Monday, October 17, 1983

Mobility


I got a letter from Dad and things seem to be looking up. He has the chance of a job as commissionaire at the Easterby Echo and should’ve found out by now whether he’s got it or not. He sounded very hopeful, and if he’s successful, the three Martindale brothers will be reunited under the roof of the same employer.

I hope he does get it, for it’ll mean that he and Mum will get on better and feel better for the extra cash that’s coming in, and also I’ll feel less selfish about burdening them with all the extra financial responsibility my year abroad will entail.

Andrew has got a job at the Sackett Group in Epping, Essex, so soon the money will be rolling in and he’ll be well on the way towards reaching that well-off position he aspires to.

Sunday, October 16, 1983

Talent


Another drunken night; a party at Lindsey’s friend Liddy’s last night, which everyone attended. While Barry and I went to meet Stu in The Cat and Lizard, everyone else set off in Del’s Hillman Imp.

Stu went to dump his washing and Barry and I had a game of darts, but we got sick of waiting so we hung about outside. It was wet yet again, and as we waited Barry spotted Lee who was wending his way down Meadspike Road towards the derelict pub’ at the bottom. He saw us, waved, and came across. He had a hammer and screwdriver with him and was just about to break in to the pub when we’d seen him. He’d called round Jervis Terrace but we’d just gone.

When Stu turned up he and Barry strode off into the rainy night leaving Lee and I to our own devices. We walked all the way to Stoneways Road and there caught a bus into New Lycroft, found Lindsey and Susie out, but discovered them with everyone else in the Nelson Inn nearby. John and Del were on acid and in loud jocular spirits; Lindsey said she found them “irritating.”

Liddy’s party, evidently quiet and cultured before we arrived, turned manic after we showed up. John and Del immediately set to work chatting up “the talent,” including Inga, a friend of Pete’s from Sweden, who seemed a bit overwhelmed by the deluge of Turney-speak which hit her. Lee squirted twin streams of saliva from his glands at various people and spat lemonade all over one girl’s back, I stood on his head with my para boots and ground him into the sofa as he sat there leering at me (he then squirted lemonade in my face). Finally I poured the bottle over John’s head as he sat talking to a girl.

A jumble of images and vague memories of excess . . . I kicked a door at someone, glaring threateningly, but needless to say, I remember none of this (but was told it later). Why I was in the mood I was in I don’t know . . . We all piled out and into a fast food place nearby, and I think we were on the verge of getting kicked out of the party anyway.

Today we drove up to the restaurant at Nick’s Hill for a meal but found it closed and ended up forking out £3 each for food at a King’s Road restaurant which we could only partly eat.

I’ve spent all evening working on the history of the civil rights movement throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s for my Black Americans tutorial. Next week our collective scrutiny turns to SNCC.

Saturday, October 15, 1983

Anchor


Lindsey, Guy, Barry, Stu and Mo and I met up at the Anchor last night and ended up in the dark pretentiousness of the Sanctuary beneath the Helios Hotel. Stu and I got absolutely drenched as we had opted to walk the few hundred yards from the pub while the others caught a cab. Mo rode home on the bus and we struggled on although the heavens had opened & the roads were awash.

Afterwards, we had a cup of tea at Guy’s place on Sutton Road and met one of his flat-mates, Felicity. She and Barry got embroiled in a political discussion; she supports Labour and CND, and she sounded no less committed than Barry, if the less realistic. Guy interspersed the debate with inane drunken comments, and Stu and I took up a position loosely aligned with Barry.

Everything fragmented and took a pleasingly ridiculous turn and the room was soon filled with laughter. We went to bed at four and slept on the carpet in the large living room.

I woke up cold and uncomfortable late in the morning. We lay like slugs in our blankets and sleeping bags watching the TV, until the appearance of Felicity’s Mum and Dad roused us to action. We left, accompanied by Guy, and got something to eat at a fast food place near the sea front. The sea was brown and ferocious, great lines of breakers roaring in one after the other against the beach. The wind was so fierce that we had difficulty standing at times, and I can’t ever remember being in winds as strong.

After getting home we descended en masse on Holmes Avenue laundrette and I slipped into one of my black paranoiac moods, getting irritated by everyone. We got back after dark: John and Del sat watching TV. They’ve been looking for a place to live, but still haven’t found anywhere, and both Barry and I are getting a bit pissed off by their continued presence here. They seem to take this place for granted simply because Barry lives here, forgetting that Pete and I do too. Neither of them ever contribute towards food or washing up, and leave their dirty pots and pans about until someone else (usually Mo) clears them away. Trevor’s constant talk of sex and how good he is with girls is a drag too, even though I suspect most of it is self-parody.

Friday, October 14, 1983

She knows you know she knows


I sometimes find myself liking John, yet at others I dislike him for the way he pins me so thoroughly to the wall with his words.

Last night, he and Del (who returned on Wednesday) slept on a mattress in my room and before they fell asleep John kept asking questions: “How often do you think of sex?”; “Do you wank?”; “You fancy Lindsey, don’t you? She knows you do, and she knows that you know she knows, but her conditioning as a woman prevents her from asking you to bed . . .” and so on. He was in a manic mood earlier, leaping about and constantly cracking one-liners. I don’t think Mo likes him very much. Today, he and Del have at last set out in search of somewhere to live.

After a talk with Guy on Wednesday evening at Masquerades, I’m now certain that switching to Art History would be a bad idea. As a result, I’ve been a lot more positive about my course and I’m actually enjoying doing the work. I spent the entire afternoon today making notes for Monday’s Black Americans tutorial. Pete was a bit pissed off at his lack of motivation, and at teatime walked out in a sulk to buy a bottle of whiskey. Barry is messing about with his synth at this moment and Del and John are still out.

Cecil Parkinson finally resigned today over the ‘scandal’ of his pregnant secretary Sarah Keays, sanctimonious statements of support from Thatcher and colleagues still ringing in his ears. Thus the grey-faced guardian of Tory morality bites the dust. He’s finished, and I’m pleased he’s met the end that he has. If I were S. Keays, I’d have the baby in London and name it Cecil Jr. or Cecilia, lest he tries to sweep it under the carpet—but maybe that would be too cruel on the kid.

Thursday, October 13, 1983

Pass to the golden world


Last night at nine, after rushing to finish my work on Blake, I caught the bus to Masquerades and to what turned into a repeat of the last time we were there. Most people save Gareth turned up; he’s ill with food poisoning. We all got pissed on the ½-price drinks.

I presented my tutorial this afternoon on Blake’s Prophecy, in which America emerges as a symbol for the realisation of man. This is a theme which fascinates me, and it’s detectable through a lot of the literature I’ve looked at (Wolfe, Whitman, Thoreau, Kerouac, etc.). Although our dreams are always shattered by reality, still we go on dreaming.

After my tutorial ended I went down to the library café and met Guy and we went home on the bus amid tremendous downpours; we got absolutely soaked as we sprinted for Dee’s Diner, where we had something to eat and played a few games of pinball and Pac-Man.

Wednesday, October 12, 1983

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal


Last night John Turney cornered me in my room as I was trying to read The Magus. I saw his eyes flit across my desk towards this journal, lying unconcealed. “What’s in that book?,” he asked me bluntly, as if he meant to put me on the spot. He said he’d been in and read it the other day, and teased me (“you’ll never get off with her”), before trying to pass it off as a joke.

I was left feeling very unsure. For better or for worse all my weaknesses and emotional excesses are exorcised on these pages. This is how I am.

But amazingly, it seems that he'd come into my room for advice, or rather to clear his mind by talking to someone, which he then did for several hours, a long monologue about his friend Martin who he’s fallen out with over the latter’s “sinister” attempts to undermine John in other peoples’ eyes—they had a disastrous holiday together in Greece and things came to a head in Holland where they stayed for six weeks—all the usual intrigue, romance, ‘eternal triangles’ etc., etc. John says he’s writing a play in order to purge himself of all his vindictiveness and anger.

He criticised the RCP too; he characterised its leading lights (people such as Pat Roberts and Carl Cotton) as “narrow,” perhaps even dull people, even though they're well suited to the RCP’s current party-building needs.

He described a quality in Carl that I’ve noticed before too, namely the way he never divorces himself from Party business. He comes across as someone who (in John’s words) “brings their office work home with them”; he’s cold and aloof around we students, alienating everyone with his impossible-to-escape RCP opinions. He judges on the basis of political commitment or the potential for such. Trevor said he’s praised Lindsey as the only person at Watermouth prepared to get herself involved in the mundane necessities of building a revolutionary Party.


 I must rank with the worms in his eyes. I’m sure he finds the world of students thoroughly contemptible, but mockery, sarcasm, condescension and belittling people isn’t the way to win support. Friendly conversation is.

John sees himself as unsuited to this era of RCP history and firmly believes that the people involved now who are creating the “vanguard” who will become Party “heroes” when the Revolution eventually does triumph, as he’s certain it will. I’m sure if that day comes, there’ll be a lot of people who, having shunned the drudgery of six a.m. paper sales, will happily take up their unquestioning places behind the barricades. Stu is one of those people, and if The Revolution erupts in my lifetime, I know which side I’ll be on—and it won’t be that of the Government or the Police. Meanwhile, I don’t want to forsake the idle pleasures of capitalism just yet while they still have something to offer. Why can we still find refuge in capitalism? I wonder what Carl’s answer to this would be?

I don’t like the RCP. Secrecy, utter commitment and a quasi-military organisation might be necessary at this time, but will that tendency be reversible when the RCP becomes a mass party with nationwide support? Will this country’s much vaunted ‘democratic tradition’ come to the rescue and stop the British revolution going the way of the Russian? I often wonder if one day, the Carl Cotton’s of this world will have people such as I put up against a wall and shot.

I got a letter from Claire this morning. “Can you ever smell perfume on my letters?” she asks, which makes me wonder. . . I spent most of the day in an ill-temper. I tried to hitch in to campus but stood for ages with no luck, until finally a car put its indicator on as if to stop. I thought my patience had been rewarded, but the bastard drove off laughing. I gave up and stalked home moodily.

Tuesday, October 11, 1983

Vision from afar


I went into the library at mid-day to work, but it’s now six p.m. and so far I’ve done nothing. I met Barry and Pete in the library cafeteria at four; that old sense of claustrophobia, dull irritation and boredom seized me. Shelley made a brief appearance; she’s moved out of Jubilee Street and is now sharing a flat with her three friends from K.F.C.: “My room faces the sea and in the evenings it’s filled with the glow of sunsets!” etc. She stayed about a quarter of an hour, that was all.

I’m reading America, A Prophecy by Blake, and at home I’ve begun to read The Magus by John Fowles. As I started it I was filled with a feeling of loss and self-recrimination about the wasted summer.

Barry and I paid our rent today. It was late and we’ve been speculating that perhaps we haven’t been hassled because the flat is in such a shit condition. We’ve been thinking of getting the Rent Assessment people in to force Crown Racing’s hand into doing repairs. We’ve now discovered damp in the back sitting room; the wallpaper in one corner of the ceiling is hanging off in great sheets, which are black underneath. Barry’s bedroom is damp too, and the staircase seems afflicted with the same. Everywhere is still a mess, the kitchen grotty and cluttered with dirty washing up.

Monday, October 10, 1983

Devil's advocate


A foul wet day. I got a lift into Watermouth and bought tickets for myself and four others to see P.i.L. on Nov 1st. I don’t like their latest single, but J. Lydon is one of those people who’ll go down in the standard histories as “important,” so I suppose I want to see them purely for the historical spectacle.

I trudged around the streets in the rain, fulfilling all my mundane objectives. The glimpses I caught of the sea made me want to go and look at the grey angry waves, but the drizzle deterred me.

Mo still hasn’t found anywhere to live; she keeps going to see places but is always put off either by their poor condition or the price. John hasn’t, so far as we know, even rung anywhere up yet. He spent most of the day asleep in Barry’s room, and I think Barry is getting a bit pissed off with him.

In the afternoon I had a tutorial and as usual I hadn’t done any work for it but conned my way through. I got back at teatime to find Lindsey, Susie and Barry watching the TV. It was an uneventful evening; we went out for a drink at the Jervis Arms.

Derek, Kevin and John stayed up all night in heated conversation and I think things got a little ‘heavy’ and politically pointed at times. John claims that at this era in its history, the RCP is all about party-building, and so it needs the Carl Cottons of this world. Apparently last night Kevin criticised John’s lack of RCP involvement; John attacked Kevin in turn, which left the latter “shattered” according to J. “I acted as the Devil’s Advocate, putting doubts into his mind to see how he’d respond.”

I think my decision over the summer not to go to the RCP meetings was a decision motivated primarily by fear. Looking back it was such a feeble, negative response, and a transparently obvious one I’m sure. Instead of this feeling of helpless confusion, what I needed and still need is some sort of cogent response or concrete argument in support of my position. Stu has a good answer: Given the RCP’s demand for total commitment, if you’re not prepared to give that whole heartedly then it’s pointless giving any. Despite my hasty judgements, Barry’s friends do doubt the Party and are critical of its attitudes and the “Genghis Khan” elements within it such as Pat Roberts.

I still can’t make my mind up about changing courses. I’m sick of waiting for a Way to emerge from the tangle of confused options that clog my mind. What do I want to do? Only I can decide that, but even this act of self-will escapes me.

Sunday, October 9, 1983

Fixtures


Last night, not long after we got back from the football, we set off to the pub for a few drinks, and there ensued a brief but intense discussion about the RCP. I stayed silent for much of the time.

Doug feels alienated and find the Party’s inflexibility a little irritating at times; all questions or criticisms founder emptily against the brick-wall of the RCP’s ‘my Party right or wrong’ syndrome. The Party demands 100% commitment and nothing less; Doug took the line that living a life in the best (Marxist) way possible for yourself simply wasn’t enough and was, in fact, futile if you weren’t involved with wider party politics, etc. He was quite forceful about this.

Eventually, after everyone else turned up, we stopped at the pub off-sales shop and walked to Marion Place. Katie greeted us at the door. She cultivates coarseness in herself, and was full of knowing smiles and ‘deep’ looks. Their clean, large house is magnificent compared to ours and it soon filled up, developing into a fairly good party.
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I got pleasantly pissed and found myself embroiled in one of those self-induced and hatefully enjoyable meetings with Rowan alone together in her room. Then I met one of the girls who lived in Jervis Terrace over the summer; she seemed very naïve and innocent. I met other people too, fleetingly in the crush of the corridor or in some dim room; Guy was pissed, and after asking me if he could, head butted me and knocked me over. I saw Lindsey and Susie and Gareth and Stu briefly on the stairs . . . lots of other faces . . . fragments of situations, too many and too complicated to recount in detail. . . .

I drifted up the stairs to find Barry, Guy and Miles Beattie plus assorted others watching a video of The Young Ones. Ade and Doug lay on the bed, the latter with his head in Lindsey’s lap, she with her arm draped across his chest. For an instant the old hurts sprang up like flames inside. “Oh dear, Lindsey’s involved,” said Susie pathetically, sitting on the steps. . . .

My evening ended down in the basement in a windowless room whose walls were papered with words such as “Lust” and “Bonk," scavving dope from a soldier home on leave from N. Ireland and his hippy friends while Katie and Rowan stared unblinkingly at one another, playing their Staring Game.

When I got back to Jervis Terrace everyone else was asleep and it was five a.m.; I had to wake Ade up to let me in.


Today Doug took Barry and I for a drive to see ‘Nick’s Hill,’ a mysterious mound a few miles north of Watermouth. We followed Hill Road through suburbia until we were out into the countryside, the fields rolling flintily away towards the chimneys of Langridge Cliffs power station and the grey blur of the sea.

At the Hill itself there were a lot of Sunday trippers, Mums and Dads and kids who kindled memories of not too distant occasions with my own parents on similar outings. A restaurant and pub stand on a low plateau facing on one side the tremendous grey vista of the flat plain striding toward the horizon and London, and on the other the Hill itself, a perfectly conical mound rising from the bushy landscape, its even slopes dotted with shrubs and clad in a paler grass than everywhere else. The wind was bitter, cutting through us as it roared in from the sea, and although a few people had braved the ascent up the slopes, we weren’t feeling so strenuous so we braced ourselves against the wind and strode back to the car.

Doug left at teatime to go back to London, to be replaced by yet more of Barry’s RCP friends—John again, and Derek Caraway (who they all call Del), a replica of John with a gaping shark-like and down-turned mouth, and the quiet Kevin, who reminded me of a character from a 1930s Boys Own comic. They were all in fine form and I slunk into my customary position along with the rest of the fixtures in the room.

When John and Del got together the sparks flew. The three of them went out for a drink with Barry and came back at closing time in high spirits. Barry and Pete and Mo have gone to bed and the other three have taken acid and driven off into Watermouth in Del’s car.

Saturday, October 8, 1983

Derby


I wrote to Mum and Dad, and a typically limp letter to Claire before Barry, Guy and I set off to the football and the local derby with Bedgrove.

We met at Guy’s local, The Wessex Ram, near Sutton Road, and drove to the ground. We parked the car a discreet distance away and joined the scattered crowds all heading the same way. There was forty five minutes to go before kick off and the Bedgrove fans were already a massed bank of yellow and red on the South Terrace, diagonally to our left. At times the noise was terrific; “You’re gonna get your fucking heads kicked in . . .” etc., all the old favourites, all aimed at our side of the ground. I tried to separate their faces out as individuals, but they were small and blank with distance.

The game itself wasn’t very distinguished and Bedgrove were two up after just twenty minutes; the South Terrace went berserk, while the figures around us muttered dumb acknowledgement. For too much of the match though, events off-field detracted from the events on, and our eyes were drawn irresistibly to the spectacle of dozens of Bedgrove fans kicking with their boots at the large double gates at the front of their cage. The police hurried quickly onto the cinder track between the pitch and the fence and stood with their arms and bodies braced against the gates as a section of the crowd threw itself repeatedly at them, the cops fending them off by prodding with truncheons through the mesh. At one point we all thought the gates would go and the mob come pouring onto the pitch.

Watermouth applied intense pressure for the last quarter of an hour and forced several corners and free kicks, but Bedgrove held on and at the final whistle our section of the crowd fled. The streets leading from the ground were full of hurrying figures, bent against the bitter wind, some even running and casting anxious glances behind from whence drifted the faint sound of triumphant voices.

We called in at Guy’s for a cup of coffee before driving home. Doug, yet another of Barry’s RCP clique of friends, was waiting when we got back. He hides the RCP hardness beneath a more amenable, less intimidating façade, but deep down it’s there all the same.

Friday, October 7, 1983

Mickey Mouse


John Turney (who left early this week and made a brief appearance last night when we were all in The Westdorgan with Carl Cotton-even the normally house-bound Ade had come along), went again this afternoon, looking very smart with Brylcreem-d hair and a paisley cravat. Carl C. left this morning too; he, Barry and Trevor slept three-to-a bed last night.

When John and Carl get together I feel out of my depth; the political grasp and confidence of those two makes me despair for myself, and makes me feel like all my ideas and thoughts are like so much insubstantial chaff. While John and Carl were in the house our world here seemed to stand on shaky, crumbling foundations.

Students. The word should be spat out.

Stu and Gareth have finally found a place to live, a bed and breakfast for £20 per week not far from us in Tremont Place, which is temporary until they find somewhere more suitable.

Do I stick with my American Lit course or change to History of Art? A recent survey in the Guardian said that these two courses were the “Mickey Mouse” courses at Watermouth, and the ones least likely to provide their students with a job, which of course is just a typical situation for me to be in. I’ve heard rumours that Watermouth’s History of Art course is poorly taught, and Mo knows two people who’ve dropped out for that reason.

Mo and I are alone in the house; everyone else is out. I’m saving myself for the excesses of tomorrow night’s party at Marion Place, and an afternoon visit to Empire Lane to watch Watermouth Trinity. I’ve reading to do and an essay to hand in on Monday for my Black Americans course, and I must write home too.

I got a letter from Grant in Gloucester, written while sitting alone in his room, the weather pissing it down outside. He complained of everyone being “stand-offish.”

Thursday, October 6, 1983

A prophecy


I attended my first tutorial of the term on Romanticism at eleven thirty. I hitched there and back, which I quite enjoyed as it was a superb warm autumn day.

The tutorial went OK, just a discussion about how the course is going to be run with two other tutees and my Personal Tutor, Don Carwardine. I have to present next week’s tutorial on Blake’s America, A Prophecy to the group. As D.C. rambled on quietly, my indecision over what to do about my course raged within. I’m still very undecided about what to do and as a result I’m not particularly bothered which course I take. Mr. Ingham was right—I have no ambition. Still, I left the tutorial feeling optimistic.

Mr Carwardine asked me to stay behind and asked how my summer was. I told him about Calverdale and my three months of inactivity and how this accorded well with my nature. He seems to be taking more notice than normal of my progress, and perhaps I’ve been identified as potential failure material?

As I wandered back towards Wickbourne Road, campus was in one of its bright, sparkling, lively moods and I kept seeing familiar faces. I bumped into Lindsey, her friend Liddy and Carl Cotton, who aim to be the nucleus of a potential RCP movement at the University. I know Lindsey has her reservations about being increasingly enmeshed by the commitment but Carl—who lives, breathes and sleeps RCP—no doubt dispels all her reservations when he’s with her.

He and Lindsey came back to our house in the late afternoon after a day of selling Next Steps, and she sat quietly on my bed with usual downcast eyes. Carl was critical of Barry’s band schemes: “I thought he’d grown out of that frame of mind when he was 15.”

Once Barry’s paid our rent of £208 he’ll have exactly £1 left to last him all term, and he wants to borrow £50 from me, an idea Carl doesn’t think much of. “I wouldn’t lend it to him.”

Wednesday, October 5, 1983

Masquerades


Guy, Gareth, Stu, Barry and I went to the Masquerades nightclub in Cudmark Way. It only cost 75p to get in and until eleven the drinks were half-price. We went over the top and I spent in the region of £7 or £8 and ended the night buying a total of fourteen whiskies, four Southern Comforts and three pints of bitter.

I wasn’t as ill or as drunk as these figures would suggest, my greatest social faux pas being to fall asleep as everyone chatted. There were only a few people there, so it was a sedate evening by usual ‘club standards,’ being more like a glorified pub. Lindsey and her new friend Liddy rolled up shortly after us, and Graeme made a brief (and boring) appearance.

Barry, Stu and I were quite pissed driving back in the car; we’re bound to get done sooner or later.

Tuesday, October 4, 1983

Exorcism


I met Lee at the Art College in the early afternoon. It was bright and sunny and he showed me the work he’s been doing, which isn’t like ‘work’ at all. He’s painting Japanese soldier figures with photographic emulsion and exposing them, trying to get all the light and dark tones to reproduce themselves via the emulsion, but so far it hasn’t worked. He’s got a darkroom to himself, and works all day until evening.

We went for a walk round Watermouth and ended up at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, on Seaview Crescent near Maynard Park. We were drawn to it because of it’s sheer size: vertical walls tower into the clear sky as high as the average church steeple, and if you stand right at the foot of them you have to lean backwards to see the top.

Inside it was quiet and hushed, the vast chamber cowing us to low whispers, the traffic and city tumult dying to a distant, unimportant murmur. Everything about the church was massive, the altar a great marble edifice, framed by an archway and two giant candles, one at either side. The gaudy altar struck me somehow as crude and ‘idolatrous’ (if I can say this without sounding too Protestant—is this my ‘conditioning’ speaking I wonder?) High on one end wall, opposite a huge stained-glass window, was an enormous cross. Even the normally irreverent Lee was impressed enough to put a simple “amazing” in the visitor’s book.

Later on, we went to Shelley’s ‘party,’ held at 6 Jubilee Street. She’s moving out and Shawn is moving in: he’s living in Penny’s room at the moment with the Girl herself, and Shelley is moving in with her Kentucky Fried Chicken pals; she apparently wants to do more work for her course and thinks living with them will give her a settled routine. Shelley seemed quite touched that everyone had made the effort to show up, and I think she was surprised. Rowan was there too; I’d met Lindsey and Susie on my way to the off licence and after going to the pub’ for half-an-hour we found Rowan sitting on the doorstep of No. 28, under the impression that everyone was out. She’d been given the wrong address.

The party was really just an evening sat round drinking and talking and listening to the meagre selection of tapes on hand. Rowan and I gravitated towards one another: I’m such a sucker for punishment, but I can’t resist the fascination of Rowan, and the usual tête-à-tête developed.

We exorcised the strangenesses of last term and she apologized for her behaviour then. I told her that I felt I’d been taken for a ride and that she and Kate had been laughing at me behind my back and I’m certain of it now for what she said was a virtual admission. What I’d known all along had been proved true. She and her puppet Kate cackling at my feeblenesses while I cried myself to sleep. I will not repeat those mistakes again. She apologized and apologized, begging me to forgive her and coming out with all the usual crap. I know now that I’m well and truly back.

 I didn’t want to leave . . . everyone was there and I didn’t want to leave . . . but finally in the small hours of the morning, Barry, Ade, Stu and I dragged ourselves away and drove home.

Monday, October 3, 1983

Blindness


Vivid dreams about Claire. I woke up and realised that the cold grey light around me was the real world, not the warm glowing one I had just been in.

The house this morning was in absolute chaos. Seven people slept here last night: me, Pete, Mo, Barry, John, Ade and Stu. Another week beckons, taken up with the routine superficialities of student existence; booze, socialising, and no work. Another week gone in my life, no nearer working out the things I profess to seek an answer to. Another week of blindness, of my malleable existence.

Sunday, October 2, 1983

You'll never get rich


Nothing special. We were watching the Spurs v Forest match live on ITV when Lee rang the doorbell.

Things quickly turned chaotic; Lee climbed up into the loft, Pete and Mo cavorted on their bed and Barry and Ade plugged in their guitars and demolished us with sound. Lee and I left, borrowing a screwdriver from the next-door neighbour (“Hope you’re not going to break in”), and proceeded to attempt to break into a boarded up and derelict pub on the Wickbourne Road.

We spent the evening at The Westdorgan up on Holmes Avenue. Stu turned up mid-evening, hair dyed black; he’s the same as ever. We rounded things off with a Chinese take-away and watched Bilko.

Saturday, October 1, 1983

Dummies

I spent the night on Lee’s floor and I got up quite early by my standards. We watched a kid’s show on TV and then in the afternoon went for a walk up Old Priory Road to Gaunt’s Hill Road.

The hills were shrouded in a mantle of cold wet drizzle and mist, the distant sea hidden behind banks of grey fog. We went back to Varney Hall and had something to eat before I walked home. I got lost on Jervis Golf Course.

When I got back, I had to run the expected gauntlet of laughter, teasing and commiserations over my short hair (“baldy,” etc.). Barry and friend Ade drove down last night bringing John Turney with them, plus masses of stuff. The hallway was cluttered with Barry’s £460 synth, and he and Ade told me they are concentrating on getting a group together. The flat—not built for seven people and a tip anyway—was just ridiculous; we could barely move.

Our night out was already planned, a trip to Lindsey and Susie’s new flat across the other side of Watermouth. We took Ade’s car, but Ade himself didn’t come as he was tired and on the way we stopped at an off-licence. It took about an hour for us to negotiate our way through the maze of one-way streets.

Lindsey and Susie’s flat is small but very clean and very tidy and makes our place look filthy in comparison. There is just one main room, with cooker, fridge, shower etc., off which lead their two bedrooms. Lindsey looked as dark and pretty as ever, and I melted into the background. Shelley arrived and we all tucked into the food L. and Susie had made, and the room became a stage for John Turney. . . .

After the food, we all piled into Ade’s car (three in front, five in the back), and risking Barry’s license, drove along the seafront to The Sanctuary (it was called Antoinette's last term), a depressing night-club in the basement of one of the large Georgian hotels for which Watermouth is famous. It cost £2 to get in. The club was full of Siouxsie Su look alikes, black the predominant colour, and sickened us all off. Scores of bored, boring people sat about pretending to be different but looking like so many predictable dummies. Clubs are pretty shit places anyway, but this one was shitter than most, and we left after half-an-hour, preferring to leap about on the beach, play on the rides and swings and throw pebbles at one another.

We drove back to Lindsey and Susie’s and stayed until well past midnight. Ade’s car broke down in Watermouth so we walked the rest of the way back.

Friday, September 30, 1983

Kicker conspiracy


Pete, Mo and I went for a lunchtime drink at The Jervis Arms, our old rambling local, and afterwards we went into Watermouth. I bought The Fall’s “Kicker Conspiracy” (I still say they should split up), and we had some tea in a tiny café near Attlee Square before Mo went off to try to find a flat. Pete and I remained there feeling very conspicuous; sometimes the conversation around us dropped, and it seemed as if all eyes were upon us.

We met Shelley outside, who’d just come back from a Siouxsie and The Banshees concert in London. Her latest craze is to regard herself as some sort of outrageous punk, which is utter crap. Pete was in one of his ‘wacky’ moods and so I left him to go over to Lee’s on the train.

Lee seemed pleased to see me; he said he’d been pissed off that I hadn’t gone over yesterday like I said I might. He’s still keeping his distance so far as making friends with the other people in his residence hall is concerned. In the kitchen he treats them disdainfully and with a kind of arrogance, setting out to be as deliberately irritating and annoying as possible: “I suppose it’s stupid really. I should try to make friends with the people I’m living with.”

Instead he stays holed up in his breeze-block, white-washed cell, watching his portable TV and talking to himself, and when he does venture out into the kitchen he kills the crane-flies which continually flutter in through the open window by squirting washing-up liquid at them and thereby annoying everyone else. Says he, laughing; “they daredn’t shout at me as it’s only the first week.”

We didn’t do much, just messed about really. I let Lee cut my hair, which was a mistake as it’s now painfully short.

Thursday, September 29, 1983

Too little, too far


Since I arrived in Watermouth the days have drifted by, marked by lethargy and inaction. I haven’t seen Lee since Monday although I was planning on going over to Old Priory Road this afternoon, but we didn’t get up until dinnertime and the rest of the day passed quite quickly, with Pete, Mo and I sitting about and achieving very little.

Mo is still looking for somewhere to live. Barry and Stu may well be here by tonight. We plan to decorate this place eventually and I’m not nearly so pissed off as I was about living here.

What a feeble maze of indecision I tread when away from Watermouth. I thought about Claire again today and it makes me angry at myself when I look back and realise how I let months go by without phoning her up.

What is the source of this unnatural—almost neurotic—fear that has hampered me all my life? Will it ever be battered out of me? What is it I’m scared of? I can’t answer: something to do with that old inability to judge between ‘too little’ and ‘too far.’

Wednesday, September 28, 1983

Transitions


I woke up today with a headache.

One of the girls who lived here over the summer called round for some of her stuff with the cheerful opinion that she wouldn’t want to live here during the winter as “the last couple of weeks, we were freezing.” Virtually none of the windows shut properly, and the only heating we have comes from electric bar fires, which are expensive to run. The last two gas and electric bills were £9 and £4.

It’s been an idle day. Pete has finally wrought some sort of order in his room. I rang Barry, and he’s coming down tomorrow with his friend Ade, who’ll be staying with us until he finds a place of his own. Their new band has worked out seven songs which Barry says are “brilliant.” Stu should be down in the next couple of days too. No one seems to have changed.

The drunkenness last night gave me the tiniest glimpse of how things were last term and how, no doubt, they soon shall be again. In the last few transitional days between one world and another, I’ve tried to analyse the state of mind and being which allowed me to slide into such a totally obsessive condition.

It seems hard to imagine at the moment: I keep thinking of Lee, who is a sort of link between my worlds, a stabilising figure who gives me a certain perspective on my life here and how it may develop.

Tuesday, September 27, 1983

Limpid green, a second scene


Shelley, Lindsey and Shawn called at eleven this morning, getting us up out of bed, Shawn as uncommunicative as ever, Shelley all smiles and giggles, Lindsey quiet and confident-seeming.

Not much else for the rest of the day, Pete and Mo retreating into the chaos of the front bedroom and a great quiet descending on the house.

In the evening Pete and I caught the bus into Watermouth and met Mo, then Lindsey and Susie, in The Frigate. It was just like old times, as though three months had never been; the acrid tang of cigarette smoke hanging in blue wreaths above the table, the endless procession to the bar for scrumpy at 80p a pint (green when held up to the light), the same mood. . . . I could feel the months evaporate: what only a few days ago had been remote and almost unimaginable—a shadow of the past—was a familiar scene, again all around me.

We got a bit drunk and went noisily home on the bus, Mo teasing me because I dribbled my drink in the pub. More key problems when we got back, which Pete solved by scaling the fall pipe to the bathroom window, breaking the latter as he climbed in.

Monday, September 26, 1983

Combined arts


I was up at eleven and I set off to walk into Watermouth to meet Lee. Pete and Mo were still in bed. It was just like summer, not a hint of autumn, the trees full and green and the air warm, and it seems that here the season is a couple of weeks behind that in Yorkshire.

Lee was waiting outside the Art College on Maynard Gardens. We wandered around Watermouth and I paid off my overdraft with a £100 cheque from Mum and Dad. It was a little depressing to pay this in to the bank and still only be £40 in the clear.

I bought a black-and-white TV licence and we went back down to Maynard Gardens and I sat outside while Lee was introduced to his course and the other six Combined Arts students, who he characterised as “bristle-heads who all look the same.” He still sounds very excited by the course.

We did a bit of shopping at Sainsbury’s and collected my trunk before catching a taxi back to Jervis Terrace. We had a hassle as my key didn’t fit, so we borrowed a ladder from a neighbour and Lee climbed in through a back window.

Lee left at nine just as Pete and Mo came back from wherever they’d been all evening. He said he couldn’t imagine anyone but students living here.

Sunday, September 25, 1983

Different world


Here I am, in my ‘different world.’

I’m writing this in my room at 44A Jervis Terrace; it’s nearly one o’clock in the morning and all is quiet. Pete and Mo are in the front room but silence reigns.

Today’s day of travelling was a little farcical once we had reached Watermouth. Dad dropped me at the station and shook my hand before returning home to Mum and Nanna P. Lee rolled up as the coach was preparing to leave, his Mum wet-eyed and full of tearful goodbyes. When we left Easterby the weather was dull but it picked up the farther south we travelled, and soon I was sweating in the full blaze of a glorious day, magnified through the coach window.

We got into Watermouth at teatime, getting off the coach at Wessex Road. It was chaos for a little while—indecision over what to do, where to go and how to cope with Lee’s huge amount of luggage. We eventually got a taxi from outside the aquarist’s shop near the bottom of Gaunt’s Hill View: I took my stuff to Jervis Terrace while Lee waited, but I discovered the flat locked and empty so I had to dump my stuff next door with a middle-aged neighbour and his doddering, ancient father.

I walked back to meet Lee and we got another taxi to Old Priory Road and Lee’s new home, the Varney Halls of Residence belonging to Watermouth College. Lee’s room was in a nearby block of ‘student residences,' in front of which were several pathetic-looking new students being helped by parents to unload possessions into unfriendly, sterile little rooms. I could sympathise. We found room 444, a white-washed, miserably small room with stone walls, a bed, a sink and wardrobe which made the rooms in Wollstonecraft Hall look spacious in comparison, and we lugged all his stuff up the several flights of stairs.

Lee seemed taken aback at his fellow inmates, who seemed to be engineers mostly. “I came here to escape tap-room lads,” he said as a pair breezed past wafting clouds of aftershave in their wake. We went down to the kitchen to have something to eat and the enforced friendliness and false cheeriness as everyone tried to make friends was painful to watch—spike-haired student in Killing Joke T-shirt setting out unwillingly to the local student pub with a couple of wanky engineers, etc. Lee would have none of this, and with glassy eyes and monosyllabic answers rebuffed an attempt at conversation by a mechanical engineering Lee Cooper type. The rest of the meal was conducted in silence.

I left Lee packing his things away and arranged to meet him in Watermouth at dinnertime tomorrow. Pete was in when I got ‘home,’ watching TV and supping duty-free French whisky. The house hadn’t been touched by Mr. Harrop, Crown Racing, Colin or anyone else—no repairs even attempted apparently, although the place looks a little cleaner and certainly smells fresher.

We filled each other in on all the details of our summers and shortly after, Mo arrived and we all hit the sack.

Saturday, September 24, 1983

Talking aloud as they sit round their tables


My last day in Easterby. A trip to Bethany was planned but it never materialised. Nanna P. was brought from Cross Green Road at dinnertime and she spent the afternoon at the table knitting doll clothes. Janet’s baby is due in eight or nine weeks and she’s been given conflicting reports by doctors which hint that all is not well, and that the kid could even have spina bifida.

My day has cruised by unspectacularly, listening to the football on the radio and trying to pack while outside the wind blew and the sun shone. Athletic won 3-2 at Ryburn United. It was nail biting stuff listening to it on Radio North. They went a goal ahead after just thirteen minutes, but Ryburn equalised not long after, then went ahead themselves before Athletic drew level again; I really didn’t dare hope that the Spinners would win. But win they did, and Dad and I had a whisky in celebration of the winning goal and prayed away the last twenty minutes.

I mobilised myself to desultory packing most of the day, and I’m just now finishing off. Lee rang earlier in the evening to announce that he’s got hold of a Third Reich board game from John. He’s all set to leave too, and his Mum is tearful at his departure.

I wonder how he’ll change? Claire reckoned in her letter that he’d alter a lot as he’s been “restrained” here.

One of those unavoidable and unpleasant pre-departure days, with no real motivation to do anything, and a feeling that I’m biding my time. In a sense, things have felt a bit unreal. To Nanna P., people must constantly come and go around her, and I know when I’m southward–bound on the M1 tomorrow she’ll be here talking and knitting and looking forward to a “run-out.” Eternal.

Life will go on as usual after I’m gone, and in a way this thought is a little odd to think, although to others it’ll seem too stupid and obvious to mention. Mum, Dad & Nanna P. are watching The Omen, but I’ve no stomach for that so I’m bodging about until bed-time.

When I next write, I’ll be in a different world completely.

Friday, September 23, 1983

Love what you know


I got up this morning to find Dad in a bitter blank fury, railing against “immigrants” and the policies of the past for bespoiling ‘his’ Easterby. “There was a time when Easterbians were proud to be Easterbians,” he said angrily, with hot-eyed bitterness.

It’s just been announced that cut-backs in education in Easterby will mean 400 job losses among teachers and nursery nurses and Mum is worried about her job. If she loses it then she and Dad are fucked and I don’t see how they’ll be able to afford to keep me at Uni. Dad worries more about Mum’s health than anything, because the greater the hardships the greater her levels of worry.

He lashed out with blind, angry bewilderment and declared that Enoch Powell has been proved right. It was announced the other day that Easterby has the third highest birth rate in the country, which is about the only thing that’ll keep Mum in a job, because it’s the Asian women who have their kids the fastest. I’m not too worried about Uni.: the main problem if I did leave Uni. would be seeing direction and justification in my life.

I’m going to Watermouth on Sunday and so today was taken up in part with preparations for my departure. Dad and I drove down to the Parcel's Office at the station with my trunk (and cheese), which cost me £7. Dad told me that Mr. Tillotson hasn’t used the trunk since 1937 and the early years of his marriage.

It was a hot day, a last evocative glimpse of summer before we are swallowed up by the wintry weather, and as we drove up Gilthwaite Road the moors away beyond Keddon basked under pale blue skies and I wished I were miles away over the horizon, walking amid vastnesses.

After dropping my trunk at the station we called up to see Nanna B., but she was out, so Dad and I went for a walk around his old haunts when he was growing up, stooping by an old wall overlooking the last of Kerforth’s common land, now a weed-filled field sweeping down towards Iredale's Mill, in whose dam one of my relatives once committed suicide.

Nearby, partly hidden by trees, Dad pointed out the dark squat shape of an ancient cottage where John Wesley once stayed and preached. New housing has encroached on the old, but the skyline beyond Flaxhall Top, punctuated by the silhouetted steeple of Flaxhall Church, can’t have changed much since the turn of the century when Dad’s Dad was a kid. There was a tinge of poignancy and hidden sadness in the way he showed me Charnwood’s dam, where another distant figure from the family’s past ended his life, and old Kerforth abattoir, soon to be demolished, now derelict and boarded up.


We skirted the fields and took a small snicket that ran alongside Iredale’s Mill. Dad showed me the spot where as a kid he would lift the large stone slab of a hidden well and gaze down into the cool dark depths. The mill, once empty, is now in use again and the clackety-clack of machinery was somehow reassuring. The path ran between red-brick sheds and yards full of building materials. Here when he was a lad, Dad told me, sheep grazed and over there, the farmer kept his horses, whose restless night-time snuffles unsettled Dad and Uncle George as they returned home from the pictures. No. 59 Pollard Road, where they grew up, looks empty and semi-derelict now.

We wandered back up through Kerforth and along the main street, passing the house where Dad’s Dad lived after the suicide of his father (to this day we own a sepia-brown photo of him looking like Al Capone, standing in the doorway, fag in mouth); the Wheatsheaf pub where one day in 1917 my Great Uncle Ernest slapped his newly awarded Military Medal down on the bar promising, “It’ll be the VC next time!”: he was killed in France a month later; no. 52, where Dad’s Auntie Florrie was found dead one morning, so thin and frail that George had sat on the bed for fully ten minutes reading the ‘paper before realising she was lying there next to him, lifeless, while upstairs her sister Olive rooted about for the insurance papers. The whole of the Martindale and Watkin family histories—great chapters of them at least—have run their course within those few acres of old Kerforth.

N.B. was still out when we got back to her flat so we made a cup of tea and watched the Liberal Party Conference for a while before leaving (David Steel quoting Cromwell: “Know what you fight for, love what you know”). We made a trip to pick up Mum from school, but she’d gone, so we returned home feeling that somehow the day had slipped wastefully by when perhaps we could’ve gone somewhere.

When Mum came home from work deadbeat as usual, there were more niggles between her and Dad, as there often are nowadays. “I think we’re seeing too much of one another,” sighs Mum wearily, and then complains to me that she doesn’t think Dad is doing enough to relieve his isolation at home. A few weeks ago they’d both been full of enthusiasm about adult education classes and had even gone to the trouble of getting all the forms, but Dad backed out at the last minute, limply saying £17 per year was too expensive (the creative writing classes were free!).

It’s almost as if he’s scared of making any commitment and frightened to break the routine his life’s fallen into. He never meets anyone apart from Mr. Tillotson across the road and does nothing but write his diary and tend his newts and toads, although he’s often saying “I wouldn’t mind doing so-and-so,” and so on. “He’s just hot air,” says Mum, but I’m no one to harp on about lack of effort and motivation, and it’s obvious who I’ve inherited it from.

Stu, Pete and Shelley have all rung in the last day or so. Stu asked if he can kip on the floor at Jervis Terrace while he finds somewhere to live. The accommodation situation in Watermouth sounds pretty bad. Pete rang up just to talk and Shelley said she might be suffering from hepatitis; she doesn’t know yet. I’ll see her on Sunday evening.

I’ve casually started reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra in the last couple of days and I think Nietszche has a lot to offer.

Thursday, September 22, 1983

Perfect at least as animals


In the early afternoon I went into Easterby with Andrew and Jay and we showed Jay the sights of the city. He was quite amusing and insisted on taking film with his home-movie camera of Andrew and I walking down Hutton Steps.

We had a curry at the Bahawal; the streets alive with students laughing and talking, wandering to and fro and posing. At three-thirty, after a drink at The Four Pigeons, I said goodbye and met Lee at the library. We bought our bus tickets for Sunday and, after seizing upon a copy of Kollaps by Einstürzende Neubauten, I came home. I rang Penny to tell her to remind Shelley not to bother getting me the LP.

Lee came round in the evening, supposedly to dye trousers black, but we spent the time playing darts in my bedroom. We’ve dreamed up a scheme to shower the Saturday-nite Jasper’s mating crowd with balloons filled with pig’s blood. Our vantage point will be opposite the club on the William Street multi-storey car park: visions of the white-clad dance floor shufflers spattered with the black, congealed blood proved too much for Lee, and he was full of noisy enthusiasm for the idea. “I’ll have to do it now,” he said laughing.

We even thought of sending pretentious letters to the Echo in support, signed “The New Puritans.” The only thing putting us off is the lack of a fail-safe escape route. It would be horrendous if it went wrong; we’d end up getting beaten into the ground or arrested—probably both.

“If only we had become perfect at least as animals! But to animals belongs innocence” . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 1983

Collapsing new buildings


I took a morning trip with Dad to the bank in Lockley, to the pet shop in Crossley and Farnshaw. As we drove, he regaled me with tales of 1960s Temperance Hotel stabbings and other Easterby murders. Yesterday’s feelings on encountering the poorer areas of Whincliffe were repeated today as we went through Woodhead Mills and Birkside Bank. Easterby has its own slummy areas too, their impact lessened no doubt through familiarity. We got back in the early afternoon.

It rained all afternoon and while Dad frantically hoovered and dusted in preparation for the descent of Andrew and friend I gave my boots another coat of dye. They rolled up at three or so; Andrew’s friend Jay is a Chicagoan, red-faced, acned and bearded and quite amusing to listen to as he drawled on, punctuating his conversation with “wow” and “I guess."

Everything was very correct for the guest; Dad pronounced his words properly and with care as he talked to Andrew, whereas normally he doesn’t bother.

Andrew and Jay went for a walk along the canal bank before tea, and in the evening, after a lavish meal by usual standards, they went for a drink in Knowlesbeck. Dad and I watched England lose 1-0 at home to a much-vaunted Denmark team while Mum dozed wearily in the chair.

It’s colder than of late tonight and the full moon has risen and now casts its icy brilliance across the sky. My departure for Watermouth looms ever nearer and I can feel my time here drawing slowly to a close. I’ve begun packing my trunk and I’ve hidden my £30-share of the cheese in a layer at the very bottom, concealed beneath records, books and clothes.

Shelley sent me another letter. She’s so self-confident, and rails against her fellow flat-mates for being “bossy” and “boring,” and Penny for complaining about being bored. P. has got a Mohican, done no doubt at the instigation of Shawn. Shelley has been trying to get the Einsturzende Neubauten album for me for a week now, but Virgin has sold out, so I’ll have to wait.

Tuesday, September 20, 1983

Oft have I stood


I did write to Claire. I posted my letter this morning; she should get it tomorrow.

I again made the trip to the ex-army store in Whincliffe with Lee. No black fatigues available until Friday so I bought a pair of khaki German ones for £4.50 and a pair of grey leather Luftwaffe gloves. I later regretted buying the trousers as they’re very baggy. We wandered slowly back into Whincliffe city centre; it was a grey drizzly day, gusty and cold, and we paused at the cemetery to look about.

We recorded a death-verse which particularly impressed us with its morbidity:
Oft have I stood as you stand now,
To view the graves as you view mine,
Think reader, thou must lay as low
As I, and others stand and stare at thine.
We also took the lift up to the very top of the nearest in a group of sixteen storey high-rise flats and got out onto the roof to admire the view.


The walk back us took us through miserable areas of tacky flats, grimy, oil-stained red brick factories, derelict warehouse buildings and, alongside the road, dilapidated—but still occupied—Victorian tenement-blocks. They were falling down around their inhabitants’ ears, a chaos of red-brick landings, filthy boarded-up windows, jutting walls and wrought-iron railings. I found these shit-holes incredible to see in 1983 and it was a picture more worthy of Dickens rather than late-twentieth century Whincliffe. The streets were awash with kids home from school and weary, haggard women pushing prams in the grey light—a miserable, heartless scene all around.

Whincliffe is an awful place, full of people whose lives seem utterly miserable, to me and Lee at least. We are expected to live out our lives in such circumstances and be happy? I have no taste for that kind of existence. There has to be more, and if Steve calls this negative talk then it’s a negativity I’m proud of.

When we got to Whincliffe city centre I bought leather dye for my boots and fabric dye for my trousers in the dreadful plastic James Street Shopping Centre. I thought of Claire, somewhere in Whincliffe as we walked, and in a way my letters, and all the hopeful energies I put into ‘em, seem very insignificant and futile in the face of the vast bustle of the world and the countless people she must meet.

Andrew rang in the evening. He had interview number two today for a haulage and construction firm’s in-house graphics department; he feels fairly confident. He’s back in Easterby tomorrow and is bringing an American friend to stay the night. I dyed one boot after dark, and came to bed after midnight.

Monday, September 19, 1983

The names of the dead


I met Lee in Easterby mid-morning and we took the bus into Whincliffe. Lee had seen some black army fatigues for sale at a militaria and army surplus shop there for £6.50. On the bus, Lee told me that before he left his Mum was crying as she remembered him as a “pink baby” . . . “Now you look grey . . . like a corpse,” she'd said, tearfully.

In Whincliffe we caught the 88 bus to Cartbeck and then walked. We passed street after street of ornate red brick Victorian terraces, countless shabby second-hand electrical and junk shops, and the occasional late-Victorian church, whose spires soar everywhere above the chimney tops. Eventually we reached the shop, but we were out of luck. “Come back tomorrow,” said the middle-aged mother of the owner. “He’s gone to get some new stuff in.” The shop was a treasure trove of post-WW2 military clothing and hardware: a Nazi flag (genuine I was assured) was on sale for £25.00. Tacked to the ceiling was an enormous hammer and sickle flag alongside the stars and stripes.

We walked back via the overgrown and neglected Ivywood Cemetery, which was filled with black tombstones. We wandered through the long grass and sturdy trees, reading morbid Victorian verses on the stones. Lee found a glue sniffing hang-out—an empty can of lighter fuel and evidence of a fire between two gravestones. We were puzzled by four gravestones inscribed on either side with a name, date of death and age: it contained seventy four names altogether. The occupants of the graves had all died in February and March 1908. Was it an epidemic, or just poor people who couldn’t afford separate tombstones? When I asked Dad later he seemed to think perhaps it was a ‘flu epidemic.

Soon we found dozens more, containing hundreds of names, the dates of death all ranging from 1914-18, 1920 and 1923-24, so perhaps they were all ‘flu victims who had had to be buried together, and apart from everyone else. As we walked to the exit, Lee found some mushrooms which he thought were psylocibin, and we saw two hippies obviously scouring the ground nearby for the same. We ate one each and picked a few more but threw them away because we couldn’t be sure, and we didn’t want to be poisoned.

It’s now twenty-five minutes past midnight and I’m sitting at the dinner table. Mum and Dad are long since in bed. All is quiet save for the tick-tick-tick of the clock & the hum of the ‘fridge in the kitchen. It’s been an odd weekend. I’m planning on writing to Claire before I sleep, but tiredness might foil me. I now want to see her before I go away—but then I remember how wooden and awkward I am when I’m with her.

I’m back at square one. “Perhaps we could go somewhere?” Perhaps we could, Claire. . . .

Sunday, September 18, 1983

The damned


In the early afternoon, Lee and I left Jeremy to pack for Bristol and we wheeled Lee’s bike (loaded up with the cheese) back to Lee’s house, calling in on John on the way.

We all played Diplomacy again until five thirty, and then we finished walking home.

Tonight I went out for a drink with Lee and Grant at The Red Grouse and then The Windmill. We ended the evening in perverse hilarity. “We must be damned,” says Grant, smiling.

Saturday, September 17, 1983

Slices


Yesterday morning I was woken up by Mum, shouting that I had a letter. Claire had written back within two days.

She begins, “I really like receiving your letters—you’ve been in fact my most consistent correspondent.” She’s depressed and discontented with her social life (“what’s new?”) and she says that “the only thing lacking is male company, but then I’m very wary of men; you meet so many who think that they’re marvelous.” My lack of letters has stopped her getting in touch because she’d heard I found my Farnshaw friends “boring.” She says she thinks about me often and that “perhaps we could go somewhere?” It was scented too.

I was transported into ecstasies of speculation as I poured over this—I really am stupid. Jeremy says he can’t believe there hasn’t actually been anything between us; Lee says it was “obvious” she fancied me, and even Deborah brought her up the other night.

Do I misread the situation as badly as I did last May?

I spent most of the rest of Saturday in a bit of an odd, distant mood and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. God forbid that anyone should ever read this. I’m a fool, wrapped in my own rosy delusions. . . .

Anyway, Dad and Mum went blackberry picking and then Robert rolled up at eleven and he and I went to see Athletic. It was a pretty dismal game of football, scrappily played out in front of less than fifteen hundred people. Croft Perseverance went ahead early in the second half and we all felt that that was it. Relegation is in the air, and although Athletic equalised a few minutes from time, which cheered us a bit, I still think we could go down. Gavin Bressler was superb. The reaction to Athletic’s goal was more befitting of a vital Cup match—the crowd roared (well, as mightily as fifteen hundred can roar) and everyone leaped into the air in jubilation. Athletic are second from bottom.


At 7.30, Dad gave me a lift on to Jeremy’s, and on the way we picked up Steve Bates. Nick Gaunt, Tommy Whelan and Lee were all there when we arrived, and we quickly trooped out to the pub.

Earlier in the day Lee had rung me to tell me that he’d pulled off a “heist” of £60-worth of Kraft cheese slices (sixteen boxes) from Tesco and he wanted me to help him retrieve them from their hiding place in the warehouse yard; we decided to pull it off tonight, and so we furtively discussed it in the pub while Jeremy entertained Steve and Nick.

Nick is a friendless, tie-all-the-time workaholic who like Jeremy goes to Uni. at Bristol. He has a ‘nervous disorder’ that probably accounts for his isolation, but he’s also very conservative and I could see him casting looks in our direction. Steve was his usual wooden self, coming out with his quiet ‘one-of-the-lads’ routine, playing the part of the bitter-swilling student. While Jeremy and co. moved on, Lee and I hurried up to Tesco for the cheese.

I was nervous at first as we slipped round the back of the supermarket to the warehouse yard, flitting anxiously across each pool of orange light and hugging the safety of the black shadows. Lee quickly uncovered the loot and I helped him carry it to the hidden darknesses at the back of the building, where we split each case and jammed the packets of cheese slices into a bag, cramming our coat pockets full. We walked swiftly back to Jeremy’s house and met up with the others. If we’d been caught I’d have fallen apart completely.

We all rounded the evening off in The George Inn—Nick had gone home—and then Jeremy, Lee, Steve and Tommy and I went back to Jeremy’s.

Steve and Jeremy started discussing politics. Steve's a member of the SDP and Amnesty International. He told me he’s sent the odd letter off to the odd dictatorship telling them he thinks it unfair that they treat their political prisoners like scum. He does it, he says, “to placate his conscience.” He and I got into a huge argument that ranged from quiet debate to impassioned mudslinging. In usual hasty fashion I slagged him off for being “sanctimonious” and blind and he in turn brought down accusations on my head, calling me “negative, destructive and lazy” and telling me I was the “most negative person” he knows.


It was a strange out of focus argument, much to his (and my) bewilderment. There was no structure to what I was saying.

But I warmed to my theme and said that his frigging about with letters and M.O.R. politics was just an extension of his desire for power and desire to placate his greedy ego—he uses these torture victims to make himself feel good. He said that if he even fractionally aided in the release of just one person, then he’d have made two people happy. “And that can’t be a bad thing . . .” Humanising capitalism?

Shit! He infuriated me with his so-decent middle way, and his bland liberal conscience and I raged emptily at him, making Jeremy laugh with my wordy metaphors. Steve got very angry when I called torture an abstraction: he misinterpreted me – I meant it could only be an abstraction to him and me – I don’t know what point I was pushing. He snorted contemptuously when I said that ultimately I wanted to be “content & to know everything”: “You’re all talk,” he said—and as he shoved his reddening face close to mine, I felt utterly contemptible for railing so futilely against everyone and everything. He even accused me of being completely nasty to him whenever I’ve been around him, which annoyed me because it’s utterly untrue.

Is being a member of the SDP and Amnesty International and writing token protest letters to Pinochet so wonderfully constructive? I called him blind. “Name one constructive thing in your life” he whinged triumphantly, and I couldn’t (I am positive about things deep inside!). Do I really sound so negative and destructive?

Meanwhile, Billy had vanished unnoticed and Lee had fallen asleep in the other room. Steve left too, storming off into the rainy darkness with his mental image of me no doubt underlined. This annoyed me and I suppose my pride was hurt. Jeremy and I talked long into the night and I grew to feel hopelessly cheap and empty. Jeremy says he feels the same as me.

Again I’m forced to pen those hated words; “I don’t know what to think.” My whole life is before me and all I can do is moan and despair to people who don’t understand what on earth I’m on about, while Time gallops on.

I slept on Jeremy’s bedroom floor feeling unhappy, thinking of Lee asleep so soundly on the sofa downstairs and wondering if he’s ever troubled like this.

Friday, September 16, 1983

Diplomacy


At dinnertime I went to Lee’s and he, Duncan Verity, John and I played Diplomacy, yet another board game, which went on all afternoon until we were interrupted by the return of Mrs. Hoy.

I walked home and it rained all the way; I got soaked. Duncan was irritating—petulant when losing but flapping his hands and rubbing his legs in excitement when he was on top.

Thursday, September 15, 1983

Everyday life


I did go out last night; I met Deborah and Jeremy in the virtually empty Moon. Despite promises, Steve, Nick Gaunt and Lee didn’t turn up. It took me an hour or so and a few pints of cider to overcome shyness and self-consciousness; it’s quite depressing the regularity with which this occurs, and no doubt I’ll be similarly hampered for the first few days and hours of the new term.

Deborah looked very smart and respectable and she hasn’t changed a bit; she’s working at a solicitor’s for a year and going on some law course at Brynmor next September. She seems very content with the way her world is going. She told me that when she first met me it was as if I was “someone to look up to”!

I hide my true self behind a mask of pleasant superficialities, so that people often gain a totally inaccurate picture of me.

Both Jeremy and I told her of our dissatisfaction at what we’re doing at university, and she made me feel a bit guilty by telling us both how lucky we are; it was clear just from her demeanour and attitude that she’s happy with her lot and has unpretentious desires. She said it annoyed her when girls who want houses and husbands were condemned: “Why shouldn’t they want these things?” . . . to which we could only vaguely counter that if they really looked about them then they would want more, but what that ‘more’ is we were totally unable to say.

What right have we to condemn and shoot to pieces other people for wanting something from their lives which we don’t? At least they’re sure of themselves and don’t waste time with pointless frustrations and empty questions. I’m sure I came across to Deborah as unhappy, which really I’m not. I haven’t anything to be unhappy about.

“What you need”, she said to me with final certainty, “is a love affair,” and she even suggested Claire (who I wrote an apologetic letter to the other day). It sounded so self-indulgent to admit to being “bored all the time,” but it’s the truth.

Perhaps I don’t try hard enough?


Last orders were being called when Deborah finally gave us a lift home in her gold VW beetle. The previous evening’s talk must’ve affected me because when I went to bed I had really odd and disturbing dreams, akin to a nightmares; I was back at Wintersett Crescent and I kept on seeing the ghosts of brutally murdered children in the back garden. In a frenzy of fear I locked the doors trying to keep them out and even took a photograph of them running between the motionless standing figures of other (unidentified) family members. They stared out of the photo with frightening, intense eyes . . . A dimly recollected image of a body hanging in a cupboard . . .

I woke up in the grey light of early morning gripped by fear, the covers pulled tightly over my head lest the ghosts get me. Half asleep, I couldn’t imagine the daytime and being free of my fear. It was pretty bad and left me feeling quite odd.

I finally got to Farnshaw and the dry cleaner’s this afternoon, and Dad and I got caught in a terrific cloudburst which swept away the sun and sent workmen at the site of Farnshaw’s vast new supermarket complex sprinting for cover; we had to shelter in a ‘phonebox.

I really enjoyed the mundane wandering about amid streets \and shops: everything seemed vibrant and alive. Last night, Deborah asked me what excited me and I couldn’t really give her a specific answer. Today I would say that it’s life which excites me, with all its myriad permutations, unexpected rewards, wonders . . . which is probably the most positive thing I’ve said all summer.

Wednesday, September 14, 1983

Middle class revolt


This morning Dad gave me a lift up to Admiral Street and I signed on for the last time. I was anxious in case I met anyone from the RCP again (they’ve been harassing one of Lee’s friends), so I slipped into the office and out again very quickly, but the coast was clear.

In the car back I was congratulating myself; it’s so stupid, this self-inflicted anxiety. I’ll be OK now until Barry or Carl Cotton dredge the unpleasant sensations back to the surface and I have to face them again . . .

Dad went up to Nanna B.’s in the afternoon. She rang earlier to ask if he'd take her to Gillrigg to visit a friend; he’d intended giving her a run out, but not taking her all the way to Gillrigg, and so for half an hour or so before he set off I was treated to his aggrieved complaints about the selfishness of his mother: “If I ever get like that you have my permission to get rid of me.”

Yet he takes it all lying down. He says this is because there’ve been countless rows between her and us in the past and he wants no more, but his desire for general calm has led him into a cul-de-sac of personal misery. Both he and Mum are burdened by their respective mothers.
Our relatives seem such a drag. I dislike most of them.

With a sigh, Dad set off, dropping me in Farnshaw so I could go to the dry cleaner’s. It was very pleasant just wandering about in the mild air, everything seeming very leisurely and unhurried, but my journey was unsuccessful (half-day closing) and I had to walk home empty-handed.


After a bright start, the day has degenerated and it’s colder. Rain threatens. There’s a big dispute going on in the pages of the Echo and on local news over the introduction of halal meat into Easterby Schools. To pre-stun or not to pre-stun? There’s much debate over the morality of animal suffering and the “cheek” of minority groups “imposing their alien cultures on the majority,” and thereby (presumably) subverting white Protestant England.

It’s a pretty immaterial question really. The smug millions whose consciences are eased because “at least my Sunday joint doesn’t cause anyone any suffering” should take the time to visit an abattoir and see the room where the animals die, watch the skilled killers at work and smell the stink of fear and crap and blood. But all this said, vegetarianism smacks of odd priorities to me. I wonder how many bask in muesli-ridden middle-class meat-less self-righteousness unmindful of the millions who die worse than animals in other, larger slaughter houses across the globe? But I’m no different and the fact that I eat meat doesn’t separate me out from the vegetarians because I’m as blind to the world’s problems as anyone.

I dislike the naïve tone of this sermon-rant, and really it’s no big anger that seizes me, just the merest of thoughts.

I don’t mention any of this with a view to saying ‘stop’ in any real, practical sense, but merely to acknowledge that all ‘civilization’ is the flimsiest of foils, and that civilization's sustaining principles are those of crass ignorance and brutality. Billions of devotees take these to heart and uphold them with a savage loyalty. What hope is there for man as a whole? We’re all cut off from one another anyway, in real terms. . . .

And with this, I’ll climb down from my podium because I’m going out to meet Deborah, Steve and Jeremy at The Moon Inn.

Tuesday, September 13, 1983

Blue phantoms


It was very cold this morning. I jumped out of bed shivering. There was a heavy dew on the lawn and condensation on the windows, outside the smell of frost, frozen canals and cloudless, glittering days.

We’re going to suffer this winter in Jervis Terrace.

Grant rolled up at one o’clock and after playing a few records we went out to the Windmill in Moxthorpe for a drink. I bought four cans of Stella Artois lager at the off-licence and we drank these sitting at the top of Glenbank Lane, our backs against a young oak tree, overlooking the spread of Egley’s red-roofs and secluded gardens. Keddon Hill loomed across the valley: to our left lay Knowlesbeck.

We got very fresh and loud, helpless with laughter at a bizarre comment one or the other of us made and stumbled back towards my house—I felt like going to a party—but within half-an-hour of having tea, as we sobered up, our alcohol-fired enthusiasm, conversation and high spirits died. I fell into a drowsy torpour and Grant felt the same, and it wasn’t until eight that I felt lively again.

Grant and I amused ourselves by listening to old ‘60s/early ‘70s records. Which of my records will people be “amusing themselves” with in ten, fifteen years time? The Fall? We came upon a classic, a 1972 effort called Distortions by Blue Phantom, which has the worst cover of nearly any LP I’ve ever seen. The music is ‘progressive’ (utterly bland and monotonous) rock embellished with synthesizers and ‘special effects,’ and test-card muzak. The tracks all have names such as “Psycho-Nebulous,” “Violence” and “Equilibrium” etc.

Grant and Nik have finally got their magazine together and had it printed; thirty copies at 50p each. In the pub, Grant suggested that I write something for it, and he hopes it’ll be a continuing concern that’s kept going with contributions from more people, perhaps some of Nik’s Camberwell Art College friends, and Grant’s friends-to-be at Gloucester. They’ve called it The Spike because “we couldn’t think of anything better.”

He left at eleven to walk home. He goes to Gloucester on the 28th. Lee rang shortly before he left, full of a trip to Whincliffe he made with John and a hat he’s brought.

There’s quite a big contingent of people from Easterby at colleges and poly’s in the South: Tommy is at Camford Poly, Nik's in London, Grant at Gloucester, Lee and I at Watermouth; there are probably more. Grant still can’t believe that he’s actually going to escape the clutches of his home situation after so long and so much uncertainty. I often thought that he’d end up drifting into a crummy job in Easterby and a flat of his own (it’d have to be in Lockley).

He’s feeling fed up with his group Eat People and told me that he’d been embarrassed listening to their latest tapes because they sounded “so contrived.” The guitarist has become the dominant influence on their ‘musical direction’ and Grant is glad that going to Gloucester will give him opportunity to quit, no doubt to get involved in something stranger there.

Monday, September 12, 1983

Witnesses


I’ve done nothing again today; I got up at eleven after planning to go have my hair cut first thing in the morning. I’m so lazy. Dad went out in the morning and again mid-afternoon leaving me half-heartedly flicking through books, still obsessed with what to do when I go back to Watermouth.

I alternate between periods of decision and good spirits, and uncertainty and gloom, often all within the space of a day. But I keep all of the latter feelings bottled up inside and don’t make any show of them to anyone else. I keep my own counsel and trundle on through my life scarcely revealing the inner traumas I go through every day. That’s why people are surprised to discover I’m not as calm and cheerful as I seem.

Tonight the Middle East is in the grip of crisis, with Syrian-backed Druze militiamen threatening to overrun the Lebanese army and sweep on to Beirut. All that stands between the rebel forces and Beirut are a few hundred UN troops and the possibility of massive American military involvement grows nearer. Off the coast, two thousand US Marines await the order to go ashore, and if they do, the Russians won’t be pleased, although Dad says they’ll not do anything.

Mum said grimly that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the world will end following an escalating crisis in the Middle East. And to all this add the already bad East-West relations because of the Korean Airliner massacre  (it was announced today that the Russians expelled a US diplomat from Moscow for spying), and things look bleak. Mum is worried. She sat through the news looking very tense.

Against this darkening backdrop, and just for an instant, all my wrangling over my course and life look insignificant. But tomorrow, as always, the global perspectives will recede with the daylight and mundane bustle of another fatuous day.
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