Category Archives: Journalism

Specializing in investigative journalism, well-being stories, Middle Eastern politics and stories of creative interest.

Mariella Frostrup

I went to Mariella’s new flat to conduct this interview. She was having it painted in different shades of blue (as I recall) and so invited me to lunch at a fashionable restaurant in Notting Hill. She was witty, intelligent and such great company we carried on drinking white wine and chatting well after the tape had finished recording the interview…

Sex is important to me, but only when I’m sure I’m in love: In bed with Mariella Frostrup

SUSAN DE MUTH
Wednesday, 9 March 1994
Mariella Frostrup is a broadcaster and journalist. She presents ‘The Little Picture Show’, a late-night film magazine programme, on Carlton Television.

I’m not really a night person. The Little Picture Show has a late night feel but it’s actually filmed between 9am and 6pm in a blacked-out studio. It goes on air at midnight . . . by which time I like to be tucked up in bed]

I do socialise at night, mostly having dinner or going to the theatre with friends, but take up few of the glamorous invitations I receive. I get asked to parties for people I don’t even know, which is very strange. I did go to the Planet Hollywood party for Sylvester Stallone last year, though. I thought it would be fascinating from an anthropological point of view.

At first I was shocked that I’d got this sexy image – and I suppose that’s why I’m often invited. Now it irritates me; I feel this wave of disappointment if I don’t turn up wearing some incredibly slinky number. Men expect me to be all sultry and cooing whereas I can be quite abrasive. It’s all rather ridiculous.

My favourite nights are when I can be in bed by 10.30 with a cup of cocoa and some good books. My bedroom is an oasis of calm and I rarely allow anyone else into it. I love the thought that I can go in there and enjoy my solitude.

I had an unsettled childhood and moved house quite often myself but there are always certain things that belong in the bedroom and give me a sense of continuity. I have three pictures of my very best friends, a jewellery box that belonged to my grandmother and a drawing of a reclining nude by my mother which makes me feel calm.

I sometimes catch up on videos for the show in bed. I also like to listen to music – really old-fashioned records. You’ll probably laugh at me but a big favourite is Leonard Cohen – but only when I’m very happy. My dad – who died when I was 16 – used to like Leonard Cohen and when I’m happy I’m able to sit and think about him a little bit.

I have occasionally dreamt of my father but fortunately I don’t dream much. I don’t think I’ve ever had a happy dream in my life. I have a recurring nightmare that I’m being chased by a rapist. It’s a terrible fear I’ve had since I was 12 and a girl down the road was raped on her way home from school.

I’m not involved in a relationship at the moment and it’s a long time since I lived with a man. I was perfectly happy to share then but I don’t know if I could now. I have my little routines and resent people interfering with them – even if I’m in love. When I wake up in the morning I want to be rid of them – I set my radio alarm clock at exactly one minute to the hour and like to listen to the news in peace for 30 minutes before I get up.

I’ve been out with lots of men who were so nice that I really wished I would want to spend the rest of my life with them. But there was always something missing in terms of engaging my heart. When I can see that’s the case I move on. I’m very good at making those kinds of decisions and acting on them.

I was married when I was 18 (and divorced at 21). My dad had died and Richard was my first serious boyfriend. I just got my little paws in him and dragged him into the register office. He’s forgiven me now and we’re still good friends. I think if your parents are divorced, as mine were, you take marriage less seriously.

Sex, on the other hand, is extremely important to me. It’s the only thing you do with another person that you don’t do with your friends. I have a rule that I always stick to – I only have sex with someone when I’m sure I’m in love.

If I’m sleeping with a man I insist on nakedness. I hate men who get into bed in their underpants – I mean, why? They know they’re going to take them off. Totally unsexy. When I’m alone, however, I confess that I’m usually to be found in a pair of comfortable pyjamas.

(Photograph omitted)

Paula Yates

This was the first interview I did for the series, and I had asked Paula to do it because I was, basically, nicking her format (she was doing In Bed With interviews on the Big Breakfast). Actually, it was Emma Freud who first had the idea, she did live ‘in bed with’ interviews at an arts club night in Soho I used to go to in the early 1990s.

On my way in to the Big Breakfast studios, I met Chris Evans who was very tall with a bright orange face (make-up). ‘You should be interviewing me,’ he said as he strode past, obviously convinced of his own stardom even in those early days.

Paula was incredibly sweet and welcoming. We conducted the interview on the big breakfast bed which was enormous and covered in velvet.

Afterwards she showed me a skirt she had had made. It had plastic pockets in each of which was a picture of her kids. She was obviously crazy about those girls and very proud.

In bed with . . .Like sleeping in a railway station: Susan De Muth talks to Paula Yates: In the first of a new series, the Big Breakfast presenter explains how she sleeps with all the family and gets up at 3am to hop from one bed to another

SUSAN DE MUTH
Monday, 19 July 1993
Paula Yates is a presenter of Channel 4’s ‘The Big Breakfast’, on which she interviews people in bed. She is also an author and the mother of Fifi Trixibelle, 10, Peaches, 4, and Pixi, 2 . She is married to Bob Geldof.

‘I WOKE UP, stark naked, in the middle of the main road, at 3am. Bizarrely, my mother happened to be on her way home at that moment and found me with all these cars going past. I was 10 years old.

‘I used to sleepwalk a lot when I was a child. I hated bedtime. I was always afraid that my mother would leave while I was asleep. I found the night incredibly frightening when I was little: you’re totally alone, it’s totally silent, there’s a bloody owl hooting on the mountainside and you don’t know if you’re going to wake up parentless.

‘Bob and I have a 9ft bed so that the children can sleep with us whenever they want to. I get up at 3am on weekdays so that I can write for three hours before I go to the Big Breakfast studios. Bob doesn’t come to bed until 2am and there are little girls coming and going all the time. It’s like Grand Central Station, a frenetic hive of activity with people rising and plummeting and moving into other beds. It is disturbing . . . especially when Peaches turns up, because she snores really badly. I don’t think I ever get really good quality, deep sleep.

‘Bob thinks it’s ‘complete bollocks’ as he puts it, letting the kids sleep with us, but I’m a great believer in the ‘continuum concept’ of raising children and holding them all the time. It’s probably also selfish because I like them kissing me and being on me all night. We extended the bed so Bob could have a bit of space . . . He’d been spending nights hanging on to the edge with a prehensile lip and it had to end. I don’t think he feels excluded from my affections. But we are the lark and the owl.

‘I love writing when everybody’s asleep. It’s deathly silent and the most fantastic time. My mind is totally clear. I have an office in our house where I write. It has a big log fire and huge windows overlooking the street. I’ve just finished one book about the countryside and now I’m working on another. I do bound out of bed at 3am and feel happy to get up but I’d be crying and crying if I had to do it in the evening when I’m always whacked. I usually go to bed with the girls at 7.30pm but if Bob is home I pretend I’m an erotic dream and stay up till 9pm – but I’m not telling you about our conjugal rites. I always read a book till I fall asleep.

‘At the moment I’m on volume four of the History of the Church of England. I’ve been reading it for ages and it’s really gripping. There are lots of things about parish vicars, which is very useful as they’re basic characters in country living.

‘As soon as I arrive at The Big Breakfast it’s back to bed with my interviewees. I suppose I interact well horizontally. I never get worked up about an interview. When you’ve got one or two celebrities in your bed every single morning you’re only concerned with the next question and keeping on top of everything . . . as it were. There’s no scope for tremors.

‘We take the Big Breakfast bed with us when we travel to do interviews. I went to Madrid this week to do Arnold Schwarzenegger and they’d given me a massive holdall with all the bedding in it. It burst open in customs and all these sort of prostitute’s bed covers came out and something really bizarre which was actually part of the headboard but looked exactly like a whip. I was so embarrassed. All these bewildered little Spanish customs men just stood there staring. They probably thought I was part of some travelling circus.

‘Since I’ve been a grown up I have only happy memories of bedtime, which is nice, because when I was a child I hated everything. My father died recently and it was very painful for me. I dream about him all the time now, though I never did before his death. I meet him in my dreams and we’re in places we’ve been together . . .

‘But the best bedtime stories of all are the births of my children. When the last one, Pixi, was about to be born, Fifi and Peaches were both there with Bob at the hospital; they were old enough for it to be thrilling for them, too. And I was breathless with the excitement of it, it was like waiting for Santa Claus when you’re a child. She came into the world at midnight and it was all so magical and so perfect.’

(Photograph omitted)

Imran Khan

When I went to conduct this interview, Imran Khan was beseiged by (middle-aged, female) fans in the hotel lobby so he suggested we adjourn to his bedroom. Sitting perched on a single bed with the extremely attractive Imran Khan reclining full length was disconcerting to say the least. At the time he was dating Gemima Khan – a fact he charmingly avoided disclosing despite my blunt questioning on the subject!

I still dream my mother is alive: Susan de Muth in bed with Imran Khan

SUSAN DE MUTH

Wednesday, 17 November 1993
IMRAN KHAN, 40, retired from international cricket last year, having captained Pakistan for the best part of 10 years. Since then he has been raising funds for a cancer hospital in Lahore and published a book about his travels in North Pakistan. He has homes in Lahore and London.

I sometimes wake up not knowing where I am. I have been leading a nomadic existence for years – first as a cricketer, now as a fund-raiser – and I’m looking forward to the time when I’ll be able to settle down and sleep in the same bed for a long while.

Of course my nights are very different depending on where I am. Yet I am at ease, whether in the West or Pakistan. I am rooted in my own identity, my culture and family. I have never had any intention of breaking away from that.

Last year I travelled a lot in the remote Pathan tribal areas of Northern Pakistan researching my book. One evening I was watching the Powindahs, a nomadic tribe, finally at rest having set up their tents after a hard day. A wonderful harmony suddenly settled on them – adults, kids, camels, sheep and dogs, all relaxed and content in the beautiful light of the setting sun. I remembered times when I’d had that same feeling after a hard day on the cricket field, tired but at peace because all had gone well, and I saw that some experiences are universal.

Every male Pathan carries a gun and I had to sleep in fortresses accompanied by an armed guard. The authorities thought I was at risk, that the tribesmen might use me to embarrass the government. In fact I never felt myself to be in any danger. My ancestors were Pathans and I got to know the tribesmen. I spent fascinating nights by log fires, talking to the elders. Every morning we rose with the sun and I discovered the beauty of nature at dawn.

It was very different to my life in Lahore where I like to stay in bed as long as possible in the morning with my tea and newspapers. I still live in my family house and always mix with the same friends – we meet more or less every night and have a meal at someone’s house. In Pakistan I am usually in exclusively male company: the only women you mix with are your family.

The worst nights of my life were in Lahore when my mother was dying of cancer. Though it was nine years ago, I still can’t forget those two months when she was in such severe agony she couldn’t sleep. One of the family would stay up with with her all night, and when she died we were all physically and mentally exhausted.

I still dream of her, and it’s strange because she always looks so well and happy, never in pain. We talk about ordinary things and then I realise that she’s dead and I wake up with this deep sadness. She was everything to me: a friend, a guide when I was a child, my roots. English people don’t understand how important family is to us.

Nor do they understand faith. When my mother died I realised how vulnerable I was and looked for strength in spirituality. English people seem to find this rather backward and strange, but I have found a lot of peace.

I rarely have any trouble sleeping now, though when I was playing international cricket I was often kept awake by anxiety about injuries. Any little twinge could herald a strain that would prevent me from bowling and I was quite a hypochondriac] I don’t get the exercise I used to, so I am no longer tired enough to immediately fall asleep. I enjoy reading – often until 2am. At the moment I am going through the Koran, slowly and reflectively.

I spend about two months a year in London. I like it because of the contrast with Lahore. I can go out to dinner every night with different people from all over the world, which I find very interesting. Of course I meet a lot of women and enjoy their company, but there’s no one special at the moment. The playboy image was invented by the press simply because I am single.

I would like to marry and have a family if only I could find the right person. An arranged marriage may have more chance of success. My own objectives have only recently become clear – to build this hospital in memory of my mother and go on to other social projects in Pakistan. Any possible wife would have to share these objectives. The thing I fear most is the possibility of failure. I would never consider divorce as an option and would do my very best. That’s the problem . . . it’s just so much of a risk.

‘Warrior Race’ is published by Chatto & Windus, pounds 20.

Donations to the Imran Khan Cancer Appeal can be made to National Westminster Bank. Sort Code 56-00-27.

Account No. 00492205.

(Photograph omitted)

Diamanda Galas

I went to Diamanda Galas’s hotel room with photographer Peter MacDiarmid to whom she took an instant fancy. I felt like a journalist gooseberry while she checked him out New York style with fast-pitched banter.

She grabbed his camera and started taking pictures of him, laughing with this really disconcerting high pitched banshee shriek.

What made her laugh the most was when she started talking about OJ Simpson and I asked (not having heard the name correctly) if this was her boyfriend!

Diamanda had a little bag on a string around her neck. I asked her what was in it. She fixed me with her glittering eye and said, ‘My tooth, honey.’

Killing men softly with her song: New York revenge rocker Diamanda Galas is adamant: male rap stars should be killed for sport. Susan de Muth finds out why

By SUSAN DE MUTH

Thursday, 27 October 1994
Her records have been taken to priests for exorcism, the Catholic Church has described her as ‘a curse’, and her latest offering, The Sporting Life, is an album of ‘homicidal love songs’. Diamanda Galas is not destined for the hit parade.

Trained as a bel canto opera singer, Galas has a three-and- a-half octave range and a voice that critics have described as ‘one of the finest of her generation’. What keeps Galas firmly underground is not her voice, however, but what she does with it.

She is lounging on a white sofa as we enter her hotel room in London, her black stilettos piercing the cushions. Galas appraises us laconically through half-closed eyes: ‘I generally can’t stand straight men,’ she says, sizing up Peter, the photographer, none the less, ‘but I do make a few exceptions. I think God is a callous bitch not making me a lesbian. I’m deeply disappointed by my sexual interest in men.’

The Sporting Life is largely a sadistic fantasy of what Galas would like to do with men. Effortlessly rising above collaborator John Paul Jones’s Led Zeppelin bass guitar, Galas sings of castration, male rape, torture and murder. It’s high- energy psychosis with lashings of her own trademark bloodcurdling screams. Why?

A fearsome tirade against male rap stars, especially ‘that asshole Snoop Doggy Dog’, follows. ‘Women are sick of these no-dick motherfuckers prancing around singing about their ‘bitches’ and the bad things they do to them. I’m just giving it back.’

In one song, Snoop turns up as the victim of a gang of women who go ‘wilding’: ‘I don’t like him, let’s cut him, then fuck him, then kill him.’

Revenge rock? ‘Yes,’ cackles Galas, her black eyes glittering. ‘It fills my heart with freedom and joy.’

Her attitude to men stems partly from a period spent as a prostitute in Seventies California. ‘I had a serious drug habit, plus I needed money to get my music career off the ground,’ she explains. ‘I had to look at men in a strange, cold way doing that job.’ It was an unusual occupation for a graduate from a well-to-do Greek immigrant family. ‘But I liked it,’ she grins. ‘Not turning tricks – that was boring – but the whole thing of owning the street. I had these transvestite hooker friends, and if anyone messed with me, those ‘broads’ got out their knives and suddenly turned out to be built like football players – it was beautiful.’

Disgusted by weak men – ‘they should be taken out and killed for sport by me and my girlfriends’ – Galas looks for a certain resilience in her lovers. ‘I tend to go for the military, or the prison population. I guess I just like rough trade. I couldn’t be around anything too bland.’

Galas’s best friend is the man she calls her ‘gay husband’, Carl Valentino.

‘He can turn words into sulphuric acid,’ she says joyfully. ‘He walks into a party and says, ‘I’m a hateful homosexual and I have Aids and you can kiss my fucking ass.’ ‘ What endears him to Galas is that he provides the ‘spiritual closeness’ she lost when her brother, Philip, died of Aids in 1989. As she talks of empathy and loss, her face and voice soften and her gesticulations slow down. It is then that I notice her knuckles are tattooed with ‘We Are All HIV+’.

An abiding concern, Aids is the issue that brought her into conflict with the church. Her opera Plague Mass points the finger at a hypocritical clergy who interpret ‘the epidemic’ as divine retribution. First performed in a New York cathedral by Galas, naked to the waist and covered in blood, the work was condemned by the Catholic Church as ‘blasphemy’. The ‘cursed Galas’ is unrepentant: ‘My only religion is loyalty.’

Nor does she accept ‘token gestures from the politically correct’. She plays piano in Aids hospices and at an increasing number of friends’ funerals. ‘I really see what’s going on,’ she frowns, ‘and it could easily have been me.

I’ve been an intravenous drug-user, but I’m still here. I’m asking what’s it like to be told there’s a death sentence over you, to ask a friend to help you die when the time comes. What does wearing a red ribbon have to do with those kind of questions? It just makes them feel good. People who wear red ribbons should be forcibly injected with HIV-positive blood.’

With her last composition, Vena Cava, Galas succeeded in conveying the horror of Aids- associated dementia so convincingly that some members of her audiences experienced panic attacks and ran for the exit. The unpalatable mixture of electronic noise, psycho- babble and disjointed schizophrenic voices comes, she says, straight from her own experience. ‘I’ve been through extremes of severe depression. I haven’t slept without medication since 1980 . . . I don’t write science fiction.’

When she’s not trawling the ‘darker recesses of the mind’ Galas’s idea of entertainment is working with friends on the establishment of a rape revenge squad called the Black Leather Beavers: ‘We’d go in there, castrate the guy and torch his house.’ But she has less and less time for such fun: ‘As I get older (she’s 42), I’m increasingly aware of my own mortality, and the need to write music becomes more urgent – it’s my only legacy.’

She cites an eclectic handful of singers whom she admires, including the Egyptian Oum Kalsoum, the opera singer Maria Callas and Spanish flamenco singer Camaron. ‘I aim for an audience who really understand this energy.

Not Kylie Minogue fans.’

Nor does she hear the faintest ticking of her biological clock. ‘I could never breed. It’s such a subservient thing to do – especially in the Nineties. But I don’t mean to insult anyone who has had that misfortune.’

She has always preferred to live alone.

She has no fear of a lonely old age, although she says: ‘I do picture it sometimes. Worst case is I could be an old woman in a flowery gown, standing on the 28th floor of the YMCA staring down at the population with my instant coffee, saying, ‘Oh well, it’s just another day’. I couldn’t handle that . .

. I’d rather be starring in my own opera . . . Medea or Caligula would be nice.’

(Photograph omitted)

Aaron Williamson

Aural anarchy from the sound of silence

Deaf poet and musician Aaron Williamson gives explosive `recitals’. Susan de Muth was among the shell-shocked

SUSAN DE MUTH

Wednesday, 1 March 1995
He stands outside the performance space and peers in through the glass doors. He holds up words printed on boards, burns them, throws them at the window, posts them through a gap. In weighty silence the audience strains to read them. The “joke” slowly dawns on those who know. Aaron Williamson has turned the tables on us, the hearing. For he is profoundly deaf, always seeking to decipher words through lip-reading or sign language. There is some uneasy laughter.

When he bursts through the glass doors, it is like an explosion of noise. People step back, tread on each others’ toes, stumble; we’re assaulted by the violent cacophony of his roaring, screaming, jibbering, weeping and moaning. Stamping so that the floorboards resound, Williamson strikes a balletic pose and suddenly, from the echoes of this aural anarchy, brings forth a serene and lucid stream of poetry. The feedback from his wayward hearing aid produces an eerie accompaniment which could be the music of the spheres. Some people cry. The experience is overwhelming.

Williamson’s subject is his deafness, the intense inner life of a person isolated in silence, the frustrations and limitations of verbal communication. That the audience participates in this experience through sound and words is ironic, but also part of what makes the work so original and powerful.

Drained by his performance, Williamson happily accepts the suggestion of a few drinks. As we move through the shell-shocked remains of the audience in the foyer, a girl of five breaks free of her father’s hand and tugs at Aaron’s sleeve. “I thought you were really excellent,” she pipes up. A grin, an undisguised expression of surprise, sweeps away his frown as he thanks her. “People don’t normally know what to make of it,” he confides.

The bar is noisy and conversation is harder for me than Williamson who is an astonishingly adept lip-reader. Although he started losing his hearing at seven years old, he covered it up, staying in mainstream education until he left at 16. “I feared rejection – social and personal – and preferred not to tell people I was deaf,” he says. He fooled most of his teachers.

At 34, Williamson is doing well. His books of verse, Cathedral Lung and Holythroat Symposium, are sold out and being reprinted. He has a growing following and lectures in Performance Writing at Dartington College in Devon. There is a deep-rooted sense of purpose and self-reliance about him, yet his poetry and performances testify this was not always so.

Although the adults around him hoped for a miracle cure, Williamson says that he “knew the truth” at 10. “I felt the world drifting away from me,” he recalls in a voice that still bears traces of his Derbyshire roots. “At night I would be secretly traumatised. But I blocked against the initial feelings of terror and isolation; I decided never to accept not trying to communicate as an option.”

With deafness encroaching by stages, cruelty, rejection and “intense, hermetic friendships” characterised his teenage years. These eventually spat out a fully fledged punk rocker who fronted a band with his own brand of violently energetic vocals.

Music remains a passion. “I often wish I could hear new records,” he says, “but I get a lot out of reading really good reviews.” He still performs with musicians and recently touredeastern Europe with Alex Balanescu (of the Balanescu quartet). “I am keenly sensitive to vibrations,” Williamson explains. “I can feel the beat through the floor and I can see the musicians’ rhythm as they play.”

Pronounced “profoundly deaf” at 27, Williamson changed course. He gave up playing with bands and went to university, where he gained a first- class degree in Literature. He also embarked on his career as a poet and performer, realising that his unique perspective gave him a lot to say about language in a phonocentric world.

Williamson challenges conventional ideas of what is “beautiful” in poetry. His work explores the inner life not only emotionally, or mentally, but also physically. In Cathedral Lung, for example, he graphically describes the process of forming words, the labour of utterance: “Tongue/pulls along/pulleys, tarpaulins and traps … the whole thing groaning … a snail slides towards daylight/tunnelling iron/into the roots;/ winches hoisting the/dead mass of dead purple/weight.” That this effort is ultimately futile – the poem ends with the words entering his throat rather than leaving his mouth – is a powerful description of the frustrations of conversation.

The relationship between language and the body is one which fascinates him. For Williamson, writing, as well as performance, should be a radical exploratory exercise. “English poetry at the moment tends to be defensive of already established positions,” he says. “Yet there are so many more seams to unearth in language. The words themselves, the modes of saying, are as significant as meaning. I am looking for a more physical currency of accord. My work is neither `mainstream’ nor `experimental’. As a deaf person, I haven’t made an aesthetic choice; my work relates to actuality.”

Although Williamson did not grow up in the deaf community, and does not see himself as a role model or spokesperson, he is intensely aware of social attitudes towards the deaf. “Even `politically correct’ newspapers say so-and-so was deaf to something,” he says. “I suppose they mean ignorant. There is a perception that deaf people are bad-tempered, like Beethoven , which surfaces if you show signs of assertiveness or ill humour.”

The average British male, he says, refuses to facilitate communication. “I rarely have a problem with anyone else, though. If I can’t decipher what they’re saying, they’ll write it down. For some men this is unthinkable – as if the act of writing were giving something away,” he laughs incredulously. This reticence, he believes, is also class-based. “The upper classes rely on attracting and controlling people by saying not very much at all,” he notes.

In the past few years, Williamson has developed “almost constant synaesthesia”: sounds from the stock in his memory superimpose themselves on to visual events – an effect he finds fascinating. Equally interesting are the lapses of communication which occur in personal relationships – “It’s like, oh, there’s a misunderstanding, quite a funny one too,” he smiles. Intimate friendships, however, are treasured and guard him against “the inherent danger of withdrawal”.

“Being deaf,” he concludes, “helps me to explore language as an unstable, fluctuating medium. My position as an artist is absolutely my position as a person. This statement is always greeted with incredulity, but I actually prefer being the way I am.”

Aaron Williamson will be performing in London tomorrow at 7-12pm at 148 Charing Cross Road, W1, as part of the launch of `Dust’, a Creation Books poetry anthology.

Terence McKenna

I interviewed McKenna in a house in Hamsptead belonging to Rupert Sheldrake. He was the fastest-talking person I have ever met and – unlike Timothy Leary – did not appear to have suffered any mental degeneration as a result of his massive ingestion of drugs.

Later, I saw him guru-like on stage in a night club, surrounded by fans sitting cross-legged and listening intently to his psychedelic message.

He was very generous and gave me lots of collaborative CDs he’d made with various bands and individual musicians.

I wish he could report back from the after-life…

In bed with Susan de Muth: Life is a waking psychedelic dream: Terence McKenna

SUSAN DE MUTH
Wednesday, 18 May 1994
On six very special nights a year I unplug the telephone, lock the front door, turn off the lights, get into bed and, alone in silent darkness, take a huge amount – an heroic dose – of psilocybin mushrooms.

For me this is not an hedonic activity. My mind-brain system is a laboratory where I explore the great mystery of life. The boundaries that define the waking world are dissolved. I become a psychonaut of inner-space, entering complex experiences beyond language, bizarre yet beautiful landscapes never seen before. People who say that adventure has fled from modern life have no idea what is going on]

After about four hours I get up, exhausted, and make myself something to eat. Then I fall into a deep sleep, way beyond normal dreaming, and wake with memories and data that will keep me inspired for weeks.

For a few days after these ‘trips’ my dream-life is diminished. Dreaming releases a kind of pressure in the unconscious that has been thoroughly removed during the psychedelic experience to which I believe it is closely related. Small quantities of DMT (dimethyltryptamine, a naturally occurring, powerful hallucinogen) are produced in the human body, peaking between 3 and 4am, when rapid eye movement sleep is at its height.

Normal dreams are not a disappointment to me. I’m fascinated by all kinds of mental activity, including those day- residue dreams where you’ve forgotten to buy the milk . . . and nightmares, too. I take them seriously enough to have kept a dream journal for 20 years. Each night we are trying to rediscover something we find and lose every 24 hours: when we dream we are plunged into some primordial pool of imagery.

I often dream of places I haven’t been: a futuristic city I call Hong- Kong Morocco; Tasmania. There are also hundreds of strangers in my dreams to whom I relate as if I know them. This is very much like my life: I meet so many people since I’ve become some kind of minor icon on the underground scene that I’m often in situations where I vaguely recognise someone but have no idea who they are.

I don’t have any trouble sleeping, which is a shame because I’m thrilled by the prospect of insomnia. I once went for nine days and nights without sleep in the Amazonian jungle and found it an ecstatic experience. At night I’d walk deep into the jungle or sit somewhere and just contemplate: I found I could follow four or five trains of thought simultaneously and never lose the thread.

I have never been scared in the night, even if I have an alarming psychedelic experience. When we were children my mother used to put us to bed and say, ‘now you’re going into the friendly darkness’ and I have always seen it that way. I have a house in Hawaii and I love the nights there. It is always warm enough to walk out and star-gaze. Then there is time for thinking – my greatest passion.

I am very reclusive and unsociable. My idea of a great evening is a 200- year-old book and a snifter of brandy. I recently divorced after 15 years of marriage and enjoy being alone, yet I end up at a surprising number of parties. This new youth culture that’s arising has a nostalgia for the Sixties and looks to people like me for direction.

I don’t envisage giving up drugs at any point. The older I get, the more like a psychedelic waking dream everyday life appears to me.

Terence McKenna’s latest book, ‘True Hallucinations’, is published by Rider Books at pounds 14.99. A new CD, ‘Dream Matrix Telemetry’, is available on Delerium records.

Terence McKenna 47, is an ‘ethnobotanist and psychedelic philosopher’. He lives in northern California, where he writes books, gives lectures and makes records about his experiences with hallucinogenic drugs.

(Photograph omitted)

Trevor McDonald

In Bed With Trevor MacDonald

This was the second of my In Bed With… interviews and I was really nervous when I went to ITN to interview Trevor MacDonald – ah, well, I was young and inexperienced back then. He was very kind and obliged with a very revealing interview, inviting me back a week later to watch the News at Ten being made.

Nightmares and grim reality: Susan de
Muth in bed with Trevor McDonald – Our
series on nocturnal habits continues with
the dreams and diversions of the News at
Ten anchorman
SUSAN DE MUTH
Monday, 2 August 1993
Trevor McDonald, 53, is the anchorman for ‘News at Ten’. He is married to Josephine, whom he
met at ITN. They have one child, Jamie, four, and live in London.
‘I HAVE a recurring nightmare that I can hear the bongs of News at Ten and I’m stuck in a traffic
jam, clawing at the car seats. I dream constantly and nearly all my dreams are anxiety dreams.
This would certainly surprise people who know me well. Everyone thinks I have a cool,
unflappable exterior, but I’m not an inwardly calm person.
‘When I’ve been reporting from abroad, for example in South Africa or Iraq, I have often been so
distressed by the horrible things I’ve seen and heard that when I get back to the hotel I have
great difficulty sleeping. Then you also feel so absolutely lonely. I try to cut myself off from the
reality of such places by listening to music. I’ve often rigged up a little sound system in my hotel
room. I need to hear voices, and the voices I’d rather hear are those raised in song and in some
sort of harmony. Any music will do, pop or classical.
‘In a Belfast hotel some years ago, a young woman, for reasons best known to herself, smuggled
herself into my room one night. Perhaps I was a bit of a coward, but I made my excuses as
politely as I could and left. Now that doesn’t happen enough these days . . . they’ve stopped
doing it] I suppose there are what you could call ‘news groupies’, but they go after the younger,
more eligible people, not ageing, paunchy people like me.
‘I do less reporting since the anchorage and I like to be in at ITN by 11.30am. You can’t be
semi-detatched if you want to have any say in how it’s done. Once News at Ten is over I try not
to hang around and chat – I do that all day – and I am normally home by 11.15pm.
‘My wife is usually asleep when I get in, but it’s comforting to be aware of people’s presence in
the house. Our paths hardly cross, actually – we go our separate ways at breakfast time and have
very little conversation. We do spend weekends together. I’m still not sure if this is a recipe for a
happy marriage or an unhappy one.
‘I wind down with some difficulty. Letting yourself relax is a very conscious mental and physical
process. It takes longer if the news has been particularly exhilarating or, worse, disturbing. At
the moment, for example, I am infuriated by what is happening in Bosnia. We are in the 20th
century, and killing people in this way, setting out brutally and systematically to murder each
other, is almost antediluvian.
‘A good stiff drink helps, though I haven’t taken a medical opinion on whether that’s the most
healthy remedy. Sometimes there’s the odd bottle of champagne left from the weekend and I’ll
finish that off, otherwise it’s the only time I drink spirits. Like all night workers, I have to be
very careful not to crash around and wake up all the world.
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‘Reading is the surest way to invoke that wonderful, overwhelming, physical lassitude and to set
your mind on another plane. I’ve just finished Alan Clark’s diaries. An absolutely appalling
human being, but he writes like a dream – hilarious. I never miss an opportunity to read. I have
books in the loo.
‘The most tiring part of my life, actually, is that I invariably get up every morning a little before
eight to make my son, Jamie, his breakfast and have a chat with him before he goes off to
nursery school. Otherwise I’d never see him, and I couldn’t afford to do that. But it does make a
long day.
‘Until recently I was also writing a book about the more interesting (or boring) things I’ve done
in the course of my career. I found I was unable to write at home, so I would go into ITN a
couple of hours earlier and bash away in my office. During that period I used to come home
absolutely buggered.
‘By the time I crawl into bed, wearing nothing more than a splash of after-shave (it’s nice to
sleep unencumbered), I’m really longing for the ‘sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care . .
. sore labour’s bath’, and I never get enough. I am told I snore, which must be annoying, but I
do not, to the best of my knowledge, divulge state secrets . . . nor the secrets of other women
who may have wandered into my bed.’
Trevor McDonald’s book ‘Fortunate Circumstances’ will be published on 21 October by
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 16.99.
(Photograph omitted)
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