Saturday, December 31, 1983

The body count continues


Barry, Guy, Lee and I went into Debdenshaw and bought some food and rented a video, Friday the Thirteenth, Part Two. We watched this tale of multiple murder and butchery with some enjoyment. I also received the cheering news that Athletic had beaten Purswell 2-0.

Barry’s ‘party,’ not billed as such but destined to become one, attracted a fair number of people, I would say about twenty. Pete and his London friend Tony arrived at teatime, and various other old faces and new made their entrance throughout the evening, including Barry’s friend Phil (how I like him!), carrying his wisdom like an awkward and solemnly intense schoolboy. His loneliness and isolation seemed etched deep into his long, sombre face. Patrick carries his insights and wisdom in an altogether more arrogant way. There’s a lot to dislike about him.

I didn’t really talk to anyone, and it seemed as if I was apart and unable to bridge the gulf separating me from everyone else. I couldn’t summon the necessary energy or commitment to actually talk, and I couldn’t escape a sense of futility and meaninglessness. I endured the conversation and the laughter and the dope and drink and didn’t really feel excited or sad or anything particularly . . . I was just there. Lee kept to himself.

The onset of the new year wasn’t acknowledged by anyone—it came and went and we were none the merrier (or sadder) for it.

I dragged myself on until four a.m. and then I found a bed and tried to go to sleep, but Phil sat at my bedside and talked to me. Then Barry came up too and we all talked about our mutual realisation of the need for change in ’84. It should be a ‘make-or-break’ year for me. I’ll know by the end of this year if I really am incapable of any fruitful form of commitment and resolve or if I’ll be destined to follow this course to its mundane conclusion. I must know.

Friday, December 30, 1983

The hacienda must be built


In the afternoon Lee and I hitched across the Pennines.

Dad gave both of us a lift up to the top of Debdenshaw Road to the beginning of the A64. We made sure we were standing in front of the motorway sign and stuck our thumbs out. A car stopped almost immediately, the driver a thin faced balding man, puffing on a cigarette. I thought him a little stupid for stopping right in the slow lane of the slip-road and not pulling over, but climbed in happy to have a lift so quickly.

No sooner had we set off again than there was a police car, ordering us to pull over. I recognised the driver immediately as Mr. Harding, our next-door neighbour at Wintersett Crescent ten years ago. He didn’t seem to recognise me at first. The car driver was taken and given a long talking to in the police Range Rover before he was released, sullen and obviously annoyed, to tell us that it was our turn for the slapped wrist treatment. Mr. Harding told us that there could have been a fatal accident: he’d seen five cars come round the corner in the time it had taken us to climb in, and two of these had had to swerve to avoid a collision. He’d done the driver of the car on several counts—driving without due care and attention, stopping on a dual carriageway etc. I felt sorry that we’d caused this innocent bloke so much trouble.

When I gave Mr. Harding my name, slowly the realisation dawned in his face that he knew me and he turned around with an “Ohhh Paul!” He said I’d made him feel bad, and although he toyed with the idea of letting us off with a caution he decided he couldn’t take the risk and so reported us. We might get away with it, but if we do get done then Lee, as a second-time offender, could be fined £50.

Lee was quite pissed off by his bad luck and the possibility of such a large fine. Harding gave us a lift in the Range Rover to the next service station. I was quite blasé about the whole thing, apart from concern over Mum’s inevitable over-reaction and the ensuing worry she’ll suffer.


We got a lift into Debdenshaw after about ten minutes cold wait and were dropped about two miles outside the city centre and walked the rest of the way, through a predominantly Jewish area part of the way. Lee and I both felt quite despondent as we trailed around the busy streets.

Barry finally turned up in his Dad’s yellow Capri. Doug was with him. Barry’s parents are in Venice for a Christmas holiday and when we got back to the Duckworth household only his 17-year old sister Claudia was in. They live in an enormous house full of cherubs—incorporated into the lamp fittings, cherubs holding up glass coffee tables, cherubs swinging from the ceiling lights, masses of white sheepskin everywhere (rugs, chair covers . . .), acres of the stuff in every room, red and pink décor and Romanesque divans . . . The entire effect was one of kitsch decadence, a small-time recreation of Baroque splendour which didn’t quite hit-it-off.

Guy rang at around six and Barry picked him up in the Capri. Guy too had hitched up & had come primarily for the Hacienda in Manchester  and a meeting with a few friends of his. I didn’t say much to him and he seemed to be very remote in a thorny, cynical kind of way. Barry’s RCP friend Patrick and a few other people rolled up.

Free tickets for the Hacienda were produced and so that’s where we went for the evening.

The Hacienda was quite impressive, a large converted warehouse decked out in austere industrial grey with diagonal black and yellow stripes. We sat and watched the videos playing on the large screens at either end of the club, smoked the ready rolled joints Barry had brought along or played video games . . . nothing special.

Thursday, December 29, 1983

Wednesday, December 28, 1983

Tree


The weather has been mild again, and this morning it was quite sunny, Ainsley Hill a blaze of copper tints and shades of brown caught by the sun against a sky the colour of gun metal.

Rob and Carol stayed the night and left at dinnertime. I met Lee in Farnshaw market place at eleven and, as we had a few minutes before the bus came, we wandered on to the second-hand electrical shop opposite Top Shop to look for ciné equipment and came away with a Chinon Concord Standard 8 Reflex ciné camera with zoom and wide angle lens for £9. This will go towards the Grey Triangle venture next year. It really seems quite a bargain. We bought batteries for it and the motor works perfectly.

We travelled into Whincliffe on the bus and walked the half mile into Cartbeck to the army surplus shop. Lee bought himself a pair of black German para-boots identical to mine and a pair of baggy fatigues. I bought a pair of trousers too. I kept thinking about the unfortunate uniformity of Lee and I’s taste in clothing just lately. What with the boots, the fatigues and the greatcoats, we look virtually identical.

I hurried back for half-three and the planned visit to Janet’s. I wasn’t looking forward to it but it turned out better than I’d expected. All the Peale clan were present: Nanna P., Kenneth, Shirley, Nicola, Ian, Janet and her husband Trev, Michael and newly born Geoffrey, plus Mum, Dad and Andrew and I. Janet’s baby was born two months premature and only now has he reached an adequate weight.

I held him awkwardly for a little while. He was very light and quite tiny, a small pinched face and perfectly formed hands, palms no bigger than my thumbnail. He slept most of the evening as he was passed around, only rousing himself to squall when he was hungry. Michael is 2½ now and rushed to-and-fro incessantly, a broad grin on his face, his sticking out ears making his face look more triangular than ever. He doesn’t say much apart from “Yes,” “No” and a few other monosyllabic words. He’s a likeable little kid.

I kept quiet and sat in the corner and ate the food and drank the booze provided. Janet’s husband kept referring to me as “the young ‘un” and asked Dad if it was OK for me to have Theakston’s as it was strong: if he only knew.

I don’t have a lot in common with the Peale side of the family and we’re really quite isolated on our little branch of the tree–I think Andrew is Mum and Dad’s strongest hope for grandchildren (I shall certainly never have any). I think this question of heirs to perpetuate this branch of the family is one that bothers Dad on the quiet. He’d enjoy being a grandfather.

Tuesday, December 27, 1983

Standstill


The day was inevitably dominated by football. Rob and Carol came across in the morning and after dinner, Robert, Andrew, Dad and I went to Cardigan Park and saw Athletic trounce Holmeshaw Vale 3-0. Highmore got two goals.

Homeshaw were a poor side and at times, especially early in the second half, Athletic ran amok and looked as if they were going to score with every attack. The crowd gave the team a standing ovation & the great outpourings of enjoyment and satisfaction were a pleasure to behold. Over seven hundred people saw the game, nearly double the average gate.

The mild weather continues. Every night two of the Fire Bellied Toads chirp in their glass tank, presumably serenading the single female. I’ve done nothing since Christmas Day except finish the last few pages of The New Existentialism and carry on with my reading of The Magus. I haven’t been anywhere since Christmas Eve.

Barry rang. Lee and I are going to hitch across to Debdenshaw on Friday and hopefully, Guy, Pete, Stu and Gareth will be there. Del is in Milton Keynes, Trevor across in Holland. Lee and I are going to Whincliffe tomorrow to the Army Surplus shop.

It’s quite apparent the surface routine of home has made no great impression on my mental situation. As a record of my ‘mental life,’ this diary attests to the virtual standstill of that side of things at the moment. I need time to think. What can I say but that at this instant in time I very much hope that I’ll see Claire again and that I’ll sort out myself for the new year; a sort of new year’s resolution before which I have to get a lot of things straight in my mind.

Monday, December 26, 1983

Wintry chatter


It was fine and sunny again today, yellowy smudges of cloud hanging almost stationary against the blue, fragile sunlight and the wintry chatter of starlings in the trees. Looking out into the garden, at the clear skies, it wasn’t Christmas at all.

Mum, Dad and Andrew went out for a walk around Knowlesbeck and I stayed in to listen to a historic Easterby Athletic victory at top-of-the-table Hollin End at Reedshaw Lane. With just three minutes to go Newlands put Athletic ahead and for the last few minutes the tension was unbearable: I hopped about with my fingers crossed, unable to believe we were winning. But win we did!

Dad invited Mr. Tillotson across for dinner and he told us of his days as an Athletic fan before the First World War, when he and his mates would climb over the wall into the Three Locks Road side of the ground. He remembers nothing of the matches, but can still recall the names of some of the players (Arthur Briggs, etc.).

Reading Wilson all evening: “Our lives consist of a clash between two visions: our vision of . . . inner freedom, and our vision of contingency; our intuition of freedom and power, and our everyday feeling of limitation and boredom. The ‘new existentialism’ . . . helps to reveal how the spirit of freedom is trapped and destroyed; it uncovers the complexities and safety devices in which freedom dissipates itself. It suggests mental disciplines through which this waste of freedom can be averted.”

Perhaps I see the planned ‘Grey Triangle’ project in a newer perspective, as a sort of fresh regime to focus my mind on the necessary job of ‘moving forward.’ I need to impose these limits on my self, to tighten things up. It’s the Act I need. The search may be fruitless and I may be going about it the wrong way completely but I have to try.

Freedom through purpose . . .

Sunday, December 25, 1983

Duck soup


A typical Christmas day has slipped away as swiftly as it came, with presents, food and hours of turgid television. Mum and Dad got me a pair of Doc Marten shoes, a jumper and a ball-point pen, Rob and Carol an illustrated history of The Doors, Nanna P. £5 and Brut talc and Splash-on-Lotion, and Andrew bought me a Bunny Wailer record. Dad, as usual, got a heap of things, mainly books.

Nanna B. was brought round by Aunty Beverly at dinnertime and she graced us with her presence all afternoon. She came out with her miserable “I haven’t got you much . . . I’m only a poor old widow woman” routine–she got me a key fob plus £1 and Andrew a rubbishy plastic wallet–and in almost the next breath was telling us of the new stereo she’s just bought herself.

My cousin Susan and four-month old daughter called round in the evening, the baby very fat-faced with huge cheeks and a bald pate.

Now all the visitors are gone, and so too is Christmas for another year. I've come to bed, stuffed with food and eyes glazed from watching too much TV. I watched a very entertaining Marx Bros. film (Duck Soup).

Nineteen eighty-four has got to be a year of real progress for me.

 "There are states of consciousness that are not 'everyday consciousness' and which are not 'transcendental' either. These produce a definite sense of values and purpose. If we investigate these properly, man may be able to replace his old dogmatic religious values with a scientifically objective set of external values" (Wilson, p.160).

Saturday, December 24, 1983

Trying too hard


I spent Christmas Eve with Lee, Jeremy, Gillian Wade, Tommy, and Richard Houlding. The latter is working in the tax office and hasn’t changed much except for a new, up-market soul-boy look. Tommy still walks the streets in dainty white shoes and baggy black trousers. He’s moved to Brynmor.

Gillian seemed to feel the need to come out with ‘funny’ stories and the silly voices to go with them and she got a little over-bearing at times. She was, she herself admitted, “trying too hard.” Lee left us after we’d trailed round a few pubs, mingling with the joyous throng and feeling particularly un-festive. Going through the motions.

I curbed the impulse to set off to Easterby for a night of depressing frivolity and we rounded the evening off with a curry in Farnshaw, which was crap.

Friday, December 23, 1983

Young person with car


In some respects I really have changed very little in the 3½ years I’ve been keeping this diary. In the afternoon I went into Easterby to finish off the rest of my ‘Christmas shopping’ and to buy a pair of Doc Marten shoes. Everywhere I went I had to battle with seething crowds and I hated every minute of it.

After I’d bought the shoes, and quite on impulse, I headed for a telephone box and rang Claire: I knew if I didn’t ring her then I never would. I confidently keyed the number, waited for her to be summoned to the ‘phone, and then asked her if she wanted to “go out for a drink sometime.” She wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as I’d prepared myself for and this threw me off completely. I crumbled into embarrassed talk and fatuousness—I was awful, but she invited me round to her house at eight.

I came out of the phone box and felt sick inside. I just wanted to shrivel, to hide, wanted the earth to swallow me up. I cringed as I remembered a facetious aside and her misunderstanding it . . . I acted as if three years had never been, as if I was still the callow spotty faced kid of the sixth form years. Nothing learned. I think perhaps I was going there with the wrong intention, as though something vaguely underhand was driving me on and the night was something now to be endured as a testament to that blinkered part of me that refuses to let the past be past.

The journey back on the bus was passed in a rigid state of tension and nervous turmoil and I spent teatime and early evening in a state of agitation, as if I were nine years old, not nineteen, but my night out ended up being more enjoyably than I’d expected.

Minutes before I set off Lee rang and I lied and told him I was off to Grant’s (“I’ll come on there with you then”), so when I met him at the bottom of Egley Road I confessed. He was a welcome presence really, dissipating some of my inevitable nervousness.


Mrs. Pearson let us in, and Claire came out of the kitchen to greet us looking very pretty—I can’t help liking her. In other circumstances I suppose I’d be quite contemptuous of the lifestyle she leads, but I can’t be unkind. I just acknowledge my dissonance with that Young-Person–With-Car mentality and our inevitable distance from one another . . . But, when all is said and done, I like her.

Andrew Hudson and Christine Clough turned up, their relationship still going strong, but he is so uninteresting, so pedestrian and utterly unremarkable . . . Christine has redeeming features I suppose, but on the whole they’re well-suited. Claire is, as far as I know, not going out with Adam Hilty anymore.

Why is it I always find myself interested in girls who are hard to get to know?

She told me she dislikes macho big-headed men, and she thought my call was from an RAF man who’s been plaguing her with persistent requests for dates. I was determined to be less of an oaf this time and I think I succeeded. I asked her if I could see her again over the holidays. She’s not free again until New Year but says she’ll ring me when she is.

We all climbed into two cars and drove to the Turf, out in the middle of the moors, and as we walked in, Lee and I were stared and smirked at by the young execs who pollute the place. It was a harmless evening’s entertainment and we got back to Claire’s house at 11.30.

I sat dumbly in front of the TV with Mr and Mrs Pearson and the younger sister Linda. Brother Trevor and his girlfriend arrived back after us. We left at one o’clock and Andrew had arrived when I got back.

Thursday, December 22, 1983

The history of human stupidity


I traveled over to Robert’s on the bus. It was again rainy and grey, although the weather did clear a little as we approached Dearnelow. It’s not a very pleasant place: the bus station was filled to overflowing with nightmarish people shouting at one another and clutching their bulging bags. This is the side of Christmas that nauseates me.

I’ve bought all my presents save for Mum’s, books mainly – I bought Dad a biography of Christina Rossetti and a copy of The Easterby Remembrancer and an 1891 edition of the Life and Teachings of Gautama, Prince of India and Founder of Buddhism for Rob and Carol. I bought myself a 1956 edition of Colin Wilson’s The Outsider. I couldn’t stand the crowds any longer so I caught the bus to Saxton.

When I got to Saxton, Carol was ill in bed with an upset stomach and Rob sat on the sofa before the crackling flames of the fire reading The History of Human Stupidity. The evening slipped away pleasantly enough, with nothing to do but read Wilson’s The New Existentialism, which is fascinating.

Carol rose from her sick bed looking white and obviously ill and spent the evening half asleep on the sofa. I listened to some ‘spiny classics’ on Radio 3: Connolly, from the sixties, a piece for brass quintet, another piece for male, female voices only, and an orchestral composition, limited in tonal range and interest, a seeming chaotic maelstrom of notes and lone noises in the emptiness: the music of vastation and despair, of inward turning, of blind frustration.


Robert told me he fears the age and the sickness we live in, recounting tales about an epidemic of glue sniffing at his school and an eleven-year old girl with a painted face and in a mini-skirt and lipstick, asking him if he fancied her. This shocked him. His Buddhist faith doesn’t seem to help him find contentment. Perhaps he’s striving in that direction, but at the moment his mind seems only saddened and full of despair at the things he sees around him.

“It is true that reality exists apart from us; but what we mistake for the world is actually a world constituted by us, selected from an infinitely complex reality . . .” MY world is not THE world.

Although I attach to it a tragic, despairing quality, in truth it possesses no qualities at all. It exists and I exist, and the world I make for myself from the one around me is filtered and distorted by my own consciousness. I intentionalise my perceptions of the world. The twentieth century has witnessed the “slow poisoning” of religion by science and the edifice of faith has crumbled away leaving a black void. The age of Nihilism is upon us and no one recognizes it.

Is a part of us responding to this great tide of Nothing?

This morning Mum went on at me: “You let yourself and me down by dressing as you do. You don’t do yourself justice . . . you’re a good-looking lad . . . If you thought anything of me you’d accord with my feelings.”

Why must I conform to their ideal of Perfect Youth? They don’t seem to respect my wishes in this.

Wednesday, December 21, 1983

Christ almighty


About my earlier comments about the Harrods bomb: I still don’t see any logical reason for doing what the IRA did. I can’t see how maiming and murder in London achieve anything. They need to win the support of the British masses, not to alienate them. Dad sees the Irish War as a crude “race war” and even said it had “nothing to do with the IRA.” Mum, Dad and Robert all have prejudiced views about the Irish question, but I suppose its understandable never having been exposed to opinions other than those peddled by the newspapers and on television.

Today Mum condemned the violence of the ‘peace women’ at Greenham Common, who perhaps are expressing their frustration at the blatant failure of their ‘Ghandian’ methods at preventing the deployment of Cruise missiles and realising—all too late—that if all you do is sing songs and hold hands and paint peace symbols on your face no-one listens and no-one cares.

MLK only succeeded when the police started beating his marchers with clubs and setting dogs on them. Confrontation got things moving. It seems naïve to fight ruthless regimes with toothless actions. If the police in Mississippi and Alabama had been able to control the racist mobs and curbed their own racist tempers, then the Freedom Marches and protests would have failed to budge things one inch. Kennedy only acted because he was afraid of adverse world opinion at police violence, not because he was responding imaginatively or emotionally to King’s “Dream.”

As long as the Greenham women sit tight and not do anything then they remain a topic of mild ridicule throughout Britain (sexism seems a typical reaction). But as soon as they respond by pulling down perimeter fences and injuring policemen then public sympathy instantly shifts behind the forces guarding the base. The only way for them to win is by an orchestrated, nationwide campaign of massive strike action and popular rebellion.

More rain today. It has drizzled non-stop since I got back to Easterby and this afternoon the skies began to darken by quarter-past three. I went with Mum and Dad to visit Nanna P. who was in muscular form, interspersing her monologues with heartfelt Christ Almightys.

Tuesday, December 20, 1983

78 rpm


Jeremy slept here overnight. I was kept awake by the chiming of the Fire Bellied Toads that live now in my room along with their various amphibian brethren (newts, axolotyls), etc. He stayed until two thirty.

I met Lee at three in Easterby, outside the Durham Buildings, and we looked round the flea market. I bought a dozen Victorian and turn-of-the-century photos and Lee acquired two choral 78s for his wind-up gramophone. He’s seemed subdued every time I’ve met him since we came back . . .

Monday, December 19, 1983

Disco zombies


I went out last night with Grant. Steve Bates called round before I set off, so I felt obliged to invite him along although I really didn’t want to: he’s like a tailor’s dummy, and I can’t help recalling his “you’re the most negative and destructive person I know” comment from the summer.

We walked to Farnshaw, to the Red Grouse, where I’d arranged to meet Grant. Steve mumbled on and I scarcely said a word. I sat in silence, save for the odd word or two, until Grant arrived, and I glimpsed a few ghosts of years back (Ben Barnes, Paul Hoyle . . .).

It was good to see Grant and good too to see him in a better mood than at Gloucester. He told me he can get very pissed off down there, and that my visit just happened to be one such time. We moved to the Malt Shovel up Easterby Road and we came across more ghosts – Halyna, Laura, Julie Walker and Louise Taylor. They haven’t changed at all save for a slight spikiness apparent in Louise Taylor’s hair. The same faces, the same laughter, as if, for a sudden moment, whole years haven’t been.

Steve gravitated into their group leaving Grant and I sitting apart, and he told me that last night he ended up in bed with Jenny (Phases club, “I hate University students” Jenny), and that he felt oddly detached from what was happening, didn’t feel excited, felt nothing for what he was doing, a cold, preprogrammed routine.

Grant came back home with me and listened to records until the early hours.


Tonight Lee and I went to that yearly horror show, the Former Students disco at Harvey’s, which we were looking forward to as an opportunity for some anti-social fun, but it was in fact pure misery. Lee and I arrived early and sat apart, grim-faced and deliberately not speaking. The disco was soon full of people, packed to overflowing with soul boys from school, tap-room lads and their girls. Steve, Tim Moyles, Sean Laxton . . . Ms. Hirst was there too, and Jeremy. The list as long as it was predictable.

It was a noisy terrible affair and Lee and I slipped deeper and deeper into despondency huddled in our corner feeling totally apart and removed from the jollity around us, Lee long-faced and barely smiling. It was that depressing. It reminded me of being back at school again.

Lee had with him a set of Tarot cards—stolen, of course—and when a girl asked him to read her cards he refused point blank and she retreated with embarrassed laughter and confused looks. He did it with such a straight face too. Tim Moyles got off with Maxine Bates, and I sat and stared and was bored. I was glad to leave. Christmas used to be a time of excitement and magic but now all that is gone and I feel utterly cold and empty.

After Harvey’s ended I walked home with Jeremy, Peter Wood and Andrew Boyd.

Sunday, December 18, 1983

Too much to ask


It still feels unreal to be back, almost as if I’m playing out a role, going through the motions and emotions expected of me now I’m at home. I don’t have that much to say to Mum or Dad, because I must keep quiet about most of the things I remember from last term: the robberies and breaking open of crypts etc.

They wouldn’t be interested in the other events, such as my visit to Manchester to see Psychic TV and Gloucester to see Grant and the Fall . . .

I sense that a gulf between Mum and Dad and I is making its obtrusive appearance. Today Mum asked me if I had any idea about what I intend doing after I leave University and I haven’t. Mum said it was “only fair” that I give them some idea of my direction, as Andrew and Robert have done before me, because they’ll “feel happier both for me and for ourselves if we know you know where you’re going.”

I can’t lie – I want my freedom when I leave University. I voiced my naive desire to live life and sample experience – “for which you need a job,” added Mum. It’s hopeless expecting our minds to meet. We drift apart slowly but surely.

Mum voiced her objections to me about my supposedly “weird” appearance (the army fatigues). As she went on I sat in silence, trying occasionally to voice my thoughts but for the most part not being able to. I can’t talk to them and tell them all this: it would lead to rancour, despairing sighs and fall-outs. It seems it must be an unspoken slide into misunderstanding and bewildered argument.

Later I overheard their conversation about me: Dad fears a “confrontation” over my appearance—“It’s a shame he goes round looking ridiculous and dressing in such childish fashion . . . Three weeks with him looking like that is too much to ask.” Last night, come to think of it, I did detect an air of gloom and things left unsaid before I went to Lee’s. It was Mum who wore the longest face, and it transpires that it’s because of my “outlandish” appearance. Anyone would think I’d dyed my hair green or something. All over a pair of trousers!

Evidently the misunderstanding reaches down farther than I think.

Saturday, December 17, 1983

War on Christmas


Today the IRA detonated a bomb outside Harrods in London, killing nine people and injuring seventy five others. Four policemen and one WPC were among the dead. A thirty six minute warning was given, but for some so far unexplained reason, Harrods was not evacuated.

I felt a cold shock when I heard the news; Mum was upset and full of despair.

How can the RCP uncritically support the IRA when the latter detonate devices clearly aimed at civilian targets? Of what military use is the killing of Christmas shoppers? It seems fair enough to fight fire with fire and wage war on the Army and state apparatus in N. Ireland, but. . . .

Robert thought the bombers “sick” and could see no political excuses for the IRA’s operation. But people too readily dismiss the excesses of the Army, the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries in the six counties as IRA lies and propaganda—example: the petty and spiteful seizure of an IRA man’s beret from his coffin as it was being taken for burial.

The RCP will have a near impossible task mobilising working class support for the IRA in the light of such attacks; it can only do their cause harm. But there is a war going on in N. Ireland between a large section of the Irish people and the British Army.


Robert and I went to see Athletic play Cross End. He hasn’t changed, and only asked me about my appearance, and whether it was the “urban vagrant” look (whatever that is). We got to the virtually deserted ground and stood shivering as the meager crowd trickled in.

Cross End looked much better in the first twenty minutes, but Athletic scored first, a Hubbard corner, dropped right in on the goal-line which the ‘keeper could only palm weakly away, giving Highmore an easy job to score. In the second half Athletic scored again and Tidemore got the third. Newlands scored a brilliant goal with fifteen minutes left. Highmore sent Scarborough tearing up the field; he passed it to the wing where Wicks crossed it perfectly for Newlands, who ran in at full tilt to head it into the back of the net.

As we leaped into the air a middle-aged man standing next to us shouted “Text book stuff!” amid the cheering. It really was a brilliant goal. With two minutes left Highmore scored again and Cross End had been run ragged. 5-0!

I went to Lee’s in the evening and played chess. He showed me the ciné film he took at school in autumn 1980 and we cringed at the way we were then: such a set of tasteless people! It was strange looking at those silent images passing on the screen, locked forever in that day, that Common Room that turgid afternoon three years ago. I was sixteen then and I hope I’ve changed since that day.

It was also a little odd seeing a vision of Ian on Lee’s film, a glimpse from last term. He sat nonchalantly smoking a fag in Room 312 at the Art College, wearing his forage cap, silhouetted against the window, his face in darkness. He seemed utterly out of place there in Lee’s tiny room. How quickly you can forget the feel of certain things after only a few days absence.

I walked home through the fog.

Friday, December 16, 1983

Outside is hostile


Lee and I spent the whole day traveling. We caught the No. 78 Shuttle into Attlee Square at nine, caught another bus out to Binston Park and within five minutes got a lift from a wealthy, name-dropping woman in her fifties. We shared the car with her two dogs and I was forced to maintain dull conversation about job prospects for American Lit. graduates and horse-jumping, etc.

She dropped us on the A31, a few miles outside Farnborough.

Lift number two was from a silent Yosser Hughes look-alike who took us into Oxfordshire, and Sonningley near Reading—a miserable suburban area of large semis, detached mansions and wide, well-kept verges and gardens . . . We thought we were done for, so far were we from the main routes into London, but fortunately enough a car stopped and we were dropped off right outside Paddington tube station.

We caught the tube to Kings Cross St. Pancras, then Euston, and on from there to Colindale where we wasted an hour looking for the motorway. Back to Brent Cross and a tiring walk through a jungle of flyovers, intersections and dual-carriageways to the beginning of the M1. It was growing dusk and the sun had set in a pool of orange over the urban horizon.

We stood, arms out, thumbs erect, and the river of traffic roared past.

At about four we got a lift; all the way to Knutsford service station, nearly in Manchester, on the M6, from an advertising salesman on his way to Blackpool. Lee had to do his office work for him part of the journey, and although he was a bit of a prat, he redeemed himself by buying us both a sandwich and a can of Coca-Cola.

We reached Knutsford at eight and for an hour-and-a-half, we had a cold despairing wait on the slip road to the motorway. We had our names taken by motorway police in a Range Rover—affected friendliness, calling me by my first name . . . There were half-a-dozen other people waiting for lifts to Carlisle and Scotland, but soon, even they were gone and we really did expect to have to wait at Knutsford all night.

Finally, at nine-thirty a car drew up and the driver said he was going to Haley Hill.

It was quite foggy on the M14 and our driver played The Pop Group’s Y and then Einsturzende Neubauten’s Kollaps on his cassette player. The latter’s pounding metallic urgency suited our headlong plunge through the orange gloom, a haunted journey racing along the near-deserted motorway with only rivers of road-lights above us for company. A Whitehouse tape greeted our arrival in Haley Hill and we were home.

We were in such a jubilant, loud and enthusiastic mood as we boarded the Easterby bus that we almost got thrown off for putting our feet on the seats. After a fourteen-hour journey it was so good to the stout architecture and lights sprinkling the inky blackness as we crested the hills into Easterby. It cost us £3 to get back.

Lee’s Mum gave me a lift home.

Thursday, December 15, 1983

Niche


I left Lee’s at dinnertime and we spent most of the day packing all our stuff up into boxes. An early start tomorrow, on the road. . . .

Dad sent me a letter. Andrew is now living in Dungod Fitzjohn, Hertfordshire and lunches regularly with the managing director of the Sackett Group. He seems well on the way to carving out a respectable niche. No doubt Mum is very proud.

Nanna P.’s porcelain false teeth, in for repair, fascinated the dentist, who apparently hadn’t seen any like them for years.

Wednesday, December 14, 1983

Runner


The confusion and complication over moving out is affecting us all, Barry in particular. All he wants to do is go home and forget about the shit hole at Jervis Terrace for a while. But he has no money even to do that. Barry, Pete and I are prepared to split up, and when I think about this possibility I think it might be a better option for me in the long run—I’ll have more chance to get things done. No houses or flats are available though, and there doesn’t seem a chance of there being so.

When I see other peoples’ places our unfortunate position hits home and makes me feel angry and frustrated. Why did I ever move in there? I must’ve been totally mad, or stupid. It’s been a disaster from beginning to end, not helped by the freeloading of John Turney, and the more I think about him the angrier I get—what a bastard! I haven’t seen him since he moved out.

For the first time since we moved in there are just the three of us living there. It’s ironic that we should be moving out so soon too. I’ve packed away all my books and taken what few pictures I had from the walls.

I’m looking forward to going home.

Today I got final confirmation of my exemption from the year abroad in a letter from the Dean and I couldn’t help a feeling of release—perhaps I’ll come to regret it in time, but at the moment I’m simply glad.


Barry and I also signed on for over the holiday period and tramped the miles to Lindsey and Susie’s but they were out, so we left a note and walked back along the promenade in freezing wind. The sea in turmoil. We stopped at Shelley’s. She was very surprised to see us and was in the process of preparing a Christmas dinner for her & her three flatmates, so we scavved a few crusts from her kitchen and left.

I drew out a fiver so we could go have a meal at a pizza place, but we ended up not having to pay anyway. We sat near the door, ate in a nervy silence and, while the waitresses were busy, dived for the door and ran like mad along Carpenter Street etc., collapsing with scorched lungs and dizzy heads in The Crown. We saved £3.00.

Colin from Crown Racing came round at teatime and told us the flat is now being advertised again by the University. We might even each get our £50 deposits back. We also had two blokes come round to look at the flat. In the evening, Lee left a note on our door giving details of a few places worth looking at, one for four people at a farm in Langridge Cliffs for £50 per week. I rang up a Mrs. Lincoln and she said that transport was essential. No, bicycles wouldn’t do, but it is a “very nice cottage.” I arranged to go see it at 4 p.m. tomorrow. It sounds quite promising but eight miles out is a long way and would involve all sorts of hassles and complications.

Lindsey called at nine-thirty and she and I walked to the bus. I came to Lee’s, which is where I’m writing this script now. He’s just discovered that his camera is missing (presumed stolen) and is in a slough of despondency. This has cast a darker light on the housing problem for him. I tried to reassure him and instil some absent levity but he would have none of it. “Sometimes there seems so much to be doing yet also so little – as if it’s pointless.”

Tuesday, December 13, 1983

Ecclesiologist


A dismal, damp day. I stayed at Lee’s overnight and we went into University to try find copies of The Ecclesiologist magazine for 1844, for Lee’s essay on Victorian graveyard iconography, but we were unsuccessful. L. soon lapsed into yawns and bored fidgeting; his boredom threshold is very low as he himself admits.

I can’t wait to get away from Watermouth, for a change of routine mainly. I’m bored down here now, and once I realised how near the end of term is, I feel like I want it out of the way and settled. Lee and I are hitching back on Friday morning.

Everyone else, apart from Mo as far as I know, is staying down in Watermouth. Lindsey called round today but I was out at Lee’s.

John has finally moved out to his bedsit at White Deer Park and Del, who’s been trying to get fixed up with a place too, has gone back to Milton Keynes to read up for his forthcoming interview for a place at London University to do Philosophy. I like Del a lot; we’ve had some good laughs since he came down this last time.

Monday, December 12, 1983

Drudge nation


Del dropped Lee and I off at the Art College with the purloined drink in two holdalls, and within minutes we had our £20. We gave Ian a fiver and pooled the remainder in order to buy a decent second hand ciné camera for the planned Grey Triangle venture, an idea we still talk about. . . .

We left the booze in Room 312 and went off to look for somewhere to live, trailing round to two rental agencies and even scanning the window of a newsagent near Ian’s for flats. There was nothing. “We’ve not had any houses since the summer,” said the lady behind the desk, blithely, and we’re facing the prospect of spending a few weeks next term bedding down on various floors. We were very despondent until we whiled away an enjoyable hour in a games shop, admiring a Mayan style chess set. Lee pilfered a set of gaming dice and this cheered us up a bit.

We went back to the Art College and found the Combined Arts ‘party’ in full swing, a few people standing awkwardly in one room drinking and hardly talking, while the real mania was taking place down the corridor in the printing room—an impromptu disco, shaving foam everywhere, a set of screaming stumbling snogging laughing drunks covered in booze and sweat. I wasn’t drunk enough at all. Lee cleared the dance floor with a fire extinguisher and everyone reeled at the clouds of white powder.

George stayed quietly in the first room, talking softly, upright and tall like a spectre, until he, Lee and I, plus a few other people I didn’t know, left for the Bellemoor. One of the girls was from Easterby, the other—called, coincidently enough, Alison Martindale—wore leopard-print tights and had her hair tied back with a band of the same.

I talked with the girl from Easterby; something struck me as odd and neurotically intense about her wide eyed, faltering smiles. We moved on from the pub to a pizza restaurant before splitting up, Lee and I intending to go on to Ian’s and the crypts in Smith Square, but we never got there.

Sunday, December 11, 1983

Flux


Bitterly cold. It was the coldness which woke me up and, eventually, forced me out of bed. Everyone was scurrying about, cursing the freezing temperatures and trying to warm themselves on our electric fires.

Quite an idle day; little doing.

In the afternoon, Del took Barry, Pete and I out to in his car for something to eat in Watermouth. He treated us each to a meal of mixed grill and prawn cocktail with ice cream and fruit salad to finish . . . He owes the bank £400 and has been told he must not, on any account, write out another cheque. So between the four of us we totted up a £13 bill and Del wrote out another cheque . . . There was some hassle over the money and the ageing Greek waitress’s servile smiles vanished suddenly. So much for Christmas spirit. More and more I smell the stench of hypocrisy and greed at Christmas. It’s just one huge capitalist con trick.

We left feeling full, piled into Del’s Hillman Imp and he took us on a tour of Knoyldon and Woodside, where he spent the first nine years of his life. Knoyldon’s narrow winding streets and picture book facades look worthy of exploration; there’s a squat ancient church that, says Del, is linked with witchcraft at certain times of the year. It was a journey back through time for him as he was seeing these streets and schools of childhood and infancy for the first time in fourteen years. He got very quiet and sober and we could tell that the nostalgia of the moment had got to him.

As we drove he pointed out features he particularly remembered. “It’s odd how the salient memories are those concerned with death and tragedy” . . . The turn-off where Cilla Black’s niece was knocked down and killed . . . the stretch of road where a hunchback Hell’s Angel and companion collided head on with a car while overtaking a bus . . . the Ryvita factory on the hill in which a man was beheaded on his very first morning of work as he scooped to clean out a machine . . . These incidents, like marks in a book, have mapped out and particularised Del’s memories of his childhood, just as similar such events mark all our lives out as unique and special and individual to us.


There was something magical about that drive, the deepening dusk, the blue and pale world “fluxed in declining light,” something about the succession of street corners and pavements streaming past the car window, unthought of places next to lampposts and shop windows, all terribly alone and separate somehow, fragments of lives forgotten and never mattering to anyone, anywhere. So much desolation and striving. Words are just marks on a page. These things dwarf me. I’m lost for descriptions and none of it can ever be fully conveyed or captured by these cold constructions in ink. I don’t think in words and find it difficult to make them yield their meaning. But whatever their inaccuracy and shortcomings: I have to try, and have tried. These pages bear witness to the effort.

The car journey with its sudden confluence of so much memory and experience left me feeling thoughtful, thinking that maybe Nietszche is right and that history is one long retreat into nihilism, into unbelief and into blind struggle, that maybe we have to save ourselves from these numbing conclusions and useless thinking, but not by becoming blind again but by some other step maybe, into acceptance. But for me right now these are just so many words, and I feel them in the abstract if I feel them at all. One day perhaps . . ?

Pete wonders if when we’re old we’ll look back and hate ourselves because of how little we achieve. Maybe we’ll wake up in our late-‘40s, married with children and a home maybe, a lifetime of memories behind us . . . As soon as we got back Lee was walking up the road to greet us, in unrestrained and festive mood, and I plunged back into the present.

We played stud poker (for money) most of the evening and Barry and I ended the game heavily in debt, but were genially forgiven. Late we embarked on another reckless robbery attempt. We drove through steady rain to a boarded up house on Wickboure Road being used as a storehouse for Debenhams. While Del and I acted as look-outs, Lee and Barry whittled away at the putty around one of the windows with a penknife, getting most of the glass out but finding a wooden board beyond that was too much of a match, so we gave up.

Saturday, December 10, 1983

Contrast


I got up at mid-day and caught the shuttle into Watermouth, met Lee, and visited the open market looking (unsuccessfully) for a rumoured second-hand camera stall. Lee was moody and silent much of the time: we stalked about contemplating shop-lifting something from Bennington’s but we didn’t do it in the end and succeeded only in looking very suspicious.

We called in on Mo and Pete and Mo’s flat mate Oscar at Castle Mount Court and admired the view of town and sky and sea from this height, noting how all the colours and lines of Nature seemed soft and gentle, in stark contrast to the bold angularity of the buildings. On the horizon we could see Jervis golf course and the red-brick barracks of Meadspike.

I wouldn’t want to live at Castle Mount Court. I’d be worried about a fatal mentality of leisurely apathy that might result, leaving us slobbing about all day watching TV and never doing anything. . . .

Friday, December 9, 1983

Islands


I agree with the RCP's aims, if not always their methods, but this said, I need to find my own personal response to the questions they ask; I must suffer, and see all of these things; I have to do this before I could even consider joining. As an organisation, it seems to be composed of individuals who are seeking an answer to their own personal sense of alienation, lack of success, call it what you will, and who do so by immersing themselves in revolutionary brotherhood and sisterhood . . . They're all somewhat grey people who haven't managed to find happiness in the 'usual' forms and channels and have therefore opted into a new kind of society, made up of ideologues ("social misfits" as Del would call them).

It's almost as if they've chosen the Party because of what they lack, not for reasons of affirmation, intellectual clarity or boldness (as surely it should be). I put my name down yesterday as a gesture of support, to make up the required 15 members to allow the RCS to get Union funding.

"Everyone of us is an island. If it were not so we should go mad at once. Between these islands are ships, aeroplanes, telephones, wireless - what you will. But they remain islands. Islands that can sink or disappear for ever . . ."

"It is important not to betray the self," says John Fowles through one of his characters in The Magus. I feel like a commitment to the RCP would be just that: a self-betrayal. I must work it out, live it, and do it all for myself. And no one else can do this for me.

Late yesterday afternoon, Lee and Ian went back to plunder the cellars of the empty pub, bringing back another forty eight cans of Carling Black Label which they are going to give to the Combined Arts party at the Art College on Monday in exchange for £20.00. They called round at about teatime and Ian spent the evening playing about with Barry’s synth. We got quite drunk and by the time Barry and Trevor showed up we were slumped drowsily in my room listening to records, all the lights off save that from the electric fire. Although Ian was fairly drunk he didn’t seem any different to his usual, quiet self. I fell asleep on my floor at 5 a.m. leaving Ian and Barry talking about something or other, and when I woke up I was cold and uncomfortable and it was 9 a.m.: Lee and Ian were sleeping on my bed.

I went back to bed after they’d left & finally got up at six to find Lindsey and Stu in Pete’s room, Lindsey in particular hardly speaking, a brief glance at me from under her hair, but not a word. . . .

I feel pissed off, very low and somehow overcome by the effort of having to communicate and talk with people, knowing that I never can or will be able to adequately do so. Lee saved me from myself by showing up: we are holed up in my room being very unsociable and waiting until everyone leaves.

Thursday, December 8, 1983

Circumstance


Today has been a miserable struggle through wind and incessant downpour: snow has been predicted in the next few days. I slogged to and fro on the mundane errands I had set myself, huddled and bent against the sodden skies.

I put my name down for the newly-formed Revolutionary Communist Society, which Lindsey and Liddy have organised. There are eleven people interested, mainly second, third and fourth years. I signed on the dotted line with mixed feelings. Some would say ‘why sign at all?,’ if this is my attitude, but it can’t do any harm to participate in the promised reading groups . . . I don’t want to commit myself to marches, demos and paper sales I’m not prepared to give that sort of 100%.

The term is finished – things have been winding slowly down in the usual inexorable way for a week now . . . This is my problem: I’m trapped within circumstance and allow myself to just drift through life, without seizing hold of chances. Too often I’m dictated to by circumstances. This was the premise put forward to me when I went to see Don Carwardine to get my end of term report.

I received a 2/3 for ‘Romanticism,’ and a 4 from Ted Coates for ‘Black Americans.’ The latter slated me for my lack of participation in the seminar, a failure to follow ideas through and persistent absenteeism and lateness. Mr. C’s report dwelt on my lack of drive in his tutorials; he said that too often I sit back and seem to let others do the work, and when I do make contributions I won’t (or can’t) elaborate on them further. He also said I was reserved, with an attitude that was “not quite laid-back, and not quite good old diffidence” . . . It was somewhere in between, and he used a particular word that I can’t now remember, but it struck me as odd that I couldn’t see these traits for myself. I thought I’d made quite a fair contribution in his tutorials, and so his comments were all the more surprising. He likened getting information from me to getting blood from a stone, and as he spoke I remembered Mr. Ingham’s sixth form report comment about my “lack of ambition.”

Afterwards, Lee and I expropriated more products from the cruel grip of the bosses (ha); two torches from Sainsbury’s, and a book on ‘Modern Music’ from the University bookshop.

Today too I finally severed myself from all possibility of going to University in America. I went to see the Dean, Mr. Hass, and I told him briefly of my money situation. He listened silently, nodding his assent occasionally and opening his mouth only to ask the infrequent question in a trace of a Germanic accent. He said he'd write a letter to all the people that mattered and notify me of my release. I came away from that room knowing my future course for the next eighteen months at least.

Yesterday I wrote and sent a letter to Mum and Dad reassuring them again about the bloodied clothes and sending a photo' of Lee as evidence. When I got back from University a letter waited from Dad, which was much more cheerful and gay in tone than his last; it cheered me up to read it.

Wednesday, December 7, 1983

Simply sound


Last night a few people were invited to Mo's at Castle Mount Court and we all sat about dumbly, watching TV. John found it amusing that Liddy Rees was ignoring him and that she has, supposedly, recently tried to 'embarrass' him in front of others. He tried to chat up Lindsey and received a curt "You're rude, you are" in reply.

I bought an LP of C20th piano music (Webern, Schöenberg, Copland, McCabe etc.) . . . I can’t wait to listen to it. There’s a big new world out there—new to me at least—just waiting to be tapped, and now the stifling world of ‘pop’ music and NME conventional alternatives etc. seems insufferably narrow and unsatisfying if taken solely on its own. There seems a progression here; from my 16-year old salad-days of Santana and 'jazz-rock' I gained a love of jazz and through this I listened to more people like Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, '65-on era John Coltrane, Art Ensemble of Chicago, then via The Fall into the more traumatic experimentation of bands like Whitehouse, Nurse With Wound, Psychic TV.

Now this.

The barriers break down in all this music and right at its very extremes categorisation becomes impossible; it’s simply sound . . .

Tuesday, December 6, 1983

Sunken paths


“You're into the occult now, aren't you, Paul? Even you've got to have something to believe in . . .” This said to me in a half-mocking, taunting tone by John Turney (who returned last night), in response to tales of Lee, Ian and I and the crypt, etc.

Being around Ian and co. has brought sunken paths of interest to the surface again, bright and fresh. I'm eager—so eager—to explore them.

We left Ian and George discussing Cage and their performance and the directionless feel being in Watermouth has given them. They say that here there’s no context in which to act, unlike in London. Ian said he has friends up there who haven't even bothered to go to College and yet do a lot more than he does. “I seem to be drifting into nothing . . .” George agreed in his quiet, bird-like way—Lee likes him a good deal—and said he feels his last two years in Watermouth have been wasted in a way. I listened and was aware of how my horizons could open out immensely if I just look and travel in the right direction . . . I’d never even heard of Cage before yesterday.

I've always had a (secret) regard for the modern compositions sometimes featured on Radio 3, and I often write down the titles and composers, with a view to looking them up. . . .

Monday, December 5, 1983

Thelema


At about teatime, Lee and I finally plucked up the courage to go back down the crypts of the demolished St. Catherine’s in Smith Square. We decided to go to Ian’s first, to ask him if he wanted to come with us, so we three crept back down into that dank, black evil-smelling place to look around.

To read of these simple facts sounds quite macabre, but I was able to distance myself sufficiently from proceedings not to be overcome by revulsion/horror etc. . . (Later Lindsey asked me “why did you do it?” I was lost for an off-pat answer. I don’t really know why. Curiosity perhaps?). Intellectual resolve apart, I still found it difficult to escape totally the conditioned reflexes, the feeling of fear and loathing where death and dead things are concerned.

The spook-stories of ghosts and the dead rising laid a hand upon my mind and put me in a nervous, morbid mood. It’s probably unhealthy to immerse myself in the iconography and feeling of Death and dying to an obsessive degree. There’s much in this world that’s light and carefree, but much too that’s dark and troubling. Death hangs over all of us like a cloud all our lives, and the reality of it happening to us is inconceivable. The mind, even when it does manage those brief glimpses into the Reality of our own End, sends us into a state of blank fear. As a kid I used to experience the sheer, unimaginable horror of contemplating my own nullity, my own non-existence.

It was while we were poking about near Emily Newburgh’s coffin that both Ian and I heard a female voice call out Ian’s name – “Ian Croppy” (‘Croppy’ being his nickname), or was it, “Ian, drop it”? It sounded as if it’d come from outside and at first we thought it was one of his flatmates come to play a prank, but when we re-emerged, there was no-one to be seen. We both heard it quite distinctly, just once. Psycho-suggestion? Coincidence? The rational explanation must lie with one of the latter, but nevertheless, it was quite intriguing. I was more curious than scared, although if I’d thought of it a little thrill of fear would soon have set my heart thudding furiously. Was this my first ‘psychic’ experience?

We went back to Ian's and eventually Lee's friend George turned up. He’s tall and quiet, his voice a humble, almost inaudible whisper. He’d come to discuss with Ian a performance they’ve planned for Tuesday 13th December at the Art College, something musical involving the use of drones  spare piano. John Cage played on a nearby cassette-recorder, beautiful, haunting, unsmiling . . .

George talked about Morton Feldman. His favourite word seemed to be “interesting,” which he used to show his fascination with an idea and its possibilities . . . “Mmmm . . . . That’s very interesting,” this breathed softly, bird-like, as he sat awkwardly on a chair in the middle of the room.

Ian is reading Alesteir Crowley and I looked up said author in the University library, but all the books were out, every one. Fashion . . .

We may have a couple of contacts with people who want to move in. We're going to invite them round on Wednesday evening and spruce the place up sufficiently to deceive them into thinking that this really is a decent place to live.

This morning it was so cold I stayed in bed as long as possible.

Sunday, December 4, 1983

Saturday, December 3, 1983

Sozialistisches Patienten Kollektiv


I got up late today and this evening Lindsey and I went to see SPK at Watermouth College. There weren’t very many people there, perhaps two hundred, and SPK themselves didn’t come on until after ten o’clock.

They only played for half-an-hour or so and had all the expected industrial paraphernalia of blow-torches, circular saws, lengths of exhaust pipe, metal tubing and chains, plus two oil drums they used for percussion. The lead singer wore a slinky black dress unzipped right to the thigh at each side, and occasionally she would join in with the assorted beating and clatter of metal on metal, inexpertly wielding a length of exhaust and letting it fall onto one of the oil drums in an imperfect rhythm.

Various black and white ‘20s & ‘30s films were projected as a backdrop and these were actually more interesting than the band at times, although I quite enjoyed the show, especially when the flames of the blow-torch were played into the audiences faces and a metal frame was thrown off stage.

After the concert had finished Lindsey tried to climb on stage and filch the heavy chain which the band had been using, but she was stopped by stage-crew. So she slipped backstage and got a piece of exhaust pipe instead which she gave to me as a souvenir.

As I walked home I was punched in the face by a gang of drunks but couldn’t do anything as there were six or seven of them to just one of me. . . .

This has put me in a black mood.

Friday, December 2, 1983

Black label


Evening saw most of us at a party on Marion Place, at the same house as before. This time the place was not so crowded and Lee was there too, doing his anti-social bit, falling into the packed crowds and tripping others up. “What is Lee on?” someone asked. “How much has he drunk?” To both questions I could quite honestly reply, “Nothing.” Lindsey was there too, in a shortish black dress.

A glass pane in the front door was smashed by gatecrashers who were refused entry, and Barry and Pete were cut, so a few of us piled out and did our threatening machismo bit on the street corner, face-to-face with a gang of rockabillies.

We got home at four a.m., stopping by the derelict pub on Meadspike Road on the way. Amazingly, we found loads of booze in the cellars, so we made two trips, Lee and Barry descending into the darkness while Pete and I kept watch. The three or four bags we had with us were handed up full of clanking bottles and we struggled proudly up Windmill Ave. bearing ninety six cans of Carling Black Label and Breaker’s Lager, fifteen bottles of cider, and half a dozen bottles of Guinness and Tennent’s Export, plus three party cans of bitter.

We whooped and jumped about like kids when we got it all inside, making a pile in Pete’s room to admire. Free booze until New Year. We are getting dangerously adept at this sort of thing.

Thursday, December 1, 1983

Words abandon us


2:30 a.m. I am at Lee’s now, sitting at the table in his tiny room, preparing to write an essay for Mr. Carwardine on Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and this time I’m determined to see it through. Lee sleeps, his face expressionless, almost deathly it is so inanimate and unlike his waking, speaking self. All’s quiet save for an occasional car and the noise of late-night revelers returning home.

8:03 a.m. I’ve just now completed and copied up my essay—“Poet as Prometheus: Some Thoughts, with Reference to Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound.” It took me four hours to write, two hours to copy up and is five sides in length. It isn’t very good. Words on a page. I could spend a lifetime studying the works of the Romantic writers. “We are on that verge where words abandon us, and what wonder if we grow dizzy to look down the dark abyss of how little we know” (Shelley, “On Life”).

How little I know, how little I will ever know. A lifetime of bookishness wouldn’t suffice to fill in all those blank areas in my mind, and of course such a life would never do. How much time I waste on the unnecessary routines of life. As I toiled I was lucky enough to witness the brightening of the sky, the moon a thin crescent, its darkened portion glowing faintly with the reflected light of the gibbous earth . . . a bright, unfaltering star (Venus?) a few degrees above. Lee slept and will never see those things I saw. I’m as bright and fresh as if I’d just got up. Not tired at all. A new day awaits and I never fail to feel the promise and potential of such.

Evening: When Lee woke up I set out with him to the Art College. I dumped my things there and wandered round town, slipping slowly into a weary despondency. We had a look at the second hand electrical shop near Maynard Park but the only ciné cameras for sale were two three lens types, one of which had two lenses missing. I bought a belt from New Lycroft Army Surplus shop near the train station and Lee pinched a canvas hold-all outside the door for me while I kept the assistants busy. It would’ve cost £6 to buy so I gave Lee my great-coat in exchange (he'd also pinched £6-worth of doll’s furniture for his photographic emulsion experiments from Bennington’s earlier).

After getting the bag I felt very jumpy and nervous so I made my way to the University and met everyone in the library café. A grim evening in the Cellar, watching Aguirre, Wrath of God and having a dismal drink in the Town & Gown.

I came home to bed, leaving everyone else to travel into Watermouth to the pub.

Wednesday, November 30, 1983

In the dark


Out of bed and shivering at two-thirty this afternoon: I’ve got another essay to write for Mr. Carwardine and Frankenstein and The Ancient Mariner to read too.

There was a letter waiting for me from Dad. He spent half-a-dozen pages telling me of Mum’s Sunday morning discovery in the outhouse of the bundle of blood-stained clothing Lee wore for his trussed-up corpse imitation back in September. This turned Mum quite ashen-faced and they’ve been on “tenterhooks” ever since, waiting for a fateful knock on the door—the stabbing at Harvey's last winter, plus the bundle of bloodied rags, seemed too much of a coincidence for Dad: "Your uncommunicative attitude, during parts of the summer, can be possibly seen with a damning clarity now, if I’m right. If I’m wrong, then the peculiarity of the situation becomes even more sinister . . ."

As I reread the letter, I couldn’t quite believe the implications of what Dad was saying—it gives me an odd feeling to think this—but on reflection too it’s quite amusing, knowing of the real story behind those ripped and bloody trousers and shirt. Dad said he’d leave the next move to me in case a hasty action “brings down a hornet’s nest about our ears; and by ‘our,’ I mean you and I and your Mum and Rob and Andrew . . .”

He obviously expects some kind of confession from me. I rang them and told them the truth. Dad sounded grim and I can’t help thinking he didn’t quite believe my garbled explanation, so next time I write I’ll enclose some of Lee’s photos as proof.

A cheque for £70 was in the envelope too, which will relieve my financial crisis a little. ‘Crisis’ is the only word to use; I got a note from Midland Bank today saying “we would not expect to see any increase to your overdraft” (of £178.10)—actually nearer £220 as I write this. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I can’t complain as it is purely self-inflicted

It’s dusk once more – daylight goes so quickly – I’m sick of the dark.

We’ve got to get out of here.

Tuesday, November 29, 1983

Psychic sacrifice


I tried to stay up and work last night but succumbed to sleep at 4 a.m. The day taken up with tutorials and spending money. I went round to Maynard Gardens to meet Lee but he was out, so I wandered around the record shops, bought Thee Psychick Sacrifice by Throbbing Gristle and went to a housing agency with Guy. When I called back at Maynard Gardens Lee was there; he showed me a four-minute film he’s made with his Yashica 8-E of the Moulin Rouge on TV and footage of the wobbling handlebars and pedals shot while riding his bike.

In the evening he and I met Juliet and Guy and had a drink with them and Barry in the Red Deer. Lindsey turned up later, and I must admit I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I wonder what Del told her?

I came back to Jervis Terrace and the damp air and cold chaos of the flat almost makes me regret it. John and Del have gone, the former to London, D. to Milton Keynes.

Monday, November 28, 1983

Grey triangle


A brief resumé of my movements to date; I haven’t slept in my bed for two nights and I’m still at Lee’s. I spend the nights on his floor which is a little hard but not too bad. This is how much 44A Jervis Terrace has affected me. . . .

Yesterday, at about seven, Lee and I went to Mo’s birthday party at Livingstone’s. We didn’t feel like going at all but turned up for Mo’s sake. John and Del were in an exuberant, amusing mood, John even more so as he said he’d scored the previous evening with Liddy, which surprised me as I didn’t think her susceptible to the Turney blitzkrieg tactics. “I’m a man, you’re a woman; let’s go to bed” was how he won her over, or at least that’s what he told me.

Del tried it on with Lindsey but got nowhere and told me that they’d instead spent two hours talking about me. “I did a good job for you. . . .” Of John and Liddy, Lindsey said, “her side of the story is not the same as his,” but I was drunk by this time and can’t remember what else we talked about, though it wasn’t for long. I didn’t say much all evening and spent the longest time talking with Inga’s friend Ebbe about her impressions of England and the English.

Ian was there, and Mick too, but we didn’t talk much. Ian exudes a superficial air of mystery and the bizarre that’s dispelled the more you get to know him. He said that when Barry, Lee and I interrupted he and Mick the other night they were on their way to set fires in the crypt, dressing this act of destruction in ritualistic talk.

The latter half of the evening turned into a fragmented whirl of half-remembered impressions; trying to stand and having the world spin crazily around me, retching among the bins and rubbish outside a club, Del and Lee pouring cold water over my head to sober me up . . . With drunkenness came silence, and I was quiet for the cab journey back to Lee’s Residence Halls.

I slept until three today, so ate breakfast as the sun was setting, although only the pink tinge of the clouds betrayed this fact. Lee has gone out on his bike for some more food. It’s nearly midnight; a German film plays to itself on the TV, the sound turned down so the images flicker silently across the grey screen.

Lee and I have come up with a symbol for our film project, a grey triangle, the mark given by the Nazis to ‘anti-social’ elements who were interned at Dachau—tramps, vagrants and the like. Lee even intends sewing the grey triangle on all his clothes to reinforce his stance of ‘new Puritanism’ that he plans on unleashing in all its ascetic glory at the new year . . . A thread of continuity uniting so many (possible) things, a banner under which to rally and to leave people guessing.

I’ll be tolerably pleased if I even manage to commit one idea to celluloid, for I’m very lazy and let myself down so often . . . It’s important I get a really fine place to live.

Sunday, November 27, 1983

I am Here and it is Now


Our plan to hand in our notice and move out has been met with a demand from Colin, Crown Racing’s minion, that we can leave only on the condition that we find someone else to move in. “You signed a contract until June 30th” etc., etc. I've put a few notices up around campus advertising our hell-hole, but if that fails then we’ll simply leave and, if Crown Racing’s boys complain, we’ll get in the Health and Rent Assessment people.

The icing on the cake, which we first noticed the other day, is the steady plip-plip of water dripping through the hallway ceiling on to the carpet. They must know that in the flat’s present state, they’ll have a hell of a job getting 3 other mugs to accept such squalour and deprivation. I can’t understand the apathy and stagnation that’s let us stay there for as long as we have, with scarcely a word of complaint.

Lee and I’s latest scheme is to buy another cine camera, splicer, reel-to-reel tape machine etc, and make films. But like so many of my intentions, this one will probably never reach full fruition. Like a caterpillar with genetic defects, it will emerge as a butterfly without wings, a thing of potential worth disfigured by an inherent disease. Another year will no doubt find me sadly (and with real regret) adding this plan to the growing list of ‘might have beens.’

I’m the singer without a voice.


I’ve been reading a section in From Blake to Byron on the Romantic diarists and ‘men-of-letters’ that makes me reflect on the pedestrian banality of everything I write here . . . ‘I am here and it is Now’; this “must be central to any worthwhile diary, and it is not an effect achieved by accident, but by an unerring choice of the right words and a rigorous exclusion of unessentials.”

I note this down to remind myself of everything this writing isn’t; there’s too much of “I was” and not enough of “I am.” My trouble is one of perspective: I fail to realise the larger whole because of an obsessive concentration on the unnecessary—and, in future years, boring—minutiae of who met whom, where and when, etc. Pepys wrote out rough drafts of his diary entries, but I’ve never done this because I approach writing this diary with a sloppy frame of mind, and as a result this ‘epic’ struggle is neither one thing nor another; it’s too poorly written and overrun with weary, hackneyed expressions to be anything other than a daily record of my daily movements and immaturities of mind, and it’s too formally composed and constrained by the page and an idea to be truly Spontaneous or the kind of experiential notebook I want it to be.

Sometimes I think I have reached a certain spontaneity (last Easter’s “Outsider” kick, my ‘salad days’ of Kerouackian word-flow crap, etc.), but I think I need to sort out in my mind where I aim to go (if anywhere) with this idea of keeping a diary. The first tiny but necessary step will be to opt for writing on unlined paper; this will help ‘loosen up’ the way I write and think too. I do this not to try craft this into some great Art-work (I won’t ever be great in this sense), but simply to advance into the habit of recording sights, sounds, smells, sensations and the merest flickers of thought that mark out one day from the next, perhaps with a view (god knows how) to using these at some future date. Is this too much to expect?

‘I am here and it is Now.’ It’s approaching eleven o’clock on a dry but bleak and cloudy autumn morning. I’ve set out all my books before me and I have to get a second and final essay for Mr. Carwardine over & done with by evening (on Keats’ Hyperion and Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound). Lee snoozes quietly on his bed, although he’s supposed to be writing an essay on the Victorians and death. We’ve talked about a trip to Highgate already, but we’ve yet to put pen to paper.

“Who alive can say,
'Thou art no Poet may'st not tell thy dreams?'
Since every man whose soul is not a clod
Hath visions, and would speak, if he had loved
And been well nurtured in his mother tongue.”

Saturday, November 26, 1983

Penthouse plasticity


I finished the required work at about midnight last night; the essay mostly bullshit and empty hyperbole, but it didn’t turn out as poorly as I’d feared.

The heavens opened all day. Barry and I met Lee in Watermouth and we bought Mo a birthday present, a wicker shopping basket on pram wheels. We delivered it to her new address, 42A Castle Mount Court, a fourth floor flat in a new block ascending darkly into the mist, all lit with the glow from balconied windows. The flat that had inspired Barry to such enthusiastic praise disappointed me; although it’s undoubtedly comfortable and warm, it seems to lack the kind of personality that Ian’s place has—penthouse plasticity—although the view is impressive.

Pete has stayed with Mo since she moved in . . . Barry is full of noisy enthusiasm for the idea of moving into the three bedroom flat which is on the floor below Mo’s.

We left to go deliver invites for Mo’s party to Ian and co., and encountered them striding purposefully along Stoneways Road carrying firewood, candles and a cassette player, destined for the catacombs in Smith Square. They hardly gave us a second glance, a disinterested aside to Lee as they swept past with a remote air. So while Ian and Mick descended into the bowels of the earth, we partook of the pleasures of the living across the road.

Despondency, weary talk. I can’t face the cold, dirty misery of our prison, so I’m sleeping on Lee’s floor again.

Friday, November 25, 1983

Transmission


John, Del and Pete went with Mo last night to help her move her stuff into her new place, and when the time came for them to leave, Pete was upset because Mo wasn’t coming home with him and their spell of living together had ended . . . so he stayed at her place last night . . . I didn’t stay up last night and I struggle now with the beginnings of an essay on Wordsworth, which I must hand in today.

A power failure at twelve and we were in darkness and silence for twenty minutes. Apparently a substation in New Lycroft had blown up and plunged the entire area as far as Brighton into a murky twilight.

The Fall were on The Tube tonight. It was so funny watching the audience of pseuds lost as to a reaction, some of them trying to dance and succeeding only in making total fools of themselves, others just standing about bored, trying to look interested.

Their new album should be out soon.
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