I'm in Middlesbrough for a few days while my Mum is in Lancaster having a rest from my Dad. I was to be "looking after" him, which conjured up blanching images of flannels and genitalia, but I have had the jammiest stroke of luck.
Instead of having
to endure his company twenty-four hours a day, my duties are now much abbreviated, as he is hospitalised in The Biffa Bacon General Hospital, having thankfully banged his head the other day, compounding his malingering and self-pitying attitude towards a broken leg. All I have to do then, is a couple of hours of hospital visiting a day. My Mum has warned me that he might not know who I am. One day he saw three goats at the end of his bed, and more recently was pleased to find himself on holiday in Margate.
I had my "voluntary" interview with the police yesterday. No matter how prepared you think you are, and how many times you've rehearsed your answers and their possible subversion, it's excacting being in a tiny, airless room with a copper, your solicitor, a tape recorder, and your guilt. My solicitor told me that they had very little on me and that Plod would be going on a fishing expedition, so in the words of the hectoring old ad, just say no.
An envelope destined for a former lodger of mine was intercepted at Gatwick. The airport's drug detection machines identified the "substance" as methamphetamine, and so the police came looking for a meth lab which might have been hidden between the Eurovision Song Contest CDs and the poetry of W N Herbert.
There was an air of wanting to get it over and done with. "No," I laughed with unwonted nervousness, "meth is one thing I've never tried." As soon as that was out I realised its implication that I'd tried other drugs, having previously answered "no" to the question "Have you ever been a drug user, Mr Looby?"
He clicked the tape recorder to a stop, and said "I'm not sending this file up. It won't go any further as there's insufficient evidence." I asked about getting the money back for the broken down door and having to change the locks. They said that as they'd been round four times to try to enter the house peaceably -- and we'd all been out -- they had been "left with no option" but to break in, so I'd be unlikely to get my money back. I still think that's wrong.
Outside, the light is all turned up. I am a little disappointed at the intensity of my elation, but taken by surprise at how wobbly my legs are. I am reminded of Kirsty's Dad, walking down The Strand after being released from the Old Bailey, quiet for some safe yards, before saying to his daughter, "That's a relief. Because I did it."
I texted Erica, Kim and Trina. Trina came down for a drink, as did fortuitously, Seth, a friend of mine I've been seeing quite a bit of lately. We agree not to talk about his interest in Healing With Coloured Torches and other middle class quackery, but we get on well and I like his attitude to money. He went off to pawn a couple of gold sovereigns, waving away my offer of a tenner loan.
Then Trina started to turn my afternoon into hers. "I've read that letter you sent to Donna," referring to a long letter I wrote -- but never sent -- whilst I was on holiday with Kirsty and the girls in Dieppe, a fragment of which I posted here. From friendly touristic beginnings it firms up into sex -- our sex, mine and hers sex, not anyone else's.
"So while I've been locked into an interview room at the police station, you've been riffling through my private letters?"
"No, no, I was was looking for something else." "Yes, and then you found the letter to Donna and read it all?"
I was determined not to let her spoil my afternoon, but told her that she had prodigiously overstepped the mark. She bulldozed on, more interested in discussing its content than apologising. "I don't know how you put up with me for two years; I must have seemed very tame." And then later, trying to sound jocular, she said "Men are strange. You're all pervs."
Thrown into my second involuntary quizzing of the day, I simply refused to answer and shook my head. Trina sees sex as either comical or dirty. Unable to let the subject go, but receiving no further response from me, she stood up with the drink in her eyes and announced her intention to have a lie down at mine -- something to which me and Seth assented without demur.
Back to Middlesbrough. I sit down with a discount ale, no obligations until about 7ish this evening. Opposite me, an elderly foursome, spending their pensions and house inflation. To my surprise, the letter's intended recipient, the girl with the filthiest name on my phone, texts me.
Donna is in "an important meeting" and is sending me secret texts. I am trying to keep my squirming from interfering with anyone's Two Meals for 7.19. I apologise by text to Donna for taking the seat next to her and accidentally allowing my fingers to stroke slowly up her skirt and pulling it up asymmetrically across her thighs so that my fingertips can rest on her stocking tops.
Donna, Donna, Donna. My slut, my always-want-you girl, my compliant, dressing-up, high-heeled, open-legged, stairs sex, cunt. I thought this was all over? I don't think anyone has ever turned me on like this.
"Oh dear, so now you've told me my imaginings are correct. I fancy you so fucking much Donna. I'll give you a ring when I'm calmer. But just to say... I LONG to fuck you."
Trina sent me a couple of emails and texts. It's no exaggeration to describe the most desperate one as "pleading" for one more chance.
I'm very sorry Trina but it's too much like work now. You'd be better off finding someone who can give you the stability and happiness you deserve. This cycle of breaking up and patching it up again will just go and on forever, so I think it's time we were brave enough to call an end to it.
I have no interest in making mine or someone else's life difficult and complicated, by outweighing the good times with hour upon hour of endless arguments and recriminations and pointless, circular, analysis and head-splittingly Godawful "discussion". Just at the moment I am only interested in simple, carefree, straightforward friendship, such as that I have with Kitty or Kim.
That's not quite true. I'd like friendship like Kim's and sex like Donna's.
'm sorry I can't offer you anything else, but that's all I have to offer anyone. If we do resume going out together as friends I don't want to mislead you into thinking that it might develop into something more. I have had it with "relationships" for the time being.
A couple of days later she was smiling hard by text again, hoping that we this can be the start of "a lovely new friendship."
I had told Trina I'd be in Manchester for this concert. She suggested we could meet up in the afternoon for a drink, under this new order. We met in the Lass O'Gowrie, a pub that always stops short of the greatness it could attain. Chilly, the radiators stone cold; intrusive Disco-Soul hits to pester you aurally, and flashing large screens of Ebola and unrealised terrorism to irritate you visually. Even looking outside didn't help: the sad sight of the clean-lined 70s BBC building razed to a crammed car park.
The conversation went well enough, in that way when things have changed and one is on one's best behaviour. We went somewhere else to warm up try to get a pint for less than three pounds. "Where are you taking me? Wetherspoons, in central Manchester? Oooh, it'll be rough, it'll be rough." Inside of course, the pub had the late afternoon stuffed fug of relieved workers untieing themselves, and all-day drinkers repeat-dosing.
She left at about half past six. I wrote a postcard to Kim, and meandered my way in a route I misremembered, to the concert venue, another chilly location. The vicar came on with a mic that spluttered like a broken internet connection, doing those jolly little apologies that the Church of England is reduced to nowadays.
The outstanding players performed a couple of noodlingly inconsequential pieces, but also one I liked a great deal, the Fitch, with its detunings for the cello, and a score that mixes tablature with conventional notation. I had an interesting chat with its composer afterwards, who looks like he considered becoming a tramp as a career at one point before turning into a fine composer instead. His piece was commissioned as a companion piece for a work by Brian Ferneyhough. I said I was at a conference on Ferneyhough about eighteen months ago. "Yes, I gave a paper there -- on his early music." "Small world," I clichéd.
"It's marvellous," he said. "So many composers here!" We huddled and smiled and stamped about, doing an enjoyable educated bonhomie, a subculture polishing itself in its own mirror.
After a period in exile in a part of Lancashire where parents smoke their children to school whilst wearing onesies, Kitty has managed to secure a job in Lancaster, and it was her housewarming the other night. It was one of cultured abandon in which we drank nothing but champagne cocktails. Two of the guests were excellent musicians. My heart sinks when I see a man carrying a guitar into a party, but Brendan can really play.
Wendy was there, attracting those glances that men are inept at hiding. She's got a sexy, reckless air about her, with her wayward, fearless conversation, and her secondhand dresses; more than one of us blokes were thinking the same thing.
Trina is coping well with the new description ("friends"), despite afternoons like last Wednesday. We went out and she drank too much (to my relief, stopping before her tipping point). Back home, she sat at the kitchen table while I busied myself with making tea, chopping and frying with what I hoped would be an infectious alacrity, but I could hear sibilant sniffing and sighing behind me.
"You alright?" I asked, knowing perfectly well what was the matter. "I've done this -- look what I've done," she said, trying to smile. "No, you haven't at all. I tell you what you can do though -- those need to be diced, about so big." I kissed her and she said she was silly and so on. If we can just get through this, things will be fine, I thought. She offered to get the last bus, but I said that there was no need for that, and being naked in bed together went with more ease than I'd expected, partly because she went quickly off, pissed -- leaving me to thoughts of Donna.
Next morning I had to get up early as Kirsty and boyf were off to France for a few days and so I've got the children all this week. Once she can bear it I'll raise the issue of why, if we're friends, I'm not allowed on dating sites. I got myself swiftly out of bed. No fucking discussions. No fucking; no discussions.
My solicitor rang the other day. He said that he thinks there isn't that much evidence to pursue even a possession charge. He explained that the procedure, when this interview finally takes place -- the alleged offence, of Untaxed Sensual Enjoyment, took place in June -- will be that the police will have to make a full disclosure of their evidence and then the solicitor and me will have a private discussion about how to go about the subsequent interview. I want it over and done with, partly so that I can tell you the full story.
It's our local music festival this weekend. In its sixth year now, the festival is a Ritalin substitute for its organiser. Old Uni Pal from Ilkley is coming over, and I am going to drag him out to see Özlem Bulut. What a beautiful voice she's got.
Wagon and Horses, 9pm, in case it's tempting anyone local. Free, no charge.
I was walking into town this afternoon when I bumped into Wendy, Helen and Kitty's friend, the tightly-dressed slender dancey girl at my last party who came up to my room to get a bit more self-raising flour and started talkingly keenly about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles before I lowered the tone by talking about teeming sexual desire and wanking. She had on a secondhand dress in an old print with green and dull brown from the age before optical brighteners; a glance to her beautifully-triangled small breasts, and a glancette at her strokable waist.
We kissed sideways. I tried to judge my holding her to a suggestive but unobjectionable degree beyond the friendish. "Yeah, fine," she said. "I'm pissed, and stoned, and I've been buying [her daughter's] birthday balloon." She showed me this bag from Clintons with a massive Jeff Koons-shiny balloon in it. I'd like to see her more often and I was glad when she suggested we spent one day of her four days off this week sitting around getting pissed. I'm going to get some sherry in for it. Sherry is the MDMA of alcohol: calm, empathetic, slow, close.
In bed the other night, after our argument, I was laying on the edge of the bed, trying not to touch Trina. I started thinking about an unsent letter I wrote to Donna while I was on holiday in Dieppe with Kirsty and the girls. A couple of days later I sent her a filthy text, then apologised for it the next morning. We had an agreement -- twenty-four hours, and it's not right for me to break it further than we have done already. It's the one relationship I've conducted honestly, (yes, I can manage relationships of up to twenty-four hours' duration) and I don't want to spoil it. I have an unforced interest in her happiness with someone who lives closer to her, just as I wish Trina could find someone.
Then, a few hours after I'd stroked myself deliciously into a Donna orgasm, a postcard from her arrives from Paris. It's one of those things where you send a photo to be made into a postcard. I thanked her for it by email, aware that I mustn't spiral again into a sexual desire for her that I tell her about. "Oh Donna! That's a lovely picture. I love any and all pictures of you. The ones in my head are incredible!"
I stared at the card, as I used to stare at her in between every item of her clothes being undone. There is a mystery about it: "why do you make me so electrified with sex?" The image, of her face and shoulders, is a glossy synecdoche of first, our sex; second (for me so very rare) the decency and honesty with which we conducted ourselves; and third, the adrenalined reminder that almost without talking, we negotiated ourselves into a relationship of power. "Put my cock in your mouth," I said once, as I lay selfishly out on her bed with her in her sex clothes. "'And suck it, bitch', you meant to add" she said, before she pushed it past her lips.
Edit: It's highly unlikely, even in erotic circumstances, that I'd use the word "bitch" myself. There are far dirtier and sexier ones. But she had exactly the right idea.
8pm and I am alone in my new workplace, a flourescently bleached office of well-meaning bureaucracy, where 578-page manuals about volunteer management sit as ignored as the leaflets about Okiwnba from Burundi, who brought joy to her village with her braided irrigation techniques. The white noise of a server and a photocopier the size of a Minolta dalek, breathes through fire safety doors.
I've been in my old home town of Funchal for five days. Me and Kirsty used to teach there and Trina was curious to see it. There were memories on every corner, many of which I swallowed, so as not to push my life with Kirsty onto Trina.
The flat was made of breezeblock and every scrape of every bit of furniture da cima came resonating to us down below. On the road down into town, there was a gym.
The humidity films your face and neck; I remembered this feeling too, and luxuriated in tossing my head for no reason other than sex at a distance. The Madeirense are kind, gentle, accepting people. We found a tiny bar with two blobbish, elderly men with agricultural faces. My weak Portuguese, learned there twenty years ago, was good enough for a mostly-understood bonhomie, while Trina ploughed on regardless in English. Portuguese is a physically pleasurable language to speak, with its mordant consonants, its suppression of most vowels, its mooing nasal sounds, and its shusshing 's'.
Three glasses of vinho seco, a cheap
shop-bought home-made wine of tannic severity, cost in total 1€50. After dragging Trina around for half an hour trying to remember where it was, we found an old haunt of mine which served home-made poncha, with a dentinho of octupus. Next afternoon, the creased owner dished up spicy pork with pasta. The touristy place a couple of doors up gave you peanuts.
We went to the bar where me and Kirsty drank in till 4am one Tuesday, off work on Wednesday due to one of the many Saints' days, before one of the soaks at the bar offered to drive us home, has had a superifical poshing-up.
In it, I ran out of money, and the man sitting behind us first directed me to the Caixa Geral de Depositos, before getting tired with the effort, and offering to pay for our round.
Trina was melting getting up to my old flat. I took her the more interesting way, through a fury of roundabouted traffic and a huge garage where someone beeped us to get out of the way and I turned round and told him to fuck off, before the road narrows and quietens and you turn off onto a long, steep row of steps enclosed by tiny corrugated-roofed houses, where people who live outdoors urge you in sympathy towards the handrail -- "pega o ferro!" Dogs bark, then give way reluctantly, with some shame.
The nearest thing to a boring street in Funchal, Rua Fernão Ornelas, has, on one side, a life-size cardboard cut-out of the Pope standing outside a shop selling tracts, and almost opposite on the other, its cousin, a photographic studio with the Madonna and whore splayed on either sides of its entrance.
It's a beautiful city, held in by a claustrophobic corset of sea. Everyone is a gardener, and as you are fogged in the diesel fumes of the roaring buses up the steep pavement-less roads, you can turn your head away to gardens fecund with flowers and bananas. The mosquitoes love foreign flesh. In a farmácia, we asked for something for the bites and a local pulled up her trouser leg to show us her bites.
Back home, Trina was unbearable, snoring, and I wanted her to fuck off. She stayed another four days. We went down the pub on Tuesday and we got into this hateful argument. I was determined to retain self-control, and I did so for a couple of hours, before erupting into a horrible finger-jabbing, angry, aggressive attack on her. I sent her this and I really hope it's finished now.
Trina, I am exhausted with all this. I am physically at the end of the amount of effort I can put into these endless, circular arguments, which are coming to occupy more and more of our time together. I am also utterly ashamed of myself at losing control of myself the other night in the pub and that was a line I crossed which I never want to get even close to again.
I love our times together when we are having fun. Yes, I am shallow enough just to want fun. How about that? I love going out (and staying in) dancing, the holiday was fab, and I love going out and the concerts and of course, [pet name for conversation]. But it comes at too high a price, too much of a cost. I don't want them when they are partnered with arguments, hour upon hour of discussion and analysis. I want to perform an operation on us, excising the latter and keeping only the healthy former.
In order for that to work, the only option for us is to continue as friends. I am not relationship material, not with you, not with anyone. I am at heart a very selfish person, the only advantage being that I am aware of it.
I would love to continue the great, fun, times we have -- which I want with *you* because you add to them and make them different and infinitely better. But only in the context of friendship, because I have reached the brick wall at the far end of the cul-de-sac for any more talking, discussion, arguments, and all the crap I find unbearably uninteresting.
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