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.
Trina took me to a hotel in Lytham for my birthday; it almost didn't happen. I rang her when I got back from Kimtown and thoughtlessly mentioned Kim's new love affair in the course of the call. This raised her antagonism towards her, to the extent that she hung up on me. I got home and there was an email saying that we should "leave it for a while." I'm used to Trina's fits of insecurity now, so ignored it. And the following morning, another one arrived asking if I was still coming to Lytham.
She apologised but even apologies are too tiring sometimes. I waved them away with one of my stock phrases: "No, no, Trina it's OK. That was then and this is now." She was very generous with my presents: six elegant, thin wine tasting glasses, and two books by Raymond Williams, Culture and Marxism and Literature.
We went for sushi and jasmine tea, then coming back to my social and financial level we went to Wetherspoons. Outside the pub we got talking to two homeless people. I gave them a pound each and said "I'm giving you this on condition that you only spend it on drink or drugs."
Next day, it was straight to Manchester, where a couple more of the Klavierstücke by Stockhausen were being performed at the University. Additonal accompaniment was provided throughout by the noisiest piano stool in Manchester. The pianists's own programme note referred to "head-banging serialism".
I went with my friend Tony who put me up when I was at a conference there last year. He'd not heard any Stockhausen before and said he enjoyed it: "it made me laugh." He insisted on buying me no fewer than three pints afterwards in a cosy little pub thronging with elderly people, and a fourth in the bleak bar at Piccadilly station, which has hardly anything potable.
The following day, I was running on empty. Tess, Trina and me were supposed to be going to Barry and Chris's party, but people seemed to be dropping out rapidly. Chris's friend cancelled, and Trina said point blank she was too tired after working from 8am that day; so the "party" seemed to have dwindled down to me and Tess, having to get a bus out to the nondescript village where Chris lives. And all this for only a couple of hours, since I had to get back as I had the girls.
Given all the cancellations, I was hoping she'd postpone it, but she indicated she was keen for us to go. At the last moment, I texted her. "Listen Chris we're both really knackered and I'm sort of conscious about the girls and it's too far to come for two hours. I'm ever so sorry but it's too far and I'm too tired after a really big few days in Kimtown." I have now probably given the impression that I can only be bothered to go to my own parties, but it would have been work, not pleasure.
The night ended where the week had began. "Your friends are gitty," Trina said, referring this time to Neil. Well, they were there before you turned up and will be there after you've departed in the distraught tears we're enjoying postponing. A few days ago, Tess had passed on a remark her new boyfriend made: "You always know right at the beginning the reason you'll split up."
Trina went off in a strop again, complaining about how "your friends" (read: Kim) don't want to meet her; then she realised she'd forgotten the key to my house, and came back with a black mien which I found more comical than anything else. "Ok, well, let me know if you can't get the futon up."
This evening I came home, not for the first time half-hoping that there would be a valedictory email; and then tactically erased that thought, as it would be advantageous if we didn't split up until after we've been to France next month.
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