From Marjorie’s Diaries (1988-1990)

Selected by Irina SAFRONOVA.

I have decided to make public some excerpts from Marjorie’s diary covering her last years of working at Amnesty (International Secretariat, London) after reading the organisation’s recent Staff Wellbeing Review (January 2019), prompted by the suicides of the two Amnesty employees. 

As we all know, Amnesty International is a leader in the human rights field. Naturally, its ambitious human rights mission carries with it considerable and unusual pressures. As the 2019 Report states:

“Working at Amnesty is not just a job: Most staff believe in Amnesty’s mission very deeply and care a great deal about the work. Many describe their work as a vocation or life cause, and it provides them with a compelling sense of purpose and meaning. Working at Amnesty often places staff under exceptional stress: Although Amnesty employs many talented and caring individuals, Amnesty as a working environment is often described as “toxic.” The top five reported sources of stress all involved workload and management culture, and a significant proportion of staff (39%) reported that they have developed mental or physical health issues as the direct result of working at Amnesty”… etc.

On the other hand, “In February 2011, newspaper stories in the UK revealed that the Former AI secretary-general Irene Khan had received a payment of £533,103 from Amnesty International following her resignation from the organization on 31 December 2009, a fact pointed to from Amnesty’s records for the 2009-2010 financial year. The sum paid to her was more than four times her annual salary (£132,490). The deputy secretary general, Kate Gilmore, who also resigned in December 2009, received an ex-gratia payment of £320,000.Peter Pack, the chairman of Amnesty’s International Executive Committee (IEC), initially stated on 19 February 2011: “The payments to outgoing secretary general Irene Khan shown in the accounts of AI (Amnesty International) Ltd for the year ending 31 March 2010 include payments made as part of a confidential agreement between AI Ltd and Irene Khan” and that “It is a term of this agreement that no further comment on it will be made by either party.”(Wikipedia)

I rest my case…

Happy reading!

Irina Safronova, November 2019


From Marjorie’s Diaries


Friday, 1 April

Easter Friday, Iranians had laid siege to the office. I read samizdat all day at home and felt mighty peculiar with exhaustion. At teatime M. suddenly came by with the car and took me to “Fatal Attraction”. I was glad for the break. During the day I had some good phone calls, asking J. about constitutional courts, and then with K. who started telling me what she thinks of evil.

Saturday, 9 April

Oddly enough at night I had another terrible set of dreams about car crashes, the way I did last time I got over-sensitive and destroyed…

It all seemed something about nothing, like we haven’t got enough recent joint impressions and our minds are sweeping over the surfaces looking for cracks, like lighthouse beams…

Wednesday, 20 July

Trip to Iona

Our first really beautiful weather. We had a superb lazy sail out to Staffa then Iona.

I lay right out on the bow in the sun and did some of my first real thinking for months. I am so glad to be away from London and all those preoccupations.

We spent the afternoon on Iona. When I was there as a child I used to sit watching the boats sail in, wishing I could be on them. And here at 34 I was on one. ..

I do love Iona. I could imagine a happy old age there. The duchess of Argyll is buried there in a very simple grave with a picture of a cat on it. Maybe she felt the same….



Monday, 13 March

I have reached a strange new stage, I don’t know if it’s to do with my age. Tonight I was at MM Elders and Overseers and we were discussing why people want to join Quakers. There were many interesting things to think about in what people said, and I thought what “bringing your whole life under the ordering of the spirit” would really mean. My spiritual life was blossoming recently and I have had delight in the sort of small encounters I have had with people and the small patterns of events. With some people I have felt I am seeing God face-to-face, particularly my nice working relationship with C.

I keep getting this instinct that great things are going to happen, and it excites me deep down. I don’t want to deter things and submerge myself from a wobbly passivity at this stage of my life.

Monday, 19 June 

My dream last night was of flying. It was a potentially depressing dream, but all day I felt, my god, I want to soar, I want to live – and not in the sense of challenges and ambitions – but being me and the things I actually do very well. Also to take things seriously.

Lunch was a surprise and touching. When I told H. I had an interview with the Lawyers` Committee, she said “if you leave I’ll have to leave too.” She then said that very few researchers manage to make any mark on the surroundings: S. was one and I am another. I was totally unprepared for this bouquet.

Sunday, 23 July

Seeing love is such a closed book to me, I’ve been reflecting on it. 

Though I’m more familiar with the spiritual ideas of love, Song of Solomon touched me most when I looked up references in the Bible: ”And the banner he set above me was love.”The idea of lovers making their conquering attraction gentle appeals to me. Someone endows you with strength and you don’t use it because you love them.I was also looking at book blurbs one day and read one about a woman with her lover of 40 years, who had gone a bit mad. The very fact of a 40-year love made me flush and think warm thoughts of J. Someone’s very willingness to stick it out and take the rough with the smooth makes me love them. When they have decided they’re not willing, some ingredient of my love goes. So the stasis business isimportant and for me.

Tuesday, 15 August

Meeting on Sunday was very good – Margaret and Tony’s farewell as wardens. I was there after a lot of drink and only six hours sleep, but in a deep spiritual state. I ministered about the wardenship and it really did feel as though it came from a deep source other than me. I had been thinking of one of my favourite ideas: “except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh in vain.” It came to me simply that the good and lasting things that surround us were built by God and are kept by God. It is the god part in people that has done it. It made me very aware of the people who have gone before – like the people who have built Amnesty so that doors now open for us.

Margaret spoke in her distinctive strange way. She said there had been many crises in their wardenship, but the Chinese have two words for crisis: “opportunity and disaster”. They had made their crises into opportunities.

I’ve finished my USSR report and proofread the Death Penalty briefing in Russian. A.B. liked my report very much. At the end of a very weary day I wanted to see I.M., so just popped into his office. He seemed to want to see me – showed me the dish Benazir Bhutto gave AI and his birthday flowers and we chewed the fat on the USSR. It’s a nice relationship we have…

Friday, 1 September

Another strange and wonderful week. Professor Kelina wrote to us this week to say the Death Penalty Report has gone to the typesetters. Meanwhile, we are busily proofing the Russian translation at all hours of the day and night and finding a lot of mistakes. I have to try to see that our corrections are incorporated before the thing is published, when we’re in Moscow. Quite a responsibility, but I feel I’ve got the bit between my teeth…

Friday, 8 September

This week I have finalised the paper to the USSR government; been Head of Region; been revising all our corrections to the Russian version of the Death Penalty report from 7 am to 9 am each day; done Premises Committee minutes and drafted a report for the Overseers: it was busy.

I seem to be acquiring a cat, a nice young tabby with a pleasant face. It has poked about my back door and come in the kitchen a couple of times. Once when I was listening to Faure`s Pavanne to a Dead Infanta one morning on the radio, I looked up and saw its reflection on the roof – turning its head in a stately way, like the music. Since then we have come a long way. It leapt from the roof into my window sill one day, picked up courage, and finally forced its way through the window which was locked open a crack. Today it had no such reservations; leapt down and hurled itself through, all in one movement. It is now padding about the flat and has just walked over the piano keys.

I thought I really got I. M.’s back up in a meeting the other week, When I criticized the Cuba report with more emotion than I intended – then was dark and meaningful about our development work, also with more emotion that I intended. I thought I probably came over as ramrod hard, negative and critical. On Thursday though we had 10 minutes to finalize the Progress Publishers’ position, the Book Fair, the report to the government etc. and it was so relaxed and constructive I was struck by it. He ended by telling me to feel free to use my initiative in Moscow because he has absolute confidence in my judgement. Praise indeed, from him.

At the end of this distracting week I had a great Overseers’ Meeting. I love Greta – she is so terribly intelligent about life and the world; kind and young at heart. We talked about what love is and Quakerism means. This was partly prompted by the news that Paul W. is in jail for indecent assault. Greta spoke about repeat offenders, alcoholics and the like: in her view you love them, but you don’t just keep talking them back. You make clear what your standards are, if they want you they must choose to try to meet these standards. Seems like sense to me.

I’ve got an autumn garden – the Virginia creeper has gone red….

Wednesday, 20 September

I’m just back from a week in Moscow at the Book Fair. In some ways I didn’t enjoy Moscow. Gorky Street was grey, the hotel was ugly and tacky, it was cold and it was hard to find anything to eat at first. I wondered how I would find life there – and also I realise I don’t like membership work too much and although government contact can be interesting, it can also leave you feeling that nothing has taken place. 

On Sunday evening I paid a duty call on Y.S., and my enjoyment changed. I could imagine both having friends and a religious life if I lived there. She is very slow in speech and movement and extremely quiet and gentle. I felt myself relaxed and we talked about nothing much and about prisoners… She very much wanted to come to the Book Fair so I agreed to meet her next day – however, it was all so rushed there wasn’t any opportunity to talk. And with some embarrassment I asked if she would then spend some time strolling and talking with me because I would enjoy it. She said yes.

It was a beautiful day at the Danilov monastery. She had brought me a box of klyukvy [cranberries] and icon postcards and also one of the official notifications she’d got from an accountant at Lefortovo prison. She’d been arrested at 24, spent 10 months in solitary confinement, with 5 hours interrogation a day, She then got 1+5 at her trial. I was thinking about her life and asked if she was angry about what happened. She didn’t answer directly, but then told me a lot about her experiences. After the Danilov she took me to the Donskoy and then to Lina Tumanova’s grave, which was very emotional for her. I think she very much enjoyed talking about everything to someone who knew about it. We looked round a Memorial exhibition for the victims of Stalinism and as I trailed behind her I was aware I was walking behind a victim of the 1980s. She didn’t like the exhibition very much because she thought few of the people really understood what they were commemorating. When we parted on the tube at Sverdlov Square it was really quite emotional. I thanked her for her company and she said “тебетожеспасибо“ in a way that touched me…

Monday, 25 September

I started work at Amnesty 11 years ago today and the weather was the same – beautiful. I’m packed and ready to go to Alaska at the end of a week which I began in Moscow. Last night I went to Mary R. to collect jumpers for my trip and met an interesting South African woman lawyer. The night before it was Kate’s for dinner. It’s lovely having neighbours. This weekend has been my first opportunity to relax for many weeks and it was bliss…

Sunday, 29 October

Work almost crushed my spirit this week. There was a grace day on Friday but I went in. I.M. was there and came to speak with me about Moscow. He is considering appointing without advertising which I think would be a grave mistake.

Maggie M. said burglars broke in through her ceiling. Jo at No.10 was mugged in Dumbarton Rd last week…

Saturday, 4 November

This has been a funny week. A basic inner emptiness has been dogging me. In company I keep seeing how I behave, and how other react, and not liking it. And I’m scared that there’s nothing to force me to change and soften and be “held”. Monday night I was particularly depressed and edgy and paranoid… All sorts of irrational revenges occurred to me in flashes in the rest of the week – so I really was annoyed, but said nothing. I felt troubled that I couldn’t/did say anything about any of these things that were bugging me and where I felt walked over. I read Psalms next day.

Saturday, 11 November

This has been the strangest week, in which I’ve been up against what really matters and what does not. The first part of the week I felt very much out of touch with anything that matters, probably summed up when I went to a Revolution Day celebration with I.M. at the Soviet Embassy and came back with B.W. The level of spurious enthusiasm, charm and verbiage was quite alienating. At night I lay on the floor trying to work out what was depressing me and feeling at the same time that I was likely to go nuts over my confusion therein. When I thought about it though I realised that I.M. has made me feel trapped about the Moscow job. By pinning it to me, I am caught at the IS for all the months that the Soviets dither about it, and in good faith I can’t apply for other jobs meanwhile. Realising this is the problem gave me some peace of mind and I decided I will have to tell him somehow…

Thursday was also the day when I achieved some spiritual peace, after reading `Christ in You` in the morning.

The Berlin Wall virtually dissolved this week. Every morning I woke up to hear the GDR had done something unbelievable the night before – the Council of Ministers resigned, the Politburo was replaced, the people were allowed through the wall in thousands. Amazing. And blow me down, if there wasn’t a new President of Bulgaria by the end of the week.

I wrote in Russian to Y.S. There were several alternative Revolution Day marches this year in the USSR. One in Moscow carried banners saying “72 year on the road to nowhere” and “Proletariat of the world – forgive us!”

Tuesday, 21 November

I had a sandwich lunch with B.P, the US Quaker who works on the UK. We talked about a very great deal – Quaker individuals v. establishment; Islam and international law; our Quaker meetings and our backgrounds. A lovely and very intelligent person.

All day I have felt J. holding my hand. “Love and fidelity have come together, justice and peace have joined hands”, so says the psalm quoted in a biography of Gwen John I have just read. I think they are beautiful words.

Sunday, 3 December

“Lift the bell, adventurous stranger: break the spell and find the danger.” That was one of the themes behind the play about C.S. Lewis. J. said we were maybe closer before we became lovers. But the play was about that risk. It also talked about desire being like a baby – it keeps wailing and wailing until it gets what it wants. The play was beautifully written and Nigel Hawthorne was terrific.

It’s been an aggressive, sparky week. And all the time I’ve been feeling “the unbearable lightness of being”. I could spin off the edge of the world because there’s nothing and no one to tie me down. I am too free. I read all day in the office and I came home and read, and no one sees me do it. I don’t have a best friend. No one sees my deepest feelings, and hardly anything or anyone makes me really feel anything. As time goes by, I still feel close to B.. He once said hardly anything made him feel anything and that was the trouble. I am afraid solitude is making me peculiar… 

I fitted a bathroom carpet and undercoated the back gate this weekend. Last weekend I wrote a letter to J. It was all of a piece and honest – it felt like ministry.

Saturday, 16 December

This is a sad time. M.W. had slipped into a coma last week and is probably dead by now. At work I saw a note on the board to say J.K. had died, and I later learned it was suicide. I could picture her at her desk in her long grey cardigan, glasses and nice bashful smile. I was very sorry. Then yesterday morning news said Sakharov had died suddenly. I wanted to talk about it with someone and as I was at the doctor’s before work, I mentioned it to him. I wrote letters of condolence for I.M., and M.D. rang up just to talk because she’d just heard the news. I know how she felt. This morning I looked at the full length photo of him speaking in the newspaper, and burst into tears. It is very sad and many people in the USSR must now be bereft.

I am trying to learn something from the way I have been feeling these past six weeks. Sometimes I feel I am only just hanging on to normal acceptable life. My skin feels so thin that many ordinary jokes or remarks or situations each day give me real pain and I’m fighting to overcome a depression.

I called Y.S. last Saturday just to wish her and her mother Happy Christmas. I was stuck for words and a bit ridiculous but I just wanted to make the contact. She has a lovely voice and is a very good kind person. When you put a piece of string next to a bigger one you see it’s true size. And I feel there is much I could learn from her…

I did the annual report and wrote to the USSR Foreign Ministry this week proposing the Moscow outpost. On Monday went to “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” at the Barbican, which was very enjoyable.

I believe in the God within – I don’t believe in anything else – but I’m having difficulty making contact with it. I am trying to let the people I care for know it. Love is patient, love is kind. It also finds fulfilment in being met by love. If I had less ego I wouldn’t feel like this, but “overcoming the self” seems a dangerous policy for me at the moment with my incomplete understanding of things and my tendency to sweep away the personal for the abstract.

New Year’s Eve

I tried to learn from these difficult weeks. One thing is that I am responsible for the situations I have created.. Also, although I am not particularly pleased with myself, people think I am and the look on my face irritates a lot of people.

For the next decade I want to lead a more normal life.To enjoy myself and to be less lonely.



Saturday, 6 January

I finished proofing the Russian version of the Death Penalty Report and was really pleased with the way they had done the USSR entry. Prof. Kelina’s editings actually improved it and would make it stronger against conservative criticism. 

Tuesday, 9 January

I was tired this morning. I went to SSEES library and ended up looking through a year’s Izvestiyas then queuing for a photocopier, so finished only at 1.00. 

The union voted to go on strike against the management’s 0.5% pay offer. 

Wednesday, 10 January

I got the Death Penalty report off to Progress Publishers then we had a long Union meeting in which we decided not to go on strike, but nevertheless to put the wind up the management. Usually these things get me frazzled, but the atmosphere was so united and good-humoured and S.F. chaired it so well that we came out well-pleased. I think the management really misjudged the mood this time…

Thursday, 11 January

Beautiful spring weather in the morning. I.M. is back being public and friendly and relieved. I went for lunch at Joe Allen’s in Covent Garden with M. D. of the Times. She’s enchanting company but you feel she might walk over her grandmother to get to the good story if need be – a bit like S. L. I enjoyed talking the USSR with her and asked her a lot about China. She’d been at Tiananmen Sq….

Friday, 12 January

I worked very hard all day until 8.30 pm and felt I achieved very little…

Sunday, 14 January

I am seriously wondering if I want to carry on working with USSR jobs. My main wish now is to be with friends, dismantle my tower of knowledge, and be on a simpler footing with people. I thought about it at meeting but inconclusively…

Monday, 15 January

I hated what I did during the day – reading about the pogrom in Baku over the weekend and writing a UA. The atrocities are horrible and there’s no one to appeal to – it’s like the Lebanon. By night time Gorbie had sent in army and KGB, and oddly enough I felt relieved!

Tuesday, 16 January

I made progress with my UA and a letter to Yakovlev on rehabilitations so felt better. The Union meeting was quieter…

Thursday, 18 January

Saw an awful documentary about Pretoria Central Prison: The Death Factory. It was so sad. It’s hard to believe what people do to each other. I was glad again that I work in an organization that tries to stop that. C. came round for dinner and duets. We were both tired, but enjoyed it. She said she thought I should try writing because “I’m perceptive and have a sense of irony”. We ended up looking through my old photos.

Friday, 19 January

I worked fantastically hard today until 8.00 pm: co-group letter, letter to government on rehabilitations; planning Monday’s talk; clearing a white pile of papers. I.P. took me for a drink. We talked about Eastern Europe with real enthusiasm. I got awfully fed up with C.A. today, coming through to comment on my letter paragraph by paragraph instead of reading it whole…

Sunday, 28 January

Meeting for worship was very good for me. I thought about Andrey Sakharov and the scapegoat…

Tuesday, 30 January

A split developed in the Union about whether to compromise on the pay claim. I admired N.H. for sticking out for a counter-resolution. We all did 15-minutes solidarity with the ambulance workers. I think it was a mistake to go to Clerkenwell Green – we should have stood on the main road. God, trade union rhetoric and format is intensely boring and old-fashioned. It’s like the Soviet Communist Party.

Friday, 2 February

I worked like a fiend, doing 3 government letters and finishing my letter to the Committee on Constitutional Supervision. 

I had dinner with Inge and Douglas and it was very enjoyable. Douglas and I shared a few laughs. We were talking about odd bits of scripture that float to the top of our heads- and he said, he often remembers “the voice of the turtle is heard over the land.” Of all scriptural references I didn’t expect that one and erupted with laughter. Apparently, it means the turtle dove…

Monday, 5 February

It was a lovely ride into work – blue and sunny. At lunch I went to the Friends’ Book shop and bought myself “Christian Faith and Practice” and the new translation of the New Testament. 

There’s now a big notice in the kitchen, presumably aimed at C.: “Please, don’t clean your teeth in this kitchen.” Other people have added bits, so the polemic heats up…

Tuesday, 6 February

It seems I may be going to Geneva with H., which may be fun.

Gorbachev is busily persuading the Central Committee to hand back its toys to the country. And blow me down, South Africa is suspending the death penalty and talking about power sharing with blacks. It makes you quite glad to be alive…

Sunday, 11 February


Wednesday, 21 February

Up at 6.00 am to catch the 8.45 plane to Geneva and only just made it. I got to the UN for lunch with the gang. L. shook my hand and everyone was kind about filling me in. In the afternoon I fixed meetings with Hungary and Bulgaria. At night it was a reception at the Soviet Embassy and I had a good conversation with the Ukrainian delegate, who seemed to be pleased to meet me. I was disconnected to find L. had no plans for the Eastern Europe/Soviet meetings and that I.M. told him it was OK, I would be there. Trust I didn’t feel I deserve particularly.

Thursday, 22 February

Over lunch a US delegate joined me and the conversation got round to the death penalty, whereupon he worked himself up to the point of losing his temper, stuck his finger in my face and said, “Let me tell you something, Amnesty International has achieved nothing, nothing!” This contrasted strikingly with the head of the Soviet delegation, Felix Stanevsky, who spoke with us thoughtfully and intensely for an hour. He said AI needs to be inthe USSR to take part in the debate and help the democratic process. Both he and the Ukranian seemed nervous about public vengeance against former Communists. In the morning we had an excellent 40 minutes with the head of the Hungarian delegation, who got my man of the match reward. He was so reasonable, so open.

Sunday, 25 February

A good meeting. J.W. ministered on St Mark’s Gospel as rendered by Alex McCowan. Premises Committee, letter writing, then “Dead Poets’ society” with M.W. It was both funny and moving. I took “Carpe Diem” to heart and had a great dream – a light travelling in from the sea, becoming a woman bringing messages.

Monday, 26 February

The weirdest day in which I felt I was on the run from start to finish… My train was cancelled and when I got home I found Daniel Ortega had unexpectedly lost the Nicaraguan elections.

Tuesday, 27 February

First thing A. wanted to talk to me about Moscow and the Council of Europe. I felt very reluctant and trapped, but suddenly she was quite understanding about my predicament and also understood my objections in principle to appointing without advertising. I.M. spoke to me in the afternoon and wrong-footed me by asking, “What do you want? What are you planning?” Then in a very pleasant way he told me forcefully that he would never have put the outpost on the line with the Soviet government if not for picturing me doing it. I felt very exposed under the full glare of his diplomatic/managerial offensive, but I just tried to tell him why I felt I had to have some choice in the matter, mainly having the job advertised and recruited normally. By the end he gave me my way – largely because I said the internal fall-out from an unadvertised appointment would be bad. It was friendly but he didn’t like it…

Wednesday, 28 February

My break for freedom: I went to Sainsbury’s and skipped Katya’s conversation class. Work felt better because I’d sorted out news in trays. N. and I went for a long drink afterwards.

Thursday, 1 March

An interesting day going through the case material on Andrey Zapevalov, a 23-year-old sentenced to death. Updated our Urgent Action on him.

I invited the nice French C. for a drink. She was terribly pleased but said, “Do you mean me?”

Friday, 2 March

Good weather. I did a letter to Burlatsky about Zapevalov – poor blighter was a goner before they even sentenced him…

Saturday, 3 March

C.C. and I went to visit S. W. at 2.30, and I became unaccountably nervous as I was supposed to conduct it all. I realised straightaway I didn’t want to ask any questions but only to listen, particularly to Sarah, who had been such honesty and wisdom. C. Pulled me in to speak about the Peace Testimony, and I felt out of my depth. Tears came to my eyes when Sarah talked about her attitude to Christ. Afterwards I realised her experiences in the convent etc. echo mine. She said afterwards she was spiritually lost. I am emotionally lost. She said that time in the convent made her think about what she really believed and otherwise she would have carried on ignoring things and half-thinking. Living alone has been that experience for me. She said she longed to be able to speak about her spiritual life with people who think it is as important as her other parts. I want to speak about my whole self likewise. Ireally long to be free, and for others to be free.I wrote up her report in the evening.

I like C.C. She’s serene, very beautiful and quite a character. 

Monday, 5 March

An interview for Radio Moscow, followed by a meeting with the Azeri Popular Front. Then a CSCE strategy meeting in the afternoon, chaired by N., who made long speeches on item then discounted every option and precluded any discussion. When it got to the death penalty I tried to open up the discussion, but he twice tried to talk me down. I said no, firmly, and carried on. I don’t think he would have done that to a man, but I think too that not many women in the IS would have stood up to him. Tense atmosphere round that table, but we managed some jokes by the end.

Thursday, 8 March

Work is an absolute drag at the moment. But the weather was nice…

Saturday, 10 March

Last night B. and I had an interesting talk about “goodness” and also about the mythology which begins to surround events. Is it a Quaker outlook, or do we personally just agree a lot? So much emotion was in me, we talked really deeply about “relationship”, “nowing/loving”; and “knowing and being known”. It relieved me greatly. He too thinks relationships don’t “end” – you can’t “unknow” someone and also it would do a violence to ourselves to cast them off. My emotional water table was very high and I felt myself brimming inside. I care for B. very much. He is so kind, with such a kind voice.

Friday, 23 March

Soviet tanks and helicopters are “showing force” through the streets of Lithuania. The Tories got smashed at the mid-Staffs by-election. Another unproductive day spent labouring on the law paper. A.B. came to suggest we work on Mongolia…

Tuesday, 27 March

God, I want to get out of this job. I made my day hell today. The Soviets had seized Lithuanian deserters so it was a morning of phone calls and running round trying to get out a telex to the government. I felt somewhat undermined by N. and J. in doing that. A.B. breezed in at lunchtime having not told me she was to be off am, then began throwing her weight about because I hadn’t brought the draft telex through her. She presumably complained about this to C. and started amending the text. I felt shredded by her. She could see I was fed up and so kept coming to see me, which made me feel worse…

Prof. Kelina is in town with 5 Soviet lawyers. R.M. went home with exhaustion for 3 weeks.

Wednesday, 28 March

To avoid a repeat of yesterday I meditated long and slow in the morning, had a bath and felt much more relaxed. I worked very systematically and productively all day and felt better.

After work I went to the Ibis hotel to see Prof. Kelina for ½ hr. She brought 2 copies of our Death Penalty report and it’s quite a success. I felt a great sense of achievement. No kisses this time but she was friendly and I enjoyed tales from the Soviet parliament. She was interested in our idea of an outpost and said it would be nice if I did it. She’s become Deputy Director of the Institute of State and Law.

Thursday, 29 March

Another productive day and more lovely weather. 

French C. asked me for lunch and wanted another serious talk, this time about Quakerism. We also discussed our parents’ evasive tactics in serious conversations. If she cries, her father asks, “Did you have lunch?”

I.M. and I talked at about 7.00pm, planning tomorrow’s visit with Kelina.

I cycled to the overseers with no dinner, hoping it would be short, but Greta and Les got talking/arguing about the soul and life’s meaning and it was interesting. I was glad to to stay on. Greta’s great.

Friday, 30 March

Gorgeous weather. The Soviet lawyers came in the afternoon, including Stanislav Borodin and Valery Savitsky, whom I’ve always wanted to meet. Prof. Kelina beamed and put her arm round me and said we were old friends. She asked I.M. again about our information bureau and who we are dealing with in the Foreign Ministry. I wonder if she will help us? She had obviously checked up with the Soviet embassy since she spoke to me, because she said “the wind is good.” Whoever or whatever she is, I like her energy and I appreciate her liking for me…

Saturday, 31 March

Hot spring weather but I was felled by exhaustion and couldn’t really enjoy it. I took a skirt back to Littlewoods and while I waited at the bus stop a tank passed me at full lick. The anti-poll tax demonstration was huge and turned into a riot. Around 3,000 people were setting fires, overturning cars and smashing windows in central London. Police were dividing crowds at 40 mph and charging women and children.

Thursday, 5 April

All-day management meeting, in which I really was treated with privilege. The meeting was uninspiring – they’re a weary lot some of those middle managers. Some of my contributions were treated like prophetic utterances from the plains. Nice touch this morning – when I. M. announced the pay settlement he waved a piece of paper and said “peace in our time!” with double irony.

Sunday, 8 April

Bright and cold, bright and cold. Ministry at meeting was quite prophetic about our social divisions and prison riots. Laura quoted Jeremiah on “the daughter of Zion” – because it’s always women who suffer, she said. I gardened for ½ hrs, got chilled and suddenly exhausted. Retired to bed and didn’t feel like work anymore.

Brixton jail cordoned off today as prison trouble spread.

Monday, 9 April

Sunny and bright but I woke up aching, feeling very tired and totally unenthusiastic about work. Decided to stay off. Ate a decent lunch, listening to Mozart…

Tuesday, 10 April

It was an absolutely horrible day at work and I have got to leave the job or go mad. Felt fine when I went in but pretty ghastly by mid-morning. I meant to go home promptly at six and to take things easy, but I had a 20-min lunch hour, worked until 7.20 then raced by cab to the Brixtonian to have dinner with D.O. I am so sick of living like this – I can’t afford cabs and I didn’t feel I could afford all the output of energy during the day.

Sunday, 15 April

I joined Mum for the Easter breakfast at Church. The service was quite good and I think it must have been nice for Mum to have company.

At night we watched The Bishop of Durham on TV. I said, I thought he was too religious to be a bishop. “Too religious?”, said Mum incredulously, but Dad watched with interest and agreed.

Thursday, 19 April

Today for the first time I felt I saw some light at the end of the tunnel, after several weeks. But I needed to go to the pub after work and there I talked with T.W. and a Dutch woman. CMD almost staged a revolution in the afternoon and were in the pub later as high as kites. Apparently the Membership unit had refused to attend a meeting on “workload” and said the problem was their lousy management. So another meeting was convened which I.M. attended, and people really spoke their minds – E.P being the hero apparently. Things are really hopping.

Saturday, 21 April

For once not knackered when I woke up. I read work stuff, then went to Emma and Ewan’s wedding where I read that lovely part from Psalm 85 “Love and fidelity come together…”

Sunday, 22 April

I like waking up to the sound of thunder. It was quietly raining in the garden. I wrote to Mum and Dad, listening to music, then went up for lunch at Mary and Bob’s. It was very nice. I enjoyed Jeeves on TV at night, with Stephen Fry.

Wednesday, 25 April

Got my visa application off to Kostin in the morning, And we had a very good regional meeting on “management problems” – partly thanks to H.’s good chairing and I.P.’s good ideas. Straight into translating the Annual Report with K., then into a meeting with T.K. in which I.M. reported back on his trip to Moscow. It was tense and embarrassing because of T. Then out to finish my law paper. After work I typed up the Overseers list then went to the Overseers meeting. Some day!

Thursday, 26 April

I felt l was caught in a bad dream in the morning. I’d forgot people from the Finnish embassy were coming – so I’d double-booked with a journalist and also arrived in blue jeans and T-shirt. Although I expected a junior embassy official to be sitting with members of the European region, I found H. alone with 5 Finns, including the ambassador, and they were all talking about development aid. I felt dreadful – thought I’d come to the wrong meeting. H. occasionally turned to me “for a regional perspective” and I was scared I was going to say something totally stupid or which contradicted what she’d said before I came in. Afterwards it turned out that H. had also been at sea and dying for my arrival.

Monday, 30 April

H. had refused to approve one of our case sheets on Friday and I went to her and we both got angry – me bullying her and getting my way. I don’t know where all this comes from – I had a lovely weekend and was feeling good this morning. Lunch with C. Then an evening at home in which I filled out my application for Moscow.

Tuesday, 1 May

Delightful weather continues and this was my nicest, most productive day for about 2 months. I finished the law paper and drafted a telex to the government on the Lithuanian conscripts…

Wednesday, 2 May

I was desperately tired. N. had the whole morning off. I’m so tired and resentful of everyone’s absences. I feel like I’m working with a part-time team. The prospect of Cambridge at night was exhausting. It felt that I do nothing but work late and here I was anyway, going to work in Cambridge. Stress is making me feel physically weird. I told B. about it on the train. He too feels tired and was sympathetic to me. We walked to Kings College and then did our speech in the Provost’s spectacular house. It all went pretty well in a sober way. 

I had a bad night dreaming about work and even waking up and crying, desperate to get out.

Friday, 4 May

More gappy attendance. I did UA for Manucharova and Hodes and sent Government letters to the Lithuanian Supreme Council…

Sunday, 6 May

My mind was chaotic in meeting, so that wasn’t much good. Dad rang when I got in and I asked his advice about resigning. He said he would support me.

Monday, 7 May

Surprise, surprise, it stayed nice. The Pyracantha has turned white over the weekend. I went canvassing with my anti poll-tax posters for an hour in the morning and enjoyed myself. The poorer and more local residents are most strongly opposed to the tax…

Tuesday, 8 May

I handed in my job application today.

Friday, 11 May

A horrible day. Couldn’t get my visa. In between times I was working madly till 7.30. I hate it. 

Saturday, 12 May

Tomorrow is another day apparently. I got through to Kiev at 8.00 am and Kostin at 9.00 am. At night called a cab to go to the Soviet Embassy to pick up my visa.

Monday, 11 June

B. said the nicest things to me today. She told me I am a free spirit, strong and have worked hard on myself with honesty. I don’t think anyone has said anything so personal to me and with such feeling.

Wednesday, 13 June

Met I.M. outside the Soviet Embassy for a reception with the Minister of Justice. We had a 5-min face-to-face with Yakovlev, Kostin and I busily translating for our respective bosses. I. M. noted how powerful Kostin seems – he did indeed seem very expansive and relaxed – calling me Marjorie and telling me he had to drink several vodkas with the man who eventually signed my visa. I said something about a “great sacrifice” and he said he wanted me to know it had been a great sacrifice…

Then I went to Sydenham Hill for dinner with Jim Birley, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists…

Friday, 15 June

L. had his leaving party. His last words were “Dudes and dudettes, let’s party!”

Thursday, 26 July

On Friday 6 July Ireland abolished the death penalty and I got a new job in Moscow! Great excitement. And I’m so glad to leave the other job.

Last Monday I had a lovely conversation with I.M. I had written him an update on the Moscow outpost preparations and added “I hope you will be staying around for this nice adventure. It would be reassuring to know you were.” Which is true. When he saw me he asked how things were going and told me just to let him know when I needed him. He also said he loved my notes on homosexuality and the mandate, where I compare AI to the Church of England. In a roundabout way I suppose we were really saying “Please, don’t go” And “I’ll be here when you need me.” It was nice.

Friday, 27 July

I got up at 6.00 am and went into the office to find Galina Starovoitova’s phone number. She wanted me to ring her at 7.00 am. I must say she and her husband have two of the most lovely voices I have heard. I told her. She said he was in many ways an enchanting person. We went with C.G and V.S. to Ranby prison in Notts and spoke with 12 murderers doing life sentences. Altogether an interesting day. 

Saturday, 6 October

At the Union meeting this week I raised the question of multiculturalism and the intimidating monoculture which prevails. I’d written a memo about it in August and only got one chance to speak about it after some effort. I prepared for the chance quite well, was met by total silence, but over the next 2 days was approached by 9 people who said I was right and that I should have gone further. I wonder if it will develop into something.

I’ve been reading a biography of Simone Weil, B.’s birthday present to me. Some of the stories about her are a bit tiresome and unappealing, but her own voice in her writing never is. She is very impressive. When I read about her I think I recognise her and I don’t know who it is. Part B., part J., part Y.S.

Friday, 24 December

The office has been invaded by Turks for 2 days and there’s a threatening atmosphere. Shevardnadze has resigned and it looks as though the dark forces are rolling forwards in the USSR. I’ve resigned my researcher job and tomorrow consign my flat to the tenant – so in 1991 I may be unable to get to Moscow, both jobless and homeless. The daft thing is that it’s taken me quite some ingenuity to get to this point.


April 1993

C.P. CAVAFY, quoted by Daniel Patrick Moynihan
in Pandaemonium: Ethnicity in International Politics

“What are we waiting for, assembled in the public square?”
The barbarians are to arrive today.

Why such inaction in the senate?
Why do the senators sit and pass no laws?

Because the barbarians are to arrive today.
What further laws can the senators pass?
When the barbarians come they will make the laws.

But then.

Why this sudden unrest and confusion?
(How solemn their faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
And all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
Some people arrived from the frontiers.
And they said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
These people were a kind of solution.