Monday, August 22, 1983

Suits me

I met Grant in HMV at one o’clock.

He was quiet and morose and didn’t say much, only brightening for a little in a second-hand clothes shop where he bought a shirt. I bought a couple too. In Suits Me we were greeted coldly with the comment “You’re always coming in here but you never buy anything, do you?” so we left for cups of revolting coffee in the Metropolitan up Grafton Road, another brilliant place, full of people and life.

I’m in better spirits tonight than I have been for quite a while; Lee rang while I was out so I’ve just rung him back and I’m meeting him in Easterby at eleven tomorrow.

I got a breathless and almost manically cheerful letter from Shelley today, full of the joys of her “one great social whirl” as she puts it. It was good to hear from her . . .  I think my cheerfulness springs purely and simply from getting out more recently. However much I pretend to favour solitude I’m essentially a social person—I need other people, even though I think everyone of us is quite alone and that it’s useless believing otherwise.

We can laugh and talk and get close on a social level but there’s always that last insuperable barrier which makes us ‘individuals’ in the truest sense of the word. Two minds can’t truly, fully commune because each is locked forever in the white prison of the skull. “Imagination is a monastery and I its monk.” Our tools of communication, especially the written word, are miserably inadequate at bridging the gap.

But I’ve written this down in a sort of remote objective way because tonight I feel content for once, and the morning is something to look forward to.

I stayed away from the box in the evening as Mum, Dad & Nanna P. watched another brutal and bloody war film, The Iron Cross. The house was filled once more with the sounds of gunfire and the shouts and screams of the dying.

I can’t stomach all the violence. I know it’ s only make-believe but this death and destruction is all the more terrible to watch because of it really did happen. I saw only the final credits, a quote from Brecht telling people not to celebrate at the death of one madman for “the bitch is in heat again . . .” Mum thought the film was good—but horrible—and Dad enjoyed it too, but I don’t think he really understands what the anti-war side is getting at. With him it’s simply an intellectual impossibility and as he talked about the film afterwards he just dwelled on the drama of the battle scenes and the military reasons for Hitler’s failure.

Sunday, August 21, 1983

Human, all too human

Paul Reé: “Having arrived at the insight that the world was ‘meaningless,’ his mind seems to have been paralysed by the idea: it was the end as well as the beginning, of his philosophy. For Reé, the senselessness of existence was a source of despair – for Nietszche it became the ground of freedom.”

The manic scrawl of Friday reveals that I don't have the courage of my convictions, or rather I don't fully appreciate them enough to class them as ‘convictions,’ because I don't live and act in a manner which corresponds with what I say. I “contrive to think and act as if nothing has changed.” But what else can I do? I don't act as though I accept the things I write; these ideas are so many intellectual abstractions.

Nanna B. and Nanna P. are here together today. The latter excels herself, monologuing endlessly to N.B., who staggered into the back room saying breathlessly, “By, can’t she talk!” And talk she did, in a loud strenuous voice that echoed out across the garden and the privets making Mum flinch with embarrassment.

She put Dad in a fix by innocently telling Nanna B. about a trip to Saxton that Nanna P. had made: Dad hadn't told Nanna B. this, afraid as he was that she would spread tales about the untidiness and uncleanliness of Rob and Carol’s house to others. I don’t know why he’s bothered; the fact that he is bothered seems more of an insult to Rob and Carol than anything else. Why should he care what our fuck-up of a family thinks? He's scared stiff of trouble.

In the afternoon, Mum, Dad and the two N.’s went out for a run, getting back about four. Grant rang in the evening and invited me over: I got a lift on to Lodgehill from Uncle Harold who had arrived to ferry Nanna B. home.

Grant was in a better mood. It still hasn’t really sunk in that at long last he’s actually getting away from Easterby. We went for a drink up at the Albion in Ashburn but were driven away by the deadly clientele, so we walked on to Lockley.

The streets were packed with children running, shouting, and riding bicycles, and the doors of the houses were open, people out enjoying the night air, repairing cars, talking . . . No doubting that human beings lived here, the sights and sounds of joyful activities everywhere, unlike the great grey dead cemetery back at Egley. Somehow the sight of all this life made my spirits soar and I felt that something was actually happening.

We reached West Lane and turned down towards the main road, stopping for a drink at the Woodhead Hotel at the top of Gardner Place. We enjoyed sitting outside at the back on a terrace overlooking a small garden and optimistically discussed Grant’s hopeful plans for Gloucester and all the possibilities that might unfold.

He’s not happy with the way his band Eat People is going and the “tameness” he's mentioned before still irritates him. He’s at odds with the bass player (“he wants everything to sound like a cross between Killing Joke and The Birthday Party”) and the “thick” drummer. Grant says he wants to be plunging into other, more diverse things, “real lunatic stuff.” I told him of the cynicism afoot at Watermouth. Art Colleges may be pretentious, but I think I’d prefer that to the stagnant cynicism of Uni. At least things would get done.

We sat gazing out at the now dark garden and trees and I felt wrapped in good spirits & optimism.

We rounded the evening off at the Nirmal curry house up West Lane before wandering back the way we’d come, voices and movement still punctuating the darkness. We passed a church with a towering steeple, a grim crouching chapel and the mirror-flat reservoir above Woodhead Park.

A sickly yellow moon rose behind us.

Saturday, August 20, 1983


Hot stifling weather. I went to Moxthorpe with Dad to watch a cricket match. I didn’t really want to go to be honest, but Mum cajoled me and I gave in, out of deference to his feelings more than anything else.

We didn’t stay long and came back via Beatrice Avenue and Moxthorpe roundabout. As I sidled past No. 55 I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Pearson but no Claire who presumably is in Whincliffe. It would’ve been awkward to suddenly blunder into her. I bought The Varieties of Religious Experience (1903) by William James which I remembered from Colin Wilson’s The Outsider.

I was expecting a call from Grant which didn’t materialize, so I rang his house but he was out, as was Jeremy. I even rang Stu in Basildon but he was out too, and his Dad answered. So, feeling a little at a loss, I went out and sat on the lawn with Dad in the gathering darkness, drinking beer and talking. He told me stories his Dad had told him of wading ashore at Suvla Beach, Gallipoli, with his rifle above his head to keep it dry, while men fell around him and bodies drifted back in the tide. But for that luck, I’d not be sitting here writing and someone else would be living in this house.

I felt quite content there in the dusk, looking forward to the morning and listening to Dad. Nanna P., who's here today, will be joined tomorrow by Nanna B., so I’ll go out. As I write this Mum, Dad and N.P. sit in the front room watching some brutal tale of escape from Nazi-occupied France starring Anthony Quinn again,

Friday, August 19, 1983

The world stands complete

Robert and Carol called round this morning on their way for a week at Conishead Priory. Robert was looking forward to it a lot, but Carol seemed subdued; she's just had two teeth pulled at the hospital and is suffering with a swollen face.

They were soon off leaving me to an afternoon of idleness. Mum went to the hairdressers and Dad went on one of his much-grumbled-about trips to see Nanna B. The weather was hot and sunny once more.

At four I got a call from Grant . . . I held my breath . . . a fail in Economic and Social History, a fail too in Communications Studies, but a ‘B’ for English Lit. He couldn’t believe it and was ringing me in an inebriated glow of enthusiasm after going out for celebratory drinks with RJ and Jackie. “I haven’t felt this good in a long time,” he told me, and really did sound full of excitement and just general happiness.

I couldn’t help the cynical thought that flashed through my head: it’ll be no different for him when he goes to Gloucester. It wasn’t—and isn’t—for me. I can’t help thinking that, like me, he’s one of those people who cart the source of their own misery around with them, like a prisoner his chains. But, time for celebration; more than anything he’s relieved to finally have an escape route from the trap of his domestic situation. “What have you been doing?” he asks, and I truthfully answer “nothing.”

I got a second letter from Susie and felt ashamed at her comment on my comments about boredom in my previous letter. Seeing it written in black and white puts my own situation in sobering perspective. Fool!

Twelve days until September.

I read some war poetry by Sassoon and Graves, etc. I felt yet more shame that I can so blithely talk of ‘misery’ and ‘suffering’ when I know nothing of true anguish. In a perverse way I would be curious to see how war would alter me as a person, but thrown into the cauldron, I'd no doubt be mewing pathetically for “mummy” and “home.” It was bad enough for me enduring the first few days at University, so God knows what new depths of self-pity I’d plumb if I was in a war.

I was really affected by Sassoon.
I thought of age, and loneliness, and change,
I thought how strange we grow when we’re alone
And how unlike the selves that meet and talk,
And blow the candles out and say good night.
Alone . . . The word is life endured and known.
I find it incredible to think that anyone can write a poem like “Before Action” by W. N. Hodgson, incredible that anyone can marshal and rationalise their thoughts so clearly in the face of so immediate and awful a death. He asks for strength to be able to bear the prospect of losing all earth’s “delights and glories” and does so in such a calm manner; surely there must’ve been tears and despair at the thought of becoming yet another member of “the unheroic Dead who fed the guns”?

I suppose that we ‘rise to the occasion’ in such circumstances. . . .

In the evening I watched a screen adaptation of The Magus, a book I’d intended reading over summer (but left my copy in Watermouth). It left me itching to read the book and I got an inkling of how big an impression the book had made on Patrick and why he felt as though he’d been ‘dunked in a bath of cold water.’ If the novel is anywhere near as thought-provoking as the film then it must be excellent. I must read it.

Patrick read it and drew parallels with his own situation, and then he acted. He quit the RCP. It was a big step when you consider his utter involvement with them. I remember how he struggled to convey his shattered complacency to us when we did LSD, and I could see it too, in a way, but gripped as I was by my LSD-self-consciousness and natural awkwardness, I couldn’t span the gulf which separated us. I couldn’t tell him that I understood too.

Out of the film’s symbolism, allusion, analogy and pantomime I drew out the ‘message’ that there's no message. Exploration brings you back to where you started and it’s all about looking at what there is to hand in a different way. The things around us are all there is, there’s nothing more, no ancient gods to be petitioned (gods who never replied anyway). No Yahweh, no Allah, no Horus or Isis or Zeus, just frightened people filling the Void with their reassuring figments to block out the emptiness and push it from the mind. There is no other way. These lives are all we have.

And when Mum says she spent a lifetime always planning for tomorrow and now that tomorrow is here, she feels desperately uncertain, unsure, and cheated somehow, I begin to understand why the world immerses itself in the commonplace and the known: “I have suddenly awoken in midst of this dream but only to the consciousness that I am dreaming and that I have to go on dreaming in order not to be destroyed: as the sleepwalker has to go on dreaming in order not to fall.”

Mum puts her recent strangeness down to this realisation and says that “Sometimes I just want to scream at everyone and everything.” The other day she said she felt like putting on her coat and going: where is unimportant; it’s the act of going that matters. “It’s easier to philosophize at 19 than at 49” she says. It’s hard to accept that our lives have been built on sand and perhaps harder still to realise that this will go on and on and that I—helpless, unable to do any different—will also despairingly participate in this, knowing full well that the time will come when I too will be in Mum’s position.

Is my interpretation right, I wonder, or am I on the wrong track completely? Reading the book will get me deeper and tell me if I’m right and more of what Fowles really is getting at. Are we really “men moving in a mist”? I'm nineteen and I’ve ‘solved’ everything?

“The world stands complete and has achieved its end in every single moment.”

Thursday, August 18, 1983

One day . . .

I had my hair cut first thing this morning. Endured agonies of self-consciousness after the barber had finished primping, poncing and sculpting a smooth ‘50s-esque quiff of hair. This I gratefully destroyed as soon as I got home.

I’m not going there again.

Andrew went back to London at one-thirty and he moves into his flat on Sedgby Road, Hackney, tonight.

I’ve been thinking about how cynical the attitude is at Watermouth Uni is and I contrast Lee’s almost carefree enthusiasm with someone like Guy, who's caustic and worldly. The eighties is the age of cynicism, and it’s trendy to adopt a blasé seen-it-all attitude, but I know whose attitude inspires me more. Lee is an anachronism in this era of hardness.

For some reason I just can't write tonight. Word blockage. Every word is an effort, but then I never do write well in these pages because I don’t concentrate and don’t—or can’t—go back and rewrite. But this isn’t intended to be great writing or anything like that. I had pretensions once. It’s just a dumping ground for all the sights and words and feelings I experience from week to week. But I should make an effort to write something other than this, . . .

One day I’ll pick this back up and read and yawn and realise what a fool I was and probably still will be.

Wednesday, August 17, 1983

Ought oughts are ought

Another damp day. I signed on at nine and made an abortive trip to the barber’s before setting off into Easterby with Mum at half-twelve.

I missed the four minutes to one train and so had an hour to wait in the drizzle for the next one. The train crawled through the unprepossessing landscapes of Haley Hill, Nortonroyd and Mill Bridge; wet-roofed factory buildings and dark houses crouched shivering on the hillsides, and black clusters of buildings loomed out of the murk as we rattled past.

Ms. Hirst picked me up at the station and we drove to her house high above Midgeroyd, a small ivy-clad cottage perched overlooking the valley. Lee, Jeremy, and Gillian were already there, sitting uneasily across from one another in the front room. Gillian's just like her sister, perhaps a bit more easy going and trendy. Hirst’s house is small with typically arty touches--a tastefully arranged pile of pebbles on one corner of the coffee table, a heap of shells placed with studied carelessness on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, several pseudo-pointillist paintings of palm trees on the walls.

She asked me about Watermouth and asked me how it was going. I blurted out the usual spiel about the academic drudgery of ploughing through books only to write essays and told her my semi-serious idea of packing it all in. She mentioned Art History: I began to think about it seriously, but I felt very uncomfortable with her probing questions: What would I do on the dole? etc etc.

Lee made the idle, incidental comment that I should have done an Art course, but I should change me, not my course, and anyway I can’t imagine my tutors taking too kindly to my flitting from one course to another in such whimsical fashion. I came across as very undecided and lacking any real self-knowledge. Truthfully I haven’t a clue as to what else I’d rather be doing.

“Ought oughts are ought” said Hirst, meaning I’m not deserving of any reward if I don’t put anything in. Jeremy later told me I’d sounded “neurotic.”

Apart from this all was quite OK. Hirst thought Lee and I looked fresh-faced and boyish, and I thought she was her usual satirical self, quite unchanged. She made us lasagne and salad with plum crumble for dessert and told us she’s reaching a bit of a crisis point in her life, isn’t really happy with her career at Egley, and feels that, at thirty four, she isn’t getting anywhere in particular. Promotions don’t interest her and she says she needs a change.

I’m doomed to feel this too.

By now the sun had pierced the gloom and shone into the living room. We went for a walk. Midgeroyd was still wrapped in a murk the sun couldn’t penetrate, the valley bottom a jumble of shrouded outlines and silhouettes. The grass was sodden and the roads were still damp from the heavy afternoon rain. We climbed up a flight of stone steps and emerged onto the top of the hillside and finally into evening sunshine.

The valley is very narrow at this point, its sides towering over the village. Lots of steep hills and narrow streets. We saw one building with a tower, about two-storeys high, topped off with a small spire. We also glimpsed a magnificent chapel set back in its own grounds, a huge blackened building with a frontage adorned with pillars at either side of an imposing doorway.

We had a couple of drinks at a pub and Hirst let us into some of the secrets at school. It sounds as awful in the staff room as it was being a pupil there. She says the staff is boring and gave us a glimpse of the crawling careerist Mrs. St. John who “is a fascist.”

Gillian had to be back or her parents would have been on her about staying out late, but before we caught the nine-thirty train back Hirst gave me Ornette Coleman's Body Meta (which she hates); Jeremy came away with a Zenit camera. Gillian seems OK; I quite liked her.

Lee was in fine form and we got on very well; he had me in fits several times and as we hurried for the train he whistled loudly and regaled us with impressions from Coronation Street. Back in Easterby we said goodbye to Gillian in the station and went for a drink at the Four Pigeons, but I missed my bus and ended the day trudging home through the mist on foot.

Andrew was in bed when I got back. He’s come home to pick some stuff up.

Tuesday, August 16, 1983

Black monk time

I got a letter from Gareth this morning; he's been working, smoking dope with skinheads on his lunch-breaks. I’d said in my letter that I’d been “living like a monk” and he replies that he hasn’t. “But then I don’t live in the Third World.”

The rain streams down and has done since I got up. Paul L. and girlfriend left this morning. Jeremy rang to pass on an invitation from Ms. Hirst to go over to Midgeroyd tomorrow with he and Lee. Christine Wade’s sister Gillian is going too. If the weather is as rainy as it’s been today then I’ll get very wet, ‘cos I haven’t got a coat. I lost my overcoat last term and threw my busman’s jacket away while drunk in Easterby with Lee and Jeremy.

I have to make my mind up about Everything soon: where’s that intensely decisive act now, O wise one?

It’s getting gloomier and gloomier as the day slips away, and I feel thoroughly unexcited about my prospects. The greyness of the weather weighs in on me. I remember something which Jeremy said when he was here last, how he seemed surprised to discover that underneath this “cheerful” easy going façade I’m as fucked up as anyone else. Presumably he assumed my life was pretty well worked out and that my mind was rarely troubled by doubts and disturbances. It’s a deeply ingrained habit to put a smiley ‘normal’ face on things when inside I’m churning and raging.

It’s now mid-evening and Rob and Carol have just gone home, but will be back over tomorrow for Athletic’s Yorkshire Cup match at home to Whincliffe. Things sound very tight in the ‘paper tonight, the Chairman telling supporters that “you can forget about promotion.” The programme alone lost £250 last season and so we’ll have to be satisfied with team sheets for a long time to come I suppose.

Monday, August 15, 1983

The Horla

At twelve Dad ran me onto Grant’s. I found him in a similar mood to the one I’ve been in, very disillusioned and bored with everything around him. After the now obligatory playing of records we went down to get fish and chips from the Chinese in Lodgehill.

It was a sunny day and we sat and ate them on the wall outside and then wandered down through Lodgehill, eventually ending up sitting among the rocks near the railway sidings which overlook Three Locks Road. It was warm again and quite sticky. We perched there above the road and traffic and cursed Easterby for being such a dump.

Grant can’t wait to get away. The ‘A’-level results come out on Thursday and he needs a C in English to get in at the University of Gloucester, but if he fails again he intends leaving to get a flat in Easterby or Whincliffe. He keeps telling himself, almost as if to keep it at the forefront of his mind, that he has to move out no matter what.

“Life's a sick joke,” he declared, and said that there’s nothing to give lasting pleasure. “It’s all a big con to get us here and then Bingo, you’re saddled with a lifetime of tedium." He said that he “almost got screwed” at a party in Thornaby, “but I didn’t cotton on and the girl left with her boyfriend.”

His friend RJ has left home and has moved in with Jackie in Bavaria Crescent. He’s eighteen, she’s twenty-three, but he’s done something decisive, made a move, even if it’s for the worse—a decisive act that could go wrong and not work out, but that’s not what’s important. What matters is that he’s done it. It is the same sort of decision I look for by dwelling almost obsessively (as I did today) on the idea of packing in my course at Watermouth and doing something else. I think such an act would be a positive step, although not necessarily viewed as such in the eyes of others, Mum and Dad in particular, but a step towards that something I’m looking for. . . .

I couldn’t make up my mind about buying something to drink so I didn’t bother and we walked back up through Lodgehill in the sticky heat to the woods near Grant's house, quite near to where an abandoned brickworks chimney soars above the undergrowth. We sat awhile in the sun with our legs dangling over a shady weed-choked stream.

Back at Fearnfield Drive I read “The Horla” by Guy de Maupassant, then Grant read it and we sat in the back room in total boredom.

In the evening we went up to the Albion and I bought Grant drinks as he was totally broke. We sat in solemn silence, broken only by the occasional tired comment or little joke. He told me that February ’81 was the worst time of his life: “Before autumn 1980 I didn’t exist. I started getting pissed and behaving stupidly, and for some reason I thought I was getting on with people but they just thought I was a wanker. It was impossible to talk to anyone.”

We went back to his house and I left at 10.30, and as I walked home I interrupted a hedgehog that was scuttling up the road in the darkness. It curled up at the touch of my foot and I carried it gingerly to the bushes.

Rob and Carol rolled up shortly after I got back. Rob’s friend Paul Lyons and his girlfriend Anita from London were with them—Anita wanted to see ‘The North’ as she’d never been further than Watford, so they'd taken her for a curry and a drink at the Volunteer and then on to Cross Green where Carol and Paul had ended up in the river. They’d just got back from having a drink in  Knowlesbeck. Anita's nineteen, and Robert can’t seem to get over the fact that she was only eleven when he and Carol got married.

Robert slept in my room and I lay there for a long time as he talked and talked. . . .

Sunday, August 14, 1983

A fly buzzed

It’s approaching one a.m. and I’m sweating to death, with only the whine of the flies to keep me company. It’s too warm to sleep.

Today we had blazing cloudless weather for the second day running. Mum and Dad spent part of it watching cricket in Moxthorpe; they stayed out until eight thirty, enjoying what Mum described as a “perfect golden evening.” She says she’s worried that I don’t get enough fresh air. “You’ve hardly stirred since we came back from Calverdale,” she chides anxiously and she still thinks I could be unwell.

Not unwell, just a dullness and weariness brought about by day-after-day of unremitting—and quite self-inflicted—mental tedium. Trial by boredom. I “hardly stirred” from morning until night, watching the final day of the World Championships from Helsinki, between times pacing the house restlessly. Lethargy weighs me down as surely as if I was prisoner here. The one thing plays on the other; it’s a vicious circle and the more bored I become, the harder it is to muster motivation to escape.

I can count my friends here on one hand

Jeremy called in last night and stayed until well gone midnight. We were almost like two orphans, and spent a long and not particularly thrilling evening having a strange, ill-at-ease sort of conversation that touched on deeply paranoid subjects.

When I think of all the work I have to do my reaction is ‘What is the point?’ The academic drudge doesn’t ‘do’ anything for me and I doubt if all the effort in the world would really alter the feeling that all I’m doing is ploughing on and on through book after book, with nothing truly relevant to me as a person or the way I live my life. I wish I had the guts and assurance to just say “Fuck it” and jack it all in, strike out on some new path. But knowing me (as I do so horribly well) I’d end up vegetating on the dole, without even the cover of a degree course to give my existence some point.

Saturday, August 13, 1983

Quick work

Andrew rang to say he’d got a flat in Hackney, and could he borrow £80 for the deposit? Quick work.

Friday, August 12, 1983

Out, out, brief candle!

Andrew left at twenty-to-twelve; Dad ran him down to the station. He said he was nervous and hated himself for his irrationality. He aims to find somewhere of his own to live within the next week. As I write this, he’ll be in a pub in London somewhere. His nervousness will have gone now he’s actually arrived. He’ll be OK.

Mum's in a bit of a mood at the moment; no doubt she’s worrying over Andrew, but she seems stalled and very fed up. We watched Kenneth Clarke’s Civilisation this evening which featured the famous “life’s but a walking shadow” speech from Macbeth, which Mum said didn’t help her mood.

She says she’s been brooding on the passing of time and the ultimate point of “it all” for a long while now. I copped the blunt end of her mood when she quite snapped at me. “Just because I don’t blab everything I think to everyone all the time, you all assume I haven’t a thought in my head . . . you’d be surprised.”

After dark I watched for the Perseid meteors, which reached their peak last night. In the first few minutes of watching I saw several, and after about half-an-hour I’d recorded seventeen and a handful of sporadic meteors. Most were mere sparks, flicking across the edge of my field of vision and gone in an instant. but two flashed across the sky and left trails, which I observed with binoculars.

The first was a bright bluish ball of light which whizzed across the sky leaving a pale glowing train of ionized gas in its wake. This persisted for at least thirty seconds before it gradually distorted and broke up. I managed to drag Mum and Dad away from the television and into the darkness, and their patience was rewarded with a few meteors and a satellite.

After they’d gone in with aching necks, I tracked a couple more satellites as they glided silently towards the horizon and extinction in the earth’s shadow. It was a breath of the old times: when I spotted the first and most spectacular ‘fireball,’ looking for all the world like a firework rocket, I got a thrill of adrenalin, a real kick.

Thursday, August 11, 1983


Robert came across for the day and he, Mum and Dad went for a walk in the heat to Tunscarr Edge; Andrew and I went into Easterby. On the bus in I saw but didn’t speak to Louise Taylor, who looked trendier than in her sixth form days.

It was fairly pleasant wandering about Easterby in the sun.

In the afternoon Nanna B. was brought back from her convalescence in Heber. She was locked out of her flat and so spent the afternoon here looking as fit and healthy as ever. Her stay in Heber has caused Mum and Dad much trouble, Dad being harassed for runs out which he's acquiesced to in usual fashion.

Wednesday, August 10, 1983

Psychosomatic eye

Dad suffers at the moment with a rash on his neck and an inflamed eye, which looks a mess. Mum thinks it’s a nervous reaction to the enormity of a whole year on the dole just sinking in.

He’s in low spirits because never did he believe he’d be out of work so long. I feel sorry for him. The applications for jobs still go out regularly but I can’t see him getting what he’s looking for, and I reckon he’ll either have to look farther afield or work part-time, because now the dole cheques have stopped.

Tuesday, August 9, 1983

What else is there?

Grant rang today. He’s off on a caravan holiday until Saturday with Nik and co.: “We’ll wander about looking for pubs: what else is there?”

Monday, August 8, 1983

Drink the long draught

An evening of drinking, boozy laughs, leg-pulling and teasing with Jeremy, Lee and Tommy Whelan. It was my first night out for weeks.

I got to Jeremy’s house at nine, two hours late, and as it wasn’t worth going out, we went to an off-licence instead and bought half-bottles of vodka and whisky. Jeremy rang Tommy Whelan and when he came up he brought another ½ bottle of whisky.

We had the usual falling apart scenes, Jeremy forcing Lee to drink some vile green-coloured mint liqueur while Tommy (baggy black suit, white collarless shirt, white shoes), laughed until he could laugh no more. I fell into a drunken reverie while the others crawled about on the floor giggling. Lee didn’t feel too good, but we ventured forth long after midnight and weaved our way out into the orange darkness.

As a dare, Jeremy shuffled across the road with his trousers around his ankles. Lee puked in the street. Jeremy really was quite reckless, urging vandalism and trips along the train tunnel of old, but we had to go back as Lee felt ill.

Another night on Jeremy’s floor.

Sunday, August 7, 1983


I’ve been nowhere over the weekend. The things I’ve achieved since last Friday are best expressed by one word: nothing. . . . 

Saturday, August 6, 1983

Triple word score

I languish in my self-made cell cursing my psychological prison bars. Time slips away while I sit here anticipating the next day, and the next, and letting each go by wasted. Work sits gathering dust . . . A few games of Scrabble to enliven the monotony.

I’m an oaf.

Andrew leaves for London on Friday. I’ve enjoyed his company this time and I’ll miss him.

Friday, August 5, 1983

Do it tomorrow

A sunny day that's passed typically enough: letters to answer, Claire to contact, work to think about. . . .  And always I say “I’ll definitely do it tomorrow.”

Thursday, August 4, 1983

Night country

I’m now virtually fully recovered. My throat hardly hurts at all and I can swallow as normal and I’m relieved it was only tonsillitis and nothing more serious.

Today another day like all the rest.

I sit inside watching the light change from dull to bright and dull again, while the clock ticks on and on and Dad lays prostrate in sleep on the settee next to me, snorting from time to time. Next door in the dining room Mum is sewing; upstairs, Andrew moves about and whistles while the sounds of Return To Forever drift down the stairs.

He’s moving to London next week. When I think of what a huge step it is I can appreciate in a small way how scared he must be. My days however are empty. I keep promising myself “tomorrow, tomorrow,” but tomorrow always finds me sitting about in a limbo of inaction, scheming for the future: “The evolutionary wound we bear has been the creation of a thing abstracted out of time yet trapped within it: the mind, by chance distorted, locked into a white-ribbed cage which effervesces into air the moment it approaches wisdom.”

The big trial of IRA men has just ended in London and they’ve been convicted on the evidence of IRA “supergrass” Christopher Black. Three of them have gone down for life. I’m infuriated by the blaze of British propaganda. What is murder to one is assassination to another and vice versa; the IRA are described as murderous psychopaths, while the British Army (themselves no innocents at terrorizing civilians) are the heroic boys in khaki, defending the Glorious name of the British State. Although ‘imperialism’ sounds too sloganistic a word to use, it’s the one that springs to mind. “It’s a pity they can’t pull a plug and let Ireland sink into the sea,” says Dad, self-assuredly.

Last night, as we watched scenes of Iranian Imperial Guards gunning down protestors, Andrew said, “If I thought the British would do a thing like that I think I’d leave now.” Peterloo? Bloody Sunday? Stinking hypocrisy! A select few strut and shout and wield their power for Money and Self, or is it Flag and Country? I end up ranting in some sort of naïve New Puritan rage that “all leaders are criminals and bastards.”

There, I’ve exorcised my demons for the day.

I’ve been reading Loren Eiseley’s The Night Country which, oddly enough, is full of none of the things I’ve just been gibbering on about. According to Eiseley, the half page above springs from the beast within; it’s my animal-side struggling to the surface. I’ve nearly finished it and it’s enthralling stuff, similar in style to Ray Bradbury, all about the night things, what they’ve meant to him and his recollections of a life hunting fossils in America.

Wednesday, August 3, 1983

Shaheen is cool

I signed on in the morning and on the way back, Dad and I stopped to wander down past Cardigan Park. The white walls of the ground were quiet and smelled of dereliction. At one end of the ground a demolished wall let us see into the ‘stadium’ (ha ha) and out across the weed-strewn Easterby End and onto the luxuriously green pitch. “Shaheen is cool,” says the graffiti on the wall.

In the afternoon, Andrew and I went to see Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life at the Farnshaw Odeon. It was OK, not as funny as their efforts of old, and as to solving the riddle of life's meaning, I suppose they got quite close: sex, food and death, with a lot of pointless bits in between.

After tea, we watched a programme on Beeb 2, Iran: The Revolution Betrayed. The overthrow of the tyranny of the Shah’s regime was followed by the usual in-fighting between the various factions, resulting in the ascendancy of the Mullahs, Iran's most powerful authoritarian group, who now exert a more terrible power than the Shah ever did. We sat in our comfortable armchairs and watched an interview with an imprisoned and tearful sixteen-year old, a victim of rape. Two hours after the filming, he was shot.

The Iranian revolution rolls on with the fanaticism and blindness from which it sprang. Just as in Russia, the conspiratorial, elitist subversion of a revolution creates a conspiratorial, elitist and authoritarian state. ‘My Party Right or Wrong.’ Look and learn, RCP! (but look at me! Sitting on my complacent bourgeois backside and patronising a world’s revolutions in one breath!).

I sometimes think there's something wrong with me. I’ll turn into a bitter old crank one day. The TV fills me with disgust at adverts and programmes alike, raging against grey-suited newsmen, government officials, everything, anyone. . . . “You’ll never become a Buddhist,” says Andrew, half-smiling, half-serious, after one of my regular tirades against all and sundry, tirades which start as a joke but which always have a grain of sincerity to them.

Peace of mind is far away.

[Audio version]

Tuesday, August 2, 1983

Heavy clout, heart out

Lee and Jeremy called round which cheered me up a lot; I haven’t had contact with anyone but family for a fortnight and I think it’s been getting me down a bit.

They arrived on their bikes after dark and stayed for an hour or so. When I’m forced onto my own resources for any longish period of time it seems I always end up tending towards morbidity and self-pity. The last half-dozen pages vouch for this.

Monday, August 1, 1983


My throat is still as sore as ever. I went to the doctor in Farnshaw this morning and he told me I either have tonsillitis or—if my throat is still as bad in a week—glandular fever. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I hope it’s not glandular fever, because that’s supposed to drag on for months.

Dad, Andrew and I watched New Zealand win the Test match by five wickets. I fell asleep in front of the TV and spent much of the afternoon oblivious. I felt better at teatime, and even my swallowing seemed easier and less painful, but now, in the evening, it feels sore again.

A few names from my past have been cropping up recently in the papers; Carol Lancaster is making a name for herself in tennis circles and has just finished her first year on a tennis scholarship at Plotinus University. Christine Wade is off to France for a year, and Mark Pittock got a scholarship to a University in Utah.

In the evening Andrew and I watched a programme about the music of Anton Webern, George Liggerty, Stockhausen and John Cage. I make no claims as to a personal understanding of it, but I’m fascinated by the atmosphere of this music. Andrew says atonal music always sounds unhappy and never carefree, but I wonder why people prefer melody and tonality? Is it because it’s soothing and less disturbing? Perhaps atonal music demands thought and effort and this repels people, pushing them back towards the ‘easier’ works of more ‘tonal’ composers?

“There is no pre-ordained correspondence between truth and happiness; between what is true and what is pleasing; the genuine inquirer must be indifferent to ‘peace of soul or happiness’; or at least must not seek them, for if these are the objectives, he must go aside from the path that leads to those truths that are ugly and repellent.”

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