Sunday, October 31, 1982

Passport poems

Despite baulking at the drudgery of having to wake up early, Lindsey, Shelley and I went to Greenham Common with sixteen others from Watermouth CND.

I felt ill on the coach and nearly threw up. It took us three hours to get there and when we did we felt excited, feeling the vague thrill of illicit adventure as we clambered down off the coach. The road to the peace camp snaked up through withered brown woods, eventually emerging in full view of the gates of the cruise missile base. To the right, green balloons announced the entrance to the camp, a muddy path choked with cars and vehicles of all shapes and sizes that headed back between tall trees. As we wandered in, a group of straggle-haired hippies peered at us from a green canvas tent, their faces wreathed in blue campfire smoke. They gave us a desultory cheer.

The camp itself was a miniature village huddled in a small overgrown clearing in-between the dark trees. A few of the tents were brightly painted with clouds splashed on a blue background or a shining sun, but the entire scene was one of mud, squalour and disorganisation. We negotiated a rickety bridge of wooden planks and sheets of rusting metal, avoided a conical heap of tires, bedsteads and scrap, and finally reached a marquee in front of which tea and food was being served.

Our delegation straggled down toward the trestle tables for refreshment and congregated in a big awkward group to drink tea. A few sat down and broke out booze and sandwiches and a cameraman from TVW filmed us as we ate. There were a lot of campfires flickering around us in pits in the ground each of which was surrounded by rugs and mats on which sprawled laughing groups of people who smoked or drank from cans. It was a very dark, even depressing place, hemmed in as it was by towering trees and the folds of the land.

After a while, a few of us wandered up to walk around the perimeter fence of the base. I really was quite amazed. The base is surrounded by perhaps as many as five huge barbed wire fences separated by sandy strips of no-man’s land and punctuated by strategically placed watchtowers, which looked unmanned but were menacing all the same. It was like something out of Eastern Europe. Who says the West has no Berlin Walls?

We walked the muddy track around the fence, thick woodland to our left, ahead of us the multiple lines of barbed wire and concrete snaking sinuously away through the trees. Inside the compound we could see piles of building materials and occasionally, a Land Rover or a black police car glided silently by.

We got back to the camp and Shelley met a friend of hers who’s just returned from Berlin. Lindsey seemed subdued. We were promised an organised ‘tour’ around the perimeter fence but that didn't happen until two so until then we sat about drinking and eating. It felt good, a kind of solidarity, a warm knowledge of collective protest, and as we massed fifty-strong near the main gate, we were watched coldly by black-clad policemen. At the gate one stone-faced group of silent and impassive officers were being harangued by a group of protestors who questioned them about their ethics: “we’re doing this for your children as well as ours . . .”

Finally we streamed out along the fence-path, a soldier in camouflage with a menacing shaggy Alsatian shadowing us inside the compound for quite a ways until he was replaced by a black security pick-up truck which stationed itself at a discreet yet obvious distance, near enough to be seen, yet too far away for us to see the driver. It looked evil like a large black shiny beetle.

We reached an area of open heathland, scrubby trees and hard crackly heather; two people out in front seemed to be looking for something while we trailed after them like sheep (as Lindsey put it). At last we stopped at a clearing where there was turf and, after being arranged in a large circle, we linked hands. For a moment I was puzzled. What strange rite was this? Some symbolic clichéd gesture of CND solidarity perhaps? A few people dropped out of the circle to form the familiar central spokes of a peace sign and we were given a handful of tulip bulbs and set to digging holes and planting them, and after half-an-hour were done; we'd completed a large and potentially effective looking symbol for next spring. I felt like such a hippy standing there hand-in-hand once more in the giant circle for a minute’s silence, while behind us on the weedy tarmac, behind the multiple fences perhaps ¼ mile away, a black police car sat silent and watchful. Then we all trooped back to camp.

As dusk drew in we huddled together around the campfires, drinking vodka and orange or smoking the occasional joint. The sky turned a deep ultramarine blue and the trees loomed dark and unknown. There were some really amazing looking people in the camp, wearing almost medieval outfits, their faces painted with splashes and dots; one man wore a long nineteenth-century-style coat black to his knees, jackboots, his lank hair straggly beneath a wide brimmed hat. A six-piece band (violin, acoustic guitar, flute) was playing nearby, the musicians dressed loosely in flowing rustic garb, accompanied by hippy women who bounced babies and sang joyfully. Then we watched a mini-play about witches and the women waved blankets. Finally, a crummy “postcard poet” read a few poems, whose only remembered immortal line was: “I will not vote until post-card poems become passports.”

A few policemen came down through the trees to hang around and everyone surreptitiously dragged on their joints.

By the time we left at six to meet the coach it had come in cold, and the biting and occasionally blustery wind made me hug myself tighter and closer still.

Saturday, October 30, 1982


I'd hoped to go to Watermouth Jazz Club last night, but as ever I was persuaded by Barry to stay for a quick drink, which turned into two, then three, and finally we bought more bottles for a party over in Rousseau. Goodbye jazz!

We bundled across to No. 31; I was fairly pissed already and fell over several times in bushes and on the grass. The party was red-lit and stiflingly crowded. I don’t recall much detail, just fragmentary memories of drinking gin from a plastic jug, climbing out through a window to lie on my back in a flowerbed because it was cooler there, rolling about getting blathered in mud, crunching about on on a flat gravel roof somewhere, peering in windows, getting shouted at and called “a prat” by voices below. . . . I sat alone, away from the party din, feeling terrible, sad, and regretful.

I got back to Wollstonecraft keyless and full of sick thoughts. I was so angry and frustrated, at myself more than anything else, and as I got into bed I cast my mind back to my somehow poignant trip in the misty dusk of autumn with Lindsey and cried.

It was 3.45 p.m. and drawing in dark when I got up today, feeling miserable and desperate about my disintegrating schedule. To add to it, Athletic lost 1-3 at Purswell. I spent the night in with Pete, Lindsey, Russ, Shelley and Barry in the latter’s room doing the usual until complaints about the noise drove us to Pete’s room where we lit joss-sticks, switched out the lights, and whirled them around and around in glowing red arcs. So silly but so much fun. Tasha(?) with twenties hairstyle from the top floor came down with a friend and we all ran around barefooted like lunatics.

Friday, October 29, 1982

Wet leaves

I went to Marliss Bay and Aleborough with Lindsey. I was nervous when we set off, unsure of myself and too conscious of my silences.

We caught the 10.54 train from the University and as we passed through quaint and cliffy Wickbourne where we caught first glimpses of the grey sea we were glued excitedly to the window like two children. Lindsey was quiet and sweetly smiling in green and black.

We pulled into Marliss Bay and caught glimpses of black windows and the ugly backs of tall dark buildings crisscrossed with pipes and gutters. We stopped at a Wimpy for a cheeseburger and then tried to get into the castle, but it was closed for the winter season, so we clambered down over slippery rocks worn smooth by countless feet to a wide and pebbly beach which was completely desolate save for an excavator dredging mud and a sewer outlet flooding into the sea.

We tramped along towards the pier, marveling at the crappiness of the grey seafront with its buildings overshadowed by cliffs, pausing only to do the desolate beach thing of throwing pebbles into the sea. The pier was depressing too, filled with dingy side-rooms devoted to bingo or pinball machines, huddles of old ladies, fat long haired bingo master, and crappy gift shops full of tasteless postcards that made us laugh. We were going to get a bus to Aleborough to go see the battlefield but it would have taken ages, so Lindsey suggested we get the train instead; it was only 68p for a day return.

We bought maps and a booklet on the Battle of Aleborough at the station and by the time we got to St. Michael’s church and turned down a lane towards the battlefield itself it was late afternoon. The air had a peculiarly autumnal smell of wet leaves and the tang of winter.

The battlefield is just like it was on May 12, 844. The grass was very muddy and we got blathered as we wandered from place to place, looking at our position in relation to the battlefield with the help of the map. It was getting dark so we wandered back up towards the church which loomed stark on the skyline, pausing at the marker erected in memory of two Wessex earls, Aethelric and Cynwith, which is near a fenced off spot where they fell in battle: this was unromantically covered by black plastic sheets.

The train journey back took hours, mainly because we messed up the times for our connection. I could see a woman across from us giving us penetrating looks, as though we were runaways or something, probably because we were covered in mud. Lindsey thought it funny.

Thursday, October 28, 1982

Mess of my

Stayed in instead of going to the nightclub; Pete and I went to Biko’s and met Barry and two of Barry's friends and I got enthusiastic after hearing them talk about melting-wall and dripping-ceiling LSD experiences. Pete said there's always a chain linking you back to reality. 

Marco's sister Valerie is visiting the University, and she seems nice and was genuinely amazed at the dirty state of our kitchen; yesterday the mess was so bad the Domestic Bursar came up and took an incriminating photo.

Today is vaguely summery and sticky. I went down to Graeme’s room and he pulled out a box full of books he’s bought 2nd-hand since he's been here. It made my attempts at building up a reasonable library look paltry and feeble in comparison.

At six thirty, Lindsey, Shelley and Lindsey’s sister Nikki and I went to a CND meeting in the Town & Gown and we're going to Greenham Common on Sunday, even though I think CND is futile, because disarmament just takes the gun away from the psychopath. You might stop him from killing for the moment, but he's still a psychopath. I tell myself I'm going to Greenham Common just for the experience, but who do I think I am?  Samuel Pepys?

Everyone's gone to the pub’ and I stayed in again saying I had work to do, which I have, but I doubt I’ll do it . . . I get cobwebbed into little traumas and flurries of abject indecision. Oh God!

Wednesday, October 27, 1982

Following footsteps

More of the same again last night; a University of Watermouth Tenant’s Association meeting in the Westway Loop Bar, followed by a few of us polishing off a bottle of gin belonging to Marco. He started staring with those cold, humourless and slightly bulging eyes and hacking at the kitchen table with a knife: he cut a huge chunk out of it and threatened Jamie in his absence for being a “little shit.” This place will drive me mad!

We all ended up back at the Loop, got drunk, and swayed and slurred our way back to Barry’s room for dope. I felt quite desperate and frustrated by this point, and only when Relics was put on and I heard "Julia Dream" and "See Emily Play" did I feel my spirits lift, my mind harkening back to the moods of the moors.

Today is bright and sunny, but the sunlight has the weak and watery look of winter and there's a bite in the air that warns of impending cold weather. Rowan came round to my room this morning in her nightie, just to talk. She sat on my bed and stayed an hour; I think she sees me as her confidante. She left a note in my locker asking me to explain the knife joke to Russ, “in case he persuades people I need to be committed.”

As a protest against the £10 Health Levy, UWTA organised a picket of the Senate meeting in the Cafeteria Building (this was what last night's meeting was about). A hundred or so people turned up and we all stood on either side of the staircases leading to the meeting rooms, intending to give the Senate representatives our hard, ‘silent-majority’ treatment, but it all degenerated into a bit of a farce when we realised that the informal groups of people walking up the stairs who we thought were other students were the representatives we were supposed to protest. Disorganised anticlimax.

I haven’t talked with or written to Mum and Dad for three weeks, or anyone else for nearly two. Tonight everyone's going to some nightclub or other in Watermouth which has reduced entry for students.

I don’t know what I want out of my time here. Marco was asking, almost desperately, “Is this all there is?” and I agree with him. Is it!? It seems I’m always looking for something, always, but I never find it and somehow, I doubt I ever will.

Tuesday, October 26, 1982

The autobiography of Mere X

It's 5.45 a.m. and I’m pissed off at staying up so late again. I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this last couple of days; last night I sat in Westway Loop Bar and spent all my money on five tequilas. Other people seem to get on so well together.

Rowan unsettles me; a while ago she got all het up at Jamie who was hanging around in Barry’s room. “I don’t want to speak to you!” she said to him viciously, the emphasis very much on the you. Then, as a "joke" to piss Russ off, she knocked aggressively on his door and when he opened it she pretended to threaten him with a huge carving knife. This place might drive me into having a breakdown.

Yesterday I sat in the library and read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The dark, foreboding atmosphere of the book is a little depressing.

Monday, October 25, 1982

Up to date

At last I did some work: I finished my essay on Huckleberry Finn at about 5 a.m. I also wrote my philosophy essay - the philosophy essay - which I got into a little, and I finished that right before the tutorial. So now I'm up to date with everything.

Sunday, October 24, 1982

Groovy cellar

I made a spur-of-the-moment decision last night to go into Watermouth with Mike Ritchie, his mate Colin, Stu, Pete, Gareth, Shawn, Shelley, and Penny. On the long road from the train station down past the Woolworths there were police cars everywhere, the pavements littered with broken glass, and gangs of yobs rushing to and fro pursued by helmetless policemen. As we crossed the street, someone was having his head slammed on the bonnet of a police car before being bundled into the back seat.

We ended up at a reggae gig at a small dingy club called The Underground. The band (Nyabingi) could scarcely be seen above the dark and twitching mass of people silhouetted against purple stage lights. The drink were student union-subsidised too! Nyabingi were excellent and did an amusing cover of Musical Youth’s “Pass The Dutchie.”

Stu and I left to look for Therapy, an alternative club, and after searching for ages we found it full of posey punks standing silently around in the usual get-up of spikey hair, leather, studs and all black. I felt trapped and uncomfortable, so after four songs Stu and I left to look for the jazz club I thought I’d found back in February. We failed dismally in this quest, and after traipsing the dim lit hotel back streets we caught a taxi back.

The Wollstonecraft kitchen scene began at about two (one actually, 'cos the clocks went back). By six  there were just four of us left. In excited and vivid terms Pete told us about his Groovy Cellar days, the Thames boat trip, Mood Six gigs, dancing with his go-go friend Prudence, and said the psychedelic revival was all a big but good natured piss take and just people having fun, but got so hyped up by the press overexposure that it got stale and the whole scene lost momentum. If I'd lived in London then my diary and experiences could have expanded a thousand fold! What a way to live! It all sounded so crazy, frenetic, and exciting that we were dazzled by his joyful gush of words. I really like him.

We couldn’t get over the certifiable nature of this place or what’s it doing to us and how we're behaving. It can’t go on like this, surely? I’ve been instructed to write down everything that happens as it must be recorded somehow. . . . As dawn was breaking the next day. . . .

I've done nothing again today. The weak sunlight, blue skies, and still green trees barely rustled by wind were all sufficiently summery to make me feel sad. I went to the library and took out three books for tonight's Huck. Finn essay. I have loads of work to do for tomorrow: an unread book and unwritten essay and last week’s incomplete Philosophy work, and I haven't even attempted this week's. I’m going to have to work all night.

Barry and I have just eaten a vast amount of food (porridge, minestrone soup, curried beans, cabbage, and a “meal in a potato” I made from my cook book). We were both in hysterics at my culinary ineptitude. I’ve now been here three weeks and spent £100. What have I achieved??

Saturday, October 23, 1982

Question your spoons

I'd been intending a quiet night in doing work but as ever, I got embroiled in more after dark madness.

I nipped down to the Westway Loop Bar, bought a bottle of cider, and ended up at a party at No. 13 Rousseau, which was crowded but sedate, people standing about talking in groups, etc. I climbed out of the window to look for Alex who'd gone off somewhere with Downstairs Ian and a few others. I ran along dark paths and cut my hand trying to climb back in through another window, looking in on the brightness and people smoking. I eventually managed to get in, but nearly killed myself in the process. Then everyone left for Wollstonecraft's second-floor kitchen for hot-knives. Alex did the honours, shouting “Who’s next? Black? Leb? Rocky?”

I can’t now remember the exact sequence of events and rooms: everything weird and unreal. . . .  Downstairs Ian out of his head (on mushrooms I think), creeping around under the table while we creased up; in Alex’s room helpless with laughter at nothing at all, Pete gibbering insanely and singing "Ooh look, there goes Concorde again!” in a shrill and incessant tone while Alex opened and closed an umbrella he’d found on the train. It all got so out of control that it got slightly frightening.

Some ape in headband and specs from Taylor started dropping bottles out of the window so we told him to fuck off, but minutes later he returned donned up in denim jacket and studs and carrying a huge chain, acting casual as if asking for a cigarette. I threw a spoon at him. Downstairs Ian rushed in and out of Barry’s room, each time more insane than the last . . . I got a brief glimpse of Rowan’s frightened night-clad figure cautious at her doorway. Shelley came in to the kitchen later, stern-faced and silent. We kept the entire corridor awake, I'm sure.

I've spent the (sunny!!!) day recovering, and now it's teatime I'm starting to perk up again. All these pages and pages of script. To what purpose?

Friday, October 22, 1982

Snake boy

My frenetic life-style continues. I didn’t bother going to bed at all last night.

Unreal in the early hours, Rowan, Pete, ‘spiky’ Stu and I fooling around in the kitchen, Pete being his usual irrepressible, ludicrous self, saying he wanted to marry Rowan. Gradually I saw her fascination grow: she never took her eyes off him and kept saying he was “evil” and calling him a “snake boy.” We started to really take the piss but she couldn’t see it and instead tried to hide behind me, saying “Stop him, Paul, he's a tempter.” She was transfixed.

Pete, Rowan and I ended up in her room. I could see a great internal battle going on within her as she took off her jewelry and sat next to him, trembling, running her fingers through his hair and squeezing his arm, one red-stockinged knee visible beneath her bunched-up skirt. It was so obvious and so open. “I want you to go but I don’t want you to” she kept repeating and Pete looked at me in disbelief. He was torn too, I could tell. Eventually, with great willpower, he left and Rowan and I talked for half-an-hour.  “I'm so grateful to you for your moral exemplitude” she said. “Girls romanticise it but underneath they want it just as much as boys.” I’m sure – certain in fact – that in the same situation I’d have been a hypocrite and just gone ahead and—but who knows?

I left and went into the kitchen where Pete was still mind blown by the night’s events. We went to LifeLine and talked to the girlfriend of an ex-Hells Angel who told us about initiation ceremonies and murder by sulphuric acid and showed us her wounds where her boyfriend cuts her. . . . Too much, on top of everything else.

Back at Wollstonecraft we played table footie and talked as dawn broke, alive to the rush of rain. I stayed awake just long enough to see Rowan up once more and to drink a breakfast cup of coffee before crashing out at nine.

I'm really fucking myself over. It's 2.30 p.m. now and I’ve been awake half-an-hour. . . .

A kind of shocked convalescent mood permeates the hard grey days, everyone dying on their feet before reviving by nightfall to spend hours boozing or smoking dope, finally succumbing to fatigue in the small hours. Barry spewed up down the wall in the bog last night. “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.” Ha Ha Ha.

Thursday, October 21, 1982

A splash of colour

I spent the early hours of the morning talking to Rowan in her room. She asked me about my love life (I lied through my teeth) and although at first it seemed normal, she told me to "stay awhile" and then began to take off her jewelry, etc. . . . My heart started to thud furiously. Looking back it was silly.

Nothing remotely interesting happened after I got up except being in Pete’s room listening to A Splash of Colour (bland crap) with Fabian from upstairs, he of the psychedelic high-necked shirts, tight black trousers, pointed shoes, braided Sgt. Pepper jacket.

Wednesday, October 20, 1982


I'm ashamed to admit that I didn’t go to bed until 4.30. I woke up at 2.30 p.m. once more. It’s not as if I did anything exciting.

I’ve felt very depressed and down today. At teatime I sat in the kitchen and talked with Rowan (she's Scottish, petite and dark, and seems quaintly domesticated). She stared at me as we talked, her eyes deep and fathoming as if she was analysing me, and she has this habit of talking in a very general way and then, suddenly, swooping in to ask a direct and penetratingly deep question. She said I was “witty.” I ended up feeling quite the manic depressive.

The day has been dark and gloomy both inside and out. I think I will—I must!—leave campus tomorrow. I’ve been incarcerated here since a week on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 19, 1982

I'm a cliché

I’ve just been down and wasted £1.00 on the pinball machine in the Common room.

I didn’t get up until one today, the day virtually gone again already. Just like yesterday, I went to the library but because of weakness and indecisiveness I didn’t do a thing. I'm really overwhelmed by my essay in philosophy: I can’t do it! Instead I went and bought two books, The Portable Mark Twain (we have to read “Huck. Finn” plus short stories for next Monday), and The Portable Thoreau (for “Walden”)

Given my pitiful habit of sitting round in the kitchen ALL the time I can’t help inadequate thoughts. This now sounds horribly familiar, like a recurring nightmare-echo from the past (There's so much I should be doing. I’m letting it slip me by!) I have to go out into Watermouth, out into the countryside, force myself into different situations.

I imagine getting involved in some political group but I’m always haunted by doubts and fears which stops me. I imagine myself this horrible clichéd poser saying No! This is not the way it should be! Then I imagine myself quietly reading, and get bedeviled by feelings of isolation.

Monday, October 18, 1982


Another late night, Alex, Pete and I rushing around Wollstonecraft Hall creasing up with laughter, fighting with snooker cues, etc. Ridiculous. We ended up in the LifeLine office listening to a Ugandan bloke slowly deliberate about his views on life and society and being very idealistic communist-Utopian.

I woke up weighed down by the thought of the enormous load of work I have to do, my Fenimore Cooper novel still unread (which I regret) and an essay on sensitivity to language unwritten. My tutorial on Cooper was so interesting and I reaffirmed for the millionth time my desire to read everything, all of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales and much more. At such times my thirst for reading is apparent but it's rarely (if ever) translated into concrete action and it’s been quite chastening to realise that I'm the dimmer among bright stars here in terms of background knowledge and reading.

I like Dr. Palfreyman, my tutor for American Civilization. He fires me up with an enthusiasm and I fantasize about changing my programme to American Literature. He told us a tale about a man he met in Pennsylvania whose ancestors came from Scotland. The man showed him letters from back home containing a line he’d always vividly remembered; “Here you do not have to pull up your bonnet to the laird.” We have to read Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and some of his short stories.

I got a letter from school telling me that I’ve been given a £10 Dunn & Sons award for “outstanding A-level achievement.” It was accompanied by a note from Dad instructing me to go back for the presentation evening on November 19th. They'll pay for the fare.

I missed my first tutorial today (Dr. Herring, philosophy), and that only because I couldn’t do the essay. I feel pretty bad about it, mixed with a determination not to do it again, but it’s an oh-so familiar feeling though. I am so weak.

Sunday, October 17, 1982

Come alive

My work situation is getting bad; I didn’t get up until one o’clock today and I wasted the afternoon. I wrote letters to Andrew and Rob & Carol instead.

My days are at present full of so much nothing. It’s only at night that everyone seems to come alive.

Saturday, October 16, 1982

Red dust world

Last night we held a big party we’ve been organising for a week. Everyone from our two corridors contributed £2 for the booze.

So while Mike drove into Watermouth to get it I went to a Buddhist meditation meeting in Watermouth Hall Annexe. I was surprised to see about forty people there The teacher, from Watermouth Buddhist Centre had us try a technique called mettabhahavata. He seated himself cross-legged on a cushion in front of us and told us what we were going to be doing.

We had to sit and concentrate and give out “loving kindness” to ourselves, to a friend, to a ‘neutral’ person, to an enemy, and finally to all four together, extending the loving kindness to everyone in the world. He told us we could do this in a number of ways, the gist of them all being the need for a feeling of friendship and affinity with the object of our concentration; we could bring this about by dwelling on good times we’ve had, times when we have felt at peace with ourselves or friends, or by concentrating on another person’s virtues. Lately I've been feeling in a very “unbuddhist” frame of mind and too wrapped in my material worries to care much about my mental state, so I didn't have any great feeling for the process as I went through it: it was hard to stay focused for any length of time. I left feeling doubtful and disappointed. Is this all there is?

My mind was in a tizz of conflicting thoughts when I got back to Wollstonecraft. I felt torn. Before the party started, Alex and I went over to Biko’s to meet a couple of friends of his. Francesca and Richard both seemed well doped, and Richard threw himself around to the music, waving his arms and grinning his large white teeth at us. Francesca smirked knowingly. “She's a 'wow-man' type,” Alex said later.

We got back to Wollstonecraft to find the first revelers already in Barry’s room, a handful of hippies in headbands slumped silently against the wardrobe. More people showed up and soon my room and Barry's were crammed full, the corridor too packed with bodies. A few of us took off to Alex’s room or the kitchen to do the obvious, although I can’t really remember.

Eventually the party settled down into a pattern, couples in Barry’s room, a few people in mine, and a bigger group in the kitchen. I felt thoroughly tired and got to bed about five.

I didn’t get up until a quarter-to-two today. A non-day someone called it, and everywhere was empty, everything quiet, outside grey rain and wind. Daylight was over before we knew it. My bedroom was in chaos, the corridor even more so, like the aftermath of some battle, fag-ends, bottles, beer-stains on the carpet, toilets spattered with vomit, (one blocked), a mirror broken. . . .

Later, Pete, Barry, Alex and I plus Rupert and Miles from downstairs crammed into someone’s room in dim red light smoking before rushing off to unsuccessfully try find a party in Taylor Hall. We ended up in another kitchen conclave, banging rhythms on pots and pans, playing tricks, telling pointless stories, screaming. Day after day it's an endless round of the same; it's getting boring. I have work to do, letters to write, have to get organised, wash clothes, do so much. . . !

I’m pissed off with this diary at the moment and I don’t get the same satisfaction writing it any more. Perhaps it's because I’m not recording events or describing them in detail (and can't). I want to describe everything that happens to me in a day, capture all the changing thoughts and moods and reflections as they pass me by.

Friday, October 15, 1982

Pseudo desire

I got another letter from Claire today: I sent her one yesterday. I really wish I could write long letters full of so much like those in As Ever.

I’m slipping behind with work. I have an essay on Philosophy and a several hundred page Fenimore Cooper novel to complete for the beginning of next week, but of course I’ve just passed the last several hours in the kitchen. . . .

I first thought Susie was sharp and hard, but I've revised my opinion: behind the initial impression she's much nicer and more friendly. We talked about art, and she asked me about my ‘A’ level course, my paintings, etc.

As humans we should experience as much and as many sensations as we can and try different things. Only then can we speak with authority. We have so much potential for doing and feeling that it’s a waste so many people go through their lives never deviating from a narrow path. But is this argument, this pseudo desire to explore ‘the boundaries of human perception’ just a front to hide my weakness, and my need to be ‘in’ with people? Do I have the strength of character and conviction to hold firm to one particular line of action?

Why do I vacillate so pathetically? I don’t know what I am or what to do!

Thursday, October 14, 1982

As ever

Yet another sleepless conclave in the kitchen last night: my drawings and accent caused hysterical amusement. I felt silly and prone to laughter. Perhaps it was the stuff?

Taking in the smoke fucks my chest up, but tonight I noticed a distinct effect on exhaling, that ‘lightness of chest’ I mentioned before, an intangible but definite sensation that I can’t explain but I think is real.

I am getting on much easier nowadays. I met Neil again today and we had a coffee in his room, I borrowed Naked Lunch etc. Neil said that drugs are a sign of weakness and a prop (it's true) and he says he regards them as he does Mars bars. I bought As Ever: The Collected Correspondence of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady for £3.85 from the bookstore.

I think I’d better write a few letters.

Wednesday, October 13, 1982

Kind of blue

Last night Alex brought over Jamie, a small wiry maths student who's pale and strange-looking with ragged black matted hair and a straggly beard. He was wearing an Afghan coat and a big heavy-knit pullover. When not talking he opened and closed his mouth as if taking puffs on an invisible 'spleef ' (as he pronounces it). Alex bought some stuff off him and I contributed £3.

Afterwards, Alex and I went out to Biko's (in the basement of Rousseau) and we got quite drunk on cider. Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue was playing in the bar and a girl named Zoe from sarf London talked to me. My conversation flowed readily for once. . . . We strode out into the night air still carrying half-finished drinks, the campus alive now to the sounds of pissed, shouting people wandering home. We met up with Barry and the others and bundled after them into parties where people crammed the stairs and I climbed through a window and searched for something to drink before we finally went back to Alex’s room where we ended up having quite a session.

We had just finished doing hot-knives in the kitchen when Catrin fled from the room and we heard a thud and someone went out to find her lying on the ground. Someone else said she'd spun round and round and face butted the wall and she was blathered in mud all up one side. She was taken to her room and Jamie comforted her as while she sobbed and apologised on the bed.

By this time I’d already thrown up because of the smoke & drink (I stuck my head out the window and let it all spatter down below), and after we retired back to the kitchen I threw up again. I felt really tired, sleepy and befuddled, but I couldn’t work out whether it was the booze or something else. We left the kitchen, seized on some pillows, and crept down corridors on theatrical tiptoes, pillows over shoulders, softly chanting “pillow-beating-Russ-Russ” because we planned on bursting in on him and bludgeoning him as he laid in bed, but we couldn’t remember which one was his room. We were reduced to stifled hysterics in the corridor.

I eventually got to bed at 5.20.

Today I visited the Societies Fair in Watermouth Hall. I've joined the Buddhist meditation society (I have to do something decisive) and I got talked into going to a meeting of Troops Out. I contemplated joining the Film Society and Hunt Saboteurs but I'm suspicious of ineffective and clichéd student protest. There’s still time.

Tuesday, October 12, 1982

Living and dying

Dr. Herring’s tutorial was yesterday afternoon at 4.30 and I was dreading it because I had to show evidence of the notes I'd taken on Bertrand Russell. I reckon I overestimated what was expected because we merely had an interesting discussion about the passages we’d chosen. My melancholy selection gave me a chance to go on about the tragedy of living and dying, which sounded contrived and contemptible coming from my eighteen-year old mouth.

It was supposed to be a work night and I really had to knuckle down and do something, but Alex and I instead spent the time rushing to and fro searching for booze to complement a bottle of Sainsbury’s wine that he, Catrin and I ended up polishing off. We crashed in on illicit looking huddles in rooms and more late-night bustlings in the kitchen. We even tried to find our way up onto the roof and found a trapdoor but it wouldn’t open, so we went back below for more tea and, eventually, a mad pillow fight between six of us.

So I didn’t get to bed until three-thirty again but not before an eye-weary attempt to write notes on the US Indian practice of self mutilation.

I didn’t feel too hot on waking up today and my eyes ached whenever I shut them. In the hour before my seminar I rushed off the notes for Herring. That girl from Knowlesbeck was in Palfreyman’s tutorial again and she fascinates me. Her name is Jocelyn Watson and she's small, slightly on the plump side, and wears her hair pinned up in plaits on top of her head. She has broad cheeks, an interesting nose, a really nice laugh, and I love hearing her talk. She was wearing a high-necked grey and black billowy dress, patent leather lace-up shoes, and purple stockings which made her look fashionably Edwardian.

Twenty four of us share a kitchen but there are only about fifteen who use it at all regularly. I'll try describe my fellow housemates. Alex from Cambrige is friendly and genuine enough: most of the time he wears dungarees or wide shapeless jeans with turn ups, red shoes, collarless kaftanesque shirts and a baggy yellow jumper, and his long hair is cut short on top making him look like a throwback to the mid-70s Slade era. He also has quite a lisp. I like him.

Bland bespectacled Russ from Colne, his loud and slow Lancashire drawl liberally sprinkled with “fucking”-this and “fucking”-that as he tells rugby or beer exploits, is a bit on the brazen unsophisticated side but he's funny.

Stu is tall and brutish-looking, wears DMs, has spiky orange hair, and his finger nails are long and curved like talons. Then there's Susie, with deep cutting eyes; Pete, confident and easy; Barry, fresh-faced, with a gangster-look; Catrin, (she ignores me); Shelley; Penny; a few others. . . .

I’m much happier than I was this time last week. I got a letter today from Dad; he saw Athletic lose 3-1 to Tidebrook on Saturday. The tree by the gate has been chopped down and the newts are being hibernated.

Monday, October 11, 1982

Knife slits water

Another night in Barry’s room, people huddled on the bed and curled on the floor, Electric Ladyland on in the background, dope, . . . “if it means killing people who get in the way of the revolution etc., then unfortunately it has to be done” . . .

Afterwards, Alex did hot knives in the kitchen. He stuck two ordinary knives up under an oven ring then picked up a small ball of “black” (pure hash) and rubbed it between the two glowing blades so the smoke could be inhaled through a makeshift milk carton pipe. I felt kind of cold and deliberate as I did all this and so malleable. I did get a slight but definite effect this time, a lightness around my chest, and I started to feel light headed.

Sunday, October 10, 1982


Last night I smoked dope for the first time. Alex rolled up a joint and passed it round the kitchen; I turned it down at first, although I did want to try it. I was curious, but I think I was scared I'd collapse coughing. But when everyone left for Catrin’s room to drink cider and smoke more I went along too. There were four of us, two girls and two blokes, and when I took a tentative drag, I could feel the smoke stinging my throat but little else. I suppose the effects must develop with usage or something?

I’ve been up until three a.m for most of the last week and feel like I've barely time to keep up with this diary. For ninety percent of the time I've been in the kitchen getting to know my fellow kitchen-mates.

Saturday, October 9, 1982

Three a.m.

Yesterday at about five, Alex brought another dope-fiend friend up from Watermouth who told us about his travels in Europe: “You’ve got to burn up the time between 17 and 22.” Another three-a.m. night in the stark bright kitchen, We listened to cassettes.

This afternoon Barry, Guy and I went to see Watermouth Trinity play Marlan Bay: we got on really well but I was painfully aware of my stilted comments and silences. Watermouth 's ground was unnimpressive and it reminded me of Hydebeck Town’s Danum Lane. There are rumoured to be loads of skins among Watermouth's supporters so we half-expected trouble,  but I was surprised to find how family oriented the crowd was.

The game started off well but degenerated into a toothless dreary punt-about and ended 0-0.

Afterwards we wandered around Watermouth talking and ended up at a seafront café and ate chicken pieces and sausage rolls for 10p. I felt brighter and more cheerful; conversation came a bit easier. It was early evening and the street lamps came on and everywhere was a great bustle of enthusiasm and unknown nighttime potential.

I still haven’t done any work. I have to start today. I got a postcard from Claire and wrote to Mum and Dad.

I emerge from my first week here so utterly innocent that I can’t really believe it. Ninety percent of people I've met have done/still do drugs, mostly smoking dope but some acid too. Somehow I doubt I ever could be like that. I seem destined to go through life feeling guilty.

Friday, October 8, 1982


Last night we laid around in the kitchen until the early hours talking and drinking cider and listening to Alex, the long haired lad in dungarees and baggy yellow jumper who's from Cambridge. He held forth about the Cambridge drug scene: he’s been smoking dope all week, as most people here seem to. Everyone seems to have packed twice as much exploration and excitement into their eighteen years as I have, and our discussions are eye opening, a revelation, a whole new world to me. I sit silently, feeling painfully naïve. . . .

This morning Alex asked me if I wanted to go mushrooming with him, so four of us trudged up into the fields behind the University. We walked slowly, scanning the ground, but had no luck. I was only wearing pumps and my feet got sodden. The countryside around here looks good though: there's a big lake down in the valley over the other side of the hill.

Since then my day has wandered along indeterminately. I feel almost like a child in the presence of grownups who've done things while I’ve sat about waiting for something to happen. At least I'm making friends.

I'm starting to realise the significance of Dad’s comment: “It may all seem so unimportant. . . ."

Thursday, October 7, 1982

Opened up

It's now three-thirty in the morning and I've just spent the last four hours sitting in the kitchen listening to tales of hitch-hiking and drunkenness. I feel like the new boy among so many old-hands. How sheltered I've been! One bloke (small and dark with round wire-rimmed glasses) had us all in fits as he told a long sardonic and unselfconscious tale about nude bathing. 

I feel incredibly naïve.

Earlier today I went into Watermouth with Penny, who's opened up the rest of the kitchen for me. We bought food.

As soon as I got back I had to hole up in the library for three hours and read Bertrand Russell. I found a suitable passage to write about. I was surprised at how easy to read and understand he was, and he was very amusing in parts.

Wednesday, October 6, 1982

Knowledge and reality

I did go to the reggae disco last night. I wandered down to the Cellar and stood about feeling conspicuous, but gradually the place filled up and was packed. I got talking to a dark haired lad in a combat jacket who asked me if I was alone, as he was. We talked all night, a friendship struck up through necessity rather than any great mutual attraction. But it got too loud to talk and much of what he said I couldn’t hear, and as I kept getting regurgitated by the sheer crush of bodies out into the dance floor I spent most of the time dancing. By the time I left my T-shirt was literally wringing wet.

I spent this morning lugging beds and mattresses up and down stairs; me and another ‘giant’ from no. 77 have got special seven-foot beds, and we had great difficulty maneuvering these into our rooms. I was late for an introductory lecture for EAM students but, as chance would have it, I ended up meeting a lad Neil who hails from Northampton.

With his pointed leather boots and chinking buckles I’d assumed he was a typical poser but he wasn’t; we had a lot in common and got quite friendly. I went back with him to his room in Lovett which is amazing compared to our squalid quarters. We had dinner in the Cellar and he insisted on paying. I showed him my dingy Wollstonecraft room and he borrowed my Charters Kerouac biography and the Moody Street photocopies.

We bade one another goodbye and I wandered off for my guided tour of the library. Entombed between the narrow towering shelves I found the silence comforting and familiar. I’ll grow to love that library, I'm sure. It has everything.

I reserved Bertrand Russell’s Basic Writings which is in heavy demand and I’m only allowed 3¾ hours with it. I find the prospect of my Knowledge & Reality course slightly mind blowing.

Tuesday, October 5, 1982


I met my course tutors. Five of us are signed up for Dr. Palfreyman's Critical Reading: American Civilisation tutorial, and he told us that we could decide what we wanted to focus on as AmCiv is really just a general introduction. He asked for topic ideas; someone mentioned the hippies, and I mentioned jazz and said it was the only native American art-form, at which he raised his eyebrows and smiled.

We were sent away with instructions to find out about a particular aspect of American Indians which interests us, take notes, and then discuss this next Tuesday. After this, Mr McAllister talked with me in his dark office about the role of the Personal Tutor and then I was free to wander aimlessly yet with simulated purpose up and down the neatly trimmed paths. I browsed for a while in a mini-market being held down in the main part of campus.

At two I had to meet Dr. Herring, a young American who painted a daunting picture of what he expects from us in Philosophical Thinking (Knowledge & Reality). The girl from Yorkshire was there (she’s from Knowlesbeck!), and her accent was comfortingly familiar amid all these Southern twangs. We have to read Bertrand Russell for next week and I left Herring's office feeling just a little overwhelmed, even frightened.

I got the train into Watermouth to collect my parcel from the railway station and took a taxi back to campus for £2.70. As I unwrapped all the things I'd last seen at home (‘FRAGILE’ daubed in over-large letters and joked about with Mum & Dad), I felt homesick yet again.

At 7.30, I self consciously made myself a cup o’ tea in the communal kitchen and struck up stilted and wooden conversation with the handful of other people there; three of them seemed to be big friends already and they relaxed easily around the table while I sat stiffly in the corner, trying to look casual but feeling conspicuous in my silence. When they’d left for a game of pool, I talked awkwardly with a quiet ginger-haired lad from Basildon. I cringed inwardly at how blatantly forced my words sounded.

The three from the kitchen have gone to a reggae disco in the Cellar. Maybe I'll go down there to try and get to know somebody.

Monday, October 4, 1982


The weather was miserable today, torrential rain all morning and afternoon and I got soaked as I hurried back and forth across campus. In the morning I had two lectures, one from the Vice-Chancellor, the other the Dean, then at one I had my first hot meal in over a day and a half in the refectory; they only sell snacks so I have to wait for my pans etc. to arrive.

In the afternoon was the two-hour rigmarole of registration: endless queues snaking up corridors and back, behind partitions, thousands of pieces of paper, and countless servile blunderings. Two students handed out “Boycott the £10 Health Service Levy” leaflets to the queues; “The Levy is privatizing health care!” they shouted. I  kept quiet and paid the Levy. The girl ahead of me in the queue was from Yorkshire.

Registration done and I headed out again into the grey drizzle while everyone else went off who knows where. Later I wandered out and bought teabags.

I still keep getting pangs of homesickness and have yet to strike up any sort of a relationship with others. I’ve exchanged perhaps a dozen words with another person since I came here. I feel abject loneliness.

Sunday, October 3, 1982


I got the eleven-fifteen train from Easterby. There were times I had to steel myself and choke the lump back down in my throat before I set off. I took a final look round my bedroom feeling stupid and sentimental but I couldn’t help it. I said to Dad we should go for a hike at Christmas. “It might all seem so unimportant to you,” he replied and seemed subdued.

Just before I boarded the train Mum kissed me and I got a hug from Dad. Then they were gone and I felt sick inside as we chugged to Whincliffe: a last glimpse behind of St. Cuthbert’s hemmed in by city blocks all smiling in the sun, all that’s been my world, slipping away.

I kept thinking of Mum and Dad on the moors.

I bucked up a bit on the train to London but still felt miserable by the time I got to Watermouth. I trudged up the path towards the University and everyone seemed to know one another. No big welcoming party as Mum had reassured me, just a grey empty expanse of concrete and trees dotted with hurrying people. But I eventually found my way to the Porter's office in Wollstonecraft Hall, picked up my key and found my room up on the second floor. My room is dingy and contains a bed, a wash-basin, a desk, bookshelves and a wardrobe. I unpacked my stuff. No more neatly pressed and clean clothes. I’m on my own now.

I spent the evening feeling thoroughly homesick. I ventured out a few times only to blunder about feeling lost and lonely. I don’t know anyone or know where to go.  This won’t get me anywhere!

I rang Mum, and her voice sounded clear and near, that familiar hallway at the end of the ‘phone, a world away now. I have to do this.

Saturday, October 2, 1982

Back number

We took my box down to the station in the morning, and afterwards, Mum, Dad & I visited Nanna B. It wasn’t a very pleasant atmosphere: much to my embarrassment, N.B. forced gifts of pencils, pen-knives and nail-clippers on me and the air was pregnant with tension between her and Mum, which culminated in a long moan from the former about getting old, deaf, “having your face rubbed in it,” and being regarded as a “back number.”

At this, Mum rounded coldly on her with, “you’re better off than most old people.” Dad tried to relieve the situation with forced gaiety and loud laughter but Mum gave Nanna B. an icy tight-lipped smile as we got into the car to leave: I know Mum can't stand her, and she plunges into a stormy mood which annoys Dad, and so. . . .

Everything since then has been sour and grim. Dad tells me that tomorrow he and Mum are doing the walk to Tunscarr Crag again. I reckon, as I speed train-bound for Watermouth, I will want to be there more than any other place in the world.

Peter called to say goodbye and Lee rang at teatime. I’ve just now said goodbye to Grant. Jeremy even rang me from Poppleton and sounded well settled and like he's enjoying himself; this made me feel a bit less nervous and sad. I'm more optimistic already!

“You’ll never be just the same again,” says Dad and he's right, for although I'll come back it won't ever be the same. This is the last day of my childhood. I feel like I used to those Sundays when I was young and a new school term loomed the next day. I feel very sad.

Friday, October 1, 1982

Dark in the sun

Dad and I had a last outing together. We went to Bethany and took The Harp of the Sky with us to retrace Charles Herbert’s final struggle at Tunscarr Edge (it's in Harp as “Anwell’s Craig”).

At Tunscarr Manor we took a stony walled lane which headed up onto the moor. Dad found a newt. We then had to head across rough grassy hummocks, past a derelict farm, over broken walls to a narrow path that clung to the valley side as it disappeared around the shoulder of a hill below the Edge. This steep-sided, forgotten valley is called Glenbeth. It was dark and bleak and at the valley head we crossed a stream and climbed sheer decaying steps up to the Edge itself, its black granite towering above the bracken-choked slopes.

I got the impression that despite its notoriety, there are few visitors. At the top we looked out over the narrow valley below: a huddle of trees marked the Manor. The distant green fields were dotted with white farm buildings. The day she was last seen, Vaughan said she was going to walk to the Edge, and I searched half-seriously for some carved inscription or long-forgotten memento hidden away in a crevice but I didn't find anything. There was no wind and everything was silent save for the burbling water below: behind the Edge, the moorland swept away toward Lancashire and we had enticing glimpses of waterfalls and rock outcrops silhouetted on the horizon. I like this type of country better than the Dales; it's what I’ll remember in my darker hours at Watermouth.

I took a small lump of rock as a souvenir: perhaps one day, when I’m older and everything is worked out and I’m established as something, I’ll come back here and return the rock to its home. “You should do it when you're successful” Dad said (whatever that meant). I think he was referring to money but I mean something like happiness. I don’t know what I want out of my life.

On the walk back we stopped to admire the Edge from a distance and the sadness of leaving really struck me. A skylark burst from a rock nearby, the valley was dark in the sun, the wind was blowing, and I thought of how all this will still be here, so free and windswept while I'm four hundred miles away.

I felt pessimistic in the evening, homesick already, even though I haven’t gone yet!
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