Tuesday, August 31, 1982
Depression must be my normal state, because a mundane trip into town is enough to plunge me into the pits of despair.
I exchanged the trousers I bought last week and bought Big Sur and Lonesome Traveler and, just for the sake of spending money, God by Rip Rig and Panic which on first hearing lacks drive or inspiration.
Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal: she filled it in every day so. . . ? Rioting on the streets of Warsaw and big demonstrations on the second anniversary of the right to strike etc.: a revolutionary situation. Lee rang from Cromer. They’ve been eating gruel as they ran out of cash.
Dad went to work for the last time today, and tonight he had a ‘do’ at the Police Club to celebrate his retirement. Neither he nor Mum were looking forward to it. They returned laden down with gifts: a whiskey decanter and glasses with a silver tray; a litre bottle of Bell’s; carnations & dahlias in a basket for Mum and, best of all, a pewter mug, with an inscription: “Presented to Ernest Martindale, Easterby City Police and Yorkshire Metropolitan Police, 1952-82.”
Dad had tears in his eyes as he showed me these gifts from people so obviously fond of him, the fruits of thirty years. His retirement card was signed by hundreds of people, even criminals who’ve known him for years (a spidery, barely readable signature from one). They were both full of sadness, despite efforts to put a smiling face on it. “It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that I’ll never work with them again,” said Dad.
At midnight he finally signed off after thirty years and 199 days, switching out the dining room light in a half theatrical, half serious gesture, “to let the spirits out” as he said. He stood illumined in the doorway for a while, before going up to bed, a civilian again at long last.
Monday, August 30, 1982
At dinner time I complained that Robert hadn't paid me back for that book of Snyder poems I got him. Mum said that when he was here he'd commented on my thoughtlessness at not paying my way with drinks etc. when I was last at their house. She said this had upset them both.
I felt awful, really bad, and right now I can’t even write down how I did feel: just sick that I could be so thoughtless and that I'd upset them. What must they think of me? I was calmly taking stock of conversations and people in the pub as material for my shitty scrawlings here and in the process being a Total Bastard. It just never even entered my head!
First Mum and then Dad gave me the usual talk about selflessness, saying if I'm like that at Uni “people will start to avoid you.” I was in a turmoil. How can I be so mindless? Why? I was close to tears by the time they finished. How can I make it up to Rob and Carol?
No wonder they’ve been a bit cool and off with me recently. And I thought it was tiredness. I think I’ll write and apologize.
Sunday, August 29, 1982
Rob, Carol, Lynne and Paul (ex-teacher friend from London) came back from their revelries at two thirty or so. I’d waited up for ‘em and what with talking and drinking tea it was hardly worth going to bed, so while Paul kipped down in the dining room and Rob, Carol and Lynne retired upstairs, I laid down on settee cushions in the front room and idly read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel until it began to get light out and the birds started singing. I slept until Dad woke me at eight. Rob & co. went soon after.
I’m having difficulty maintaining interest in Wolfe's novel sufficiently long to finish it and he’s not my favourite author by any means. It’s rare I avidly read a book through in one sitting: usually it’s a several-weeks affair, and I drift sporadically from one to another and then back again. I should be reading all the time. Wolfe's OK in parts though, and what strikes me is a sort of naïve innocence he shares with Kerouac.
Claire rang at teatime and asked if she could come over again which she did, staying an hour and a half; we sat up in my room and I drank green ginger wine and we talked. At least she keeps asking to come and see me, so I can’t be that bad, can I? This will probably be the last time I’ll see her for a long while, maybe even until next year, and I thought of this as I bade her goodbye in the warm blowy evening. I wonder how we’ll both change? How remote she seems, how far apart now from me and my world to be. Soon we'll be in different places completely.
Saturday, August 28, 1982
I worked another full day at Tesco for Lee and got back to find Rob, Carol, Lynne and their friend arrived fresh from the match (Athletic drew 1-1 with Shurlham).
The house was still a tip from last week, so I desperately tidied up as I expected Mum and Dad at any moment. Rob and co. left for “a drink and a dance” somewhere in Easterby and when Mum finally poked her head around the door I was engrossed in a TV programme about Hendrix.
Mum and Dad sound to have had a superb time and they were bursting with enthusiasm, breathlessly telling me about the Tattoo, the Fringe, a Joan Miró exhibition (“incomprehensible”), the Royal Mile, etc. They both seemed very fired up by the whole thing. I wish I could have gone.
Dad gave me the US edition of Jack’s Book (“I hope you haven’t got it”).
Friday, August 27, 1982
Predictably my idleness and indulgence drew me again again to Dad’s books on Helen Vaughan, and I was soon wrapped up in morbid reflections and senseless, over-sentimental musings. I always am. Her life is so fascinating and so tragic: I’d give anything to be able to go back in time and actually see her.
Thursday, August 26, 1982
I worked a full day at Tesco, standing in for Lee. It seemed so wrong to have to go there when it was just my sort of morning, crisp and sunny with shadows still cool from night making my breath misty with the first hints of autumn.
Time dragged but got a bit easier as the afternoon wore on.
Wednesday, August 25, 1982
My days are loosely structured around two key moments: first, the morning post, half hoping (of course) for a half-promised letter from Her; then the ‘paper in the afternoon, for the footie results.
I hated getting back from Tesco to the dark and silent house.
Tuesday, August 24, 1982
Monday, August 23, 1982
Sunday, August 22, 1982
I didn't feel or think anything notable today. After Claire’s visit, I fell into the expected dull and lonely preoccupations. Sometimes I hate being on my own; everywhere gets messy and I lack the drive to do a thing.
In the afternoon I went over to Grant’s. He’s not really that depressed over his results but is a bit sick at having to stay another year in drudgy Easterby.
Saturday, August 21, 1982
Everyone was gone when I got up. The house dead.
Claire rang and asked if she could come up and see me which she did mid-afternoon, staying until teatime. She smelled of soap and looked very pretty. She talked about teaching, which she enjoys, and ‘A’ levels and suddenly she seems very sensible and adult and I found myself wondering how I would have to be to win her.
God, how I hated myself then, for her visit brought back echoes of the past, all my croaky, dull-voiced monotony. She's going out tonight with her boyfriend, while I rot here in isolation and cemetery silence.
My position is thrown into awful clarity. Sometimes I feel so depressed.
Friday, August 20, 1982
Jeremy showed up unexpectedly and I was glad to see him; he stayed a couple of hours and soon was gone out into the rain-swept wildness.
Rob & Carol rolled up minutes after he'd left, full of stories of their Guernsey cycling holiday, its decaying Nazi gun emplacements and a vast underground military hospital complex complete with beds and fading swastikas on the walls. Robert gave me a jazz rock compilation, which is mostly bland muzak-style predictability.
At Tesco I got angry at that humourless bastard Mr. Thomas. Because Lee and I drove round with Peter to Lynn Norden’s to talk ‘A’ levels (the results generally very bad) and I forgot my overall we were late so Thomas made us work over to compensate. Never a word on the times I’ve worked early. “It's one of life’s lessons you’ll have to learn to accept,” says Mum. Why?
All day I felt sadness and despair, which sounds stupid after my good results, but they're only bits of paper and don't change a thing. I hate how one era of my life is closing down and just slipping quietly away without so much as a word or anything to mark its passing. I can’t help but be depressed and lonely. Mum and Dad are going away to Edinburgh tomorrow; I'll be stranded in this silent tomb by myself for a week.
I feel homesick about leaving already.
Thursday, August 19, 1982
A fine clear windy morning with blue skies but I felt sick inside. I set off to school at nine, leaving Mum as nervous as I was.
I met Jeremy and Deborah on the way in and we laughed and joked nervously, but Deborah looked deathly pale and she seemed pretty worried. We had an agonising wait outside Barkston’s office until, finally, Mr. Elson opened the door clutching a handful of plain brown envelopes with our names neatly biro-ed on the front. He put them down on a table in the hallway—a mad scramble ensued as we grabbed our envelopes—and Jeremy, Lee and I rushed downstairs to the common room.
I couldn’t bear to open mine. . . . A jubilant shout from Lee; a ‘B’ in English. . . . Fearfully, I tore at the envelope . . . an ‘A’ in English . . . a ‘B’ in General Studies . . . an ‘A’ in History . . . a ‘B’ in Art. I just couldn’t believe it!
My amazement was immediately tempered; there was Elaine Buckley crumpled in tears, comforted by her father after four fails, Deborah white faced and desolate after three fails and an ‘E’ in English, Mark Pittock with two ‘E’s and two fails. And I cocked about all last year and yet get this! I felt guilty and any pleasure I might have felt was offset by the unhappiness all around. Lee had mixed feelings about his B, C and two Es. Jeremy got BBCD, Duncan ADE and F (his ‘A’ in Eng. Lit.). I feel like such a fraud.
At home Mum and Dad were both very pleased but I just couldn’t be like Dad (“I can’t understand your attitude. Everyone should look after themselves first!”). A few minutes after I got back Grant rang, his voice resigned and shivery as he told me of his two Es and a fail in English. This only made me feel worse.
After I got home from Tesco, I got into a blazing row with Mum & Dad over my reasons for going to University. Dad asked if a Watermouth degree will be “as good as a degree from Oxford for finding a job” and I answered (rashly I suppose) that “I’m not going there for purely mercenary career reasons.” This soon escalated into a why-are-you-going-then? argument before Dad stormed off to bed. I was angry at their intransigence and stubborn misinterpretation of what I'd said.
I do understand their point of view; they're making a big commitment, but should I be tied to their wishes for ever because of this? I see now that this is going to be an area of howling dissension between us over the years, a “rift” as Mum puts it, with them condemning my apparently aimless drifting to and fro.
But why am I going to University? I don’t really know, but it is definitely not just to carve out a secure little materialistic niche for myself.
Wednesday, August 18, 1982
All my hopes and traumas of the last two years are focused on the one intense moment tomorrow when I get my 'A'-level results. I haven’t a clue how I've done, and at times I go cold with fear at the thought of what might happen. But then in the same instant I feel optimistic and that perhaps I've done brilliantly after all. . . .
All will be revealed.
Tuesday, August 17, 1982
Gale force wind, a continuation of the rain-gloomy weather we’ve had this week. I talked to Mum and Dad about how Western ‘civilization’ has ruined primitive cultures such as the Kalahari Bushmen, the American Indians, Zanskarians, Eskimos etc., and has reduced them to theft, alcoholism and degradation.
I went over the top by saying, “Perhaps it’d be as well if we were all wiped out by a nuclear war . . .” which brought anger down upon my head (Mum: “I never want to hear you say that here again”). I didn’t really mean it; it was just a manifestation of the mood which produced all those negative vibes on Sunday.
This, in turn, spurred on Dad to talk about the “better” class of person who aspire to own their own houses and have (he says) the “welfare of the country at heart.” He claims they're superior to “morons” who like to booze, gamble and live in council houses. I hated the class position he was taking up, as if his beloved home-owners are any better; they just wallow in shit of a different type and are equally as narrow minded only in a more subtle way,
To illustrate his point he used Nanna B. & Nanna P. as examples; the former, once the wife of an aspiring self-made man was ruined by the Depression: the latter “never wanted anything better.” Yet who's the more selfless, the kinder, the more broad-minded, the better human being?
It made me sick, but I felt a kind of sorrow also.
Monday, August 16, 1982
Sunday, August 15, 1982
We drove to to Coverhouse in torrential rain so it was obvious our planned 15 mile hike across desolate moorland wasn't going to happen. We did a walk from Thorncotes instead, which I began in my usual listless, resentful and leaden-legged mood. The silence was heavy, pressing in on my skull.
Our path wound through limestone pastures populated by hundreds of rabbits; their white tails flashed in alarm as they streaked away. We saw lots of decomposing rabbit corpses and heard the death shrieks of one as it was plundered by a stoat, no doubt. On the way back we got wet but the broody weather gave magnificent vistas across light mottled moors. Many times we stopped to watch the colours change through gold greens to the deepest blue blacks and as the mist and drizzle shrouded us the fine silver quality of the white light caught the rain glistening on limestone slabs. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Later I watched a TV programme on Zanskar, happy Buddhist society with no money and a simple agrarian lifestyle that's being threatened by the building of a new tourist road. I thought about the destruction of the limestone reef knolls around Thorncotes all of which leads me to the same conclusions about big business and stinky western money ethics; it's all corrupt. The whole shitty mess should be completely erased from the face of the earth. Politics, power, capitalism, communism, money as an end no matter what the means . . . people kill each other, destroy nature, fuck up the planet. . . .
Is there no end to my bitter ravings?
Saturday, August 14, 1982
Dad drove me on to the library, our moods bright like the sun. I took out Ronald Hayman ‘s Theatre and Anti-Theatre, Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, Naked Lunch by Burroughs and a couple of books on art. I spent £2.50-plus on brushes and boards at Bailey’s.
This question of when and why and how I write this journal is getting stupidly out-of-hand. What should be a spontaneous process gets bogged down in unimportant detail; whatever I do I'm beset by doubts when really none of it matters! I'd promised myself to be less zealously regular about writing every day but now I think more about it I should write every day because mundane detail is the Truth and it's what makes this interesting for me to look back at. Once lapsed, a daily record has lost its aim and purpose.
Maybe I'm trying to make this something it’s not and I'm being just too ambitious? Shut up and get on with it.
Friday, August 13, 1982
As I walked home from Tesco with Lee I felt how near I am to losing touch with friends and known situations. I feel sad for all I'll have to give up, forever and so soon and it's gradually dawning on me, really for the first time, that I'll never be at school again. All those people are gone now and always.
Six days to 'A'-level results day: B’s and I’ll be amazed, D’s depressed.
A beautiful twilight tonight, with rain in the air, grayish purple clouds, and large ragged patches of violet velvet blue and stars. There was a startling immediacy, a vibrant clarity and nearness to the black trees, stark on blue, the orange street lamps and electric-bright house windows. Everything felt so totally Real, Lee gone home on schemes unknown and apart, bus crews driving empty buses through the dark and weepy streets . . . . All life is suffering, right?
Come to think of it, I too feel ‘strange’ still from London, not really here somehow, and changed even too.
Thursday, August 12, 1982
Dad handed in his uniform today, and despite Mum’s faltering “where has thirty years gone? (savagely repudiated with cries of “Don’t be stupid” and “stop it!”), everyone was in good spirits. Dad was positively good humoured at bedtime.
In the afternoon Lee came round to change the tires on my bike. I felt utterly depressed with everything: Uni., myself, the future. . . . I spoke to Grant on the ‘phone and he says he feels “changed” by our London experience. “I view things from a more detached viewpoint now.”
Wednesday, August 11, 1982
Last night's frolics were good while they lasted but today turned horrible and has left me vowing never again to touch alcohol.
We started again at the George on Rosslyn Hill and worked our way slowly uphill, visiting perhaps five pubs in all. A bit drunk after two ciders, but with lagers too we soon were totally smashed, staggering vaguely about.
Grant was much worse off than me and started to get noisy; in one pub he suddenly decided to ring up Nik just for a laugh, but the phone was out of order so we staggered onward eventually dragging ourselves into a gay pub with a public phone that worked. He rang Nik and a cursory conversation on the “I’m pissed” line followed. We had another drink, and I wrote in my notebook, “He is in some sort of alcohol despair. Says, ‘Oh God, no point in doing anything.’ Unreal.” Those 17 words sum up our evening.
By this stage Grant was loud (conspicuously so) and totally paranoid, often crying out “Oh God!” and “I want to talk to somebody” and holding his head in his hands, and when I came back from taking a slash there he was, embroiled in a conversation. The people he'd trapped were Londoners, three men and a woman, who humoured us, but especially Grant, who by now was waxing enthusiastic in an oddly naïve sort of way. I caught a glimpse of a secretive smiling look between the lady and her friend, which wasn't cruel or critical, just amused. Two wild drunks from the pagan North.
We got into a debate about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and whether we should be happy with our lot and not strive for more and I tried to follow along but found that with my blunted senses the words sounded meaningless, so I just stared blindly ahead and nodded. Grant got annoyed with this turn of conversation and left us to go talk with a tattooed heavy metal girl smoking on the steps outside.
The hostel closed at eleven so we had to leave abruptly; our parting seemed sudden, but I’d enjoyed our talks, however wild and uneasy they’d appeared. With a last quick comment about how it was sad we would never see one another ever again, we stumbled out into the night air.
Here my memory conjures only hazy recollections. I remember faces and occasional moments, principally Grant’s despair and awkward elation; in the gay pub he'd penned a poem about being “trapped in dead fuck sadness – what do we do?” and although I said he'd ‘trapped’ our four friends it was more than just the mere humouring of idiots and actually a sort of drunken exchange. All very confused and confusing. I remember virtually nothing of the walk home and preparations for bed; Grant later said his attempts to climb into his sleeping bag amused our German dorm mates.
When I woke up I didn’t feel too bad, just a slight tide of nausea in the stomach and an aching head on standing but nothing unbearable. Grant said he felt awful and had thrown up a few times during the night. We set off back to Victoria with no idea of the great sickly scenes that lay ahead.
As I stood on the platform in Camden underground I suddenly knew I was about to be sick. I rushed outside and across the busy road, plunging into a toilet where I puked up bitter yellow bile. This made me feel a bit better. Then Grant threw up at Green Park. I retched my guts out again at Victoria, a nightmarish vision of vomit pouring from my mouth & nose and spattering onto the platform as I coughed and choked, reeling now and begging a lone figure standing nearby for a tissue. But with a diffident, almost disdainful sneer and smile he simply said “No.”
Total alcohol degradation.
Finally we made it to Victoria coach station and laid outside on the grass in a small green oasis of trees and sunlight, Grant quite recovered but me now feeling completely drained. As I lay there surrounded by pools of brown bile, I saw the half curious-half fearful glances of passersby. I'm sure our scruffiness didn’t help.
I must’ve puked seven or eight more times, the final instance actually on the coach but I fought it back and swallowed and momentarily improved, but even then the sight of alcohol advertisements or visions of pub' frontages brought it all (literally) up again. I felt restless yet desperately weary and hollowed out, unable to bear how I felt but unable to do anything to change it, a tiny but terrible taste of a horrific alcoholic existence. I never want to go through that again. It was the worst thing I've ever endured and literally the worst twenty four hours of my life, and it ended at Leicester Forest service station where I felt sufficiently improved to eat peanuts and down drinks and talk.
My lasting impressions of our London visit are unpleasant ones of doubt, anxiety, the silent strangeness of Grant, and general seediness and isolation.
Total London cost: accommodations £9-plus; bus tickets, £10; spendolas £27.
Tuesday, August 10, 1982
More of the same today, back in Camden feeling hot and sweaty. Honest Jon’s is a brilliant shop, with such an amazing jazz department; Grant bought A Love Supreme but my cash ran out today and all I could do was wish I had money to spend.
(Note how yesterday I said ‘not to worry’ about money but always fret on about it).
Monday, August 9, 1982
Dreams and plans rarely transform into reality and so it was today, a frustrating day in which my desires about what to read, listen, think, or be were outweighed by my doubts. This was brought on partly by too much hot tramping up and down the same Camden streets, streets that reminded me of photos I’ve seen of bustling sun wide streets in America with low, colourfully-fronted shops.
Compendium Books was OK but I was spoiled for choice and indecision and self doubt reigned supreme. There was a lot of Kerouac, mainly the crappy Granada editions with the cheap blurbs and packaging in the vein of “Dig the Beat Generation man . . . Kerouac, King o’ the Beatniks, come and be a Dharma Bum!” The books looked strangely worthless somehow next to everything else.
The easy way in which money seems to disappear also sickened me but it's pointless working myself up over money and such. After buying Visions of Cody, Snyder's Back Country poems (for Robert) and The Pop Group’s We Are Time I had just £5 left, and I was in one of those spontaneous don’t-look-now-but-you’re-going-to-regret-it-later moods where I’m liable to buy anything. A rash enthusiasm and madness comes over me in situations like these. And I'd set out with £25! Where’d it all go? What have I got to show for my book-laden dreams? This £5 has to stretch into another day and-a-half of fun and frolics (plus meals). But again, it’s pointless worrying about.
In a tiny cramped second hand book shop in Hampstead I found Ann Charters' biography of Kerouac and Vanity of Duluoz; I also asked for Walden and the old woman proprietor squeezed between towering arrays of books and said, “Hell, they all come in asking for that.” I must really look and sound just like another “they.” Grant bought Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Bukowski (style easy and absorbing) and we sat on a bench in memory of someone “who loved Hampstead village” and were wrapped up in it all.
More afternoon blues, despite books and Honest Jon’s, Grant reduced once more to grunts and the occasional dry, irritable comment, stalking on ahead so fast as we walked I had difficulty keeping up.
We don't have anything planned for the evening other than reading; really this visit is turning out quite well, except for money and the nagging realisation that I have no sense of caution in this area. But there was also something bigger and deeper, something to do with books. I have to read more.
Sunday, August 8, 1982
I walked to Grant’s though the woods, the rain making a waterfall rush of noise on the leafy canopy. Stillness.
I hated the long dull anesthetizing coach journey down. Once in London, Grant and I wandered about feeling lost: we ate a meal in an empty café on ordinary shitty Pimlico street and decided to go to Golders Green immediately as there was no point in hanging about in central London. £1 fare on the Underground.
We got out Camden Town for a scout around and encountered an Irishman, no doubt broken by drink and years of dark places with litter and old bottles, who shouted pro-IRA slogans over our heads on the tube platform:
--“Soldiers and horses, women and children! Blow ‘em all to fucking bits the bastards! Up the IRA! Up the IRA!”
The thought flicked through my mind that it was unlikely this drink-sodden man with his shit and slogans had probably never even seen someone in the IRA, yet here he was yelling bomb-and-blood rhetoric before staggering off to collect his dole money from the State he Hates, but then again this is unforgiving because I don't know what he's been through in life or what things have happened to break him. . . .
We hustled off to Golders Green which was depressing. Lots of Jewish shops (Kosher Freezer Centre, Rosenberg & Sons newsagents, etc.) as we sat glum and hot on a bench we were passed by strict Orthodox Jews in classic dark suits, trilbies and goatee beards. I was hating the afternoon sweat and slime and I felt smelly and damp. Grant too plunged into one of his tremendous silences, scowling darkly and barely uttering a word. Communication strictly monosyllabic.
At this point I was thinking 'Shit! What a waste. Why did we bother coming?' and I started to feel quite desperate but this mood soon passed and we walked to the Youth Hostel where we endured long hassles over signing in because Grant had forgotten some vital part of his membership card. Enroute we found Oliver Crombie’s second hand jazz record shop and I could scarcely believe my luck. I bought Coltrane's A Love Supreme and a record by Sun Ra.
By now it was close to evening so we set off up the long hill towards Hampstead and Camden, soon leaving Golders Green far behind. As we climbed we were greeted by grateful visions of trees, a horse pond, and a promise of wideness and countryside. The road dipped again, falling away gradually amid quaint and snaky Georgian buildings. Hampstead! Everything was fine now with me; I was happy. Hampstead looked good and a whole evening lay ahead with perhaps a great adventure worth writing in store.
Grant seemed more talkative too, so we headed down into Camden, people seething around us in bright lights excitement. Grant suggested we stop and have a drink at the George, which complimented my mood with its brown bar and wood and soft Peter Clayton jazz. We had two huge glasses of cider which was strong and soon I felt eyewarm and loose and my head felt fuzzy and secure in the delusion of Not Caring. We soaked in the atmosphere, laughing and talking wild absurdities, making plans for tomorrow and Compendium Books and the night after; we’ll have a bit too much to drink perhaps?
More in the same vein as we walked back to the Hostel and we were rewarded. We first caught sight of him as we stomped down the path into Golders Green, a figure in pale tweed jacket and old shirt, his trouser legs rolled up, one higher than the other, shoes of strange patterns, bending low and pointing at a beetle on pavement, muttering about jazz on Hampstead Heath. He was plump, ageing, and looked odd in NHS specs and launched into a monologue, a sermon of the past, about early ‘sixties days of Chris Barber and Tubby Hayes. “People back then were hostile towards newly arrived blacks because they had no women with them.”
We turned bed-wards still reeling from the night.
Saturday, August 7, 1982
I went across to Grant’s in the evening to sort out some hassles over the London trip, but as I hoped we would, we trucked up to the Albion for booze. We met Nik; he was cuddling in a corner with his girlfriend Sally from Royden. I can't really say we 'met' as none of us said a word but sat there instead in uneasy silence. Grant and I left on the pretext of being bored. I don't like the Albion.
We toured a few more pubs, and one in particular had a wild upstairs room that was packed full of screaming people. As we walked up two pissed drunk girls crawled down past us on the stairs. Grant and I fell into our usual loud talk and laughter, discussing an idea we have for a taped medley of screamy fragments and excerpts we always sing or spring to mind. I was embarrassed when I said “This is the voice of the anus” in a loud voice and accompanied it with a loud raspberry mouth-fart not knowing someone was hurrying past. Grant could hardly stifle his laughter.
We wound down the night with cider back at the Albion and friendly talk with Nik. When Nik's around Grant seems to come alive and animated: whenever Nik has to leave the room for some reason, Grant sinks immediately into a grey medley of “shit!” and “what a waste!” comments.
Friday, August 6, 1982
Andy Wiechec came into Tesco and told me the following:
His Dad got a letter from the KGB threatening him and his family, which he showed me, typewritten in Russian and folded neatly into an unusual hand made tissue envelope, headed with the word “MICROSCOPE” in capital letters. Wiechec senior is involved with a Polish nationalist movement & in 1972 went on a demonstration in London at which he lobbed a brick at the Russian embassy. He was photographed from the windows as he did so, so now apparently Mr. W. is worried sick and doesn’t know what to do. Andy has been sworn to secrecy: even his Mum doesn’t know.
He told me this on the busy shop floor; the mundane surroundings paled into insignificance as I realised that the dramas you read about in newspapers happen everywhere, even right here. I even contemplated asking Andy to give me the letter and let me send it to Scotland Yard. The KGB in Easterby!
Thursday, August 5, 1982
I got a letter from Claire this morning, which really came as a surprise: it tugged at me inside. She's started her teaching course in Whincliffe and looks set for the next three years; there was a hint of loneliness in her words, as though she wants to talk with someone she knows. I immediately sat down and penned her a reply, over-worrying as I did so about how I sounded. I still can’t get over it.
Mum told me that Nanna P. had “a vision” when she stayed here last week. She was sitting at the dining room table when she noticed someone she thought was Dad outside, but he was at work. Then (as she told the story to Mum), a “blob” appeared and gradually morphed into Andrew’s face looking in through the window. I immediately thought about psychic connections with the dead, etc., and as Andrew is in Denmark. . . ?
Wednesday, August 4, 1982
Tuesday, August 3, 1982
A nightmarish and depressing trip to Whincliffe to look for trousers.
I met Lee outside Victoria Hall and we were in Whincliffe by eleven. The noise, the crowds of people and cars and the unbearable sun were awful. Lee left early, saying he felt ill, and I walked miles along anonymous bustling streets passing shop after shop, looking for but not finding anything to buy. At times it all got too much; the sharp jutting angles of buildings and harshly shadowed deserts of concrete, glass, brick and plastic, the stifling heat and people people everywhere with their loud voices and so soon forgotten talk. As I walked beneath an arcade frontage, loud waltzy music roared out above the street rumble. I soon had a headache.
I hid inside a dark record shop where I lost myself in books and records and T-shirts and, as I turned to leave, I was gripped by a feeling I’m sure came from the future, a feeling of fear and despair at having to go out alone, miles away from anyone I know. It really depressed me, so I retreated to a nearby bookshop and looked for Kerouac novels, which I found. Seeing them there somehow cheered me up.
When I got home I lay on my bed in the heat and felt ill.
At nine I got the bus to Grant’s. We were going to the Hot Club again but found it closed and silent and we were puzzled, as were others who drifted around the entrance. The moon was red and bloated when it rose and looked incongruous like a sullen eye hanging above Schofield Street. Grant said it inspires him.
So we walked round Easterby instead, calling at the Potting Shed Café (“Paul’s Pie and Peas – open till 3”), which was deserted. We ordered two steaming plates of pie and mushy peas with heaps of mint sauce and we shared a can of beer, glorying in the food at the odd late hour and the noisy revelry down below in the wide dark city. We read problem page letters in Tidbits out loud: worried tales of incest, famous sons making sexual advances towards sheep. Loud laughter across empty table tops. I felt suddenly sad as I watched the café owner perched in the tiny bright den of his hidden eating house alone and hopeful while the world sleeps ("four in tonight!").
We walked home past cramped taxi offices, the muffled lights and laughter of Roy’s Café and Speedwell Club reggae pounding from behind purple-lit curtains upstairs. A Pakistani lady sat glumly on the steps of the Nawaab, chin-on-hand, watching the weary funsters trudging by too busy just to stop or call in and buy food and reward her plans and ambitions.
Grant and I said goodbye until Saturday and the eve of our London trip and I walked home over dark and creepy Castlebrigg playing fields. It was so warm I stripped to the waist but still felt slimy.
And I still haven’t said all I wanted to.
Monday, August 2, 1982
Sunday, August 1, 1982
Sheet grey torrential Sunday morning skies. We were going on a hike, but Robert had a huge blister on his heel from walking home again last night so he couldn’t come with us.
Mum, Dad, and I set off in a mood to match the weather, parking at Busk Falls, the rain still spattering onto the car windscreen. We had a look round the twelfth century church with its squat, almost ugly bulk crouched behind a short tower. We bumped into a probation officer acquaintance of Dad who destroyed Dad's hopes for a future probation-officer job with a pessimistic and comfortless realism. As we trudged off on our walk Mum was close to tears.
We clomped up a narrow winding lane through Lowbrough, Stakethorne amid lovely limestone landscapes of boulders and stunted scrubby trees, the grass clipped lawn-short by rabbits and sheep. We leveled out onto a broad plateau crossed by tumbled walls and dotted with rocks, on our left the gaping eye socket blackness of Haw Cave beckoning high among limestone outcrops.
As we crested a rise we saw Swinmoss stone circle, which is hardly a circle at all with scarcely half-a-dozen members: the standing stones are short, round and split like broken teeth. It looked more impressive from a distance, nestling under a white wall side.
It was sticky and very humid as we climbed up to meet Scar Lane which snaked away across the hazy slopes towards Oaklass. Swinmoss calls itself the “smallest town in England” (there are only two houses, plus associated barns and outhouses), and here we blundered a bit, getting lost. As Mum struggled up the hill from Swinmoss she said she felt “shattered” so we took the last three homeward miles to Lowbrough easy, pausing a long time on the hilltop limestone clints and again past classic fractured rock outcrops by Haw Cave. We climbed up to its dark entrance and gazed out over the timeless fields and deathly silent hills.
I'm going to write in this journal only when the mood takes me so as to escape the daily grind of having to think up what to write. Some days I just don't feel moved. Hopefully by doing this the writing will improve and it’ll be more interesting for me to read.