Saturday, June 25, 1983


I woke up just in time to bid a lumpy goodbye to Shelley and Susie, who were catching the same train. Shelley's coming back on Monday, but Susie is off for good. They kissed Barry and I. Shelley said she “hates goodbyes.”

We loaded our stuff out into the corridor and then into the van and made the first trip. It took us ages to unload and when we got back to campus an hour later, Gareth and Stu and most of the rest had gone too. Lindsey kissed me on the cheek and climbed into her Mum’s car.

Gone. The source of so much heartache for me disappeared with hardly a word between us.

Wollstonecraft Hall seemed a stranger now and I walked its empty silent corridors for one last time. It wasn't a home any more, just a ‘residence’ again, a building with 120 empty rooms in which so many people lived eight months of their lives. So much happened to us all here, but it's a closing book; I couldn’t help being sad.

We piled the remainder of our stuff outside, mostly Pete’s stuff, boxes and bags full of what seemed like junk. Another two trips did it, Pete and I sharing a taxi with the porter Doris.

And so the campus-era of my life ended.

The flat was filthy and smelly and we were all angry at the previous renters for leaving it in such a shitty state. There’s damp in the middle bed room, the kitchen has been left half-painted and is just generally filthy and dirt-ridden, the sitting room ceiling sags in one corner, the staircase is damp and peeling, the window frames are swollen, cracked, and falling apart, and there are shabby orange synthetic curtains in all the windows that are too short for the height of the frame. Five of us are sleeping here over the weekend, including Mo and Guy.

Outside, the street corners were filled with shoals of lads from the nearby estates in loafers and pleated Farrahs.

We all went out to Watermouth for a dismal drink in The Frigate and no one had any money and we all noticed how different it seemed, somehow less welcoming as if we no longer belonged. We ended up at our new local, The Jervis Arms, a fine old pub with a high bar and ancient wooden tables, bare and unpretentious. Barry and Pete tried to work out the bar billiards.

When we got back late it was late and we sat in the shabby front bedroom, the largest room in the flat, and aired our grievances. I said I wished we’d looked round more thoroughly before accepting a year here and how annoyed and disappointed I was. Barry seemed happy enough although Pete too was a bit pissed off.

“I feel sorry for you because you’ve been swindled,” was Guy’s last comment before we all turned in.

Friday, June 24, 1983

Never far away

I had vivid dreams and superb sensations in my body overnight and when I woke up I felt really odd. Stu still sat in paralyzed silence in Gareth’s room, a bemused grin on his face, occasionally smiling self-consciously, and there he remained all day.

Shelley’s parents were around and they spent the morning and early afternoon helping Shelley and Penny ferry their stuff across to their new flat at 6, Jubilee Street, before they all went into Watermouth. I felt weird and miserable, an end of term mood clinging to everyone and everything.

I desperately tried to sort out my stuff but my room degenerated into a heap of boxes, rubbish and clothes, with books everywhere. It took me hours, and I felt ready to crumple and give up, but gradually managed to sort my stuff out into relevant heaps.

At seven I went up to the Town and Gown with Lindsey, Susie, Barry, Gareth, Mike and Shelley, but the blight of stilted awkwardness settled itself upon me and I could only manage dry and uninspired conversations. We ended up at the Cellar, Shelley carefree and laughy and looking forward I think to her summer in Watermouth. I had a few limp words with people, but the darkness and gloom was never far away.

Shelley began to talk to some flash blond bloke with ‘Phil’ sewn into the top pocket of his shirt and she was all smiles and breathless wide-eyed attention. I felt black and walked back to Wollstonecraft in a dark mood . . . Barry stumbled into my room pissed and collapsed onto the floor groaning, slurring that “Shelley has copped off with some bloke and disappeared,” but about ten minutes later she returned.

She was in a good humour. “You all expected me to spend the night in Rousseau Hall—I don’t know him well enough—his name’s Phil; he’s alright,” she told us,  before she vanished into her room with Lindsey and Susie.

I followed. They were eating chicken Shelley’s Mum had brought. I apologised and felt better. After all, what has it got to do with me?

Thursday, June 23, 1983

The stars that play . . .

I got my report, a 3 from Miriam and a 3 / 4 from Coates. Disappointing. I felt very subdued all day. Most other people got 2s and 3s. Shelley got two 2s and was beaming: “He said I could’ve got two 1s.”

After soccer outside, Pete and I went to see Cheryl and Cathy (our sub-letters), and sorted out the details. They both gave us cheques for £64.

In the evening, while a few people went over to Westdorgan Park to watch a Dramatic Society performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stu and I went to Rousseau in search of acid. Nothing doing, but later we went back with Gareth to get some STP: again, no luck.

Eventually though, we scrounged a tab from someone, drew lots to decide who’d take it, and I won. Stu and I downed half-a-tab each and he promptly fell asleep, so I went and laid on my bed. When I woke up a few hours later, Stu had taken another half-a-tab and sat in Gareth’s room in speechless silence. He was going through what I’d gone through with Pete and then Patrick and co.: self-consciousness verging on paranoia, and blurted, stumbling sentences.

I went back to bed.

Wednesday, June 22, 1983

Almost a drag

I spent the afternoon typing up a contract for the sub-letting, cobbling it together with wordy rhetoric I dreamed up and paragraphs copied from our original contract with Crown Racing. As I did this Susie and Shelley listened to Yvonne tell tales of nude night-time frolics in the sea.

Throughout the day, Guy kept asking me to go down to the coffee shop with him and pestered me with suggestions about what we are going to do in the evening. Now that Barry was gone it seems he's turned to me for succor. It was almost a drag at times.

In the evening we found ourselves in the bar with Shelley, Susie, Gareth and co. Guy annoyed S. and S. by rudely dismissing and ignoring them; Shelley, in low persuasive voice, cajoled me into going with she and Susie to Miles Beattie’s party in Watermouth.

Guy came along too.

We got a train to Wessex Road, then a taxi to the party at some forgotten address, where we passed the time sitting upstairs on the landing outside the toilet. I got a bit drunk. Downstairs in the kitchen I had a mock-fight with Mike Ritchie, attacking him with a plastic bottle & getting drenched in water.

I moaned and grumbled, feeling cold and sorry for myself. The way my mind works! I tramped the miles back to University in a gloom of despair and tender feelings.

Tuesday, June 21, 1983


I spent the day in New Lycroft searching out contracts for sub-letting. No success. I did actually buy a contract but discovered on the train platform that it was the wrong kind, so I was an hour late to my prearranged rendezvous with Pete at Crown Racing on Old Priory Road. He was inside paying the rent when I got there; we got everything sorted out and wandered back through Westdorgan Park in the sweltering heat.

We dropped in on an American Studies end of year party in the bar of the Millikin Arts Centre; Pete and I cased up the adjacent gallery while the drinking and genteel chatting burbled on downstairs until Guy arrived and we walked across to the Town and Gown.

The French-windows were open so people could sit out on the grass and we sat there drinking and watching Brenda, our forty-something but still glamorous and (desperately) fashionable school-secretary flirting with, then openly groping, being groped by and finally snogging, several bronzed student-types. We couldn’t believe our eyes.

Pete scored speed from some bloke in the Millikin Centre toilets and we sat snorting it in his battered Renault in the car park while all around us people enjoyed the fine evening. The melodrama of the situation appealed to me. Afterwards we retired to Wollstonecraft and thence to Westway Loop Bar where I talked with Shelley and Carl Cotton (down again to do the RCP stall with Barry). I found him unexpectedly easy to talk to.

Guy, Pete and I ended up catching the tail-end of a party in Wilberforce where Pete and I spent the night chatting to a girl called Doreen who, in eight months, I’d never once seen around campus. We left her asleep sitting up in bed and tracked down Guy over at Fabian’s where he was wrapped up in a conversation that had been going on for hours—the usual speed-inspired fluxes of enthusiasm and awareness of spontaneous joy, knife-edges of excitement, tingling and pulsing down through my legs.

Monday, June 20, 1983

And this day

Summer is here: the sun beats down from a clear sky and this afternoon all I could muster up the energy to do was lounge about on the grass outside the coffee shop with Fabian, Guy and Barry. Later Shelley and I sprawled near the cafeteria for a couple of hours before we wandered back to Wollstonecraft and I played the now regular five-a-side football match outside on the grass.

In the evening we went up the Town and Gown. Barry has found three girls who want a place over the summer and we bumped into them in the bar. We made a fairly firm arrangement to sublet our rooms to them until October.

After this was more or less settled I felt a shade disappointed that I’d rejected the opportunity to live down here over summer, but on the whole I was glad to avoid the expense this would entail. Shelley was very quiet as we sat there and seemed pissed off. She isn’t looking forward to spending three months down here by herself.

We got back to Wollstonecraft at eleven and I was all of a gloom once more. I lounged with S. in her room, joined occasionally by Barry or Guy or Pete. She was in a depressed state and took six paracetamol and as we talked she gradually slipped into sleep.

“I don’t know anything about you” she said, starting to sound just like Rowan used to. Bound up by the gloom of the prevailing mood as we both were she said that her life was going to be an awful mess one day. . . .

I hardly said a word, and left for bed at 3 a.m.

Sunday, June 19, 1983

Cat and mouse

This journal has slipped since Easter. We went out for the usual daily game of football on the grass beside Wollstonecraft Hall and my side lost 19-20. Now the hot weather is here all the girls go about in flimsy loose fitting things. It's distracting.

I’ve just this minute (just before midnight) finished Günter Grass’s Cat and Mouse about school boy Joachim Mahlke who turns into an almost legendary half-clown, half-hero figure and returns to school a war-hero. Then he deserts and hides in the half-submerged wreck of a Polish minesweeper which, years before, he’d made into his own personal preserve.

It’s an odd book. I can’t quite make out what, if anything, is being said.

Saturday, June 18, 1983


More of the same. A heavy uninspired afternoon inside with Susie in my room listening to the Velvet Underground while everyone else played football.

In the evening, everyone went out to a party in the Cellar. Stu and I stayed behind and kicked the ball about. Then we sat at the back of Wollstonecraft beneath the stars and talked about science fiction. I got to thinking about my old astronomy fixation of years ago, and how I used to get so lost in sci-fi stories and transported away, wrapped up in the sheer fantasy of it all. There was nothing quite like those nights spent in the deck chair in the back garden, face turned skywards to the icy star-strewn wastes above.

I got quite nostalgic about it.

We got back to our corridor to find Shelley in a fury at Barry and Guy who’d picked her to pieces down at the Cellar. She was fuming, calling them “pathetic, childish, pretentious.” Barry, in one of his usual pedantic moods no doubt, had seized on everything little thing she said and equated her defence of the right of the people at the Cellar to enjoy themselves to Hitler’s gassing of the Jews. I could well imagine the scene—Barry’s refusal to be seen as wrong, his superiority complex, backed up by Guy’s willing cynicism and put-downs.

She was pretty upset and angry at their attitude and came out with some dark threats and curses. I could see Guy framed in Gareth’s orange-lit window.

Friday, June 17, 1983

Humanities B

My final tutorial with Miriam today means I'm virtually finished with this term’s work.

I was actually going to miss the tutorial and was on my way into Watermouth with Guy when we bumped into Brenda who told us she’d only read sixty pages of Sister Carrie—I’d read three times as much—so after hearing this I reluctantly turned back.

We held the first half of the tutorial sitting in the grass outside Humanities B, but retreated inside when it turned cloudy and cold. Miriam had a go at us for not working hard enough. She said that our group has been the first in her fourteen years at Watermouth who’ve not worked moderately well during their first year.

Alan Draper is disappointed with the standards of students here too and thinks they just don’t compare with those at Euphoria State. Miriam warned us that we’ll get one hell of a shock if we go to America expecting an easy time of it, and if we fail the year abroad academically we will not be readmitted to Watermouth for the final year.

Thursday, June 16, 1983


I got a letter today from Mum and Dad which included my deposit account number so that I can transfer money into my current account. Mum added a note to the end of Dad’s oddly uninspired news, saying that it was “a shame” that I had to “get tied up with a flat at this stage.”

They want me to go to with them to Calverdale in late July. I long for a change of scenery; this puts me in a grey mood from time to time. I went down to the accommodation office to see about sub-letting my room in the flat over the summer.

Wednesday, June 15, 1983

Dead like Sunday

The week sails by indifferently enough and I labour under a real pall of boredom and claustrophobia. Every day feels dull and dead like a Sunday; we sit dumbly around sighing in one another's rooms or occasionally playing football outside, which is one of the few enjoyable group activities left.

The end of term offers no respite. Occasionally I feel optimistic, but occasionally too I’ve been struck with a real sense of depression.

Tuesday, June 14, 1983

Taste of doubt

I started my essay on The Awakening at about nine in the morning after staying up all night, and finally finished it around one in the afternoon

After this, Guy and I went to the betting shop, Crown Racing, on Old Priory Road so I could get the flat contracts signed. We walked back through Westdorgan Park in bright hot sun. Beyond the University, the landscape unfolds in idyllic scenes of trees and gently rolling park land, and although it just doesn’t appeal to me like the Yorkshire hills and dales do, it’s still as good as anything the South can offer.

Carl Cotton and an RCP friend were down from London to help Barry with the bookstall. When he’s with the RCP clique, Barry behaves very differently: he adopts a stonier and less equable attitude towards us and this place, and he withdraws into political talk. I’m never comfortable discussing politics with him, because sometimes my conscience is pricked and more often than not, this leaves the taste of doubt in my mouth.

Monday, June 13, 1983


I got into a panic over the outstanding essays for my major and so planned to stay up all night.

I bought ¼ gramme of speed from Stu, but I'm spending the night in that flush of grave enthusiasm speed always gives me, talking over-seriously about the summer with Gareth, Shelley and Guy. Shelley's staying up all night too,

Sunday, June 12, 1983

X-ray frogs

My carefully laid plans to write an essay dissolved when Barry, Patrick and Mike came into my room. “Shall we do the acid?” Barry asked me, and for an instant I was seized with an agony of indecision, a straight choice between my responsible, essay writing self and the pleasure seeking, idle self.

But the tiny snips of card were there lined up on the chair arm, a half each for Barry and the others, a whole tab for me, which I’ve been religiously saving for a day like this. I threw myself over the edge and swallowed the tab along with everyone else.

I lay on my bed reading Invisible Man and waited for the effects to take hold. Barry and co. disappeared outside to play football and as I waited, I tried to objectively assess what was happening to me. It was an odd sensation, almost like I was losing awareness of specific details of the walls of the room and the bed on which I lay. Instead, I felt an odd, blurry vibrancy and awareness of the things around me.

The threesome returned, sweaty and out of breath but in a sort of hysterical frame of mind: within minutes the room had dissolved into shuddering laughter, our faces smeared with tears as we rolled helplessly about. We just couldn’t help ourselves. Total pandemonium as we flopped about in my room, crumbling into bouts of laughter as we found an election leaflet featuring the toad-like visage of Reg Castle, Labour candidate for Watermouth and New Lycroft.

Everything and anything was enough to bring on fresh fits of helpless laughter, much to the bemusement of Shawn, Shelley, Pete and Mo who, on separate occasions, came and stood watching or sat with us. I was intensely aware of Pete’s awkwardness and forced-smile embarrassment.  I sat dumbly shaking at the ridiculous hilarity the world had suddenly assumed. My room seemed to be dissolving into a giant heap of blankets, books and litter. Occasionally a lull would descend, and we wiped our eyes and let out a sigh, before some other trivial but intensely funny thing would strike us and we’d erupt once more. Breathlessly we whirled into Barry’s room; I wanted to shut out the rest of the corridor, the rest of the world, so that nothing would intrude. We decided to go outside and play football.

Outside the mania still held us in its grip but not so firmly. Almost reluctantly we walked off the path and out onto the grass. It felt as though the whole world’s eyes were focusing in on we four. The space, the wideness, my smallness in the midst of this great green expanse made me feel awkward and supremely self-conscious. We stood half-heartedly amidst the grass, painfully conscious of everyone and everything around us, flapping our arms and feeling small, or hopping awkwardly from one foot to the other.

We mechanically kicked the ball without any enthusiasm. I went through the motions for a little while but soon retreated up into the trees on the slope overlooking Wollstonecraft Hall, where I hung about amidst the leaves, a big awkward figure dressed all in black, towering amid the low branches. The others joined me and we sprawled in the grass beneath the leaves and summery skies, huddling close to one another.

This was a really noticeable effect. Patrick said that every time he does acid he begins to feel alienated, and I could see why, for our little band felt isolated from everyone else as we sat there in the greenery, gazing down on campus. Them and Us. At one point we were hunched so close we were almost touching one another.

“Good X-ray frog weather” said Patrick, and sure enough, as I lay on my back and looked up, the clouds rolled over us, dissolving and reforming in crisscrossed lattices of white, as though a delicate grid had been superimposed over my field of vision. We watched each cloud blow over, the leading edge of the cloud extended forward in fingers, the main body billowing after, remarking on particularly good 3D specimens, some subtly shaded and tinged with colour as they folded and rolled into ever new shapes. I also noticed more colour on the trees, and when Patrick pointed it out to us we could all see the way the leaves seemed to heap over in green shimmering mounds of light and shade, away from the wind.

Patrick talked and talked, a long, bitter, disgusted monologue—I looked and saw and agreed—about how this campus of picturesque valley views still leaves we students bored. “Bring some kid down from the Brixton ghetto and he’d think it was paradise, but all you lot can do is lounge about complaining. It’s all so passé. It stinks.”

Several times he had me squirming awkwardly on his hook and I remembered the paranoia from the acid trip Pete and I took a few weeks ago. Several times I ground to a swollen-tongued halt as I attempted casual conversation. “Why do you always wear black?” Patrick asked me. “It only shows up your dandruff.”

He also reduced Barry to a defensive silence, broken only by grunts and murmurs of assent, as he told us why he couldn’t go on with the RCP and talked about books and painting and the difficulty and delicacy of the latter. The Magus by John Fowles was “like a bath of cold water” and accounted for much of his present bitterness and disillusionment: “You have no hope after reading that book; it strips away everything.”

Mike shivered and said it was the worst acid he’d ever done; “I don’t know why; it’s this place,” he said, looking around at the trees and the rows of windows. Occasionally he too would grind to an excruciating halt in dry-lipped embarrassment as he was misunderstood or misheard.

The evening breeze was mounting and the cold began to cut us—I noticed the goose pimples on Patrick’s arm. We all wore thin shirts and so we went back inside. It was eight p.m.; the day had rushed by. We began to call the trip “it,” referring to it as an entity as though something great had just passed. Mike still seemed uneasy.

We met up with Guy, who’d just returned from London and set off for the Town and Gown to spend an evening drinking. I left them all at a party over in Rousseau and came back before everyone else. Patrick had vanished with Yvonne Ellis: Barry and Mike were engrossed in conversation. I left in a gloom and went to bed, my mind full of Patrick, the way the discoloured smudges of dirt on my wall blurred into large purple indefinable letters, the way our arms left behind a visual trail and afterimage when waved, the clouds, the colours, but also the intense paranoia and self-consciousness.

It was a day to be experienced rather than enjoyed.

Saturday, June 11, 1983


I was awake at ten. I could hear Barry, Mike and another voice—Patrick’s— laughing and joking across the corridor. Gareth and Stu arrived back too—I recognised Stu fumbling with his keys and so I got up.

They’d had a really good time, sleeping in parks, railway stations and even the hoverport. The Bowie gig really impressed them both and Stu said he would’ve paid more. They brought back duty free fags and a litre bottle of whisky.

Barry and co. set off into Watermouth with Shelley and Penny, leaving me alone, desperately unwilling to face work.

Friday, June 10, 1983

How can I turn boredom into an artform?

Another hot day spent lounging about, watching the election news in the morning and kicking a ball about in the afternoon.

I got a letter from Andrew asking me what I’m doing over the summer. It all depends on whether or not I get a job. I intended making a start on my essays, but I frittered the afternoon away in the sun and listening to the Velvet Underground and Joy Division.

In the evening, Barry’s friend Mike from Manchester arrived in his car. Of all of Barry’s friends he's probably the easiest to get on with and the least ideological. We went up to the Town and Gown with Shelley, Pete and Lindsey. Lindsey and Shelley sat quietly talking while Barry and Mike laughed and talked Marxism, the RCP, and shared tales of Patrick and Carl Cotton.

Lindsey seemed quite cheerful. Earlier, she and Susie bought me a badge (“How Can I Turn Boredom Into an Artform”). They said they thought it quite appropriate. For some reason I felt very down, as though suddenly the semi-contentment of the last month had been stripped away and I'm filled with the Void. I felt dead and helpless and I didn’t know why. Even talking seemed too much effort, and I could only parry Pete’s attempts to cheer me up. How do I explain what I felt? It’s such an effort and virtually impossible probably to capture the precise essence of my mood at that time. But all I could see around me was total meaninglessness.

Everyone left, Barry and co. to go into Watermouth in Mike’s car, and Lindsey and Shelley back to Wollstonecraft. I sat on my own for a moment, my inner state dominating every thought, denying me any peace. There was nothing I could do, so I too walked back to Wollstonecraft, where I lay on my bed in a state just like the old times. In a way it had something to do with Lindsey, but not entirely. . . . For an instant I felt myself begin to crumple. Quite out of the blue I felt as if something had dropped into me from a great height.

The corridor was empty, so I went to bed. It was only 11 p.m. and as I lay there uncomfortable and wide awake in the dark I heard people returning, mumbled voices from someone's room.

I look back on what I’ve written and I wonder why I’ve gone into such painstaking detail. I didn’t intend to. In years to come I’ll appreciate all this for what it is—mindless, utterly mundane trivia. I’ll laugh at my typically adolescent obsessions.

Laugh, or probably throw up.

Thursday, June 9, 1983

Never mind the bollocks

 I stayed up all night reading and taking notes on The Awakening. I finished it at 3.30 a.m.: I enjoyed it and I can see why it was considered shocking and outrageous when it was first published. Barry and Russ stayed up all night doing work as well. By 5.20 a.m. it was broad-daylight out, and we pottered about enjoying the coolness of the morning before setting off to vote.

This was a ‘cut and run’ election sprung by Thatcher with only a few weeks notice, and for days now the result has been a certainty, the Tory press proudly gloating over the latest poll figures, a landslide predicted for the Conservatives and utter defeat for Foot and co. It’s been a bitter election campaign and I think it could be an important one in the future.

Election fever hasn’t really percolated through to campus and although the usual forest of leaflets and notices adorns the walls and trees, a general lack of contact with TV has ensured our immunity. As the minutes ticked away until seven, Russ and Barry and I hung about the deserted polling station in Watermouth Hall until finally we were let in, the first, perhaps the very first voters in the country.

I scrawled “Bollocks” on my ballot paper and popped it in the box. Russ did the same and Barry spoiled his paper too. The first three votes cast, the first three votes ruined. We came away satisfied.

At nine I went to my American Lit. tutorial which was a quiet, weary and subdued affair. Miriam had a dig at me for not reading Freud’s Essays on Sexuality. I almost fell asleep I was so dead-beat. I have four essays to write for Tuesday, and one Black Americans essay to complete for Monday. Impossible.

Gareth and Stu left early in the morning for Paris and the Bowie concert; they’ll be sleeping in cemeteries and no doubt at this very minute will be knocking back the booze in some café.

I went to bed at mid-day and got up about half-eight. Just a few people about. The radio said that the turnout had been high. I stayed up into the early hours to watch the results come in and it was quite obvious early on that the Tories were going to be re-elected with a big majority. Tony Benn lost his seat, as did Bill Rodgers of the SDP. Some conservative oaf behind me cheered when it flashed on the screen that Watermouth/New Lycroft was a Tory seat for another four years. Labour lost Easterby West—Dad’ll be pleased.

It’s a black day for the Labour Party. The Liberal/SDP Alliance held a handful of seats, but it’s another Thatcher government for four years. One step nearer the one-party state, and there’s more unrest to come for sure. Perhaps this will encourage dissenters to look outside the narrow, archaic world of parliament to the streets and cities where the real action will begin.

Tonight I feel thoroughly pissed off, I don’t know why. My world feels narrow and stifling and I feel trapped. Just lately I hate this narrative. It’s so useless trying to record the things I do, for my writing is so constrained and limited and I scarcely explore the possibilities a journal offers.

I have nothing to look forward to over the next few days except a hard slog to try and get some of these essays out of the way. Tomorrow too I have to find £50 to pay the deposit on the flat. I’m getting the money transferred from my NatWest deposit account at home.

Wednesday, June 8, 1983


I woke up at six, then at eight, nine, and so on until finally I heaved myself out of bed at ten.

Weird dreams: a strange rainy and muddy landscape, a garden, a ruined village under renovation by a Canadian millionaire. Dotted on the distant hills are yellow and orange meditating figures. . . . Then, a confusion of shooting, hunting—a war. I'm pursuing someone, killing him finally, although I'm not there at the death. . . . Now I'm walking along a road filled with enemy vehicles; there are men on horseback galloping towards me, and they hack at my head and swear as I try helplessly to fend off the blows. . . . Armistice . . . I embrace the cavalrymen joyfully, running towards a jeep with two officers inside, crying happily as I throw my arms around them. . . .

I haven’t done any work since last week although I'm still optimistic about it for some reason. I got my essay back from Miriam today: “quite an impressive and sophisticated discussion” her comment, but also lengthy criticisms that I hadn’t tied my essay down to the text and that it had got too abstract. Perhaps I took her “concentrate on the social moment” too literally, but at least I know where I’ve gone wrong.

I’m supposed to have finished Kate Chopin’s The Awakening by tomorrow. I have lots to do . . .

I got a letter from Lee telling me he’s got in at Watermouth Art College. I feel glad; it will be so odd and so interesting having him here. He writes that he recently broke into the cellar of a disused photographic studio in Easterby and discovered boxes and boxes of old photos, portraits of Pakistani families from the 1950s through the ‘70s and a lot of glass negatives from the ‘20s, showing Easterby street scenes and buildings. He plans on selling them.

His letter really made me laugh. He sent me three photographs – one a bizarre family portrait from the ‘60s (“It’s a cracker – no explanation necessary”). I burst out laughing because I could just imagine his hysteria at the pic. He also broke into an abandoned pub’ but set off the burglar alarm and fled.

Something definitely to look forward to.

Today’s the third anniversary of this journal’s beginning and my mind goes back to that lazy Sunday, three years ago now, to how ordered everything was then. God, I was so innocent! Then I was looking towards ‘O’ levels, now it’s nearly my nineteenth birthday and I’m anticipating moving into my very own flat.

It’s been hot today once more, but there hasn’t been any thunder. I lounged about in the Humanities common room, drinking tea with Guy and talking about the summer. I’m looking forward so much to moving out at the end of term. In the late afternoon I went out into the sun and sprawled on the grass with Shelley and Lindsey and tried to read The Awakening but managed only a few pages before we went down to the dining hall for some food.

In the coffee shop later, Guy, Barry and I watched as Katie stole food from right under the cashier’s nose. She and Rowan have been nicking fags from Shelley’s and Stu’s rooms too. They act out their position of ‘No Limits, No Laws,’ stealing from people they know and not giving a shit about anyone or anything. They’re heading for Morocco in the summer.

Guy finds them both thoroughly repulsive and I can see his point, but still . . . there’s something about them that is vaguely attractive to me. What do they think, I wonder? Katie was in my room tonight, talking, talking – Susie had cracked a joke earlier, saying I had a thing for trying on her underwear, and as I told this to Katie, she asked me in all seriousness, “Well, do you want to . . .?”

Tuesday, June 7, 1983


In the morning Shelley, Gareth and I went to an American Studies lecture by Malcolm Bradbury. He started with a disclaimer that no, The History Man was not literally based on the real Watermouth University, but on the once-planned (but never built) University of Bournemouth.

He then launched into his lecture, “Images of Europe in American Fiction," a promising title but a dull account and eventually he was talking to a theatre-full of fidgeting and sleepy people. Shelley fell asleep, as did tutor Ian Pugh, who when he wasn’t sleeping was rubbing his eyes or writing letters. We left as Miriam and then Alan Draper asked impossible questions.

Afterwards, Gareth and I hitched into Watermouth. It was yet another hot stifling day, the weather reminiscent of last year just before the ‘A’ levels, the same dull deadening lethargy. We got a lift after a few minutes from a barefoot Viva driver, who dropped us outside the Job Centre. We wandered about the suffocating streets, spending most of our time in record shops; I bought The Fall’s Early Years 77-79 and we hitched back at six, getting home just as large rain drops began to splash from a gloomy sky.

In the evening Susie and I went to see Palach, a play put on by the University Dramatic Society about Jan Palach, a Czech philosophy student who burned himself to death in Prague in January 1969 as a protest against the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.

The stage surrounded the audience and we sat in the centre of a square of raised boxes which I thought was a good idea: it reversed the usual relationship between audience and actors. The latter had an advantage on us. The cast was made up of students, a mother, a father (played by Kamran) and a priest/policeman/judge figure.

The play started with the students expressing platitudes justifying their lack of involvement in politics—Greenham Common was mentioned, although this was the only direct political reference—and the hard stabs at the general collective blindness and political apathy continued. There was a rapid interchange between scenes which took place on alternating sides of the stage, sometimes to my left, sometimes to my right, sometimes behind me, sometimes in front, and at one point there was a parody of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, a series of automated and ritualised exchanges that mocked married life, each ending with a scream.

As this continued, a group of students blinked into existence to my left, watching a manic priest telling dirty jokes; then, to my right, Palach’s mundane family and disinterested girlfriend, each of them giving obviously wrong answers to the questions yelled at them by an Army officer.

Palach was finally left isolated, alone and screaming at them in frustration as the multiple voices became one voice, dirging at him from all sides of the stage. Palach and his group decided on self-immolation as a protest at this state of affairs. As he found out he was the one who had to go first. he says “Hopefully the people will need no more light than this . . .”

I was impressed and I came away thinking that I’m one of those being criticised for my lack of political consciousness –well, it's not a total lack of consciousness: I did go through that 'political' phase, albeit half-seriously, two or three years ago. But now I have an unwritten, ill-defined but nevertheless strong inner conviction that I need more than a token commitment to altruism. I need to feel something deeply (whatever it may be) and at this moment I don’t. Contemptible perhaps, but it’s the Truth all the same.

I suppose I don’t give myself a chance in this sphere, and perhaps unconsciously (my evil bourgeois-romantic unconscious?) I don’t want to, for I do fuck-all in the way of reading and research. I do Nothing.

I stayed in writing this journal while everyone else went out, and I finally switched out the light at eleven.

Monday, June 6, 1983


The weekend just gone has been one of the most manic for a long time but everything has calmed down again. It’s strange how everything went wild.

I wasn’t looking forward to my Black Americans seminar, because I still hadn’t read Native Son, but as it was I got away with my neglect, as did Pete. I always come away from seminars filled with enthusiasm.

Next week I have another essay to write and a presentation to prepare.

Sunday, June 5, 1983


Although I’d expected everyone to be ill this morning, they were all up bright and early, feeling fine. It was a fairly boring Sunday and warm again.

In the afternoon the sky grew black, glowing dark and vaguely yellow across towards Gaunt’s Hill. Lightning cracked repeatedly overhead and a tremendous hail storm came whooshing down, with hailstones ¼ inch wide, covering the ground with drifts of what looked like polystyrene balls.

Saturday, June 4, 1983

Canto eighty three

Another hot and sticky day. Shelley, Susie and I went for a walk up Gaunt’s Hill: the heat was suffocating and oppressive. I was desperate for a drink but had to make do with an ice-lolly. We lounged atop the hill in the haze while Shelley made daisy chains and decked herself out with buttercups before wandering back through the woods. I had a headache.

In the evening most people went across to the marquee behind Wollstonecraft for the Tenant's Association carnival Drink Yourself Silly event. The entrance fee was a fiver but a few people managed to con their way in for nothing.

Stu and I were marooned back in Wollstonecraft Hall, our vow to work hanging around our necks, and we stared across at the marquee, lit by occasional flashes of lightning and echoing to the distant sounds of drunken fun. Lindsey was having a night ‘in’ too. Her arms were sore with sunburn after a bicycle ride earlier and she moped about painfully. I even went back to bed at one point, but Shelley’s breathless voice at my door got me up again. She was drunk, as was Gareth who had spare tickets for Stu and I.

I hurriedly got dressed, grabbed my dope, and rushed over to the marquee.

A scene befitting Dante’s Inferno greeted us. A long trestle table which served as the bar stood at one end of the marquee. Booze was free with the paid admission and the hapless bar staff sweated and slogged endlessly back and forth with ever-empty glasses. The ground was a sodden mass of shards of plastic, mud and grass. Around us sweat drenched people writhed seductively, their hair and clothes limp with the heat, or wandered to and fro clutching spilling drinks. Couples wrapped themselves around one another, mouth to mouth, arms entwined; others danced in the red throbbing light. Shelley swayed and squirmed to the music, smiling drunkenly, Guy seemed pissed but wasn’t, and Gareth was completely out of his brain. He waved an eye-liner pencil around and tried to draw on us with it, catching passersby and snaring Rowan’s Katie. Soon they were dancing face to face while Stu and I stood there disbelievingly. “It makes me feel like a Christian,” said Stu.

All about was a sexual sweat-sodden frenzy. Couples were fucking behind the marquee, others were throwing up, still others openly took a piss. The riotous abandon was amazing and it seemed as though everyone had quite literally gone berserk. Stu and I shared a joint, but really we felt totally out of it. There’s nothing worse than being sober when everyone else is drunk.

We left, partly because we weren’t drunk and it was no fun standing there, and as we walked back across the muddy grass, Gareth caught us up and cadged the rest of my dope. Soon after, they all came streaming, screaming homewards, and campus was awash with manic drunkards, screeching and wandering in the road and destroying things.

Gareth was as drunk as I’ve ever seen him; he rushed frenziedly from room to room, singing continually and chanting at us, before collapsing on his bed and throwing up out of his window. Shelley crashed out in the toilet, whimpering feebly at the thunder which continued to rumble. She stayed locked in there for two hours before we managed to persuade her to come out. Susie had a man in her room, some bespectacled bloke I’d seen her chatting up in the coffee shop a few days ago.

Thus the evening crawled out to its dark and depressing finale, my room an oasis of sobriety as downstairs the foyer was wrecked, ash-cans thrown everywhere, posters ripped down, and the lightning flickered menacingly across the sky.

Friday, June 3, 1983


Shelley and I walked all the way into Watermouth; it took us just over an hour. We had a sandwich and cider at The Wagon & Horses before going to the Common Good Bookshop, where I ended up buying Colin Wilson’s The Outsider, Literary Theory (a brand new intro’ by T. Eagleton), and Richard Wright’s Native Son, which I was supposed to read for yesterday’s Black Americans seminar but didn’t. I almost bought a biography of Coltrane too but resisted the temptation and was glad I did.

Shelley went to meet Penny outside Boots at three. I wandered about town, buying pumps and a T-shirt and browsing idly through record shops: at six I met up with Shelley again, in The Frigate this time, near the clock tower.

Soon everyone else rolled up—Barry, who’d hitched in on the back of a motorbike, Guy and Susie, Lindsey and Penny. After an hour or so I went up to the off-license near the station and bought a bottle of vodka, agreeing with the others to meet up down on the beach. I bought Arctic rolls and Scotch eggs, but on the way I dropped the vodka—it slipped through a hole in my coat pocket & crumped onto the pavement—so I had to go buy another bottle.

It had been another hot, sweltering day and was still quite warm. A few people sat about amid the pebbles enjoying the evening.

We settled down with our bags of bottles and started drinking. Occasionally a chilly wind crept across the beach so I lent Shelley my coat. Guy supped from his ½ bottle of whisky, berating me from time-to-time for smashing the vodka. He complained the booze wasn’t having an effect on him and every so often he threw pebbles at us (more often than not at me).

Barry was being surly over political issues once more, patronizing me with comments like, “You’re so transparent, I can see right through you: you’re a classic case of misplaced class consciousness . . .” and so on. He started to get very prickly and hard edged, almost a replica of Carl Cotton and co.

All of a sudden, the whisky seemed to hit Guy, and he stumbled off across the pebbles, waving his arms like a mad windmill and stamping his feet, then running into the dusk to the other end of the beach, a tiny figure falling down once but picking himself up, running further and further until he reached a concrete jetty a few hundred yards away.

Then he came running all the way back and collapsed in a breathless and insensible heap at our feet. Susie fell asleep, as did Shelley, who was hidden beneath my coat. Barry wasn’t very drunk and neither was I. Lindsey sat apart. . . .

Only Guy flailed helplessly about, sliding to his knees, lying on his back, then staggering upright once again, swaying uncontrollably across the pebbles. Then he hunched over his knees and threw up. It was dark now, and still Shelley and Susie slept. Along the beach groups of other idlers lounged before the waves, the neon Empire Pier sign reflecting white in the water.

After lying prostrate away down the beach, Guy revived and began to roll, over and over towards the sea. I tried to bar his way but he came racing towards me, rolling, rolling, and I had to leap over him as in the waves he went. He staggered to his feet, laughing blindly, thrashing the sea with arms and legs, keeling backwards into the surf as I waded in to pull him out. Finally he ran screaming and whooping up the subway onto the prom and back before passing out at the foot of a stack of deckchairs.

We sat for a while on top of these; Shelley and Barry atop one, Lindsey and I atop the other, swigging cider I’d gone up to the off-license to buy. It had been such a manic evening.

At midnight we carried the unconscious Guy to a taxi.

Back on campus, Osibisa were in full flight in the large marquee behind Wollstonecraft Hall, the first night’s entertainment of the annual UW Tenant’s Association carnival. We met a lot of people there; Gareth and Pete, plus Tony, down from London.

Thursday, June 2, 1983

Flat of angles

Our flat situation has moved quickly. Barry rang Crown Racing back today and was told that our compromise has been accepted. We're jubilant. Our own flat! We can hardly wait to move in.

We have to pay £114 each (£50 deposit plus four weeks rent, which is £64 each). I will have to borrow the money. We feel we’ve been very lucky in getting this flat for so cheap a price. Shelley and Penny went to see two bedsits today but they were far too expensive.

I expect we’ll have a lot of people kipping on our floors at the beginning of next term.

Wednesday, June 1, 1983

Ghastly blue

Last night another great storm rolled in from the sea and we sleepers shivered in our beds as the world fell apart above us. I snuggled into my quilt as the ghastly blue flare of lightning lit my room and the sky rattled with ear-splitting cracks and rumbles, as though it was being torn from horizon to horizon. In my half-awake state I imagined I could see the figure of an old black haired woman sitting at my desk. My plastic shrunken head loomed at me from the wall, and looked as if it was about to swallow me up.

It has been a good week in a way. At least I got my essay done; I finally got it written up and handed in today. It’s taken me a week to get it copied out neatly, working on and off for an hour or so every day, and I pinned it to Miriam’s office door this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 31, 1983

After me, the deluge

Pete rang the bookies up again to day and asked if we could give a month’s rent-in-advance instead, but he was told we’d have to wait for Mr. Harrop’s decision when he comes back tomorrow. Everyone agrees that thirteen weeks rent up front is excessive.

So Guy and I set out to look round some housing agencies while Pete went up to the Welfare Office. Barry was busy with his stall. Carl Cotton had come down again and we found the two of them accosting people and trying to sell them copies of The Irish War (“a Top Ten Bestseller in London,” says Barry).

It was a hot day and before Guy and I set off, he tried to persuade people to come with us with seductive promises of drunkenness on the beach, but it ended up with just the two of us hitching a lift into town. This was my first ever experience of hitch hiking and no sooner had we got settled with thumbs out than a red Renault van pulled over and we clambered in. It was driven by a blond bearded man and his dark-haired wife: he said he was a student at Watermouth over ten years ago. Guy did most of the talking and we were dropped near St. Mark’s Church along from Maynard Park.

We visited a couple of agencies; the first offered no hope until September, the next was closed and the third proved the most hopeful. We bought a pint of prawns between us for £1.00 and wandered up through the dry and glaring tourist-filled streets tearing the heads and legs off the prawns as we devoured them. Then we went to Sainsbury’s and bought a half bottle of vodka, four small bottles of pale ale, a pint of orange juice and a large litre bottle of Rutland Bitter, supplementing this later with a bottle of cider from The Bay Mare opposite Wessex Road station. This done, we headed down to the beach and established ourselves among the pebbles.

The beach was filled with families and balls and dogs. We broke open the pale ale and settled down to talk and read a couple of Marvel comics I’d bought, which soon had us laughing at the brilliant and improbable pulp-mag lyricism. We sat on the lip of the beach, at the top of a short but fairly steep slope down to the waves, so we gazed out only a little way above eye level over the gentle swell and calmly lapping surf. The sea was flat calm and dotted with the glint of beer and soft-drink cans, and occasionally a speed boat ploughed by towing a water-skier. A few yards off shore a becalmed windsurfer flapped helplessly about.

We talked about Rowan, agreeing that she was screwed up. We also talked about death. Guy said he quite looked forward to dying because he was curious to see “what the other side” is like. I said I didn’t think there was an “other side,” nothing but an eternal blackness of non-existence, but we couldn’t agree. He said he believed in reincarnation and in God too, which surprised me, but then he elaborated by saying that in his view God is just another word for “Everything.”

Life felt so good at this point; I even said so to Guy, in an alcohol joy of enthusiasm. A billion pebbles swept away to our left, blurring into an untold, innumerable mass, dotted with gaily-coloured figures: a man throwing something white into the sea for his black dog, which swam out to retrieve then swam back, prancing happily at his feet, Empire Pier white and angular in the sun, a striped helter-skelter rising over the waves mid-way along; the tide hissing and foaming as it retreated down the beach, leaving wet and shiny pebbles to dry in the hot sun.

Guy stripped off to the waist and we went paddling, creeping painfully back to our hollow of bottles and bags.

At about half-seven it started to get chilly so we upped and left in search of more drink. All the off-licences were closed and Guy was fairly pissed now, loud and smiling and shuffling along the pavement in his espadrilles, waving his arms and making comments to passersby or about shop window displays.

We fended off a dwarfish Irishman on the scrounge for money to buy a “cup o’ tea.” Guy dismissed him with a “no way, mate” after he’d cut across in front of us. “Can I ask you a civil question? Look . . .” (to me), “you’re a big lad, an’ you could knock me flying. I’ve got a broken arm . . .”

We bought a Chinese and and crouched on a neighbour's wall to eat: the old white haired lady who lived there emerged to angrily point out the mess of cartons and carrier bags and dribbled sweet and sour disfiguring her tiny front yard. “Don’t worry yourself, luv,” said Guy and we cleaned up the mess.

Guy and I got back to the Uni. fairly late to find Barry, Carl Cotton and Russ in Westway Loop. I felt oppressed and left early. An enormous thunderstorm accompanied my return. Everyone gathered on the ‘patio’ area above the common room to watch the giant fingers of lightning jag their way across the orange sky, and “ooh” and “aah” in ironic parody of kids at the fireworks. The rain came down in great sheets and the patio area was soon flooded: water began to creep beneath the door into the corridor parallel to ours and was soon flowing freely into several rooms before the rain abated and the deluge was beaten back with brooms and pans.

Taylor Hall car park was six or seven inches deep, and a large crowd gathered to splash about among the stranded cars. Guy, Graeme and I paddled about barefoot and explored  the many enormous puddles which dotted campus.

After everyone had gone to bed, the lightning returned, flashing majestically across the sky high beyond the hills.

Monday, May 30, 1983


Bank Holiday Monday. At dinnertime, Pete, Barry and I set out in stifling weather for our appointment with the owners of the flat. We walked to Jubilee Drive, off Old Priory Road, about a quarter of a mile along the Wickbourne Road, and discovered our destination was another bookies identical to that in Jervis Terrace.

We had to wait a while inside; it was crowded and smoky, full of old blokes sitting waiting for the results to come over the tannoy, and younger men intently examining the pasted up newspaper pages for the form of the horses or dogs. At one end of the small room was a glass partition behind which a man chalked up the latest odds in response to the tannoy.

Barry asked for Colin and about ten minutes later a head popped round from a side door and we were told to go out & in the other entrance. A loud Alsatian barked excitedly as we were ushered upstairs and into a bare & dingy living room.

Colin took our names and subjects and told us that we were expected to pay thirteen weeks rent in advance, plus £50 deposit—I added it up in my head, a pretty impossible £258 all told. He seemed fairly reasonable about everything else: “I don’t mind what you do so long as nothing is damaged and no neighbours complain” (a veiled reference to what?). “It’s a fairly quiet area and the only hassle you’ll get is the noise from the tannoy downstairs.”

We asked him if we could have until Wednesday to think about it. . . .

Walking back we discussed the looming problem of £258, which is a bit steep, and I’m £40 overdrawn already! There’s also the problem of signing on. If I want to go home for any length of time then I’ll have to commute back down here to sign on every fortnight. Also, what about the holidays? Pete seemed reluctant to give up his holiday of two months and I don’t really want to stay down here. The only way I could raise that amount of money would be to maybe ask Mum & Dad or ask the bank for a loan (they’d be certain to get the money back from DHSS who’ll pay my rent for me every week if I sign on).

Maybe I’ll have to stay down here and try get a job? Hassles, complications. . . .

Sunday, May 29, 1983


I spent the entire day trying to copy out my essay and failing dismally to stick at it . . .

Saturday, May 28, 1983

In my area

My housing situation for next year is now quite different than a few days ago.

Earlier this evening, Barry, Pete and I went to look at a flat available at the end of June that Pete heard about through Tasha and co. The address is 44 Jervis Terrace, above Crown Racing—a betting shop—and adjacent to a row of shops that includes, to our delight, an off-licence, a chippy, a green grocer, a butcher, a newsagent, a chemist and a small supermarket.

The house itself is squat and redbrick and stands apart from the rest of the houses, on the corner of Windmill Avenue and Jervis Terrace, about ¾ of a mile from Wessex Road station. Access is via a door and a dingy staircase beside the betting shop. We had a quick look round—the present occupants, three 2nd year students, didn’t seem to mind. There are three bedrooms, the one at the front of the house being by far the biggest; Pete said he wanted it as there would be more room for when Mo stayed over. The other two bedrooms are fairly small, and there’s a kitchen, a through sitting room between that & the hall, a bathroom and not much else.

We came back out into the bright evening sun and immediately felt really enthusiastic about it, Barry especially. The area verges on the suburban, with lots of quiet roads lined with semi-detached houses although the terraced streets, red-roofed vistas and estate panoramas give the area a vaguely seedy and neglected air. We tried to see our whereabouts in relation to everything else by going up in a lift to the fifteenth floor of a tower-block a few hundred yards away, but the view was poor and the door onto the roof was padlocked. 

We phoned up the owner, a Mr. Harrop, and said we were really interested and asked if we could we go round and see him. We agreed on Monday. At this we felt very excited and enthusiastic and went to a nearby pub for a celebratory drink.

We had a Chinese and then met Mo at the Bellemoor near Maynard Park and had a couple more drinks, before going back to the University bursting to tell everyone of our scoop.

Friday, May 27, 1983


A pretty nondescript day.

Thursday, May 26, 1983

Wembley way

The highlight of the term will surely be today’s trip up to see the Cup Final Replay at Wembley.

Guy and I had a tutorial with Miriam at eleven and we sat through it feeling totally distracted and uninterested; how could we concentrate when the prospect of Wembley was only hours away? I was in a fever of excitement by the time we got back to Wollstonecraft Hall and we had long hassles getting everyone together, but eventually, at 1.30 or so, Guy, Barry, Pete and I set off.

There were quite a few Seagulls fans on the train to London. There was an alcohol ban on the train and just after we’d set off, a couple of policemen marched through the carriage, glaring round looking for illicit booze. The journey up was fairly quiet, but as soon as we got to Waterloo we were greeted by a station forecourt packed with fans clad either in blue- or red-and-white, along with legions of police.

We ate at a Pizzaland and then joined the noise and chaos outside, where hordes of football fans milled enthusiastically along the pavements. We joined the exodus to the nearby off-licence and bought beer and cider and set off to meet Kamran at Baker Street tube station. The tube trains were packed and the whole Underground seemed to have been overtaken by beery, chanting fans clutching their colours.

As the crowd flooded down the escalators the police loomed at the bottom, one inspector interrupting the flow of people to stop someone and chide him, and then, as he received some comment, “. . . and you can cut the lip, too!’ As we strode past I caught a glimpse of his tight face, thin-lipped, smooth, and humourless.

We boarded the train for Baker Street, met Kamran, and took the next train to Wembley Park. We stood with Manchester Utd. fans all the way to Wembley and there wasn’t any hassle between the two sets of opposing fans, even friendly rivalry with one small group standing virtually nose to nose and chanting madly at one another as the rest of the carriage smiled.

It was quite a long journey but eventually the legendary twin towers of Wembley stadium appeared to our left, framed against a setting sun. Everyone strained to see.

We flooded off the train and along the long Mall-like road toward the ground which was lined with stalls selling programmes, flags, caps and hot-dogs. Barry bought a Man Utd. scarf and Pete a Seagulls cap. We had a hot-dog each and joined the great throng of people heading towards the ground and then milled around aimlessly for a while beneath the walls of Wembley. I was feeling quite pissed.

Everything felt warm and relaxed. Overhead the helicopter taking the Brighton team to Wembley circled as people stood to stare or cheer. We estimated the crowd mainly consisted of Manchester fans and as the ragged chants of “Seagulls” rang out, back came a mocking reply, “Seaweed, Seaweed……”

Our tickets were for section B18 (East), so we pushed through the mass of people and around the leafy perimeter of the ground, the air filled with shouting and singing. I just couldn’t believe it, and in my semi-drunken state the unreality of the whole episode was emphasised. Once through the turnstiles we were in a perimeter area between the inner and outer walls, the entrances to the lower sections of the terraces in front of us, and we had to climb two flights of stairs to reach our places.

We mounted the last step and the dreamed of view opened out before us, the pitch, looking smaller than on TV, surrounded by the track and huddles of cameramen and all around the great sweep of terracing and seats packed with dense crowds, filled with waving flags and colour. We were standing in what seemed to be the main Brighton end. Directly in front of us was the goal, and, in the distance was the massed wall of Manchester fans, a sea of red dotted here & there with banners.

We settled down to wait and soak in the atmosphere. I recollect these details vaguely, because the intense seething mood of the entire occasion so dominated that the peripheral details were pushed from my mind—a thousand views and sights and sounds I longed to capture and hold forever, but now I can only portray the general tone of the event, and that at best as a badly drawn sketch.

We were standing about two-thirds of the way up the terracing, a little to one side of the goal, with the towers of Wembley to our right and over in that direction too we could just make out the Royal Box with its strip of red carpet. The pre-match preliminaries flew by; the inspection of the ground by the teams in their club uniforms, the anonymous figures figures of the managers tiny on the pitch; then “Abide With Me,” the ground swelling to the words and emotion, the National Anthem, and finally a great deafening roar that rose up all around as the teams walked out from directly below, a resounding wall of bellowing—the famed “Wembley Roar.” The air was thick with flags and scarves. It was impossible to describe. I regretted that my senses were blunted a little through booze because I wanted to brand every tiny detail of this on my memory forever. I never want to forget the impact and immensity of it all, for I’ll be lucky to get a chance to go again.

In no time at all it seemed that the game had started, Brighton playing toward the Manchester end. The ‘papers afterwards said that the first 20 minutes had been all Brighton but I didn’t really remember it that way; I recall a few corners, the odd long ball punted up to the lone striker. In Manchester’s first real attack, there was Robson toe-ing the ball into the net past sprawling defenders and hardly had we settled from that it was 2-0, Whiteside’s scruffy header sailing over the heads of the defenders and over the line. The spirits of the Brighton fans were momentarily dampened but the soon the surging chants of “Sea-gulls” and “Brighton, Super Brighton, from the South…” returned. I can’t remember much else of the first half, hardly even the third goal which forced on us the realisation that this just wasn’t to be Brighton’s day.

Just after half-time a small scuffle erupted down to our right. A few Brighton fans had slipped surreptitiously into a Manchester enclave and the whole area suddenly erupted into kicking figures and flailing legs before the police moved quickly in, pushing their way through to form a dark barrier between the rival groups.

In the second half Manchester United mounted more attacks and started to run Brighton ragged. “Stevie Foster, Stevie Foster, what a difference you have made” mocked the distant Manchester voices. A run into the penalty area ended in a foul and a penalty was awarded. Up stepped Muhren and wham!, in it went, as a thousand flash bulbs flared behind the goal. 4-0. The biggest ever Wembley Cup Final win. The fans around us began to sing “We’re Proud of You, We’re Proud of You,” much to the anger of one bloke nearby who swore and shouted that “we’re not in the Third Division now.” Manchester could have had several more goals and it must have been a relief to the Brighton players when the whistle finally went.

Bailey threw his arms into the air and the players shook hands, the managers came onto the pitch and the ground was filled with a continuous barrage of flash-bulb flashes and flag waving. The Cup was presented but we could hardly pick out the staircase or the players, but a cheer went up anyway as the Cup was hoisted into the air. We stayed for the laps of honour, first the jubilant Manchester players surrounded by a posse of yellow-jacketed pressmen and photographers and then the losers, on their own but still receiving applause. I lingered before the rapidly emptying stadium, wondering if I’d ever get to see it again but eventually I tore myself away and followed the others out into the chaos of cars and chanting people below.

The road back to the station was crammed with people and the entrance to Wembley Park underground was jammed solid. A loud-mouthed Manchester fan pinched Pete’s Seagulls cap and then got all obnoxious and aggressive: “Are you pushin’ me, mate?” etc., etc., before punching some bloke next to him in the face, causing the victim to retreat with wide frightened eyes.

At Waterloo, Barry and I were separated from the rest and waited for the others in Watermouth station. A kebab down in town, then we all met up and got back to University in the early hours of the morning.

Wednesday, May 25, 1983

I sit and look out

I woke up at eight, got up at ten, and was in the library by eleven thirty. I went down with Lindsey, who also had an essay to do. When we met again at one downstairs in the café I still hadn’t put pen to paper and when I finally did start writing, I progressed slowly and uncertainly. My subject was primarily Dickinson and Emerson, though I did intend dragging in Thoreau and Whitman somewhere along the line.

I left the library at nine thirty after spending ten hours there and writing seven and-a-bit sides. I wandered back through the gathering gloom smelling the grass and earth and remembering those nights long ago when I hunted beetles and moths in the back garden in Farnshaw.

I got back and continued with my essay, eventually grinding to a halt at ten-plus sides, which is nearly four thousand words. I tried to type it up but it seemed to take hours and my bed looked so enticing, and so at 4 a.m. my resolve finally crumbled and I gave up, with just a side and a half completed.

I’m very conscious of the poor quality of this narrative, especially after reading Emerson and Dickinson. Some people, I suppose, are born with the spark of genius and “come from where Dreams are born!”

“I sit and look out upon all the
sorrows of the world, and upon
all the oppression and shame,
All these, all the meanness and
agony without end I sitting
look out upon,
see, hear, and am silent” –

[“I Sit & Look Out,” Walt Whitman]

Tuesday, May 24, 1983

White and red

Last night Shelley told me that she and Penny have told Rowan and Katie that their quartet is no longer ‘on’ as far as house-sharing next year is concerned. Even though R. had been expecting this apparently there was still an evening of pregnant silence between L. and Shelley when the news broke.

So for the moment they are fallen out. Shelley says she’s irritated by Rowan’s refusal to see a psychiatrist (she never went that Friday) and attributes their rift to the acid-fling of a few weeks back. “She looks down on everyone—yes, even you . . . She’s fascinated by bisexuality and was even considering Penny,” Shelley said with a laugh at my incredulity. “I haven’t told Penny: she’d never speak to Rowan again.”

Sometimes I regard these hugely complicated melodramas with a little awe, yet at others I think them immature. “Deep down Rowan’s cruel. She uses everyone, and that’s why we’ve fallen out. Our relationship used to be based on equality but she can give nothing—she always just takes.” Katie is a “mess” too, said Shelley, and I just couldn’t believe how complicated everything is. “When they’re both together they bring out each other’s wilder side.” Shelley also thinks Rowan is deliberately avoiding her and Barry and I because “we bring her up against herself.”

Everyone went to bed late and I read McTeague for an hour before sleeping too. I woke up today at eleven. I’d been in bed, although not actually asleep, for nearly twenty-one hours.

I went down to the mini-market after dinner. Barry and Carl Cotton were both down there, and as I flicked through records at an adjacent stall I could see Carl tackling passers-by, until he finally got embroiled in an argument with a Trade Unionist who, as he leafed through a Next Step, denounced the RCP as “middle class . . . I’m working class and I wouldn’t wade my way through this shit.”

Carl saw me and asked if I was going to the Preparing for Power conference in July. I said I didn’t know. He couldn’t resist a jab at my ‘undeveloped’ political consciousness: “You could bring a few cans,” said he, smiling sarcastically until I bought a book on the Irish War. Perhaps he’s right, but I don’t like the supercilious way he condemns my (supposedly) mindless bourgeois student-hood.

I’ve done fuck all for most of the day, marooned here in Wollstonecraft in frustrated apathy. I’m starting to panic at the lack of time I have left to do my two essays. One of them is supposed to be a block-busting long one too! I’m facing another sleepless night striving desperately to stay awake and work. I have to finish McTeague as well. But how?

Rowan’s voice pierces the muffled hubbub as she endlessly monologues to “KitKat.” I hear the name Neil mentioned. Is he Mr. X? What do I care? I’ve also heard her quoting some poem, her voice dwelling almost obsessively on each syllable: “Fair maiden, white and red, comb me smooth and stroke my head.”

Monday, May 23, 1983


I did stay up all night last night, eventually falling asleep at five this morning. Guy woke me up half-an-hour later. I felt quite wretched—cold, weary and dull-brained—but set off with Barry, Guy, Kamran and Pete to the station at six to head for Hove to try to get some Cup Final tickets. There were obviously quite a few other football fans with the same idea boarding the train in Watermouth.

We got there at eight and walked down to the ground to find a huge queue of blue and white bedecked people stretching back round the corner and up as far as the eye could see. My heart fell. The vast snake of people stretched up the road and turned right, round another corner and, to our relief, ended there. More people were adding themselves to the end of the queue all the time and every few minutes the river of heads would shuffle forward a few yards; by the time we’d rounded the last corner and had the ticket office actually in sight we’d been queuing nearly four hours and it was one o’clock.

We kept hearing rumours that there were only a few tickets were left: some said 4,000 were available in total, others 8,000, some even put it at 22,000. I started to doubt whether we had any chance at all. People who had just bought tickets wandered back along the queue looking satisfied. One bloke wearing a blue and white cap was trying to sell a ticket for £25 and two kids tried to flog their tickets for a tenner, and Pete and I were sorely tempted, but I was angry at the opportunist bastards who were trying to rip people off: as soon as it was obvious we were going to get tickets however, we too began speculating how much we could get for our extras. Hypocrites!

Soon it was our turn to go down the steps to the ticket office windows and we bought two each (five extra), at £4.00 a ticket. In high spirits now we drooled over the pale brown pieces of paper and set off into Brighton to make half-hearted attempts to flog them in pubs and even a betting shop, before getting the train back to Watermouth.

I'd missed my two o'clock seminar; I was shattered, and gladly climbed into bed and was woken up at five by Pete: he’d found someone who wanted to buy two tickets, but had given Kamran his extra one and now couldn’t find him and so wanted me to donate my two. I was worried in case Kamran sold Pete’s extra ticket for him and I was left without one, but apparently Pete has sorted it out and he flogged the pair for £24 after the mustached victim of our exploitation had turned down the first quote of £30. We’re pooling the money from the tickets and sharing it between five of us. We’ve got £34 so far.

I went back to bed and woke up again at eleven when Barry and Shelley came into my room. Shelley had stolen a bagful of food—bread, bacon, cheese, orange-juice, tuna, eggs, tomato sauce, etc. This term there have been massive food thefts from the residence hall kitchens all across campus; anarchy rules, with gangs of people raiding each other’s kitchens. Cheese is a big favourite, and one time last term Rowan and Shelley came back from a strike on Rousseau Hall with three carrier bagfuls, including wine.

Barry rang Patrick yesterday and found out that Phil’s girlfriend Fiona is now in an asylum. When Phil went to see her she was acting quite nice but a bit like a 10-year old, and then suddenly attacked him and bit him on the wrist. As Shelley said, she always seemed so well-balanced and ‘sorted out.’ “If she can end up in an asylum, what hope is there for the rest of us?”

Sunday, May 22, 1983


Stu and I were up early this morning. Maggie had left us bacon, eggs and bread and this I cooked while Stu dozed. We left a note thanking Maggie for her hospitality and, after fumbling with the front door for 10 minutes, managed to get out and on our way.

Edgware Road was bathed in early morning sunshine, the air fresh and untarnished. A group of Manchester United fans stood outside a nearby police station, perhaps waiting for one of their number to be released. Stu and I parted company and he heading home, while I set off back to Waterloo which I reached after a cock-up on the underground that sent me to Willesden Junction and wasted an hour. I rolled into Watermouth at eleven after a good journey down in fine weather.

My ears still rang from last night’s assault, and fragments of tunes and rhythms kept swimming into my head. No one was up except Susie. . . .

Gareth came back in the afternoon with two Bowie tickets for Paris on June 9th (one for him and one for Stu). I smoked a few joints with him and Barry. Gareth nearly blacked out in Graeme’s room, and he said his vision was swallowed up by a growing blot of grey nothingness and he all but fell over when he came back into my room. He looked totally colourless and white and went to lie down.

The day has rushed by since then. I talked with Katie—I find her interesting— and she says the fact I've left my room undecorated this term (except for a black plastic shrunken Jivaro head and a couple of pictures, one of Emsley Cemetery and the other a poster advertising Gustav Metzger), “shows your ability to look at things dispassionately.” Rowan’s room by contrast is stuffed full of things and couldn’t be anyone but hers: It’s a world all its own. And I’m sure this says as much about her and her need to do this as my bare-walled retreat says about me. After this I went out for a quick drink.

I'm writing this in the small hours of Monday morning and I’m going to stay up all night because a few of us are going to take the train to Brighton at about six a.m. to queue for Cup Final Replay tickets. Guy rolled back about midnight with suitcase and smile, saying the weekend has been one of the best he can ever remember.

I can hear Barry eagerly banging at his typewriter. He’s just written a short review of an Irish Freedom Movement video for Union Views and he’s very enthusiastic about it. Lindsey is away still and it seems as if I haven’t seen or spoken to her for a long time. She’s almost completely disappeared from my life now, even though I still get a vague sense of dissatisfaction when I see Roy around Wollstonecraft, although it’s nothing compared to how badly I felt a few weeks ago. I’m not too sure how my money situation stands exactly – I can’t have much left at all.

I’ve started reading the first half-dozen pages of McTeague. McTeague’s lethargic bulk and slightly degenerate life-style reminds me of Verloc. I can also hear Rowan and Katie having a loud personal conversation in R’s room (. . .“when you’re in bed having sex . . .”). I can see what Shelley and Penny have against living with those two, especially after the fateful acid-experience; “I’d end up having a nervous breakdown” says S. with a grin. Our own hassles over Russ have eased for the moment: he’s gone home and, before he did, told Guy he doesn’t want to live with Barry and I because we’re “lazy bastards.” Good one, Russ! Erik Satie now drifts gently from Barry’s room. . . .
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