Synopsis of The Diary of a Curious Man by Patrick Black:
It is impossible to write a synopsis of this book in terms of plot and themes. This is because it is a diary in form and, although cohesive, it has a myriad of themes. It is written over a period of twenty-six years and is set in six countries principally:
It is a story, though not a novel in the conventional sense of the word. The work is music-like in structure, with motifs reappearing both overtly and subtly. It is a work of philosophy, psychology, literary and art criticism, political and social commentary, and much more.
The book is humourous too, and because all diarists take themselves somewhat seriously, some of the humour is not Patrick Black's intention.
Edited with a Foreword by Leo de Freyne.
The book is approx 79,500 words, 218 pages.
Having read the first part,
The Diary of a Curious Man by Patrick Black, edited with a Foreword by Leo de Freyne, can be purchased via this link:
It can also be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders.
What follows is the Foreword by Leo de Freyne and Part 1 (Ireland):
When the painter Patrick Black was killed in a car accident in October 2005 at the age of fifty-three, he was on the verge of receiving the recognition which he felt his art deserved. It is not my intention to comment upon his ability as a painter, nor enter into the details of his life which he himself recounts in his diary, but there is one point on which I feel I should come clean.
During the last year of his life he began to edit the many volumes of his diary into what he hoped would be, as he says in his entry for 18 Nov 2004, "a publishable manuscript". The first title he chose for the manuscript was The Diary of a Curious Man (see 19 May 2005). However, he soon realised that he was faced with a fundamental problem regarding the manner in which he could bring his manuscript to the marketplace. He writes:
16 June 2005. Peace with M this morning. She realises that life must go on. But Ive decided to change the title of the manuscript, to bring it closer to fiction. Besides, I think you can only publish a diary if the author is alive and famous (and thus the public are already interested) or if the author (famous or not) is dead and has become part of history. Im going to call it The Diary of Joseph Renks (or some such name) and present it with a foreword by me purporting that Joseph Renks is dead. (Maybe I should sign the foreword with a pseudonym also.)
The Diary of Joseph Renks was rejected by a publisher in July 2005 and by a literary agency in September 2005. At the time of his death, he was revising the manuscript and adding a seventh section. No trace of the foreword he speaks of remains, so it is with a strange sense of destiny I find myself writing this. How he proposed to conclude The Diary of Joseph Renks, well never know. With somewhat chilling irony, he does refer in one entry (19 Oct 1994) to a diary being a novel that ends with the death of its author.
When his widow courageously showed me the manuscript, it seemed to me that the diary now conformed to its authors comments above and that it was no longer necessary to add the layer of disguise which he describes. Thus, I am certain and his widow agrees that he would approve of my changing the name Joseph back to Patrick throughout, and of my presenting it to the public under its original title.
My only other alterations have been to occasionally add an italicised parenthesis at the beginning of an entry which clarifies the place to which he is referring, and to correct very rare spelling errors.
Leo de Freyne,
19 July 1979. We are all hypnotised and hypnotising.
20 July 1981. Now is not now, nor now now.
13 Feb 1982. Silence aspires to speech, speech aspires to poetry, poetry aspires to music, music aspires to silence.
16 Feb 1982. The Universe began or it didnt, and will expand forever or it wont, itll contract and disappear into a hole, a hole in nothing, or it wont.
15 March 1982. It takes a long time to write something short.
2 April 1982. To think oneself a failure is as vain as to think oneself a success.
13 May 1983. (
24 May 1983. (
26 May 1983. She, she struggles, she struggles in, she struggles in his, she struggles in his arms. How long may he hold her without breaking the law? Arms, his arms, in his arms, struggles in his arms, she struggles in his arms. Does she want to struggle free? Or does she like the struggle? This may not be a dramatic performance. He tries to kiss, she turns her head away she pulls back, he clasps her to him, they stand motionless. Through the open window comes the sound of shouting birds. Though he begs, promises anything, she says its no good. He tries to cry but begins to smile, crying is so hackneyed. Like her, like everyone, he finds it difficult to feel on cue. Next, the coldness of fear comes over him because she may be serious, is this serious? Will she really leave? And never return? Once again, they endeavour to find out. First, she says shell stay to finish her drink. She drinks. He drinks. The sky pinks. Then she says shell stay for a last evening. It is a summers evening. The park will be open light. They go to the park. She wont hold his hand. They see the rhododendrons have bloomed. They see the ducklings have grown. They swing on childrens swings. At times they chatter matter-of-factly. One says: look at the colour of those leaves. One says: look at the curled up tail feathers on that duck. He is touched by her stories of when she was young, seventeen, with her first love in this very same park, sitting with her cat while he played football with the boys.
Exhausted, we sleep.
12 June 1983. I hear on the radio that starfish can grow replacement legs if they lose them, and a starfish can grow from a living leg.
15 June 1983. Saw a young white-headed blackbird with an older white-headed blackbird in St Stephens Green while on way to collect the dole at the Labour Exchange (someone was shot dead outside the Labour Exchange yesterday).
19 June 1983. Ms asleep abed. Twilight. A candle burns on the table near where I sit. I belch not forcefully. I consider relighting my cigar which rests on an ashtray. I feel fairly good, my mouth feels good. My mouth feels creamy. I may pour more cider into my glass, relight my cigar, but which one first, which one second? I am looking at her and she wakes up and says she dreamt she was on a bus and wanted to have a bath and the driver sank the bus in mud.
Youre still wearing your tee-shirt, I say.
She sits up and peels off her tee-shirt.
Breasts, I say.
She goes back to sleep. The glass of cider I poured for her is going flat. The candle burns. Im finishing a cigarette. The cigar awaits. It grows darker. It is on the night side of twilight. I start to sip my cider and then drink it deeply. I sit slouched in my chair, my belly supported by the rest of my body. Starving children eat mice in
21 June 1983. One hand comforts the other.
28 June 1983. Can love itself be remembered or will there be only the knowledge that there was love?
3 July 1983. Whats the worst thing that can happen? You die. Whats the best thing that can happen? You die.
12 July 1983. During the night, M said in her sleep:
Tell the fairies to bring an ironing-board.
Tell the fairies to bring an ironing-board.
Ive never heard her speak of fairies before, asleep or awake. Nor have I spoken of them. We are serious people, not schmaltzy people. The strangest aspect was that her eyes were open while she spoke, then she closed her eyes and continued to be asleep.
12 August 1983. Deer move among shadows between trees among trees between deer among shadows.
10 Sept 1983. H.P. Lovecraft said that the minds most merciful attribute is that it cannot correlate all its information.
22 Sept 1983. Its easy to be honest, very difficult to be truthful. Or is it the other way around?
13 Oct 1983. No one gets the last laugh.
15 Oct 1983. Often the opinion one is most adamant about is the opinion one is closest to changing. Im not the first to say that.
24 Oct 1983. The waiter brings the orders to the table in the restaurant:
Snots on Toast?
And the Scabs.
19 Nov 1983. A room full of faceful strangers.
26 Nov 1983. The dark has got the upper hand, the day cant lift a finger.
1 Dec 1983. The once-black shoe covered in green moss among the fallen oak leaves.
18 Dec 1983. Imaginative people should get a disability allowance.
18 Dec 1983. What every good artist needs is a good businessman.
13 Jan 1984. As the daffodils wither, accordingly my finished watercolours of them improve.
4 Feb 1984. A briskly striding man becomes a running man to catch the sheet of paper sailing on the breeze, circumvents lumpish woman waddling in the same direction, swerves to catch it eludes his outstretched fingers it smashes to the ground, scurs along the ground, he persists, puts his foot down fails down succeeds, keeps his foot down, there, enjoys his victory before reaching, grasps, has the sheet of paper in his hand, briskly striding back, he nods and laughs while re-circumventing lumpish woman, she nods and laughs, hes coming towards me, hes getting bigger, shes getting smaller, he holds out the sheet of paper, I take it.
Thank you, thank you very much. Thats my voice.
No trouble, a pleasure, he replies. Thats him circumventing the lumpish woman (makes thrice). Theyll both be soon out of sight.
I hold the sheet of paper in my hand, its blank.
11 April 1984. Writers are usually alone (after the event) when they write, therefore they are less inclined to write of joy or enthusiasm, which are more transitory than pain.
23 May 1984. M has had another letter from HW, this time from
1 July 1984. Calary,
1 Sept 1984. I heard the clock stop ticking in the lightless darkness, it was the only sound.
5 Sept 1984. There are two women in red. The first woman in reds fighting aloud with her man at the end of the room: Go on, embarrass yourself, he says. The second woman in reds talking about Shakespeare. Shes sitting on a stool at the bar, shes not middle-class, shes thin, shes angular, shes plump in the right places, shes beautiful, she said: I love Shakespeare and things like that. This second woman in reds talking to an old man. You are a young man behind the old mans shoulder. You are not with the fighting-aloud woman at the end of the room nor with Her Redness at the bar, you are with another woman (sans red) whos sitting at a table waiting for you to return with the drink. There are other women in the pub, and men, and a screen showing moving-pictures you can glance at the hero jumps from the burning ship while waiting for the pint of stout and the glass of stout to finish being pulled.
13 Sept 1984. Wasp and dragonfly locked together rolling on pavement beside the
30 Sept 1984. Last night, M and I discussed the idea of me moving up to live in Calary fulltime in March, when she goes to
1 Nov 1984. What is the name of that insect legging along the wall? Hair-like legs waving, checking the terrain like a seven-caned blind-man.
28 Nov 1984. A philosopher who hasnt studied astronomy (and doesnt continue to do so) is like a doctor practicing medicine without knowledge of anatomy.
29 Nov 1984. Calary. Cattle sheltering under trees beside Ms cottage, a glistening eye in the light from the kitchen-window.
29 Nov 1984. Again my attention fixes on the vegetable marrow, its self-completeness. Length of a small thigh, width of a knee. Yellow ochre stripes across deep green. For stuffing, cooking, eating the day after tomorrow. I sit by the stove, meaning to think, while this odalisque reclines on the red table.
8 Dec 1984. Good morning good morning I suppose it must be afternoon by now it is its after a quarter past one it was a lovely morning wasnt it it was.
14 Dec 1984. Artists want to be products?
19 Dec 1984. Dog doing dung on road stops traffic, dogs posture silhouetted by car head-lights.
3 Jan 1985. Calary. The frost is like snow and the sheep are moonlit and the constellation Leo is standing on its tail. A golden-headed insect is journeying across the table and the cats fur is warm as she gently places her head under my chin.
5 Jan 1985. Its funny being the living, isnt it?
17 Jan 1985. Speaking of luck, I was passing a trash-can yesterday when I noticed a book sticking out of it this book was Lady Chatterleys Lover by D.H. Lawrence. I was thinking the other day that I didnt have a copy.
29 Jan 1985. Theres always time for suicide, even half an hour before you die.
3 Feb 1985. On Ravels Bolero:
M: I wouldnt like it to be any longer.
Me: Would you like it to be any shorter?
15 March 1985. Today I burnt an old violin.
5 April 1985. Well, she hasnt left me for a new lover, but for an old lover. My ego remains intact.
6 April 1985. I wont throw the woodlouse into the stove, its ancient legs wriggling, Ill throw it out the door, to the moon.
30 May 1985. He would be in a field contemplating sheep. He would be at a window contemplating sheep. Sheep through the rain. Sheep through the mist. Moonlit sheep (sheep almost asleep). Shorn sheep. Dead sheep. Sheep with lambs, sheep without lambs. Ewes with rams, ewes without rams. His was a cottage surrounded by fields, fields full of sheep. He didnt like to think about his past much. He didnt like to think about his future much either. Best of all, he liked contemplating sheep. One day his girlfriend returned from
31 May 1985. Nothing could be further from the truth: The age of the individual has passed.
9 June 1985. I can play a musical instrument. I can play my hands. Im very good at applauding. Few people can applaud properly. Each of my claps is sharp and resonates. I seldom play, the opportunity rarely arises.
22 June 1985. Snail sailing on window-pane, watched from below surface.
29 June 1985. I am a black and white cat. My name is Tazzy. I sit on a doorstep, on a mat. If you think about me too hard Ill go away. My ears swivel, my eyes are greyey. My nose is alive. There is a man sitting beside me. He writes my thoughts down for me. He writes in his way because cats do not use words. Indeed, he does not really believe that it is I who tell him what to write. The night is young.
7 July 1985. Cats catching moths like people at parties taking enticing titbits from small trays proffered by smiling strangers.
11 July 1985. Some amusing things happen between life and death, such as the bullock with forelegs over the fence and hindlegs not over the fence, unable to go one way or the other, but feeling calm and reaching up to eat from a tree like a giraffe.
14 July 1985. If a language is lost, its poetry is lost. Hence the struggles of the peoples of The Earth.
21 July 1985. The Great Nebula can be seen with the unaided eye.
27 July 1985. Maybe I should stop talking about the weather and talk, instead, of Stalins
24 August 1985. I rolled over a large rock, discovered a big fat frog and a small fat frog, they sitting there, and now fleeing, squealing, squeaking, like discovered lovers, illicit lovers clutching bedclothes to their breasts, jumping, fleeing in opposite directions Sorry, sorry, I thought.
19 Sept 1985. Sometimes when it rains the colours of the rainbow are swept across the green or stubbly fields by the wind.
23 Sept 1985. Sheep kicks over sheeps skull, stumbles, runs. The grass is blue, the cold air opens, last or first drops of rain. My face not wearing any clothes. Westerners have big noses compared with the Chinese.
28 Sept 1985. Night walk through fields on ridge opposite front door. Full moon, honey-pale as in Yeatss poem. Windless night, feet scrunching the moonlit barley-stubble. Me and my moon-shadow.
29 Sept 1985. The first half of ones life is spent saying hello (hello star, hello cloud, hello cow), and the second half saying goodbye (goodbye child, goodbye mountain, goodbye star).
17 Oct 1985. The dirty dishes beside the sink. Who else is here? I think. Bunch of jammy knives, a tally of hours. And the way those mugs are parked, as if I am being gently ragged by an invisible alter ego.
19 Oct 1985. Obeying is a close relative of trusting. Many Jews trusted it is said their escorts on the trains.
19 Oct 1985. All things in moderation they say. Does all things include moderation?
23 Oct 1985. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard wasnt written in a country churchyard.
11 Nov 1985. Ive moved binoculars over the constellation Taurus, so, unless Im mistaken, Ive seen Halleys Comet, though as yet I cant distinguish which dot, blot, blob or smudge it is. It is said to be 200 million miles distant. Aldebaran and the Pleiades much more interesting. The value of Halleys Comet is that it spurs one to look more.
23 Nov 1985. Once a picture is framed, its finished. If it isnt sold, that makes no difference, it exists where it is, a finished product. But something written needs to be published for it to be finished, for it to be a product, for it to have a chance to survive.
5 Dec 1985. Is M hinting, in her latest letter from
6 Jan 1986. Its lovely to put my feet into a basin of hot ouch water auw, its a treat to put my feet and sit with the hot water softening hard skin for a while beside the stove, finger-nailing skin off after using the nailbrush and soap, applying the pumice stone, gathering the foot into a towel like a new-born baby, drying carefully not forgetting between the toes and shaking hands with my toes and rubbing in peppermint lotion.
11 Jan 1986. I like to maintain a balance between cynicism and sentimentalism. Do you now, Patrick?
23 Jan 1986. The neighbours dog, Honey, whined outside the door. I opened the half-door, it was cold outside, the sky was black-blue. Sirius was twinkling red, blue. Honey had come to say hello. Or now that I think about it, she probably couldnt get into her own cottage and wanted to come into the warmth. She wagged her tail and was a dog. Her eyes were black, reflecting back the light behind me as I leaned over the half-door. I spoke to Honey and she listened and wagged and waggled. I spoke a long time, knowing I was letting the cold in, but being as polite as she was. And then I said goodnight and I closed the door and I turned around and I told the cat that Honey came to visit us and the cat stopped washing herself and the cat started washing herself.
9 Feb 1986. One is composed of different characters, each of which is trying to conquer the others.
6 March 1986. We can only know our dying. Other people know our death.
18 March 1986. The first row since Ms return from
2 April 1986. Stones are always falling down, they dont care what happens to them, their hearts are protected by stone. Throw, shift, roll them anywhere anywhere, they are at home.
23 April 1986. (Co Wicklow.) Bray. We walked along the promenade. Sunshine, glittering sea. In a cove at the base of Bray Head people could have come along at any minute, canoeists could have passed she sat on my lap, put me into her and she moved and she rocked Gasps of pleasure and laughter.
27 April 1986. We both agree that well be too much together in this small cottage, that we both need to be alone a lot. The neighbours are moving from the other cottage beside this one, so maybe I could rent it.
21 May 1986. Perhaps an aphorism: Woman seeks a man who is different from all other men, man seeks a woman who has the qualities of all women.
17 Nov 1986. I now hope to continue this diary. J and L, the neighbours, moved out around mid-September. KR, the landlord, is now renting it to me. For the past two months, Ive been working hard on the cottage, which is next door to M. So here we are in separate cottages, side by side, and the nearest neighbour half a mile away. I suppose were very lucky really.
1 Dec 1986. The worm wriggling out of the burning log.
26 Dec 1986. I let the fire find its way out. A last, glowing finger bids me follow.
12 Jan 1987. In the afternoon, the Social Insurance Officer arrived, as announced by letter. A girl. Went well. Over quickly. The usual questions, the usual lies. Hope theres no problem about the dole. Id hidden my new bread-toaster and the fermenting wine. Absurd. She breezed in and out without looking around. A blond, a small yellow car.
12 Jan 1987. Wonder of the gold sun behind a snow-shower.
26 Jan 1987. Another reason the past hurts is because we can now see that the future need not have been feared.
10 Feb 1987. This is my empire of firewood. I am Alexander the Grate.
1 March 1987. Woke in JPMs, very hungover. Had breakfast then puked it into the lavatory bowl. While on all fours over bowl, waiting to throw up more, I think Is this what I polished my shoes for? Is this what I washed my hair for?
2 March 1987. After singing, the skylark drops like a stone. Plummets to the nest. It is then easiest to sight (as it falls).
7 March 1987. Such hypocrisy! It is perfectly normal to pollute the rivers and seas, drive other animals to extinction, etc, but do not interfere with the precious human foetus!
21 April 1987. The sheep graze among sheep-bones.
5 May 1987. As in the evening of a day we look forward to the next day, so, naturally, people look forward to a next life, especially when they become elderly.
10 May 1987. What colour is the yellow, orange, gamboge, golden gorse?
16 May 1987. Save the silence.
9 June 1987. This evening is one of those miserable evenings of childhood, a grey evening like scum on top of a grey day, a thrush repeating absently. A lamb sounds the same as on a sunny evening but I think of death instead of something vague.
8 July 1987. The bus approaching, the sun came out and shone through the broom-pods, I could see the seeds inside like the passengers. A moment gone.
28 July 1987. I fit my life into the glove of another day.
1 August 1987.
16 Sept 1987. That is the planet Jupiter, not a raindrop on the black window.
21 Sept 1987. The undulating road straightens in memory.
25 Oct 1987. You know its winter when you point out a daisy to your companion.
31 Oct 1987. I looked through a slit in the shed door and the turkeys came to the door. They filled my eyes with the dancing black dots of their eyes.
3 Nov 1987. You are taking clothes in from the clothes-line, the orange sun beside your hand, your hand hopping along like a bird removing the clothes-pegs. I look again and you are gone and the line is bare and there is no sun.
11 Nov 1987. Supposing a terrorist came and took my love away and people went on shopping and the sports-results were on the radio and when I looked into the policemans eye it was merely an eye.
23 Nov 1987. This bowl of cherries will be turned into stalks and stones, so eat them quickly.
23 Nov 1987. The little birds skip, skip in the clear, early air.
23 Nov 1987. Often its lunchtime before I become involved in the
29 Nov 1987. Ms shadow passes my cottage, dragging its slave behind it.
30 Dec 1987. M tells me that her mother remarked Arent there terrible things happening in Utopia? She meant
5 Jan 1988. Colours are beautiful because each one supplies what the others lack.
13 Jan 1988. M said the other night that I could describe myself as a non-practicing psychopath.
17 Jan 1988. Passing the house of the piano-teacher I had twenty-five years ago, I look in the window. She is looking out, the piano still in the same place behind her.
26 Jan 1988. Childhood. Football in the waiting-room after the patients have gone, half-time. Tell your mother Ill come to see her as soon as she signs The Deed of Separation.
31 Jan 1988. We were having our lunch of rye bread and interesting cheeses (Danish blue, Ballintubber, Stilton, Swiss Emmanthal, Milleens, Burren Gold, Cream cheese with chives, Dutch Gouda; weve finished the Gorgonzola and Campanzola we had last week) when we heard gunshots and dead and dying crows fell out of the sky close to the two cottages. We went out and met the yuppie gunman with cocker spaniel and child. M, upset, asked him not to shoot as it is disturbing and he acquiesced. I walked up to him and stared at him questioningly, but said nothing.
1 Feb 1988. I will not be taken over by conviction or lack of conviction.
1 Feb 1988. Less light, a bird whistles and the sheep round up at the sound.
1 Feb 1988. The recognition of beauty causes release from ego.
1 Feb 1988. People who wear peaked caps are usually stupid people, they point into the future as if there was no past: that is, they have nothing behind them. And what about people who wear peaked caps back to front? asks my critical reader. Ill get back to you on that.
10 Feb 1988. A poem springs from a feeling, but is composed by aesthetic judgement. Many would-be poets have the former but are not capable of the latter and vice versa.
14 Feb 1988. We gathered a huge log from the ridge, a weeks supply of firewood, carried it home in the wet, like poachers with an elephants tusk.
21 Feb 1988. I am far away, in a corner, in a very corner, far, far away, in a cottage with an impermanent roof and an inexhaustible supply of woodlice.
2 March 1988. I have no drink. You have drink in your cottage but will give me none. Your black cat, Teazzy, is in my house warming itself by my fire, but you are sitting by a black hearth, too miserable to move, with your coat and scarf on ever since we arrived home and had a row about
15 March 1988. It is raining less and less, less and less and less, less and less and less and less, less and less and less and less and less
18 March 1988. When you see a hearse, you glance in the back.
19 March 1988. This is a good corner, this is a genuine corner. There are two kinds of corners: corners you go around and corners you are in; this is the latter.
21 March 1988. Marvellous colours, yellow red green stars on a gate, flashing. Surely Ive seen before the extraordinary colours of raindrops, more marvellous than stars, when the sun shines after a shower, its worth waiting for. Even if I cant paint or write, this is better than painting or writing, sitting here, all those beautiful jewels hanging winking on the gate. Release from ego brings peace.
27 March 1988. The best moment is when the tips of snowdrop-shoots are discovered under the dead leaves.
3 April 1988. The way tears run into ones ears and go cold.
6 April 1988. The long, cruel evenings have begun, the lonely light is on the increase. I will soon be lighting no more fires.
10 April 1988. Ms head grown into her palm, no line between cheek and palm, the eyes reflecting the fire.
17 April 1988. Imagine Franz Kafka arriving at the office, lifting his hat and impaling it on a wooden protrusion, pushing back his shoulders so as to doff more easily his coat, like an insect its cocoon, and hanging the coat under the hat so that coat and hat recall a hanged man; then turning around and speaking to his colleagues about the weather, or about some frightfully important piece of that days business.
19 April 1988. There is something more terrible than the fact that death is final and there is no afterlife, it is the fact that each of us is alone.
23 April 1988. A sheep in a trailer at the side of the road, a mud-caked coat, its bloody hole like a stump. Two tanned men restrain two barking Wicklow collies as I go cycling past, quite quick, quite quick. The other ewes have lambs and they look well. New bungalows are springing up everywhere.
7 May 1988. Childhood. Am under the bedclothes, reading an adventure. Can hear my sister in the sun-room, teaching her little dog tricks. A fading torch illuminates my cave. The bulb becomes my eye. Though I shake it, it brightens less and less.
7 May 1988. The cuckoo is not lazy. The reason it behaves as it does is because it has such a short stay here. Only three months.
13 May 1988. Then the bluebottle enters like a genius Ill have to live with.
16 May 1988. Earlier in the afternoon, I sat on a gate opposite the church and graveyard. The lane empty of cars and people, the lane butterfly- and bee-ful. Cloudless blue sky, bright gorse blossom. When JL and his wife and child move into their new bungalow beside the church, such an opportunity will not return. The lane at peace, shadow-dappled. Like the sort of scene one reads of, a time before The
29 May 1988. We lay in bed recalling our holiday. What we had for breakfasts, where we peed.
30 May 1988. Each time I draw the brush down through your hair, I hear the sea discovering the shore.
6 June 1988. Its very sad, M said, with her mouth turned down like a hump-back bridge, and the tears running down the sides of her nose, a grey statue among the gravestones.
7 June 1988. A rabbit running down the lane, along the track grooved by a tractor-wheel, the grass green and fresh and wet, and I think it was a blackbird pausing and singing, and the rabbit disappearing, disappearing.
7 June 1988. When I stop munching popcorn and look at the window where the trees are stirring silently and the leaves are fluttering like caught birds, then I start shovelling popcorn into my mouth again.
15 June 1988. A strange mist-haze passing over at 9.55 a.m., cold and dank. Overnight dew in form of steam?
17 June 1988. I hear on the radio that Charles Ives was an innovator in the insurance business as well as in music. I also heard Peter Brook saying that the longer he lives he realises more and more that he is living for moments.
21 June 1988. It was an enjoyable bicycle-ride, especially through hollows overhung with trees. One feels the presence of an eyeless life.
21 June 1988. Do not speak the truth, keep your mouth closed, learn to look them in the eye as you tell lies.
24 June 1988. (
26 June 1988. Chopped back hogweed heavy with silver rain.
29 June 1988. When M came home from
29 June 1988. Two snails pairing on a rock. Two snails parting on a rock.
30 June 1988. While in
5 July 1988. I pass a picture on the ground, I stop, turn my bike around, a Picasso, a black and white newspaper photo, Still Life with Mandolin, beside it the headline Hijackers Kill Second Hostage At Larnaca Airport. Dated April 12.
8 July 1988. Whatever happens, it doesnt matter.
8 July 1988. A lot of the art one makes seems as rehearsal, as practice for the true art which comes from inspiration. So it is of value to constantly work, even though most of that which is produced contains false notes and is later destroyed.
12 July 1988. Lit fire in evening to dry my two pairs of trousers, my city pair and my everyday pair. The rich have three pairs of trousers.
17 July 1988. Juvenile blue tits taking the seeds from the hogweed outside the kitchen-window. Us statues.
19 July 1988. New, crescent moon, the colour of woodlouse eggs.
24 July 1988. Everything is beyond us, including ourselves.
10 August 1988. Someones handwriting catches your eye, of an evening, early August, dark-blue ink I have half a plan to come over in mid-July.
14 August 1988. M has seldom expressed sorrow at her infertility, but tonight, for some or no reason, she became melancholic about it. I once passed something that was more than a period. I remember. Dearest, I love you. I managed to say Have I ever deserted you? (I could be infertile too.)
5 Sept 1988. Teazzy died. There are no short-cuts to making a grave big enough.
9 Sept 1988. The robin jangling its keys.
13 Sept 1988. You must come to
17 Sept 1988. Began digging to plant spring cabbage. Sounds grand, but Im an absurdist gardener really. No compost, no artificial fertiliser. Former because I have none, latter on principle. Im using the sods to assist the burial of the last tenants abandoned Renault.
18 Sept 1988. Tazzy was pleased and purred and yes smiled. Cats smiles are very subtle, one has to know the face well. Their smiles are rare and so brief that one suspects one imagined it.
24 Sept 1988. This afternoon we watched with anger and beating hearts three gunmen shooting snipe in the marsh, a woman with them. They had dogs to flush the birds. One cannot go down and protest or ask them to leave as there is no reason to believe one would not be shot.
25 Sept 1988. There was a full moon and light rain and wind, so we were lucky enough to see a moonbow. I called M from her bed and we walked up the lane a bit, the moon behind us like a light switching on and off because of the clouds, our shadows one shadow, and there before us was the moonbow, a rainbow at night, faintly bright. This is but the third occasion Ive seen one, and it was her first.
1 Oct 1988. When I stay in Ms cottage, I sleep in the back room, in a sleeping-bag on the foam mattress. Her almost-finished black and white patchwork-quilt on top. Weve found its better for me to sleep in the back-room because her bed, though double, is smaller than the bed in my cottage, and because Tazzy the cat likes a lot of room on top. Im just behind the wall and we talk. Theres a hot radiator beside me and a piano at my back. Im low on the ground, so my voice reverberates on the piano-strings.
11 Oct 1988. I dreamt you were mentally-retarded and followed me around until you ran wailing after my bicycle as it went on its own down a hill.
14 Oct 1988. I came upon a hair lying in an apparently-perfect circle.
22 Oct 1988. Think of your name on a gravestone in the rain.
31 Oct 1988. As I was watching the sunset, a hawk swooped low towards me, I think it mistook me for a post. Realising its mistake, it swerved and flew on.
18 Nov 1988. Lying in bed. Listen to the clock.
Whats it saying?
Its counting, is it?
Your eyelids flickering.
20 Nov 1988. This morning I saw a hare and a passing kestrel in the same glance.
20 Nov 1988. Stream, stream, where are you going?
All the time in the world I have
To have no time to tell you.
3 Dec 1988. Come and look at the newly-dug grave, dont be afraid. The shock wears off after a moment, the understanding wears off after a moment. The grave had to be dug, its a job that couldnt wait for the rain to stop.
4 Dec 1988. A dream. You and I see you in a mirror in a chateau we discover at the bottom of a wooded valley, your reflection dressed as you are dressed but your reflections gestures not corresponding with your gestures. I dont know where weve come from to explore this abandoned edifice (a monogrammed napkin crumpled on a plate, a view of an overgrown garden) and then I realise its not a mirror, its a glass door.
27 Dec 1988. When I got up for a pee in the middle of the night, I crossed stepping-stones of moonlight.
4 Jan 1989. Publishers, critics, the public want what are called page-turners. A quality which used to be associated with trashier novels now dominates all levels of the novel. Strong narrative drive is number one. Without it, a novel wont sell or win prizes. But are page-turners read twice or thrice? The shortcoming of a page-turner is that when the reader reaches the last page, there are no more pages to turn. The emphasis is on diversion rather than thought. This period in literary history may be suffering from an understandable reaction to Modernism, whose writers asked the reader to work too. I can only say that the novel which I have read more times than any other, and which I am drawn back to reading again is Virginia Woolfs To the Lighthouse.
6 Jan 1989. I saw the sea before I thought I cannot see the sea because I think I see.
7 Jan 1989. Sometimes I dread writing in this diary, its like digging up something dead.
13 Jan 1989. A woman who cannot have a child is like a child without love?
I am a man who cannot tell you what it is like to be a woman who cannot have a child.
18 Jan 1989. Waiting for M in lane, for the evening bus. The stars very clear. Then I see the lights of the bus, its lit-up forehead surmounting the incline. It looks like its not going to stop and then it does. The doors swish open. I have a torch. She steps down. I take her bag. The doors swish closed. Faces behind the condensated windows. The bus goes on.
21 Jan 1989. Theres moonlight all over my clothes.
22 Jan 1989. She has a sore eye and a sore lip. Of unknown origin. See Cyril Connollys remark about the best guide to a mans character. Also, his observation that a mans mistake is that he forgets how much he is loved by a woman and the womans mistake is that she cannot curb her tongue.
28 Jan 1989. (Co Wicklow.) Bray. A woman, drawn to the sea, did not expect to meet me: a man coming up the wet steps. She concentrates on the waves, prepares to be assaulted. I stare at my twilit, passing feet.
6 Feb 1989. Lay in bed, got up late. Whats the use of being in bed if you dont know youre in bed? (Whats the use of being dead if you dont know youre dead?)
7 Feb 1989. My grandfathers arms are down by his sides. My fathers arms are folded, he had turned around and neither looks nor does not look from the photograph. An unidentified woman continues to laugh at a witty remark (probably my fathers), but he is not laughing. My grandfather dons his top hat. Something is about to begin.
13 Feb 1989. One of the interesting things about memories is that one often forgets that different events, which one remembers separately, actually occurred next to each other. Keeping a diary constantly reminds one how mysterious the experience of time is.
14 Feb 1989. I watched the digging machine at the edge of the marsh and I thought this is the beginning of the end of the marsh. The marsh is about ten to fifteen acres of wetlands. Id say the snipe have already been exterminated by the weekend-gunmen.
15 Feb 1989. The machine is working at the edge of the marsh again today. The beginning of the end. I must keep calm and be a writer. Whatever happens, I must be a writer, report the facts, that is my job. Observe the destruction, the stupidity, the ignorance, the mistakes. What else can I do? Go mad? Take up arms? I have engaged in a campaign of graffiti and window-smashing in the past. Im experienced. Ive done that. I once smashed the stained-glass window of a church and now I have a job as the caretaker of a church.
16 Feb 1989. Chatted with ID, son of one of the local farmers, hes fifteen or so, says he wants to be a clergyman. The Catcher In The Rye is compulsory reading on his school-course. At his age, I had to read it in secret. He doesnt like it very much. Interesting that he finds Romeo and Juliet easier to understand than The Plough And The Stars.
19 Feb 1989. There was an extraordinary weather-event. A sudden rainstorm. It was calm, and then the rain lashed and the wind lashed. Out of nowhere. Thoughts of a possible hurricane frightened. The fields lit up with layers of silver rain. The cottages shook.
21 Feb 1989. The rat quietly withdrew into the shadows and watched the lady pass, he admired her white ankles. Ah, said the rat, If I were a cat, she would kiss me, stroke my head, and I would take it for granted, enjoy it as my due, as a cat. Alas! I am a shudder-causing rat, the secret admirer of a lady who has placed a plate of poison for me to eat, and eat it I will, gobble down every blue grain, happy in the knowledge that she will soon forget she saw a rat.
25 Feb 1989. Why worry about the future so much? You are worrying unnecessarily; contradicting yourself, in a sense. For if there is a future then the present is merely the past.
26 Feb 1989. Where is the snow weve been promised? Every morning I hope to find a world I remember, a world futureless.
27 Feb 1989. A chaffinch chips, chips the silence. Leaf shines like knife. Ill be happy here for a while, undecided what the trees look like. The graveyard-gate clinks. Enter HB, the deposed President of Italy.
1 March 1989. This morning, read some of 1984s diary. I found it obscure, pompous, over sentimental. And the handwriting is vile. Much of it is confused, boring and unreadable because of my constant attempts to be original.
6 March 1989. The rain is falling on the grey gravestones. The rhododendrons glisten and lift. A wren is singing. Suddenly the door of the church-room shuts in the wind. The view is cut. I go on reading Byrons Don Juan.
7 March 1989. Peace because Ive agreed to go to the Sunday service. M doesnt like going to the service alone, wants me to go too. What it boils down to is this: no service, no sex.
8 March 1989. The bottle sticks out its tongue and fills my glass with wine.
22 March 1989. Crows flying through a rainbow.
24 March 1989. Overheard in the city the other day: We cant decide on a bag.
24 March 1989. We all have our crosses to prepare.
24 March 1989. A remark M made to me the other day: Are you deaf as well as everything else? Get your prick out of your ear!
27 March 1989. Three Jehovahs Witnesses called, and M invited them in for a cup of tea. They were young, pleasant people, two Irish, one German. What interests me about such people is how they fully believe in one particular book, in this case, The Bible. How odd that intelligent, youthful people (or not youthful) can be so certain of one thing, can fully accept the truth, the meaning of one set of words; words whose nature is ambiguity and multi-meaning. Apart from anything else, The Bible has been translated and is thus only an approximation of the original. But it is enjoyable to talk, for a while, with strangers; there is more respect involved.
28 March 1989. The mouses steady eye in the trembling universe.
30 March 1989. Meeting of the Select Vestry. I went. Minutes of last meeting read. (First a prayer said.) Then the rector, Mr J, reviewed the past year. Among other items, my name was mentioned, my work as caretaker praised. I tried to control my self-congratulatory smile. Then the members of the vestry were elected. My name was proposed as a sidesman but I declined. I didnt wish to feel that I have to attend the service. A copy of the years accounts was given to everyone. As I was leaving, the rector held up the little vase of primroses someone had put on the table and thanked whoever had arranged them. Someone said it was Patrick. I smiled and bade them goodnight.
M wanted to know everything that happened.
3 April 1989. It seems that the shooting of wildlife in
4 April 1989. The alarm clock goes off in the other room at the time I arose twelve hours ago.
8 April 1989. M says Im an oddball. Well, Id rather be an oddball than a bland, mass-produced ball.
8 April 1989. We know nothing and we know too much.
10 April 1989. My younger brother is twenty-nine today, but I never mention him.
11 April 1989. I clap my hands above my head, the crows flap their wings, but the wind holds them, preventing them from flying away. They come to fill my chimney up with twigs and sticks and wigs and ticks.
14 April 1989. Stained-glass light changing on the window-ledges of silent churches.
22 April 1989. A description one might find in a novel, he or she had a face like a subsiding grave.
22 April 1989. You may think that the grave is final, but property-developers are not interested in bones.
25 April 1989. We discovered that the crows had blocked Ms chimney with the usual twigs, sheeps wool, straw. But they had done this even though there is a wire-basket on the chimney-pot. They wouldnt have been able to get down into the nest. Yet they went ahead and filled the chimney to make a nest. Interesting how they are unable to relate the two facts: that the thing complicating their work at the moment will later impede entry to the nest. A clear example of habit and living in the present.
26 April 1989. Two mysterious events have occurred in Ms cottage recently. A piece of glass appeared on her kitchen-table, and two cardboard cats pinned to a wall have repeatedly been turned around. Both of us deny any involvement. M upset by these unexplained things.
28 April 1989. The artist has to avoid the predictable patterns of symmetry, harmony, balance, and yet still make a work of art. (For life is unpredictable.)
29 April 1989. Why cant something last forever for a change?
1 May 1989. Someone has been ripping the plastic cover on HBs wifes grave. Every time he replaces the plastic cover, someone rips it again. He puts a plastic cover over the grave to protect the plastic flowers from the elements. He comes over from
5 May 1989. To go on living is an act of suicide.
5 May 1989. Song-thrushes migrating through
5 May 1989. A hair in mid-air, drifting from anywhere to anywhere.
6 May 1989. Just think: theres a backlog of traffic on the M602 to the west of
7 May 1989. The blasted crows have blocked up Ms chimney again. And they have laid eggs and dropped them down into the nest even though theres a wire-basket on the chimney-pot preventing them from getting into the nest. They must have dropped the eggs down as they did the twigs and sticks. Habits. Are we like that? We felt sorry for them. Dirty job clearing the chimney, egg-yolk on my gloves.
10 May 1989. The gravestones stick up from the fresh grass, the daffodils need dead-heading, the dock-leaves are not yet eaten, the paths need weeding.
14 May 1989. We joked about the company Tazzy has at the
17 May 1989. The sea is walking along the shore.
18 May 1989. Ashes or maggots, take your pick.
25 May 1989. Sat under the trees in a corner of the graveyard during the afternoon. A place where no one goes.
27 May 1989. When two people meet, one of them often deflects questions about him or herself by expressing an interest in the other and in the others circumstances and thus he or she avoids talking about themselves. They can rely on the self-fascination and self-interest of the other as they hide their hearts and protect their own self-interest.
27 May 1989. I expect Ill die never having seen oranges on trees.
29 May 1989. Amusing to watch visitors to the graveyard desiring to enter into conversation with HB and then desiring to escape from him.
3 June 1989. The
12 June 1989. Five minutes ago, a thousand years ago
18 June 1989. Bluebottle, buzzbottle, lord of the cool room, the voice of solitude, banging against light.
23 June 1989. Missing M. My love is made of flesh and blood, is everything that words are not.
23 June 1989. Wearing a badge I made myself: LITTER MAKES ME BITTER.
1 July 1989. A frog nudged and slithered and pushed its head between my fingers.
4 July 1989. I went down to Ms door this morning disguised as the American actor Marlon Brando.
5 July 1989. A thrush taps a snail-shell again, again, against a rock, the shell splinters, the snail is downed in a couple of gulps.
9 July 1989. Around and around the little bug runs, drowns in a raindrop.
12 July 1989. Here is an account by M of what happened yesterday at the church while I was away:
I was standing at the gate looking at a dying lamb in the lane. I looked over towards the church and, first of all, I thought it was a haze, but then I realised it wasnt a haze because the more I looked the more smoke there was. Then I thought it was a fire in JLs chimney, so I moved down to the back of the garden but couldnt see any smoke coming from his chimney, and I realised it was coming from the church. I knew it wasnt Patrick burning rubbish (he doesnt do that) and, anyway, he had gone to Glaskenny. So I rushed down to Patricks cottage to get the keys Id seen lying on the table earlier. I ran across the fields and, on reaching the middle gate, I saw a car in the lane. To my astonishment, it was my friend MK whom I hadnt seen for about twenty years. I quickly told her to turn the car before I ran on down to the church. The grass on the left side of the graveyard, the side nearest the main road, was on fire and the fire was spreading. MK came up and between us we decided to call the fire-brigade. We dont have a phone and there was no one in JLs house, so we drove to various neighbours but no one was at home. Eventually we went to the coffee shop, The Old Schoolhouse, which is at least a mile away. There I rang 999 for the fire-brigade. MK and I drove back and sat outside the church waiting for the fire-brigade. The crackling was fierce and, getting frightened, we moved the car further away. After about fifteen minutes, the fire-brigade arrived. When they drove in, the fire had lessened but probably only temporarily. BS (whom we suspect to be ripping the plastic on HBs wifes grave) entered the graveyard from the back at the same time. First, the fireman went around with their shovels trying to beat it down, but then they decided theyd better use their water. It could have been much more serious, the enormous trees could have gone up, they were already beginning to burn. Also, the back doors of the church could have ignited with the heat.
We have noticed that one of the graves had been cemented over that morning, and we suspect whoever was working on it to have started the fire by accident due to a cigarette butt or that they lit a fire for some reason. It was a lucky thing that I met MK in the lane; otherwise, I would probably have had to run to The Old Schoolhouse, and, meanwhile, the fire could have gone out of control.
15 July 1989. The sun hides in the cloudless blue sky.
17 July 1989. HBs grave-cover ripped again. See 1 May.
18 July 1988. Swallow and butterfly zig-zagging in the summer sky. The former pursuing the latter. How rude to eat ones dancing partner.
19 July 1989. The people who are in control are very controlled.
20 July 1989. Another fool (vulgar English tourist) says Fancy building a church here, theres nothing around here, is there?
24 July 1989. Time runs on, even when I want it to.
30 July 1989. Sadness all around us, mountains of past accumulating and not blowing away. My love ageing daily, though always truly beautiful because she is natural in every way. My love ageing daily.
15 August 1989. Received number 14 of The Rialto (
16 August 1989. Moon smoulders in The Earths shadow. No traffic along the road. It is a total eclipse of the moon. Your thumbnail scratching my palm.
22 August 1989. I love life because it gets shorter.
3 Sept 1989. An art movement, or style, could be called Suggestionism, a sort of cross between Impressionism and Abstract art. Suggestionism is one of contemporary arts dominant styles.
3 Sept 1989. The birds flying faster then their shapes.
3 Sept 1989. Two people, a man and a woman, came up the lane to the cottages in the evening.
11 Sept 1989. He walks alone among the trees, he listens to the birds. He remembers his orders, he walks to the edge of the woods and then returns. Who is he? Oh, hes a Nazi, safely back in history.
15 Sept 1989. The flowers are beautiful along Kurt-Seidel Strasse, most perfect ever seen. A bird is singing somewhere in the woods. Its spring in Treblinka. Lovely to go for a stroll, but Ive too much paper work to do.
16 Sept 1989. I look through her back window from the darkness. Shes ironing, a black shawl around her. White face, grey hair.
20 Sept 1989. For me, the fundamental problem with ghost or horror stories is that if the source of terror is fully revealed, I find the story banal, corny, disappointing, and if the source of terror is not fully revealed, I find the story unsatisfactory, disappointing.
21 Sept 1989. I open the drawer and take nothing out, then put nothing in. This is the drawer where I keep nothing.
22 Sept 1989. The phoney war is over, the leaves are moving in increasingly large numbers.
25 Sept 1989. That stupid woman, the Treasurer, Mrs G, who was doing the church-flowers this week, has for the second week running stuffed a plastic bag under a stone in the church-grounds. I know its her because of the dead flowers nearby and because of the type of bag. Its a pity she doesnt try to treasure something more than money.
2 Oct 1989. I found the truth, but it was of no use.
2 Oct 1989. People want to meet again in order to escape their memories of each other.
6 Oct 1989. Im beginning to understand why Byrons memoirs were burnt.
9 Oct 1989. I expect the Chinese have a proverb something like: When a woman re-arranges the flowers in a strange mans house, her meaning is plain.
9 Oct 1989. Yesterday, M and I watched two spiders fighting over a bluebottle.
28 Oct 1989. Down under the ground lie the bones of the dead, they cant get up and run about because thats the way with them. But you and I are alive, are alive, alive, were alive, arent we?
2 Nov 1989. Childhood. The canal is calm. Daddy and me are fishermen. The fish are clearly visible. Cars rarely go over the hump-backed bridge. We never catch any fish.
Our car is parked on the grass. It is a summers evening perhaps. Our car is shiny black. The fish can feel our shadows.
We drove a strange way home. Noisily he clears his throat, rolled down the window and spat.
We are standing on the bank. The canal as calm as jelly in a mould.
5 Nov 1989. A small aircraft turns off its engine and is silent for a while, sliding on the blue sky. The sun is shining on its wings, though where I am the sun has gone down.
6 Nov 1989. Her voice from the bedroom says That spider hasnt moved all day, it was there this morning when I got up.
I remain silent.
Are you dead?
I laugh, Are you talking to me or the spider?
Good, she comments.
9 Nov 1989. A successful relationship appears to consist of two selfishnesses with mutual interests.
11 Nov 1989. Were in a car, the cars in the fog, the fogs in the night, the nights in our lives, our lives are in our minds, our minds are in our minds.
12 Nov 1989. While we were talking, mist enveloped the cottages. After they went, I watched the red sun sink into the mist. A thrush began to sing, but when I went closer it flew away. I turned around, the full moon was rising, pale in the grey.
12 Nov 1989. Years ago I daubed BURN CHURCHS in large letters on a wall, but as you can see I misspelt it.
14 Nov 1989. There was a wren in my kitchen. It threw itself at my feet. I brought it up to show M. I knocked and I knocked. No reply. I released the little bird. It perched on my hand, then flew up, up into a black tree in the dripping mist.
14 Nov 1989. At Greystones, a long row of rooks on the fence accompanying the railway-line disappearing into the mist.
29 Nov 1989. The stream is trying to catch up on itself. It is succeeding, it is succeeding, it is succeeding.
1 Dec 1989. She says Im arrogant, anti-social. I respond that at least I know when Im hurting somebody.
14 Dec 1989. Nobody comes to visit or ask if they can make a film. I am in bed under a waterfall, not getting wet.
16 Dec 1989. I said to M You are not a channel for others, such beauty ends in you. (For she is infertile.)
16 Dec 1989. Sitting before the fire, listening to the wind, a glass of white wine running between my lips. The fire sparks. I am at the place my whole life is endeavouring towards. Then theres a knock on the door. No, theres no knock on the door. Even my sciatica is absent.
16 Dec 1989. How about a musical version of Waiting for Godot?
21 Dec 1989. In the evening, between 7.07 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. approx, we watched the Soviet space-station MIR (means peace Im told) passing overhead, a moving star among the stars. M spotted it first and jumped up and down with delight.
23 Dec 1989. I suppose one takes from Christmas what one wants. I take the colours.
23 Dec 1989. Another row. M tried to throw her armchair into the fire.
31 Dec 1989. I had eaten, my stomach was full, I was thinking of the time my father told my mother I have left a letter with the Sergeant of The Guards The letter, he said, stated that she had threatened to poison him, should he ever be found dead, when behold, a rustling in the corner and I saw a mouse on its back, kicking out its limbs in agony. Must have eaten poison intended for the rat. This is a true story, so I dont know what it means.
2 Jan 1990. Which is worse, to be homesick or sick of home?
9 Jan 1990. Glass of beer at lunchtime in Bray. Theres a quiz-show on the TV. As Im going out the door of the pub, I hear one of the contestants reply A roulette-wheel. in answer to a question. A few seconds later, I glance into the window of the Oxfam shop and see a small roulette-wheel.
9 Jan 1990. Pavese says that if we repeat the same actions constantly, remain within a certain sphere of experience, we become prone to superstition. Whereas if we break our habits, such imaginings vanish.
9 Jan 1990. The rector of Rathdrum was stabbed to death last night by an intruder.
9 Jan 1990. M tells me that she heard that Samuel Beckett died last month.
11 Jan 1990. I really must try to stop thinking so much. It makes writing poetry impossible. Im too self-aware. Maybe painting will help to turn off my chattering mind. If I could escape from words, I might be able to write.
24 Jan 1990. M says: The only time I feel safe is when theres a heavy fall of snow and Im at home.
Snow blowing off the fields like sand in the
29 Jan 1990. Whats the use of the Bohemian life if one cant make love at nine oclock on a Monday morning?
31 Jan 1990. Suddenly the sea is passing the train-windows, peoples heads are outlined by the sea suddenly. It is difficult for a passenger seated on the opposite side to avoid peoples eyes when he or she looks across at the sea.
3 Feb 1990. We might as well be dead, you know, thats what she said as we stared into the fire and I sat beside her.
4 Feb 1990. For a hundred and twenty-seven years or so, the cottage-roofs have withstood the wind. Why should we be afraid that tonight will be different?
11 Feb 1990. We went to the church-service. I wasnt going to go, but relented for the sake of the peace. Coffee and biscuits after. I wore a badge that I bought in
17 Feb 1990. What does one do in between reading P.G. Wodehouse novels?
23 Feb 1990. The more sex a man has the less he wants eventually. The more sex a woman has the more she wants eventually. The closer a couple become, the further apart they become. This paradox is central to the human condition. Discuss.
27 Feb 1990. I distrust such kindness, it shakes my faith in human nature.
5 March 1990. M was asleep and I was just nodding off when I heard a gunshot. Then the lampers, carrying a bright lamp to see and shoot foxes, went by the cottages, shining the lamp through our windows.
10 March 1990. Listened to a science programme about what happens to a leaf-cell the moment light reaches it, an ano-second after, a perco-second after, phanto-second (spelling?), thats a millionth of a millionth of a second
12 March 1990. Today three years ago we gave up smoking. It has been a struggle and will continue to be so occasionally. We are justifiably proud. I made a rosette which I presented to M along with a scroll from Universitatis Caleriae testifying that she has an Honours B.A. in non-smoking, Die 12 Mensis 3 MCMXC.
13 March 1990. The dandy walking up the street in his red neckerchief, long black coat, green shoelaces, it was me.
15 March 1990. It would be good not to take sides, to look out the window at the tractors shuttling about the brown-red fields and have no memory of hedgerows that used to be, and have no fear.
15 March 1990. They get a hold of you from the moment youre born. You cant escape, youre in a State.
15 March 1990. O balloon! At best youll burst, at worst youll wither.
20 March 1990. Too few librarians to put the books back in the right places where they can be found by the too many people who do not put the books back in the right places.
Saliva streaming from a bullocks bellowing mouth.
27 March 1990. If I have any worldly advice to pass on, it could be this: always concentrate while untying your shoelaces.
1 April 1990. A rabbit ran straight past a blackbird on the ground, but the blackbird didnt move. Yet if it had been a cat or a dog, the blackbird that great alarmist would immediately have taken wing.
20 April 1990. Am older now, can walk by a beggar looking him in the eye, knowing hell forget me. Sleeping rough, sir, he proffers a naked hand. Such a fresh-faced, healthy young man, just like his dead predecessor.
22 April 1990.
23 April 1990. Then you realise you are not alone, a clock is ticking in the silent room.
26 April 1990. Yes, Ms parents are still alive. The most recently dated of the letters shell have received from them is resting on her table. She always leaves the letter there for a while. Well meet in the usual place. The envelope has been opened, the page unfolded to the light.
6 May 1990. Something is about to happen was what was happening.
6 May 1990. How quickly we die; people are scarcely alive before the clods are shovelled. Someone reading this hasnt yet been conceived. (Conceived! As if to ejaculate were to think!)
13 May 1990. I wish it was winter and my mind couldnt wander away from keeping warm.
13 May 1990. Big-eyed, hunted, unvicious, they come up the lane, two fully-grown hares, their noses twitching, their whole faces twitching, long back legs with a spring in the middle, and the tall ears. The farmers have killed all the foxes (almost all the foxes) (nearly nearly all the foxes), thats why there are so many hares this year. Ssh, keep it a secret.
21 May 1990. I overheard a man saying to his child in the main street of Arklow: You were just born bored, thats it.
16 June 1990. I have been invited to tea by an elderly English lady. Fate has invited me to see red rose-petals drop onto the white table-cloth. This is the eighth garden Ive made. I can hear her Spanish son-in-law watching the soccer, theres a roar
She mentions The Sherwood Foresters, her fathers regiment, and falters.
21 June 1990. It was showery but pleasant among the ponds. Yellow-flag irises (they grow wild) against sombre skies. There were other visitors too. A deaf woman shouting You should see a long-tailed tit, you should, you should. Her husband in shorts and a transparent plastic raincoat.
22 June 1990. Childhood. The Ss lived on a farm with a big barn. One would go in their front-door and see the sunlight through the back-door and want to go out into the back-yard. Was there a bird in a cage? Were there sandwiches on a tray and lemonade? Capt. S was a member of The Goldfish Club, which means he was shot down into the sea during The Second World War. He had a red face and was always watching TV. Ssh, ssh, this is very interesting, and we would have come into the room out of the sunlight and must be quiet. I thought it must be very important, for the curtains were drawn as if someone were sick. There were a lot of Noddy books on a shelf under one window. They built a swimming-pool in which my elder sister almost drowned before she was rescued by my father. Years later, my mother drove her car all over their lawn in the dark while searching for my father. She did it deliberately.
28 June 1990. Shadows of branches brush boulders, brush boulders with short up and down strokes as dental authorities recommend.
7 July 1990. The grass is eating the sheep.
8 July 1990. If archaeologists in years to come wonder why there are less plastic bags, gun-cartridges, etc, around here than in most areas, the reason is that M and I pick them up and bring them down to the litter-bins of the city.
10 July 1990. A white horse standing as if it exists in side-view only.
20 July 1990. The living are looking at their watches. The funeral is at a certain time.
8 August 1990. Footsteps growing no louder, no nearer: distant hammering.
9 August 1990. HB, that tortured old man, died in
11 August 1990. The candle-flame reaching for the ceiling, like a dancer on the tip of a toe, it flickers and gives off smoke, and then stays as still as a blade.
15 August 1990. A tent uprooted by the wind look, look, the nervous heron!
20 August 1990. Fixed roof-slates. Thats something good. Will keep the wolf from the ceiling.
21 August 1990. A thistle-seed on the air, a sudden twirl, then a calm drift.
25 August 1990. The caterpillars of large white butterflies are crawling all over my kale-plants. I am pleased.
27 August 1990. After that stupid woman, Mrs G the treasurer, drove away, I threw a cup at the floor in the church-room with all my might. I could have damaged my eyes. I swept it up, a thousand fragments and dust. Tinkle, twinkle. The handle intact. Then I gouged a row of holes in a wall with a rake.
31 August 1990. Every good writer is caught in the crossfire between experiment and convention. (Thats the sort of remark you find in someones diary.) For convention read cliché? Im writing this note (later to be transferred) in a pub, The Old Stand, in
6 Sept 1990. On Inis Óirr, The Aran Islands,
9 Sept 1990. But there is a real place where sea eats rock over a long time including the future.
19 Sept 1990. The best sculptures Ive ever seen have been crumpled balls of paper.
25 Sept 1990. Magic! Abracadabra, youre a cadaver! Vanish!
5 Oct 1990. Two men on the train talking about the late George Hodnett (journalist and jazz-reviewer) and what had become of his thousands of books. A story went that hed be paying to store his books in a warehouse, while sleeping in a lift at The Irish Times.
6 Oct 1990. Man talking about woodlice on the radio. Thirty-five species, one thought to be extinct since 1937. Names: Gods little pigs, Tiggy-hogs, Slaters, Sow-bugs. They are crustaceans like crabs and lobsters. They lay eggs in a wet pond they create underneath themselves. Predators: centipedes, shrews. M and I call them The Lodgers.
13 Oct 1990. I knew there was something I was forgetting.
14 Oct 1990. Ill go to your funeral if youll go to mine.
18 Oct 1990. One of those long, thin worm-like creatures with tiny legs climbing slowly up a gravestone, its head rearing like a horse on reaching the top.
18 Oct 1990. Im European first, Irish second.
22 Oct 1990. They had the Harvest Thanksgiving Service yesterday. It says in The Preachers Book that 130 people came. This morning, I find litter scattered various places, plastic bags, dirty tissues etc. The chair and stools I recently painted yellow were hidden, while the unpainted dreary brown ones were in the foreground. The lie of the decorations! Vegetables and fruits bought in shops. Non-free-range eggs. Tins of fruit from
I had already made up my mind that I would not volunteer to clean the church and grounds (unpaid) after 29 March, 1991, when my current Fás year ends. Ive already had two years, so its very unlikely Fás i.e. The State would offer me a third. I had come to a decision on what I had been debating for some time, when I had the correctness of my decision confirmed. The sign which I had painted and nailed to a tree in the graveyard, STOP DUMPING, has been smashed in half.
Okay, you may say that this is very much I I I , but one can only take so much, its the same in any job, you know youve reached a point which is the end, indeed it is calming, at last you know.
Continued making the new concrete path between the latest graves.
2 Nov 1990. We wound our way among broody forest, passing the strange silent mushrooms. Theres something welcomely alien about mushrooms.
2 Nov 1990. It was a tortoiseshell butterfly in November. Bye, bye, butterfly, dont stay out too late, this afternoon, a million years ago, I heard her say.
5 Nov 1990. The bag of litter Id half-filled in the church-room kitchen had been emptied out at the side of the church. This despite my notice over the sink saying Please do not dump litter in the church-grounds or elsewhere. In a rage, I smashed the mirror in the vestry, an ugly old thing. (Ill say it must have fallen off the wall, that the wire had rusted.)
6 Nov 1990. My mind stopped racing and I was momentarily sane, the feeling was akin to that special warmth felt when a shivering body stills.
7 Nov 1990. Words on the woman who emptied the bag of litter in the church-grounds:
I imagine beating her brains out. With what? Perhaps I wouldnt need anything, Id be banging her head on the marble in front of the altar, her legs sticking out like a stuffed doll in probably tights the colour of cobwebs. I suppose there would be a point when she wouldnt be able to struggle any more, and I would start thinking of time again. I might employ a weapon at this stage, nipping into the vestry to get a flower-stand or whatever came to hand to finish the job, listening for cars, discovering the body, answering police-questions, reaching a point where I could start making remarks about having to clean up the mess.
10 Nov 1990. The stars are clear in the black, but the glow from new houses is making that harder to say.
20 Nov 1990. As I go from one cottage to the other, I see the stars and think I must look at the stars, then come in the door saying Oh, its cold out there.
The stars are very clear tonight, I say, shivering by the fire.
22 Nov 1990. A chief motivation of many human beings is love of the sound of ones own voice. This isnt necessarily a failing, but it is a failing to be unaware of this trait.
25 Nov 1990. We played balloon-tennis in the big room in my cottage. Round balloon as ball, long balloons to strike it back and forth. Much laughter.
1 Dec 1990. We discussed the notion, grew excited by the notion of me or both doing a course on how to teach English to foreign students, and then both of us going abroad, probably to
3 Dec 1990. While celebrating Mary Robinsons inauguration as President of the
18 Dec 1990. On page 30 of D.H. Lawrences Mornings in Mexico, he mentions throwing away the papers of a picnic. Tut, tut, D.H. Lawrence dropping litter.
1 Jan 1991. This morning I found no woodlice in the sink. Thats how cold it is.
20 Jan 1991. Lonely Big Bens bongs herald the news of bombs, bomb, bombs.
12 Feb 1991. Art is an imperfect perfection, life is a perfect imperfection.
24 Feb 1991. A mouse hops as much as it runs.
24 Feb 1991. Two swans on the grey river as our train crossed the bridge in a snow-shower. I said Look, but we were gone.
25 Feb 1991. A robin singing, silent in the twilight. Listen.
19 March 1991. How I long to leave
20 March 1991. A pink Mercedes in the rain, parked by the glittering Liffey-light. (Touch of Joyce-Irish.)
24 March 1991. For the first time ever I saw what must have been the aurora borealis. I dont know how long it had been going on, but I watched for about half an hour. It was like a diffuse pink rain in the northern sky. Always something new.
29 March 1991. The wings of fantasy, the wheels of reality.
17 April 1991. (
5 May 1991. Theres no such thing as free speech anywhere in the world, so Ive no problem about going to a country where I cant speak the language.
28 July 1991. It has been remarked that when one rereads a book years later, one meets ones own ghost. I never have, but have rediscovered many books.
23 August 1991. You remember one thing at a time. So no matter how much a memory hurts, you shouldnt let it dominate; after all, you could be remembering something else.
7 Sept 1991. There are two kinds of love: lust and compassion. Lust is love without compassion. Compassion is love without lust.
8 Sept 1991. The final sweep out of my cottage, my ex-cottage. Well go on paying the rent on Ms cottage for the moment.
10 Sept 1991. An old woman at a café-table with her hands buried in her head. And at another table, theres a man with one hand and odd socks.
12 Sept 1991. Two remarks in the manner of Oscar Wilde:
I never use bad language, except in front of children.
I am sometimes mistaken for someone else, but no one is ever mistaken for me.
20 Sept 1991. Released the last of HBs ashes onto the stream.
22 Sept 1991. Im leaving this diary in a metal box in a wardrobe in Ms cottage in Calary. I will continue in