Thursday, September 30, 1982


I sorted out the things I'm going to take and we boxed the rest up to send them down to Watermouth via train. Books, pans, paints, cutlery, plates and all my clothes were packed into a suitcase, a rucksack and a big cardboard box.

Dad and I are taking the box down to the station on Saturday. No going back.

I'm so stupid, feeling sad and dwelling on the passing of the last chapter instead of looking forward to the next. It’s a negative way of thinking.

Wednesday, September 29, 1982

Mourning due

This morning I dreamed I went to Watermouth and hated it. . . .

At times I sentimentalize to a hopeless degree. This is brought on by The Harp of the Sky, I’m sure, but if the scene is set and the mood just right, my feelings are almost tangible and I can wallow in hopeless melancholy and sadness. It's as if I'm mourning someone who's been gone almost sixty years. I can’t explain it.

I sound so bloody pathetic!

At the tea-table I asked if Mum is coming to see me off at the train station on Sunday. She said she is and that she wouldn’t miss the “momentous occasion” of her “baby” leaving. This last part sounded strange coming from her: she isn’t normally sentimental, but that’s the second time in recent weeks she’s referred to me like that.

Athletic's match tonight against Whitstall Park was terrible. They're virtually a one-man team. Newlands is suspended and Tidemore was playing at no. 9 but Athletic were soon two down. They even missed a penalty. With ten minutes to go, they pushed Scarborough forward and plugged the defence with Hughes and Scarborough scored. The ref was completely biased and reduced us to shrieking and cursing at his incredible decisions. FT 1-2.

Tuesday, September 28, 1982


I went into town again to buy pumps and to meet Mum to get my suitcase. As I sprinted home from the bus stop I got absolutely drenched in a cloudburst.

I'm enjoying The Harp of the Sky. It's got an atmosphere about it I like. I identify with it, more so because I know the flavour of the country in which it’s set. But how much this enjoyment comes from the story itself or is just my love of Vaughan’s situations and moods I don't know. Would I find it as good if it was written by someone else?

The way critics constantly dismiss Vaughan is annoying; they casually characterise her as a “wastrel,” a “reprobate” and even “a degenerate.” Questions of talent aside, this is unfair. Her famous abandoned second novel seems to sum up her life and fate perfectly; there she is, a shadowy figure rashly cut from the story in a fit of self-doubt and derision, doomed instead to remain a perpetual ghostly presence in the background.

I just want to be gone and sorted out now. Tonight I feel restless and excited but I can’t think of anything to satisfy me.

Monday, September 27, 1982

Room to live

My grant came through. I’ve been given £700 so Mum & Dad will have to contribute £895, which is £105 less than Mum had calculated (and feared). Great relief therefore from her. At last things seem to be getting sorted and I feel a bit better.

Uncle Kenneth miraculously escaped his drunk driving charge with a £40 fine.

Sunday, September 26, 1982


Robert and Carol drove Andrew to Whincliffe this morning so he could catch the 8.40 train. I won’t see him again until Christmas. Last night as I said goodbye to Nanna P. she urged me to write to her when I'm at Uni., and the morbid thought crossed my mind that she could die before I next come home.

Robert was apparently in fine form in the pub’ last night, again talking about Buddhism and Mum was struck by the force of his enthusiasm. She says he seems like he's “thinking deeply” about it. She also says it could be the best thing that’s ever happened to him, and might “sort out his erratic ways.” There's an almost childlike innocence to Robert's enthusiasms. He revels in the simple things in life, like the clannish aspects of football, or pub-life, etc. Andrew is different, more practical and down-to-earth, and says he’s never found happiness without money and so wants to try it with.

Lee called round and stayed until teatime. He says he found the first week of his Easterby Art College foundation course “boring.”

Saturday, September 25, 1982

Childhood's end

In the early hours I at last shook off my laziness and started to read Vaughan's Harp of the Sky which I know I'll enjoy; it was difficult to keep the names and relationships straight. More disaster to crush Mum: the car gear stick bust this morning.

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed, even scared, at the prospect of coping on my own at Uni.; it’ll be the first time ever.

Robert & Carol arrived for the match - they'd had a row - and we set off in their car at two. The game was quite tense, Athletic beginning with slick attacking moves that put pressure on the East Standon goal. Newlands finally scored midway through the half. He burst like a bull past a hesitating defender and powered into the box, steadied himself, and then lobbed the goalie; a brilliant goal. He seemed elated and rushed back down the pitch grinning wildly. From then on though East Standon looked good and I was relieved when the final whistle went. 1-0. Easterby are ninth.

In the evening, Robert again waxed enthusiastically about Buddhism and then everyone (even Mum and Dad) went out to the pub. I stayed home: perhaps it's really hitting me for the first time, the sadness of leaving family and childhood finally and forever. It’ll never be the same again.

Friday, September 24, 1982


Andrew and I looked for Helen Vaughan’s lodgings on Firth Street: all the houses have gone and the site is now occupied by car parks, wasteland and neglected buildings, but there's a small block of houses at the bottom by Lockley Lane which are doubtless original, based on their appearance.

We also looked at the fine buildings in Chatham Place and explored the backs of the shops, finding a passageway running parallel to and the length of Felgate Road that Dad had mentioned; it snakes between the backs of buildings, crooked and ugly with bins and weeds. We found Hutton Steps and dingy Hutton Square with its Chinese restaurant.

Today was depressing though, this not helped by rain and leaden skies.

At teatime we talked about what it will be like for me at Uni. and how I’ll cope. Dad said when Robert came back from college his first holiday he and Mum had great difficulty persuading him to go back. Dad found a note in his bedroom after he'd gone that simply said, “Oh God, I’m frightened.” This amused us all.

Dad picked up Nanna P. at 7.30.

Mum is going to the Lake District Buddhist monastery with Rob and Carol next month for a weekend. Mum are Dad are also talking about signing up for a weekend course in Lockley on the Victorian novel. Mum' s been in a good mood this evening.

I feel optimistic.

Thursday, September 23, 1982


Yet another tense situation with Mum over money and the future. She's in a perpetual mood nowadays. I hate it. She says she’s feeling “middle-aged and miserable,” but I just wish she wouldn’t be constantly so long-faced and depressing.

In the afternoon Andrew, Dad and I went to see an Anglo-Saxon exhibition at the museum in Bishophill. I also wanted to look at the John Smirke tomb in the cathedral: it's one of the few surviving examples of W. T. Southgate’s work. He was a friend of Helen Vaughan's and was rumoured to know something about her disappearance. Unfortunately, that part of the Cathedral was closed because an orchestra was rehearsing for a concert, but Andrew and I did go up into the tower, high above the town, and as we climbed the cramped spiral staircase the sounds of Gothic organ reverberated all around us. Some of the graffitied names carved in the walls date back centuries; we found one from 1718, another from 1859.

As we wandered around the tourist parts of Bishophill the sky glowered. We drove back via Crowthorne (oak trees galore), Ewesden and Cross Green, for much of the way directly into the setting sun. The shadows were long on the fields and the clouds were amazing.

Just before going to bed I mentioned to Dad that I'm leaving a week on Sunday. He sighed, as if to say ‘so soon?’ and it sounded so pathetic and forlorn that I wanted to put my arms round him or something. He just seemed alone and upset at the prospect. Mum says he will miss me badly. I will miss him too.

Wednesday, September 22, 1982

Day of action

I got a postcard from Claire who’s in Alicante; suitably inspired, I rewrote my letter to her.

Dad and I got talking about old Easterby once more, so tomorrow Andrew and I will try and find 47 Firth Street, off Lockley Lane, where Helen Vaughan lived in 1883-85. We'll also look for Hutton Square, the frontage of the now extinct Gisborne Inn (another of Vaughan's haunts), and the numerous old nineteenth-century ginnels, flagged passages and stairways which still exist around Felgate Road and St. Cuthbert’s. Dad sounded off bitterly about the “vandals in city planning who raped Easterby in the ‘sixties.” I don't blame him.

He also got angry over the TUC "Day of Action" rally (four thousand have turned up), blasting them as “bloody communists” and even saying Corina has the “face of a criminal” and should have his “throat cut.” It was all said in the heat of the moment and I don’t think he really means it, at least not the throat-cutting bit!

Tuesday, September 21, 1982

Eleven days

I got to feel desperate and overwhelmed as I struggled with my forms. Have I sent my Financial Guarantee off yet? I have so much worry and so much to do!

When Dad was out of the house I talked with Andrew and agreed again to approach Robert about getting a lift down to Watermouth. Andrew urged me to put Mum & Dad in the picture. “She’ll probably go off at the deep end.”

Later, Dad, Andrew and I went to Dengates to look for newts. I didn’t find any, but Dad and Andrew found three Common newts. Sunny skies, wind, and an  occasional spit of rain made it very pleasant and we ended up blackberrying, collecting just over six pounds to add to the seven already collected by Mum, Dad and Andrew.

I completed all my forms after tea and felt a little better and I finally resigned myself to a journey down on the train; it will save hassle with Mum and Dad and, as Andrew and I worked out, if I take only a few select books, those records I play regularly and saw the ends off my record player cabinet to reduce it to a box-shape, then I can parcel everything up and send it via British Rail for £3.50 per hundred-weight.

In eleven days I will be gone.

I'm not in a reading mood at the moment and have no incentive to pick up a book. I suppose I have too much on my mind.

Monday, September 20, 1982


Andrew and I got a lift into Easterby with Dad where, after much searching, I bought shoes. We toured the second hand shops and back street worlds of Crossley Street and Leckenby Road and down the steep flight of stone steps to the Bahawal for a curry dinner. It was very dark inside until our eyes became accustomed. We were the only two customers.

The immigrant population adds a lot to Easterby: colourful saris, exotic-looking sweet shops, ancient tailors, etc. Somebody must record it all, because within a generation or so this latest wave will be absorbed into the culture.

All the bureaucracy involved in going to Uni. (financial and medical forms and so on), turns me off.

Sunday, September 19, 1982

Old and new dreams

I really didn’t want to go to Grant’s. It wasn’t him, just a desire to stay inside and hide away from potential hassles. I felt better when I’d set off.

As I walked through the woods, two greyhounds hurtled past me, their paws drumming on the grass; I heard a squeal of brakes, a thud and I emerged onto the road by The Alexandra to see one of them lying there dead, straddling the white line in the middle of the road. A lad had the other dog on a lead and dragged the dead one to the side of the road. The body left a wet smear on the tarmac. He stroked it and the other dog sniffed it, and then they left it lying in the gutter as people stood and stared. I'm writing this not with any sense of shock but merely because it happened. I didn't feel anything seeing it dead. Perhaps I should have.

Grant's was predictable. I had the usual scummy doubts about myself at first, but they were soon submerged in the tedium and overcastness of everything. Grant was depressed and scowling: we listened to records or doodled, both feeling totally unwilling to do anything, as if it was too much effort even to talk. We eventually went up to the park and sat beneath the statue of F. W. Woodhead (1883) and talked about Grant's paranoia and depression. He doesn't believe he'll meet anyone new this next year and (light hearted now) wondered if he'll die or go insane. Boredom prevailed.

It's interesting to watch how he gets on with his younger brother Karl. Sometimes they share a laugh but at other times he's vicious, calling Karl a “stupid bastard” for interrupting his PiL tape. When Karl laughed at “Under The House” Grant yelled “This music means something! It’s art! You don’t laugh at art!” (!?). Karl mumbled an apology and looked downcast.

In-between times, Grant scowled ferociously and refused to answer his Mum’s questions. What is it with him? We were all thoroughly bored I suspect.

I left borrowing  Old and New Dreams by Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell and a Doors tape (Absolutely Live). I composed this entry in my head as I walked home.

There were demonstrations today in Israel, crowds of protestors chanting “Begin and Sharon are killers,” teargas, fights with police, more film of fly covered corpses, youths in jeans and trainers clumped in attitudes of unexpected death. Perhaps this will bring the government down? The Israeli people cannot be condemned along with their leaders.

Saturday, September 18, 1982

Sabra and Shatila

I got info’ this morning from Watermouth about registration for classes, etc.

It was too warm again. I called round for Lee and we went into Easterby where I got awful passport photos of myself. I look like Quasimodo with my beetling brows and twisted leering face. I bought a London Transport busman’s jacket cheap from the Oxfam shop.

In Lebanon yesterday, hundreds of men, women, children and babies were murdered by a right-wing militia, with the connivance of the Israelis: corpses lying where they’d been shot, bullet holes and bloodstains marking the walls. This was done in retaliation for Gemayel’s murder by leftists. I noticed how Dad was strangely silent, but spouted off about Japanese imports later.

The news nowadays is just a black and bloody catalogue of human shit. We humans are not fit even to live on earth.

As if to emphasise and highlight all of this, the news was followed by a film about a crazed psycho gunman blowing peoples' heads off with a rifle at a US football match; scenes of panic or stampeding crowds, people getting crushed and being felled by bullets.

Friday, September 17, 1982


My last night at Tesco. It was a strange sort of ending, chaotic and careless in a way. . . . A lad was nearly killed in the warehouse earlier in the day when the rack he was standing on gave way, sending him and cans of beans plunging thirty feet to the floor. While we performed our menial tasks, suits stood about in groups pointing and conferring.

By the end of the night we were dossing about in almost open defiance.

Thursday, September 16, 1982

Lingering fog

I've nothing to write about. Today was spent pleasantly enough, talking with Andrew about Denmark and listening to his jazz records, inbetween times rueing my lack of application or effort at reading, painting, etc.

I wrote a letter to Claire but my troubles sounded petty and selfish so I threw it away. It was hot, the afternoon hazy and stifling, but after Tesco there was a definite whiff of winter in the air, cold city smells in the fog lingering round empty yards and streets.

University is so near! I've so much to organise yet it's scarcely ever mentioned.

Wednesday, September 15, 1982


I read the NME and it was full of in-crowd cynicism and sneery trendspotting. Afterwards it was a breath of fresh air to listen to John Coltrane, the music on a different plane altogether, but the other modern jazz I've heard feels mostly cold and passionless, too ascetic and intellectual (John Lindberg, etc.).

It would be great if excitement about jazz could be sincerely generated among young people instead of for the fashion reasons that are prevalent today. This has ‘em hanging round and posing in berets and suedes, which is a crime I’m all too guilty of, it can't be denied. I look back on my Camden entries and cringe and want to scribble ‘em out but I mustn’t because it was the unfortunate reality of my state of mind at that time and has to remain as truth.

Sometimes I read what I write here and it's just not that well written. I compare it to the way I used to write in those creative essays for Mr. Giles and I wonder, what is different? Why do I write here in ways so much more crude and less polished? Perhaps because it's  'personal' (etc.), and I can't look on it as as anything serious.

Tuesday, September 14, 1982

The university of death

It’s been pretty traumatic news wise just recently, what with helicopter disasters, multiple deaths on the motorway, plane crashes and, just now, a news flash to say that Princess Grace of Monaco is dead after a car accident. All reports had said she had just minor injuries.

Monday, September 13, 1982


Andrew told me about Robert’s ill-fated 1973 holiday to Scotland. The authorities gave him a bad time after they’d found out what he’d done.

Sunday, September 12, 1982

Deserted island discs

Where do I begin?

During the morning I mentioned University to Mum, which nowadays is enough to send her into one of her bouts of neurotic pessimism. I said I want to take all my books and records down with me when I go to Watermouth but she and Dad refused point blank and won't even take me down, saying the journey will ruin the car, even though they took Andrew to college in 1979!

The ‘generation gap’ is a cliché but it's all-too true, and I should have known this would prevent Mum from understanding why my records and books are important, that they'll, help me overcome my inevitable homesickness. She can't—won't ever—grasp this. It's just impossible, because my mind and hers operates on different criteria.

I found it all unbearable and retreated upstairs to lie on my bed with my eyes shut while angry whining voices battled it out below. Horrifying.

Mum and Dad left for a walk on Moxthorpe Common and when Andrew came upstairs I was reading. “It's as if they’re . . . [long pregnant pause] . . . deserting you somehow . . . I bet you’ll be the only person down there without your parents.” Maybe I can ask Robert if he’d contemplate taking me? I could pay his petrol. Why is Mum like this? She argues it’s her age and so on but if I even try to discuss Uni. with her she ends up in a foul mood and says “you’ll end up doing what you want to anyway.”

Andrew and I passed the rest of the afternoon in my bedroom looking at some of the designs he’s done for the Copenhagen jazz festival programme and a poster entry he's done for a car show. He played me a tape he recorded of Charles Lloyd’s “Night Blooming Jasmine” which is excellent, the music difficult to describe, producing moments that pulsed and gushed like breaking waves.

Saturday, September 11, 1982


Post bank-visit trauma over impending financial doom from Mum which was awful to behold.

The rest of the day turned out OK; Robert, Carol, Hannah and Dominic rolled up, and while Andrew, Robert and I went to see Athletic, everyone else except Dad went to Knowlesbeck; he went to watch a cricket match amid the usual grumbles about football being a winter game, etc.

The match was entertaining. Ringway were skillful in midfield but toothless in attack, whereas Athletic were the opposite; at times they looked crap, fannying about with square balls in the middle, but Newlands was brilliant in the box. Headers galore. We moved round to the Easterby End at half-time and saw Athletic concede a stupid goal but equalise by way of a fine turn and shot from Hughes. Goal number two was so easy, a header in off the post by Garside. Right at full time Athletic scored again, Wild lofting a free kick high into the back of the Ringway net. 3-1! We went home happy.

In the evening, Andrew, Mum, Dad and I went for a walk up on Keddon Moor; unlike the morning, Mum seemed positively carefree. The sunset sky was spectacular, crossed by dark grey clouds, the hills and valleys towards Royden and Bentsworth shrouded in mist, making them look mysterious and unfamiliar.

Friday, September 10, 1982


Jeremy called round; he goes to Poppleton on Tuesday and sounded to be in a fairly good mood. Andrew's been playing the twelve LPs he received as part payment for helping out at the jazz festival in Denmark and told us about his trips to Germany. He wants to stay in Denmark next year after his course has finished.

When I go away I plan on writing letters instead of phoning; nowadays it seems people are too lazy and unconcerned to even look at their lives or the ways they live them. They just go ahead and exist. TV is a drug that fills the gaps in our lives which might otherwise be filled with thinking thoughts or keeping diaries or writing letters to one another.

Thursday, September 9, 1982

64 Wollstonecraft Hall

Notification of my Watermouth accommodation arrived this morning: a single room, no. 64, in Wollstonecraft Hall at £14.65p a week.

Robert & Carol are descending this weekend bringing Carol’s older sister Hannah and her husband Dominic, so the house will be in chaos.

I feel oddly dissatisfied, self-critical, cheap somehow. Don’t ask me how or why but I do. How can I explain? It has something to do with always being regarded as the “kid brother.” My own interests and enthusiasms feel false, that’s all. I don’t know why.

Wednesday, September 8, 1982


I called in at school. The new sixth years number over a hundred, which makes things very crowded.

Just four people are back from our year: Deborah, Peter, Gary and Tracey. Deborah seemed pleased to see me and confessed to having “cried and cried” when she got her results, but now she's accepted it and seems cheerful. In loud incredulous voices Gary and Tracey demanded to know how I’d “dossed” all year and come up with two A's and two B's. I could only mumble sheepish comments about being amazed myself.

Deborah worried me by saying most people she's talked to have heard about their grants by now. I saw Mr. Ingham before leaving. He said I “look like a product of Watermouth University already.”

I handed in my notice at Tesco tonight and, as I'd half-expected, got back to find Andrew home from Denmark, laden down with records, T-shirts, posters, and festival programmes. He told me all about it: he should have kept a diary! There was a lot of laughter and we were both glad to see each other. It's the first time since April.

Tuesday, September 7, 1982

The harp of the sky

After dithering about for ages, Dad and I set off for Bethany. The weather was blustery, with occasional blowing drizzle and scudding clouds, but it didn’t bother me. What disturbed me more was seeing all the crowds.

We parked the car and took the path across the fields from the back of the museum, striking out along the road and turning off down a grassy path towards Bethany Lake. Ahead of us walked a girl wearing a headscarf, loose black jumper, ankle length red flowing skirt and with a blue haversack over her shoulder.  She looked quaint and fit in with her surroundings. Our route precisely echoed the one we took in July and as before we ended up at Tunscarr Edge, where we spent five minutes picking up litter (orange peel, tin cans, plastic bottles, teabags, crisp and sweet wrappers) left there by the hordes of Sunday trippers. I felt angry.

We ate dinner in a hollow above the rocks and talked about predictable subjects while admiring the view, which really is tremendous. The flat moor side seemed to reflect the colours of the overcast sky; it glowered dark and black but when the sky brightened with blue, the moor took on a greenish brown hue. I imagined how Helen Vaughan herself might've reacted to this view, because I don’t suppose it’s changed much in a hundred years.

If she was to come back through time perhaps she might awaken looking up at the sky, right there where we sat in that hollow above the Edge, opening her eyes to see those same ever-changing clouds, sitting up to stare for long moments out over the familiar moorland horizons. . . . Perhaps she'd feel as though she’d just fallen asleep and had had a particularly vivid and nasty dream, and only slowly would it dawn on her that something was wrong; too many houses now and, what are those strange needle-like towers everywhere? But in essentials these hills and hollows and skyline shapes won’t have altered in a century; it “thrills my imagination” to think that she might not see anything immediately unfamiliar or out of the ordinary. Perhaps this way we come as close to the dead as we can ever be.

We walked back on the popular Vaughan's Walk path which was deeply eroded and muddy. We must’ve looked very scruffy, me in my long formless jumper and muddy boots and Dad weather beaten beneath his flat cap.

As usual the museum was packed, echoing to alien voices and the scores of clumping feet, the very room in which she slept and died now privy only to disinterested faces yawning at the glass cases. I tried to keep hold of that same mood I'd felt on the moors, but there among so many living people it had gone. . . .

The Church was better, and the few pathetic scraps of heather by Vaughan’s plaque looked lost and out of place amid the unfriendly stone. It's good that she’s stuck away in a corner of this unfussy church, still so obviously concerned with 20th-century Bethany. I get the feeling that some people don’t actually realise she’s buried there.

Afterwards we wandered up into the village which is an awful place, seething with cars and people (“Harp Tea Shop” etc.). Dad bought me a postcard showing Vaughan in silhouette and then we left, and I felt grey and miserable, like the weather.

It’s about time I heard something from Watermouth and the grants people. But at least I got another letter from Claire.


My last night at Tesco. It was a strange sort of ending, chaotic and careless in a way. . . . A lad was nearly killed in the warehouse earlier in the day when the rack he was standing on gave way, sending him and cans of beans plunging thirty feet to the floor. While we performed our menial tasks, suits stood about in groups pointing and conferring.

By the end of the night we were dossing about in almost open defiance.

Monday, September 6, 1982

The great pretender

I’ve given up on Thomas Wolfe; I got as far as page 143 but ran out of desire to read on. He didn’t capture my imagination or interest at all, so now I'm reading a life of John Clare, which I'm enjoying.

Dad registered as unemployed today but he said he's confident of getting a job before Christmas.

I went into Easterby and bought Lester Bowie’s The Great Pretender but I don't like it and might try exchange it. I don’t know, maybe I'm in a weird mood or something, but I just feel sickened off with everything.

University will be just like this.

In the evening I went to Elaine Buckley’s party at Harvey's and it turned into the expected foul occasion. I only went to be sociable as it was my last chance to see everyone before I go away, but there were too many bad memories from last Christmas, too many horrible people, too much boredom. I got slightly woozy, as did Lee who was there fresh from his 500+ mile bike trip. He behaved a bit out of character I thought, and shouted, screamed, sang, and danced about in front of everyone.

Grant was there too, but he was in a very very depressed state and most of the time he sat alone in a corner, scowling darkly, barely speaking and looking absolutely black. He said it was something to do with not being able to communicate with people. When he wasn’t sitting depressed he was wandering about with a green shoulder bag which contained a book on myths, ghosts and superstitions. Lee and I felt sorry for him and hated the whole situation: I hate what I turn into, hate the return of all those so-familiar clouding doubts and apprehensions over nothing at all.

I can’t help myself.

Sunday, September 5, 1982

Summer close season

Dad acts lethargic and bored already; he has too much time on his hands and he wishes he could go to work on Monday. Mum and Dad took Nanna P on a run through Oughterdale and she's just now been taken home after spending the weekend with us. 

The TV was kaput so we spent a quiet evening in the front room with the radio. Mum said she was “bored out of her wits,” but is now engrossed in a book about the history of Edinburgh. Dad was bright and cheerful, occasionally laughing and reading amusing passages to us from a book on the Civil War.

Mum wishes she’d given me her maiden name – Peale – as a middle name: perhaps I would have used it as a first name.

Saturday, September 4, 1982

Memento mori

Robert has just now gone to bed leaving me in a strange melancholy frame of mind. He and Carol drove across this morning and we had a dull evening before the box before everyone went upstairs, leaving just the two of us alone in the heavy midnight silences of the front room.

I can’t say all that was said for he said too much: I wish I could write poetry and sum up my emotions more effectively than through this rambling prose. Suffice to say the subjects were unhappy ones, Robert's voice monotonous, with none of the hopeful enthusiasm inspired by Buddhism, merely instead a sad recognition of hard facts, an almost nihilistic and totally spirit-crushing view of Death triumphant over all. . . .

“It’s not the thought of dying that scares me, just the living after others around me have gone. I don’t know how I would cope” . . . so much impermanence he's frightened by it . . . “and there’ll be a time when Mum and Dad will be dead; Nanna has perhaps ten years left (here I thought of her upstairs secure and unknowing in sleep – she would cry if she heard this). . . . “I know you’re 18 and just going to university; you’re optimistic, looking forward to life, but really all we’ve got to look forward to is dying.”

Blackness beyond the windows. And our feeble attempt to claw some tiny place for posterity, a name written on the flyleaf of a book, all of it come to naught before the passage of time. I've said this before and do so again; all our possessions are borrowed and in an eye-blink instant of Universe-time—a mere 70 years—we're gone, but our keepsakes remain to go through the same cycle with someone else.

“I see no future, no future at all . . . ”

Unlike other creatures, thought and imagination let us escape our mortal bodies and glimpse a greater reality, yet we remain trapped but fully aware at all times of the awful truth of growing old, decay, and death. Is it any wonder that people end their lives prematurely? That Helen Vaughan finally yearned for death as the only way to achieve that freedom she experienced oh so infrequently, and eventually not at all?

Friday, September 3, 1982

Entangling vines

Dad told me some things about our family history. Thomas Martindale, my great-grandfather, committed suicide in 1908 after the death of his wife Edith which left him with four kids to raise on his own. His nephew, Bernard, killed himself in the ‘30s after the collapse of his business. Both jumped in Iredale’s mill dam in Kerforth. Esther Martindale (my great aunt) died of polio in the ‘20s and her son, Ray Hunt, is now in Clayshaw mental hospital. Another Martindale, Harry, was a child prodigy, “a genius at 8, paralysed by 12 and dead at 18” according to Dad. Who he was and where he fits in I don’t know.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Written down it all looks so ridiculous: suicides, madness, child-geniuses, untimely deaths. But a streak of instability is evident in our tree (also in Nanna Beardsall's side, the Watkin side), an intensity and an ‘oddness’ that's apparent in Uncle George too,  and perhaps even in Robert’s highly strung nature.

I was made to work an extra ½ hour at Tesco and afterwards Mum was in a mopingly black and pessimistic mood. It was unbearable. At least Dad cheerfully discussed Helen Vaughan with me.

Thursday, September 2, 1982

Bleak moments

Robert and Carol gave me a lift into Easterby. I renewed Wolfe and Naked Lunch at the library and took out Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and a biography of John Clare.

As soon as I got back from Tesco, I detected an atmosphere and unspoken tension in the house. Mum's face was a drawn and lined mask as Dad spelled out that their bank manager had stunned them with the news that with Dad's retirement their outgoings will now exceed their income by a massive amount each month. Mum had been in tears and in bitter, negative tones Dad outlined their desperate position.

He's annoyed that the probation service, the usual route open to retiring policemen, has been closed only in the last 14 months or so. “I joined the force for security,” etc. Now they prepare for the worst and seem destined to scrape by on Dad’s pension. Prospects look bleak indeed: “You will just have to manage on your grant without help from us.” University now looks like it will be a long grind in poverty, heightened no doubt by my fellow students' affluence.

Dad says he's giving up smoking at the weekend. This will only make the despair and blackness worse, and I was silently thankful that I'll be away from the expected scenes of domestic aggro which are sure to follow. It’s all slightly frightening.

Wednesday, September 1, 1982


I went to the library at Moxthorpe with Dad and took out Cities of the Red Night by William Burroughs, The Portable Emerson (collected essays etc.) and Quivering Shadows on the Grass, Hugh Haughton’s biography of Helen Vaughan, which is actually signed by the author himself! I made a resolution to systematically read these books for so often I take ‘em back unread: I will read them after I’ve finished Wolfe.

Too often I lack single mindedness and force of character to see one thing through to its end: I get so restless and excited about the prospects of music, books, painting, all of it, that I can’t stay still long enough to actually DO anything concrete. Perhaps that will be my ultimate downfall. . . . I’ll never achieve anything in my life because of these reasons.

Robert and Carol came to go see Athletic in the Northern Counties Textile Cup. I was conscious of what Mum had said, and maybe there was a hint of coolness, I don’t know.

I flew back from Tesco as The Doors were on TV and now I wish I’d bought an LP by them instead of my dull Rip Rig and Panic.

Interesting conversations after the TV was switched off about language, accents and the like. It's fascinating: Robert told us that Anglo-Saxon words provide a more direct, emotive way of expressing something than the longer ‘Romanesque’ words (the contrast between ‘shit’ and ‘excrement’, ‘fuck’ and ‘sexual intercourse’ etc.) It's strange to think that once everyone spoke like that. Supposedly ‘obscene’ words are really just rejected because of the social conventions of the day.

When we were talking I used the word “mythologize” which led Robert to claim that I make words up. Mum: “Does he really?” Rob: “Oh yes, all the time.” It’s a total lie, and annoyed and upset me. Why did he say it?
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