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Secret Ballet: Part 1

Version: June 03, 2004

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Last night I stayed awake until the whole house was sleeping. I was writing which I found very, very affecting; the powers of the human brain are stretched to the limit. The words flowed unbidden from my pen. I haven't kept a diary since I was at school. Why are some memories more available for recall than others? I don't want to pursue that question now—I won't bother you with pages of tedious reasoning. I'm only interested in finding out what the facts are; I want to know what really happened. I felt it would create some order in our lives. It's amazing that I'm still alive to tell the tale.

You can't write an autobiography without keeping something back. The word itself has taken on slightly comic undertones. This is not the whole story nor anything like the whole story. I think it could be read as the simple story of the narrator. Everyone has his little quirks and oddities, and I am no exception. There are things in my make-up which do not bear close examination. Facts don't lodge easily in my mind; I can only tell you the things that are in my conscious memory. You can't tell the difference between fact and fiction: Truth may well be stranger than fiction. The argument is largely a semantic one—in terms of ultimate truth a dichotomy of this sort has little meaning. There is simply no answer. You might as well jack it in then and there. Out there is an infinity of worlds; each grain of sand is different, all human values are relative.

I will tell you the first thing which I can remember. The mansion was on a promontory, high over the Pacific. I've got a vague recollection of going there once as a child. We're here during what amounts to our holidays. I've been coming here for almost twenty years now. Being out in the country made a refreshing change. Summer has arrived at last: the air was warm and balmy. Families were scattered along the beach enjoying the sunshine. There was a quiet, almost serene quality to the atmosphere. Something had brought upon us the perfect, languorous, endless hot summer that we all dream of. The calm was almost oppressive. A gentle breeze rippled the surface of the sea. A tiny fishing boat was drifting slowly along. Still farther out the true ocean depths begin.

John was a thoroughly unreliable man. He lay on the rug, making every effort to look languid and bored. He was wearing long curled hair with an Indian headband. We didn't speak a word. With widespread hands he explored the grass around him, supporting himself on his outspread fingers. No moss, no ivy, nothing cluttered the bareness of the place. He opened a lacquered box and took out a cigarette. His first act was always to smoke a cigarette at any serious crisis in his life. I sat there sipping my drink, once more tempted to blame him for everything. I hadn't smoked a cigarette in five weeks; I stopped smoking the second day I was there. ‘You just like lying around doing nothing.’

‘Perhaps I do, at that. I just enjoy the freedom of the job—being able to organise my day as I want to. You're so busy living up to other people's expectations.’

He always came back to this point. Was it not Freud who said ‘Love and work bind people to sanity?’ In fact, I'm not at all sure that Freud was correct. I was insanely jealous.

To an outsider this looks like an idyllic life. The water was so clear that you could see the oysters on the sea bed. I watched the children running into the sea again for a swim. They hadn't got any clothes on. A healthy child cannot be idle; she has to be doing something all day long. Children need to make sense of the world. Will you allow them freedom of choice or will you interfere? This question comes into the domain of philosophy. Education is really about a search for meaning... The eternal imposition on children of adult conceptions and values is a great sin. There is no freedom that is not open to abuse. It is this that most clearly divides us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Absolute freedom is a quality that belongs to God alone.

I made a blithe comment about the fine weather. ‘When heaven sends bounty, it too often sends monotony.’

‘I suppose we better go,’ said John in a low voice. He was aware that he had drunk too much whisky.

‘Why can't we stay here for a bit?’

‘Bunnies love to eat lettuce. I couldn't chase after them—they were running too fast. I'd better go and see if the gardener has planted those cabbages. The seeds have to be planted carefully in straight rows.’

The garden was chock-full of weeds. I need someone to help me plant potatoes and weed the onions. I walked the garden path to the sheds at the bottom. He was pulling dead roots from the dusty earth. Not a breath of wind stirred the trees. He stumbled over a molehill. Clouds of birds rose from the tree-tops. Some of the sheds were clearly in bad repair. Recently he had caught himself brooding about the meaning of life: man's life is nasty, brutish and short; there is no other mammal of comparably indiscriminate ferocity. He used the garden shed as a bolt hole for when the children got too noisy. They were picking up light brush and small fallen branches for firewood. He coiled up the garden hose. I picked up the shears and began to clack them menacingly in mid-air. The sun had killed most of the plants; it doesn't look as if any carrots are going to come up this year.

We spent many happy hours playing on the beach. The older was called Madeline and Celia always called her 'Maddy' for short. She's such a bubbly little girl; she had her mother's brains and her father's good looks. Fine clothes are wasted on her—she's a tomboy. Celia is a charming girl, she's very like her sister. They're both tremendous charmers in their different ways. The girls were completely blind to the consequences of their actions. Christopher was a real sucker for flattery. He hasn't really caught on to the system. When people asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would lisp childishly, ‘A policeman.’ He was a slim fair-haired boy.

Everybody was so tanned. The glossy patches of sunlight played over their bodies. They can laze in the sun without a care. Some of their towels are soaking wet, but never mind. These rules come from the children themselves. We try to influence their play as little as possible. Madeline slid into the water, leaving not even a ripple. She performed this trick with ease. By kicking constantly she could stay afloat without exhausting herself. John was drawing a pattern in the sand with his forefinger. Christopher sat down and began to poke little holes in the sand. The child looked neglected, scruffy, unloved; his mother and father trembled with apprehension about his future.

Celia preferred things unstated and undiscussed. She was sometimes overshadowed by the more talkative members of the family. A girl with long black hair, she was enthusing innocently but trivially over something that had caught her eye: a sea urchin. They lived on the sea floor, champing their way through mud. She sat back and looked at the water with bright, excited eyes. Sea urchins and corals are promising candidates for preservation. Madeline placed it carefully in the rocky niche. She looked up pleadingly at her father's startled face. The sea air really agrees with her, her simplicity and careless grace. My little daughter's really acrobatic. She went across to Madeline; she looked at me with her big, childlike eyes—a completely normal child. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers. She had very adult features. One of her few accomplishments was the ability to do cartwheels, a most affecting scene. There is no reason why she shouldn't survive into healthy adulthood.

Checkered history

My husband was a man of uncertain temper; his inventiveness most often manifested itself as a skill for lying. He was a tall, dark and undeniably handsome man. His eyes were azure. He was as mercurial as the weather. That little ponce! What woman in her right mind would marry a man like that? A relationship with an artist is a very different kettle of fish from a relationship with an ordinary person. He led a wickedly sensual life—the helpless rapture of adolescent eroticism, all the trappings one associates with free-wheeling urban youth. The monstrous sprawl of the city, Afro-haircuts... When you are young you want the amenities of the town. We used to have lunch in a restaurant and then perhaps splurge on a movie. Go on, spoil yourself. Buy a nice dress... We prowled around the second-hand music shops for hours. I was a hack writer, scribbling madly to keep the deadline. I always felt inside that I wanted to write. For a year I learned the basics of journalism. The idea of journalism excited me. The job requires constant alertness and vigilance. I was worked mercilessly. In their search for a good news story, nothing was sacred.

The work was arduous and poorly paid. My first major assignment as a reporter was to cover a large-scale riot. The news editor was a clean-cut, pleasant-faced man. Billy was one of the most talented, abrasive minds I had ever worked with. Sometimes he used to look over the article I had written, shrug, and tear it up. My editor asked me to go over to England to cover a British general election. My career as a journalist was about to begin. He showed me the draft of an article he was writing. He tackled me about several editorials I had written, newspaper articles which were calculated to sway the reader's opinions. The editorials were characterized by malevolence and mendacity. One major advertiser phoned me to say that unless the paper stopped my editorials he would withdraw his advertisements. Davis sent an explanatory letter. I more or less caved in, though I still defended my explanation. The editor cabled, ‘What happened? Where is the series?’ It was a blow to my ego, and meant I would have to look for a new job.

I wanted a journalistic and political alter ego on the staff. My inability to cope adequately with broadcasts or lectures...when I am confronted by a microphone, my mind goes completely blank. I used to cringe whenever my name was read out. Discuss it with your female colleagues, if you are lucky enough to have any.

He arrived about six in the evening. ‘Sorry I'm late,’ John said with his habitual guilty grin. He lived in dream and fantasy. He's never had a proper job, living by cadging off relatives and doing odd jobs. He found it hard to make friends: he was ill at ease with people whom he didn't understand. He was always so quick to take offence. People used to laugh at him—discreetly and behind his back. He often sat around in his bathrobe all day. In the afternoon he would without fail take a nap lasting from two to four hours—it is a habit well worth acquiring. He certainly could not count upon his birth to launch him on a career; he comes from a broken home. His father had made a fortune in scrap metal—tottering piles of bent saucepans. He admired his father greatly: ‘There is no arguing with my father.’ He remembers with bitterness how his father was cheated. Although he is now a wealthy man he cannot erase the memories of childhood.

He appreciated beautiful things. He paints because of his drive to create something beautiful. It is hard to see how such a causal relationship could be proved. He always works in oil paints. Most of his ideas were borrowed from other sources. He paints whatever his fancy suggests; the sky is often the true subject of his paintings. His best pieces seem aesthetically successful. Those who did cast their eyes over his drawings and caught the power of his ideas were also clever enough to see his potential. He seems to know his material very well, but resents questions and discussion. He's far too proud to accept charity. He had received a commission to paint a picture for the Canadian Ambassador; he was very good at getting commissions. The composition of the painting has a pleasing harmony. It was an average piece of work; I don't think the larger symbolic purpose really comes over in this particular painting. It is now to be found in the Tate Gallery. His portraits did not always please his patrons. This was just bread-and-butter work for which he couldn't spare creative energy, occupations so trifling as to be unworthy of his full attention.

I wanted to marry him. Spare the child the slur of being a bastard... Marriage is very much like a flight in an untested airplane. There was a history of mental illness in the family. I was quite aware of this before we married. What could you expect from a family like that? We are the playthings of fate.

The wedding was a quiet affair. He felt that there was prestige in having a wife, not to mention a comfortable home. ‘Kathleen Wild got married without telling anyone beforehand. Kathleen is a charming girl. That did not begin to explain why she had married him. Soon she discovered she had married a miser. I don't think weddings are as pretty as they used to be. “Woman” magazine has just carried out a survey into women in wedlock. There is no such thing as a happy marriage. A lot of married couples smother each other with needs and demands. Since no two people are exactly alike, the idea of a perfect compatibility is illusory. Before long, repetition begets boredom. Life is an unbearable bind.’

He had warmed to his theme of the joys of being a bachelor. There had been two years of bitter and ferocious fighting. He drank more and more, and abandoned his work altogether. He never seemed to do anything at all; he never seems to learn from his mistakes. The difficulty of changing one's ways... He was treated a number of times for chronic alcoholism. But we have in the end hung together.

‘You've had your beauty sleep?’

He has a habit of dropping off in front of the television. He keeps worrying about what wine to buy. As if it mattered...I told him on which horse and how much to bet. There were good times when we laughed together. He tried to explain to the children the relevance of what he was doing: ‘In art as a whole the notion of taste is beside the point, there is no doubt about it. My next question is, “What is art?”’ He made a bold downward stroke with the paint brush. ‘It's not difficult, you see.’

‘No it must be quite easy when you know how.’

I had had an approach to join the staff of the Daily Mail. I eagerly accepted the job fate offered me. The next morning I presented myself at their offices. I wanted a steady income. The Daily Mail that year was selling two million copies a day. My salary went up by half when I moved South. A woman is considered a freak if she puts her career first. I hated having to leave behind all my friends. I would get up early and eat my breakfast and go. I was very much struck by London—the fact that it's so cosmopolitan. Tourists photographed the pigeons in Trafalgar square. A smart young professional raised an arm to halt a cab. I have great respect for that unsung army of men and women who trudged to work every day.

They were disappointed by the circulation figures of the morning journal. Britain is not fertile ground for news magazines. To create a new market the magazine had to be brilliant. As it turned out, it wasn't. Once again, the firm had descended to the vulgarity of using nude pictures for advertising. Advertisers were guaranteed a weekly circulation of 250,000. Our circulation of 21,000 had slumped to below 18,000. Rising costs were eating up most of the profits. Broad hints were aired that the paper should be closed down: the paper was going broke and would cease publication.

Life in the newspaper industry is very bad just now, with papers threatened with closure. In a progressive economy, there is no room for loss-makers. We've got a staff of about forty; they were asking for guarantees of full employment and wages. Few people are prepared to talk 'man to man' with the boss. Its bad enough having to go cap in hand to ask for a rise. Even strong men blench at the thought of walking into their boss's office. After all, the worst the boss can do is say no if you ask him. Most of us actually do come in to work on weekends, like it or not. It was not unusual for me to come home at two or three in the morning.

The Journal was a paper with a lurid and chequered history. One contributor to this magazine had his wedding televised before seven hundred million viewers. He had made a lot of money in business: he made his fortune riding on the coat-tails of a successful gimmick. Beneath Stryker's tissue-thin veneer of civilisation, he was a very vulgar man; he treated women in a cavalier fashion. He exulted in the title of the Napoleon of Fleet Street. From what I know of him I dislike him intensely. He is biased, bigoted, boring and, above all, brutal; his brusqueness is really rather off-putting. To him ‘success’ was the highest moral good. He used his newspapers to beguile the readers into buying shares in his company. He now owns a chain of 970 food stores.

Ambition is a characteristic of all successful businessmen. Many men become workaholic, chasing success and often neglecting their children. Both he and Nick have similar histories of success. Their empires arose almost as a by-product of the individual pursuit of wealth. They act in collusion to control the market; the profits are to be split fifty-fifty between the two of them. Nick made his unsteady way to the top. He borrowed a large sum of money to buy out his partner. Legal action threatened to come between Tynan and Stryker. They even accused each other of double-dealing. Two judges had cited him for dubious financial dealings. He had also been caught out by the nationalization of Britain's oil industry. He vanished mysteriously after the close of business on Saturday night.

We now had a compatible board of directors to help prevent the company falling prey to a Stock Exchange raid. They are very fair, looking at problems from both sides before reaching any conclusions. They managed to pull the company back from the brink of disaster. The new manager had a rejuvenating effect on the organization. Senior members of staff competed eagerly for the honour of representing the company. A chap called Clive, he arrived on the board through the old-boy network. His handshake is cold and clammy. Despite his notorious arrogance, I felt I could do business with him. He'd been careful to be civil to everyone. He was trying to close a deal with the Argus company: there was a better way forward by closer cooperation. The chairman tried to calm their fears. Schmidt was a tall man with a silvery, hypnotic voice. ‘Let's talk business. It is essential to set your targets realistically. We decided to turn it over to the Argus company, which jumped at the chance. I think we can trust this company to play fair, not like the last one. You have to watch for the union problem—we must do it with the approval of the trade unions.’

Some groups have colluded with the unions in avoiding holding a ballot. I believe the union has once again sold out to the management. I intend to tackle both management and unions on the issue. The unions should concentrate on securing their demands through collective bargaining.

This meeting was just another sell-out to the management. They were nothing but a lot of hypocrites, pretending they had done everything they could to prevent this disaster. I didn't dare fight and put my job on the line, so I went along with them. ‘Let's get down to business now. We've chopped more than £1,000 off the budget. Even without profit we could still make our way by breaking even.’ I had mastered the commercial lingo at least.

‘Now, let's get down to brass tacks: how much did we actually lose last year?’ It was the first time Clive had spoken, except to fend off questions.

‘Never mind that, we shall cross the bridge when we come to it. There has been a general increase in demand—I happen to have the official statistics with me. We will succeed, however rough the economic waters.’

‘Look,’ he said, ‘let's cut out all this encounter group rubbish. Who is in charge here?’ Schmidt seemed totally unconscious of the insult. ‘I don't want waffle, I want the real figures. I want to see the person responsible for dealing with accounts.’ Schmidt had remained silent and unsmiling throughout the interchange. ‘We would really do the company some good by cementing relationships with business contracts. We have informal contacts with over 500 firms. The most commonly used argument is that clients do not like long delays. This appears again to be merely a matter of the calibre of management. If there is a new chairman or managing director we can expect a change in company policy.’

Ellen thought she detected a flicker of irony in Schmidt's voice. She couldn't block the deal unless alternative buyers existed. ‘Let me just come in on this, because Clive is not giving the whole story. Now let's get this clear. No way are we going to accept any redundancies. We brought the majority of staff over to our side.’

‘Could I come in here? See what the competition is doing. You can no longer afford to carry shirkers of any kind. I want to know about telephone expenses, salaries, everything of that description.’

The words dedication and loyalty are bandied about regularly at our board meetings. All that seems to be required of us is conformity. They reduce the very process of consultation to a charade. This is a growing feature of the business scene in all advanced industrial countries.

There seems to have been some carelessness recently at the office. Of those who worked, most had their eyes on the clock. At 5 p.m. or whenever they had done their eight hours, they would just get up and go home. A happy freemasonry exists between expense account fiddlers; many people have their cars bought for them by the firm they work for. This is one way a company can compensate a man for not paying him a higher salary. I bill my company for all expenses incurred on the job—this is a fairly common tactic among junior executives.

Keeping your credit good is important. These debts, unlike all others, were not recoverable at civil law. They argued that their wage increases would be offset by higher prices. A wage increase of 21% was reluctantly conceded. Schmidt was ten minutes late. He said he had doubts about the whole enterprise. ‘I don't know what it's all coming to. How can it attract capital from the stock exchanges and banks? They have nothing to offer as collateral. It is worth bearing in mind that, under such circumstances, we would have no alternative but to find another buyer.’

Brody began his judicial summing-up. He uttered sardonic chuckle. ‘Use your common sense. People who buy shares now will clean up when the price rises.’

Ellen is a Roman Catholic. Her rosy face was suddenly mischievous. She looked at the small print at the bottom of the section. ‘My first concern is for people under my charge. They're people who just hate to do anything by the clock. They will not have the shareholders breathing down their necks all the time.’

‘It shouldn't be difficult for you. Bear in mind that these are sixty-five-year-old men. You can come in for half-a-million. Work out a projected cash flow for your first 12 months of trading.’

Ellen’s tolerance reached its limit. ‘Well, that's our pay rise gone for a burton.’

Other remarks by Mr Schmidt were equally critical. A butcher will not be likely to preach vegetarianism. He challenged the baleful influence of the paper's proprietor: ‘What this company needs is an injection of new blood.’

Control of the magazine fell to a collective in north London. It was a really spectacular mistake, costing the company several million pounds. Just two weeks later the magazine ceased publication.

Goodness knows how I escaped being like that. They interviewed me very hard. They wanted to avoid anything that would cause a stir. Out of this interview I got a feature article. Ten days after I broadcast this talk, I had a letter from London: I got a job in market research, interviewing housewives in the Leeds area. These jobs are all on commission only. Something that comes out very clearly in interviews is how predictable people's answers are. I enjoyed sitting down with friends over coffee and cake when the day's work was over.

Felicity Brown

The weather had turned grey, and it was appreciably colder. We are going to get buckets of rain. At 7.05 the doorbell rang and John answered it. At the sound of the bell Buller began to bark. A tall girl was standing on the mat outside.. a welcome mat. She was slender and had long dark hair, a pretty brunette. Her eyes were bright blue. She was dressed in a very short skirt. The sight of her just bowled him over.

‘Hello,’ John said.

‘Hello,’ said the girl.

‘You must be Felicity Brown.’

A light rain had begun to fall. ‘Come in Felicity, don't stand in the rain.’

‘I walked,’ said Felicity.

‘Good, good. Come in.’

We had looked pretty closely into her background. She looked round her with a rather vacant expression; she certainly lacked breeding. The cat was lapping up the milk as if it had not been fed for days. She sat down on a chair and said, ‘Here, pussy, pussy,’ to the cat. ‘You're a pretty puss, aren't you?’

‘The cat's got fleas.’

She put out a hand and stroked the cat softly. That cat is always sharpening its claws on the chairs. You cannot mould the character of a cat. She lived on one bowl of milk a day. The cat got up and followed at a distance. Its eyes followed her everywhere she moved. She has the most exquisite face. She was holding the cat in her arms and petting it tenderly. ‘I like this place,’ she declared. ‘It's got character.’

We laughed so hard she wondered what she had said wrong. ‘Tell your mother you have arrived here without mishap.’ He picked up the phone and passed it over.

Life with several children is hard and stressful. It is the 'living-in' nannies who are in really short supply. Parents who take on an au pair without making certain of her interest in children are asking for trouble. She was paid generously to look after the children. There was a job to be done; it was clear, simple and within her capacity.

A little boy with chestnut-brown hair, Chris is bursting with energy, a severely agitated, combative child. He surprised Felicity by the liveliness of his questions. She did not appear to be listening. ‘Have you done your homework yet?’

‘That's all right,’ Chris answered brightly.

John let out a delighted guffaw. ‘Well done, Chris.’ He had started to chew a piece of meat. ‘Do help yourself to anything you want.’

Felicity was alarmed by these brash and brilliant children. ‘How old are you?’

‘I'll be eight next year.’

A curious couple

I quite by chance got drawn into a kind of impromptu party downstairs. Posy's an old friend of mine; his house is full of fake antiques. I have known him for ages. We hadn't seen each other since Oxford. He was wearing old-fashioned plastic-rimmed glasses. They made a curious couple, Marsha skinny and penitent, Posy blustering and bold. They are very close; there's an old saying that opposites attract each other. They had been Liberal till several years ago, then they changed over to Conservative. I found their ideas insufferably bourgeois; they are the most conventional, dull, bourgeois people you've ever met. They were so condescending. She used to wear huge bracelets on her wrists. Cleanliness is almost a fetish with her. He had two consuming interests: rowing and polo.

I was directed into the old dining room. The ladies greeted me with a smile. I nodded to them and sat down. Posy gave his wife a perfunctory kiss. Marsha snuffled and buried her face in her hands. She was getting a crown put on a left upper canine. She can twist the old boy round her little finger. Rumour had it that she was no model of faithfulness. ‘Posy's so jealous,’ she says, blushing prettily. ‘My husband distances himself from what he does not like in me.’

Posy changed the subject every time it was raised: ‘Stop this nonsense, Marsha, for God's sake.’

‘Does that seem nonsense to you?’

‘Not at all.’

Posy did his best to retrieve the situation, amidst some laughter. ‘Shall we talk about something different now?’

Discussing everything was the prop of their marriage. They keep up a more or less non-stop conversation. Posy could not see why Marsha could not understand. He was jealous of his wife and suspected her of adultery. It seemed clear enough to him.

‘Don't assume anything!’ said Marsha fiercely. ‘My experience of love has hardly been uplifting.’

It can be difficult when you do not think something is important and someone else does. But then, they've known each other for years and years. The'd met at university and fallen in love.

There was a disarming air of informality; they were acting like a bunch of spoiled children. An ageing film star who had taken to the bottle, he was my best friend at Oxford. Over the years he had developed an air of understated chic. They both had something of the Latin in them, she by birth, he by long residence in France. They spend the rest of their lives trying to compensate for their inability to have children. Their rough treatment of each other bordered on brutality.

Posy's a bit like me. He was not a man much given to hiding his own brilliance under a bushel; he speaks confidently and commandingly of his views and experiences. Madeline glanced at Marsha, who rolled her eyes hopelessly. She was wearing white cotton briefs. She used the surname Terson (a contraction of Terry and Nelson). Collateral branches of the family can be found in Australia and Canada. She had got used to John and liked him.

Marsha forced her brain to work. She splashed soda from a siphon into the glasses. ‘We'll have a bite to eat before we go to the theatre.’

Posy's brief moment of truculence had vanished. ‘Is it very expensive to get a box at the Kings Theatre?’ He brought out a shawl which he began to drape carefully over Marsha's shoulders.

‘Bal was so confident, so sure of himself. A nasty little man, so smarmy and obsequious. I suggest that you keep him guessing.’

‘Well I'm not doing that. I haven't sunk that low.’

‘Oh Posy darling, I am sorry. I didn't mean to upset you.’ She did have a way of rubbing people up the wrong way.

The play now has historic rather than aesthetic merit. It comes across as a play which could be effective if only it had a better cast. The stage sets were brilliant and they gave coherence to a piece which was bitty in the second half.

The play was over and the auditorium began to empty. After the play he delivered a long harangue about how dreadful the English theatre was. ‘Gosh, do you poor blighters have to put up with this? I found the play utterly depressing. The only light relief was provided when the actors forgot their lines.’

She cackled with delight. ‘Not that old chestnut again, Posy!’

‘A really good “Midsummer Night's Dream” seems to come along once in every ten years.’

He had cancer of the colon. ‘It won't hurt you,’ Marsha coaxed. She longed to stretch out in comfort.

Remembering their broodings about what had happened before, I decided not to confide in them this time. I related the whole story of the time Chris and I were stranded in the North of Scotland.

An era of attack

The past decades have left their imprint on all of us. The Sixties were dominated, even if only formally, by politics. The choice was very limited: a choice between a world transformed either into a paradise or into a disaster area. That the present system is unsatisfactory is common ground among a number of writers. Under capitalism, people are isolated from each other. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five. A workers' paradise would emerge once the sin of ownership was extinguished. Such plans have been almost entirely devoid of social content. I'm a kind of anarchist, I suppose. When I was a student I rather fancied myself as a Socialist, a movement which had begun with such high expectations. I thought that Marxism was the only scientific theoretical explanation of the capitalist system, the systematic enslavement and exploitation of the masses; they had their part to play in the historical process.

Marx still has much to say to the modern world. History that omits economics is sheer bunk. I adored history and hated geography. If we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Myth and history cannot be separated. Prometheus in Greek mythology brought fire to man. The historian tries to reconstruct societies in terms of what is familiar to him. Once one has got hold of certain basic facts the rest is comparatively easy, but still people try to find alternative explanations. I find Adler's theories quite helpful—a simple amalgam of previous doctrines. Marx expended much energy in flaying these various brands of socialism. Whether he was right or not is arguable—that was all in the past. It has no bearing on what is happening today. Political theories are not eternally valid; there are many fine shadings of status through the social hierarchy. The social situation has changed beyond recognition—a new phase in the evolution of bourgeois capitalism.

The revolutionaries characterize the seventies as an era of attack. The intelligentsia often see themselves as a self-contained group outside the class system. They want to be the vanguard of the working class, generalizing its experiences. The primary objective was to take power out of the hands of the capitalist class: You have to go for the soft liberal underbelly. Even the rich feel burdened by the lack of an ideal. They have never attained the boundary line where word becomes deed. They achieved their ends through non-violent demonstrations and civil disobedience.

Some people are more politically aware than others. I first ran into him at the library. It all happened one brisk April morning. He wore blue jeans and a psychedelic shirt. He stood close to me in the queue so that our bodies touched. We seemed to click as soon as we met. We were both young; we became good friends at once. I was flattered by his interest in me and charmed by his courtesy. He was a committed Marxist. We had a beautiful chaste relationship for over a year.

Love is beyond all human control. He had entered my world. I felt very close to him: I used to trail around after him like a little child. He was besotted with me; he wants to shack up with me. For reasons beyond my control (briefly, money) I once moved five times in eighteen months. We had to live in a horrid little flat; the walls were covered with psychedelic posters. The landlady's lubricious daughter... she had lustrous grey-green eyes. He had to leave his previous quarters at short notice. I can't think why we didn't move years ago when we felt the urge to branch out. They were all bouncing on the mattress to demonstrate its resilience. We fell into a struggling heap, laughing and howling.

The landlord made him sign a blank piece of paper. I made sure I did not sign a contract with them. He was always sweet and welcoming and amorous: he always read to me at bedtime. When I became a student he was supportive: we hadn't got much money.

The traffic was snarled up due to riots on the campus. The university gets bigger year by year. I was a good student, above average, but not brilliant. You could purchase tea and buns at the buttery. He stammers when he gets nervous, as, for example, when he has to speak to a large group of people.

For a couple of months weekends were bliss. I lived in a cocoon of love and warmth, a partition dividing the room into two communicating love nests. Make the most of today and blow what happens tomorrow. London has good night clubs with cabaret. We blew twenty-three bucks on a lobster dinner. I was getting drunk every night. His two front teeth were knocked out in a brawl.

The student who goes out every night is likely to have a rude awakening when he sits his exams. I was aggressively ready to pounce on anyone who looked as if they were criticizing me. All these late nights were beginning to tell on my health.

John had a large collection of pop records. His roommate freaked out on LSD and burned their place down. His best friend betrayed him. I couldn't shelter behind him all the time, and in any case he wasn't always with me.

Exam week approached; the exams were getting too close for comfort. I'm sick of having to truckle to the professors. My tutor solemnly cautioned me that I might not pass my exams: ‘You can kiss your degree goodbye, if you don't work harder.’ I think I can say this without being boastful—I have never failed an examination.

The exam took place in a large hall filled with rows of desks. I always get butterflies before an exam. The examiners were often offensively rude to candidates. Nearly fifty per cent of the students broke down physically or psychologically. Sixty per cent of the candidates failed their examinations. I've spent quite a bit of time studying for these exams. We only had one paper as far as I can remember, one three-hour essay.

John would have liked to sit down and take his boots off. ‘I'm glad I've got that essay under my belt. I am brassed off with this stupid essay. I'm going to go on a bender when the exams finish.’

I got really good marks in my exam. You need 120 marks out of 200 to pass.

Mr Garroway had become a local celebrity, a Trotskyist cell within the Labour organisation. To become a disciple of his is to make a lifetime commitment. He wants it to be a broadly-based movement; he claimed that party leaders had lost touch with the working class. These sentiments were rooted in the tradition of radicalism. Party workers had little time to chart a detailed way out of their troubles. Militants whose careers bridged the pre- and post-war areas, they brought their particular brand of politics to this country. They had a history of radical political activity: they soon recognized the nature of the Conservative challenge. They set out to expose the pro-capitalist role of Wilson and company to their supporters.

Garroway was a thin man with a lean, ascetic face. He established his reputation as a radical with his very first speech: he proposed the motion that that ‘the Public Schools of England should be abolished.’ This proposal caused an uproar in parliamentary circles. Quintin Hogg dismissed his ideas as ‘a load of old codswallop’. R A Butler used his casting vote as chairman to defeat the motion by 6 votes to 5.

Garroway's voice was a lash. He possessed the qualities of a leader, charisma, energy and eloquence. All Western Europe might soon be clamouring for such a leader. He condemns modern bourgeois society, dissociating himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the system. The old man had this disconcerting habit of pausing before he spoke. He is an autocratic type who calls himself a revolutionary, blabbering on about human rights. The totalitarian is a utopian who is intoxicated by some scheme for perfection. No man could have hated the old order more bitterly. He was for ever predicting disaster and catastrophe—an idiosyncratic distillation of Marxism. Don't be led astray—he does not want your opinion. Even the most perspicacious of students of human nature may fail to notice this trait in his character.

The distinction between reform and revolution had become blurred in Garroway's mind. In order to construct his theories he must make a number of very sweeping assumptions. His philosophy is a mixture of both Western and Asian thought. ‘It is not easy to stand out against the spirit of the age. The present system severely pressures all nonconformists, intellectuals, artists, and so on. The whole existing system should be completely scrapped. There is a kind of balance, a law of compensation, inherent in the nature of things. People, organizations and ideas are the basic components of all situations. The other great cosmic reality is time. We need to change our personal view to a cosmic one.’

These revelations serve as bridges to true knowledge. The eternal and infinite Brahman, beside which there exist only dreams and shadows; spiritual progress towards nirvana; the classical Hindu scheme of values; the compromises between idealism and reality. He joined his hands together in Indian fashion and gave a little bow. ‘This house is a sanctuary,’ he said. (I paraphrase for there is no copy of the speech anywhere). ‘I'm like a clairvoyant, a spirit medium receiving messages. Then how you will bless me day and night for taking you there..’ an apt quotation from Jude the Obscure. ‘In early adulthood you are at your most potent.’

With this remark he killed further conversation dead; a way to assert personality and power, however fleetingly. Why should only select brethren have been allowed to see it? Their policies on this subject seem fairly cloudy. He went on to depict the revolution as an abstract general state.

At first I thought he was a bully; but I came round to him in the end. I went to a lecture he gave at the African Institute. He lectures with a prolonged, unrelenting stare, which gives an unnatural feel to his delivery. He asked them what they understood by the term ‘radical’. He was always plotting trouble and strikes; he used to read these things from closely typewritten scripts. Not even a committed disciple could think it an impressive document. When he had finished reading, he flung the paper back on to his lectern. His speech was cheered by the crowds, the original colony of social drop-outs. They were determined to renounce the materialism of the society they had been brought up in. The half-hour lecture caused an enormous furore; the lecture galvanized several others into action. This pamphlet seems to have caught the conscience of the times: ideas that change the course of history. A dominant idea can be compared to a river that has cut deep into the landscape. His views are portrayed as those of an unrealistic leftist heretic. I think we were rejuvenated by the experience. He is a convinced atheist: he felt no longer afraid of blaspheming against any God.

These things have left a deep imprint on our thinking. I believed in a cosmic spirit, the need to fill the void of materialism with humane and spiritual values. We could have joined any burlesque show in the country.

He thinks he's the bee's knees. Don't believe a word he says. We don't think it's necessary to have such rigid categorization: there is no distinct cleavage between the classes. Only the idle rich can contemplate such matters. That's all bunk—there can't be equality.

He'd visited a commune and watched the peasants and intellectuals working the land together. The soil proved too infertile to sustain real pasture or arable crops. They persisted, perversely, in trying to grow grain. The fields are communal property and no one really owns them. The exact form it takes will soon come under the influence of unwritten social rules. They were dressed in buckskins and moccasins. The harvesting of groundnuts was complete. Tractors equipped with special blades levelled more than 1,000 acres of forest. We didn't break the clumps up until later in the year. They were trying to buy up every acre in sight. Most was converted to conifers, the rest to arable. Clearing the forest is a laborious business. Settlements have been bulldozed out of the way; he could see the bulldozers churning the mud. I did not have the physical stamina for digging; I had seen enough to put me off farmwork.

Meg was certainly a student at the university but I am not sure about her brother. She was a couple of years older than me. She didn't look as if she was built for this kind of work. She had felt complete sympathy with the movement insofar as she perceived it. Finally she got up enough nerve to ask me to explain what communism was. ‘What does “imperialism” mean?’

She went to live in a women's commune; she learnt tractor maintenance and all manner of things. She and her friends closed round me talking loudly, a lot of twits in open sandals wittering on about The Middle Way. Her brother was chubby and cheerful—he hasn't got the drive and ruthlessness to take him to the top. ‘It's too hot here,’ he complained childishly. They stood around in groups, burdened with sleeping bags and blankets. The men sat round one fire and the women and children round another.

Garroway broke off another piece of bread and chewed at it. He told the boys to squat in a semicircle around him. He dosed Meg with herbal brews of his own concoction. ‘A potent brew from South West Africa. Tribal medicine and Western medicine can complement each other very successfully.’

He threw into the flames a quantity of leaves from a certain bush. She would go into a trance and wail her incantations to the spirits. He looked round the circle of eager faces, a shameless glance of lechery. Everyone was scruffily dressed; their code was based on generosity and sharing. They felt a new closeness in relationships with their friends. He spoke at length about the nonexistence of philosophical problems; he's on another one of his ego trips.

Youth has always been the time for rebellion. The movement developed a wide following among the middle classes.

The students tried to forge an alliance between themselves and the workers, bettering the lot of the lower paid, the huddle of grubby, nervous faces old before their time. They are out to break the system; they struggled to build a more democratic society. A new and more strident class-consciousness was emerging; unskilled and semi-skilled workers, drawn to communism by their low economic status. The poor do not see themselves as a cohesive group. They bleat about how miserable they are: ‘Some of us are very near the breadline.’ Party workers in the industrial cities did their utmost to capitalise upon this situation. They often dined alfresco in the warm summer evenings. I know we're all hard up, but everybody can afford a drink now and then.

A lot of nonsense is often talked about the dignity of labour. We have to accept the monotony of work on the assembly line. The worker himself is turned into a perversion of a free being. Workers on the production line feel that they are small cogs in the industrial machine—the great male-dominated world of industry and big business. People clutch at the remnants of their self-esteem. When they are late clocking in for factory work they may lose pay.

Often people's own daily problems can propel them in the direction of the revolutionary parties. The furnaces at Shotton Steelworks were closed with the loss of nearly 8,000 jobs. In these circumstances, massive industrial action is justified and necessary. That's why we are on the rack, forced into one of the longest strikes in living memory. The Workers' movement was at the centre of the 1972 strike. The whole work force promptly came out. Responsibility for the strike was laid at the door of the employers. The action was exposing the industry to fierce international competition. What is occurring now is not a crisis of capitalism, but of industrial society itself. We plan to charter a special train for London. Ford manual workers are claiming a pay rise of about £20 a week, steel workers put in a pay claim for £6 a week. Behind the brass band came a column of workers. From my office I could hear the chanting of the pickets outside; I got only fleeting glimpses of them. The picket was well-intentioned, but faint-hearted. Every now and then there is a confrontation at the gate between the pickets and police.

The problem was how to create and sustain public interest. The irreversible surge of revolt that they had predicted did not materialize. The party had hoped to win mass support among the working classes. The middle classes all thought that the working class was inferior; they had to suppress all their natural resentments. By some obscure process of imperial osmosis, the masses were largely ignorant of the options open to them. A lot of people are conned into thinking that they can't fight back. The ruling classes obfuscate the minds of the exploited. They hoped that the strike would be called off. The chosen few do not bother to make a secret of their vast wealth: live is running smoothly for them. They regard the wealth-producing system as a bastion of capitalistic privilege. We're interested in what kind of language they use. They are content for the world to stay as it is, poverty, pain, and everything. They are at last getting their come-uppance for ignoring our needs.

English society is still a class society. The present system serves to buttress the social structure in Britain. Labour retained the allegiance of the mass of trade unionists. They had been carrying out a charade of negotiations with the government. The workers' demands centred around pay and conditions. They decided to strike, in support of their claim for a shorter working day. The general strike is a means of challenging the total authority of the government. We bought in plenty of coal before the strike started. Ordinary people, black and white, yellow and brown, rich and poor, joined together to protest. They are willing to help at every opportunity. If anyone was ill, they all chipped in to pay the doctor's bill.

Swallow harangued his fellow students and persuaded them that they must support the strike. We were attracting a growing number of females, as evidenced by the formation of the Women's Section. The number had increased to thirty-eight by the beginning of the following year. Other groups are now proliferating; hundreds of women had become politically conscious. The group met on an ad hoc basis, just as needs came up. A poster instructed us, in block letters, to ‘Work Hard for the Continuing Revolution’—a blueprint for a better world. The strike has now exploded into a national cause célèbre.

Beneath the surface of the Sixties, strange things bubbled and seethed. Simple minded flower people, we thought we were so hip in those days—that perplexing borderland between working-class anarchism and middle-class conformity. Anyone who had indulged in such a capitalist activity as golf would have been laughed at. One of John's colleagues tried to hypnotize me but he was unsuccessful. The students sit in a circle on the floor, a communal style of life. I had to use all my charms to persuade them to come. It was quite the done thing to eat with your hands.

John stands up, buttoning his jacket. ‘The Secretary of State will meet the trade union leaders tomorrow.’

We were trying to decide whether to risk going to Oxford by car or to take a train. He began to gather his papers and button up his coat. ‘We should be able to bypass Oxford. This is what I propose, Comrades.’ He went out clapping his workman's cap firmly on his head.

We sat down in the railway station. John felt a twinge of fear when he saw the officer approaching him. ‘Why are they looking at us as if they'd like to fling us all in jail? Anyone joining the police is going over to the other side. We'd better join the queue.’

He took a wallet from the inside pocket of his jacket and extracted a five pound note. ‘I'd like a return ticket to London, please.’

As he took the change, John had an impulse to buy another ticket. He tucked the ticket into the inner compartment of his wallet. In the crowd, a pickpocket took John's wallet and passport.

It was quite a coincidence that my sister was on the same train.

The group had rather arrogantly assumed themselves to be in command. They all seem to take an inflated view of their collective identity; they bolstered their egos by telling each other how much they were needed. As with so much in the Sixties, it was Authority that was challenged: beat the system. Respect for the authority of the state is everywhere reduced. The Sixties saw an old world die and a new one come to birth. The restlessness communicated itself to all levels of society. The women's movement erupted, and sex roles started breaking down. The battle of the sexes... Everywhere, small groups of women banded together to talk about liberation. ‘The state is responsible,’ asserted the feminists, ‘for the breakdown of family life.’ So far, women have been able to lay most of the blame on men. The ideals of womanhood have been produced by men who desire women to be passive. They called us ‘women's libbers’, since their desire to categorize us, pigeon-hole us, was so strong. Artists strove to escape from the bounds set by traditional culture, the caricatured social image given to feminism. These productions were considered very avant-garde and appealed only to a limited audience. It was probably a more valid protest than picketing missile bases.

The fashion industry responded to the new mood of feminism. I went and had my hair cut in an Afro. Workers were being drawn into the arena of political protest. How can we win the allegiance of the masses? Should we place the needs of Europe's working classes before the needs of the masses of Africa and Asia? Some of our members doubt the value of demonstrations. Pat Franklin was the closest thing to a manual worker among us. But he prospers, doubtless because of a certain strain of ruthlessness. He looked round for a chair and, since there wasn't one, he shared Mary's. Franklin was unwashed and unshaven. He had a shaggy, unkempt beard.

Those of us who were not citizens had to be especially careful. The room was hot and close and full of smoke—a dangerous revolutionary leaven. A note of warning wavers in the blare of conversation. All this confusion in the minds of young people was bound to lead to violence. A friend had been arrested for possession of explosives. He was held prisoner in chains that were bolted to the walls; all about him he heard chains clanking. He told us that he had been beaten up by the police, an injustice comparable to the case of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. They are, if it is any consolation, in good company. He intends to make a complaint against the police. The three policemen subsequently received citations for their action. Some friends were particularly assiduous in the campaign for his release. To bolster up their case, they quoted a speech by Ray Gun: ‘The Gulf states, the politicians and the Military will do nothing. We are going to have to change the whole structure of society.’ He disappeared under mysterious circumstances. We were expecting an even more severe crackdown. Val died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The system was approaching collapse. We were chained to a vicious circle of violence. These dreadful circumstances bring out the worst in absolutely everybody.

It was the end of the 1950s that the first opportunities arose for activity rather than discussion. Many senior military leaders had become the tools of foreign governments, smuggling refugees into the country. The security of the country was not endangered. The party had grown increasingly revisionist. Discontent was aroused by the various attempts to change the law. There were mass gatherings, demonstrations, and teach-ins. Hundreds of scarlet flags billowed in the breeze, a thousand demonstrators chanted: ‘Kevin, Kevin’. The residents of the area are unhappy about the crowds and the noise, shopkeepers were boarding up their windows. The state visit of a European monarch, the unmistakable smell of rotting eggs...the details are getting a bit hazy in my mind now. There was a series of demonstrations against the visit, a frenzied mob of over a thousand students. The rally included many people who were normally quite apolitical. I think out of fairness I should say that the majority behaved very well.

We set off on our march, under escort of course. It was the largest rally since the demonstrations of the 'thirties. The demonstration erupted into a brutal battle between police and students. Youths erected makeshift barricades. The police were granted permission to use tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets.

He wanted to go there and see the system in action. ‘We may be in for some student trouble here—we're not breaking the law...’ He claimed they were textbook-utopians who saw a workers' paradise emerging: ‘They have no real grounds for complaint.’

The crowd was dispersed by policemen armed with clubs.

The black response to these laws was a campaign of violence. Nearly every day from then on, some new outrageous incident would take place. Events had been moving towards a general alert for some days. Supporters were bussed in to take part in the march. Youths clashed with police in the streets around the ground. They started yelling abuse and obscenities at the cops. They were enraged at the acquittal of a policeman accused of murder—things that any man might do under pressure, you could hardly blame them; and in such circumstances men give no quarter. There was a riot and the police—ah, there were thousands of police round the place, security guards wearing bullet-proof vests. They were not allowed to use arms. Shouts of ‘fascist pigs’ greeted those running the gauntlet. They bellowed at us through loudhailers. More than 40,000 demonstrators were arrested. We were able to beam pictures of the riots out to Denmark. Some students stood on the roof, cheering the rioters on. If we had been broadcasting all this a year ago, all hell would have broken loose. People poked and prodded the students with their umbrellas, a tumult of shots and yells could be heard. They surrounded the Embassy, hurling stones and wielding sticks. To counter this the police will equip themselves with riot shields and tear gas. One constable's hand was severed by a sword blow. Such methods are not altogether satisfactory. Their crimes seemed trivial when you measured them against the crimes of the people in power. The guard blew his whistle. A line of guardsmen herded them back at gunpoint. Rows of police held back the crowds. Some of the crowd attempted to break trough police cordons. An officer tried to calm them down but had no success. Panic here and there was only to be expected. Police sealed off the area to try and control the riot. They were perhaps aided by agents provocateurs sent into our midst to disrupt the protest. A young man asked if we were students. The next moment, before he had time to realize what was happening, he was hit over the head.

This was the situation during the closing weeks of 1967. I kept out of trouble as best I could. Policemen were the primary targets and suffered most of the casualties. One of the policemen was shot in the back. A line was chalked round the body. There was a woman cuddled up close to him. The crowd broke up in panic. In the midst of the chaos which followed the shooting, the gunman escaped. A world engulfed into hatred and intolerance. The wave of bombings, protests and street clashes is claiming new lives every day. Fighting, plundering and arson have erupted all over the city. There was a widespread looting of stores and shops, drunken soldiers carousing in the streets, cars filled with noisy lunatics. They barricaded the streets with burnt-out cars. Fires were started inside and outside buildings. A few men were shooting blindly into the flames. Guerrilla attacks would be launched against the police, people were being murdered in cold blood. This is not the result of unemployment but the result of sheer vandalism. We can expect more armed assaults on homes, stores, and warehouses. There were examples of people occupying public squares and annexing the pavement next to their lands, a display of paperbacks spread out on the pavement—the pop and hippie generation. They blame the police for the breakdown in community relations. They don't want to go out into the outside world and fend for themselves. They are basically all the same. If you try to stop them, all you get is V-signs and a load of filthy language. That's worse than all the violence you see in the movies.

We had a bit of bother with the police. There was a brief scuffle; I got a nasty bang on the head. I was frog-marched down to the police station. My friend was knocked down and could have been killed. He couldn't act for toffee. As it was, he suffered severe back injuries. I was collared by the police. I've never been busted before, it was a memorable experience. One of them stared at me for a long time and finally asked whether I was Angela Davis.

We turned on our television to hear about the day's spate of bans and detentions. Even the women's private parts were inspected. The demonstrators who were arrested have been released with a caution. Thirteen people were charged with offences including obstruction and resisting arrest. It is not known for certain where they are now. The police are—like the rest of us—subject to the law. The judges will come down on the police like a ton of bricks. Men of high status were cast down.

This brief period of tolerance did not last long. We cannot condone anarchy. Respect for the law is the foundation of civilized living. The avowed aim of revolutionaries is to disrupt modern society. I think the authorities have got to clamp down on people like this. The main culprits were caught and heavily sentenced. They will be tried on a capital charge of instigating the riots and murdering three police officers. ‘How free can free speech get before it threatens society by inciting a riot?’ Adler's phrase is particularly apt in relation to the events which have taken place. There must be immediate action if total chaos is to be averted. The authorities have got to clamp down on these trouble-makers.

The Trotskyists were among a dozen organisations declared illegal. Captured criminals were paraded in chains through the crowded streets. Many have ended up in prison for terrorist activities. It is believed that two of the prisoners have already died.

The men returned, their faces blanched. The whole incident had moved me profoundly. In less than eighteen months the group had lost the active support of more than 250 of its members. I was tired of groups that fell apart when faced with the slightest difficulty. We must take hold of the power of the state, or we will be crushed. This will be argued about in the seventies and beyond. I became involved in ‘big time’ politics—good training grounds in which to learn the ABC of committee work. The job was changing me in a way that I had not in the least expected: you get used to the kind of mistakes that people make.

The Campaign for Economic Democracy began to chalk up successes in city elections. He had become attached to a student called Hilary. My stomach churned when I saw them together. Her hair was slightly longer and curlier than that of the other girls in the office. She believed, with a kind of celestial trust, that nothing would change. This belief clashes with all that we now know about human psychology.

The idea of writing

I had the idea of writing from the time that I was about 12. It was like being a child again. Could I acquire some wisdom? Could I make my life meaningful? We have to come to terms with the present. If you can't live for the present, there's no point in living at all.

I tried to think how I could relieve my unutterable boredom. Hope is the only thing that keeps me from the bottle. It's time to spread my wings. I jot odd notes in the back of the diary. They were simply rough ideas—they need amplifying, of course. This is just the beginning, these ideas are open to challenge. I do it all on my own. I have no help at all.

I did not yet take the idea of becoming a writer seriously. Fame beckoned. I was utterly absorbed into what I was doing. The experience was accompanied by periods of doubt and morose depression. Little did I know when I embarked on this quest how futile it would be.

I talked to many artistic people; writers, dancers, and film makers. You need someone to spur you on. It's important to know your own limitations—how you use and handle words, the oddities and absurdities of the language. It is a mistake to believe that the language system acts in an on/off, all-or-nothing way. Sometimes you miss out a comma because you're writing too quickly. Don't be afraid to abbreviate, to cut a paragraph here, to shorten one there. Give yourself plenty of time to complete a job.

I wrote the first part fairly quickly. How much of the novel is fiction and how much is fact? I try to add an element of suspense and mystery to my novels. We are, in a sense, deceitful, but we cannot be said to be lying. Nothing can of itself always be labelled as ‘wrong’. What I'm really trying to do is to plug into people's fantasies—your sense of identity, of what you are and who you are. The intellectuals tend to view this effort with disdain. I suppose it is a bit against the current trend. I have abandoned the idea of consistency: the script is an absolute mess, its internal unity was in large measure fictional. There's no such thing as perfection in poetry. I've used a lot of archive material. Any similarity to real people is purely coincidental.

The whole play takes place at a beach club. None of the characters actually comes alive. The story has a humorous twist to it. It should be read as an allegory. The whole play takes place at a beach club. None of the characters actually comes alive. The story displays the somewhat laconic wit of these people. The story has a humorous twist to it. It should be read as an allegory. Glowing and tanned after sunlamp sessions, one of the characters in the play hangs herself with a rope. One of the characters in the play hangs herself with a rope. The temptation is to play up the sensational aspects of the story. Some people read sex into the most innocent story; the unwary reader might be led to regard it as the primary target. So by putting it in the third person I can turn it round a bit and make it funny. People were having some difficulties in following the plot. The audience does not know what is going to happen next. In spite of these gaps, the broad lines of the story remained clear. The play's reassuring message was that in the end good and right always triumph. This feature of the book would be enough to inhibit a lot of people from reading it.

A character that's mad, I find, is a very difficult character to write about. I have no particular qualifications to write about love.

Rose Gibson is twenty-seven and works as a money dealer. She discovered the joy of writing. I’m a secret admirer of her novels. For a self-educated writer I think her work shows remarkable talent. She's very well known, I believe, in Germany. She wrote an anti-Nazi novel under an assumed name. Over the summer her book had come out. She actually encompasses themes such as Judaism in her last novel. Her success came with unbelievable speed. Her book leaves one with a sneaking admiration for her shameless commercialism.

I found she was staying in the same hotel as I was. ‘I wonder if you would care to join me in a drink?’

She watched as Boylan carelessly dropped some ice into the glasses.

‘I do so admire your superb gift of self-expression. How do you find time to write these books?’

‘I tried to make a comeback before I was thirty.’

Rose Gibson has already made a name for herself as a writer of considerable talent. She was a good storyteller and used to make up tales about farmers and animals. Almost every woman, bar the very young, can produce tales of this sort. These short stories were written as pot boilers to get her out of debt. Her style is a composite of elements drawn from many different traditions.

She had dedicated herself to work and become just a writing machine. One of the odd things about her novels is that the leading character is usually male. Her characters are never outright villains; she had created a fictional character with whom millions could subconsciously identify. Her later books never really came up to expectations. She is past her peak. For ten years she had heard nothing but eulogy. ‘Murder Mystery’, as the blurb makes haste to assure us, contains no explicit violence. Seldom have I read a more graphic, cold-blooded description of a killing. It's a beautifully constructed book; it seemed to awaken an interest which never faltered. The novel has recently been dramatized as a television serial. She then attempted something more ambitious, a novel of 120,000 words. Each copy of the book comes with its own magnifying glass. I was struck by the coincidence of the title with the name of my dentist. Her book has received a bleak reception. I find her horror novels altogether too baroque and alarming for my taste; her stories are too remote from everyday life.

Danny's farm

I woke with a slight headache and took two aspirins. Hundreds and hundreds of tiny bubbles were rising up from the dissolving tablets. It was another peerless day. Grass browned and trees drooped that summer. We went to Danny's farm to collect the pig's insides. He is selling them for £125; not a bad price at all. The farm had sold the pigs and the lambs at the fair. Bargain hunters enjoyed a real bonanza today: cattle were sold for next to nothing.

Parking is something we're very bad at. I drove into a post and dented the bumper slightly. The farm is like an impressionist painting, splashed with colour in the early morning light. A brown hen was pecking around for grains of corn. We could hear the cows mooing in the cowshed. Karen gobbled an ice-cream soda. She crossed over to have a closer look at the car. Karen was the daughter of the village cobbler. I thought her nice but rather childish; she used her good looks to compensate for her lack of intelligence. Her hair came right down to her waist. The sound of approaching hooves caused her to step aside. The horse came clopping along the street.

Most farmers had turned from crops to cattle. The farm animals are treated atrociously. He keeps his dog chained up all day. It has a short stumpy tail covered with bristles. I patted the dog and she wagged her tail. Hardly any cows in dairy herds are allowed to suckle their calves for more than three days. This was not only tiring them but breaking into their favourite feeding times. They are so boorish, so insensitive.

The two bulls had to be castrated. ‘Now then,’ began Danny in a menacing growl. The animals roared and fought. He ducked to evade the beast's desperate charge. My glasses steamed up as soon as I walked into the room. There was a great smoking cauldron of water. They closed in on the struggling pig. The pig squealed. There was a musty, sickly smell of droppings; the smell was quite revolting. The pig gave a gasping squeal. My hand got caught in the door and my fingers were squashed.

We were served steak with broad beans. The farmer's wife tied some rag around my hand. ‘How did you hurt your finger? I knew a baby once who caught his fingers in the spokes of the pram wheel.’

She went on sexing kittens. Very young feral kittens may settle well into domestic life. They're growing crops for use as animal feed. Successive strains of the plant have been bred that resist more diseases. This new technology will boost food production. This plant is easy to grow in all soils, including chalk.

The average individual knows little and cares less about technology. Farmers were adopting a very cavalier attitude to what were very dangerous substances: chemicals ranging from hormones to vaccines. The chickens are injected with antibiotics and God knows what. The first experiments were carried out by Dr Preston McLendon. Some worms were trained to find their way through a simple maze. Worms are very simple creatures. In 1939 he experimented with young rats. He loved to horse around with them in the compound. The results of these experiments remain a secret. Olney claimed that the substance caused brain damage. He was one of the cleverest scientists in German industry. Chemically, this substance is similar to cellulose. This is lethal to rats in small doses. It should be administered in 25 mg tablets, with a maximum daily dosage of 150 mg.

Garbage was carefully saved and fed to the pig. The pigs had metal tags in their ears bearing a number. They were boundless in their gratitude.

The mists had vanished from the moor. Karen sat astride a large white horse, her long brown hair loose about her shoulders. The powerful odour of horse manure that clung about her... She brushed back the hair from her eyes. Her horse was already saddled and bridled. She had just come back from feeding the ponies with sugar.

‘It's a lovely day, isn't it?’

‘Amen to that! On December 13th our troubles will be all over.’ I couldn't see Karen's expression, because her head was turned. A sob welled up in her throat. The farm was for sale at a ludicrously low price. Who would care for the farm when they were away?

She urged her pony into an energetic trot. One cannot make a complete circuit of the grounds by horse. She had been born near a farm out beyond Barnham. The children squatted in the straw like so many clucking hens. From the hen run they could hear the birds clucking over their eggs.

Donovan stepped over the dog and went into the hall. He was always in a good mood. ‘We used to graze sheep on the fields where the corn is now.’

He had concentrated on his racehorses, his shooting, and his mistresses. ‘My father was a excellent marksman.’ His image was undercut by the fact that he reeked of manure.

I suddenly came face to face with Valentina. There she sat, in her robes, smiling. She looked me up and down. I was quite smitten by her luminous green eyes and gold curls. Come to think of it, I have seen her before. Valentina was as clever and witty as she was beautiful. She could be wayward, petulant, and disagreeable. She began to ask me questions which I answered coyly, guardedly.

He took her hand and passionately squeezed it. ‘Hello, gorgeous.’

She slapped him on the rear. ‘How can you approve of the barbaric sport of hunting? All my attempts to domesticate Danny came to nothing. He's a rather slippery character.’

‘Does he have to crawl on his hands and knees?’

Danny responded with a sickly smile. ‘I'm not in the right frame of mind for riddles, Tina.’

‘The public are more tolerant than they are often given credit for being.’

I snatched away the stool she was rocking with her heel.

‘What's going on?’ Valentina asked with undisguised curiosity. She turned and smiled faintly. ‘Alright, I can take a hint. I'll go if you like. I don't mind, honestly. I'll be back at quarter past one.’

‘OK. I'll see you then.’ She kissed him on both cheeks and went out.

He went to the stables to fetch his horse. ‘I made a bomb on the horses. They are a new breed.’

The horse stood tethered to the gate. He placed the saddle gently over the horse's back. ‘There are going to be times when you and the horse part company.’ His brown eyes twinkled at them. ‘They are highly sensitive animals, easily frightened by bad handlers.’

The race is run through a forest. Old men with even older shotguns roam the hills at weekends potting rabbits, partridge, pigeons, etc. I put my pillow on the saddle so I could ride comfortably. I was never in any race in which I didn't come last. The trees were leafless except for the topmost branches. I saddled up and rode off. He clapped his spurs to the horse's flanks. He was obviously chasing rabbits for sport rather than for food. His horse broke through the brushwood. The whips began to crack over their heads. The horse reared up on his back legs. It's difficult to control a rearing horse. I was terrified that the horse would bolt and I would not know how to stop it.

Karen flicked the safety catch off her rifle. She was hardly in the saddle before she called out ‘race you to the bridge’. She brought the whip down on the horse's back.

Someone had fired a shot. With a quick dodge to the right, the boar burst the advancing line of hunters. On their left was an impenetrable tangle of creepers and trees. The piglet tore loose from the creepers and scurried into the undergrowth; the boar shunted and butted its way through the forest. The horses were frightened by the gunfire and stampeded.

The chase relentlessly continues. The recreation ground had a proper cinder track, hurdles, and finishing tape. We reached a little gate in the hedge. Once again the donkey jibbed and would not pass it. I fell off every time she bucked. Danny gesticulated angrily: ‘Why didn't you remount and ride back instead of just sitting here?’

The race was won by an outsider. They discovered that the horse had been doped.

In the evening Valentina was back, radiating confidence. She was wearing the briefest of miniskirts. ‘Just look at me,’ she said smugly. He stroked her hair affectionately. ‘Danny,’ she said, ‘stop playing with me like this.’

‘We are governed by the hormones that circulate around our bodies.’

With a hopeless sigh, Valentina turned away. She stared at the cold green soup in a mixture of disgust and hungry apprehension—offal mixed with onions and oatmeal, a mixture of clotted blood and thick, greyish -yellow slime. It didn't taste anything like soup. ‘Hunting was one of Dad's favourite diversions. He went to Scotland at the weekend to shoot pheasants.’ She leaned back on the sofa.

Danny went slightly green. ‘I'm sick,’ he groaned. He claimed that vodka didn't give you hangovers. ‘Let's make a night of it!’

The next morning I got up early and ate my breakfast, a plate of porridge. A sense of unreality was beginning to creep up on me. The memory came back with a painful rush. I could die. I feel so humiliated. ‘I'll be right up,’ called the voice of Danny Donovan.

Valentina appeared to be asleep; at least her eyes were shut. I've tried, but I can't dissociate her from what she did. With downcast eyes I explained that I was not the person they all thought I was. ‘I hope you don't bear me any grudge...’

Danny whooped with delight. I was nearly knocked down by a hefty slap on the back. ‘There's no need to get so het up!’

Valentina hesitated for a instant. A peculiar hardness had settled itself upon her features. ‘Try to see the best in everything and to ignore the worm in the apple.’

At midday, my mood began to change. I was about to slam the car door, wind down the glass, wave to Karen. John waved his hand towards the house.

Carole was plump, with long wavy braids and a sweet face. She comes up to the van, and opens the back. Her normally rosy cheeks had been blanched by the wind. ‘How are you?’ She spoke in a broad Wiltshire accent; her body was a burning red.

‘Fine, thanks.’

She pointed with pride to the fine horses she had trained: ‘They are incomparably superior to those who imitate them. They're expensive, but they're worth it. Don't compromise: don't settle for second best.’

They soon formed a loquacious group around the car. We filled the back of the car with wood. She drove away, bumping over sticks and debris littering the drive. I ran off to help the boy who worked the milking machine. The silvery chime of the old stable clock... We picked quite a big bunch of poppies.

A call from George

Felicity was singing and I was whistling little bits of it.

‘Meeting people was very good for you because it broadened your mind.’

She sat in the sun and sipped iced coffee. She could be nice sometimes when she was feeling in the mood. She drowsed in the sun—she seems to be spending most of her time sunbathing. Her housecoat kept falling open. She didn't attract me physically.

She turned a tea-cup upside down and looked at the marks on the bottom.

‘The plates don't belong in that cupboard. Look at your list of things to be mended.’

She sat with an arm on the back of the couch. ‘Why have some of the names got an asterisk above them?’

‘Bind the edges with tape to prevent fraying.’

She mouthed the word no.

Madeline spend the rest of the day assisting Felicity with her inventory. She showed a cheerful commitment and dedication to her work. She opened the top volume of the assorted books on the sofa; she browses a while, then picks up a glossy magazine. The children gradually begin to accept her. She said she would bake a cake to celebrate. Her smile somehow makes my day. She had a boyfriend called David. She had little affection for him and certainly didn't love him. Later she would take the children for a walk in the woods.

Some children were busily catching crabs. Celia was playing with her celluloid ducks and ships. Small children live a life of fantasy and they carry this fantasy over into action. The most commonplace things excited her interest. She was sick of wearing her elder sister's cast-offs. She sensed that things weren't right between us.

Felicity was drinking a frothy milkshake through a straw. Her undisputed good looks caused envy and admiration. I caught her reading a filthy book. She had to rely on whatever books were lying around. On the front cover was the picture of a woman. She tore several sheets of paper out of the back of the book. I watched her furtively pencil a note and slip it between the pages. Most of the book had bored her, with the exception of one chapter.

‘Can I see your book for a second?’

Felicity shrugged. ‘Please yourself.’

‘It's no business of mine what you choose to read. I think it would be arrogant if I tried to give any advice.’

The sun went behind a cloud. I suddenly realized how superficial she was. I stood my ground and looked her straight into the eye. ‘I'm reading a really good book at the moment.’

‘Good for you. I'm interested in life, not books.’

I was bitterly stung by what she said. ‘Take a paperback copy of War and Peace, or any other classic.’

With a sigh, she rose and walked slowly away. Her neck was also uncommonly fine when seen from behind. I'm sure he's after her.

She had to stay in and do the dishes. I did not blame her for resenting my intrusion into her private affairs. The children lifted my spirits with their laughter. I waited for the psychological moment to tell John about the car. He spent Saturday sunning himself on the beach.

I retired to my study to await a call from George—an old friend of the family, the writer and critic George Lithgow. We met ten years ago and have been friends ever since. My invitation was not completely altruistic. He was very good at talking me out of things, suspicions and jealousies and so on. I met him first when I was a very young would-be writer. A man with ginger hair and nervous blue eyes, he was quick and agile. By temperament, he was an artist; his personal buoyancy and vigour were a tonic. He had a strange fierce way of grinning that showed his teeth. It was easy for a clever young man like him to make a good living. He was still in his thirties when he got his chair at Leeds.

A man with exquisite manners, George had the gift of being liked by everyone he met. He had the round, assured voice of a man who inspired confidence in people.

His special interest lies in the area of literature. Since arriving in England in 1979, he has established himself as a major writer. Aspiring writers were always sending scripts to him. He had an audience of ten million readers. Sales of his novels were most brisk behind the Iron Curtain. His books are all variations on a basic theme: What is the human mind? His second novel appeared under the title ‘Getting By’; the Macmillan edition is out of print. It's a very experimental novel. It has incredible fertility of invention. The novel has a single narrative as its backbone. The book contains some brilliant and very witty writing. The book's coda is a wry conclusion quoted from Shakespeare. His writings are no doubt influenced by his early life among the Arabs: the climax of the book happens in Egypt.

Lithgow has written four major plays since then. His plays are written in a very clipped, staccato style. He describes some juicy scenes in the ‘Priest of Love’. Now he has completed what looks to me like his magnum opus: ‘Sunrise’. In his new work, he invokes an atmosphere of careless rapture. The play has plenty of melodrama and excitement as well as comedy. There should be some advance publicity for the book by now. It was published in a limited edition. The play is liable to give offence to many people. The powerful eroticism of the book was a revelation. The author creates an image of love that debases the emotion itself. In the book he lays bare his social relationships; the very breadth of the subject gives it an added interest. ‘Resentment against your work seems to arise from the fact that people don't understand it.’ ‘I don’t get you,’ he said. His attitude has led to some brushes with authority. Lithgow's play was banned by the BBC. Another punishment that was a by-product of being banned was considerable loss of income. He has made several television appearances recently.

George Lithgow was irresistible; he enjoys chat for its own sake. He was a man who lived for pleasure. We shared a common language. Flattered as I was by his attention, I somehow knew that he wasn't the man for me. We teased him because all he cared about was birds. At eighteen he had been captivated by a charming brunette named Sybil. She was the girl from the sweet shop. She adored and idolised him, but it was stupid, cardboard love. He had forced her to submit to his carnal desires. There have even been closer intimacies between them. That happened rather more years ago than I care to remember.

He had had an illicit association with Charlotte Castle, a messy clandestine love affair. She behaved in a libidinous way with men. She always met him in his apartment uptown. Charlotte's family were descended from three French Huguenot brothers. He had been having intimate relations with her quite unknown to his wife. He couldn't explain his attraction to her. ‘I went to her house in Henley: it was unbelievable...’

‘Her behaviour always brings out the beast in you, doesn't it?’

He pulled up a kitchen chair and sat down on it. ‘I'm only flesh and blood!’

Eyebrows were raised at their behaviour. He lacked the courage and the clear-sightedness to sever the relationship.

I'm not sure I understand what's going on. It was all coming back to him. Tacit understandings had been reached. The threat is a real one. They wanted to put an end to the rumours, which were rampant. Family tensions are increasing: the relationship between husband and wife, the abnormally chill relations between Charlotte and her daughter, Miss Lenaut, that incarnation of feminine beauty. She worked out in a ballet class three hours a week. Let me try and explain: Bérénice is Richard's daughter, the woman who was cited in his divorce action. She was the most extraordinary person I had ever laid eyes on. He fell for her the moment he set eyes on her, an intense and devouring flame of passion; however, he smothered, as best he was able, these feelings. He will want to protect, please and idolize her, pretending that nothing unusual has happened. She took great pains to conceal this from her parents. She regarded their relationship as more naughty than perverted.

I knew nothing about Bérénice except what I'd heard at second hand. George had become Bérénice's adoring shadow. He said nothing of her attractiveness or otherwise. It hadn't occurred to him that Bérénice might worm her way so deep into his life. When he heard her name his heart would quicken. She seemed to be watching him, judging him. Once out of high school, she started singing in night clubs. She revealed her feelings in impetuous displays of spending and gambling. Officially she shares a flat with some girlfriend. He knew the truth of her manoeuvres but he was too chivalrous to mention it. When Charlotte returned to work, the friction between them increased.

I am now going to evening classes once a week. Miss Lenaut sounded as though she had run all the way from the station. She tried to stir up mischief among the other pupils. There are only seven people left in the group—five dropped out last month. No one, as far as I could judge, was paying any attention to the lesson. He used to draw funny pictures of everybody during lessons; Miss Lenaut's face took shape under his pen. She put lipstick on before every class. When all the other students had quit the room, he walked up to Miss Lenaut's desk.

‘You are French, is that right?’

There was fury in Miss Lenaut's dark eyes. She dropped two empty Coca-Cola bottles into a wastebasket.

He struggled to maintain his tenuous hold on her. This sense of isolation and estrangement was easy enough to understand. When the relationship ended two months ago he said he wanted to die. I'd rarely seen a man look so unhappy. She had done it for the sake of peace in the family.

In every other way this man is a practical and rational being. He's very apt at making toys for the children. He hit on the idea of cutting a hole in the door to allow the cat to get in and out.

We sat in a bright, sunlit room. We were playing jazz records, a jazzed-up version of one of the Brandenburg Concertos, a very gay record, fast and with a lot of rhythm. He trotted around the room, showing an interest in everything. When he saw the bourbon, his eyes lit up.

‘Do you like a beer?’

‘I like anything alcoholic.’

The brandy market began just at this time to change over to whisky. The whisky erased any uneasiness and soon we were chatting as old friends. We put on a record called ‘Laughing gas’. Quite coincidentally, this happened to be my favourite song, too. He seemed the apotheosis of generosity; these meetings with him always afforded me much pleasure. We talked for hours and hours. Subjects like death and even loneliness regularly got an airing. We fell into fits of hysteria at each other’s antics. I enjoyed it all.

He was involved in a particularly seamy divorce case. Some men chase other men's wives. George came home and found his wife in bed with his best friend.

I find myself in agreement with George...I don't know him all that well, actually. His conversation was astringent and stimulating. He really tore into me about my work. He argued that literature has no relation to reality: ‘We have little evidence about how the brain functions in cognition.’

‘I don't understand abstract art. Nobody can understand James Joyce.’

‘Ah yes, but that's the beauty of him you know.’

His successful pamphlet, Protest and Survive, is above intellectual reproach. The book is quite an eye-opener.

‘This book is about the uses and abuses of power. Could it be true, after all, that money does not bring happiness?—Is there an ashtray anywhere?’

He was wearing a light blue shirt. The shirt gapes to reveal his chest.

‘There is an ashtray somewhere. Would you agree that it is still a difficult world for women to live in?’

‘Oh certainly. That's just not the issue. You have too many ideas in your head already.’

He walked over and took a cigarette from the box on the table. ‘It's time to get down to the serious business of the meeting...make a few minor changes and cuts in the play.’

‘Was it a good play?’

‘Well, I wouldn't call it awful, but it wasn't very well written. There is a strong narcissistic element in your work. There is a series of political flaws at the centre of the play which make it less convincing as a whole.’

Lithgow jotted down a few particulars in his notebook.

‘Advertising tends to portray women in a very traditional role. Do you think this idea comes across in the play?’

‘Not only are you funny, but you're actually witty as well... a potentially good scene that needs the blue pencil and a rewrite. Something which is still absent in your work is any reference to class. This is the one big reservation I've got about the book. Do you accept this argument?’

‘Certainly, yes, I think that this is one of the major problems.—You haven't done a thing except bitch ever since we got here. When do you award 10 out of 10 for a piece of work?’

‘Give yourself the mark you think you deserve. Does this sound cutting? It's not meant to be. Don't expect too much. You'll only be disappointed.’

George put the book away. ‘Let's get down to basics. Time reduces all such works to nothingness. I guarantee I could read that script blindfold, I've been through it so many times.’

It is his boast that on one such occasion he read Paradise Lost in a single evening. There was a particular passage which always stirred him profoundly.

‘I don't believe you are a quitter. What is your basic aim in life? You need to keep the story moving at a brisk pace—you'll have to cut it down to the bare bones. Why do you lard your conversation with bits of slang? We need something to keep the story from being too saccharine.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, flashing him an appreciative smile. ‘I realize how awfully competitive I am. I'm in the middle of writing an essay, actually.’

‘Why should we put such an emphasis on individualism and competitiveness? A woman is said to be less competitive, more dependant on the approval of others. Mind if I open the window? I'm boiling.’

He was planning a book on Jane Austen which would work through the whole canon, one novel at a time. His work was still far from completion. As an essayist he is compared frequently to Paine and Hazlitt. ‘I have no time right now to discuss your problems. If you need any help, just give me a ring.’

‘Whatever it is you produce next, we shall look forward to reading it.’

He would hold a grudge for years. John had been dour when they last met. ‘I have never been able to get on with John. We were fated to dislike one another.’ He wrinkled his nose, as if detecting a foul smell. ‘He's a real bum of an artist. I must come over and see you when he's away.’

‘He's been faffing about all morning. He wants to talk about the row you had in 1975.’

‘But that's all such ancient history now. It doesn't mean anything to me.’

‘He hates you too, George.’

‘Me? Why me?’

‘He may have some kind of animus against you. He babbled on and on about old enemies. Perhaps it was a combination of all these reasons. There might be a chance to settle old scores—he's absolutely right.’

‘Oh, come off it. He doesn't know what he's talking about. I don't like it here. Let's go somewhere else.’

‘I don't care what we do or where we go.’

‘I've got the key in case we want to go inside.’

The new shopping centre has helped to civilize that part of town. There were long queues at all the bus stops. We turned between two big gateposts into what looked like an extensive park.

A park is a civilizing influence. It was a big park, and the municipality did not have enough money to keep it tidy. Two old men were sitting on a park bench and talking. Cigarette butts and beer cans were strewn everywhere. There are so many people sleeping out... these loafers, these worthless nothings, who sit here chattering like old fishwives. We were menaced by drunks; this is a very sad comment on what is happening to our cities. George pulled out a bottle of wine and a corkscrew from his bag. ‘Just tell him how you feel.’

I could not deny the truth in his statement—a means of breaking his hold over me. ‘Ha! Easier said than done. You don't think he's playing around, do you?’

‘He always did prefer redheads. I hope this won't be taken as a male chauvinist remark. What an enormous relief you will feel for having made the break at last.’

I could not fathom the meaning of his remarks. Nice people always confound me. We invented a code of telephone rings. But let's start at the beginning.

Go to Part 2 of Secret Ballet

Last update: 16 October 2008 | Impressum—Imprint