Diary 21st / 22nd March

Lots of criticism of the concept of grammar schools lately. They’ve always been anathema to the socialists. And yet an entire generation of writers passed through them: Angela Carter, Ted Hughes, William Golding, John Carey, Tony Harrison, Alan Bennett – Angela Carter even went so far as to suggest they helped create a genuine British intelligentsia: ‘’a class of people who didn’t believe they were born to rule, who had no stake in maintaining the class-bound structure of British society but who made their livings through dealing with ideas.’

Carter, unlike other socialists, didn’t believe in ‘throwing the educational baby out with the bathwater.’


A weather forecast, or rather pastcast: rain, rain and more rain; mostly this miserable soaking drizzle. For two days last week the moor was clotted with fog (low cloud), its granite slopes melting into white; its ancient hidden secrets further obscured, and the sheep and cattle became simple shapes in the murk: bedraggled and pissed off, no doubt – probably suicidal, even: but of course lacking hands they cannot take a razor to their throats, unlike us.

Then, on Tuesday, a cold front rolled in off the Atlantic. The rain turned sleety. It’s s’posed to be the beginning of spring…!

On a more hopeful note, last Sunday I heard a lark singing. It probably wasn’t ascending, but the sound brought a smile to my face.


Some people have desires that can only be hinted at…


As I grow older I become more forgetful. I’d give you some examples but I’ve forgotten them already.


Notable events over the past week: lunch at Notter Bridge last Friday (this after an unexpected telephone call from my sister which I finally, rather rudely had to interrupt after almost an hour’s conversation, saying: ‘must go, we’re meeting friends for lunch…’)

Drinks with Henry B Saturday. He has an unending repertoire of anecdotes and a spontaneous humour that is the envy of us all. He is also currently persona non grata with the local BDSM group after last Christmas, and that unfortunate experience with D F. Still, his shoulders are broad and he handles his ostracization with casual good humour. He is, in short, unrepentant and imperturbable. For my own part, I have this indelible memory of Henry two years ago in lurid lycra, being flagellated mercilessly by an Asian lady in John R’s sitting room at St Mabyn.

Sunday I became quite intoxicated by the end of day. I managed to prepare food for us all. But afterwards fell asleep on the living room sofa.

Monday I finished my short story “Rats”. It’s a tale of a woman with a deep-seated fear of rats. It has a very unhappy ending. In part, I s’pose (and this with hindsight), the idea behind the story originated with a news report two or three years ago which concerned a woman who had a terrible fear of monkeys. This phobia meant she could never visit a zoo, and never even watch a wild life documentary on television if monkeys were involved.

She decided to seek help. She attended sessions with a therapist weekly for most of that year. Then she visited the monkey house with her family at London zoo. All okay. Her fear was gone, dissipated. She was cured.

The following year she went on holiday to Kenya with her husband and children. On the second day of this vacation she was attacked and torn apart by a group of angry baboons.

Tuesday was a hospital appointment and then shopping. Sleeting like mad when we left the hospital; peeing down with rain at the supermarket; bright sunshine on arriving home. All the seasons in the one day.

Talking, too, about the moor: how it can give substance to your dreams and nightmares. Ghosts on the moor, for certain. But then who’s to say that one or more of the people standing with you at the bus stop aren’t ghosts? That woman in a white raincoat and headscarf, for example?


I was reminded yesterday of a party in Hampshire ten years ago. A young man taking the part of Nijinsky, dressed as the faun in ‘L’Après-Midi’, dancing behind his shimmering gauze, cock stiff and swaying for the delectation of all. What a wild, unruly night that became.


‘Real artists are not nice people,’ W H Auden once wrote. ‘All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue.’

So let that stand as a warning to us all.


I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I’d never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before… When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror… I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.

Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber


She is not sleeping.

In death, she looked far older, less beautiful and so, for the first time, fully human.

I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness. And I leave you as a souvenir the dark, fanged rose I plucked from between my thighs, like a flower laid on a grave. On a grave.

Angela Carter
The Lady in the House of love

(Image  from Angela Chalmers


Diary 8th March

As usual, there’s a great woman behind every idiot…
Know what it means to come home after a hard day, to a woman who’ll give you a little love? A little tenderness, and affection?

It means you’re in the wrong house, that’s what it means…

(Cue laughter track)
God made man in his own image…so therefore God, by definition, must be ravenous, cannibalistic, vicious, and an egocentric tyrant…Did I mention fecking murderous, too?
Years ago I fell in love with Angela Carter. It was her photograph on the back of a Penguin book, “The Bloody Chamber” The stories and that photograph were all it took. Love at first sight…
I read “Sadeian Woman” back at the dawn of time. Here Angela Carter becomes a rigid ideologue, fervidly feminist, furiously antireligious. She sings the song of Sade’s “Juliette”, created as a counterforce to the submissive woman of myth and actuality – unlike “Justine”, the submissive sexual stereotype, the natural victim, “Juliette” is masterful, brutal, delights in cruelty and corruption. She is de Sade’s blow at the notion of women as pure and meek, a notion that has done much to perpetuate the exploitation of women over the years.

It is unfortunate that despite a number of shrewd insights into his work, Angela Carter hardly touches on the political ideas of de Sade. Instead he must remain the popular bogeyman of legend, imprisoned under a lettre de cachet obtained from the king by the Marquis’s mother-in-law! “Sade, as Angela Carter vaguely and perplexedly recognizes, was anything but a monster in his life. She notes, for example, that after being released from prison during the Terror and appointed a judge, he was sent back to prison for his leniency toward the accused who came before him; but she doesn’t draw the right conclusions from this.”

The point is that there was a greatly significant gap between Sade’s sexual writings and his actual nature…

In many ways, Sade was a startlingly modern thinker. He despised the notion that women were merely vessels for procreation and celebrated their orgasmic potential. He exposed the institutional misogyny around him. His libertarian writings alienated two kings, a revolutionary tribunal and an emperor. He spent most of his adult life under lock and key: if they couldn’t get him for being bad, being mad would do.
The Conservative party has a crick in its neck from looking backwards to a Churchillian- Thatcherite ideal. The Labour party, too, looks over its shoulder – the young and half-educated socialists permeate the internet with their dyslexic paroxysms of enthusiasm for their leader, an old man who stepped from the mists of neglect, his head filled to overflowing with nineteenth century class struggle, but who appears totally oblivious to modern society, with its consumer-based sexism, its exploitation of the vulnerable, and its rancid prejudice, now wonderfully window-dressed as nationalism…

And the Liberal party? What of them? I see them as a small group of nervous young men, half-afraid to have an erection…Ineffectual and lacking in identity.
Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, one of the richest women in Britain, with a £467 million ($673.6 million) fortune, recently reported, “To the extent that business is not trusted by society, often with good reason, it is not good for capitalism. There is no excuse for that. A divided society against itself will not stand and it doesn’t matter if you’re in the top 1% or 0.001%. If the society around you is crumbling, you’re in a bad place.”

And that “bad” place may already be here.

According to an Oxfam report released in January, 62 billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the entire world’s population. The wealth of the poorest 50% fell by 41% between 2010 and 2015. During this same period, those 62 billionaires increased their worth by $500 billion to $1.76 trillion.

wandered endlessly

February 7, 2016


For hours, for days, for years, she had wandered endlessly within herself but never met anybody, nobody.

Angela Carter
The Passion of New Eve


February 5, 2016


Destruction is only another aspect of being.

Angela Carter
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

all was rampant malignity…

February 4, 2016


With that, the poignant charm vanished. Inside the fifth machine, all was rampant malignity. Deformed flowers thrust monstrous horned tusks and trumpets ending in blaring teeth through the crimson walls, rending them; the ravenous garden slavered over its prey and every brick was shown in the act of falling. Amid the violence of this transformation, the oblivion of the embrace went on. The awakened girl, in all her youthful loveliness, still clasped in the arms of a lover from whom all the flesh had fallen. He was a grinning skeleton.

Angela Carter
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman


February 3, 2016


“I am happy only in that I am a monster.”

Angela Carter
The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

A writer speaks…

August 28, 2015


“When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. And I saw myself, suddenly, as he saw me, my pale face, the way the muscles in my neck stuck out like thin wire. I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.”

Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories