Thursday, June 30, 1983

Youth opportunities

Mum and Dad left before I woke up to go down to Andrew’s degree show in Badon.

When I did finally rise at one to answer the phone the house was empty and silent. It was Grant, who just wanted to talk, so I stood there totally naked for quarter of an hour. I’d said I’d meet Lee at 1 p.m. outside Smiths but as usual I was late and I ended up going into Easterby at three.

I’d missed the dole office so I went to the Job Centre, but ended up buying P.I.L.’s first album, and all-in-all spent a fair bit of money.

Watched TV and went to bed.

Wednesday, June 29, 1983

Eat people

We got up early and struggled to the bus stop with our bags for a cramped ride into Cambridge with a busload of kids and workers. Barry and I hung about near the bus-station until 10.15 when the coach left. Barry slept for most of the journey and we got to Ecclesley shortly after three; there I said goodbye to him and I was back in Easterby by 4.30.

I felt nothing particularly on getting back, none of that “thrill of recognition” I remembered after only six weeks of the first term. Nothing at all. Perhaps I even felt regret, wishing now I’d stayed down in Watermouth for the summer.

I waited for Dad in the station car-park in bright sunshine, conscious of the slightly more hostile nature of the atmosphere ‘up north.’ Soon Dad rolled up; he was just the same. The house was just the same, Mum the same, everything in fact just the same, as if I’d never been away. In one way it was terrible—total stagnation. I don’t think Mum or Dad could understand why I was so quiet. I passed it off as tiredness.

I rang Grant and he was out, but shortly afterwards he rang breathlessly back and said his band Eat People were playing tonight at the Phases club on Canal Parade. I set off at nine, a little to Mum and Dad’s surprise I think. But truth is, I had to find something to do to smother my disappointment and regret.

Phases was fairly small inside, with a bar to the left as I walked in, a smallish stage in front, and a lot of tables and seats round the corner to the right, where Grant and his entourage were camped. He came up to me shortly after I’d paid and talked enthusiastically, his hand over his mouth.

I was introduced to the band: Tim on guitar, drummer Jon, and tall, trendy blond bassist Jimmy. Grant is the vocalist. Nik Gordon was there too, plus assorted girls and silent blokes. The first band on were clones of The Jam—virtually identical songs and style—and they were quite skillful.

Eat People came on next. The long-haired compére in tux and bow-tie introduced them: “I’ve been looking forward to hearing this band for a long time.” And they began.

Grant screamed at the top of his voice, a scream that echoed endlessly instead of dying, and throughout their set his voice had tons of delay on it, so each word echoed at the end; it was quite a good effect. The drummer laid down a heavy rhythm, the bass laid another over this and the grinding guitar added to the Birthday Party-esque roar. Grant dominated the stage with his shrieks and doom-ridden moans (“What are the songs about?” I’d asked him earlier—“About people getting fucked up,” he’d answered).

On stage he stared and squinted manically, occasionally erupting into a jerky thrash. They played for about half-an-hour and got quite a good reception, especially at the end (irony not intended) when there were demands for an encore, and they launched into “Pretty Vacant,” their “token cover-version” as Grant put it, and got cheers and applause from the sparse audience.

The club emptied pretty quickly, but not before I’d spoken with some of Grant’s entourage. One of them, Jenny, was very drunk, and she held Grant’s hand while telling me about her dress-making business which she and another friend have started up on their own. Once we’d been kicked out, she announced that she “hated university students” to which I said “thanks a lot.”

After this I was conscious of my separateness from what Andrew would call the “Easterby alternative set”—I felt like an anachronism with my southern twang and American Literature. We walked back through Lockley, Grant and I in front and Nik and his friend Jackie bringing up the rear. Nik was quite drunk, Grant very tired and pissed off. We ended up at Jackie’s flat in Bavaria Crescent, a huge roomy place compared to our flat in Watermouth, for which she’s only paying £12 a week.

Jackie is 25 and is waiting for the results of ‘A’ levels she’s taken at Easterby College, which is where Grant met her. She often hung her head low, occasionally glancing up at me with dark eyes through her long black hair. She wasn’t very open and seemed to hang on Nik’s every word, curled up at his feet like a cat. We had a bottle of wine and some lethal mixture of spirits and cider and Grant sprawled on the floor gloomily.

I walked the five miles home.

Tuesday, June 28, 1983

City of expiring dreams

Little Bartlow seems like a nice place, although it’s full of commuter businessmen. Back at Guy’s, Barry rang the garage; much to his despair the van is a £400 job, and he was very pissed off all afternoon. We played records until Guy’s Dad gave us a lift into Cambridge in the evening.

Cambridge was idyllic and gentle, the quiet quadrangles of the colleges echoing to our footsteps. Barry was very impressed and said he’d wished he’d tried harder in school, which seemed an odd comment coming from him.

We paused at The Badger, a fine old country pub with aged knot-ridden tables and chairs which Guy has been frequenting for years, to wait for his friend Keith who soon rolled up, a plump-faced bloke with black curly hair and a huge toothy grin which hardly ever left his face. I got woozy on cider.

The forecourt of the pub was crowded with tourists and old fashioned-looking profs in aged suits and buckled shoes. We had a couple of pints there—it felt so much like a holiday—before moving on to The Wheat Sheaf, a modern glass and concrete creation, where I ended up pretty drunk.

Barry told us that back at the January's RCP Irish War conference in Whincliffe, we'd been lied to about the Sinn Fein speaker who, we were told, was being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This was all hushed up for purely political reasons, he said, and confessed he was pissed off by it and explained why they did it. But he seemed to accept my point that lies and falsehoods aren’t the way to win support. His seemed to say that he won’t be that involved with the RCP for very much longer: “They want you to live, sleep and breathe the RCP. I’m not prepared to give that sort of commitment.”

Guy’s Mum gave us a lift back. I was drowsy in the back of the car.

Monday, June 27, 1983

Big ends

We spent the morning and early afternoon gradually getting organised. I went onto campus and to the bank, and then we all went to see Colin at the Crown Racing up on Old Priory Road. I gazed across at the path through the woods to campus wistfully. We got a promise that all the stuff wrong with the flat was going to be put right and then went into town, got keys cut and sorted out the electricity.

My stuff seemed to fit into the van fairly well and although it was a tight squeeze, I decided to go back North with Barry, Guy and Pete in the van. Mo went home by train. Cathy & Cheryl arrived just after we got back to the flat and we bid them goodbye and good luck. They’ll probably need the latter.  We set off at about 3 p.m.

We dropped Pete in London a couple of hours later and had chips. We were making good progress, and had just turned off the M11 into the A11 for Cambridge when a deadly thudding began from the engine, which continued for about thirty seconds—then there was a loud clunk, so Barry pulled over. Shit. Luckily there was an emergency telephone nearby. We had 1 ½ hours to wait for a garage pick-up truck to turn up and the weather-beaten mechanic shook his head fatalistically as soon as Barry switched on the engine. “The big-ends ‘ave gone; that’s about as serious as it gets.”

Silence as we drove back in the pick up cab, the car in tow behind, seventeen miles back down the M11 to Bishop’s Stortford. Barry was pretty upset.

So we ended the day marooned on a windswept garage forecourt waiting for Guy’s Dad to pick us up and give us a lift to his house in Little Bartlow, ten or so miles distant. We went to a nearby pub and Barry rang home to tell his parents about the van.

We got to Guy’s house very late; pretty big and roomy, clipped grass and ornamental trees outside. We sat in the kitchen and stuffed our faces with bread and cheese.

We're staying in nine-year old sister Wendy’s room.

Sunday, June 26, 1983

Profane illuminations

I woke up in a better mood. The sun streamed through the window and the net curtains blew gently in the breeze, putting us all in a lighter frame of mind.

We bought cleaning supplies and scrubbed the flat down. I cleaned the cooker which was ingrained with thick brown grease; Guy scrubbed the kitchen floor; Mo did the landing. I also cleaned the toilet. The whole flat smelled much fresher after we’d done.

The more we cleaned the more angry I got at the previous occupants.

We were eating—sat around the table, all very civilized—when Cheryl and Cathy turned up with parents and a car-load of stuff. We’d dreaded this encounter, fearing they were sure to be very disappointed with the place, but they didn’t seem too repulsed by the chaos and dirt. They piled up all their stuff in the hallway and left, saying they’d sleep on campus tonight.

Barry and Guy drove to an off-licence in the evening and we sat out by the front door in front of the Crown Racing window, drinking and talking until it was nearly dark. We managed to fuse the lights putting in a light bulb in the hallway fitting, so we retired to bed in candle-light.

Guy and Barry laughingly reminisced about school days while I lay quietly thinking.

Saturday, June 25, 1983


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

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

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

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

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

And so the campus-era of my life ended.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 24, 1983

Never far away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 1983

The stars that play . . .

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

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

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

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

I went back to bed.

Wednesday, June 22, 1983

Almost a drag

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

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

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

Guy came along too.

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 1983


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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 1983

And this day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 19, 1983

Cat and mouse

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

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

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

Saturday, June 18, 1983


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

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

I got quite nostalgic about it.

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

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

Friday, June 17, 1983

Humanities B

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 16, 1983


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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 1983

Dead like Sunday

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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 1983

Taste of doubt

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

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

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

Monday, June 13, 1983


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

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

Sunday, June 12, 1983

X-ray frogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a day to be experienced rather than enjoyed.

Saturday, June 11, 1983


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

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

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

Friday, June 10, 1983

How can I turn boredom into an artform?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laugh, or probably throw up.

Thursday, June 9, 1983

Never mind the bollocks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 8, 1983


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

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

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

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

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

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

Something definitely to look forward to.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 7, 1983


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 6, 1983


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

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

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

Sunday, June 5, 1983


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

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

Saturday, June 4, 1983

Canto eighty three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 3, 1983


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At midnight we carried the unconscious Guy to a taxi.

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

Thursday, June 2, 1983

Flat of angles

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 1, 1983

Ghastly blue

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

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