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.

Thursday, November 24, 1983

Tangled web


I got up at nine-fifteen and finished off my reading of Keats’ “Odes,” hitching in to Uni in the drizzle and cold. My tutorial went quite well and I said quite a lot, but now I have two essays to write for next Thursday for Mr. Carwardine and one for Black Americans. I must hand in one essay for Mr. Carwardine tomorrow, and so I have to stay up most of the night to get it written.

I met Colin Pasmore again after the tutorial. I announced that I’d come to “deliver the death-blow to my year abroad” and I told him about Mum & Dad’s letter and my finances. He seemed quite concerned. I tried to explain my dilemma and the guilt I’d feel committing Mum and Dad to extra money. Pasmore argued that it would be worth it, saying everyone who’d come back from the year abroad had had a good time. “It’s an opportunity not to be missed” says he, and ”you’ll never get the chance again to experience that environment and you’re only young.”

I found myself slipping into a position of total uncertainty and indecision, even though I’d felt fairly certain of my options over the last few days. It’s so very hard to intellectualise about this whole situation, as apart from the financial aspect, my ambivalent feelings don’t stem from any rational part of my being.

Mo moved out today, into a flat that has a waste disposal system, free newspaper delivery every morning, large rooms and a balcony with a view of the sea . . . I’m so pissed off with this dump, with John’s constant presence, with the tangled web which seems to haunt my every move.

I called Mum. Janet has had her baby two months premature, and after a few weeks in hospital, she has at last been allowed to take him home.

Wednesday, November 23, 1983

Youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies


I couldn’t face a night in the Jervis Terrace shit-hole so Ade gave Lee and I a lift to Lee's residence halls where I spent last night. I’m sick of the squalour of my living conditions, the peeling wall-paper, the damp, the dirty walls and floors, the eternally filthy kitchen . . . I’m moving into a hotel next term if I can’t get anywhere else to live.

I didn’t get to sleep until four, but woke up today early and in a bright mood to match the day. The clatter and noise of engineers, industrial designers and mathematicians subsided at about nine-fifteen and we emerged to empty staircases and deserted kitchens; Lee tells me that this routine is followed by the residents each week with scarcely a variation in the pattern. Up at eight-thirty every weekday, work at the Poly until five, watch TV, go up to the local pub and in bed by eleven-thirty. Saturdays are for getting pissed and wandering about being loud and obnoxious, Sundays for cooking large meals and nursing sore heads. Their lives seem preordained.

I went into University at twelve-thirty, and at about twenty past four I met Susie and Lindsey in the library coffee bar. Susie was in another one of her flutters of indecision, playing with her hair absent-mindedly and teasing great strands out with her fingers. I again felt myself dry up in front of Lindsey. I bought a book—Volume five of the New Penguin Encyclopedia of English Literature: From Blake to Byron. Lee turned up around seven and he and I hitched home.

It was bitterly cold by the time it got dark, the earth crusty and white from frost, my hands and ears in agony. I’m looking forward to hitching back to Easterby at Xmas; it will be a good laugh.

The long-overdue letter from Mum and Dad awaited when I got back; the first part from Mum, in her large rounded hand: “This is a difficult letter to write. I know you must be very anxious about everything . . I don’t see how we can fund you to the tune of £800 on top of your grant. We can manage £100-£200 extra, but not any more as we have to think about one of us falling ill. We don’t get any younger.”


She also says that if I tried for a post-grad course in Journalism they would finance me if I sought exemption from the year abroad. Dad picks up on this theme, saying he thinks I could “walk it” going by the evidence he’s seeing in The Echo. I will think about it carefully as he asks, but I expect I’m going to disappoint them both severely. This isn’t my idea of how I want to spend the next five years. What is my vision of the next few years?

I’d like to travel, but no doubt I shall end up in the UK: I love this country too much to desert its shores forever.

I need to do something drastic to change the recent state of my entries in this diary. I’m sick of my limp, colourless writing, hackneyed expressions, and inexpert, careless structures that don’t read well and abound with errors. The lines on the page enforce a rigid 200-220 words per page; this seems to have something to do with it. I want this to be less a series of chronological events, more an ideas book . . . Lee says that Ian wants to take his girlfriend down into the crypt to fuck her on top of one of the sarcophagi.

“Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.”

-Keats, "Ode to a Nightingale."

Tuesday, November 22, 1983

No sound is dissonant


Today is the twentieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Dad was on a police scooter this day in 1963 when a man came out of a house to shout the news. . . .

We didn’t rise from our beds until two and the stark shadows were already beginning to lengthen outside. Del had stayed up all night on speed, borrowed Wordsworth, Plath and Eliot from me and driven off into Watermouth. He said he was feeling very emotional and later told us he sat all morning at a table in Green’s, a bundle of nervous energy . . . He was out when we got up but eventually turned up mid-afternoon, looking none the worse for wear.

Lee, Barry and I walked down to Wickbourne Road and spent a couple of hours looking for a sturdy torch, wandering to and fro to the numerous second-hand and electrical shops that line the street. We got back at four. It was dark when we all piled into Del’s Hillman Imp and set off for Smith Square. We parked the car outside Ian’s flat in Blenheim Place; the doors were open but no one was in, so we left a message in the typewriter standing on the table and walked to Smith Square, John and Del in a very frivolous mood, jokes and repartee flying left, right and centre.

The entrance to the crypt was in the middle of a wasteland of rubble and broken bricks, a simple metal cover beneath which steps descended into impenetrable blackness. One by one we vanished into the earth; the blackness and silence was total. We bunched together and spoke in hoarse whispers, John and Del nervously joking and laughing as materialists are apt to do in the face of unnecessary mystery.

At the bottom of the steps was a passageway off which ran small side chambers, each with a compliment of brick boxes piled in twos and threes nearly to the ceiling. There were several similar rooms on either side of the passageway, each filled with identical brick boxes capped with stone lids, although some rooms were empty. Although each room had originally been blocked off with breeze blocks, these had recently been broken through, leaving the ends of each sarcophagus visible from the passageway. On these were carved the names of the occupant of each box and his or her date of death and age.


We climbed through the hole in the breeze block wall of the first room on the left; here lay the sarcophagus of Emily Newburgh, who was born in 1770 and died 15th April 1806. The heavy stone lid was split into three sections and the coffin had rotted away and lay in pieces. Lee shone the torch down on the fragments . . . the hair . . . it was the only human thing there, coiled in a plenteous brown river among the spars of broken wood and what was left of the rest of the body, a last pathetic reminder of this woman’s life and her brief flirtation in this world of vanities. In parts, the thick matted strands had come apart to release individual hairs, long and wispy, glittering in the torch-beam with the sheen of life. Poor Emily Newburgh, lying dead and scattered to the world, now in the thoughts of the living for perhaps the first time in decades; I wonder who she was, what she liked and disliked, what little personal eccentricities she had?

The other sarcophagi all dated back to the late 1700s/early 1800s and seemed to be those of fairly wealthy people and their children; I presumed this was why they had been interred in the bowels of this crypt, not left in the (now-vanished) graveyard outside, at the mercy of future development. “No sound is dissonant / which tells of Life” (Coleridge).

After a half-an-hour or so we emerged thankful back into the cold night air. We went for a drink at a pub across the road and we all, everyone one of us, felt affected by what had gone before; Lee was silent and unresponsive and none of us felt very disposed to laughter or light hearted talk. Del offered John £20 if he’d go back down the crypt alone and without a torch—he almost did, but he bottled out at the last minute. I don’t blame him.

Ian and co. were still out so we drove home. It was Mo’s birthday and she and Pete were drunk, Pete whining because he didn’t want us in his room watching TV. Comments and slammed doors . . . Ade had come round too after spending a couple of nights alone in front of the TV in his new place; we’ve heard of a house for five which should be available around Christmastime.

Monday, November 21, 1983

Everest model 90


At around midnight last night, two half-expected visitors, John Turney and Derek Caraway, descended on us whirlwind-like, the former fresh from a few days in Amsterdam, the latter just escaped from stagnation in Milton Keynes.

“First thing he did when he got to Holland,” says Del of John, “was go with a prostitute.” Replies a grinning John, “I wanted a woman with a bit of experience . . .” Their live-wire energy/parody/piss-taking routines threaten the easy torpour we’ve existed in since they were here last. I hope they find a place soon; I can’t stand the constant hints, nudges, innuendo and references to sex and my lack of it. With playful malice, Trevor said I was conning he and Del about the date of Mo’s upcoming birthday party “because he doesn’t want us to talk to Her” (emphasis on this last word). He just doesn’t care. But how I do.

Stu went ‘home’ at midnight and at two-thirty a.m, he and Gareth turned up with bagfuls of work and we stayed up all night. I finished Corregidora at six; it’s a hard, uncomfortable book to read. I slept until eight-thirty while Gareth and Stu worked and when they left shortly after nine, Del gave me a lift into the University.

I met Shawn Bennett and we had a couple of drinks up at The Town & Gown until I had to leave to go to my tutorial at 2.45. On the way I bumped into Lindsey & arranged to meet her and Susie in the cafeteria of the library after my tutorial ended.

In the library coffee bar Susie and I talked about the gradual but inexorable rift that develops between one-time friends who don’t spend time together anymore. Shelley is becoming a part of my past now, a figure from my history, and so it is with Penny, Rowan and Shawn too to a certain extent, Alex Margolis most of all, . . .

As we waited in the Cellar for our food to be served, I looked across at Lindsey and for one brief instant, all the feeling and emotion I used to have for her came welling back to the surface. I could’ve kissed her, held her right there; I loved everything about her . . . but I can’t allow myself to be drawn back into another hopeless, helpless situation. I have to remember the past and how I behaved. I just want to be as good a friend to her as I can be.

Talking to her was like banging my head against a brick-wall so I left her and Susie drinking, went to the library, met up with Pete and Mo (Pete drained and pale from speed), and came home.

Lee came round mid-evening with a £5 typewriter (Everest Model 90 – "Made in Italy”) that he’d picked up from a charity shop and repaired. It’s a real bargain, and types perfectly. I typed a letter to my bank manager. I received a firm but polite letter today about my overdraft. Lee told me that he, Michael and Ian had gone back to the crypt of the demolished church in Smith Square and found an opened coffin.

He stayed the night.

Sunday, November 20, 1983

Gayl


Later yesterday evening Mark went to Capone’s with Guy, so Lee, Michael and I went back into town and broke into a derelict house which stands in a three-storey block of buildings opposite the Art College.

We climbed in through a partially boarded window in the basement (this a very conspicuous entrance) reached down steps choked with dead leaves, next to a busy bus stop and main road. Earlier we’d filched two flashing road works hazard lamps and these were the only lights we had; each time the yellow lamps blinked on we could barely glimpse the floor of the darkened interior, a chaos of rubble, planks and discarded newspapers, tantalising shapes that were lost moments later as the lights switched off.

Our progress was slow and ludicrous, clutching our yellow flashing lamps and whispering loudly. Upstairs there was more light from the street outside, but all we found were a few forlorn reminders that some people have been dossing down here recently—empty cider bottles, old broken shoes etc. We had a close shave on climbing out as the pavement above was full of noisy laughing drunks waiting for a bus, who scuffled and fooled inches from our hiding place.

“I thrive on the excitement,” says Lee.

Michael and Lee stayed the night and we jammed two mattresses into my room.


I got up at twelve thirty today—a grey dismal Sunday in November. Lee washed up and cleaned the kitchen, but it got very messy again when Mo cooked Pete a meal. I slammed out of the house in a real mood, leaving everyone else watching TV, and hitched in to University. I didn’t even tell them I was going.

I went to the library and in a few hours my inexplicable anger had spent itself in the restful silence. It seems Pete and I are nearly constantly at odds these days over some trifling matter or other.

Bill moved into his new flat yesterday, taking the TV aerial with him, so we had to shift the TV back into Pete’s room. I haven’t seen Shelley, Gareth and Lindsey for days. Susie says Shelley is “settling down to a cosy domestic routine with her menagerie of doting males.”

I stayed at the library until seven and hitched back. It began to rain as I walked down the library steps. I have Corregidora by Gayl Jones to read for 2.45 p.m. tomorrow. Stu has just come round, and he and Pete have bought a gramme of speed between them. I have a lot of work to clear up in the next week, two essays to write by this time next Sunday, one for each course. The term is drawing in to a close already; in just three weeks I’ll be going home again.

It seems so long since I was there last.

Saturday, November 19, 1983

CND, RCP, SWSO


The day has gone by innocuously enough; Lee atoned for the last night by rolling up at one and we went into Watermouth with Barry. An unpleasant Saturday afternoon near Christmas, the town awash with people. Around the Attlee Square clock tower a large group of students had gathered in the road and were singing in aid of peace. Crowds of people thronged around them—contempt and amusement from some—the traffic tailing back in several directions. All the University SWSO crowd were there: ‘dog-faced’ Mickey with the mohican, Martin Hegarty, Guy’s friend Felicity . . .

Lee and Barry and I were full of scorn for them—as if ANYONE will listen; it’s like preaching peace and morality to a psychopath with a machine gun. Sitting in the street is useless. When Heseltine had his face splashed with red paint on a recent visit to Manchester University, the CND bureaucracy predictably condemned the act as “intolerant.” CND will go on singing and linking hands until the fateful Day itself, all their undoubted commitment and sincerity smashed to pieces against the brick wall of the State. And I suppose on this point, I agree with the RCP.

I was spending money “like a man with no arms” as the saying goes, and somehow I’ve got through a little under £40 in two days. I’m now £150 overdrawn. I wrote to Mum and Dad about the year abroad, and in my letter I hope I made my position clear. I also wrote a typical sort of letter to Claire.

Michael P. had stayed at Lee’s halls watching a Jimmy Cagney film and was summoned by a telephone call. We met him in an amusement arcade near the seafront. I’ve only met him once before, a brief moment at Easterby Art College when I paid a visit with Grant last Easter. He had long hair down to his shoulders back then, but now wears it slicked back with a parting down the middle, ‘twenties fashion. He’s thin and small and looked quaint in a black tuxedo jacket, grey waistcoat and white shirt and bowtie. He doesn’t speak much, but when he does it’s with a heavy Easterby accent that’s music to my ears.

We walked home.

Friday, November 18, 1983

Phoenix


Barry, Ade and I called round to the Art College to see Lee. We found him in room 312 hunched over a tidy grey and black Remington Rand typewriter newly acquired for £15 second-hand from a nearby shop.

We left B. and A. battling on Phoenix and walked the few hundred yards to the shop where I bought an angle-poise lamp for £3. Lee’s Easterby Art College friend Michael Pugh was coming down at six-thirty, so I arranged to meet them both in The Quayside at 7.30. Much to my annoyance, they didn’t show up and so I sat for an hour alone in the crowded noisy pub listening to two girls arguing about the merits/demerits of some bloke they had both been going out with.

At half-eight I wandered down to The Anchor to meet Pete, Mo, Ade, Barry, Guy and Kamran and we went to two pretty crappy parties, the first one at 29 University Gardens, where we went over the top a bit and had a water fight on the back verandah, bombarding Guy and Barry who cowered down below in a doorway. I nearly crushed a little girl whose drunken tearful mum, for some reason alien to me, had brought her along to what must’ve been a very unpleasant, frightening place, full of loud, stupid people looming up out of the throbbing gloom. As a result, words were exchanged between our lot and a rugby-type who voiced the opinion that he thought we ought to “clear off.”

Party no. 2 was equally crap, a laid-back affair near White Deer Park, the rooms thick with the smell of dope, everything very silly as parties usually are, everyone hugging and laughing and screeching.

Thursday, November 17, 1983

Discord


I got up at eleven and had to rush for my 11.30 tutorial. I persuaded Ade to give me a lift in to campus and got there only a few minutes late. I couldn’t be bothered staying up all night to read Hermsprong and succumbed to sleep at three, with ninety pages read. So I let the other tutee, Phil Dickinson, ramble on from an essay he’d written comparing Hermsprong with William Godwin’s Caleb Williams.

At 2 p.m. I had to see the sub-Dean Ned Ammons so that he could give me a little slap of the wrist over missing two tutorials and handing in my vacation essay six weeks late. He was OK about it, and I spent the rest of the day in the library looking for books for next week’s work.

I had beef burger and chips at Dee’s Diner and bought Robert a Christmas present, The Meditator’s Diary: A Western Woman’s Unique Experience in Thailand Monasteries, before coming home. Discord with Pete; in a huff he’d moved the TV from his room into the bleak back sitting room because he was sick of everyone going in there all the time, but there isn’t an aerial for it now. I was annoyed.

I haven’t seen Lee in a few days, and the couple of times I’ve tried to ring him, the ‘phone has either been engaged or he’s been out.

I have a long list of letters to write: to Nanna P., to Duncan Verity, Claire, and Mum & Dad over the delicate matter of this $800. I’m still undecided. Guy is in a doubtful position over the year abroad too, but whenever I raise the subject with Pete he gets almost indignant and says I’m being stupid for even considering the alternatives, although how the fuck he’s going to afford it I don’t know . . .

Wednesday, November 16, 1983

How hard it is to really know anyone in this life


What have I done today? Very little.

I got up at two and sat about idly, winding Pete up most of the day. . . . I’ve done no reading lately and I’ve quite let work and other things slip. I started off the term well but things have deteriorated.

I’ve got to read the 200-odd pages of Hermsprong for tomorrow at eleven a.m., but it’s nearly half-ten already and I’m only on page 26 and so I may have to stay up all night.

Barry has gone to Masquerades by himself. Earlier today he went round to see the girl he met at the Cellar and she and her friends are going to the club tonight too, so Barry once again sets out with raised hopes. Ade returned today to tell us his “love life is just about going again”; he’s in Barry’s room listening to records.

I keep pretending both to myself and to others that at the end of the year I’m going to shave my head and give up all drugs and drink, but I should realise that this would require more mental resolution and effort than I’m capable of . . . Why would I want to do this?. . .

It’s not important.

I still can’t decide about America—I wish I could make up my mind. I can’t even answer this simple question, so what hope for me? Decisions! Current financial position: £104 overdrawn . . . I look at Grant’s poems and they make me think how hard it is to really know anyone in this life.

This diary says so little. No doubt there are innumerable thoughts and passing shades of mood that have touched me and marked the last two days, but my words have such limited power against the great yawning gulfs of time they strive to combat. One day when I read these words again I’ll curse my lack of skill at fleshing out these transitory moments. What’s clear now won’t be when the surrounding chaff of living and peripheral thoughts have been swallowed up by the years.

This narrative is dull and uninspired because I’m a bit drunk on the whisky Mo brought back from London as her payment towards rent.

Tuesday, November 15, 1983

The zone


I handed in my essay, written up and altered and discovered that only one person had done the reading for Black Americans anyway. I bought Throbbing Gristle’s Second Annual Report at the mini-market (first side played backwards) and afterwards I met Lindsey and Susie in the library coffee bar.

We met up with Barry and Guy and went to the Cellar for something to eat, and then L., S. and I went into Watermouth; we had to make an effort. Lindsey and I ended up at Dizzy’s, a disco at The Zone—½ price drinks until eleven thirty—and we met Alex who was acting as doorman. Ian and Mick were inside too.

Ian came across to talk to us for a few minutes; he and Lee are holding a performance in the crypt of a demolished church near Blenheim Place a fortnight today. I was supposed to go with aforementioned to said crypt at one, but I didn’t get up until half-past.

After a couple of pretty uninspired hours at the disco L. and I left and I walked the mile or so home.

Monday, November 14, 1983

Never again


Over the past week I’ve let work, letters, everything slip, and as I write this I feel disgusted with myself. I missed my Black Americans seminar today too. I’ve only just this minute finished my ten-½ side essay for Ted Coates; Freddie Hubbard plays softly in my room.

It’s been bitterly cold today. We spent most of it huddled under blankets. Ade made an appearance in the afternoon and quite calmly announced he and his girlfriend have split up. She turned up on our doorstep agitated and tearful in the evening to sort things out but Ade had left, leaving a note saying he never wanted to see her again. She came and sat awhile in Pete’s room with us watching TV, her long dark hair hanging over red, tearful eyes.

I haven’t heard from Mum and Dad or anyone for ages. I’m £80 overdrawn and I spent over seventy pounds this past week.

Sunday, November 13, 1983

World at war


Barry came back from Tasha and Lucy’s soiree in a gloomy mood of resignation, as his great hope Elisa—the Clare Grogan girl—had (as Barry put it) “got off with some flash spade in a leather jacket” and more or less ignored Barry who’d invited she and her friend to the party in the first place. He felt she was obliged to at least talk to him, and I wondered if she’d been put off by his obvious intent.

“You’ve got to set your stall up to sell your goods,” he says. I’m no good at flogging what ‘wares’ I have to offer; consequently I don’t bother and none get sold!

Today has been a forgettable and uninspired day of lounging about; Lee stayed to watch The World At War at 7.15.

Saturday, November 12, 1983

Sleeplessness


I went round to Maynard Gardens to watch Lee make the last part of his video. Guy and Barry were already there.

The three-minute piece is a combination of the footage shot in Crookgreave, clips from The Prisoner and old Heinz Beans adverts, and it ends with a shot of a gravestone coming into gradual focus and an insistent male voice hypnotically repeating "Sleeplessness, sleeplessness, sleeplessness . . ." over and over. It was the most entertaining of the videos I saw.

Afterwards Lee came round to our house and is staying over; most other people have gone to a party organised by Tasha and Lucy.

Friday, November 11, 1983

Soul-boy


We went out to the pub (The Quayside). Barry, Susie, Lindsey and I ended up at a depressing soul-boy disco near The Oasis.


Thursday, November 10, 1983

Essay


Pete got back this afternoon and I wrote my essay in the evening while Inga was round again, but I didn’t copy it up.

Wednesday, November 9, 1983

Perverted by language


Pete and I went to Gloucester yesterday to see The Fall and also to see Grant.

Pete didn’t get up until late afternoon and I was getting very annoyed by the time he did, at about four. We bought a gramme of speed for £14 from Phil (of the grey Renault from last June), and got Alex M. to get us an eighth of dope; he’s off to Peru on Friday supposedly. As it was I regretted buying both and I’m going off drugs altogether. They’re just a waste of time and energy, and rarely make me feel good.

It was growing dark as we got on the train. Got to Gloucester at eight-thirty and both Pete and I felt very excited about the prospect. We rushed from the station, caught a cab to the University and followed the crowds to the Refectory building where The Fall were playing.

This was the fourth time I’d seen them since March 1982. The tickets were £3.00 and the place was packed. I searched the sweaty crush of people for Grant’s dark brooding features, but eventually it was he who spotted me in the plush main bar as I made a bee-line for someone I thought was him. He seemed very surprised and pleased to see me; I explained that since I couldn’t be bothered answering his last letter I thought I’d make a personal appearance instead.

He wore the same brown shabby jacket, and sported the usual unkempt, stringy locks. He smokes like a chimney, and there was scarcely a time when his fingers weren’t clutching some miserable stub of badly rolled cigarette; he has pretty huge nicotine stains on his hands. Nik and a silent blond friend of his were up from Camberwell Art College and I actually said more to him that than I had on the previous few occasions I’d met him. He seems OK.

Pete and I left after this to go for a high-spirited dance in a crowded disco nearby; we’d taken some speed and I felt very good here, very carefree, the future and the present glowing with promise and pleasure. We went back to the main hall which was fairly empty and so only a few people saw the performance of the support band, The Wasp Factory, who Grant said were really good. Pete & I didn’t like them very much, finding cause for amusement and scorn in the lead singer’s pelvic gyrations and passé extravagances.

The Fall came on next, almost taking me unawares. They were up and into “Mere Pseud Mag Ed” before I knew it. They played a fairly good (long) set and it was good to hear “Man Whose Head Expanded,” “Marquis Cha-Cha” etc. Their new LP is called Perverted By Language. Grant, Nik and co. had vanished in the melee up front so Pete and I hung about where there was a bit more space and I leaped about with gay, speed-induced abandon and got very tired and hot. . . . One encore, then the lights came on ad the unwilling crowds were drifting out into the night.


Grant’s quiet and vaguely trendy Gloucester friend Gavin Spencer joined us and we walked back to the residence halls, finding everything quiet, dead and in darkness. We’d had a vague image of what to expect at Gloucester, based naively on Watermouth lines, but we’d been warned and should’ve listened.

No one was about and nothing stirred. The silence seemed oppressive; somewhere an air-conditioning or heating unit hummed quietly. We’d at least hoped for a few people to be up and having some midnight lunacies, but all we got was a friend of Gavin’s who had a girl in his room and hissed at us to go away. Grant kept pleading with us to keep the noise to a minimum as the Warden of the Halls lived on the end of the corridor, in the room next-door to his.

We had a joint – Grant kept reminding us about the noise and warning us not to leave any evidence of our illicit smoke in case he “got in the shit.” Eventually he and the others went to bed, leaving Pete and I to bore Gavin with our facetious comments and our incredulity at Gloucester’s deadness. We retired to the Common Room and Gavin went to bed.

Pete and I just sat there, mumbling to one another until the miserable light of morning filtered through the curtains and we tried half-heartedly to get some sleep. Grant made a tangled, scowl-browed appearance at eight, exhorting us to rise before the cleaners came. Nik and his friend left to hitch back to Camberwell and Grant lapsed into a gloomy and intense frame of mind, rarely raising himself from it sufficiently to laugh or smile.

We wandered around what is laughingly called the ‘campus,’ a loose aggregate of low-rise buildings reminiscent of some shabby council estate. The majority of the student population is apparently into PE and rugby etc. . . . What a faceless, dreary, utterly uninspiring place. Staying there will break Grant; he seems to move in a permanent gloom.

Pete and I began to feel very tired, and sat in the ‘bar’ (ha ha) most of the day. Grant’s mental misery rubbed off on me, and I felt a momentary pang of anger when he muttered “Why did you come here?” To see you, you oaf, why else!? I’ve known him since I was a kid, and yet at times he seemed very remote. The more the day dragged on the greater our collective stagnation and I slipped into a heavy, dull silence. I felt thoroughly drained.

Things livened up slightly in the evening, with smoking of dope and some traipsing about to and fro from various rooms with large groups of cheerful people, but I eventually had to leave at about eight. I took some speed and left Pete listening to records in someone’s room.


I felt better after making the effort to move and in fact I quite enjoyed the lone journey back to Watermouth. The speed threw my mind into forward gear and I spent the hours on the train staring glassily ahead of me, my mind awhirl with thoughts and ideas.

I’d got a copy of Grant and Nik’s joint collaboration The Spike, an A4-sized pamphlet featuring Nik’s pen and ink drawings and Grant’s sparse lines of verse, some of which I quite like (for the record – “Lighting Up,” “Hedonist (Socially Mobile),” “Night-Walk”). Most of them concern his usual themes of social isolation, full of images of street-lamps, dark decaying cities and repulsive social/sexual interactions. . . . This inspired me to contrive verse of my own, and elaborate rambling word-structures that I developed into long letters on various themes, but I had no pen or paper and so the creations were lost. Speed is the best drug I’ve had—such glimpses of Potential—but I don’t know whether it’s worth it physically or financially. Perhaps if I took some one morning and allowed a day to run its natural course. . . .

I arrived back in Watermouth eager for paper and pens to convert my speculations into hard actuality, but as usual, I allowed myself to be distracted by Barry, who was crowing triumphantly over some address he’d been given by a girl he had chatted up in the Cellar.

It’s now eleven at night and everyone has gone out to an invites-only party at ‘L.A. thrown by the University trendies. Mo spent ages primping herself up for it, getting her looks in order for the night ahead. I didn’t get invited.

Inga came round wet-eyed just as Mo was leaving, quietly wrought over some bad-feeling in her house. She’s asleep on Pete’s bed now.

Tuesday, November 8, 1983

Coffee bar


I met Barry, Lindsey and Shelley in the library coffee bar. I hadn’t seen Lindsey since last Wednesday at Masquerades and Shelley for a week. Lindsey and Liddy were selling Next Steps today around the mini-market, and all the old twinges of self-contempt surfaced.

Anyway, Barry and I went to the Cellar and came home where I lay on my bed and wrestled with mixed feelings. I think at this point in time the chance of me not going have become more apparent. Either way, I will have to sort it out soon.

I could miss so much and perhaps forsake a never-to-be-repeated opportunity.

Monday, November 7, 1983

Pasmore


Poor prospects for the year abroad. I went to a meeting at twenty to four with Colin Pasmore, who’s in charge of year abroad arrangements. I was told that that mine, Guy’s and Pete’s first choice of Miskatonic is very highly subscribed and it’s doubtful we’ll all be there together.

Next on the list would be Camden College in Vermont. Students are coming back from America with £800-plus in debt. I was asked about my money situation and I said I felt guilty asking Mum and Dad to fork out this sum on top of the £1000 they contribute towards my grant.

Exemption from the year abroad would be “no problem” says Colin Pasmore: I would just slot straight in with the final years and take my finals in May 1985, a year earlier.

I also met Mr. Carwardine and apologised to him for missing last Thursday’s tutorial, some lie about illness and a note that wasn’t delivered. He was quite OK about it and told me what’s due for next week (Coleridge, Keats, and Shelley).

We have a reading break this week. I got away with it.
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