Thursday, March 31, 1983

Trousers of Sisyphus

I went into Easterby with Dad and while he got fixed up with temporary specs I bought trousers and The Myth of Sisyphus and The Fall by Camus. It was rainy and miserable as I wandered about the slippery streets.

In W.H. Smith’s I saw a picture of Watermouth Uni. in a book and it suddenly struck me how difficult it will be to carry over the resolve I sometimes feel to change my situation in that place, in those circumstances and among those people. They are all so different from my mental scenarios about them.

When I got home I finished All God’s Dangers.

If any good can come from something as pointless and horrific as war then it’s the threat that death is a real possibility. This strips away the trivial concerns of mundane everyday existence. The true problems we face loom large as a result, and everything ephemeral goes in an instant. After such an experience it must be difficult to slip back into the unthinking numbness of ‘normal’ existence.

I don’t want to live with the fear and possibility of losing my my life or my legs but I do want that intensity and the mental clarity and singleness of purpose that goes with it. I need something to escape the ‘dullness’ of ordinary day-to-day living.

But how? With what?

Wednesday, March 30, 1983


I dreamed about Lindsey. Oddly enough, the footballer Pelé was kissing her on the lips as he passed her by. I felt odd as I lay there semi-conscious in bed, but Dad was harassing me to get up. . . .

He ran me over to Tesco’s where I scrounged for a night-shift job over the summer. Like a recurring bad dream all the same faces swam before me as I blustered my request. Mr. Thynne, the Personnel Officer, didn’t seem to hold out much hope but gave me an application form anyway, which I filled and posted this afternoon.

Domestic tragedy: Dad lost his glasses so he can’t read or write and will no doubt get very frustrated and miserable. Mum’s face sagged as they hunted round in vain.

Again I didn't do any work, preferring instead to spend the afternoon sorting through old papers Dad rescued from the garage: police diaries from the ‘50s, exultant scribbled entries announcing Robert’s birth, trips to see Laurel and Hardy at the Tivoli, Athletic results, letters from Mum to Dad before they were married.

How different the Mum of 1952 seems from the Mum of 1983. I can’t reconcile the the breathless girl of the letters with the weary, drained and unenthusiastic figure who slumps in the chair.

Tuesday, March 29, 1983


Dad dropped me at Grant’s in the grey dismal rain of early afternoon.

After listening to a few things by The Fall we set off to walk into Easterby, pausing at the entrance to Woodhead Park to hang about for Lee, whom I’d arranged to meet. He didn’t turn up (I think we were too early), so we carried on up through Lockley past the hut where I used to go to cub and scout meetings. The fact that the Lockley cubs and scouts have long since folded because of a lack of support seemed to emphasise all that has gone.

We walked into town through the serried repetitious ranks of box-like flats, all identical and circled by lines of flapping washing and groups of playing kids, an odd contrast between the unnaturally angular houses and the living moving people. We passed rows of Victorian terraces, some roofless and derelict, scraps of brightly patterned wallpaper still visible on the interior walls through the gaping windows.

By the time we tramped down Fawcett Road toward Easterby the rain sprayed down in a fine drizzle, and gusted in great curtains across the open spaces away in the distance. We commented on how miserable it made everything appear, the big black factories with their grey windows, the churches beneath their stark spines on the horizon, the long lines of bleak prewar ‘modern’ terraces with their mucky white plaster faced fronts & empty curtain trimmed windows. . . .

We went to the flea-market to look through the bootleg tapes of The Fall, The Pop Group, Hendrix, The Birthday Party, etc. The usual crop of raincoats were there (sez I), but as I don’t have a cassette player it was pointless me buying anything. I left feeling vaguely dissatisfied and sickened off, whereas I’d felt OK before. I tried to draw money out from my cash-point but I’d forgotten my card and thought maybe I’d lost it, and so we wandered about in Easterby with scarcely a pound between us. I had 12p.

We sat for an hour or so in a café up Dyson Street which was filled with tables of loudly chatting women with babies and bags, men with newspapers, and office workers in suits and ties totting up figures. Out we went again into the wet slimy streets, ducking into the Eastgate centre for warmth and comfort. At Smith’s I saw Myth de Sysyphe, The Fall, and The Happy Death by Camus.

Grant was now silent and seemed bored. All avenues of talk (even mindless hysteria) had dried up. He says he’s still writing poetry about mental states and is seeing Nik tonight and on Friday practices with his “tame” band (a “tameness” he’s irked by). I don’t have the confidence to set a poem down on paper and anyway poetry has never beckoned me as such. Jack of all trades, master of none. Grant said goodbye with scarcely a comment or a smile and was gone, leaving me on the bus.

I have read a little more of Nate Shaw and as I write Radio 3 strings slide their way through some hard and spiny atmospheric 1980 composition by Richard Rodney Bennett. The weary-mindedness has again crept up in me like a cancer.

Monday, March 28, 1983

Withered branch

Dad came back from the library with an illustrated and abridged version of Frazer’s The Golden Bough which I want to read.

Reluctantly, tomorrow I have to turn my mind toward Uni. work. I spent the afternoon reading All God’s Danger’s, reminiscences by Nate Shaw, son of an ex-slave, arrested in 1932 for shooting at white sheriffs who'd come to confiscate his neighbour’s farm and stock. He spent twelve years in jail, and died in 1973 age 87.

In the evening Janet rang to tell Mum that she's expecting another baby in November. As far as our branch of the family is concerned, I can't see Robert and Carol starting with kids now. As for me, I can’t see myself as a father.

Disturbing thoughts later about owners of the factory ringing the police.

Sunday, March 27, 1983


Andrew rang up at teatime yesterday from Leicester Forest Service station and said he was coming home. Dad picked him up from Holdsworth Square at about eight thirty. It was good to see him again so while Dad watched a William Walton concert on TV, we whiled away the evening talking about music. He’s reading a definitive history of jazz by James Lincoln Collier.

Mum and Dad went to bed early but Andrew and I talked long into the night. He’s worried at the thought of having to get a job over the summer, afraid he says of falling into a rut and getting cut off from society. He doesn’t want to go work in Denmark because he feels that would be too easy and sort of running away from his problems. He says he's in a self-created prison, and it’s up to him to change it, that it’s no use fleeing because he's his own jailer and drags his chains of bondage around with him wherever he goes.

He likened his psychological condition before he went to College to that of a “mental illness.” He says he was “scared to go out and yet I hated my loneliness and isolation, but when the phone rang I was terrified. . . .”

Why are we three so screwed up!? What is it about our upbringing that's made us like this? Andrew says he’s a different person now but is still haunted by the same paranoid fears with which I'm plagued. “I tried to keep a diary once but it was too embarrassing. I found all my emotional disturbances depressing.”

It took me hours to get to sleep.

I woke up remembering that I’d promised to meet Lee at Geoffrey Road, this time for definite. I set off mid-afternoon and was soon walking up through the cold and empty wind-blown streets by the Art College.

Lee was there with Jason Douglas (ex-Farnshaw Art College) and they were doing some objective drawing of the interiors of derelict houses. Lee enthusiastically told me about an empty factory he'd discovered last week and all the stationery and equipment they’d walked away with. We hopped over a wall and entered the black doorway of an old house, squeezing past a door that swung precariously on one hinge.

Downstairs in the cellar it was pitch black and the only light we had was Lee’s weak torch. He showed me several old tin WW2 helmets which had almost rusted away to nothing, scattered fragments of gas masks, numerous old-fashioned cork-stoppered bottles and dusty porno mags strewn on the steps. He also showed me the sack full of telephones he’d ripped off from the factory.

Upstairs he’d found a way through into the derelict factory and offices of the Montreal Woolpacking Co. next door. It was quite literally amazing to walk around in there, down the office corridors and into rooms filled with notepaper, account books from the ‘fifties, office equipment, everything as if the office staff had just put on their coats and left. A calendar on the wall said November 1982 and some of the account books went up to last summer.

The dark hulking rooms of the factory stood silent and were littered with bales and bags of wool. In one room there were a lot of bottles of various acids and ether, all quite full, and we even found a small green bottle with a cork stopper that had ‘Poison’ printed on the label. The contents smelled strongly of almonds, so we immediately thought of arsenic or cyanide. I put it in my pocket.

In another room was a safe and a huge typewriter, both with lot numbers chalked on them. The rooms were strewn with papers and debris. Lee said a spiral staircase which ran up from the ground-floor had gone since last week. We crept about, speaking in hoarse whispers . . . I was amazed at this place. Lee said his tutor had told him not just to do this for the adrenaline kick, but to utilise it “artistically.”

We now ventured further afield, into an empty house in Crossley Street and then down towards Leckenby Road and yet more factories. We found our way into one; the skylights at the back had been smashed and the lead had been ripped out. Glass littered the factory floor, which was empty save for a minivan, wheel-less and on its roof in the darkness.

We were examining the broken windows of one derelict factory in Ginnel Square when we were surprised by a policeman. He came walking towards us from the direction of town so we quickly set off walking the opposite way, but he stopped us and asked us what we were doing.

-- “We’re taking a short cut.”
-- “Where are you going?”
-- (Feebly) “Over here, Leckenby Rd area.”
-- “You’re not collecting scrap metal by any chance?” said he, suspiciously eyeing Lee’s dust blathered boots & jacket.

So we departed the scene feeling a bit rattled, cursing our frightened explanations and thinking of all the things we should’ve said as we made our nervy way back towards our ‘base’ at Geoffrey Road. We were slowly walking up a road flanked by old mills and empty houses when we heard a car approach us from behind. “It’s them!” cursed Lee so we strolled onwards self-consciously as the police car drew alongside.

We had our names and birth-dates taken, and endured the usual questioning. We told them we were drawing derelict buildings and Lee showed one of them his drawings. Eventually, when the ‘all-correct’ came through from HQ.

-- “I can’t tell you to clear off as you’re legitimate, but next time be more specific than ‘we’re taking a short cut.’”

Feeling shaken, we decided to call it a day. I dropped my poison down a drain and we went home.

Saturday, March 26, 1983

This place

I left the house last night at seven just as it was coming in dusk. I walked to Moxthorpe in optimistic mood. The sky was immense and vacant and darkened away towards the emptiness above Keddon, bounded only by a banked range of pale clouds striding distantly across the sky in the east, tinged ghostly white by the dying glare of the setting sun. Above me the dazzling blip of the moon. . . .

In Moxthorpe I bought a half-bottle of whisky and caught the bus to Grant’s. He was waiting with his coat on in the back room with denim-clad friend RJ, someone I vaguely remembered from Lodgehill.

It was bitterly cold as we walked up to the Magpie, had a drink there and then to the Hare and Hounds which is across the road. Grant was waiting expectantly for the arrival of people he’d met there two weeks ago, including droning Pat from the Poly and her friend Hilary. But as it became apparent they weren’t going to come, he slipped slowly into a bored and brooding silence.

I could feel myself starting to feel very pissed off. Even conversations seemed too much effort amid all the sighing and yawning. By the time we ended the evening in the Brass Cat I was weighed down under boredom and frustration. The lively evening I’d expected had come to naught, whisky remained unopened, my speed untouched. . . .

I walked home via Grant's, which only added to my morose mood.  I left Grant and RJ listening to tapes. . . .

Today Athletic went down 0-3 at Keyling Common. Dad was angry and embittered as a result. I think the monotony of this place is getting to me.

Friday, March 25, 1983

No little pub incident

At twelve I met Grant in the Volunteer Inn, the pub dark, smoky, full of noise. Very crowded with students from the Poly and Easterby College. We had a couple of drinks before moving on to the Bar at the Lesser Trade Hall, finally re-emerging at 2.30 into the glare of an Easterby afternoon.

I’ve arranged to meet him again tonight for a night out which promises to be good.

Thursday, March 24, 1983

Heavy quiet

This morning I got a surprise ‘phone call from Claire asking if she could come and see me in the afternoon which she did, staying a couple of hours. We sat in the clock-tick silence of the front room and with the usual enthusiasm she told me about her life. At times the heavy quiet of the house seemed to weigh down on our conversation.

As she left I told her I hoped to see her again. “I have five days off” she said, and I felt like asking her out for a drink, but I doubt we’d have anything in common, so I didn’t. Then she was gone.

It was a bright brilliant day of sun and wind, a day to be across the moors, far away. 

“He never resolves the conflict between his family’s values and those of his friends, brooding only that while ‘all his friends were engaged in their morbid demonism, these people were working gravely & living earnestly and enjoying their evenings with quaint and homely gladness.’”

I stayed up until two watching the Darlington by-election. Stiff-backed and arrogant O’Brien held the seat for Labour, Screaming Lord Sutch, hair dyed green and wearing a leopard-skin suit, got 374 votes, the Yoga and Meditation candidate 15.

Wednesday, March 23, 1983

Do nothings

I finished Up From Slavery.

As teatime approached, the sun threw the houses across the back into sharp yellow-lit relief, the sky a pale shade of blue, crossed by off-white fragments of slow moving cloud glimpsed between the green brown branches of the apple tree by the fence.

It was too good a day to waste inside, but waste it I did. The Easter holidays are nearly half way through and I still have so much work to do. I haven’t been out of the house since Saturday. “Better to do nothing than nothings.”

Tuesday, March 22, 1983


I lay in bed in the early hours and started thinking about all the narrow scrapes I’ve had since I was a baby, flirtations with fate which, had my luck been different, could have easily seen me dead. If like cats we humans have the proverbial nine lives, then I’ve used up six of mine already. At this rate my luck should finally run out by the time I’m 24!
  • I nearly copped it as soon as I was born, emerging into the world a “blue baby” with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. 
  • While still a baby, my pram ran away and bounced down the stone front steps at Wintersett Crescent, ending up upside down with me inside, dangling from my straps. 
  • A toddler now, I rode my tricycle down next door’s drive and into the path of an on-coming car which screeched to a halt just inches from me, much to the fury of the woman driver. 
  • At three I was in a car accident in the Reliant 3-wheeler, and remember climbing out through the broken windscreen in tears, clutching a (now broken) toy trumpet that Mum and Dad had bought me earlier in the day. For a long time afterwards that toy trumpet evoked up the nightmarish contrast between the mundane pleasure of the day out and my tumbling crumpling fear as the car rolled down an embankment. 
  • Later, still at Wintersett, Dad was chopping trees in the garden and lopped off a big overhanging branch, shouted “Look out!,” I stepped back, and felt the branch graze my head and hit my shoulder as it came crashing down. 
  • My most recent brush with possible injury and death happened a year last November when coming back from Athletic's game at Cross End with Robert in the car.
I don’t know why I’ve written all this down. Just for interest I suppose, but also for the enjoyment of writing. At University this journal is used to deal with difficult things; perhaps this is why, since I’ve been home for Easter, my entries have swollen to twice their normal length. The comfort, ease and numbed peace of mind I have here means I can write to my heart’s content about the peripherals I’d otherwise ignore or overlook.

I didn’t get up today until one this afternoon. I got a letter from Claire. She seems happy enough, although her house deal has fallen through. She might come see me next week.

Another day wasted, another day fatally unable to pin myself down to any one thing, while outside the wind blows and the sky is grey and wet. This afternoon Dad took up his memoir-writing again after a lay off of nearly two weeks. He’s now reached page 2245.

I want to read Frazer’s The Golden Bough. I find pagan religions fascinating. I’m still reading Booker T. Washington: someone has scrawled “white man’s arse licker” on the title-page of my copy. True enough. Washington preaches moderation above all else and at all costs. About the KKK he writes: “Today [1900] there are no such organizations in the South, and the fact that such ever existed is almost forgotten by both races. There are few places in the South now where public sentiment would permit such organizations to exist.” To which my anonymous annotator adds a justifiable “SHIT.”

Monday, March 21, 1983

Heavy weather

The rain woke me up, battering in gusts against my bedroom window and through the semi-consciousness of half-sleep I dimly heard a huge crash that was followed, said Dad later, by a brief but really heavy flurry of snow which soon changed to rain.

Otherwise, intermittently showery and dark or blustery and blue. Brilliant sun with hail and sleet.

I started reading Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery but mostly lazed about in classic fashion, wasting so much time as usual.

Sunday, March 20, 1983


The look of the world's a lie, a face made up
O'er graves and fiery depths, and nothing's true
But what is horrible. If man could see
The perils and diseases that he elbows
Each day he walks a mile, which catch at him,
Which fall behind and graze him as he passes,
Then would he know that life's a single pilgrim
Fighting unarmed among a thousand soldiers.

Beddoes, Death’s Jest Book

I’d promised Lee I’d meet him today in Easterby (he’s doing drawings of the dereliction up around Geoffrey Road), but I mooched lazily around inside instead, the breezy cheerfulness of the sun making me restless.

I chained myself lethargically to the back room, half heartedly flicking through a book on Mary Queen of Scots. Mum and Dad had gone out for a run into the Dales, and when they came back I got Dad’s “Don’t you think you ought to be doing work?” lecture. His occasional references to that ill-defined area he describes as “your studies” always irritate me. But really I should at least be reading something, as my conscience has started to prick.

Still no news from Andrew. He was expected this weekend but no word yet. He scarcely ever communicates. Robert thinks if Andrew does go to Denmark to work and live that that we’ll hardly hear anything from him from one year to the next. “He goes his own way.”

Saturday, March 19, 1983


Dad gave me a lift to Whincliffe at teatime last night amid grey skies and drizzle; he dropped me off at Beamish Hall at quarter to eight. Quite a lot of people crowded into the foyer and on the stairs. I could hardly get my legs into my cramped uncomfortable seat in the Upper Circle: I had to sit in an awkward sideways posture which gave me pins and needles all evening.

I was high above the stage and virtually on top of the performers. Down below, the expensive seats were packed, tables and chairs set out à la a self-respecting jazz club. From my vantage point I commanded sweeping panoramic views across the audience and an unrestricted view right down onto the blue and orange glitter of the stage.

The Gil Evans Orchestra up first, a 14-piece band. I'd expected easy listening armchair jazz and so was surprised at their long drifting barrages of keyboard-bass noise, piercing brass and squalling saxophone and trumpet solos. The music now impossible to describe, and at times I even heard odd echoes of psychedelic ensemble passages such as “A Saucerful of Secrets.” It was really haunting. Enthusiastic applause.

After a long interruption and to loud cheers, Lester Bowie took the stage in his familiar white lab coat. The sounds he squeezes from his trumpet are phenomenal, at one point quiet moaning cat sounds, at others, shrieks and squeals that soared up to the great decorated ceilings of Beamish Hall. Halfway through the second bluesy number he was joined by Fontella Bass and the enormous David Peaston, who has an incredible voice.

As soon as he opened his mouth he was all grace and elegance, his voice rising higher and higher until – breathtakingly – it echoed and was lost high above. The audience whooped at the sheer power and exhilaration of his voice: he sustained one note for what seemed an eternity and the hall erupted into spontaneous applause. Later, Fontella’s sister Martha sang a couple of gospel songs, throwing her ample pink figure around the stage until at one point I thought she was going to fall over.

The sky was flat and leaden today, but at least it was dry. Around dinnertime Rob and Carol rolled up along with teacher-friend Henning, a big bearded German with a quiet and good-natured air. Robert's now getting very serious about Buddhism now, and he told us how he “meditated on death last night: it really helps.” Then the three of them went out for a curry.

Dad and I met them at the match. Athletic were playing Steyncote and all-in-all it was a pretty crummy display, Easterby showing occasional flashes of one-touch fluency but Steyncote dominating for long periods. Sure enough, just on half-time, their two strikers Joe Franks and Cameron Keith, broke free and Keith pushed a shot just past the feebly falling figure of the keeper and into the net. Sickening. Dad was really angry afterwards but I just dropped football from my mind as the season is past the caring stage; Athletic are neither up nor down.

We got back to a crowded house and ate a quick snack before Rob, Henning and I set out for Whincliffe again to see Freddie Hubbard. Beamish Hall was fairly empty compared with last night. Julian Bahula’s Jazz Afrika played a couple of things I remembered from last time I saw them and were really good to watch, but their was none of the excitement or exuberance of last time, and they didn't seem to connect with the audience.

Freddie Hubbard came on stage looking like Joe Cool in his shades, black shirt, red tie and slick double-breasted suit. He played a long set with numerous solos, and plays pretty powerfully. He doesn’t have as wide a vocabulary of sounds as Lester Bowie does but still did some excellent things. The last number was the best, the bass laying down a hypnotic rhythm, which was echoed by the piano, then taken up by the brass . . . on and on it went, into solos and fragmented percussive sections which the drummer ended by snatching the original rhythm from out of the shifting sound and dragging everything back together again to enthusiastic applause.

But for long periods the music had to compete with the rattling of cash registers, the chinking of coins and the murmur of talking and laughing voices. Robert pointed out a few “pigbag-types probably there just for the pose” plus the usual members of the elderly-to-middle-aged tweed jacket-and-tie brigade. In the car on the way back Robert argued that jazz's focus on solos is “indulgent.”

Friday, March 18, 1983


I got a long letter from Shelley this morning all about her flat mates who she doesn’t really get on with. "They do not approve of our plans concerning hash & speed!" she writes, and copies a description from a letter Rowan has sent to Katie about a “religious idiot” she knows who:
[G]oes about wearing ‘slacks,’ courtelle sweaters and wind cheaters with presumably a thermal vest and high drawers on underneath. He is chubby and I suspect without a cock. No, I reckon he has a cock, strictly for peeing but no gonads [balls]. On the other hand, he could be troubled by erections right, left and centre and premature ejaculations so that he has to soak his drawers while saying his prayers.
 Says Shelley: “Typical of Rowan, always thinking of the sexual side of people! Oh – I hope your mother doesn’t see this!”

I’ve felt pretty bored with myself and my surroundings today and I’ve been on my own for much of the time, but it's now 4 p.m. and Dad, Mum and Nanna P. have just returned and the dining room resounds to chatter and brass band music. Stifling!

Grant rang asking me if I wanted to go out for a drink tonight, but I declined as I’m going instead to see Lester Bowie in Whincliffe. Perhaps, in answer to Shelley’s asking how I’m going on at home, I can say that today I got my first hints of the old boredoms setting in.

Thursday, March 17, 1983

Make it new

At one Dad dropped me in Easterby and I walked up to the Martyn Building of Easterby College where I’d arranged to meet Lee. Shortly after, Grant arrived too and we eventually found Lee in his studio after climbing flight after flight of stairs.

His studio is small and quite cluttered, the walls daubed with paint spatters and graffiti’d comments. Propped up at one side was a door, ripped from a derelict warehouse, adorned with grime and a sign that proclaimed “Smoking Strictly Prohibited – Anyone Disobeying This Order Will Be Instantly Dismissed.” Lee had put a frame around the door that he was in the process of spraying with gold paint.

He showed us some of his other works-in-progress, an odd collections of objects he's assembled in line with his new policy of forsaking painting. One was a furry cow’s ear, black and crusty and stretched in a frame. Another was a 2D “photogram” image of a Coke bottle mounted on a Perspex base: the bottle had been exposed to a bright light and the resulting shadow and distorted image had been projected across the base and backboard and photographically recorded, producing a very good effect thus:

I’d never seen anything like it before.

He also showed us photographs of his performance pieces—walking around the Eastgate Centre dressed in a butcher’s apron and hat carrying a tray with carefully arranged and neatly chopped-up portions of a pig’s head, a lampshade suspended casually from a traffic lamp post, its bright red and yellow frilled shade swinging gaily from the concrete post outside a row of derelict houses.

I was impressed, and instantly felt echoes of the same mood that caught me when Lee visited Watermouth. What I do at University is so unfulfilling and untaxing and what little work I’ve done is neither good nor original. The written medium just leaves me cold. Lee on the other hand is creating vivid, vibrant art, living art, not dead mummified activity. This hit me so forcibly that I felt like instantly packing in University and trying to get in at an Art College.

I will never get anywhere doing what I do at present: I plough dutifully through books and essays . . . and for what? I’ll feel no better, no more enlightened at the end of my course than if I’d stayed in bed and slept for four years. At least with American Studies I'll actually get to go abroad and live and learn a hell of a lot more than the dull grubbing through texts and writing of dusty essays.

These thoughts swarm around me. Art is more of an education in this sense – the experience of practical things, the living of them if you like, becoming the richer for it. A different perspective and a different way to regard things and maybe this new way solves and clears up more mysteries than it creates.

The torture of empty words and pages leaves me exactly as I started! How do I get round this?

I was in a turmoil. Grant left and Lee and I went to explore the derelict, boarded-up houses on Geoffrey Road, Heaven Street and Abbot Street, in the half-demolished and neglected wasteland of warehouses, damp dirty roads and alleys between the Poly and Leckenby Road . . . a thousand decaying places filled with rubble, the green spikes of weeds springing up in the midst of rotting junk.

One house on Geoffrey Road had only just been vacated and was still full of furniture, with curtains at the windows, plates and crockery in the cupboard. A few empty cider bottles sat in a downstairs room along with a half-eaten loaf of bread. We crept gingerly upstairs, half-afraid of finding some wino crashed out on the floor or in a bed, but the topmost (3rd) floor was pitch black and we dared not go up there. Lee half-saw a dim white object lying on the floor so we gratefully returned to the damp grey twilight murk outside.

The other houses in the row were in worse condition, rotting black hulks with their floors gone, strewn with filth and plaster and all the things derelict buildings are usually strewn with. Lee uses these visits to obtain his ‘objets d’art,’ commonplace things such as telephones, door knobs, signs and pieces of household junk.

I clambered my way back into the street dusty and full of enthusiasm for this new pursuit. We had a rest in a nearby pub before saying our adieus and going our separate ways. Lee's applying to Watermouth, one of only two who's doing so from Easterby College.

Really I want to channel my energies into something lasting, something important, into something with a bit of originality and significance. But I don’t know what this means. I just don’t know anything.

Wednesday, March 16, 1983

Jazz in exile

A quiet day. I finished a dramatized account of Polidori’s summer at Lake Leman with Byron and the Shelleys. Shelley suffered laudanum induced hallucinations and nightmares, seeing eyes instead of nipples on Mary Godwin's breasts. Poor Polidori, with his desperation, paranoia and sense of self-importance. I left to go meet Grant with my head full of this single summer, 1816.

Dad dropped me off on Three Locks Rd after picking Mum up from Nanna P.’s. I walked up through Lodgehill as the gloomy grey afternoon was sliding into a damp evening, although a gap in the clouds revealed distant blue skies. Lodgehill seems to be slipping gradually into decay and is now more derelict and debris-strewn than I remember it. Grant was just finishing his tea when I showed up.

We were the only people in the Film Theatre. We sat in the circle, high above the screen, to watch two films—the first (Jazz in Exile) was a bit of a disappointment: there were just short glimpses of the Art Ensemble of Chicago battering out “March Medley,” Elvin Jones playing on the banks of the Seine, and the Woody Shaw Quintet. Mostly it concentrated on the straightforward ‘armchair’ jazz of Dexter Gordon and Johnny Griffin, much beloved of the Jazz Journal International turtle neck/tweed brigade). The film was quite boring and we both got more and more restless as the film wore on.

Mingus was better, full of grainy atmospheric b/w footage of Mingus awaiting eviction from his cluttered chaotic apartment; he’s a really thorny character with a pretty hard head. He knew what he wanted. The film ended on a depressing and dismal note, Mingus with his possessions piled high on the pavement, his bass, his furniture carelessly tossed into a van and sent to a warehouse while he was led away virtually in tears, harassed by the press and dumped finally in a police car.

We had another drink at the Wellington Arms. Often, especially on the bus, Grant will suddenly lower his head, his face split by a secret grin as he shakes with mirth at some private (usually farcical) situation or comment. He has this ability to be vastly amused by his own thoughts.

Tuesday, March 15, 1983


Time now to reflect on what has been said and done and how I feel about my present position. It’s just three days since I last saw Watermouth, three days in which that place seems remote and—with the sun shining on the garden, Dad pottering around while I lie idly on the floor transfixed by lethargy—almost as if it’s never been.

This morning Dad showed me his “memoirs” he started in November: he’s just begun a fourth volume (Vol 1: 1929-54; Vol 2 – 1954-63; Vol 3 – 1964-66), but is trailing off now that the warmer weather approaches. He told me there were days when the garden was gripped by frost and fog that he spent entire mornings and afternoons writing, only pausing to hurriedly tidy up before Mum came home from work at four.

Since January, Nanna P. has also been penning reflections on her life, a hundred and twenty pages of “My Life” completed in shaky, closely set script. Mum says N.P. has confessed to feeling “embarrassed” and not finding it easy to write about emotions. Robert too keeps a daily diary. I wish I was writing other things independent of this journal . . . poems, prose, anything!

This afternoon Dad and I went to see Athletic play Caverley Town. Not many people were there. Athletic scored through Midgley but in the second half Caverley equalised and for the last half-hour were all over Easterby. At half-time we went for a drink in the club bar, rubbing shoulders with Echo reporter Mark Davis and one or two players. Keith Scarborough was there, thin and angular in a smart suit, Bressler surrounded by a group of his admiring youthful friends.

A typical evening at home. My mind is full of so many things but I'm unwilling or unable to focus on any one of them. At the moment, I'm endlessly fascinated by the English Romantic period, DeQuincey, Shelley, Byron, Keats, Blake and Fuseli, etc.: such an unusual group of people. Their almost perverse genius must be linked somehow to the era which they caught the tail end of, the morally relaxed (some would say decadent) late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century. The values and attitudes of this era stimulated them to feats of artistic creation, as though the ‘progressive’ outlook of their world somehow sparked off a chain reaction of literary endeavour.

This seems even more marked and apparent when it’s contrasted with the morally and socially rigid Victorian era. The ‘great’ intellects who dominated the Victorian literary world—Thackeray, Dickens, Eliot—were talented but led fairly unremarkable lives compared to the extravagant idiosyncracies of Byron and co. The decay of the high Victorian period apparent in the years leading up to World War One (the “naughty nineties” and increasingly adventurous and flamboyant styles) saw the rise of Beardsley,Wilde and revolutionary art movements.

The era of the ‘dissipated artist’ was back and is still with us today, people who are prepared to go one step beyond the 99% of us who live our lives confined by fear and an unthinking mediocrity, people who take their own, and our, experiences to the limit.

My heart and enthusiasm run off with me at these moments. My pulse pounds with the sheer excitement and joy of what there is to find and see and read about. How wastefully I spend most of my time. It’s such a sickening, almost tragic, abuse of faculties. Life's so short and there’s so much to do! I want to spend my days reading, reading, reading. . . .

Dad tells me that Helen Vaughan's ghost was seen again a few weeks ago by a woman who was taking a solitary walk along a path up on Bethany moor. She felt strangely cold and caught a fleeting glimpse of the figure of a woman dressed in old-fashioned clothes a little way ahead. The figure then vanished by a clump of trees. She knew nothing of the ghostly tradition until she reported this incident to friends.

Mum has just come in and, seeing both Dad and I scribbling away, grinned and said, “What a family I have! You’re all so blinking literary why can’t you make a bob or two at it?” I suppose it’s better than sitting about on our arses watching TV and doing nothing. As is self-evident from today’s scrawls, being home gives me a chance to indulge my fantasies a little.

Monday, March 14, 1983

Deep in the woods

I did see Grant last night after all: Dad ran me on to his house after dinner. His hair's quite long now and hangs in greasy straggly knots almost to his shoulders. He cut it himself, short and close to the scalp on top, the rest raked back behind his ears.

He told me that he smoked some dope for the first time over the weekend. I had my speed on me so I showed him and mentioned that there’s a (probably) vague chance that I could be getting some acid from Barry over the hols.

We caught the bus into Easterby and went to the Film Theatre. It was £1.40 in with my NUS card. As we clumped up the stairs we could hear the drifting, enticing sounds of the Ted Benson Quintet and we clambered over people into the back row. At that moment, huddled in the darkness, I felt suddenly breathless and expectant and glad that for once I’d actually made the effort. I think it was the joy and excitement of seeing and of listening. Of being alive. My heart thrilled with it all.

Afterwards, we retreated upstairs so that Grant could smoke. It's a habit he’s really getting into now and throughout the evening he chain-smoked his way through an entire pack of Marlboros, reclining back in his seat wreathed in blue smoke, his legs propped on the seat in front as he puffed and dragged clumsily on a fag.

The film was Art Pepper, Notes From a Jazz Survivor and it chronicles his lonely loveless childhood and his journey through theft, heroin addiction (“it solves everything – sex, the need for a God etc. – but causes such agony that anyone who uses it is a fool”) and finally his Phoenix rise to success as a sax player. His battered and scarred face beneath black crew cut reminded me on reflection of that of ruined junkie Herbert Huncke. He twitched and bobbed as he played, his odd brief squall of rapid sax breaks really adding to the music. He showed his malformed stomach to the camera, an ugly hump in his mid-section, looking like the face of a blank diseased pig, the result of an operation gone tragically wrong. He’s quite a grimly comic character . . .

We didn’t wait for the return of the band but went instead to the Wellington Arms near Dyson Street, a quiet and quaint pub with lots of rooms leading off from the central bar area. We sat in one in the back on our own, Grant smoking, smoking and supping beer while I downed whiskies. We quite enjoyed ourselves, at times laughing with unconcerned abandon until tears ran down our faces. When we left the table was littered with torn chewed beer mats, burnt matches and ash.

I woke up today after more dreams about University and all the people there. I'd promised to meet Grant at his house at about eleven. He played me the Birthday Party EP which I later bought (now I regret not seeing them last term with Gareth and Stu). “Deep In The Woods” is excellent, so morbid and slow, and it sounds sort of hard and metallic with perverse echoes of Black Sabbath. We also listened to Coltrane.

We went into Easterby again and stopped in at the Volunteer Inn up by the Poly for an hour or so. Grant decided to miss his 2½ social and economic history lecture and introduced me to droning, monotonous-voiced Pat, who's 26 and doing photography at the Poly. As we sat there, the Doors came on the jukebox and I again felt a calm glow of optimism. I looked forward to the future for once. I think really the change from Watermouth is doing me good, but no doubt within a week or two the same boredom and frustration will have me in its grip.

Then we went to the Library where I spent a long time seeking out books for my Black Americans contextual. I gott three. I also bought the Birthday Party EP and tickets to Whincliffe Jazz festival before we went up Cathedral Row to visit Nanna P.

We ended up stranded in her dingy flat for what seemed like ages and were bombarded with all the usual tales, to the accompaniment of the hoots and cackles of her small wizened friend Ethel, whose shriveled face was framed by garishly dyed hair. Nanna P. was full of moist eyed reminiscences about Aunty Dorothy, who died five years ago this month.

Grant and I had great laughs on the bus back, indulging in stupid inane conversations (he smoking two cigarettes at once), and conjuring fantastic situations up that reduced us to fits of laughter and long bouts of spontaneous mirth. These are the effortless, aimless afternoons that will capture the memory in future times.

I admire Grant because he's uncompromisingly honest and strikes out on his own manic, paranoiac path. Paranoid fears may plague him (he worries he's “getting on peoples’ nerves”), but he's independent all the same and I know much of what goes on in his mind is parallel to what goes on in mine. But the big difference is that he is more overt and spontaneous in what he says and thinks than I am, so people rarely—if ever—realise how feverish my mind becomes sometimes.

Sunday, March 13, 1983


Dad woke me up early to go “spawning” at Dengates. It's a place that never changes.

We wandered down through oak and birch woods to the canal and the long meadow and marsh and found a lot of frogspawn almost immediately. Further on, by the redbrick sewer house, the water was alive with the movement of frogs, although we didn’t actually see them. We wandered all the way along the marsh, crack of rifles from the rifle-range across the river, and finally clambered up the canal bank and back to the car.

On the way back we called in at Uncle Arnold’s. Janet was there—she’s expecting her baby in September. I felt awkward and wooden.

Robert and Carol had gone when we got back and Mum made a big dinner (real food!). I fell asleep, watched soccer on TV, and rang Grant. I felt at a bit of a loss at what to say, an awkwardness that I suppose will disappear again in time.

I have such a limited social circle here.

Saturday, March 12, 1983

Interminable suburbs

I didn’t sleep much last night; my mind was too active. I woke up early and was soon packed and ready. My room looked dismal and bare with all the posters down and I left with the farewells of Shelley, Penny, Gareth and Shawn ringing in my ears.

My bags were really heavy and I struggled down to the train through campus, which was swarming with conference delegates. I caught the coach at eleven: it was a pretty boring journey, chugging slowly through Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Putney, London’s interminable suburbs (“too many niggers here” the whispered observation from an elderly woman seated behind me), the streets crawling with people, the dismal sunshine giving everything a depressing, tarnished air.

I got back to Easterby at eight thirty and as I trudged through the streets my heavily laden figure caused looks and the occasional comment. An elderly off-duty train-driver, brusque and prickly, said he knew Watermouth: “One half o’ town for them that’s rich, t’other for them that’s poor . . . that’s Watermouth.” I got back home at nine to find the house empty. Mum, Dad, Rob and Carol were out celebrating Mum and Dad’s thirtieth wedding anniversary.

The joys of a well-stocked larder and fridge! Five weeks of decent food, clean crockery and cutlery, regular meals—meals at all!—and no more of that crappy kitchen. I watched all the shit on telly and gorged myself on fruit. 

I rang Grant when I got back (he’d just gone out) and at ten Mum, Dad and co. rolled up. Lots of comments about my hair and Carol kept teasing me about the hints of a ‘southern twang’ in my accent. Everything at home seems much as normal, more books piled about than last time I was home perhaps. I noticed with interest that Dad has Kerouac by Ann Charters out of the library (today is Kerouac's sixty-first birthday). The axolotls in the tank upstairs look perfect and delicate.

It’s weird to think of Shelley, Penny and Rowan still down there and it's hard really to think of Uni as real at all—everything is so different here and the two worlds feel so far apart. My mental tortures, spasmodic outbursts of frustration, druken slumberings and all-too public escapades seem so far away and unreal now, unnecessary even.

In the term just gone I managed to spend all but £67 of my £560 grant—I spent £351 on food, booze and records, etc.

Friday, March 11, 1983


I felt guilty this morning when I woke up, but it was a relaxed day. I packed throughout the afternoon. Lindsey and Barry caught the three o'clock train, and campus was alive with hurrying figures carrying boxes and loading vehicles.

Pete left mid-evening and most of the show has now gone, leaving we few measly remnants behind. I don’t know whether to be sad or glad at leaving. One half of me wants to go, but the other half is, more than anything else, regretful about going back to the tedium of home for five weeks.

I’m taking 3/8th of a gram of speed back with me, for the unorthodox pleasures of consuming said drug among people and places too ‘safe’ and familiar to ever be exciting in the same way. Maybe it’ll liven things up a bit. What I’m trying to say is that I’ll miss this place and all the people in it.

I can hear the quiet murmur of Shawn, Penny and Shelley playing cards down the corridor. The passing of time is painful and sometimes I feel like I want to stay here with these people forever.

Thursday, March 10, 1983


A bright and sunny day that felt somehow heavy and oppressive. I’ve given up on my final essay for Miriam.

Miriam had invited her tutees around for an evening of free booze and food and so in the evening a group of us went into Watermouth, first to the Broadway Bar for cocktails, and then a long tramp down through Maynard Park, Wickbourne Road to Exeter Road, our destination.

It didn’t look too promising when we got there, just a quiet group standing around a table laden with half-empty plates of food, the house in a state of friendly and relaxed disarray, piles of books everywhere, a carpetless staircase. Gay skinhead Mark from our tutorial was there, plus a few others I recognised. Miriam, in a floppy purple hat, jeans and knee-length boots, was dancing with her lover.

We made a noisy entrance: no exaggeration to say that after this things livened up, with dancing and drinking aplenty. I'd brought a half-bottle of Bell’s which soon went, along with the numerous bottles of Miriam's wine. Needless to say, we all got very drunk. I remember sitting on the neighbour’s front steps, Pete telling me that Lindsey likes me and half frog-marching me back inside to talk to her, this all very dimly remembered . . . I questioned Pete again later but he was too drunk to focus.

We left and made our way back down a steep hill and across the dark grass of Maynard Park. I was lagging behind, and glanced round to see a policeman striding towards me, so I quickly sped up, but he accosted me and as we walked to catch up with the others he said he wanted to question us because “there have been a lot of burglaries around here recently.” Maybe I was the lookout. He took my name, along with Graeme and Gareth, and then searched us pretty thoroughly and radioed through to the ‘Main Cop’ while I gestured and made faces behind his back in drunken rebellion.

We were clean and after this he was quite friendly and thanked us for our patience. Shelley was in tears by this time so we climbed into taxis and sped homeward.

More revelry back at Wollstonecraft, a party winding down in the foyer, a few people still dancing. We joined in, dancing on the porter’s desk and leaping around the entrance hall in alcoholic abandon. I fell asleep on the floor in Stu’s doorway and Barry covered me in shaving foam and I retaliated. But no one was taking any notice because they were huddled around the fag machine, burning their way in, finally breaking doing so and scarfing twenty-plus packets of Rothman’s plus a similar number of Benson & Hedges, Forty-odd pounds worth in all.

We stacked the packets like gold bars in the bathroom and took a six-way cut. We had to 'buy' the silence of a couple upstairs with a couple of packets. I’m saving mine to sell.

I dreamed the police were searching my room for cigarettes as I feebly tried to hide them.

Wednesday, March 9, 1983


I got my reports from serious-faced and thoughtful Dr. Carwardine, my new personal tutor.

I was quite surprised to find I’d got a ‘2’ from Bonnycastle; he said I was “intelligent & perceptive” (a stock comment apparently) but also noted that my explanations for missing tutorials were “unsatisfactory.” Carwardine asked me about this and I again confessed I had no excuse. “I’ve had difficulty motivating myself," I told him, and repeated that I dislike the unreality of this campus existence. Miriam gave me an OK report that wasn’t graded but said I didn’t “push” myself enough in tutorials and needed to say more.

Then, quite out of the blue, Dr. C. asked me where I came from, all about my family, when I moved, my feelings about Lockley compared to Egley, and so on. I told him I preferred the down-to-earth quality of the former and dislike Farnshaw and Egley’s sterile well-kept stagnation. He said he knows people in Easterby. I thought that he was perhaps taking things over the top and told him I it will be much better for me living off campus next autumn.

So I got away with another term of academic shoddiness that all-in-all was pretty shabby. Not many books read. I’ve spent the last couple of days on a cheap Hell's Angels exposé which is really quite gripping. Lots to catch up on over the holidays for Am. Lit. and Black Americans.

After this I went for a walk. I took a path up through the woods that run along the crest of the ridge overlooking Wollstonecraft Hall. The muddy path climbed gradually between the trees and seemed to be going on without end, so as it was getting on towards dusk, I decided to turn back. By then I was high beyond the University, which was now hidden behind the rolls and folds of hills. Down to my right I could see ant-like tractors chugging across the fields, Westdorgan Valley hidden by mist, only the milky silhouettes of trees visible. The trees were dark and bare, their grey-green trunks pressing in around me, the calls of birds everywhere.

On my way back I met a man and woman looking for the University. They followed me back down the track and, just before we reached the Uni., the woman asked me if I lived back there: “I thought maybe you lived in a little log cabin somewhere.” It seemed an odd thing to say.

My evening was pretty nondescript. Penny cut my hair, I had a bath and finished off the book on the Hell's Angels.

Tuesday, March 8, 1983


I didn’t arise from my crumpled and sweaty bed until gone one.

I’ve felt very pissed off all day: in a real stinky mood. I spent some of the afternoon shampooing the sicked-on areas of my carpet and feeling really down, a feeling of boredom and stagnant frustration that's continued most of the day and infects everyone.

Boredom reduced Barry and Stu to pedantic dissections of my every comment. I want the term to end now, and there has got to be some change: I can't go on forever as I am and I ought to try to stay out of things a bit more. I need some measure of independence.

Sick of being like this but at the moment I don’t really care.

Monday, March 7, 1983


I was up very early, six o’clock, after a troubled half-sleep and I felt lost, lost for what to do. At eleven Shelley knocked on my door for our planned trip into Watermouth.

It was a brilliantly sunny spring day but I felt very distant and unwilling to indulge in conversations. Shelley even commented on this as we headed for the train. As we rode in we could see for miles, the city basking in bright sunshine, and as we slid into the station past the marshaling yards just beyond, there was a hint of stagnant shimmery days in high summer. The air was hot and dusty and dry and the rails glittered silver in the light.

We had a drink at a café nearby and then hit Sainsbury’s. We grabbed litre bottles of whisky and vodka, packets of biscuits and a pork pie each, and headed for the beach. We had to tramp quite a way before we found a suitably sheltered place away from the stares of the groups of holidaymakers who now dotted the prom. Finally we found a concrete breakwater where we could nonchalantly recline amidst pebbles and beach debris.

I didn’t really feel like drinking but I forced it down, burning my throat in the process, and soon enough we were gripped by the warm haze and blur of drink and I was at peace with the world, temporarily at least. Suddenly everything seemed unimportant. I just didn’t give a shit anymore. To our right the sea stretched away to infinity. There’s something endlessly fascinating about the sea. I wonder why? The waves frothed and hissed nearer and nearer, until we were finally forced to retreat back up the beach.

By now Shelley had eaten her biscuits and I'd eaten my pork pie, and about half the whisky had gone, so we staggered to our feet and headed back into town, where we rang Penny from a call-box. She sounded none too impressed at our drunken laughter and bleary statements. We went and bought a bottle of wine in Tesco’s, and this we consumed in a little park near the Cathedral. I fed the pigeons and Shelley calmly decimated a flower bed of daffodils, much to the annoyance of several old women who watched her with hard eyes.

Shelley was feeling ill. I felt fine though pissed, so we made a decision to go back to the station. Shelley was sick on the train. Barry joined us for more drinking after we got back and from this point on I don't remember much: a vague sensation of lying down, of spilling my drink and licking my hand, of Barry crawling insensibly on all fours out in the corridor, and then a blank nothingness.

I came round at twelve midnight fully clothed in bed, my coat blathered in vomit (I was told later I’d passed out with my body half-in, half-out of my room). I didn’t remember a thing: I must’ve actually blacked out.

Sunday, March 6, 1983

Hairstyles and hostile looks

After the football yesterday everyone was in a fever of preparation for going out: Penny and Lindsey were headed to Susie’s party in Watermouth and Rowan and co. to a party in New Lycroft. There were many options open to us, but we didn’t really fancy dealing with all of Susie's trendy acquaintances with their hairstyles and hostile looks. I felt very bleak.

Everyone left and I had a bath and then Barry, Gareth and I decided, more as a matter of pride than anything else, that we just couldn’t be collapsed in our rooms not having done anything when everyone got back. So, on the spur-of-the-moment, we decided to go into Watermouth to buy a bottle of whisky & then come back.

We got off the train at Wessex Road and trailed about for ages looking for an off-licence that was open. Eventually, with only ten minutes left until closing time, we went and bought a £9 bottle of whisky from the Bellemoor opposite the Art College. We went and sat across the road on a bench and began to drink the bottle, our backs to the traffic and noise and lights of pub closing, scarcely a glance in our direction from the occasional couple who passed us by.

We got rid of most of the bottle in quick time and finished the last ¼ off as we walked in search of food, passing it between the three of us as we strode down the street. It was a very drunk and rollicking journey, and we threw caution to the winds as we stumbled along in fits of laughter, falling over, even hatching a semi-serious plan to smash the window of an off-licence that fronted onto busy Wessex Road and legging it away with scotch and champagne.

Even the ludicrous and impossible seems feasible when under the influence. I really thought we had a chance.

We had Chinese take away near the station and ate it sitting on a wall next door, spilling most of it over Barry as he sat with the box of food on his knees. We had nearly an hour to wait in the dark and deserted station: I ran to and fro across the tracks while Barry shinned up a lamp post, a feat which I’d bet him £20 he couldn’t do.

At long last the train pulled up, packed with people coming back from Susie’s party and we all ran back through campus from the station, even wrestling on the floor over a packet of cold chips that Lindsey had given me as we rushed past. All-in-all, a pretty good evening. I crashed out at five.

I got up at midday today and I’ve done nothing, but for once I feel fairly content with myself and the world.

Easter, family, and Easterby loom.

Saturday, March 5, 1983

Thoughts on getting old

Last night Gareth, Stu and I set off for the Phoenix cinema to see Andy Warhol’s Bad and Lindsay Anderson’s Britannia Hospital. Graeme caught up with us before we'd reached the train station. We had a couple of drinks in two pubs near the station and for a moment even contemplated stealing a taxi as it stood, door open and engine running while the driver nipped inside, but we dithered too long and he came back out.

The films were quite good and I was glad we’d gone to see them. Bad was about an agency run by a middle-aged lady that dealt in revenge and was especially sick (mutilations, pet-murder, etc.), but it was all done in a blackly comic and somehow slightly fantastic way.

It was well past 3 a.m. when the films ended and we got a taxi back to campus. Lindsey, Shelley and Rowan were still up; Barry was asleep on Shelley’s bed. Rowan had taken speed and was writing, writing in her room her “thoughts on getting old.” She'd written seven sides by the time I eventually went to bed at five. Right before I did, Tim’s friend Stefan went belting up the corridor to the fag machine and, not able to stop in time, plunged headfirst through the window at the end. After standing up and brushing glass from his clothes he wandered away bewildered but unhurt.

I awoke in the afternoon to bright skies and cheerful sun. I got another letter from Grant, written as usual on a sheet torn out from a calendar. He sounds pissed off with work and the whole Easterby scene. I went round to give Pete his letters, knocked, and blundered in to find, to my excruciating embarrassment, Mo in bed and Pete washing at the sink. I fumbled an apology and fled.

We had the usual game of football up at the airhall late in the afternoon; I spent most of the match in goal and our side won 11-6.

Friday, March 4, 1983

The dialectic of sex

I went to bed at 7 last night, woke up again at midnight and read sixty more pages of Moby Dick until very late into the night. It was past midday when I got up. Tried to carry on reading my book but lounged about doing little instead.

Penny and Lindsey don’t want to come on the pub crawls because they are “male-dominated” and “sexist.” We were quite amazed at this, for this had never entered our heads and it spawned a heated discussion: “By saying this they’re the sexist ones” . . . “we invite them because they're our friends” . . . “we want them to come” . . . “by going off and not telling us where or when they’re going, they’re being anti-social” etc., etc. Penny overheard the above and “didn’t think it was very funny.”

Thursday, March 3, 1983

Fuck off then

We had a pretty disappointing evening out in Watermouth last night. We'd intended going to see Steel Pulse; started out at the Broadway Bar and we were just ordering drinks when Shelley strolled in with new haircut and peroxide job. We drank cheap ‘Happy Time’ cocktails. I only had two but Stu had six-or-seven and we gossiped about people, especially Penny’s semi-serious attraction to Stu and her giggly talk thereof. Much amusement as Shelley told us about Graeme asking Penny out.

We finally made it down to the sea front and the The Oasis but all the doors were locked and it was dark: we soon found out that the concert had been canceled, so feeling disappointed we went across the road to an amusement arcade and whiled away some time, much to Shelley’s bored annoyance.

Got back to Wollstonecraft late to more corridor scenes and ‘pranks.’ Gareth and Barry sprayed some random bloke with the fire hose as he walked up to Biko’s. Security was called and we fled to our rooms and hid, stifling laughter. The wronged party soon came looking for us wielding a snooker cue and later we saw him with two friends peering up at us as we hid in my room. Big laughs!

I only managed thirty more pages of Moby Dick and I went to go to bed at 5.30 a.m. just as Stu, Barry and Shelley were about to do some speed. Stu was in a talkative, argumentative mood.

Got up at ten and lazed about until my seminar at two. I was a bit worried because I’d only read a sixth of the novel but I had nothing to worry about, because for most of the two-plus hours, we sat silently as Miriam H. talked and talked. I want to finish Moby Dick and get back on track as far as work is concerned (Cooper, Hawthorne, Poe, readings for my Black Americans Contextual, my own never embarked-on reading lists, etc.).

I’m going to bed early tonight for want of something better to do. But what Rowan said is true; if I don’t bother to make an effort then people will just start saying “fuck off then” and leave me to my fate.

Wednesday, March 2, 1983

An everlasting itch

Last night Stu and I went halves on a gramme of speed we bought from Pete for £12, which is pretty cheap.

All day I’ve tried to read Moby Dick and although I’m quite enjoying it, I’m finding it slow going. I’ve read about a hundred pages so far.

Tuesday, March 1, 1983

Ought and isn't

I had a pretty disturbing dream that Nanna P. died and I was upset, doubly so because I hadn’t kept in touch . . . My subconscious reminds me to write. . . . It's a bit unsettling.

I got up at eleven and helped Pete carry old clothes down to the mini-market. He set up a stall and made about £15 by the end of the day. I bought another Coltrane album at the market (Live At Birdland, 1963); he's one of my favourites at the moment, even though Penny condemns his music as “vile” and Barry says it’s all a “big con.”

It was a sunny enticing day with hints of spring in the air. The woods and fields climbing away beyond Rousseau towards Gaunt’s Hill looked so promising I wanted to go for a walk.

I got a superb letter from Dad after quite a long silence: it had me in fits of laughter, especially his descriptions of a ridiculously inane conversation with Uncle George. In my last letter to Dad I said that, in a way, I envy Robert his Buddhist practice. He writes: “Rob travels a stony path just now, and while his Buddhism eases his doubts, he still ‘cries out in the wilderness’ and at times I feel desperately sorry for him.” Robert's hinting that he might shave his head: I just can’t imagine him bald, but it's a sign he's now getting very serious about it. He even missed Saturday’s home game against Arkthorpe to visit the Monastery in Cumbria.

Dad mentions his autobiographical saga has found vitality again after a bad patch. Things seem OK on the home front.

I read Moby Dick today: so far I've got through about fifty pages. A lazy and bored atmosphere has settled down on Wollstonecraft. Lindsey's in quite a lot of trouble with her tutors over the tutorials she’s missed and all the work she hasn’t done, and she showed me the two ominous-looking notes she’s received warning her not to miss another tutorial (“it will not be tolerable”) and requesting she meet with her personal tutor (“as a matter of urgency”). She’s worried.

There's so much to say here in these pages: about the things I mention in my letters, about thoughts triggered by words I’ve read, about word associations, lines and phrases. I should note them down, for my own future reference. So much ought to be and isn’t. . . .

I've been thinking more about history and its role in determining individual consciousness, actions, ideas etc., and I wonder if perhaps history determines the fates of some individual to a greater extent that with others. If Hitler hadn’t been born then the Weimar Republic would’ve spawned another tyrant, but is that the case with Helen Vaughan or Emily Dickinson? (Did Emily Dickinson get her "immortality because of an experience, her own experience"? not the ultimate product of a system")?
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