Sunday, July 24, 1983

Cloud of unknowing


I had another poor night and woke up amid soaking sheets. I felt clammy and thoroughly out of sorts.

Everyone else was up making sandwiches, packing flasks and preparing for our hike. We set off in the cars to Gilsey and parked near the cottage where we stayed last time. Everything had stayed as it was; it's as if this place will endure forever.

We took the track up the eastern side of Gilsey Beck and sweated through bracken-choked woodland until we came out at an area where the beck widens and is bordered by wide grassy meadows at either side. Here, the grey refuse from lead mining is piled into small slag heaps. We stopped for a little while before pushing onward up the Beck. The lethargy of the previous day still seemed to dog me, weighing down my feet and deadening my responses to everything.

Finally we reached the ruined shell of an old lead mining office and Andrew took my photograph, just like 1980 when we were last here: I posed again in an identical stance, leaning against the same wall like before. Inside the structure, weathered carvings were scored into the stones, the dates and initials of people long forgotten. Across the narrow steep valley we could see another, more complete ruin staring back with empty windows.

We rested at the head of Gilsey Beck and ate our sandwiches. While everyone else went off up another little valley which led off into the hills, I fell asleep on the grass, but soon began to feel uncomfortable in the hot sun. I was disturbed a few times by inquisitive sheep.

An old grizzled shepherd descending from the hill tops with his white panting dog talked to us about his memories, as a six-year old, of this “fine, wild country.” Mum told him about our deer sighting and he wondered if perhaps it had escaped from a deer herd at Steadbeck Lodge: "I've only seen two my whole life.” He bade us goodbye and limped off up the track behind us with his dog.

It was a long wearying tramp back along the opposite side of the Beck. We followed the dusty straight track as turned up above Gilsey, and plunged down into the village on aching feet. We got back to the caravan at about four.


The evening was sunny, marked by a typical piece of Robert philosophizing and a silly argument between Mum and Dad after Dad tipped the cooking oil away. He felt humiliated in front of us all and sulked off on his own down the road while Mum sat sleepily in the caravan with a long face.

After the plates had been cleared away we got into a general discussion. Robert asserted that death gives life meaning and that it’s only because we lose sight of the inevitability of aging and mortality that we adopt shallow, transient attitudes. “Death could come next week or next month; people don’t appreciate that.” He pointed me out as a perfect example of this thoughtless attitude with my lounging and lethargy—(Robert:“I do it too!”)—and I felt my face colouring and heat springing into my cheeks.

But Robert doesn’t know how my thoughts go. I acknowledge these facts which condemn us all. For a moment too an old familiar sensation caught hold of me, a feeling of helpless not knowing, a sort of sudden desperate realisation that I’m not sure of anything and really am ‘all at sea’ as far as certainties are concerned. It’s a feeling I really didn’t expect to experience here. But what's the use of talking like this when I give myself up to sloth so consistently, so willingly?

Andrew and I wandered off after this, and we stood in the corner of the field gazing across at the adjacent mound. “I hate the mysticism and sentimentality attached to these places,” said Andrew quietly. Poor old practical Andrew. To him it's all just fields and trees and moors, which in a way I suppose it is, and nothing else. I can see why he says what he says, but I also appreciate the mystery of this place.

We went for a walk up the Forefield-Stonesdale Road, in the direction of Forefield. It was a soft evening, a hint of sun tingeing the stone walls, and Andrew had to go back because he’d forgotten his camera, so I stood and waited for him, leaning on a gate gazing across a field. As I did so, an old wellington boot-clad baggy-suited figure came clumping down the road towards me, and as I gave him a glance he turned, staring at me with hostile eccentric eyes.

When Andrew came back we climbed up and up, getting quite good views over towards Sleightshaw and the dark silhouette of the moor beyond. He took a few photos of the dark seething clouds rolling in before we had to sprint down the road amid a terrific downpour.

Back in the caravan we huddled in dim fluctuating gas light. Outside the sky echoed and shook to the thunder: in the enclosed valley, the reports of the thunder were much shorter and more concentrated Rob and Carol set out in the torrential rain for a walk along Blea Gate but we stayed behind watching the lightning fork all around. Mum, as usual, began to get worried at Rob and Carol’s absence, but after an hour or so they returned having just seen a family of deer quite near the caravan.

Robert was full of the “eeriness” of the area.

Saturday, July 23, 1983

Souls


We set off at about half-past ten. It was drizzling and cloudy, but the sun began to break through as we drove through Gillrigg and Washgram. We met Rob and Carol in Stonesdale in the early afternoon, after a journey of over eighty miles.

We had a cup o’ tea and cheese-on-toast at a café in Stonesdale, the same café I remembered from three years before. Once again the family was all together, Mum and Dad and their three sons and daughter-in-law, together for perhaps the last time in a long time.

The caravan, a cream and brown contraption, sat in a corner of a small field near Friar Beck Farm, under great sprawling trees which darkened the sky. We unpacked quickly and wandered along the road towards the moorland by the ancient mounds of Wath Hill. It grew very warm; there were quite a few picnickers sitting about by their cars reading newspapers and eating.

We climbed up the short rabbit-cropped grass amid junipers and grey rocks and sat awhile gazing out over the haze-shrouded valley. Andrew took a few photos and Dad and Robert disappeared in search of what they thought was a shrike. We didn’t stay long and walked lazily back along the narrow road to our field beneath the trees.

I didn’t feel too good. Again I was overcome with tiredness and I slipped into sleep in the caravan. I don’t know why I’m so tired. I wonder if it’s anemia or something similar? I’ve not felt too good all week and when I wake up my sheets are sopping wet. I feel drowsy most days too. Too much inaction probably.


We had a quiet tea followed by a walk along the medieval Blea Gate, the wall of which skirts the lower end of the field in which our caravan stands. All was still, a silence broken only by the occasional chatter of a farm machine or the calling of sheep. Robert wandered off by himself.

He and Dad get on famously; as Robert gets older he slips more and more into a sad, melancholic and contemplative frame of mind which seems to strike a chord in the part of Dad that Robert springs from.

I felt so tired that I seemed to be having difficulty generating interest in anything; my eyes felt heavy and my feet leaden. We spotted a lone deer, standing solitary in the fields, watchful and alert below a clump of trees; two tiny fluffy wrens were rooted to a wall in static panic, desperately hoping they wouldn’t be seen.

As we approached the caravan, a group of Oystercatchers screamed and wheeled across the sky, circling round and round the ancient fortified mound that stands behind the caravan in a field. In myth, Oystercatchers are supposed to be the lost souls of drowned sailors, long dead. Around they flew, screeching and calling hauntingly, before winging their way across the fields away into the dusk.

It’s now nearly dark and I’m sitting outside the caravan in a camp chair, listening to the hiss and quiet roar of wind in the leaves high above my head, while in front of me Dad and Robert are deep in conversation about Alan Garner and Arthur Machen. Robert’s voice is insistent, exuberant, Dad’s low and droning.

They’ve just gone in. The wind is whipping at the pages.

[Audio version]

Friday, July 22, 1983

Dole penicillin


I got another cheque from the dole office today, this time for £47.30. So in a week I’ve received nearly £120; maybe I’ll be able to afford to go to Greece with Gareth if I’m very careful. I revealed this idea to Mum and she reacted predictably: “You young people make me sick”—the word spat out—“you’ve got all your priorities wrong.”

This signaled a bitter tirade against me over the bike incident from a year or so ago (“Thirty pounds for a rusty, unused bike . . .” etc.) and I was angry that she was dragging out this skeleton.

Jeremy rang and says that Lee is keeping to his friends from Easterby College and going out a lot with them. I haven’t rung Claire—I’m a stupid bastard, and no doubt my thoughtlessness and paranoid uselessness has reaped the harvest it deserves. I promise myself I’ll do something about it as soon as we get back (we're leaving tomorrow for a week in Calverdale).

There’s been much fussing and packing from Mum the last two days but now we’re set. Dad has been cleaning the tanks in preparation. This morning, he, Andrew and I went to Dengates to let a dozen or so little frogs go. The grass was teaming with them.

The weather has been warm again today after the drizzle of the last few days; thunder and lightning rumbles and flashes threateningly in the distance, beckoning us into the empty spaces and the sweeping skies.

Thursday, July 21, 1983

Family


We went to see Nanna Beardsley at Easterby District Teaching Hospital, where she's had a hysterectomy. The sister told Dad that the operation was straightforward, but Nanna B. looked weak and pale, stranded in her small white bed like a whale.

I felt painfully uneasy with cousins Susan and Mark and his tight-faced wife in yellow dress. I’ve never met Mark before and I felt so uneasy. I stood silent at the end of the bed parrying questions, red with embarrassment.

Susan made some comment about “wogs” as we sat waiting outside the ward. Dad erupted into laughter and Mum flashed me a meaningful look.

[Audio version]

Wednesday, July 20, 1983

Y-reg Chevette


I signed on again today and got home to find a £47.30 dole cheque waiting for me. My overdraft now stands at £77. I also bought Mum a card and present in Farnshaw; she’s forty nine today.

I got a letter from Shelley who's very busy in Watermouth. She has a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Penny has a temporary job as a receptionist in a psychiatric unit which, predictably, “is cracking her up.”

I started a library book on Nietzsche but did so with little-to-no-enthusiasm. I aborted it a half-dozen pages in. I’m suffering through a state of majestic boredom, an almost irretrievable state of brain death.

Outside in the nightmare suburb, everything’s frozen into an afternoon calm; the petty little domestic rituals and the soft sound of the garden hoe are the only evidence of human activity. No strife, no “anti-social” behaviour permeates this self-satisfied little world of privet hedges and Y-reg Chevettes.

Easterby is a shit-heap and doesn't raise its sights above its own red-tiled rooftops. But then I suppose the whole country is the same.

Tuesday, July 19, 1983

TV eye


I got a dole cheque for £23.65 today and a postcard from Lindsey. She's in London at the RCP Conference; Pete’s there too. She sounded surprised at herself for enjoying it.

Carl Cotton rang me last night, very late, just after I’d gone to bed under a cloud and feeling none too healthy (I haven’t felt too good since I went out with Lee and Jeremy at the weekend and I keep getting irritating aches and pains that are probably my body’s protest at enforced inaction). My absence I put down to poverty (coward), but I went back to bed thinking I probably should have gone, if only for my own good.

Suddenly wide-awake, I lay in bed thinking about Carl and the RCP. I felt my mind filling with a great empty nothingness and I couldn’t focus properly on anything. I finally lay my head down unable to think at all. My ideas were indistinct and weakly formed, like I was seeing them vaguely beneath the surface of mud.

I watched two TV programmes with Andrew and Dad. Both were on the subject of war journalism and censorship. The first roused no comment from Dad, but the second raised his hackles and he came out with all the hoary old arguments and platitudes, and the old huffing puffing “I love my country, I’m patriotic” crap.

I just couldn’t see how he could trot this out yet again after sitting through two hours of (what seemed to me) fairly honest stuff. How can anyone be so blinkered and totally bigoted? I felt an impossible anger—anger that he should be so infuriatingly blind to military ideologies, anger at the lies and falsehoods and that censorship keeps people from understanding the true horror and violence of war, and anger from wanting an end to the fucking mess once and for all.

But I think I ought to shut up now as there is nothing so boring as a zealot and I suppose I’m the wettest liberal of all in that it takes a TV programme to get me going.

Monday, July 18, 1983

Genius Loci


In the afternoon I went to the library in Easterby and wandered around at a loss. The weather has turned and it was a breezy perfect day.

Dad and I went to Dengates in the evening and collected moss for the amphibians. The marsh field bloomed in all its high summer splendour, a tangle of green nettles intermingled with yellow ragwort and purple thistles that grew three feet high in some places. Dad found a large common toad and two small frogs, but let them all go. I found a newt and, in the long grass under the trees, a number of little frogs that hopped away whenever we approached.

Dengates is idyllic, especially past the gypsy camp where the grass is short and meadow-like. This area is dotted with rocks, and bordered on the lower side by the reedy marsh itself, on the top by the weathered decayed ruins of an ancient stone wall, half-hidden beneath trees and bushes.

Dad and I sat amid the pink grass, admiring the view beyond the stone-walls of the fields across towards Keddon and the dark moors brooding on the horizon. In the foreground was a long low red brick factory with twin chimneys at one end, drifting blue grey smoke across the valley. Dad says the area is called Marystown.

Sunday, July 17, 1983

Black dog


I had a hard uncomfortable night on the floor, and I woke up to a thunder storm rumbling a retreat across the grey dawn. I got a lift back to Farnshaw in Jeremy’s boss’s Mercedes: Jeremy works a weekly gardening job at a £110, 000 house in Keddon. I got home at eleven.

I reread what Lee had read in my journal, from last August, a description of Claire’s soap smell. Mortifying! I couldn’t help the hot flush that crept into my face. These words are too dangerous to leave lying around for all to see.

I’ve spent the day nursing a sore head and doing fuck all. I blew £6-£7 last night and didn’t even get drunk. In the evening Lee rang, a guilty, conscience-stricken tone in his voice: “I’ve just remembered what I did . . . I’m going teetotal from now on.”

Thunder and rain returned after tea. The weather has broken and now it’s cloudy skies and cool breezes.

What a fucking waste of time all this is.

Saturday, July 16, 1983

Pink and white


Robert drove over in the morning and then, while he, Andrew and Dad walked to Moxthorpe to watch a cricket match, I went into Easterby.

I didn’t have any enthusiasm for going into town, but I thought I’d hate myself even more if I didn’t make the effort, so at four I finally got up off my backside and got the bus. I went to a second-hand bookshop, took my trousers to a dry cleaners to be altered, and bought 2 books, a William Blake anthology and a critical book on the 'Romantic Imagination.'

Jeremy rang not long after I got back and asked if I wanted to go out for a drink. I met him and Lee at twenty to nine, forty minutes late (quite good for me), and we went straight to the Four Pigeons, mainly because we’d never been there before.

It stands painfully alone, surrounded by grey '60s concrete and glass. We sat out on the grass but retired inside when it got chilly. Lee was his usual distant self, maybe a bit more noticeably uneasy, but we talked and laughed until Jeremy told me that last year Lee read my diary and knows about my infatuation with Claire.

I shrank blushing—embarrassing! “I know, I’m a cunt,” said Lee, laughing cheerfully. They continued to tease me with booze-ridden affability (“she was yours to have” etc, - oh God, don’t say things like that!), but I was to have my revenge.


Because we'd had quite a bit to drink, things deteriorated accordingly. Jeremy threw my jacket onto the roof of a shop on the corner of Queensgate where it hung above our heads while we blundered hysterically around for twenty minutes, Jeremy swaying astride my shoulders before he fell face-down onto the pavement as Lee tried to climb up on top of him.

I eventually retrieved my jacket with a long stick we found on a nearby building site. For want of somewhere better to go, we descended on Jasper’s and sat downstairs in the “wine lounge,” the name they’ve given to what is nothing more than a huge meat-market. White and pink are evidently this year’s colours, and the now familiar legions of girls in said outfits sat in silence with crossed legs, waiting. . . .

Lee and Jeremy squeezed in alongside one such girl in white skirt, white jacket, with blonde blowsy hair, and while Lee struck up a conversation with her, Jeremy and I drifted around, to the bog, or back and forth to the bar. Before we knew it, Lee and the girl were snogging, burying themselves in the soft upholstery of their seat! With a disbelieving laugh Jeremy and I left him to it, marveling at the ease with which Nature has her way with even the most wayward of her sons, who was all scorn and condemnation one minute, all entwined arms the next.

We went and climbed up onto the roof of the row of shops on William Street opposite Jasper’s and cased them up then headed back to the club and interrupted Lee to tell him our taxi was due. He and the girl in white parted without a word.

We teased him mercilessly on the ride back and he took it all in stride, with eyes closed, a mischievous smile across his face. We got to Jeremy’s as it was approaching three.

Friday, July 15, 1983

Tedium

Dad took Nanna B. out for a run. She’s had a prolapse and is going into hospital on Tuesday for an operation; Mum says that at her age it's quite a serious thing.

Andrew and I were left to lounge in yawning tedium in front of the television watching the cricket.

Outside a breeze has taken hold, although it’s still an oven both inside and out. The setting moon is a dim reddish crescent.

Thursday, July 14, 1983

Tropic of Cardiff


Warm and sticky once again; this week it's been 90°F and more all over Britain. Cardiff was hotter than Hong Kong yesterday. I skulk indoors, yearning for frost and cold weather.

I’ve done nothing all day. I got up at 9.30 and now it’s 8 p.m. and what have I achieved?

It's pathetic how I waste my time.

Wednesday, July 13, 1983

Red hands


Andrew and I went for a curry at the Bahawal and then took the train to go see the new Imax theatre in Whincliffe; we watched To Fly! on the giant 45 x 60 ft screen.

The first scenes of a balloon ascent were deceptively filmed on a standard sized cinema frame and Andrew and I both looked at each other, as if to say ‘pathetic,’ but at that moment the balloon soared up and the entire screen exploded into colour and sharp, vivid detail. The clarity and the immensity took my breath away. It really was as if we were perched there on the lip of an enormous window.

I went to HMV, took my Joy Division album back and bought Paris au Printemps by P.I.L. and Dread Beat an’ Blood by Linton Kwesi Johnson.

The hanging debate was in full swing on Radio 4 when I got home and everyone was rooted to the radio until well into the evening. Dad occasionally erupted bitterly, condemning the IRA as “evil psychopaths” and fixing me with an intense glare when ever I dared to counter him. But he’s wrong, and history will prove him so.

The IRA are not psychopaths. They're just soldiers who consider the ‘troubles’ a war; four UDR men were blown up yesterday in a land mine explosion. “Murder!” screamed Dad. “Those bastards should hang!” His eyes gleamed with murderous fire.


I felt like reminding him of Bloody Sunday, reminding him that the Loyalists in Northern Ireland go out with the sole intention of killing Catholic civilians, that the sectarian violence often comes from the side that stands proud beneath the Union Jack and the red-hand of Ulster. But I kept my mouth shut and allowed him to carry the day, but I felt a knot of anger at the hypocrisy Mum, Dad and Andrew were all coming out with.

I wonder if my exposure to the RCP makes me feel this way? But I bridle at RCP politics. Their Preparing for Power conference begins on Saturday and I honestly can’t afford to go, even though I have a ticket. But in a way I’d like to, especially to attend the Irish talks.

The vote on five amendments and then the vote on the general motion of hanging for murderers itself finally came at ten o’clock. I heard the first two amendments convincingly defeated. In one sort of perverse way I half-wanted to see hanging for ‘terrorism’ come back, because it would be the biggest mistake the British State could make in Ireland, and it would be the easiest way for the IRA to win support among the mass of Irish people under the hand of the British. But this was a perverse twist to my general abhorrence at the barbarity of hanging, and the barbarity of shooting and killing in general.

Dad doesn’t ‘approve’ of my association with Lee and feels he’s “skating on thin ice” with his plundering of old buildings. He sees him as a bad influence on me, which rankles. A great tide of dissatisfaction with my lot wells up within me as a reaction against the stagnation of home and family.

Opportunities slip by.

Tuesday, July 12, 1983

Lines


Dad and I went up to Moxthorpe Common Countryside Centre. The heat was intense and it was like a furnace on the Common, not a breath of wind for relief.

Dad took a half-dozen newtlings in a plastic container. Mrs. Russell, the manager, was absorbed in showing a party of school kids around; a quarter of an hour later she greeted us and enthused over the efts, which she put in a large, crystal clear tank. She wearily said she felt like jacking the whole thing in.

I didn’t do much else other than go down to Farnshaw to sit on a wall in the sun in the Market Square eating a scotch egg. I walked home feeling hot and bothered and that was it for the rest of the afternoon.

Grant called round this evening and we spent the time playing records and indulging ourselves in bored lunacy. He left after dark: my warning to watch out for gangs of armed televisions sent him fleeing up the road.

I bought a book on diaries in Farnshaw, and even after the briefest glance I’m beginning to rethink the whole idea of this journal. I’m wondering about using a book with blank pages instead of lined. To a certain extent, the lines across the page arbitrarily inhibit me and constrict the form this could take (doodling and drawing?). I feel contrived, strained and cramped in my writing, and I’m always half-aware of the lines on the page.

I feel fucked off with the way this has gone tonight; no good at all, so I’ll shut up and try again tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 1983

Step inside


I went into Easterby and met Lee. We went up to the Admiral Street dole office, then down to the one on Lloyd Street so that he could sign on. It was again very hot; I felt as if I was being burnt.

We wandered up to the Art College and Lee collected a boxful of ‘objets d’art’ which we then took around to the derelict house on Abbot Street that he's using as his base. He’s boarded up all the doors and we climbed up onto the porch roof to gain entry through an upper floor window. He hid the box in an upstairs room, barricading the door with a huge wooden beam, and we left for the pub for a drink, and then drifted around Easterby feeling jaded by the heat.

Lee seemed distant and uncommunicative.

We went to Suits Me and I looked for a second hand overcoat and after this, we ended up down on Lockley Lane, trying to gain entry to the old photography studios where he found all the photos. We crept through the overgrown rubble-choked yard but found the back door locked, so Lee suggested we explore an empty school nearby, the old Easterby Grammar School building that stands near the point where Hetherington Road and Dyson Street split. It’s been empty for as long as I can remember, the odd pane of glass broken, brick work black with soot and grime.

We got in through a gaping glass-less window, jumped down and I found myself in a classroom, empty and debris-littered, but still recognizably a classroom. The rest of the school was being gradually overtaken by grass and weeds; a dark and decaying staircase with a spidery tracery of banisters wound up into unknown regions above, the steps worn into hollows by the tramp of long dead feet. We visited each classroom in turn, gazing in on the huge main hall, its floor strewn with glass and lit by sunlight slanting in through large arched windows. Plants grew in green profusion from the walls.

Upstairs, Lee found his way into the tower up a cramped and steeply narrow staircase hemmed in by walls, up into a tiny secluded room lit by floor level windows—quite tidy. Through a hole onto the roof we could look out over the hazy skyline of Easterby.


We had a coffee at a Schofield Street café and I spied a girl I remembered from school, feeding her baby. She’s nineteen. Lee signed on at 3 and we said goodbye. I bought Joy Division’s Closer, but when I got home I discovered it was scratched.

In the evening I met Lee, Jeremy and—a ghost from the past—Tommy Whelan, at the Egley Former Students Disco. It was inauspicious. Tommy hasn’t changed a bit. Harvey’s was as crap as ever, a handful of people from our year there but we ignored them and they ignored us. Several times I felt hidden feet attempt to trip me up as I walked to and fro from the bogs. I ran into Julie Crabtree and Dawn Jagger, both very different now. Dawn was dressed all in white; gone the monkey boots and spiky locks of yesteryear and Julie’s hippy days are over too, apparently; she was dressed conservatively in a white skirt and red T-shirt with a page-boy haircut. She’s getting married next year.

We sat ourselves in a distant corner and hooted at the dancers, all girls initially, flowing virginal pastel shades of green and yellow predominating. They stood like statues, decked out in glowing ultra-violet whites, twisting and swaying imperceptibly in time to the music; they were soon joined by clone-like lads in tight jeans and white socks.

We spied Matthew Knight who looked like some gone-to-seed overweight thirty-year old. All the usual wankers were there, flashily dressed Mr. Farrar in mouthy good humour, Lynn Norden gone the way of all the rest it seemed. By way of parody and just for the doss, Lee and Jeremy went and stood out on the dance floor, totally motionless, gazing blankly into space like two waxwork dummies while people danced around them.

Tommy and I joined them and soon we began to attract attention, people pushing us or waving their hands in front of our faces. The wanky DJ said “They don’t realise how stupid they look, do they?” Them and us, and we were four.

I was hassled by stray dogs on the way home and got back at ten to two.

Sunday, July 10, 1983

Realms


A continuation of the boredom and inaction of the past week. Dad and Andrew watched a vintage car rally in Farnshaw while I slumbered peacefully until nearly afternoon. Later, Dad, Mum and Nanna P. went out for a run in the car up to Oughterdale and I listened to records while Andrew unpacked.

Gripping stuff.

I’m pissed off, needless to say. The decision to come home, so easily taken, seems now to assume the magnitude of a major blunder. I’m so fucking bored up here in this world of narrow horizons and happy family neutrality. A fatherly blast this morning on the subject of hanging gave me a foretaste of the prejudiced angers to come.

Three months of this! I can’t see a way to get enough money to go abroad; the first week of July is gone already, and I feel destined to wallow here in hopelessness until the end of September. Steve called round yesterday to give me a couple of tickets for the Former Students disco on Monday at Harvey’s which at least will be a chance to see everyone. Harvey’s is going to be closed down because some poor bastard was kicked to death there in January. Steve is still as straight as ever. Some things never change (says he).

Thorough dissatisfaction, lack of imagination, total lack of confidence.

Robert rang. He and Carol went to York on a Buddhist course over the weekend and met a Tibetan monk who lives in America. They also went to Neil’s house.

Saturday, July 9, 1983

Art Volé


As it was my birthday I thought I ought at least make an appearance before the afternoon, so I got up about 9.30.

Mum and Dad gave me £10 and wished me many happy returns. Andrew seemed embarrassed that he hadn’t anything to give me. My birthday was very low key, just three cards from family, and anyway it’s hardly a cause for celebration; just another meaningless milestone, just another year to cross off. Nineteen down, how many more to go?

Birthdays used to mean so much.

When Mum and Dad brought Nanna P. over she gave me £5 and we watched TV until Lee rang at three from Tesco to ask me if I wanted to go over to his house. It wasn’t long before I was banging on his door.

He ushered me in, looking smart in black and grey checked shirt, dark trousers, pink socks and ancient gleaming leather shoes. He showed me some of his bounty, looted on recent trips to an old garage on Geoffrey Road opposite Montreal Woolpacking Co., and the basement of an abandoned photography studio on Lodgehill Lane.

Most of the stuff came from the garage; he and his mates had broken the lock and discovered a treasure trove; a ‘50s car in perfect condition (“we thought of putting petrol in and driving off with it”), two motorbikes from the '30s, and piles of old car and motorbike mags. In a cupboard they found stuff that once belonged to a lieutenant in the First War—Lee showed me a photograph of a ‘20s lounge-lizard type in plus-fours with slicked down hair, and Lee has the man's dress uniform, each dark trouser leg with a red stripe down the outside, along with a pair of leather boots in perfect nick,. All of these fitted Lee perfectly of course.

He also showed me a WW1 German cigarette lighter (operated by caps), an initialed solid silver cigarette case, a metal suitcase, and a leather case still covered with old travel stickers that he’s polished and expertly relined. Lee said that as he’d put on the old uniform and boots he almost felt as though this man was taking him over.


What started off as a casual wandering into empty houses has so caught on at Easterby Art College that everyone is doing it and now even the tutors are involved. For a laugh, he and a friend decided to call their ‘movement’ Art Volé, and have even drawn up a manifesto. They’ve now progressed into virtual break-ins, kicking down doors and looting what appears to be (but might not be) abandoned property. The garage with the car and ‘bikes in it was padlocked, and Lee said he smashed down the door to the abandoned photography studio to gain entrance.

We were in hysterics over the photos he found in the latter, which was also apparently some sort of low-key '60s soft-porn concern, full of very tame pictures of bikini-clad girls eating ice cream, scores of head and shoulders portraits of strange old men, and frightening looking '70s-era Pakistani families.

Afterwards we went and tried to fly a boomerang (something else he’d “picked up”) but we broke it, so we sat instead beneath a small tree that was stripped of bark, feeling smothered in the hazy late afternoon sun. We sat and talked by this dying tree, and Lee told me he and a few friends recently smoked some nutmeg to try get hallucinogenic effects but it didn’t work. He asked me if I fancied going mushroom picking sometime.

I had a good time, but bid him goodbye until Monday and finally got home close to eight to find my tea nearly spoiled.

Friday, July 8, 1983

The luxury gap


I was up early. Dad dropped me off at Moxthorpe so I could get my hair cut. This done, I walked home and we set off for Nanna B’s.

The weather was again very hot and muggy, too warm for comfort. Nanna B. was unchanged and  quite entertaining, but I sat there feeling uncommunicative, apart, and totally removed from this circle. She fell to reminiscing, reciting school rhymes word perfect from sixty one years previously with all the rush and enthusiasm of a little girl.

She also revealed more tantalising fragments of family history: William John Martindale, my Dad's grandad, committed suicide in Loney’s Dam early one Sunday morning in 1906 following the death of his wife Emily, leaving their three children orphans. Eldest son Ernest grew up to die in WW1, Harold became my granddad and Esther, battered by her husband, died one day in 1926: the incident was hushed up and passed off as meningitis.

N.B. gave me £2 for my birthday and with the empty fussings ringing all around, we left. Dad dropped me in Easterby. It was too warm to move.

Later on in the evening, Dad and I went down to the station to pick up Andrew but his bus was late, leaving Dad and I to wander through the station to the incongruous strains of military music over the PA. Eventually there was that familiar self-conscious half-smile, sliding in aboard the coach. He looked tanned and we settled back into our well-worn ways immediately.

Dad dropped me off at Jeremy’s ½ an hour later than I’d arranged.

We went up for a drink at a noisy crowded Kerforth pub, The Adelphi, which was filled to overflowing with beery affable groups of loud people. Jeremy and I sat inconspicuously on a bench to one side while the crowd swore and laughed and talked and screeched, the girls fashion conscious in the pastel shades of their smart ‘going out’ clothes, the blokes all in jeans, tight T-shirts, white socks and low slung shoes. A handful of Hell’s Angels hung about in the obligatory denim waistcoats, their girls in tow.


Jeremy and I reminisced and bemoaned our lack of a social circle here. He seemed to have limitless resources compared to me and quite happily bought me drinks and kept my glass filled.

By closing time I was in a sloppy mood and as we walked down Whincliffe Road we were intercepted by two flat-capped drunken occupants of a red open-topped Triumph Herald. Jeremy knew one of them. Terry and Kevin were both pissed and, as they said they’d give me a lift home, we clambered into the back of the car and roared off doing eighty at least while I shivered in my thin shirt. Jeremy laughed unbelievingly as we screeched through Farnshaw, a Heaven 17 cassette at full volume, the two in front jeering drunkenly whenever we encountered a lone figure wending his or her way home.

We stopped at the petrol station near Moxthorpe roundabout, and curses were directed at the pale-faced petrol attendant in his glass cubicle. I was persuaded to stay in the car and go down to Jasper’s, an ominous sounding nightspot in Easterby. As we hurtled along the main road I was amazed no one stopped us, for Terry drove like a madman, overtaking on the inside, screeching to a halt at junctions, cursing and laughing as the traffic lights changed on us.

Just beyond Lodgehill he screeched to a halt and threw up over the side of the car. A hundred yards or so further on it happened again, but he drove off right as rain, laughing, spitting and wiping his mouth on the imitation leopard skin steering wheel cover. Somehow we made it to our destination in one piece and Jeremy paid for me to get in.

Jasper’s a typical Easterby night club, the mating game in full swing inside, couples snogging and dancing. We stood about drinking (me on Jeremy’s money) and left after about an hour for a curry up by the poly, where our hosts entertained us with beery bombast.

Kevin enthusiastically described for us in graphic detail his day spent in the shower with his girlfriend Alison. “It were real!” he said, with a raucous laugh. I had a chicken curry and ½ a prawn curry too, and we watched an Indian film on the TV along with the intent, white-coated staff.

At two a.m. we raced back to Egley and I am writing this. . . .

Thursday, July 7, 1983

Catalogue


An uneventful day, much like yesterday.

Jeremy rang, punctuating my grey stifled mood with his satire.He’s been quite busy making £80 a week putting together Empire Stores catalogues in Kerforth. We agreed to go out for a drink.

Wednesday, July 6, 1983

Peasants with free milk


I had to sign on at nine. Dad drove me down to the Admiral St. dole office, the sun already glaring at us from a clear sky. Away across Knowlesbeck, the Cluder valley slumbered under a washed out haze.

We pulled up in Admiral Street to find a large queue of people young and old outside the doors. At desk 13 I signed paper work and was told “Thank you.” Money should come next week. We drove back to Farnshaw as Dad had to sign on too, and then up to Bentsworth to a pet shop to buy daphnia for Dad’s amphibians. The broad stone-walled fields towards Bethany basked green and still in the sun. We got back at about ten-thirty.

I spent a lazy afternoon writing a letter to Shelley and just wasting time. I felt like going down to Phases later so I rang Grant—his brother answered; he was out, didn’t know where he’d gone or when he’d be back—so I asked him to tell Grant to give me a ring back but he never did. I couldn’t decide whether to go out or not and eventually decided not to bother.

My musical tastes are almost schizophrenic. I like jazz but also P.I.L, the Fall, The Pop Group, etc. Andrew has brought back all his records and they’re almost exclusively jazz—I couldn’t concentrate exclusively like that. The two types of music appeal to two different sides of my character, although I can’t reconcile the two.

It’s still smotheringly warm (76°F) even at this late hour, the sky a uniform light grey, a hint of hot rain drops in the steamy air, just a breath of warm breeze in the branches. Dad methodically waters his precious garden. Mum watches a programme about India on TV.

Nothing breaks this grip of Northern domestic stagnation.

Tuesday, July 5, 1983

Words flow from my inked-up pen


I got up early, Carol and Rob having left for work already, leaving Mum, Dad and me to lock up.

Mum explained, with weary insistence, that the car was so full of Andrew’s college stuff she worried (in her usual way)that  it might break down if we overloaded it, so I had to go back to Easterby on the bus. I left at half-past nine . . . . Another red-hot day, uncomfortable already at this early hour.

In Dearnelow I bought a Pere Ubu record for £1.99 in a sale and caught the bus back home. I got into Egley about noon, & then did nothing but slip into a boredom too familiar to describe. I lounged distractedly before the TV and then in the back room writing this.

The DHSS sent my SS application back because I’d missed something out, so I walked through the stifling heat to repost it, suitably amended. It’s been too hot to do anything.
.
I’ve got a letter from Shelley. She wrote it last Thursday, and she's had a good time at home and has been to a friend’s farm: she penned a long description of an idyllic walk to a quiet lake, writing “I still haven’t come down to earth”; so typical of her! I remember how hyper-sensitive she was last term when struggling with some momentous Wordsworth essay; she kept telling me how tender and unworldly the whole experience had left her feeling, and how vulnerable she was to the stinging ‘materialist’ attacks of Barry and Stu, how close to tears they brought her. She signed off with an airy “cheerio” and enclosed a spent match, a bit of a fag packet and a piece of patchwork wrapped in paper.

After three years, why do I keep at this journal? The initial reasons are no longer so clear-cut and easy to define. If I honestly believe ‘everything is pointless,’ that nothing has any meaning and existence is futile, then why do I carry on writing with such monotonous regularity? If all this is pointless, where’s the point?

I can’t honestly say why I’m doing what I’m doing. To what end? Doubtless none of this is of any historical importance given our age’s excess of mundane records and sources. I suppose it relieves what would otherwise be an utterly structureless existence that seems to drift on and on without rhyme or reason. Perhaps writing this offers the tiniest of constant, unifying threads. I’m writing now just for the sheer hell.

Words flow from my inked-up pen.

Monday, July 4, 1983

A dewdrop, a bubble, a dream


Robert strikes me as being consistently sad and down at heart. Maybe this melancholic streak (which he’s inherited from Dad) accords with Buddhism’s acknowledgement of mortality and destiny in death. I have it too but it’s often overridden by the everyday joys of youth. It’ll emerge in time I suppose, abiding and permanent.

I’m scared of getting old. My life now is full of zap (no matter be it bad zap, still zap all the same) and I don’t want to lose the great sweeping tides of feeling and end up middle-aged in mind and outlook. As Carol and I listened to Roxy Music’s first album today, she told me that inside she feels just the same as she did in 1972 when she was 18. Dad too has often said that inside he feels just like he did when he was my age. I can’t believe I’m almost nineteen. It doesn’t seem so long ago since I was the kid who regarded nineteen-year olds as adults.

Now I'm part of that world too.

I planned on going back to Egley, but just as I was shoveling down  food so I could catch the last bus, Mum and Dad showed up, fresh from Badon. They had a good time and visited Avebury, Silbury Hill, Castle Coombe etc. Andrew got a 2.1 degree, much higher than the 3 he’d expected.

It was a fine evening, so Mum, Dad and I walked down through Saxton village. The sky was clear, the green peaceful tree-topped hills were bathed in warm light, a scene marred only by the raw scars that mark the new bypass that has cut straight across the little path that used to lead up past the farm and into the grass and woodland beyond. We paused at the pub for a pint, overshadowed by cool green trees, before continuing on past the village and out along the road towards the roundabout.

Mum picked wild daisies and I ribbed her by telling her that she was committing a crime. This semi-jocular banter continued all evening.

Sunday, July 3, 1983

Really here in name only


A thoroughly lazy day. I spent it either listening to records, watching television, or looking at books. McEnroe pasted Lewis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the Wimbledon final and then I saw John Lloyd become the first Brit since 1936 to win a Wimbledon title when he won in the mixed doubles.

Rob played a few of his hundred of records, most of which date from the early- to mid-‘70s, and he waxed nostalgic about the era he was my age (1973). A new brand of cynicism is abroad now and those laid-back easy days seem to have gone forever, but still live on in Rob’s records, on songs that sound woefully out of sync with the mood at large, especially among young people.

Some of his records make me nostalgic, and remind me of his student days at Valley Shore College and my visits there. One image in particular imprints itself on my memory: a figure sitting at a desk in a room that Rob wanted to show me because he said it was haunted; as we opened the door the light streamed in white and dazzling behind the person at the desk. I also remember sitting in the audience at a play or something, and in the seats in front of me was a man with a huge ugly football-like growth on the back of his neck, which showed through the strands of white hair draped over his collar.

In the afternoon Carol, having politely ignored the issue since I arrived, couldn’t help jeering at my accent, which is tinged now with a southern twang. “You sound very middle-class and well-cultured,” she said. Me!? Cultured and middle-class!? That’s horrible!

Just as my northern tones used to reveal themselves on the vowel sound ‘o,’ now these self-same vowel sounds betray a traitorous tongue.

I went to bed early after watching a TV play, Rhino, about a 14 year-old black truant called Angie. The portrayal of the apathy of the school staff and the pointless insistence on doing things which teach fuck-all of practical use in the world at large was all-too accurate and got us fired up and angry. The whole education system is rotten to the core.

Of course it takes a TV programme to spur me into indignation. I wish I could maintain this sense of urgency and anger all the time!

Saturday, July 2, 1983

Red dust world


I went round to Uncle Kenneth’s in the morning. Cousin Ian and his friend Adrian were there and Ian spent the next hour showing off to me: he’s a pretty objectionable little kid. Soon after, Kenneth, Shirley, Nanna P., Nicola and Jan arrived and we all ate dinner and I unwillingly had conversations about Uni. etc.

I got wind of a possible job as a labourer on a building site with one of Kenneth’s mates.

Kenneth gave me a lift into town and I caught the five-past one bus to Dearnelow. It was a dragging drive through sunlit Stainwike, Alverhouse etc, and in Dearnelow city centre the breezy pedestrian precinct was swarming with kids and teenagers. I felt even more of the hostility here than I’d sensed in Easterby.

I caught the 468 bus to Saxton and rolled up at Rob and Carol's mid-afternoon. Carol was in the kitchen, Robert cleaning out his fire-bellied toads and green tree frogs in the front room. He seemed very quiet and subdued.

He took his Buddhist precepts last Sunday: this means he's now a fully fledged Buddhist, and he seems deeply committed, often going to Conishead Priory or to Bishophill on retreats: he told me about his monk-friend Neil, who I can tell he admires—even loves—for his simplicity and wisdom.

Rob showed me his altar, which is now upstairs in the small front bedroom above the front door: when he opened the door I was greeted by the sweet heavy smell of incense, and Rob made me take off my shoes before entering. The tall altar is topped with a pale Buddha in the lotus position and draped with exotic-looking, colourful cloth, and in front of the Buddha are small bowls with offerings. Robert’s meditation cushions on the floor in front.

He told me he's convinced of the correctness and crystal clarity of the path he’s taken.

I spent the rest of the day idly, while Robert sewed some red and yellow book covers (one of the conditions he has to fulfill on taking his precepts), or read a Buddhist text. I flopped about in indolence, watching TV or reading.

In the evening I went out and bought some fish and chips before coming to bed.

Friday, July 1, 1983

Gang of one


I got up early-ish and set off to Grant’s, getting there at eleven; he was out so I went into Easterby and signed on along with skinheads and others. I have to go back on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

I bought The Fall’s new single “The Man Whose Head Expanded/Ludd Gang which was new in the shop today, but it’s disappointing. Marc Riley’s been kicked out and Mark E. said in the Melody Maker recently that he wants to cut the melody out completely and get back to a simpler more noisy format, but this single shows no sign of this, just a restatement (and not as good a restatement at that) of old themes.

Maybe I’ll grow to like it.

I went back to Grant’s house and we passed the afternoon in the dark back room playing records while Grant criticised his brother, forcing him into humbled half-apologies. He was pretty fed up again I think and dislikes his family, describing them as “good liberal middle-class Guardian readers.” He seems to be constantly on edge and in a prickly mood with them which his Mum counters with blind cheerfulness and chuckles.

His sister has grown up a lot since I last saw her and has developed into a typical Egley Grammar Schoolite. His brother flogged me some singles  by New Order, Sex Pistols and Public Image hw wants rid of. At his age I was listening to Santana and jazz-rock, but then I didn’t have Grant for an older brother. But he’s still into Doctor Who, so he’s an odd mix.

At seven we went round to Nik’s house and set off through the woods to the Albion. Grant and Nik seemed quiet and subdued. Tim the guitarist was there and a few others I remembered soon turned up.

I went to cash a cheque at the off-licence nearby, came back and bought Grant and Nik a drink, half-intending on getting pissed but my money soon dwindled. We went to the Brass Cat and then the Hare and Hounds where we met Jackie, but I had to leave to catch the last bus.
Google Analytics Alternative