Sunday, February 28, 1982
We were up early for Janet's baby's christening. Andrew's friend Jim from Whincliffe was downstairs, having given Andrew a lift back after their night out and it was funny to see his manic stare, glassy eyes and stupid grin: the meeting of two worlds. He just didn't seem to fit.
I got dressed up in jacket, smart trousers, black shirt, purple tie. Andrew was aghast at his suit’s baggy flares and large lapels and protested despairingly, half-seriously wishing he’d never come up. The whole concept of ‘dressing up’ is stupid. Why can’t people wear the things they’d normally put on without being artificially ‘packaged’ into stereotyped suits and ties? It’s just putting up a front. Pointless. “I hate the whole family thing," Andrew said. “Uncle Kenneth will be there, all red-faced and jovial. . . .” I knew just what he meant.
It was sunny as we drove up to Hillworth Methodist Chapel and when we got there we had hanging about to do. Me and Andrew were in a good mood, joking and laughing as the relatives drifted in, old ladies, young married couples. . . . It began to spit with rain.
The service began at 10.30 and we sat at the front. There were about a hundred people there altogether. We had to sit through empty meaningless rhetoric, hymns, and prayers, and I wondered about it all, about how remote it all seems from everyday life. Michael John Carter is now 8½ months old and he was christened, his parents promising to bring him up in a Christian home living a Christian way of life. But really, the emphasis was very much on ‘let him choose’.
Afterwards everyone stood around talking, old ladies casting glances at me and Andrew from a distance (“grand young lads” etc.) Mum and Dad portrayed me as an atheist who's really into politics. Uncle Kenneth said that being a committed atheist is as presumptive as being a ‘believer’. True.
Then we had a ‘reception’ at the Jack and Jill club nearby, a trestle table laden with food, a quiet pub atmosphere, handfuls of people scattered round the perimeter of a large sparsely furnished room. I had three pints of cider and Mum again told people I was a “communist,” and I got into a long discussion about politics with an oldish man. Andrew got talking about his student demo next week, and how pathetic he finds the apathy over grant cut protests, etc. We talked about my grant. I wonder how we seemed . . . ?
After we got back, Andrew was given a lift down to Easterby and Mum and Dad drove round to Janet’s for the evening, leaving me to listen to Athletic beat Ingleborough 3-1 away on the radio, doodle, sleep on the floor, and to gaze at old photos.
My favourite is a sad distant scene, me just 2 weeks old, waving a small fist, Mum looking young, the sun shining down on her and a friend, the long ago sunlit grass, gone forever. The friend looks sad almost as she gazes down at my infant protest, and Mum has half a smile, the sun on her back. There's a little girl nearby, her hair blowing in the wind. She’ll be in her twenties now.
Saturday, February 27, 1982
Dad got me up and we set out early to pick up my cousin Jenny and go frog-spawning. We were soon tramping down the ancient pack-horse lane through trees towards the canal and Dengates marsh. It stretches between river and canal for a quarter of a mile or so, but it seems less full this year, as if it's gradually draining away. Big trees are springing up in the middle of what was once a deep wide watery marsh.
We traversed the full length with no luck, passing the gypsy camp across the river: an air of squalor, the paper, wood and prepackaged filth of today strewn down the sloping riverbank into the grey water. On the way home we dropped in on Nanna B.
After dinner I had to sit through Dad and Mum’s negative comments about today’s youth and people with weird hair or clothing. “They want rounding up.”
I felt like such a pseud.
At 2.30 me and Dad drove down to Farnshaw, dropping in on Great Uncle Arthur (Watkin), who's a sprightly 82 and in such good shape I was amazed. He could be 62! Dad’s cousin was there and both she and G.U.A. expressed surprise at my resemblance to the young Great Uncle Sidney. . . . I felt a kind of pride at this link with the past, that I'm carrying all that heritage forward. He talks so much, but we managed to get away and Dad bought me a book illustrating the “American Experience” with short stories by Melville, Hawthorne, Saroyan etc.
Andrew's impressed by Rip Rig & Panic; he went to Jim’s in Whincliffe during the afternoon and evening.
Friday, February 26, 1982
I was nearly late for Slicer’s lesson and afterwards, me, Duncan and Claire went and groveled to Gray and persuaded him not to have the History test. It’s all OK and a laugh at the time but things are getting late, the net is closing. . . .
Other than this, I spent most of my time at school being really lazy and an absolute slob, lying full-length on the floor reading The Job, which is fascinating. Burroughs seems a more progressive, deeper thinker than Kerouac although I disagree with some of the things he says about family, women and Reich’s D.O.R. etc. . . He's a total original though. However much I claim to agree with violent riots by the youth, the abolition of family, the invention of artificial wombs, single sex species, etc., I’d find in practice they’d run contrary to my undeniable reactionary, retiring streak. I’d never have the guts to act on my ‘beliefs.’
I left with Lee at three and we went into Easterby: nearly-new-shop happiness for a while, trying on trilbies, coats, trousers I’d never have the guts to to wear, unlike Lee. He’s buying a tuxedo jacket and says I can have the big black incredibly baggy Charlie Coroli trousers with fancy black bandleader style braiding down each leg. I bought my £2 Pigbag ticket.
At home after watching TV, Mum, Dad and I got to talking about sadness, death, and the passing of time, Mum telling me she’d told Nanna P. my comment that we've been brought up to think so much that we can never be truly happy which had struck Mum and Nanna P. thought “strange.”
But it’s true. Reality is never as good as hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Everything we hope for is lost because we all die, our friends all die and we're really just caretakers of the “possessions” we give up as soon as we die. We are born with nothing and return with nothing which I'm sure is why so many artists, poets, writers, and musicians (the “enlightened”) burn out quickly, die young, commit suicide. All the unalterable hanging around, waiting for death, is too much to bear.
I watched a sad play about two Irishmen growing up together and being pitched into WW1 where they are ordered about by incompetent and odious buffoons-of-officers who make them crawl, grovel, and eat shit. Poor blameless soldiers live and die in squalor because governments demand they fight their wars for them: "You are an officer. You must not talk with the soldiers!" Forget about being human: morality doesn’t come into it. "Be a man! Be a soldier!" It makes me so bitter. One of the Irishmen was shot by his friend to save him from the firing squad.
I had to leave at this point, filled as I was with a knot of anger and a demands for an explanation. What gives those people the right? Why it is tolerated? It’s hard to explain what I felt and can’t be conveyed in words.
Andrew has come up for Janet's kid's christening. He's annoyed that the guitarist for The Steady Highs nicked two £11 lamps when they played: "We're on their side! I'm sick of people out for everything they can get, sick of the money grubbing. No one does things for the fun of it any more!"
Thursday, February 25, 1982
Everything wet and shrouded in a light drizzle as I walked into school. Typical day, forced conversations, etc. . . .
I didn’t stay long and didn’t do any work except help Claire with her English essay before leaving with Lee at 11.45 to go to my house for an hour and then down into Farnshaw to look at the two second-hand clothes shops there, happy hours looking at, trying on, speculating about the finds: cheap old bright racks, always classic coats. . . .
I paid off the £2 and collected my jacket and walked home feeling despondent. Deborah swept by silent and remote on the opposite pavement: I feel really disappointed at how nasty the whole pathetic thing has become.
Claire rang in the evening about the History test tomorrow. . . .
Wednesday, February 24, 1982
One of those mornings where you get up and everything is bright and sunny and fresh and it all disappears so quickly; it's so hard to define and get hold of. Everything’s new and different but that afternoon used dusty sunshine look comes round so quickly.
My foot has been OK the past couple of days but aches now. I worked intermittently on my Pollock essay for Art.
In the evening I watched a programme called Riot which tried – quite fairly I thought – to put last summer's riots into an historical context, explaining that violent extra-parliamentary action is very much a part of Britain’s history. As usual, Dad disagreed and without even watching any of it was saying “You can’t compare . . . they were decent hard working people with real grievances. These lot today are just criminal yobbos doing it for the sheer hell. . . .”
Tuesday, February 23, 1982
I dreamed that Andrew was dead (!?)
Mid-morning Lee rang and asked if I fancied going to his house to do some homework: I agreed, knowing full well we wouldn’t get a thing done and I got there at 1.15. Predictable really, hanging round talking to Andy Wiechec, Lee playing his Pigbag, Weapon of Peace, and Bumble & the Beez tapes.
England beat N. Ireland 4-0! Brilliant.
Monday, February 22, 1982
Dream: Peter Wood, who for some reason owns an old record shop, sells me an article about Kerouac for £1.50.
Dad gave me lift into Easterby to the library at nine and I took two Kerouac books back and got out Thomas Wolfe’s The Web & The Rock, Herman Melville’s Typee and Billy Budd, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D. T. Suzuki and, finally, The Job, Daniel Odier interviewing William Burroughs.
Then I wandered onto Smith’s and waited for Lee, first inside gazing at magazines then outside in the cold reading An Introduction to Zen Buddhism while the crowds flooded past me, footsteps everywhere, a sea of bobbing heads. . . . When Lee showed up we did a tour of the second-hand clothes shops, discovering two more we'd never seen before catching the bus back to Farnshaw. I collected my overcoat.
Grant Riley was walking on towards Farnshaw with his parents so we three plunged down toward the shops in good spirits, being loud and crude. Lee seems quieter around Grant and gives me little glances which seem to make Grant the outsider. I put a quid deposit on another jacket (£3) at Farnshaw Oxfam and then we walked on toward Moxthorpe, me feeling guilty, something to do with my all-too rapid disposal of money and the hypocrisy of buying a jacket when I’ve a new ‘un hanging upstairs at home.
A quick stop at Moxthorpe library and then through cold glittery Burgoyne’s Park, the canal glass-still, pausing at Brogden Wood Locks to crash rocks through the thin ice and watch a weasel, and then up through peaceful darkening woods near the river and into the cemetery with its rows of tombstone, Lee regailing us with unbelievable and tragic ghoul-stories that reduced us all to laughter. As we walked the thought occurred to me that what we were saying was unique to us and to no one else. Looked at objectively, how would we appear? Different? The same? I can't capture it! Meanwhile, the crematorium poured brown smoke into the air. “It's a building built for the exclusive purpose of incinerating human beings” said Lee.
A depressing and tired finale of quiet boredom at my house. Mum showed her annoyance at my “wasted” purchase of the overcoat by slamming doors, sighing, her face adopting a tight, pained expression. I was filled with regret and rage and started reading the Burroughs interview: it's really interesting. . . .
Peter and Tim came round mid-evening and cajoled me into going to Harvey's with them. I felt desperate and fearful of Mum and Dad’s rapidly souring tempers and submissively begged Dad not to be “peeved,” promising to be home by 11. I stayed for an hour, drinking two pints of cider.
Sunday, February 21, 1982
I got up late just as Dad returned home with Nanna Beardsall in tow, as we were having both the N's together for a kind of birthday celebration. One’s 74, the other’s 77.
Later, a big candle-lit dinner with wine, nostalgic tales, Nanna B. recounting childhood 1918 tragedies, father dying and a day later baby brother dead too, mother left with eleven children. . . . I was quiet as I listened, subdued almost. . . .
Then, while Mum, Dad and the N’s disappeared into the front room (Dad: “I’ll have to sit and suffer”), I played familiar records I've heard too often and sat and suffered my own boredom and stale negativity. Next door, the N’s whooped and cackled to tales of Uncle Jim.
Come tea time, Mum set out their cake, gave them chocolates and a bouquet each, Nanna P. bursting into joyful sobs, kisses, tears all round now. I took a couple of photos of them both, caught forever in that instant in time, holding their flowers. . . . .
I listened to the Stan Tracey Octet on Peter Clayton (superb).
Saturday, February 20, 1982
I've got an offer from Watermouth, a BCC in English, History, and General Studies (in any order) or a BB in History and English. The fact that they’ve given me General Studies probably means they must've made me an exception due to Art.
I spent the morning reading old diaries, but the afternoon was a predictable nothingness. Nanna P. came at 1.30: that usual Saturday confinement feeling, dim and dull outside, eternal chatter, silence. . . .
Friday, February 19, 1982
I deliberately missed the first two lessons. School seemed claustrophobic and noisy and I sat amid the mess and chaos struggling to read about Kerouac’s last years, feeling anti-social and silent. I managed to finish the book.
Everything ended, everyone left, and I hung around with Colin, Peter and Lee.
Thursday, February 18, 1982
Hobbled in to school, my ankle feeling sore, and spent the day hopping and limping around and being lighthearted about my injury. Deborah is the nearest to being OK she's been for weeks and was positively friendly after school. In Art, Lee rolled up in a big baggy ‘50s style suit he bought from a Farnshaw Oxfam.
When I got home Mum insisted she ring for a taxi to Easterby General Infirmary. Once there, my ankle was fondled by a foreign doctor and I had an X-ray (“probably a sprained ligament”), all the while hopping self-consciously about through bright antiseptic sterile corridors and waiting rooms with a bare foot in my big old floppy coat, feeling like Long John Silver. Had a long wait with Mum and silent staring patients until X-ray results came through, and then a young nurse bandaged my leg, her hands warm on my knee.
Dad picked us up. I’d wanted a pot on my ankle and somehow felt sad to be leaving the bright, lively hospital.
Wednesday, February 17, 1982
I was in a vocal mood and got into a big debate with Gledhill during registration about the need to go to General Studies. Otherwise, the usual school mediocrity, a bit better than yesterday: Deborah isolated, only speaking after school, before the film (Electric Horseman – moderate). But I actually worked today, doing some Coriolanus notes. . . .
Then after school, I sprained my ankle chasing fat Atkinson, who I cornered in Flatters’s office. I was in agony and hobbled home. By eight, after limping upstairs, it'd become unbearable, a wrenching, throbbing pain, and it’s badly swollen now, and may even be broken? I can’t bear to put my foot on the floor.
I spent the evening reading my Kerouac biography, really getting into it.
Tuesday, February 16, 1982
Total complete utter mind-consuming boredom: anger, frustration, self-hate, neglect, juvenilia, cloying claustrophobic desperation . . . everything. . . . It was so horrible. I missed two lessons and at one point – Peter calling me a “bastard,” obviously disliking me, everyone prating on, Deborah’s forbidden iciness, things closing in on me . . . God it was so awful and stultifying! To be truthful though, Deborah did endeavour to be OK a bit during the morning and again in the afternoon and I, desperate for normality, acted really conciliatory and submissive almost.
In Giles’s lesson I stared out of the window at all the incredible clarity; rocks, stream, grass, lake opposite, everything sharp and wet.
I never do any work because the horrible rut my mind has stagnated into only lets me sit around resentfully, hatefully.
Andrew wants to come to the Jazz Festival: he rang in the evening about me buying a £35 Praktica, which I had to decline. . . .
Monday, February 15, 1982
Frost for the first time in weeks. School characterised by unconvincing arguments for anarchy and the usual childishness. No work.
I left with Lee after History, and we got a lift into Easterby from a weary Dad. We went to Smith’s where I bought The Doors for £3.29, and then walked on to Victoria Hall so I could buy my tickets for three nights of the Jazz Festival. We then hit the streets, touring clothes shops, Christian Aid shops, and Oxfams. Lee bought a waistcoat at a charity shop near William Street and I saw several brilliant long, old overcoats: I put a deposit of £1 on a £5 one. I also bought a scarf and a tie.
Lee rang in the evening and came round again at eight to go to a Tesco-organised party at Harvey’s. I felt guilty telling Mum I was going, as I could just imagine the thoughts springing into her mind. . . .
We got there at nine and were the first people there but it never filled up very much. Many people were in fancy dress (Dracula, Santa Claus, Worzel Gummidge, Pirate, etc.). Wendy Truswell was there, wearing a really skimpy Maid Marian outfit, her long, long legs dimly discernible in the gloom. Lee and I watched and talked and drank halves of cider, and Lee danced occasionally and it was quite enjoyable, sitting there being crude about all the school girl outfits and miniskirts on the dance floor.
Lee had to be in at twelve so we just had time to leap about to Pigbag before we left. . . .
Sunday, February 14, 1982
Bright sunshine across the landing, warm on my bare legs. Robert and Carol came for the match late-morning, and our loud talk and raucous laughter soon woke up Dad (he's on nights), and he got up just before we set off at two. Outside it was sunny but chilly. . . .
Hydebeck, in all yellow, were playing towards the Easterby End. Athletic went ahead after five minutes (a Newlands shot through a goalmouth tangle) and looked pretty good, Hydebeck offering little resistance. Minutes later a penalty, and up stepped Wild but blammed it straight at the goalie: it cannoned back off him and into play but there he was again, bursting through on his own, chased by two Hydebeck defenders: as he reached the area he was sent sprawling. Another penalty! We cheered as the referee pointed at the spot. No mistake this time: 2-0!
In the second half a frantic series of corners, misdirected headers, balls crossed in, scrappy scrambles and even a disallowed goal made the crowd restless, everyone rising, venting our frustration at the linesman. But the game had degenerated, bogged down in midfield. . . .
I walked home, through Woodhead Park, over Ashburn and back down through Egley. Ahead in the valley lay Knowlesbeck, grey and twilit, strings of orange lights scattering into the distance. Everything was silent, still and gloomy.
I listened to a good John Stevens Away session on Peter Clayton (“OKKO” and “KOOK”) and I’m really looking forward to getting my Jazz Festival ticket tomorrow. Still reading my Kerouac biography.
Saturday, February 13, 1982
I went into Easterby and as I waited for a bus at Moxthorpe I got talking to a fashionably dressed bloke in his late '30s. He admitted he was a racist and kept talking about “fucking immigrants,” how there are “three million blacks in Britain” and how “they're stealing our jobs and creating slums.” He infuriated me but I felt trapped, almost scared to disagree, and when I did eventually object he said, “don’t talk out of your fucking arse! I made it, so can you. . . .” I quite disliked him. There are so many racist, bigoted people around with narrow, reactionary views who think like him that it makes me sick and pessimistic, even more so when I fail to condemn them and justify my own positions.
I wandered around Easterby full of rage and paranoia – loads of posers about. I met Peter and bought an el cheapo two-tone shirt.
Got home feeling depressed, angry at myself really. In the next few days I could spend loads - £9 for the Jazz, £2 for Pigbag, £3 for Ravi Shankar . . . . . . . Money.
Nanna P. has been here since yesterday. She goes on forever and is a fixture with her incessant talk.
Friday, February 12, 1982
Deborah made tentative moves at being friendly, and even made the occasional comment to me, but generally things were cool between us. I feel so awkward now. After school I did stupid, shitty things: chasing everyone with a squeezy bottle and squirting water everywhere, etc.
In the future I’ll look back at this time in my life and realise how petty I was. Trivia abounds because that’s all my life consists of.
I saw an ad for the Easterby Jazz Festival. Three days. £9. Superb! Lee came round unexpectedly at teatime and stayed an hour or so.
Thursday, February 11, 1982
I was in school for eleven and pretended to work until one-fifteen when me, Lee and Peter went to the latter’s house and Peter drove us to Woodhead Park where he had to get some weather readings for his Geography project.
While he sat in a hut near the greenhouses leafing through the old leathery volumes, me and Lee went into Hainsworth Hall to look round. We saw Harrington Stanley’s crap old master rip-offs and upstairs I bought four catalogues from past Northern Print Biennales (1970, ’72, ’74 and ’76) and found out that Ravi Shankar is playing Whincliffe in March. I left happy.
We messed about on the way back, me chasing the car while Peter drove away whenever I got within a few yards, Lee laughing in the back. . . After school, I came near to seeking out Deborah and apologising.
Did nowt in the evening but watch TV.
Wednesday, February 10, 1982
Things seemed easier at school. Duncan was friendly; Deborah however is still quiet, apart and isolated and there's been no communication now for 15 days.
In Mrs. Slicer’s lesson we discussed the failings of school and we are all really unhappy with everything: the no work atmosphere, our isolation from school and teachers, the lack of communication,‘A’ levels in general. Everyone is run down and resentful. . . .
Tuesday, February 9, 1982
I woke up, drifted back to sleep, and had a really weird dream. I was in a second hand book shop in a predominantly W. Indian area and found a book by a Russian author called Inspired By Kerouac To Travel. I opened it up and inside was an inscription to me from Mum and Dad. Strange. Late again, got in at 10.00.
My new resolve to work hard crumpled in the face of the tedium and lethargy of school. It really is an awful place to work. Bad tempered, frustrating, cloying sense of boredom, overwhelming negativity. Deborah blew up at Lee again when he got deliberately awkward and rude.
After Art, Grant came round to go to the Pre-Valentine party at Harvey's. He was wearing a paisley pattern silk scarf and told me about the poetry of Charles Bukowski and a friend who’s into Rimbaud. "Bukowski's better than Ginsberg, who's sold out a bit. But Ferlinghetti is still good."
Peter showed up at eight and we all set off for Harvey's but we had to go all the way back because I forgot the tickets. We were there by nine. Big hassles about getting in; the bloke at the door turning loads away, demanding identification, saying how sorry he was but “it's the law of the land” and “we’re trying to run a business.” He eventually allowed us in after we stood there protesting long enough. Rumours of a police raid.
Inside, the familiar: dark, noise, drink, people standing about in groups, friendly comments. Grant and I mostly sat, bored, gazing at the glittery confident people all around, but eventually Grant danced, leaping and flinging himself about incoherently, kicking and twisting. . . . People started to openly mock him, some even going out right in front to imitate him; he knew but didn’t care and even seemed encouraged. Lee arrived, did a bit of his fluent, professional sort of dancing and left again at 12.
Upstairs, an upset Robin was having an intense argument with Wendy, who hit him someone said. Tim and Laura were at it again and Adrian Barlow was snogging with someone too. Late on, smoochy time, the statuesque couples dotted around the darkened dance floor. . . .
Monday, February 8, 1982
Niggly and childish with Duncan (it’s the boredom that does it), and we were both ‘told off’ by Elson. Humiliating.
Jeremy and Lee came to my house after to listen to a reggae 45 Angela lent me, and we desperately agreed that we must do something. . . . Sometimes I hate school. I cannot work! It’s a mental thing. On Saturday apparently I was being loud, shouting “wanker” at Barlow and being obnoxious. Condemnation.
It's impossible . . . Mum and Dad are arguing about the blocked sink now. . . .
Sunday, February 7, 1982
Mum and Dad left to go on an eight-mile walk at Withenkirk before I got up. The weather was sunny, quite spring-like, but I sat/laid in the house bored, reading the paper, feeling lethargic and depressed and thinking. . . .
Grant rang at about four, and Mum and Dad came back as I was talking to him: I really wished I'd gone with them. Robert rang too. He and Carol have applied for a job in Zambia for married couples.
My mind is dull at the thought of soooomuch work! I talked to Mum about my Brynmor / Watermouth dilemma: “Well, you know our opinion,” etc.
Saturday, February 6, 1982
My cold, which began on Thursday continues with a headache, blocked nose, and lethargy. I listened to Athletic lose three-nil at Bishophill on Radio North while watching the siskins and greenfinches feeding on the nuts outside.
Later, I made an attempt to get some work done. Total failure. Peter rang mid-afternoon to see if I wanted to go to Halyna's party, and at six-thirty I met him and John Emsley down by the bus stop.
We got off at Lodgehill, met Lee, and walked on into Easterby. On the way we ran into Grant and as we approached we shouted across the road to him, but he obviously didn’t recognise us because he instead speeded up and hugged the wall, glancing across at us nervously. . . .
We got there way too early and stayed in a nearby pub for an hour or so. The party was being held in a large Church hall with the obligatory flashing lights and posers galore. Halyna is Yugoslavian and all her relatives seemed to be there. I started out on lager but soon switched to Slivovitz as the party developed into a crap, lifeless affair. Claire and co. showed their faces but left soon after; it was obviously not their scene, and others seemed to be doing the same.
Tim and Laura got on like a house on fire, and ended up snogging. How does he do it? He's just amazing: first Wendy, then Sharon, Lynn Norden, and now Laura! Lee was bored, I felt annoyed, and everything was just crap so we left with Colin Baron at about midnight, getting a taxi back to his house where we sat muzzily drinking coffee and talking until three a.m. by which time I'd sobered up.
I hate it all, the reckless spending with nothing to show for it. A waste.
Friday, February 5, 1982
Most of the other people in the hotel at breakfast seemed to be Watermouth interviewees. I met a girl who was also there for American Studies. Afterwards, I wandered along the sea-front, the sea a gentle grey-green swell looking exciting and full of promise.
The bus station was silent and empty: I caught the 828 along with other obvious students and we were soon there.
As we got off I met a neatly dressed lad from Debdenshaw in suit and winkle pickers who was also there for an AS interview and he was really friendly: we started to talk about the course and other universities. He plays bass in a group (à la Cabaret Voltaire), is going to see Rip Rig and Panic at Debdenshaw. Uni., and he also likes some jazz. We checked in at Arts Block C and were ushered into the American Studies Common Room to wait, where there a few people discussing politics and reading Marxism Today. . . .
Watermouth University is enormous, much bigger than Brynmor, and it's almost like a miniature city. It seems much more pose-y than Brynmor but it also feels more organised and serious somehow and, as I soon discovered to my growing unease, more appealing. I was very impressed and somehow can see myself there more easily than I can Brynmor. I ended up quite struck on the idea.
My new friend Neil Dickinson had his interview at 10.30 and came back looking shell-shocked. At 11.30 we all had a lecture on how the cuts affect Watermouth and what the course structure will be, etc., and at midday I left for my interview.
My interviewer was Jonathan Adam, who was youngish and informal. I apologised for my scruffy combat jacket, jeans, and T-shirt, especially since all the other interviewees were wearing jackets and ties, but he said it was OK. “It will probably stand you in good stead at Watermouth, anyway.” Why had I chosen American Studies? Waffly, uncertain guff from me about dominant cultures, unusual courses, basic interest, etc. Then he asked me about my History course, and asked two specific questions about the Russian Revolution and Stalin, basically to see how I talked I think.
—“I see you've put Kerouac and the Beats down on your UCCA form. Among my generation, Kerouac was the fashionable author, but that's not so much the case nowadays. Why are you interested in him?”
—“Well basically, although I realize he’s not exactly an academic favourite, . . .”
—“. . . his time will come . . .”
—“. . . I enjoy reading his books and find that, if I dare say it, he describes things, writes about things, which I personally have often thought about. To see this written down is really interesting. . . .”
. . . and so on.
Then, with my newfound desire to go to Watermouth uppermost in my mind, he gave me some really bad news: Art is a ‘non-approved’ ‘A’-level as far as Watermouth is concerned, basically because of the practical element. Why this should be he didn’t know, but I was annoyed that we'd never even been told this by anyone at school or at Watermouth up until now. What if all my five choices had had this policy? This really pissed me off and I left the interview in two minds once again. . . . Neil was waiting in the Common Room and we left for Watermouth.
We walked briskly to his hotel so he could change and then went back on to the Wimpy for some dinner, a quick stroll on the sea front and finally back to the bus station for three. He wished me good luck and was gone. We'd got really very friendly in our five hours together. A good lad. I bought a Melody Maker and discovered that the first ever Easterby Jazz Festival will be on at the Polytechnic at the end of March.
My bus got to London at 5.30 and I finally made it home at eleven o’clock. . . . Dad was waiting in the car. Unlike yesterday I actually enjoyed myself and wasn’t constantly yearning for home; if things are like this in October I shall be OK.
Thursday, February 4, 1982
I really didn’t feel like it, but at nine, with the house empty, I left. . . . I caught the ten a.m. bus, (had to change at Whincliffe) and arrived in London, at Victoria, at a bit before three. The journey was uneventful apart from a row between the elderly bull-necked bus driver and a Latin passenger. By Friday I will have virtually traveled the length of England four times in a week, almost a thousand miles.
The Watermouth bus was packed and crawled through crumbling London suburbs in heavy traffic while I gazed out at alien pavements. We reached Watermouth at six-thirty and I used the map the University had sent to find the Royal Crown Hotel. There was a cold wind blowing in from the sea as I hurried along the promenade. It's funny how the sea seems the same and has the same atmosphere no matter where you are: . . . Quinstow . . . now Watermouth. . . . After I checked in I had a half-pounder at a Wimpy.
I’m writing this lying on my double bed in my small room listening to Barbra Streisand on the radio. I wish I’d brought a watch. Going to Uni. will be a big change for me, because basically I like familiarity.
Wednesday, February 3, 1982
Dad took the day off specially to take me to Brynmor and after a stop at a Farnshaw garage to get two new rear tires fitted, we headed up Debdenshaw Road and were away. It only took us about an hour-and-a-half, motorway all the way, and soon enough Brynmor, the University, and Castle Fitzgilbert loomed spectacularly out of the haze.
Dad sat in the car and read the paper while I went into the Arts Building and Lecture Theatre G (glaring lights, pale brown wood-panelling). Most of the fifty or so potential American Studies students seemed to be girls and we listened to the convincing and reassuring guff about the city, the course and the university. "The John Kemp library is the best library for American Studies in the British Isles," and so on.
Then we were all split into groups of six and led off with student guides around the campus to see the bookshop, the library, the Union building and the AS dept, everywhere a bustle of activity. Outside, in the bitter dry cold, a chanting crowd of students were trying to occupy the Senate building. Noise, crowds, laughter my first impressions, and as we dined in the Union building, a student climbed onto a table and shouted “Fight the fash!” and “Down with the Tories!"
Our guide, a girl, led us into the huge canteen and bought us all coffee and talked more about the course but I couldn’t hear. Finally, we ended up in a faculty office piled high with books and papers and listened to an old professor ramble on. Someone asked him about Brynmor’s social life and he talked about ballet, opera, Wagner, and Dvorak . . .boredom. . . . The chants drifted noisily across from the Senate. . . .
At four, I hurried to the car, and we were home for five-thirty. I quite like Brynmor but I have doubts. It seems too small somehow, too simple . . . I don’t know. . . . Anyway, I sent off a provisional acceptance.
What to do?
Tuesday, February 2, 1982
At school, it's still no go with Deborah, and she's still ignoring us. We haven’t spoken now since last Tuesday. After school, but before Art, we were in the library and she and Duncan sat apart and I got so depressed and angry inside. . . . What's the point? Perhaps I’m to blame, and if so then OK but let’s not carry on like this; it's so frustrating. Time's hurtling past and soon we’ll all be gone.
In Art Mr. Hine talked about our ‘A’ level mock practicals and described my application of paint as “horrific” and “squalid” and my use of colour “crude.” There must be some good points!
I started reading Nathaniel West. Elmfield 2-3 Easterby Athletic!
Monday, February 1, 1982
I was almost excited (?) about getting back to school and I got in at ten, but boredom reduced me and Lee to childish levels (throwing spoons, crude conversations, sword fights with metre rulers, etc.). Tuts from the sixth years. This week's journeys to Brynmor and Watermouth loom over everything: at four I had to go into Easterby to book my ticket to Watermouth for Thursday. Dad’s taking me to Brynmor on Wednesday.
Dad told me that Great Uncle Gordon died on Saturday, aged eighty seven. All those experiences and emotions, all that knowledge, the things he thought about and felt as a young man, now gone and lost forever. I sometimes think how pointless it all is.
Film smuggled out of Poland show wreaths being laid in the aftermath of the December 16th trouble . . . . Dad (on comparisons between Poland and Toxteth): “There’s a vast difference. In Toxteth we’re dealing with criminals, but in Poland they’re just ordinary people.”