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.

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