I've just got back from seeing Seriouscrush and her boyf. Seriouscrush owns this house and lets it to me at about a hundred or so below a market rent, which is a reasonable sum given that someone else might quibble over fusspotty details, like seeing one of the window panes separate itself from the frame if one does anything as selfish and luxurious as open it.
Her invite probably stemmed from an email I'd sent them on Christmas Eve
whilst I was pissed saying that I'd like to move out of here at some point in 2015. I'm not sure if that was a good idea really, as I've nowhere to go. I was hoping that saying that might persuade them down a bit with the rent, but they showed no interest in that.
We met in by far the best cafe in Lancaster, converted from an old Salvation Army hall wherein my Dad used to deliver the sermons. A triptych of scratched, defaced monochrome blue works on paper, a bit like Clyfford Still's "torn" paintings, hangs unframed on the wall. Gap year Grammar School girls in little woolly hats sat by themselves and propped up computers; you're served by young men in pork pie hats and art-fundamentalist beards. A girl perched herself on a stool, wearing a dark tartan skirt so short she had to have her arm as a permanent pixellation between her crossed legs, and type one-handed. It's good that middle class people have somewhere to go, to enjoy the social isolation in public that they favour, away from the scary collective atmosphere of more working class venues.
Boyf asked me about an artwork I possess. The wallpaper in my front room is a violent, shouty navy blue fleur de lys Laura Ashley pattern. I'd like to shut it up by draping a large sheet of muslin over it, and then in front of it, hang the artwork, which I bought off someone who was doing her PhD when I was doing my MA. It requires float mounting, and he offered to cut the two sheets of perspex necessary to frame it, and to drill the spacers to clamp the work away from its enclosure.
I left after an hour to have a pint in a common pub. I'd got the impression that Seriouscrush and Boyf are happy for me to stay here, and I think, if I could somehow dredge up another say, two hundred pounds a month, that would be the best solution.
I sat down to read a chapter of my book, about the Futurists' performances, and what they called "synthetic theatre", in which brevity was valued, and individual elements of performance were presented in isolation. It would have been engrossing, but I was repeatedly interrupted by people I know and I gave up and got bought a pint, an air of him buying me away from my book. This is how it should be.
I like my life. I like being cultured and common at the same time. I like being able to speak two social languages fluently. Could just do with a tad more cash. I went into the corner shop, which is advertising for staff, and I've got to go back for "a chat" on Saturday.
Teaching Practice Friend got married on Saturday. A marriage always feels like losing someone, nothing to be happy about. During the service, hail showered like a bad piece of electro-acoustic music against the windows of an ordinary rural church, but cleared away for us to stand shivering on the village green for photographs for as short an interval as politeness could excuse, before we sloped off to the pub.
My friend has married into the minor landowning classes of Westmorland. We sat down with elderly dowager-looking women in grey, ruched hats, one of whom's cups runneth over like a pair of double chins in an over-optimistic dress. I caught some sour notes of complaint towards the waiting staff, pronounced with the hauteur of old money; and as they turned graciously away from feinting them, I saw the inward-breathing, get thee behind me, biting of lips, of the minimum waged staff, who showed better and quieter manners than any of the endowed ladies of The Lodge.
Luckily, me and Trina got sat next to the only other middleaged couple in the room; one of these couples who, from one fairly ordinary middle class job, have enough money to do up half a redundant primary school near Kirkby Lonsdale and to fund the woman's fannying about with what she called "worn art in felt". "What, Fuzzy Felt?" said Trina. I was glad of them though. They were our saviours.
Kirsty is down south raving, Chemical Brothers and Justin Robertson headlining, and she's booked today off for recovery. I got the girls off to school and popped back to mine to put the recycling out, such is my desire to make sure that my onion tops and beetroot peel don't end up mouldering indistinctly on a tip in Fleetwood.
On the mat was a letter with no stamp. The bailiff informs me that "I will re-attend at your premises on 23/1/15 and may REMOVE goods even in your absence. This will incur additional costs of £110.00 plus disbursements for which you may be liable ... FAILURE TO CONTACT ME WILL BE INTERPRETED AS WILFUL REFUSAL TO PAY."
I have sent them a letter. It's written in a long-practised tone, poised between politeness, a gentle indication that I am aware of the main points of bailiff law, and a hint of contrition. I wouldn't worry, except that Morgane is here now, and I'd rather her not open the door to a bailiff.
I have spent a most enjoyable weekend at my girls' house, feeding a neighbour's strokable blob of a big coal-black cat, and enjoying the welcome return of Ski Sunday, watching the skiiers scrape down the scary slalom course at Adelboden which drops at a precipitously sharp slope towards its finish. Back here in Acacia Avenue, none of my Muslim neighbours have said anything about events in Paris, but I've made a Je Suis Charlie badge and pinned it to my jacket and feel like shoving it in their mute, shunning, niqabed faces. Oh how I wish I could live in Kirsty's part of Lancaster, where you can feel more liberal and tolerant towards Muslims because you don't have to live with their sense of social boundaries.
Around Christmas -- when things can come to a head -- Trina suggested she could rent a room off me in this house in order to have a ready escape from the increasingly stressful situation she finds herself in at her mother's. She has two borderline alcoholic brothers with whom she nominally shares the mothercare, whereas in fact she does the great bulk of it.
She moved in just after Christmas, but it hasn't worked. We went to the Blackpool Soul Weekender, and amidst a generally enjoyable weekend of dancing and chatting, I made the mistake, late one night, when she turned the drug-fuelled conversation to the depressing subject of "our relationship", of saying "Just friends, Trina."
She was rather upset by that. Next morning, she informed me that I am the most cold-hearted person she has ever met. "Excellent, well, let's start Sunday in an upbeat style," I said.
Last night, she came back from her mother's and rang, wondering what I was doing. I was at Kirsty's since I have the girls at the weekend, but they're sixteen now so I can easily get out for a night. I came back to mine and we spent a night round the coal fire, dancing and chatting. Again -- and only because she brought the topic up -- I did say at one point "You'll never be my girlfriend. You're too complicated. I don't like this kind of conversation."
This morning, at 5am, she texted saying that she was moving out. I spoke to her around midday. She told me she'd moved all her possessions onto her narrowboat. She said that she loves me and that she can't be friends with me. "I won't be able to stand it when you meet someone else. I'm going to be heartbroken, so I'm getting out now."
I do feel for her, but am unable to reciprocate her feelings. I've felt that myself, the other way round. But I'm glad she's discovering some self-respect at last. I'm disappointed that my dancing life will be greatly curtailed; and I will miss the financial subsidies, because she paid the lion's share for most of the things we did.
I sent her this email tonight.
Well, that's your two bottles of [name of wine] washed out and put into the recycling. There's the Luther Vandross CD from last night which is on the table in front of me, and countless other reminders of you around. It will be a long time -- if ever -- that you are out of this house.
I understand everything you said this morning. I've been in the same position myself, when there's a lopsided, unequal level of feeling, and I know that in such a situation it is impossible to be friends, however much one wants to try to make it work.
But I will miss you too, and I will only say that you are always --- this goes for my lifetime -- welcome here, welcome to ring, welcome to come round, welcome to go out with me, welcome to turn up unannounced any time in the future. I'm very sorry I can't give you what you would like. That can't change I'm afraid, but you've been a very significant person to me and have made changes for the good in my life that others have noticed. I've had some cracking times with you Trina and I will miss both you and them.
I'm not going to reopen the advert for the room just yet though. We've been through such palarvers before.
In other news, Morgane, the new lodger, twentysomething postgrad daughter of a woman I had a fling with a few years ago, was sitting opposite me the other night. One blackly be-tighted leg stuck out towards the coal fire and another was tucked under as
her cotton dress was riding tautly up her thighs she said "I'm enjoying this arrangement so far." She does give the bathroom floor a thorough wetting every morning but I suppose modern girls, pampered with luxuries like windows that you can open without separating the pane from its frame, expect at least a shower curtain.
At my New Year's Eve party. Erica and Rather Coarse Husband arrived with a generous flourish, opening two bottles of Prosecco and pouring it out for everyone. Italian Looking Woman turned up in an "I am desperate" dress with a wide purple frill tiding down to an isosceles of cleavage. I deliberately didn't look at her tits, because she was dressed in such a way as to tempt men to do exactly that. She poured herself one glass of wine from her bottle, then resealed it and took it with her to the next party. Kitty cut a lonely figure in the kitchen, chomping her way through the bread and cheese.
Once they'd all left, it was me, Trina, a long-standing reader of this blog, and his friend, dancing with a giddy hilarity till the early hours. I like it when a friendship arises from a blog. I'm still waiting for a passionate sexual encounter, but he's got the wrong colour of eyes for me.
Drinking three pints of Yorkshire Porter at 7%, followed by a pint of Katy cider at 7.4% was possibly not the most inspired decision when going on a day out with the extended family, none of whom drink. It's a fine beer though, from North Yorkshire Brewery in Guisborough, and it's organic, which means you can drink a gallon of it and still be charming, intelligent and gentlemanly.
Mum wanted to buy us all Christmas dinner at Wethers in Middlesbrough. The Tightly-Clad Ski Resort Hostesses were there, the daughters of what appears to be my mum's only close friend (but then, how many do you need?) -- seated at a safe distance from any drunken flirting of mine dressed up as an interest in chalet life in Crans-Montana. My mum, to my astonishment, asked to try my porter. She sucked a tiny amount up through a straw and puckered her face with wincing distaste. Then, to compound my surprise, my brother made the same request, but reported more favourably, saying "that's not bad."
I couldn't eat more than a fraction of the food, and went across the road to Boots where, after waiting a while at an unattended till, I went behind it and pinched some carrier bags, and shovelled most of my dinner into one, to be fried up later as bubble and squeak. We went back to my mum's house where everyone's merriment concealed my tipsiness. I hope. My sister had bought a lime green gimp suit in a charity shop, and we both zipped it on. I wondered about its history.
Trina drove us back, saying what a nice family I have. We're poor, we've got to be nice; it's the only currency we've got. There's no-one at my house at the moment, so we put a coal fire in, prepared a nutritious, balanced meal of wine, Bombay mix and amphetamine sulphate, and boogied around to some house music from bookface. We went separately to bed, but she came into my room in the morning. Reader, I fucked her. I wish I could stop doing this. It muddies the waters and gives her hope.
As usual I spent Christmas with Kirsty and the girls at theirs. Things started unravelling a bit on Boxing Day, with Melanie's new record player packing up, Fiona's bike having problems with the mudguards and its gears, and Kirsty being iller than I've seen her for many years. I don't like encouraging Boxing Day opening but I went down Sainsbury's and bought another bottle of port on the pretence of fetching her some more Lemsips. I'd managed to drink a bottle a day, so the two that were supposed to get us through Christmas had gone.
The greeting in the Christmas card I sent to Donna descended into filth despite my half-hearted efforts. She texted me saying that she can't display it, but will keep it. I texted back: "Sorry Donna, I'll make them more decent in future. Thank you for sprinkling a sexy bit of stardust over a few weeks in 2014. I cannot put into words how I loved the way you made me feel -- and feeling you was pretty good too! All the best for 2015 XXX"
In the same spirit -- or fortified wine -- I texted Kim. "With the disinhibiting effects of Christmas and a bottle of port... I love you my darling [pet name]. I am very fond of you as sonnead [sic] I wish were nearer, but that regardless I am glad that you are in my life Xxx." She texted a lovely reply.
I misunderstood when Morgane wanted to look at the room. She emailed to confirm that she was coming around on Christmas Eve. Fuck. I swept and tidied as much as one can with a sow's ear of a house and creaked the central heating into its first action since everyone moved out last week. She's bright and lively, and shares one of her mother's outstanding characteristics.
In the bathroom, she said "Erm... where do we put things?" That threw me a bit. There's a low chest of drawers and a couple of small shelves, but I suppose women need half an acre of shelf space for their bathroomy paraphernalia. She asked for some "baskets". If any woman reading this might be able to help me out to understand what kind of "basket" you put in a bathroom, or what purpose it might serve, I'd be most grateful.
"I can't be doing with any..." He doesn't have to search long for the completion. "I just want some slag that'll do owt." The people at the accreting table next to me are, I think, bikers. Therefore, despite the vulgar tongue, there will be no aggression.
Two birthday parties: the first for someone with whom a night out can feel like a multi-agency social services case conference. I sat for a long twenty minutes with a soda water (no real ale, despite three pumps advertising it), while the birthday girl and another woman preened their nails in a feminised performance of togetherness, and talked to another about her son's shoe size. With as much conversation as there was ale, I thought I would increase the proportion of those to whom she would like to talk by leaving. Handily, I had to collect my daughters to take them to their birthday party.
Frocked and hairbrushed, they walked ahead of me and the rain. Once there, they settled themselves into one of the best pub interiors in Lancaster, a kitsch and sensuous constellation of blue fairy lights and red neon. Their bohemian, female teenage friends arrived at intervals to occupy the other places at their table. I retreated to a remote corner and realised I'd left my computer at home. I walked home to fetch it, before realising that I'd forgotten the cable, so did the journey again.
Kirsty and boyf turned up at the end of their usual weekend together. I assumed that the protocol was for me not to interrupt its tail, so after greeting them I went back to my table, but after a minute or two boyf asked me over. Kirsty had red lipstick on and had had her hair done into an attractive uneven bob; she was wearing a moss green cardi and a flared dark brown leather miniskirt.
I hesitatingly picked at their leftover bread. "No, no, go ahead," said boyf, as they were talking about having gone to some fancy gastropub in Cartmel. Jenny came over and asked them if they could have a pudding, "Of course you can," said boyf. "Have anything you want." I felt inferior.
Both the lodgers moved out this weekend. Last night, I didn't know which of my worries were keeping me awake. The sudden lack of their rent, yanking away the fingers they stick in the financial dam, my inability to pay for the train fare up to Middlesbrough on the day after Boxing Day for what will now be the memorial meal for my Dad, finding a way of talking to Seriouscrush about the rent arrears and what will happen to my housing situation, were all contenders.
And then I got an email response to my ad about the rooms from Felicity's daughter Morgane. I've got previous with Felicity. Three or four years ago almost to the day, me, Morgane, and Felicity were sat at their kitchen table wrapping Christmas presents. Then, Morgane went off somewhere, and Felicity dragged me into the spare room and ordered me to fuck her, which act consisted of a soft-dicked half-unclothed frottage which satisfied both parties: she came easily and I was grateful for getting my tea and some sherry, and it was fun being with Morgane at that age when daughters are only half with you, but good company, not needing you.
Morgane's in China at the moment with her brother, but is coming round on Tuesday to look at the hovel. I'd like to share the house with her but I've not got my hopes up; it's the bathroom that puts women off. I've told her to pass on my mobile number to her mum. It'd be nice to wish her happy Christmas.
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