have to go to Whincliffe.

In the evening I went to Grant’s where I met Lee and the three of us set off for the Hot Club in Lockley which opened tonight. The posters advertised “cool jazz,” dub, and a resident band The Flaming Cool Poets, so we set out with high hopes. From the looks we got we must’ve made an odd sight, Lee in his flappy overcoat, paisley scarf and purple-and-brown dyed trousers, me in my golfing jacket and Grant looking just totally scruffy.

We were way too early so we wandered about Lockley awhile. The Hot Club used to be held at Easterby Poly. but it's now based at Carrington’s on Lockley Lane. It was better than we'd expected, relatively empty and the TVs showed the Thunderbirds juxtaposed with the shower sequence from Psycho, clips from Rollerball, Close Encounters, footage of urban guerrillas, riots, Hitler at Nuremburg, long clips from The Prisoner with square-jawed steely-eyed Patrick McGoohan gassed, chased by an aggressive beach-ball, nearly blown up by exploding cricket balls. . . . The third song the DJ played was by The Pop Group and then, joy of joys, a long fifteen minute snatch of squealing Coltrane from A Love Supreme which sent the three of us into jumping spasms and twitches.

So the evening progressed, listening to the music, watching the videos, drinking cider or Pernod. I even danced toward the end, which was a big thing for me, but mostly I just sat back watching the dance floor.  Once again Grant got mocked which pissed me off because the mockers are just as straight and narrow-minded about others enjoying themselves as those they probably condemn as squares; sheep-heads. One man I particularly remember really stuck out, a strange sort of figure dressed in a dark narrow suit with short hair and an enormous, incongruous wispy Assyrian beard.

Too soon it was over, The Beatles twisting and shouting in grainy black and white, the screaming turned up to fill the place. We walked back to Grant’s, the streets silent and orange and empty, and I fell gratefully into bed.

What happened to the FC Poets?! Not a word.

Monday, July 26, 1982


I spent all day at Grant's and got home just as it was getting dark. We went into Easterby to buy our bus tickets for our London trip next month (£10.00 each) and to look at books. I bought a volume of poems by William Blake and a book of Baudelaire’s prose and poetry. We walked back to Grant's house and degenerated into total boredom and banality. At times I really felt quite bad.

Mum and Dad were in a good mood and talkative, unlike last night when everything was tense and filled with pregnant silences and the threat of misunderstandings. I wish it was always this way!

Sunday, July 25, 1982


Today Mum, seeing me writing, said: “I don’t know what you find to put in there. You never do anything do you?”

And with that, she sums up what, in various ways, I’ve been trying to say. I don’t have anything to write about. Notice how much space I’ve been taking up over the last month? Yet in that time, what have I done? I must write, do something. But it's so hard for me to maintain interest in any one thing.

Saturday, July 24, 1982

Lunatic prattle

Why do I write this? Some of it must be due in part to feelings I’ve already noted. Everyone and everything is impermanent: the relationships, the fleeting impressions, the thoughts, and tiny events happening all over the world in their billionfold but are so quick to be given up and lost. Reality is incredibly complex. It's this unalterable fact of existence which first made me consider a journal necessary. If life is worth living, it mustn't go unrecorded, however boring, mundane, or pretentious that life might be.

These thoughts occurred to me as I read a biography of Helen Vaughan I got from the library today. The question of what drives true artists—those who aren't interested in money, fame or even whether or not they'll be read—makes me think about how I do write here with a constant yet usually unspoken regard for the future, as if in some ridiculous and insane way I expect these words to be read by someone other than me. I must have some sort of egotistical delusion about my own worth.

All I can work out from this lunatic prattle is that I’m the biggest, graspingest self who ever lived, and a conceited bore, to boot, but I did begin from honest motives!

I bought a strange 12” by 23 Skidoo and also a single by The Nightingales. I find the Helen Vaughan biography morbidly, intensely fascinating. She had a Zen Buddhist view of life and death.

I watched Psycho for the first time. Antony Perkins as Norman Bates is incredible.

Friday, July 23, 1982


The meeting I'd dreaded all last week finally happened at Tesco. Just as I was removing a palette I heard a voice behind me, turned round and there was Jackie’s friend Samantha.

S: “Aren’t you speaking to me?”

Me: “Well, I haven’t seen you have I?”

The way she spoke though, in such a plaintive way, jabbed right through me.

I'm looking forward to my London trip with Grant, more so now because I have enough money. With my wage tonight I have £38.

Thursday, July 22, 1982

Basket case

I seem to spend my days dreaming up phrases and descriptions to put in this journal. I was left on my own while Mum and Dad drove Nanna P. around her Currackdale honeymoon haunts of 1929.

I like Rimbaud's Franco-Prussian war inspired poems. Rimbaud met a depressing end: “In the long run our life is a horror, an endless horror! What are we alive for?” and, as he lies slowly dying, minus his right leg: “What happened to my trips across mountains, on horseback, walking across deserts, rivers and oceans? And now I’m a basket case! . . . Farewell marriage, farewell family, farewell future. My life is over, all I am now is a motionless stump.”

Wednesday, July 21, 1982


What is there worth putting down other than that Nanna P. felt better with her leg and I saw Deborah and Tony at Tesco? She gave me a big friendly grin as she glided past. I was about to chase after her but she vanished without even a word.

Tuesday, July 20, 1982

Too much of too little for too long

Dad was on the early shift so he dropped me at the top of Glenbank where I sat on a bench and read a book on Zen Buddhism for a while before it got too chilly and I gave it up.

At the weekend, Carol told me about her college days at Brynmor: “I'd go along the cliff tops with a book, more in love with the idea of reading by the sea than with reading itself.” So it was with me this morning, and so it is with a lot of what I do. This diary is filled with passages where I seem to be taken by the descriptive act rather than the places or events or things I describe. Perhaps that is why lately I feel as if my journal lacks inspiration and is heavy and cumbersome.

Hot sun as I walked to Grant’s through the woods. His parents are on holiday and so he’s alone for a fortnight. Grant's total inability to cope with anything practical (he doesn't know how to use a tin-opener or locate basic things) had reduced the house to squalor. We were bored, drank coffee, and listened to The Fall, The Pop Group, The Doors, early Pink Floyd. Of the five LPs I took with me, two were from ’67, one from ’68 and two from ’69, a comment on my musical tastes of late if ever there was one.

We made a brief visit to Hainsworth Hall to see an exhibition of Indian crafts. In the coffee bar downstairs, Grant pulled a lone cigarette from an otherwise empty packet, lit up and sat there smoking self-consciously: I saw him giving tiny surreptitious over-controlled trying-to-be-casual glances at me, while the smoke stung my eyes.

Back at his house we sat in his bedroom and messed about with a tape recorder, recording a confusion of shrieks, hysterical laughter, facetiousness, talking, out of key ‘drunken’ singing and tribal drum accompaniments beat out on his bedroom door. It was momentarily amusing but we ended up bored as always; too much of too little for too long I suppose. But I felt vaguely optimistic by the time I left, despite my inevitable poverty at Uni and all the immediate demands on my finances. I borrowed J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition and The Fall's Grotesque.

Carnage today in London, two cavalrymen, six bandsmen and eight horses dead in an IRA nail-bomb explosion while entertaining crowds in a park. All the usual feelings of cold horror at what people can do to one another.

We got a letter from Andrew this morning. He arrived in Denmark safely on July 10th. He says there was a hint of old feelings returning when he saw Amalie again. Nanna P. is in some pain with her leg and was almost in tears when she struggled across the landing. Old age is a pathetic and degrading state.

Monday, July 19, 1982

Set the controls

I was in Easterby for ten o’clock as I had to buy Mum a card and present; it's her birthday tomorrow. She turns 48. As I wandered around town I bumped into Jeremy and then Grant.

I played A Saucerful of Secrets all day while Mum and Nanna P. sat out in the garden in the sun.

Sunday, July 18, 1982


After a muesli breakfast we listened to a cassette about Buddhism by a monk at the monastery (“Neil's a great bloke” said Robert).

I agreed completely with his arguments about cause and effect and interdependence, but it's hard for me to accept them as a way of life, and this is not because they're impractical or improbable, but because I need to be more convinced. Agreeing to a point of view is one thing, but overturning your entire lifestyle is another. Not that I would be opposed.

It occurs to me that in going to Uni. I'm hoping for the very things Buddhism addresses: searching for a route to fulfillment, a vision of a true reality behind everything.  This realisation leaves me feeling dead and desperate. And it awakens the understanding that my hopes are futile, which makes me feel downhearted. All I can see in the future is confusion and lack of direction.

We had salad sandwiches and mint tea and went out for a run in the car. It was stiflingly sunny as we parked on a hillside high above farmland and walked down through farms and walled lanes into overgrown fields. Here we rested awhile, surrounded by flies. The heat was incredible and very uncomfortable.

We got back about three or so and in the evening walked to Saxton Green. It was perfectly still and timeless but Robert depressed Carol with his despair and doomy talk about the new bypass that's being built which he says will destroy much of the peace and fields and trees.

In the pub’ I was once more subject to his enthusiasms over Buddhism; he told incredible anecdotes and tales while all around us was the everyday chatter and the chink of glasses. “I know it sounds really corny but it's changed my life” he said. Being at the monastery moved him so deeply, and he found the peace and tranquility so soothing and relaxing that it brought him close to tears right there. I was impressed by the end.

If I've totally flunked my ‘A’ levels then I suppose one option would be to go live in the monastery. After suffering through that I'd definitely need to find some peace.

Saturday, July 17, 1982

Jess Yates

The cats woke me up by playing with the light flex in the bathroom. I’ve been having some disturbing and vivid dreams lately; yesterday morning I dreamed I was with the Tsarist Royal Family and I was murdered by Bolshevik Red Guards, fending off bayonet thrusts as I was stabbed in the ribs. . . . Today I dreamed Egley was being shelled: the whistle of shells, whole families cowering in the gutters, Mr. Tillotson’s roof destroyed. . . .

We visited Alverhouse and Carol bought books for her school and we wandered about the open air market. I bought A Saucerful of Secrets and we had drinks in a couple of pubs. In one, a Jess Yates style organist trundled out mindless ditties to the accompaniment of stentorian and tremulous voices: the dark, bluesmoke interior was crowded with greying heads. One old lady was helped from her chair in a drunken stupour (“she’s on angina tablets”). The heat was suffocating. We got back to the house late-afternoon.

Robert's now a vegetarian, and his interest in Buddhism continues (“Zen is selfish”). We spent the evening reading and listening to folk records.

As I write this I can hear the soft murmur of a cassette tape on Buddhism from Rob and Carol's bedroom.

Friday, July 16, 1982

Middle mass

My inactivity was punctuated only by Lee calling round at midday. We sat about bored out of our skulls until three when we went to Tesco, via Farnshaw, where I bought some superb psychedelic ties and a pair o’ trousers.

As soon as we got to Tesco I passed Jackie’s friend Samantha on the stairs and for the next three hours I kept catching glimpses of her as she sailed about the shop floor. Mercifully she said nothing and I escaped at 8.20, Dad and Mum waiting in the car park to give me a lift down to Holdsworth Square station in time for the Dearnelow bus.

It was just me and one other passenger all the way.

Dearnelow was full of screaming, laughing, hooting people who milled restlessly in great clumps on their way to various watering holes. I met Rob & Carol in the Peacock. We left the pub’ at eleven and stopped at the fish and chip shop in Saxton to buy some chips on the way home.

Thursday, July 15, 1982


What is there to write on days like today when I don’t do a thing, think a thing, and there's nothing different from a thousand other days? This is why I float the possibility of writing only-when-inspired.

I set out for Tesco in foul drizzle and with a nervy feeling gnawing away at my belly, because tonight was the night Jackie's friend Samantha was supposed to come and arrange a date. It was that same feeling I got on the bus journey from middle school to the swimming baths or those games lessons where I had to do gym exercises. All the way there on the bus I concocted elaborate excuses, but none of them were needed: despite my fearful anticipation, she never showed up, and things were as mundane and normal as ever.

I felt very calm and contented in the evening. Mum and Dad talked about their love of walking and the intense pleasure they feel at certain moments amid moorland desolation. Dad said he gets fleeting pangs of longing as he gazes out on the garden at dawn.

I rearranged a visit to see Rob & Carol at the weekend. I am looking forward to it. Mum has ordered my paints for my birthday and says she would like to paint too.

Wednesday, July 14, 1982


I've been thinking lately that the constant, day-to-day recollection of events and the trivialities of how I'm feeling or not in this journal inevitably makes the writing here laboured, dull and overblown. Perhaps I should begin to write only when I feel inspired? But then I'd be scared I'd lapse all together.

If it's worth recording, then I read Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living until Dad gave me a lift to Tesco in the torrential rain. On the way home I called in at Grant’s to collect my records that I’d left in haste last night and walked back through doomy dank woods.

The railways are on the brink of being shut down and their staff sacked. I listened to Mum’s pessimistic, fearful and frightened voice forecasting the country’s doom with a horrible feeling in my gut. Everything could collapse in chaos.

My new Doors album, though not as good as the first one, is haunting with its whimsical songs and twee tunes.

Tuesday, July 13, 1982

Pale blond

I took my record back and exchanged it for Waiting for the Sun, met up with Lee and went back to Castlebrigg playing fields. He’d put huge amounts of extra string on his kite so it flew to ridiculous heights and was hardly visible in the bright white sky. We spent most of our time chatting to Andrew Boyd who cycled past. Couples lay entwined in the grass all around us.

Grant 'phoned at seven, so I took the bus round to his house to discuss plans for our August visit to London; we're staying in a youth hostel at Hampstead Heath. We listened to a few records and then went up to the Albion in Ashburn. We did the rounds, ending up at the Magpie where a drunken old man slurringly insisted his hair was “pale blond” and not the grey that it clearly was. He leered at a woman in tight red cords and said loudly, “Cor, look at that, a red arse!” We only had a couple of drinks but sang loudly as though we were completely drunk.

I got home after samosas at the Nawaab and contemptuous looks from the staff at our snorting hilarity and silly voices.

Monday, July 12, 1982

Soft parade

I met Lee outside Smiths at 10.30; he looked scruffy in a formless blue and white jersey and baggy Chinese work men’s trousers. I'd set out for Easterby with big plans but once there seemed unable to locate them, so we drifted about aimless and disconsolate, filled with an overriding sense of pessimism and narrow future possibilities. Stifled tedium.

We called at Suits Me where I bought an enormous jacket and then at a secondhand book shop  I got The Reader's Encyclopaedia by W.R. Benét for £4. We ended up at HMV where I bought The Doors Soft Parade and a single by Scritti Politti that was folksy and rough and discordant. The Doors LP was a big disappointment. I was glad it had a scratch so I can exchange it. . . .

On the way back Lee and I spent a couple of hours on Castlebrigg playing fields flying a kite he’s treated himself to. It felt somehow satisfying and enjoyable as the nylon string pulled taut and the kite bobbed and swerved in the wind, the fabric rippling and cracking.

Sunday, July 11, 1982

Churning waters

I couldn’t face the long doubt filled hours at home alone so I went on a hike with Mum and Dad. As we drove up into the Dales I was very conscious of my reticence.

We parked in bright sun. As usual I was irritable and short tempered. Oaklass car park was full of people donning rucksacks and hiking boots and we followed the crowds of hikers on the path out of Oaklass and strode along the river bank through soft greenery, cutting down past Wasselby amid valley shade and trees. We paused at Stebscar bridge while countless dozens of hikers passed us by, and then looked round the spacious gone-to-seed village of Stebscar itself.

As we trudged up a narrow twisty road I had a sudden memory of shoulder-weary tarmac clomp of summer 1981: up through Wood End we walked and into a dry and dusty leaf-shaded hollow strewn with rocks, and then out on to the moors. The heat was stifling; there was no air and my face was hot and stinging.

The path across dark Wood End Moor was tedious and covered in scrubby marsh grass and patches of brown reeds. It all felt slightly depressing, this miles-long climb over open acres of bleak moorland crossed by black walls, heading towards the soft dome of Newber Pasture and Eshburn Head beyond. Finally we crested the rise, and paused by the trig’ point, savouring the view and the cool wind gusting across from the limestone hills and valleys ahead. Everything felt clean, white, wide, refreshing unlike the dank dark moor we'd just trudged across, brooding behind us. I waited a long while at the stone stump of Eshburn Cross, enjoying the view and unwilling to lose the heights so long in the gaining.

Mum and Dad were already off down a shimmering white walled-track towards Hartwick Gate which plunged between towering limestone mounds and clipped grassy slopes. Lodge Wood was a green huddle in the valley. We got to Bydale Edge and there were hordes of people and I couldn’t help my sour feelings at the ant-like figures streaming past to see the sights.

Dawson's Force was ruined for me by the noisy trippers clambering everywhere over rocks and slimy green boulders or hiding in caves and waving, or yelling to one another across churning waters, leaving behind their legacies of wrappers and used tissues. . . . I struggled to adopt an attitude of “wisdom energy,” to stay cool and detached and to smother my selfish bitterness. It’s so hard.

We had a last foot-weary tramp through the woods along deep eroded rocky paths worn glass smooth from countless feet and reached Oaklass in sticky suffocating heat, the late-afternoon sun glaring. But we had a pot of tea and I felt suddenly content and happy, joking and ribbing with Mum and Dad. We got home at seven.

Later I watched Italy beat Germany 3-1 to become World Champions in quite an exciting game. I was glad Italy won: they played good football and W. Germany are always too lucky.

Saturday, July 10, 1982

Letting go

I was woken up at quarter-to-five by Dad: by half-five we were walking on Keddon Moor, still dark with evening gloom, the air cold, while high above yellow-brown palls of cloud scudded eastwards towards Whincliffe.

Now the just risen sun glared misty yellow, flaring across narrow ancient fields, casting pale shadows of trees and sheep and highlighting the hollows. The sky towards Heber was rain-shrouded, the horizon a blur of grey. It was blowy and bright as we took the old path that skirted the trig point, Stoat’s Gate I think it's called, and the pale moon showed its occasional face through high cirrus and banks of low racing cloud. Down below, the sleepy city was pale and enticing.

I began to feel cold and since the squall clouds loomed ominously we beat a retreat to the car. There were only a few people about as we drove back, calling at a newsagents in Harmshaw. It's as if everyone is friendlier in the early morning; it's the best part of the day and the part wasted by the majority (including me) who sleep into mid-morning. It would be better to go to bed and get up a lot earlier  and sleep through the afternoon.

Late-morning, Mum, Dad and I drove over to Saxton. Carol was in on her own, Robert off potholing somewhere. She talked about their monastery visit and she sounded impressed and she says Robert is taking it really seriously. It appears he’s well on his way to becoming a Buddhist.

I stayed quiet, thinking about everything. Later, upstairs, I found a book about basic Buddhism, Wisdom Energy, by two Tibetan monks, and it was all about letting go of the self and letting go of anger, of realizing the futility of trying to attain happiness by seeking transient pleasures, etc. True happiness can only be achieved by acknowledging the massive self-delusions that we labour under day and night.

I read this for much of our visit, lying on a sleeping bag on the lawn in the bright hot sun while Dad slept or watched cricket and Mum & Carol talked. At six-fifteen we left and after a tense, irritable drive back I was dropped off in Easterby.

I met Roy (he of the black hair, mustache, loud comments and spontaneous singing),  Steve Brown and a lad from the Produce dept. called Philip, and we set off straight away to the Three Kings up Felgate Road. It was deserted, but we had a pint and quickly did the same at four or five other places: I drank pints at first but I soon had to ration myself.

We trekked across to the Victoria joking loudly and feeling nervous but finding it full of punks and spikehairs: I don't know what we expected. We met up with two girls, who seemed like typical disco types. One, to me: “Is that all you do, sit there going--?” and she mimicked biting her thumbnails.

After this we made our loud and noisy way back to the Three Kings which was now packed. We fought our way to the bar in a mist of blue tobacco fumes. Conversations raged all around and I was shoved into the two girls, I don’t quite remember how. A whisper from Steve: “Roy says Jackie fancies you”—Jackie made the fingernail comment—and then a whispered demand that I chat her up, which I made conscious but ineffective attempts to do.

The floor was slippery with spilled drinks; someone had poured beer down my leg. Jackie started to tell me that her parents were divorced when she was 2 and how she wants to go to Germany at Christmas, and I tried to think of anything to ask her, but couldn't, so she wafted her fan and talked with Steve or Philip instead. She was small, dark-haired, round faced, and had a strong Easterby accent and in a way I liked her, but in another I didn’t. My lustfulness felt false.

. . . Meanwhile a roar and thunder of music and pub confusion and a whirling glittery stripper flaunted her breasts, stroking herself, then dived off stage. . . .

“Last orders half-past ten,” knowing smiles from Steve. Jackie’s mate Samantha woozily fixes us up as dates for next Saturday night at 7.30; I’m supposed to meet her at Tesco on Thursday to arrange details. Coy smiles from Jackie. “Isn’t she awful?” she says with mock horror laughs, and I am all smiles and weak agreement, convictions a billion miles away in all this. “Aren’t you going to kiss her goodnight then?” says Samantha to me but if I was meant to it was just tough luck and she was gone.

I walked home with Roy, talking about music and the night etc., etc., but I feel so false about the whole thing. God! How will it end?

Friday, July 9, 1982


My birthday. Eighteen, a quiet day of unpleasant sultry heat, most of which I spent reading and slobbing about, just wasting time. There's nothing to separate the start of my nineteenth year from all the wasted opportunities of the one just gone.

Dad unexpectedly got time off from work at 2.30, and he totally surprised me with a copy of Coltrane's 1957 LP Dakar. I’m listening to the first side at the moment and my initial impressions are that I want to hear more, especially this extended solo and improvisation stuff of the ‘60s. Dakar sounds more melodious, the sax flourishes subordinated more to the structure of the tune: although I like it I must admit I prefer the looser sax screeching of Coltrane (from 1962) but, “a succinct Coltrane is far superior to no Coltrane.”

I sometimes think that the continuity of this diary and the morbid pleasure I get writing entries and gazing at the past volumes filled with thoughts and sights (even though I too often lapse into tedious travelogue descriptions, especially up to summer 1981), is the one thing that keeps me going through day after day of blank nothingness. I can’t imagine life without it. Perhaps for this reason I tend to go on longer than necessary. . . .

Tesco card boarding was such draining mind-blowing boredom, but at least I got invited to Steve Brown's piss up tomorrow night with Darren Harriman and some others. It's a pub crawl beginning at the renowned gay pub’ The Victoria.

Thursday, July 8, 1982

Music centre irritant

I went into Easterby again with Dad and called in at the library. I felt bored, tired and depressed, Tesco overshadowing my every move. I was just looking for Walden when Grant appeared, all awkward smiles and jerky unease. Our conversation was stale and tedious and for the most part we were just silent.

We went and looked round Smith’s, a few second hand clothes shops, and I embarked on an unconvincing hunt for trousers. Grant’s silent impatience and cursory interest were readily apparent. At HMV I bought Mouth’s 45 “Who's Hot?”

There's so much I hate about the pretentiousness, hollow posturing, and image mania associated with today's music: the cliquishness (you're not in, you don't wear the right things, listen to the right music, read the right authors); the stifling obsession with surface appearances over people. It’s all just a manifestation of the herd instinct. That's why I find jazz so attractive sometimes, because despite its elitist tendencies it seems more honest and free from sickening pretence.

Tesco was OK but I was tense and angry when I got home. The World Cup semi-final was amazing. France were leading 3-1 in extra time but W. Germany came back to equalize and then win on penalties. I couldn't watch at the end.

I don’t really know what I want for my birthday so Mum is ordering me those oil paints.

Wednesday, July 7, 1982


I had to go into school to sort out a form for Watermouth and take my History books back but I couldn't find who I needed to and so I’ll have to go in again tomorrow. The back of my neck is sore from yesterday’s sun.

In the afternoon Mrs. Collins from across the street handed over a hedgehog she'd discovered in her garden as she cut the grass. We put it in a wooden box on the lawn and for a while it ate bread and milk, moving jerkily to and from, swaying unsteadily with little circular movements.

I lazed about the rest of the afternoon reading and wallowing in morbid reflections about yesterday. At Tesco I worked as though in a trance, my hands moving but my mind totally free of that supermarket, lost on the moors and in the wind.

When I got back, Dad and I set off to free our hedgehog. It slept peacefully through all the bumps, slammed doors and jostling and was still asleep as we gently placed it at the foot of an oak tree in the green still gloom of the woodland at the top of Glenbank.

We have quite a menagerie at home now: in the kitchen are tanks and containers populated by moth caterpillars found on a moorland walk and a bullfrog tadpole; Andrew’s bedroom has young Marsh frogs and their undeveloped kin; in my room are four newts that grow more aggressive every day, and also five minnows.

Mum is virtually voiceless today. She can only croak to us in whispers, but a long-suffering, grimly humourous look tells me what she thinks about a house full of these creatures.

Tuesday, July 6, 1982

The importance of living

At ten, after much messing about, Dad and I set off; it was my first hike since last August.

We parked at Bethany and had a look round a second-hand book shop where I bought The Importance of Living, a sort of personal philosophical reflection by Lin Yutang. I hated the crowds of trippers and youths who hung about; I felt oppressed and cornered. We took the road out of Bethany toward Delphstones and branched off on a battered concrete and sand path sign posted “Tunscarr Crag 2 miles” which became grassy as it headed over the moors. We ate our dinner amid spectacular views.

The going got heavy over hummocks and squelching bogs and we aimed for a gap between the hills, dropping down past a remote and old-fashioned ramshackle farm that was overgrown with nettles and dandelions. The yard was full of hens and ducks, there was a goat with one horn and a wire hutch with faintly quacking ducklings. 

A picture of amazing colour presented itself just beyond the farm: a purple and pink rhododendron standing atop a wall stained blue and green by lichen. For the next hour or so this gaunt square farmhouse surrounded by a huddle of dark trees, the wall a splash of colour, and the tiled roof glinting in the sun was all we could see, receding at our backs. Our path was long and straight and well made and lanced across the moor back toward Bethany. We saw an Emperor moth caterpillar and the sun came out, but across at Tunscarr Edge we could see stormy grey sky.

Back in Bethany church yard, still and warm, not so many people, and I was sad to be finished. The church yard was packed black with gravestones, tall weeds growing between, forgotten tragedies, entire families dead within months of one another.

We wandered round the Helen Vaughan museum and it was all incredibly sad somehow, and not just that this, her home, is trampled through by strangers, but other stronger feelings too: something unbelievably tragic about the glass box with a dress worn by Vaughan herself, its faded, stained and crumpled material still holding the shape of the body now dust under cold Bethany church stones. It must be reassuring to believe in a Heaven where we all meet again.

There was a drawing by Vaughan as a girl, and I leaned in close to see the sheen of the pencil marks in the light, engraved deep into the paper, just as though newly drawn. But most powerful of all, a lock of her hair, still fresh and glinting gold beneath the glass case . . . so immediate still . . . as if it had just been plucked or fallen. A lock of hair: there's something so human to grasp about it, a trace of an owner gone forever. I felt like a trespasser as I stood in the study upstairs filled with her possessions, and for an instant I imagined it was still her world, her house: a rustle of fabric on the stairs, a short fragile figure before me. . . .

A mood of utter sadness as we drove back, emphasised by the yellowness of evening. I felt depressed, but it was quite a good run back through Buckedge, Midgeroyd, Dowthorne, Haley Hill, getting home in time for Aunt Shirley with her piercing nasal voice.

I felt quiet.

Monday, July 5, 1982

Texture of calico

I was disgusted and ashamed when I got up at 12.30, only minutes before Dad. Watermouth sent my course choices for terms one and two.

I went into Easterby with Dad and visited the library while he went to the pet store to get a new tank for the Marsh froglets. I wanted Thoreau’s Walden but I couldn’t find a copy so I got out 50 American Poets, Kaddish and Other Poems by Ginsberg, Psychedelic Prayers by Timothy Leary, Ted Hughes's Selected Poems and Rimbaud's Complete Works.

I read the first two verses of Rimbaud's “The Sitters” to Dad which he called “sick poetry” and “unfair” in his usual infuriating, absolutist way. Later, at the tea-table, he read some Ginsberg and dismissed it as “gibberish.” Mum scolded him for being “cruel and nasty.” It’s not so much the things he says as the way he says them, in an assertive way that dismisses in an instant without really looking, while I consent to sit through numerous showings and readings of poetry/books without declaring it “sentimental crap” or “old-fashioned,” etc.

The Brazil-Italy game was exciting. Italy won 3-2 and I was disappointed Brazil were out.

Sunday, July 4, 1982


The house funeral quiet again, all activity prevented because Dad’s on nights. Grant was supposed to come at ten but I rang and told him not to bother until after Dad got up, and in a way I wished he wasn’t coming at all; I just couldn’t face the effort of talking and being sociable. While I waited I got half-way through Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley.

When Grant eventually arrived we stayed inside awhile, playing Coltrane, Clock DVA, Scritti Pollitti and The Dub Syndicate. He brought along a book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and an article on the resurgence of interest in the Beats in England & America. . . .

Afterwards we went for a long walk in the grey gloom and rain along the canal to Brogden Wood Locks and up through the woods to Moxthorpe Commons. Despite the light shroud of misty drizzle, the views were tremendous up on the moor: onrushing sheets of rain, a bright white sky, fields silver and dark in the light, a panorama of houses, factories, schools, streets, cars and trees tucked into the roll of hills. To our backs an ominous black horizon line of distant moors, Easterby to our front, its tower blocks distinct amid the low hills.

I’ll miss all this when I go away.

We played about like kids, fighting, shouting and running. The weather was wild and grey and desolate. We got bogged down, tramping through oceans of waving bracken or squelching green rushes and moss, Grant falling into a tired quiet, barely communicating with me apart from the occasional grunt or word. Dried-up. The Commons was deserted, only the odd car or dog walker as we trudged back home in silence.

The weather cleared as we reached the woods beyond Brogden Wood Locks and we were treated to the sight of sunlight streaming through dark tree trunks and glittering bright on the bend in the river. I said to Grant that only now, perhaps since March, do I feel like I'm going in the right direction with this diary.

Up through cemetery stones to Egley and home, tea, records and more long quiet moments, making vague plans for the future. I loaned Grant Desolation Angels and he left.

Saturday, July 3, 1982

Brainwash agent

When Dad got up he was angry. On his way to work last night a gang of kids on their way to Bojangles disco on Hetherington Rd. surrounded his car and beat their fists on the roof, kneed the doors and kicked at the tires, leaving Dad frightened and with a thudding heart.

We drove to a pet-shop to pick up newts that hadn’t arrived and then Dad dropped me in Easterby. It was one of those typical days where I felt so overwhelmed by my ‘choices’ that I didn’t do a thing. I had £10 that Nanna P. gave me for my birthday and I looked round for a set of oil paints but could only find a £94 box at Bailey’s. So I bought an LP, Coltrane (1962) instead. I was too full of paranoia and anger to enjoy Easterby.

In the evening I rang Grant but he was out. I was bored, and wanted to go out somewhere. He rang back but said he had something arranged already, and that he and Nik were going to Uptown. “We know its boring but there’s nowhere else to go, nothing else to do.” He told me tales of Thursday night drunkenness and I rang off feeling disappointed. So much to do, but what? A general feeling of blackness and pessimism descended over me and I lay there alone on my bed in the sun, feeling like hiding.

I finally finished Doctor Sax.

My earlier attraction to Kerouac was based on a misunderstanding and now I’m writing this in order to try and absolve myself. Although On The Road was filled with passages that convinced me “this man had the ability to put on paper so much of what he thought and of what we all thought and experienced that he put it down in such a way that it made sense,” it was the other sensational side, the whole Beat-lunatic myth, which seized me. . . . And although this element is a part of Kerouac, it’s not the part—I’m sure—he'd want emphasised or even to be remembered for, because it leads only to a realisation that everything is pointless.

Instead it's that déjà vu sense I got on reading On The Road, that sense of the author’s incredible capacity to think and feel in a way that made me constantly say, ‘Yes, That’s Right': the sadness, the everyday tragedy of human dying and the loss of friends and time passing, the amazing experience of seeing my own thoughts and feelings written down by someone else.

Friday, July 2, 1982

On a bone the ant descends

I got my hair cut in the morning: two-and-a-half hours what with waiting.

Dad was up when I got home, enthusing about H.V. Morton’s In Search of Scotland and the baby frogs in the tanks in the kitchen. He was on his way to collect Mum and pick up Nanna P. so he ran me into Farnshaw. I met Lee and bought three ties. I didn’t want to go to Tesco, but then I never do.

Steve Brown got me off card-boarding after a few minutes and for most of the evening we dossed about. He created a tiny invisible hole in a bottle of pop with his knife which sent a fine spray of misty pop jetting across the warehouse.

Then I was sent off with a straggle-haired man to collect a trolley which had been dumped in his garden last night, through a rabbit-warren maze of smart new identical stone flatlets and into old Nunstead, up across a desolate cricket pitch with green wasteland at one side, serried sunset-facing council houses along the back, hostile arrogant kids congregated there to play and ride bikes and take the mickey out of a lone jogger. I carted the trolley back the way we’d come.

I waited half-an-hour for a bus and passed it in the William and Victoria with a fellow-Tesco inmate in green crimp flares and a denim ‘I’m-a-Rockabilly-Rebel’ jacket who works full-time collecting trolleys for £40-a-week.

It was a superb evening as I walked slowly back through Egley, the houses toward Glenbank Lane and Castlebrigg stained deep amber from the late sun. Shrieking swifts swooped and circled above. Not a breath of wind anywhere and all was still and calm and orange, the immensity and mindlessness of it all, gold-green leaves back lit in garden gloom, the sad burbling of a blackbird on a chimney top.

Thursday, July 1, 1982

Always hate morning going . . .

I read Doctor Sax all morning and afternoon. Certain instances, phrases and passages are just so effective: “The day stretched to noon with a faint whitish glare now come into the halyards of the blue and the trumpets have stopped sounding, half lost their dew – always hate morning going. . . .”

This is what I meant when I told the interviewer at Watermouth that Kerouac writes of moments I have experienced too: that time back in March in London setting off for the gallery along clear fresh glittery streets, bright new enticing sun of morning so full of promise, so different from the worn out “whitish glare” of high afternoon, the draining afternoon sun drying out all vitality. Optimism gone.

Lee rang and said everything he was looking forward to after exams now feels so boring and that his days are blurring into one another. On Friday he's going on a family holiday to a Bournemouth caravan.

I MUST NOT BE BORED. The house is silent. Dad's on nights this week and is upstairs sleeping. Clock-tick, fire-hiss, pale sky, tired sun. Birds cheep outside over the distant roar of workaday traffic, and now a train too. . . .

Tesco at four, N. Ireland 2 v 2 Austria and then bed.
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