This is an exercise in style. I envy that of a fellow blogger, and I am adapting her style to mine to make a coruscating hybrid of narcissistic blether.
Me and Tess were on our way to the Borough, and could hear a young child screaming and crying. She'd got her head stuck between the railings outside the office block next door. Before I went over to bend the railings apart with the mighty power of my Cultural Studies, she managed to wriggle free.
Then we bumped into an acquaintance of Tess's, someone who quite openly said that he fancies her boyfriend. He was acidly funny and intelligently pisstaking. He told us he worked for a broadsheet, which I initially took with a pinch of salt, before unsolicited details emerged which confirmed it is true.
I went to collect Trina from the railway station, and on the way back we acquired Richard. Back at the pub, Tess's boyfriend turned up, so there was quite a gang of us. I enjoyed the banter with the journalist, although after a while his desperation to be the centre of attention was irritating. He cut straight across an anecdote I was relating. I let him speak then refused to finish it when he said "Anyway, sorry--carry on." "No, it's OK, I'll tell you later", and turned to speak to Richard for a while, partly to unprise Trina. He was turning to her, doing that serious, supplicating face, taking her hand. I.e., he was pissed, on the spirits, and wanted a woman to be his social worker again. I know he's gone through a bereavement but I wish he wouldn't constantly bring it to social occasions, at this, a four-year distance.
Trina was brilliant with the journalist, gabbling away, as she does, saying the first thing that comes into her head, and getting him to talk in a more open and less competitive style than he was with the rest of us. I was talking to Richard, who was saying that you can tell from the music of certain now-famous bands (famous to him), that they spent many years in Camden, but trying to earwig on Trina and the journo. Tess looked a bit lost, separated by three chairs from the shyest boyfriend in Christendom, whom I find impossible to talk to. The other morning, as he -- to his embarrassment, I could tell -- bumped into me as I was leaving the house, he said "Turned out nice again." I didn't think that any young person ever said that outside of late 70s suburban sitcoms. Yes, hale fellow. 'Tis a day to sport a tank top and attempt to chat up Paula Wilcox!"
Trina and I, almost certainly the two poorest people there, had bought a round each, and there was no sign of movement from anyone else. I tapped Journo on the knee. "Right, do you reckon it's time you bought us a drink?" He told us he had a tab on "at 4B". 4B? He told me to go and get what we wanted. I said, "Have you really, because I live here and I don't want to fuck this up," which is one of those ridiculous utterances that one can never work out how it escaped from one's mouth, even moments after it has done so. I got to the bar and "4B" existed, and eighteen quid's worth's of drink were loaded onto it without question.
Back at home Tom was having a tea of Modernist rigour, refilling his bowels ready for his regular morning Jackson Pollock stunt in the loo. I had made some vegetable soup beforehand, but at this point neither of us were in the mood to wring the dry conversational flannel that is Tom, the exemplar of the University employee whose intellectual gifts expand as his social ones shrink, and we took our tea upstairs. We took some speed, opened some cider, put on some banging tunes at non-banging volume, and chatted away until the small hours. "I wish you hadn't invited Richard. He's like a sink when he gets in that mood."
Trina said that Tess had said that she was quite upset when Tom asked her "So are you completely nocturnal then?" FFS, the girl's in her twenties, is enjoying being at University and with a new boyfriend. She doesn't bang and clatter in, doesn't play loud music, and is unfailingly friendly. He's becoming very irritating, too big a presence. The other day he said to me, "There seem to be several tubes of tomato paste in the fridge." Well shove them up your arse then. It'll make your shit prettier.
I went to only the second football match in my life yesterday with my old Uni pal, who's from Scunthorpe. His town's team, "the iron", were playing local team Morecambe, "the shrimps". Being a man of sensitivity and refinement, and a coward, I told Simon that at the first sign of any argy-bargy, I'd be off.
Simon's a driving instructor and his girlfriend inherited several hundred thousand pounds last year. As I climbed into his dual control car, I said "So how come you're still slogging away on the driving instructor game when your girlfriend's a millionaire?" He said that she wants him to keep working and that he's happy to do so. I think she's keeping her money to herself and concealing her avarice with a superfically reasonable injunction to Simon that he should be autonomous and self-reliant. She describes herself on her website as a "writer". Yeah, well, she has a published book out which has earned her a few thousand, and she does a bit of work with a literary festival. But she can only do that because she's always had money behind her. "Well, not how I would handle 900K," I said, aware that I mustn't spoil the day, "but everyone's different."
At the ground, I wandered into the terraces with my drink, naively assuming that one could drink whilst watching the match, as you can at the cricket. "No," said the steward, barring my way. "We have a rule that you cannot see any grass while you've got a drink in your hand." I quaffed a difficult pint of commercial cider before rejoining Simon on the terraces. We chatted skittishly and Morecambe equalised in the 95th minute.
Football in real life is completely different to how it is on the telly. I left with two things--a new respect for referees and linesmen, who have to react to fast-moving partisan limbs, and a most unexpected high. It was quite exhilarating. I understood how you'd feel like beating someone up.
Simon had to get away so he dropped me off at the pub and I met Kev, who flattened my mood with his talk about the car accident which killed his girlfriend, and how the Procurator Fiscal in Aberdeen had "not entirely dismissed" his egotistical suggestion of helping with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, lack of forensic certainty, he couldn't hear the people in court, no markings on the road so they can't tell how fast the car was going, we don't know when she was on her mobile, it could have been when she was parked up, the Procurator Fiscal told me 'I know that you're not anyone but Liv's boyfriend', I'd like to meet your friend Simon again, he was a good bloke, I think I could help him train young drivers, yeah anyway you've got his details, so maybe...
Glassy sunlight and gloom were colliding. I wanted to be away, to soar on this high I was feeling, which, unusually, had nothing to do with chemicals or music. I nodded and yessed through Kev's monologue, looking at the long hair poking out from his nostril, and planned my lie. "So what are we? Quarter to seven? Right then Kev I've got to be off because Melanie's coming back from Harrogate at 7ish so I'd like to be there to meet her. Alright then--see you soon." An over-elaborate farewell of saying how nice it's been and on and on.
The way he looked, as I got up, as he realised that the receptacle for his incontinent speech was leaving--his little boy-ish face picturing a mixture of loss, and wonder as to why I would withdraw my favours.
The Muslim women are chatting about on the doorstep opposite in their black pillarbox get-ups. I don't like living in a mainly Muslim street. The men say hello as a routine, and the women--you're simply shunned.
The house four doors up from Kirsty's is up for sale. How I wish I could buy it. In that street, where my daughters have lived for all but one of their fifteen years, Maureen cat-sits for us when we're off to France; Doreen looks in on the girls when I sneak a night off dancing, and Rather Sexy 70-y-o Next Door puts our bins out for us. My neighbours here will never do any of those things. They're separatists, preserving a culture. As Sergei Korovin said about non-drinkers, "they are not my comrades."
Closer to home, Tom, the lodger, continues to leave a pebble of shitdash round the loo every morning, which I clean off, every morning, before he pumps his bowels on his bike seat on his fibrous journey to work. I went out with Tess yesterday, and she said that Tom had said to her "So are you nocturnal then?" and that when she comes in late, it disturbs him and he can't get back to sleep. I would say he's anally retentive were it not for the daily evidence to the contrary.
The bailiffs have been round again, with a hand-delivered letter. The next stage is that they'll leave an official-looking notice "seizeing" the car parked outside my house. I haven't got a car; I've never driven in my life. it only worries me to the extent that Tess and Tom might have to indirectly get involved in the labour that my state of pinched hedonism entails. I wish we could just hurry up and cut out the middleman and I could go to prison for a month and get the whole fucking thing over and done with. I've been in prison before and a couple of weeks in jail is nothing to worry about for someone so class-crossingly adroit as I am.
Trina and I are back "together". After a few days of silence she got in touch and I told her that, yes, just as much as she's had enough of my insensitivity, I am finished with all the discussion and arguments after we have the good times. I wanted it to come across as an unnegotiable condition of any "future" we might have.
She had to work in Southport early on Monday so she asked me if I'd like to stay at her hotel on Sunday night. She picked me up from my house. We were both careful not to apologise too much. In Southport, the hotel owner, a pied noir, detained us a bit at the desk with his now familiar comparison of French bureaucracy versus English spontaneity. I was speeding and too chatty; I became aware that it was boring Trina, who was twitching.
We found our room, unpacked, and went to our usual place, where she worked through two bottles of Chardonnay, and I through an untallied number of pints. We sat in the window, criticising other people's hairstyles and clothes.
My phone rang. I looked at the display and put it back in my pocket. "Who's that?" "No, it's OK, doesn't matter." "Who is it!" "She Who Cannot Be Mentioned."
It rang again--Kim again. "Answer it, no, answer it--she obviously wants to talk to you." So I did. Trina went away to the bar and got talking to a plumber and came back and started talking at me, about her chat with the plumber, an attempt at invoking jealousy, perhaps, on and on, oblivious to my raised, delaying finger, indicating that I'd be with her in a minute. I found her ignorance of me objectionable, before I recognised my own selfishness reflected back to me.
We got back to our conversation soon enough and it turned garrulous and enjoyable and why I like being with her again. She's into rare cars and lit up to see two old classic British cars cruising along Lord Street in Southport, because Lord Street is the Venice Beach of Lancashire. I said that I love grey shift dresses on fiftysomething women and she was bemused. "But they're so plain." "Yes, that's the point." We went back to the hotel where sex was more frottage than penetration.
A woman talking about cars and a man talking about shift dresses, followed by bendy-cocked half-sex. Should stay with her really.
Thursday afternoon and I am in the pub with Richard, my friend who slumped through my NYE party with a bottle of Jack Daniels and self-torturing memories of his deceased wife. A girl I haven't seen for many years is wandering about. She's good-looking, late thirties, and trouble, but quite interesting trouble. She is going up to people, apparently at random, and striking up conversation. It's our turn to receive a visit.
"Hello," he says. "Y'right?"
"Yes I am," I say. "How are you?" She has a practice of avoiding certain questions in a way that perhaps she thinks makes her seem mysterious, and she says nothing.
"You won't remember this," I continue, "but do you remember that little night club underneath the Kings Arms? Called The Crypt. You and me've been on a dancefloor together there several times. About fifteen years ago." She doesn't remember me of course, one long-forgotten bee amongst many who have circled her. And then, all of a sudden...
"I like sex."
I lean in towards her and tilt my head towards her. She said it again, more slowly. "Yes, so do I!" I reply. "Write down your email address," she says.
I give her a foreign address I use when some social distance might be judicious. "You Polish bastard!" "Ah! Not many people get that it's Polish. Anyway, drop us a line."
She folded the piece of paper up, looking at me. Of course, I have heard nothing.
Saturday night at the house music do in Lytham, with Trina. I've been going for more than three years now, and it feels like walking into a friend's great party. Very sociable and Trina was flattered that a few people came up to her and had a little word, remembering her name. The hotel gave us this huge room, overlooking the gardens. Really good sex in the morning.
The following afternoon, back home, we started on a beautiful South African dessert wine we got from the tasting at the High Commission. I made a quiche and Trina did the salad. Tess arrived, tired but adrenalined from work. Tess said the salad looked like something out of those books from the 80s called All-Colour Cookery, and suggested we go out for a drink.
Trina was getting drunk, banging her glass of beer down at a noise level which was starting to worry me slightly. I let it slip who had won The Voice (a singing contest on the TV). I remembered a second too late that she had asked me not to tell her who won. She went on and on about how thoughtless I am. Tess said "You are pissed off, but you want the argument as well, don't you?" She's got a perceptive head on her young shoulders.
To my relief, Trina asked for the key, and went back to mine. Tess and I ended up in this indentikit provincial gay club, with a trannie DJ playing shite pop music. I left her at about 2am and heard her come in at 7.
I got home; Trina had taken all her stuff and driven home. There were a couple of emails and texts, telling me that there is only one person in my life, and how she feels battered and bruised, how she's learned a lesson, and so on. After a bottle of wine and five pints, I judged it prudent to respond in a sensitive and reconciliatory way.
It's been great, our times together, but you're too moody and tempermental for me. I want a simple, straigthforward, easy, unthinking girl, and you are not her. I can't be doing with all this fucking drama. I love the things we do, but the aftermath is too much. I can't be arsed with it all.
Last night, at 10pm she sent an email saying that she was in "floods of tears." I replied "I'm going to remember some of the best times of my life with a kind, generous, sexy, funny woman, who was a great dancing partner too. I'm not the one for you but I'll always be fond of you and want nothing more than your happiness. All the very best X"
I'm relieved this has finally happened. It wasn't right, morally. It was exploitative. I rang Kim and told her all about it. She was urging us to try to keep something going.
This morning, we had a careful conversation, and we've decided to continue with the plan to go to France next month, but as friends, and to see if that works. One night a few years ago, Seriouscrush said to me, "There are three little words I can never say." I'm now in the same position.
I apologise for any difficulty you may have had accessing this page. I can't work out what's wrong with the 301 .htaccess redirect I wrote when I changed the title of the page, so have just made it worse. Never mind... onward
I've just been
boring talking to a Lecturer in Blood and Guts from the University of Groningen. I just met him at the bar. He had a winced facial expression as though he was suffering from something painful of which he could not speak, but maybe that's what living in northeast Holland does for you. He said that he's here to work on new drugs to help doolally people.
In the post office yesterday, there was someone he might have been able to help. An old man walked in and muttered out loud "I didn't realised there was a fucking madhouse down the street" and something about going back to "fucking Leeds."
It was Wine Club on Monday. Trina got endearingly pissed on a bottle of cheap Chardonnay in the afternoon preceeding. We turned up and acquitted ourselves fairly well, although she was irritating me by talking over the presenter to this blind woman who shows no interest in the wine. Later, in bed, Trina said "She's going to pray for me, that blind woman." Christian, obviously. The mixture of a sense of a transformative power of which she is the arrogant conduit, crap dress sense, and a desire to plane you down into their economy of neediness. "How do you know when someone's praying for you? Will you get a funny feeling in your legs?"
I went to the bar to get another drink for us. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" the barmaid shouted from the kitchen. She arrived, as they say in France. "Been a long time since a girl said that to me," I said. "Well, not in public," she said. That's a good answer, I thought, and tilted my head to tell her so.
A few minutes before wine club started, I was refreshing myself in the loos (stupidly, I did this not in a cubicle), and the most pleasant husband of Kirsty's neighbour's daughter walked in. Thank fuck I hadn't got to the rolled-up railway ticket stage. As he came in I stood up sharply and made a pretence of washing my hands. We talked for a short time about his dicky back. I walked out, leaving my mascara on the top behind the washbasins, stood outside, and fiddled with my sock until I saw him leave. I went back in to complete the insufflatory procedure and returned to Austria.
It was an excellent night of unretailed wines, single varieties, and hand picked grapes. We talked ourselves into a Zweigelt from the amusingly named Meinklang vineyard. The German language sounds comical to me. They make vegan, organic, biodynamic wines which are matured in concrete vats.
My proposal for the performance-cum-installation at the text-based art festival in Cambridge got turned down. I'm relieved, because had it been accepted I'd have had to do something about it; and at the same time disappointed, for the same reason.
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