Coales' Notes: On the high road: Against his better judgement Gordon Coales finds himself forced to go to Edinburgh during festival time

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The Independent Culture
WEDNESDAY Rory has been on the phone from Edinburgh almost continually. He does sound troubled, but I really do not want to go up there. Di is now apparently quite bent on throwing everything in, and joining the PVC dance company.

I said I was very busy down here, and I certainly wasn't inclined to leave Lottie in charge of operations. (It would be also awkward for me because it is my arts phone-in tomorrow, and this is something I do not wish to queer.) But Rory said he thought, if we lost Di, there might not be any operations for very much longer, which is certainly a point. I told him it was probably just festival madness and to keep calm. Whatever happened, I wanted to make it absolutely clear that I would not be coming to Edinburgh.

THURSDAY I am in Edinburgh. It is in fact 6 o'clock on Friday morning. I feel quite awake. Rory rang yet again first thing. He said it was serious now. Di had appeared on stage with the PVC last night. 'I saw the show, and the problem is, she actually wasn't too bad.' I said alright, if he thought it would do any good, I would be on my way. I intended to leave after lunch.

I called Pipeline Radio and said a crisis had emerged and I wouldn't be able to make the slot. They were not very understanding. We agreed that I should provide my own replacement. I couldn't really think of anyone suitable. I eventually rang up Archie. He was enthusiastic and said he would do it, as long as I gave him a full briefing.

I told Lottie that if anything came up, and I meant anything, she was to ring me in Edinburgh and then hired a car. I met Archie at the flat at six. He had now decided to get cold feet. I said it was just ordinary members of the public, just be friendly and be accessible. He said: 'But real people, Gordon. One always feels so inadequate.' I had to take him round to the Pipeline studios personally. I didn't get off till after 9.30.

Round about Cambridge, I tuned the radio to Pipeline. I could just pick up Archie's voice, very brusque, saying to a caller '. . .and it's this declining quality of audiences that is now a tragic fact of life for all of us in the arts and you're exactly the sort of person I'm talking about . . .' Then he faded away. And so, through the night, to Edinburgh. Rory was waiting up for me. He said he hadn't seen Di for over 24 hours. I asked what this dancer character was like. Rory said he didn't find him very easy to talk to. I said, but didn't she have someone called Robin in London? Rory said: 'Yes. He's already been faxed. It's really mad. She's lost all interest in anything else.' We turned in.

FRIDAY I woke about teatime. I went into the kitchen. There was Di. I cannot say I was feeling quite up to a serious talk. She said: 'Hi Gordon] Couldn't keep away, eh? The festival's like that, I guess.' I said it did seem to have its own peculiar magic. She went on: 'The big question is: what do you, honestly, truly, as a person, think about dance?' I told her that I always used to say I preferred modern dance to classical - but I had recently been forced to recognise that I didn't like dance of any kind.

She nodded sympathetically. She said: 'I know. I thought so too. I was so wrong. And the thing is Gordon, what is so sad, and so limiting, and ultimately so dangerous, is the way we're actually frightened of our bodies. We are actually frightened of them.' She laughed. 'It is so English. It is so bloody English. It's like: Oh my God I've got a body]' Oh my god] What am I going to do? It's so English.'

Then a man came in, his sideburns crafted into the shape of scimitars. Di said: 'Gordon, this is Will, he's a dancer. Will, this is Gordon, he's English.' The man said: 'Hello, Englishman.' (He was quite clearly English himself.) He sat there in silence. I said, so, she had decided to become a dancer then. Di replied: 'No I didn't decide, Gordon. I found I was one.' I said, ah. It was very difficult. The dancer breathed in loudly. He said: 'Just looking at us. Sitting here. Rationalising.'

Rory came in. He said to Di: 'Oh, you're still here' or something. The dancer said: 'Rory, when I hear you speak, I see cattle-trucks. You know? Moving eastwards.' Rory replied: 'Right, nice one. Well, I don't know whether anyone's interested, but I've got a couple of tickets for the tattoo.' I said I'd definitely have one, if I might.

When we got back, Di had gone, but there was a note in her handwriting. It read: 'Message from Lottie - don't worry, she's dealing with it]' We agreed the situation now seemed very, very serious.