Wednesday, March 31, 1982
My lack of work is nagging at me. It’s all a question of motivation, motivation I lack. So I spent much of the day in stagnant and self-defeating arguments with Duncan and Jeremy, acknowledging my own weak personality and hypocrisy.
Later I listened to Athletic draw 0-0 with Hydebridge at Gutters Lane.
Tuesday, March 30, 1982
Mr. Gray ended last period History by ranting on about his independence: “I’m happy with my social life, my freedom; I don’t need a mortgage, 2.5 kids, a secure relationship and all that crap, meaningless rings and vows to some nonexistent being.”
It all sounded quite excellent and I looked at Claire and wondered how her materialist mind was taking it: with scorn no doubt. Mr. G. sounded youthfully idealistic as he regaled us with stories about his solo hitch-hiking trips to America and Canada. He enjoyed the latter but hated America's frightening aggression and guns and money centeredness.
Here's a sort of unspoken plan of action for the next few years: Uni., then maybe VSO for a couple of years and then . . . well, maybe an interesting job such as fireman which will allow me to amass enough cash to just go. . . .
There is a party at Harvey’s tonight but I didn’t bother going. I can just predict the grim noise, the crashing lights, the stale beer and sweat smell, the alien confident people chatting in gloomy groups, me feeling out of it.
So I came to bed early.
Monday, March 29, 1982
More rain and wind. I was unable to communicate with anyone (even Lee) about last night, the whole thing. . . . I tried but I couldn't make it work.
We had a test on Weimar Germany in History and afterwards me and Lee left, stopped at my house, and went to Farnshaw. I bought a thin long grey overcoat for £2.50 at the Dr. Barnardoes and Lee got a pair of serge type trousers which he sold to me as they didn’t fit him very well. They’re really good.
We walked back to my house, played records, drank tea, and tried on clothing, ironed it, took down hems, etc. . . .
In the evening I watched a war film and this got me around to reflecting on the hypocrisy of the Nuremburg trials. The Allies two-facedly accused and convicted the Germans of crimes that they themselves had been guilty of, such as the bombing of cities like Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, as if they had the moral right to judge others. They created a black-and-white situation where really there was just one foul grey mess. The convenient Western alliance with the Russians painted Stalin as a glowing War Illustrated-type hero, when he was in fact a mass murderer just like Hitler. Allied propaganda whitewashed this. The powerful constantly deceive, manipulate, and lie.
But I'm no better, my pseudo-anarchist beliefs shown up by my laziness and personal ostentatious crap.
Later, Dad got frantic and angry because I didn't appreciate a Rossini comic opera which he made me sit through. “How can anyone not like this?”
Sunday, March 28, 1982
It was raining as Dad gave me a lift into Easterby at six and I found Grant waiting, huddled in the doorway of British Home Stores. We walked up to the Poly through streets and pavements awash with water.
Quite a few people were there already and I managed to exchange my J-row ticket with a middle-aged bearded man for a V-row one, right at the back, so I could sit with Grant.
The Bobby Wellins quartet opened. Wellins is small, with greying hair and a Sam McCloud moustache, and he played the sax unobtrusively, occasionally wandering towards the edge of the stage and quietly watching while the others soloed. Their longest piece was a Wellins composition called “Endangered Species": each instrument took the part of a bird (the sax a nightjar, the piano a Golden Oriole, etc.) which was excellent, long solos, the piano almost classical, a whispering drum solo, ending with repetitive echoing piano notes. . . .
We struggled through a seething mass of people of all different ages and styles into the other room to the bar and Grant bought a half-lager before heading back into the hall where there was now a real atmosphere developing, a sense of expectancy in the air, as if everyone appreciated that something very special was about to happen. The hall was packed to overflowing, people standing clustered behind us.
The stage was packed with glittering colourful instruments: gongs, a frame hung with pots and cooking vessels, bongos, a drum kit, triangles, various brass instruments on their stands (a big bass sax) and at the back a large tapestry banner proclaiming, in greens, oranges and browns, Art Ensemble of Chicago AACM.
On they came, Lester Bowie in his white lab coat, three of the band in tribal garb with painted faces, carrying fly whisks. A loud fire siren started the set off and I soon realised that this was going to be amazing. The heavy percussive rhythms sent everyone into a jigging, swaying frenzy and occasionally, from out of the improvised swirl of noise, a fragmentary harmony emerged, a connection somewhere between notes and rhythms and a tune grew and grew into a 'forties swing number, Lester Bowie like a mad professor bending and dipping backwards, whipping his trumpet in savage slashes back and up, sometimes emitting shrieks of sound, sometimes deep throaty burbles.
Drummer Famadou Don Moye was using everything to clack, ting and blat a rhythm, Roscoe Mitchell and Joe Jarman grunting and snorting on saxophones or banging on the pot-frame and, for one memorable moment, rapidly jerking small red and white semaphore flags in time to the beat. Spontaneous amusement from the audience, almost as if they really didn’t know quite what to do or how to take it, but realised they liked it anyway. . . .
Most of the time the sound was formless, just a series of squawks, squeaks, shrieks, clicks, taps, and tinkles, Bowie swaying wildly, talking over the roar with a megaphone or interjecting a little discordant song, or provoking laughter with little visual jokes. Towards the end the bass sax blurted out a riff that became a flowing rhythm that was echoed by the others and had everyone shaking in their seats; a young girl in green and blue boiler suit down front broke away and leaped about, followed by another girl in pale red. . . .
All too soon it was over, the ecstatic reception, incredible, everyone on their feet now, clapping and cheering, an ovation that turned into a thudding roar for “More” that was rewarded by a Lester Bowie trumpet scccrawwhhh and then they were really done, bowing and exit stage right. . . . “Thanks, we appreciate your warm reception and hope to return next year!”
Grant and I left feeling high, so much so that this was all we talked about on the way home, Grant telling me this was definitely the best thing he’s ever seen, me thinking the same. I wanted to tell everyone on the bus how amazing it all was - music, living, the whole thing, but felt sorry that they hadn’t and wouldn’t hear the music at all.
Torrential rain as I splashed through dark suburban streets.
Saturday, March 27, 1982
I spent the morning tidying my bedroom up and reading the opening pages of Maggie Cassidy: Kerouac’s description of he and his teenage friends in the snow and streets of Lowell is really good.
During the afternoon I went with Dad to Moxthorpe Library and got out K.’s Visions Of Cody and The Buddhist Way of Life by Christmas Humphreys and also bought two paperbacks at a newly opened 2nd hand bookshop on Beatrice Avenue: Zen Buddhism and Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. For some reason I felt really despondent and frustrated, as if I wanted to be somewhere, buy something, but didn’t know what or even where.
I caught a fleeting glimpse of Claire who was with her sister and John Jackson in a van; they were broadcasting with their CB and people kept looking round in the street, wondering where the voices were coming from. I didn’t realise it was them at first, but as I ran over I was glad to see ‘em.
At six-thirty I left for the second night of jazz. I bought Grant a ticket for tomorrow night and watched Emergency Entrance briefly in Simmonds Hall before taking my seat for Cayenne, a nine-piece latin-jazz band, who were quite enjoyable if somewhat bland and predictable. They’d done away with Crimplene Trousers.
During the interval I saw Ms Hirst and man-friend and also Colin Baron and Adrian Barlow.
Barbara Thompson’s Paraphernalia took ages to come on but when they did it was good jazz-rock, Ms. Thompson herself quietly seated out front with her sax, playing occasionally until she walked completely off stage, returning for a brief and unenthusiastic blow at the horn and looking really subdued. After a few numbers, drummer Jon Hiseman came to the mike to explain that Babs wasn’t feeling too well, “she has gastric flu and can hardly walk and she may not be able to carry on . . .” Shocked subdued mumbling from the audience but Hiseman said they were willing to “fake it through” without her, to enthusiastic applause.
Ironically, I enjoyed their set after this point immensely. There was just Hiseman with a bassist, keyboardist and a violinist, but they seemed to play with renewed energy and excitement, the violinist especially sending spectacular screeches, descending and ascending wails, and stuttering rapid-bow-burst fire tearing from the violin.
The best bit was “Temple Song” with an obvious Indian feel (shades of the Mahavishnu Orchestra!) and the violinist gave a wrenching, twisting solo performance before Hiseman launched into an amazing, incredible blistering quarter-of-an-hour long drum solo that burst, rolled, shuddered, crashed, and flowed. Blat! Blam! Blat!
This got a reception that was nothing less than ecstatic, an explosion of congratulatory demands for “more!” and endless clapping that finally faded as the lights came up and the crowds began to disperse.
I stayed awhile, savouring the atmosphere, and listening again to Emergency Entrance with Colin Baron and Barlow.
Friday, March 26, 1982
Heat, sun and sweat. All the geographers were panicky as the 2.30 deadline for their projects approached. They've been slaving away most of the week and Lee and Claire have been out since Wednesday. Lee came in looking relieved.
Really, with the heat, it was a lazy day.
After tea I set off for the first ever Easterby Jazz Festival which was being held at Easterby Poly. In Robinson Hall I was greeted by a scene of frenetic activity, people everywhere, milling around, mobbing record stalls in the foyer, and upstairs more crowds and sales and a packed auditorium, walls hugged by scaffolding on which sat two TV cameras. It was good to see so many people my age in the audience but there were lots of the usual middle-aged Ronnie Scott-type swing era big band enthusiasts in tight polo-neck sweaters. A couple of them to my left tapped and swayed to the music all night, but really it was a pretty mixed bag.
The Stan Tracey Big Band was on first after a pathetic intro by a cardboard compère in blue crimplene trousers.for the benefit of the TV cameras. He seemed oblivious to the fact that it was a live event, and instead tried to script it all. The slimy suffocating grip of commercialism. Pathetic.
Apart from that the night was brilliant. The Stan Tracey Big Band played the expected trad-oriented Duke Ellington arrangements which I’m not hooked on but which are entertaining. The best piece was their fourth, the steamy, slow and soulful “Passion Flower,” a version of which I have by Grover Washington. Their set ended to good applause and everyone left the hall to rummage through the boxes and boxes of records out in the foyer or upstairs or to listen to a four piece jazz band in nearby Simmonds Hall. It was superb, a great atmosphere. . . .
Mingus Dynasty were up next, again introduced for the cameras by Crimplene Trousers, which made me sick. Mingus Dynasty featured Randy Brecker (who looks like Ricky Villa) on trumpet, a portly black pianist with graying beard and glasses (Roland Hanna), a happy looking Reggie Johnson on bass, Ricky Ford on sax, Jimmy Knepper on trombone and Kenny Washington on drums.
They began with “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” (I have a version of it on Mingus’s Me Myself An Eye) which was really good, but their best was a Mingus tribute to Charlie Parker (“Reincarnation of a Lovebird”) which was slow and sad and evocative. Towards the end of their set everyone was really getting into the music. The musicians really seemed warmed up and there were several superb saxophone breaks which were just incredible. Fantastic!
They got a rapturous reception and the applause went on for ages, everyone stomping and clapping and demanding “more.” Crimplene Trousers was drowned out as he made his staged exit and our loud banging carried on and on and on but they didn’t come back, probably because of TV restrictions. There were loud complaints. . . .
Thursday, March 25, 1982
Incredible weather for March: warm and clear, making everything lazy and relaxed, and I felt in a better mood than yesterday.
When I got into school at two everyone was crammed into the work room. A good atmosphere, and even Deborah was friendly.
In Art we lazed about outside, drawing landscapes from unusual angles. Later I thought about how secure it all seemed lying there in the grass, the air warm, the sun going down, jet trails high and white, everything safe and familiar. I’ll miss it when I leave.
Wednesday, March 24, 1982
Another warm, sunny day, pale sunlight, everything still. The last two days have really reminded me of summer.
At school I got involved in arguments that made me wonder what it is I really believe. All my pretensions end up sounding utterly false and foolish; “stereotyped,” as Jeremy put it. I emerged totally beaten, feeling stupid and sullen and I'm now thoroughly doubt ridden.
Dad had an interview for a job as social worker aide for after he retires this summer and I really hope he gets it.
I'm really depressed, despondent and demoralised.
Tuesday, March 23, 1982
The way Hirst teaches us is awful: it really turns me against The Secret Agent, the book we’re doing. As a result, I’m now prejudiced against Conrad, and whenever I pick the novel up my mind immediately links it with her. I can’t overcome this barrier.
In English we got back our marks for Paper III. I got 54%, a C/D. Other than this, a pretty bland day on the whole. I felt raucous and confident after school.
My fad with World War 2 continues. . . .
Monday, March 22, 1982
What to write today?
A nondescript and forgettable day at school. I got my marks back for my (European) History exam: B (on the air power essay), E and E/U. Claire came back with me in the afternoon to identify mosses for her Geography project and I spent the time gazing at sad faded volumes of The War Illustrated. I got quite hooked on it all.
At teatime I watched the launch of STS-3 with Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton on board, but within minutes there was a fuel-cell hitch.
Sunday, March 21, 1982
Dad gave me a lift to Cardigan Park. It was my first match in five weeks and there were queues to get in. I found Robert, Carol and Lynne already in the Shed.
The match started at a flaccid, lethargic pace, with Athletic fannying about in midfield, giving the ball away, punting up into the air, looking slow, jaded and non-committal. Stavington Green, in all blue, were fierce but unwilling to venture out of their half most of the time and as Athletic piled on the pressure, we watched the distant, frantic figures lunging, falling, and flailing up at the Wellington Lane end. But the ball always seemed to meet someone’s boot, the post or the goalie and just would not go in. We could scarcely believe it.
After half time the match degenerated into frustrating and boring ‘up and unders’ and structureless, inept football, with no one really on top. Although Stavington Green pressed forward and at times looked quite dangerous it ended 0-0. I felt a tight angry knot inside. Frustration.
Andrew rang in the evening. Dad, in response to the recent schoolkids ‘riots’ at a few Yorkshire schools due to the teachers’ industrial action: “I know, it’s old fashioned, but it’s true: Satan’s abroad in this country, affecting every level.”
Saturday, March 20, 1982
I was up at twelve. A happy mood prevailed all morning and at two thirty, Mum and Dad ran me into Lockley and I walked from there into Easterby, pausing to watch the Free The Whincliffe 9 protest march straggle down Dyson Street. The air was full of powerful shouts. I don’t know enough about the case to judge either way.
In Easterby I looked round a few shoe shops, eventually buying some pale suedes for £9.99. I also bought Mum a box of chocolates for Mother’s Day, watched the footie results in a TV shop window, and got home at teatime.
I was surprised to learn from Mum that I’ve known Grant for over twelve years, since September 1969. I’ve known Lee since September ’73.
The enjoyable, light hearted mood continued into the evening. Me and mum watched Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (with music by Ravi Shankar), which was good throughout. Mum talked about teaching Asian kids, and I said I wanted to visit her school.
Friday, March 19, 1982
What I said on Tuesday leads me to think that the only course of action is to gain as much enjoyment and pleasure out of life as possible. A sort of nihilistic hedonism: but then I think maybe no, Buddhism could have something and there’s got to be more. . . .
It was an average sort of day: bad tempers at home, fraying over support for Jardine’s reintroduction of capital punishment, me saying no, its like amputating diseased limbs without trying to find the cause of the disease, Mum saying, “it's sickening bringing children up and they never agree with you” and “you don’t even see eye-to-eye with us over anything! You wonder why you bother.”
And I’m left with that familiar, pretentious, sick, I-don’t-really-know-anything feeling inside, Mum’s lips thin and hard as she spits out her despair and anger over muggers and crime: “It’s people like you who’ve got us into this situation.” Me feeling wronged, in the wrong.
Thursday, March 18, 1982
I went into Easterby with Dad and got the Kerouac and Beat stuff from Ludd’s Mill photocopied, which cost me 65p at 5p per sheet. I bought a single from HMV by Mouth (“Ooh, Aah, Yeah!”/ “Ooh?”): I don’t buy 45s as a rule ‘cos I think they’re a waste of money. It's OK, a bit disappointing. I also made a half hearted attempt to look round for shoes.
At school in the afternoon I did a bit of work, enduring Deborah’s reserved coolness. Laura said Grant is “styleless” and asked how old he is. When I told her 18 she was amazed, saying he seemed much younger.
At least he’s interesting.
Wednesday, March 17, 1982
I worked on and off all day at school on Coriolanus notes. Deborah was friendly in an open-sort of way. I’m glad.
At six-thirty I set off for Grant’s and the Fall concert at the Wavezz Club. I met him at his house and we walked up through Ashburn to the Albion, where all the Hanson school lot hang out. We met up with two of Grant's mates, a tousled-haired Nik-type (called Martin I think) and his toothy friend. I had two pints of cider and we set off back through Ashburn and down Birkill Lane, Grant unsure of where we were.
The Wavezz Club is at the end of a derelict damp terraced street in an area of loads of similar streets: we started to get enthusiastic when we saw its bright lights in the distance. We paid our £2 to get in and were quite impressed with the place; a main hall with raised stage, bar, and through the back, in another smaller room, rastas wandered to and fro with piles of records, messing with turntables and speakers. There was also a games room with pool table and an area with comfy seats and tables near the door. Only a few people sat around, and The Fall was already doing a sound check up on stage.
We sat down and waited for ages, but gradually the club filled up. I saw two craggy faced blokes with shaved heads wearing old suits I recognised from the Pigbag concert. Nik arrived, and he and Grant danced occasionally to the pounding reggae or wandered off together, Grant looking enthralled. I felt quite out of it.
The Fall came on late. The expected loud piercing drums, guitars, keyboards, walls of distorted noise with singer shouting inaudibly. Grant was engrossed in the music, bobbing away, but I wasn't really hooked: a couple of their numbers were good, with “Just Step” being the best. They went on for ages, and did a few encores, before we all flooded out into the street, my ears ringing in the cold night silence.
I walked home through gloomy orange-lit fog, part of the way with Nik, Grant, and a short-haired lad who plays bass with Venus Hunters. They talked and I was silent, alone. I really do have a basic communication problem.
Tuesday, March 16, 1982
I was late for English. Hirst discovered me sitting blithely in the common room as the class waited. She was quite angry and I went to class feeling guilt-ridden and annoyed at my own lazy nature: “drifting,” as she put it. As we read through The Secret Agent I realized that what Conrad says about moral and physical torpor could be applied to me. I’m so lazy and lethargic.
No real big thrills at school other than the exchange of jovial criticisms with Deborah. . . .
I spent the evening gratefully doing nothing other than sleeping or watching TV. Late on, I watched Everyman which was about near death experiences. It was fascinating and also frightening, and Mum and I got into a discussion about religion and death. We turned the TV off and our voices sounded small and alone in the after-dark silence.
Mum told me that since Christmas she's started to brood more about death and how, as she gets older, she is leaning more and more towards agnosticism. I said that I see religion as a sign of fundamental human weakness, as an inability to come to terms with and accept the frightening void of dying.
Religion's a symptom of human frailty, a creation of the mind designed to give comfort and support in times of stress. During stable and relatively comfortable periods such as now, the influence of religion wanes and is weaker, yet in times of hardship – Poland, El Salvador and in the Nazi concentration camps, for instance – religious faith is strong and a powerful source of solace.
Kerouac’s vision of death overshadowed everything, seeming to link things together somehow, death as a sort of unifying strand undermining what we do and making our efforts as pointless and insignificant as they really must be. . . .
Monday, March 15, 1982
Back to the grey grim reality of school. We were supposedly doing the mock ‘A’ level but we kept searching for and being bundled out of rooms and eventually (hilarity) we got to take our papers home. Great organisation! Such trust!
After school I wandered down to Farnshaw with Lee to visit a Dr. Barnado's shop he’d heard about which was really excellent: a huge selection, good prices. . . . I got my hair cut on the way home and spent the evening doing my exam.
Sunday, March 14, 1982
A steady downpour most of the afternoon which turned torrential after dark. I spent all day revising for my History exam tomorrow. Mum and Dad took Nanna P. for a run in the car to Busk Falls before taking her home.
In the evening me, Mum and Dad watched Saul Bellow on ITV talking about his latest book, The Dean’s December. We talked about America, Mum saying that people in the US speak with an “earthy directness.” Maybe this is because America's so young and still evolving as a nation: there's a lack of class structure compared to Britain and even writers speak on the same level as the “ordinary” person because they all have the same background. In America money buys power; America is raw, exciting, dynamic, new, different. . . .
Dad said that our problems began when people started to owe an allegiance to something other than the City-state. He spoke in a laboured, pent-up, frustrated sort of way, as if he couldn't quite articulate just what it is he feels: he advocated a Greek style borough plan for living, sort of like one I've argued for before but have always been shouted down as a “bolshie.”
I can’t communicate. All the problems of the world, all the teeming cities full of violence, poverty, despair, all the shit . . . there’s no solution, other than the one inside each individual (à la Zen).
Saturday, March 13, 1982
Uncle Arnold and Jenny came round early to pick us up and go “spawning.” It was bright sun and clear cirrus-smudged skies as we drove to Dengates. The heavy rain and sleet over the past few days has left everything damp, the odd deposit of crunchy frozen snow in hollows . . . .
The marsh was quite full for once and we had no difficulty finding big clumps of grey frog spawn, which was everywhere. All the while, Dad and Uncle Arnold reminisced about their distant halcyon schooldays of Thompson’s Dam and fields, farms and fishing.
At eleven thirty, Dad dropped me at Grant’s. It was cold and fresh but sunny as I walked up Fearnfield Drive. Grant was wearing the usual old stained brown trousers, slippers (no socks), torn blue sweater, his hair and stubble looking greasy, and before long I was filled with optimism at all there is to see and hear and do.
We played records and he showed me Ludd’s Mill Nos 15-17 (“The Dance-able Solution to the Teenage Revolution”): articles, poems, features on Kerouac, a pilgrimage tale by an English Kerouac fan I identified with because he says the things I feel. The mags were Beat-oriented, ads for Moody Street Irregulars, Kerouac memorabilia, articles on Burroughs and Jim Morrison’s An American Prayer.
All the while we played Rip Rig and Panic, Pigbag or or amateurishly played the drum kit in the cellar. I stuck my neck out and gave his brother Karl a fiver to buy Pigbag’s LP while he was in town and he returned with that and the new Fall LP for Grant.
The Pigbag album is a shade disappointing but the heavy percussion tracks such as “Brian The Snail” and “As It Will Be” are excellent. There we sat, music blasting, eating the occasional snack, drinking tea, drawing crude pictures and portraits, and reading Ludd's Mill. I'm really enjoying the Kerouac stuff.
Robert and Carol were there when I got back with the new car they bought last Thursday and we all listened to Athletic lose 2-1 away to Ryburn. Depression heavy in the gloomy room.
Later, Robert and Carol went to a CAMRA Beer Festival in Easterby.
Friday, March 12, 1982
It was a stormy morning of battering gales, with rain, sleet, snow and hail rattling the windows. I struggled into school for English Paper II and I’d done no revision whatsoever, so I faced the three hours with trepidation. We had four questions to answer, one from a choice of two on each of Conrad, Miller, Austen and Naipaul. I did badly only answering three (on Naipaul, Austen, and Miller) but getting a bit better as I went along.
The History Paper I exam was cancelled because Mr. Gray couldn’t find the exam papers, so we were given unexpected release. Claire had got the questions somehow so we copied them down and although it’s cheating, I don’t care anymore.
I walked home through intermittent gusts of hail and swirling snow. Dad and I went to Moxthorpe library and I got out Buddhism, by Alexandra David-Neel, Maggie Cassidy by Kerouac (he would have been sixty years old today), Teach Yourself Journalism and Explorations: Emerging Aspects of the New Culture.
At four, Lee and I caught the bus to Knowlesbeck and visited three second-hand shops; Lee bought an overcoat for £3.75.
We walked back along the river in bright late afternoon sun and stillness. Lee seemed to really enjoy it, continually declaring everything “ace” and remarking on how timeless the river bank looked. It really was excellent, and by the time we approached Egley, the cemetery gleamed white and enticing on the hillside ahead and the light was mellowing into evening.
Grant rang at eightish and we had a long talk about music, art, theatre, Jackson Pollock, and Philip K. Dick (who’s just died). All these things make me feel so glad to able to look and learn, but desperate sort of too, and frustrated that I never explore anything to its full potential. Time is so short.
Thursday, March 11, 1982
I awoke to the sun streaming through closed curtains, and after a shower and breakfast we lounged indolently on the balcony in the sun.
We packed and left our luggage on the bus and walked to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Always the National Gallery. I get so bored of the same places. Why can’t galleries be less stuffy and more stimulating? The energy sapping atmosphere seems to jade the senses. We looked at the frescoes, Dutch paintings from the 17th C. (De Hooch, etc.), Impressionists, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Degas, Rousseau. . . .
We left at noon with instructions to meet Mr. Hine at the Tate at 2. We walked past the Houses of Parliament, along the Thames and through towering financial City blocks towards the Tate; I felt like a pseud, feeling thoroughly shabby (Lee: “Your scraggly hair looks trampish”). We found the same small café we’d visited last year and remarked on the strangeness of memory. We were even served by the same waiter.
Kindly, benevolent Mr. Hine was waiting for us at the Tate. I like him: he's totally amiable, absent-minded, and even a bit eccentric.
The Tate was easily the best gallery we've visited. The Dalis were brilliant and the brushwork (so fine!) was amazing to see. Superb curved shapes, vivid colours. . . . I enjoyed the works by Hockney, Ernst, Lichtenstein, Magritte, Pollock, etc.: they're all so interesting, thought-provoking, and exciting to look at! I bought two booklets on modern American art and Op. Art and was ultimately left wondering whether I should do Art History at Uni. I’m sure I'd find it fascinating.
I start to hate my politicised image. It's not helped by my irresistible tendency to sloganise, to come out with ludicrous accusations of “fascism.” Really I'm just doing it for the sheer pointless destructive hell of it. Maybe I enjoy seeing my public persona turned into a ridiculous caricature? My basic communication problem divides me into two people; one's private and isolated and into music and books and intellectual 'bohemianised’ crap, the other one public and awkward but frustrated on one level.
Why do I try so hard?
We left London at three thirty and four hours later I was walking through the dark streets of Farnshaw, the journey up forgettable apart from fun on the bus with a decaying chicken leg which stank awful.
I've done no revision at all for tomorrow’s two three-hour exams. How will I cope?
Wednesday, March 10, 1982
We had an Art trip to London which is in the throes of a bus and underground strike. We got there at about midday, dropped our bags at the Ambassadors Hotel, and then the minivan took us to the Courtaulds Institute.
The usual horribly stuffy galleries that clog and dry the senses: we flaked out on some benches, surrounded by stillness and dull Rubens paintings and walked to the British Museum. Wandered around the Egyptian rooms. Then, me, Deborah, Jeremy, Lee and Duncan went to Oxford Street to look at the bookshops.
Lee and I stopped in a Tibet shop and got separated from the others. We raced after them, running and weaving through the bobbing heads, surging toward the sun up ahead which streamed into our eyes, nothing but blinding light, each head with a back lit golden halo. Somewhere a siren blared. Glass buildings. Steel yellow reflections. “It’s just like a TV series” said Lee and we were suddenly tired, cold and lonely and didn't know how to get back to the hotel.
We stopped at a McDonald’s, ate two Big Macs, had a drink and emerged back into the wind and rain-spattered darkness of London. Refuge is a nameless record shop. At a loss, not really knowing what to do or where to go, we turned around, heading back the way we’d come and ended up in a queue waiting for a taxi along with other cold damp humans. Why do cities make us feel so remote, fraught and desperate?
A big black empty taxi ride and £2.20 later we were back at the Ambassadors Hotel. Our room was like a claustrophobic, airless greenhouse, so we left again, walking toward the enticing but distant glitter of 'redbrick and neon' only to bump into Jeremy and Deborah who were looking for the hotel. We went back with them. Loud infantile behaviour in our room and Lee and I decided to leave a second time. As we waited in the foyer with the rest of the Farnshaw group, an irritating deer-stalker clad American advised we “cats” to “try the pubs along Fulham Road.” So we did.
The first one we all went in was like an unfriendly swimming pool with Victorian tile and glass and red-faced, bleary eyed, laughing patrons. We stopped at a cozier pub for loud crude conversation, bad jokes, halves of cider, peanuts, giant sausages with ketchup and a really-not-such-a-bad-evening-after-all-but-God!-I-must-stop-spending-so-much-money! Shrill laughter. Jeremy seemed fairly happy.
We got back to the hotel at eleven and Duncan told me Athletic had beaten Walshey 6-0. I didn’t believe him but it turns out he was telling the truth.
For the next hour-and-a-half we were utterly raucous and inconsiderate, shouting childish crudities at one another, laughing, being exhibitionists. . . . Jeremy turned Duncan’s bed over, shouting at him in an American accent . . . Lee got locked out on the dark wet balcony in his pajamas.
Tuesday, March 9, 1982
At 11.30 I wandered into school for my three-hour European History Paper 1 mock feeling resigned and none too confident.
The paper was difficult: I answered a good question on air power in WWII in three sides, but I struggled to get two about Bismarck and the Balkans, finally finishing at 3.30 having done only three of the four required questions in six-and-a-bit sides total. Everyone did really badly.
The Budget dominated everything.
Monday, March 8, 1982
I had two three-hour exams: the first, General Studies, was difficult; the Maths questions – Christ! – and most of the French multiple choice I just did off the top of my head.
I was much happier with English Paper I, even feeling pleased with my answer on the Antony and Cleopatra section. Three hours and eight sides of A4 later, I was done and everything was OK: the exam’ gone, the weather sunny and optimistic, everyone smiles, laughter and jokes.
Sunday, March 7, 1982
Disturbing dream: white paint and salt pumped into the Nile, spreading out thickly through the Delta, polluting the ocean, a 250-square mile layer of choked off death. Writing about it now and in the cold brightness of day it seems like nothing, but when I woke up I felt depressed and pessimistic.
I did sporadic revision for tomorrow's English I mock all day. Grant rang at 5.45. Athletic hung on to beat Brunswick Town 1-0 to go second!
Later I listened to “It’s About That Time” by Miles Davis from In A Silent Way on Sounds of Jazz: superb! It's obvious where Nucleus got the influence for Electric Rock; it's just the same. I finished The Secret of Meditation.
Saturday, March 6, 1982
Mum left for a teaching course in Debdenshaw early in the morning. I got up at ten-thirty and was on my own so I just slobbed about, not doing any work and hating myself for it.
At half-six I set off for Pigbag.
Grant was already waiting on the damp black pavements of Queensgate and Lee rolled up shortly after. The concert was at the Community Building at Easterby Poly, and it was soon full of Pigbaggers dressed in their predictable trendy regalia of old coats, baggy trousers, pointed shoes, and short hair. I made a show of denouncing them for their shallow posturings, but even I was forced to admit the sheer hypocrisy of this, for there I was, similarly attired in an old long overcoat. “You look just the same,” Lee said.
The Community Building is a low affair, sunken below ground-level, the upper floor a food and drinks place with an incredibly cheap bar (cider 55p a pint!); the concert was down two flights of stairs in the basement in a large room piled high with equipment and coloured lights. The sound system played loud reggae and we bought drinks and waited.
It was good just seeing what lengths people go to to look different and there were many ace variations on the narrow striped trouser pattern, old coats and baggy suits galore. Lee was in his electric blue pullover and dinner jacket.
We met Peter and Laura and Halyna too, and while we were talking with them there was a general closing in on the stage as the first band came on. Mouth are from Bristol and their heavy tribal rhythms were as good, if not better than Pigbag's.
Grant began his tortured bopping, Lee shook convulsively as well, his shoulders and head swaying, and me too eventually, but then they were finished. They only did one encore, and the lights came back up and the hum of conversation resumed. Grant twisted and paced in time to the reggae.
Pigbag next. They were all brass, saxophones, and heavy rhythms and really good. It was very crowded at the front; we danced, and I could see Lee some way off in the crowd, rolling his head up and down. The heat was stifling and I was sweating cobs, my neck slimy, my T-shirt sodden; eventually, temples throbbing and desperate for fresh air, I headed for the side. Some people were standing on tables or up on other peoples' shoulders.
Again it finished all too quickly (only one encore) and the lights came up and Grant was enthusing about the crowd's lack of inhibition: “They were all chanting to the music! Best thing I’ve been to in ages!” The floor was strewn with broken glass and empty bottles, the crowd hanging back, their voices a hubbub, reluctant to leave. . . .
Me and Grant left just before midnight and rushed to try catch the last bus back but the streets were empty. I angrily got a taxi back on my own (£2.75) and hit the sack hating how yet again I’m broke.
But it was a great night. Grant obviously loved it and Lee seemed to enjoy himself too. Laura thought Grant was “strange.”
Friday, March 5, 1982
I got in to discover Elson had locked the Common Room because someone had left it in a state, with chairs upturned and cushions everywhere. He refused to open it until the culprits came forward. Suspicion immediately fell on me and Lee. I felt awful.
The mock for English Paper III was held in C11 from nine until eleven and it was OK, not brilliant, but not bad either. Afterwards everyone hung around in the Youth Area and as we did so, Reg the caretaker pointed an accusing finger at me. “He's one of the biggest culprits; we’ve watched you throwing water, playing football, smashing tiles. . . .” He got quite annoyed. “I resent that” I said to loud laughter from Laxton and Abbot.
In History, I accused him of blaming me for the morning's crime and called him a “doddering old fool” and “a lackey” who “should get back to his sweeping up” but this was because I felt guilty, and what's worse is I know he's being fair. We do vandalise things, mess about, cause trouble. I ended up raving on about my 'inability' to work.
At twelve, me and Lee left school feeling stigmatised and guilty. The weather was spring-like and we got a lift into Easterby from Dad, wandered round second-hand shops and went to the library (got out The Secret Of Meditation by H. U. Rieker), but I felt pissed off and depressed and only later did I brighten up.
I read Rieker all afternoon and evening, Mum sleeping, me quiet, feeling excited at what I was discovering, but also a basic fear of total commitment, a feeling of having too much to give up. But I'm not happy now, and the way things are going I never will be.
Thursday, March 4, 1982
Absolute insanity at school; me, Peter and Lee hurling spoons, knives, curry powder, shouting, being crude, childish, acting like total nut cases. Many disapproving looks and comments. It was a madhouse. . . . Frustration, desperation . . . nihilism . . . dead inside.
Later I did sporadic ‘revision’ for Giles’s Paper III tomorrow but mostly we just tossed about, reaching a crazy climax after school, before Art . . . It's all so completely negative and off-putting.
Mum and Dad came home at seven with the news that Uncle Kenneth has crashed his car, got breathalysed, spent the night in the cells, and will probably lose his driving licence, car, job ⇒ Fraught worry.
Wednesday, March 3, 1982
Gale force winds continue, and the last few days have been really bad.
Blandness. I can't communicate with anyone about how I really feel and the boredom of school is ruining me, making me do lazy and destructive things that are ‘out of character’ (so to speak); I'm nihilistic about everything, and can’t talk with Laura, can’t talk with Deborah (who still seems cool). How I hate everything!
Seems our illnesses could’ve been gastric flu’, passed on by Janet’s baby, as others who were at the christening are ill too.
I just don’t know what to put, can’t describe it properly.
Tuesday, March 2, 1982
Today I was struck by how claustrophobic everything feels in the vast shadow of revision and mocks, Slicer’s work, and my inability to face up to my responsibilities. My aptitude for indolence reduces me to after-school vandalism, utter slobbishness, shallow selfishness. . . . Deborah and Steve joked about my future and my present state. I was at least happy for contact. What an awful rut I’m in. Everything’s too much! Lee brought a pair of baggy dinner suit trousers. . . .
During the evening, I had a lot of homework to do. Grant rang to ask if I fancied going to see Gogol’s Diary Of A Madman at the Hattersley Theatre in Easterby but I reluctantly declined and decayed instead in front of the TV screen.
I read some Burroughs: a little feeling of excitement when he talks about LSD, mescaline and cannabis. “Colours and sounds gain an intense meaning and many insights carry over after the drug effects have worn off.” He then describes “a permanent increase in the range of experience” of aesthetic things (music, paintings, etc.).
Finally, in bed at 11.30, I did some work for Slicer. . . . Mum and Dad are both sick: diarrhea, minor food poisoning?
Monday, March 1, 1982
I was hardly in school at all, and I acted loud and silly with Lee and Peter when I was. Wandered down to Farnshaw with Lee in the afternoon.
I rushed off my Pollock essay by about eight in the evening and, after much uncertainty, set off for a birthday party at the Escapade nightclub. I wore my new jacket. . . .
I met Tim and Peter on the way in and we bought drinks in the tiny foyer. Downstairs, the main part of the club was even smaller, a tiny and cramped dwarf disco with trappings (dance floor, lights) that looked like cheap simulations. It was too crowded and incredibly cramped; too warm, too isolated, too alone, too empty. . . .
We left at eleven thirty.