Monday, December 19, 1983

Disco zombies

I went out last night with Grant. Steve Bates called round before I set off, so I felt obliged to invite him along although I really didn’t want to: he’s like a tailor’s dummy, and I can’t help recalling his “you’re the most negative and destructive person I know” comment from the summer.

We walked to Farnshaw, to the Red Grouse, where I’d arranged to meet Grant. Steve mumbled on and I scarcely said a word. I sat in silence, save for the odd word or two, until Grant arrived, and I glimpsed a few ghosts of years back (Ben Barnes, Paul Hoyle . . .).

It was good to see Grant and good too to see him in a better mood than at Gloucester. He told me he can get very pissed off down there, and that my visit just happened to be one such time. We moved to the Malt Shovel up Easterby Road and we came across more ghosts – Halyna, Laura, Julie Walker and Louise Taylor. They haven’t changed at all save for a slight spikiness apparent in Louise Taylor’s hair. The same faces, the same laughter, as if, for a sudden moment, whole years haven’t been.

Steve gravitated into their group leaving Grant and I sitting apart, and he told me that last night he ended up in bed with Jenny (Phases club, “I hate University students” Jenny), and that he felt oddly detached from what was happening, didn’t feel excited, felt nothing for what he was doing, a cold, preprogrammed routine.

Grant came back home with me and listened to records until the early hours.

Tonight Lee and I went to that yearly horror show, the Former Students disco at Harvey’s, which we were looking forward to as an opportunity for some anti-social fun, but it was in fact pure misery. Lee and I arrived early and sat apart, grim-faced and deliberately not speaking. The disco was soon full of people, packed to overflowing with soul boys from school, tap-room lads and their girls. Steve, Tim Moyles, Sean Laxton . . . Ms. Hirst was there too, and Jeremy. The list as long as it was predictable.

It was a noisy terrible affair and Lee and I slipped deeper and deeper into despondency huddled in our corner feeling totally apart and removed from the jollity around us, Lee long-faced and barely smiling. It was that depressing. It reminded me of being back at school again.

Lee had with him a set of Tarot cards—stolen, of course—and when a girl asked him to read her cards he refused point blank and she retreated with embarrassed laughter and confused looks. He did it with such a straight face too. Tim Moyles got off with Maxine Bates, and I sat and stared and was bored. I was glad to leave. Christmas used to be a time of excitement and magic but now all that is gone and I feel utterly cold and empty.

After Harvey’s ended I walked home with Jeremy, Peter Wood and Andrew Boyd.

Sunday, December 18, 1983

Too much to ask

It still feels unreal to be back, almost as if I’m playing out a role, going through the motions and emotions expected of me now I’m at home. I don’t have that much to say to Mum or Dad, because I must keep quiet about most of the things I remember from last term: the robberies and breaking open of crypts etc.

They wouldn’t be interested in the other events, such as my visit to Manchester to see Psychic TV and Gloucester to see Grant and the Fall . . .

I sense that a gulf between Mum and Dad and I is making its obtrusive appearance. Today Mum asked me if I had any idea about what I intend doing after I leave University and I haven’t. Mum said it was “only fair” that I give them some idea of my direction, as Andrew and Robert have done before me, because they’ll “feel happier both for me and for ourselves if we know you know where you’re going.”

I can’t lie – I want my freedom when I leave University. I voiced my naive desire to live life and sample experience – “for which you need a job,” added Mum. It’s hopeless expecting our minds to meet. We drift apart slowly but surely.

Mum voiced her objections to me about my supposedly “weird” appearance (the army fatigues). As she went on I sat in silence, trying occasionally to voice my thoughts but for the most part not being able to. I can’t talk to them and tell them all this: it would lead to rancour, despairing sighs and fall-outs. It seems it must be an unspoken slide into misunderstanding and bewildered argument.

Later I overheard their conversation about me: Dad fears a “confrontation” over my appearance—“It’s a shame he goes round looking ridiculous and dressing in such childish fashion . . . Three weeks with him looking like that is too much to ask.” Last night, come to think of it, I did detect an air of gloom and things left unsaid before I went to Lee’s. It was Mum who wore the longest face, and it transpires that it’s because of my “outlandish” appearance. Anyone would think I’d dyed my hair green or something. All over a pair of trousers!

Evidently the misunderstanding reaches down farther than I think.

Saturday, December 17, 1983

War on Christmas

Today the IRA detonated a bomb outside Harrods in London, killing nine people and injuring seventy five others. Four policemen and one WPC were among the dead. A thirty six minute warning was given, but for some so far unexplained reason, Harrods was not evacuated.

I felt a cold shock when I heard the news; Mum was upset and full of despair.

How can the RCP uncritically support the IRA when the latter detonate devices clearly aimed at civilian targets? Of what military use is the killing of Christmas shoppers? It seems fair enough to fight fire with fire and wage war on the Army and state apparatus in N. Ireland, but. . . .

Robert thought the bombers “sick” and could see no political excuses for the IRA’s operation. But people too readily dismiss the excesses of the Army, the RUC and Loyalist paramilitaries in the six counties as IRA lies and propaganda—example: the petty and spiteful seizure of an IRA man’s beret from his coffin as it was being taken for burial.

The RCP will have a near impossible task mobilising working class support for the IRA in the light of such attacks; it can only do their cause harm. But there is a war going on in N. Ireland between a large section of the Irish people and the British Army.

Robert and I went to see Athletic play Cross End. He hasn’t changed, and only asked me about my appearance, and whether it was the “urban vagrant” look (whatever that is). We got to the virtually deserted ground and stood shivering as the meager crowd trickled in.

Cross End looked much better in the first twenty minutes, but Athletic scored first, a Hubbard corner, dropped right in on the goal-line which the ‘keeper could only palm weakly away, giving Highmore an easy job to score. In the second half Athletic scored again and Tidemore got the third. Newlands scored a brilliant goal with fifteen minutes left. Highmore sent Scarborough tearing up the field; he passed it to the wing where Wicks crossed it perfectly for Newlands, who ran in at full tilt to head it into the back of the net.

As we leaped into the air a middle-aged man standing next to us shouted “Text book stuff!” amid the cheering. It really was a brilliant goal. With two minutes left Highmore scored again and Cross End had been run ragged. 5-0!

I went to Lee’s in the evening and played chess. He showed me the cinĂ© film he took at school in autumn 1980 and we cringed at the way we were then: such a set of tasteless people! It was strange looking at those silent images passing on the screen, locked forever in that day, that Common Room that turgid afternoon three years ago. I was sixteen then and I hope I’ve changed since that day.

It was also a little odd seeing a vision of Ian on Lee’s film, a glimpse from last term. He sat nonchalantly smoking a fag in Room 312 at the Art College, wearing his forage cap, silhouetted against the window, his face in darkness. He seemed utterly out of place there in Lee’s tiny room. How quickly you can forget the feel of certain things after only a few days absence.

I walked home through the fog.

Friday, December 16, 1983

Outside is hostile

Lee and I spent the whole day traveling. We caught the No. 78 Shuttle into Attlee Square at nine, caught another bus out to Binston Park and within five minutes got a lift from a wealthy, name-dropping woman in her fifties. We shared the car with her two dogs and I was forced to maintain dull conversation about job prospects for American Lit. graduates and horse-jumping, etc.

She dropped us on the A31, a few miles outside Farnborough.

Lift number two was from a silent Yosser Hughes look-alike who took us into Oxfordshire, and Sonningley near Reading—a miserable suburban area of large semis, detached mansions and wide, well-kept verges and gardens . . . We thought we were done for, so far were we from the main routes into London, but fortunately enough a car stopped and we were dropped off right outside Paddington tube station.

We caught the tube to Kings Cross St. Pancras, then Euston, and on from there to Colindale where we wasted an hour looking for the motorway. Back to Brent Cross and a tiring walk through a jungle of flyovers, intersections and dual-carriageways to the beginning of the M1. It was growing dusk and the sun had set in a pool of orange over the urban horizon.

We stood, arms out, thumbs erect, and the river of traffic roared past.

At about four we got a lift; all the way to Knutsford service station, nearly in Manchester, on the M6, from an advertising salesman on his way to Blackpool. Lee had to do his office work for him part of the journey, and although he was a bit of a prat, he redeemed himself by buying us both a sandwich and a can of Coca-Cola.

We reached Knutsford at eight and for an hour-and-a-half, we had a cold despairing wait on the slip road to the motorway. We had our names taken by motorway police in a Range Rover—affected friendliness, calling me by my first name . . . There were half-a-dozen other people waiting for lifts to Carlisle and Scotland, but soon, even they were gone and we really did expect to have to wait at Knutsford all night.

Finally, at nine-thirty a car drew up and the driver said he was going to Haley Hill.

It was quite foggy on the M14 and our driver played The Pop Group’s Y and then Einsturzende Neubauten’s Kollaps on his cassette player. The latter’s pounding metallic urgency suited our headlong plunge through the orange gloom, a haunted journey racing along the near-deserted motorway with only rivers of road-lights above us for company. A Whitehouse tape greeted our arrival in Haley Hill and we were home.

We were in such a jubilant, loud and enthusiastic mood as we boarded the Easterby bus that we almost got thrown off for putting our feet on the seats. After a fourteen-hour journey it was so good to the stout architecture and lights sprinkling the inky blackness as we crested the hills into Easterby. It cost us £3 to get back.

Lee’s Mum gave me a lift home.

Thursday, December 15, 1983


I left Lee’s at dinnertime and we spent most of the day packing all our stuff up into boxes. An early start tomorrow, on the road. . . .

Dad sent me a letter. Andrew is now living in Dungod Fitzjohn, Hertfordshire and lunches regularly with the managing director of the Sackett Group. He seems well on the way to carving out a respectable niche. No doubt Mum is very proud.

Nanna P.’s porcelain false teeth, in for repair, fascinated the dentist, who apparently hadn’t seen any like them for years.
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