Sunday, March 18, 1984

Dear friends . . .

Two Labour councilors called round this morning but no one heard them knocking. They left a note that started “Dear Friends . . .” and gave us a number to get back in touch.

There’s a malignancy in this house. A strange mood afflicts us. In the afternoon I sat in Gav’s room in front of the electric fire, the daily bind of chopping and gathering wood already too much, listening to the all-consuming quietness of the enormous rooms, emphasized by the steady tick of the clock and occasional bird song. No one, nothing stirred.

Barry, Alex and one of Alex’s friends Lucinda had returned the night before after spending the night in countless cafes on speed and Barry lay on a mattress by my side recovering slowly from the after effects. Ben was still in bed. I didn’t know about Lee. Alex was gone to Lucinda’s to pick up a carpet she was lending him, Gav away in Oxford for the weekend, Pete round at Mo’s . . . such a stagnant day.

So, while everyone else degenerated into sleep in Gav’s room, I was forced out into the cold. I walked all the way to Crookgreave Cemetery, afterwards climbing Treadwell Road up to the race course, Watermouth unfolding in a grey hazy panorama behind me. I dropped down through the sprawling council estates of Blackswarth, the houses with no gardens, just grass to the front door and concrete pavements, all the while a putrid orange sun slipping towards the horizon. My mind was full of conflicted thoughts. . . .

I need the strength to throw off the hindrances of habit and ways of thought that stop me from seeing the road ahead. I need the strength to consolidate and to keep from being dragged forever back into the stream. How is it we live out our lives, senselessly and unmindfully immersed in others? I have no real desire to see Guy or Del or John Turney ever again. They’ve been typically cynical about the prospects for this place. I simply want to retreat into myself and learn to live on my own, relying on my books and my own mind.

When I got back Lee answered the door, and suggested we go down into town for something to eat. We gorged ourselves on pizzas and ice cream and he said he thought he “was going mad” yesterday and agreed with me about the pervasive atmosphere in the house: “It seems most intense in my room.”

Back at the vicarage Alex, Ben, Lee and I got a fire going and ate Ben’s food (chicken, rice, peaches and rice pudding and biscuits to follow) in front of the portable TV in Lee’s room. Gav returned drunk from his weekend at home and immediately announced that his father had died of pneumonia the previous evening. He was in a fragile, cheerful mood, as though he was forcing himself into a mold of normality.

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