There was a soirée at Kitty's. I'm not drinking in November so I looked with envy at the brandy and cava cocktails that she topped up endlessly. Wendy was there, in that lovely dress she wore at my New Year's Eve party. Her
irritating young daughter was there, tugging at both her dress and her attention.
Me and Kitty's daughter, a much older seeming ten-year-old, got on like on a house on fire. I leant against the wall, talking to her, twirling the cranberry juice in my glass and the mdma in my head. I hurdled an irritating moment in which I had to banish thoughts I hadn't even had: how it might look to others. After that we just chatted in a playful, encouraging, occasionally pisstaking way.
Wendy's boyfriend turned up. I was expecting an older man in Gene Vincent leather, a prickly, socially inept rock relic; in fact we got a bejumpered humanities lecturer for whom clothes matter as little as much they do matter to Wendy. He was being polite and generous, but he was too interested, interrogating me about a show I did a few years ago, about which he said "I've heard so much." It was an effort to talk about something I did in the past. I don't know or care whether it was any good or not. It was physically exhilarating to perform it, and there were a couple of people who came up afterwards and told me about metaphors they'd found in it for events in their own lives, in ways I couldn't imagine -- which is all the feedback I ever want.
Wendy's daughter achieved her aim of dragging them away from the party. Wendy, "loved-up", as we used to describe that glossy-eyed wave of empathy that mdma gives you, looked at me as she left. We said nothing. Lovely dress. My splayed wide-fingered open hands would love to slowly stroke down from your shoulders to your waist. You dance really well. I want to dance with you. Hope you can come to my New Year's Eve do. But not your husband, please.
Melissa is getting married next year. She told a funny story about her false eyelashes lifting off as she interviewed someone at the high-heel central where she works, and announced that her hen night is to be at Funny Girls in Blackpool. Kitty wasn't keen at all, expressing it in her face and speech, knowing that she'd have to go. I wanted to kiss her in sympathy for having to spend an evening in the pink-hatted nadir of conservative female solidarity.
Trina's been on for a while about wanting to try some acid, so we planned yesterday daytime for it. She arrived with a bag of coal and I had all the wood offcuts from my neighbours. She had a quarter of a blotter and I had the same small amount myself just in case I had to talk her down from thinking that her eyes had turned into spiders.
We sat watching the fire and got a bit giggly, silly wordplay. She said that she thought often about the word "from" so we looked it up in the SOED, and I read out its etymology. My attempts to get her to watch the whole of the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest, hoping she'd last an hour into it to see the ripping velcro skirts of Bucks Fizz, didn't work, so after a few songs at the beginning we reverted back to a more shared soundtrack of house music. After a bit of dancing I suggested a change of scene, so we went down the pub.
Everything is comic, the man with the moustache who looks trendy by day and ludicrous by acid, (and how silly I must look, with my tweedy Grandad-chic charity shop style?) I talked with some difficulty with a kind bloke who is down there every day with his timid, black-clad son who finds disabled solace in lists and Doctor Who. I'm giddy and want to retire to Trina. Once settled, I am at ease, and set my looks around the pub, returning the looked understandings that are the mark of close pub life. "That woman," I say to Trina, "is seventy years old." She's a foxy woman I've mentioned before on here. The other day, in another pub, she was leaving with her friends. As she left she passed me and looked at me and said "Oh, hello. Why are you sat on your own?" "Because you're still married," I said.
The overhearing man at the next table turns to us and says "it's nice to hear laughter," but from that promising start bores us one-sidedly about his old engineering job in Holland and how he thinks he's over the hill. Here we go, we've got a sympathy seeker. I jump into a gap in his monologue and turn to Trina and talk made-up diary rubbish to her, in order to get rid of him. After what must be an unbearable couple of minutes for him, in which he is not the centre of attraction, he gets up to leave and apologises for butting in. He'd do exactly the same again.
Trina didn't want to go back to her narrowboat, and I said "No, no, no, don't worry, you can sleep here." I couldn't chuck her out at the tail end of a trip. We spooned and my cock got a bit harder for a few minutes, but then I turned the other way to think about Donna and Kim. The other day she suggested by text that in case we didn't meet anyone else we could have sex with each other. I didn't reply. I couldn't possibly do that with her.
I was down the pub -- back to sobriety after a one day leave to meet Sally -- and bumped into someone I know who had a heart attack last week. He's much better to talk to now that he's been close to death, but his improved conversation wasn't enough to varnish over the boredom of being in a pub and not drinking, so I wandered off after an hour.
Back home, Trina sent me a text which irritated me. Intended to sympathise with what she sees as the lack of success in my date, she "commiserated", hoping that I was not too "down about things."
"Of course not. What's there to be disappointed about? Oooh you do take such a negative view of everything. I met a nice girl in a cracking pub in a great city. What does it matter if we don't get hopelessly in love in ten minutes? It's the experience that matters, not the outcome. Anyway, get your knickers ironed for Friday!" (We're going out dancing tonight.)
Back home, my sister rings. She sniffly and hesitant. "It's about Dad." The hospital rang my mum at 7pm saying that he'd taken a turn for the worse and he was dead by the time she got there twenty minutes later.
My gut instinct was to get on the train to Middlesbrough, but speaking to my Mum this morning, she said that it's OK -- people can come up for the funeral. She's quite resilient and she's got her God Squad around her who will help her with the practical things. I hope that after a while, it might lead to a new lease of life for her.
My brother has asked me, as the eldest, to do a short oration at the funeral. I will have to put some work into that. My Dad was a difficult person to get to know, one of the most boring people I've ever met, with hardly any friends or social life, someone who didn't talk about himself; but generous and well-meaning despite his social handicaps, wanting to be included without offering much that would make people interested in doing that. I won't say that at the funeral though.
I rang Kirsty this morning to tell her. "I wasn't that close to my Dad," I said. "No. Everyone says that."
Dancing on in the valley of death, tonight's do in Morecambe is in aid of a recently deceased DJ who played disco and jazz-funk when it wasn't that common. It was originally going to be just me and a former work colleague from Bloom and Doom, who has gorgeous T-shirted tits and a hard, tattooed husband, but Trina invited herself along too.
I was annoyed at the imposition at first, but after some reflection, I realised that it might be a good idea to put them two together. They'll occupy each other with a limitlessly detailed recitation of their recent lives, a conversation (without the "con" element), of iterated half-sentences of one-word changes to comma'd accounts of what is happening in the lives of their children. This will take so long that I should free to get on and dance and chat with the other people I'll know who'll be there. They're the female equivalent of the men that Jeanette Winterson describes in Sexing The Cherry. (From memory) "All you have to do with men, is set them down, get them going with drink, and let them unravel their energy."
The bailiff came round again. Unfortunately, his visit coincided with the time the postman sometimes arrives, so I opened the door. He stood there with a clipboard and a recording device and managed to get me to sign up for £25 a month, but I'll write to them saying I can only afford a tenner. I've just started a subscription to a wine club for £20 a month, and it ill befits a gentleman to spend more on his debts than he does on his wine.
There isn't much to say about my date in Manchester last night with Sally. We met up in a proper old boozer down a side street near the Town Hall, where we pushed the conversation stiffly forward for an hour, about cats and our jobs and her house renovation, until she said that she was very tired and that she'd better go. She stood up to leave and said "I'm not really getting any connection, so..." "No, me neither," I said. It sounds a bit blunt but it was amicable enough and it's best to be straightforward at the outset.
Glad to have an hour to myself, I settled down with another beautiful pint of Mancunian from Brightside Brewery in Bury, and an essay about Larkin in the LRB, relieved not to be talking about window frames and cat litter trays. I rang Kim to tell her about it, and emailed Donna, who replied "You're lovely -- there's someone out there for you. I'm sure." I also texted Trina, just to quash any hopes she might still have.
On the train back I got talking to two girls from Preston, one of whom was an actress returning from an audition for a part in a West End show. They'd already told her she hadn't got the part, so she'd done what any sensible English girl would do in that situation -- gone out on the lash with her mate.
I have declared Winter; the first of the wood the neighbours have given me is spitting away in the fire, heating the room in a lopsided Victorian way: one side of your face glowing, the opposite leg stroked by a draught, against which all measures are naught. But infinitely better than the in-arrears, desiccated cloy of central heating.
Trina sent me an email which started by saying that she was pleased that she no longer feels any romantic feelings for me. That's a fucking relief. She then informed me that my behaviour towards Donna was "very unfeminist" and that I "treated/treat Donna like a sex object and a whore." The email then swerved back to say that "nevertheless", she is looking forward to our planned orchestrics.
I ignored it. I was more interested in inviting Wendy and her daughter out to the fireworks at Kirkby Londsale. They're better than ours: in Lancaster, Council lackeys go around with buckets of water, taking sparklers off children.
I accidentally sent the text to Trina, therefore lighting the blue touchpaper. I was told, in unambiguous language, that I hold Wendy in higher regard than her, and was twice invited to fuck off, one of which was spatially and affectively qualified with the phrase "out of my life." She also said that she'd read a letter from Mary-Ann (with whom I am in regular correspondence), but assured me that "I don't mind about Mary-Ann. All she goes on about is her [private problems]." I was silent over this as well, partly out of renewed shock at her egregious ignorance of how unacceptable it is to read other people's private letters.
In the morning, the usual abject apologies, urging us to take "little steps at a time" to "rebuild"; explanations involving drink, and thanks extended to me for being "fair and patient" -- and so on, and on, and cyclically, on.
She wanted to drive up and take me out for a pizza "to make this up to you." She proposed coming back to mine for a bop in the bedroom. I told her I thought it best if we called it a day after our tea. She did come back to mine for an hour or so, but eventually I did that prayer-like clasping of one's hands and a bright "Oh well...", which she understood as her cue.
Back at hers, probably deluding herself that we are rebuilding through pizza, she hit the Merry Tablets. In one of her texts, she looks back in detail upon an episode from our sexual past. Reading it, I turn my head away from the screen.
Donna rang tonight. She'd been on a successful first date with a man from Milton Keynes. After an hour down the pub, they went back to hers and they put up flatpack furniture in two hours of Carry on Screwing British DIY innuendo. I told her that I am not drinking in November. "I'm glad you're stopping drinking for a while, looby." "Oh dear," I laughed. "Was it that obvious?" And then she said the first of...
Three things I was skippety-happy to hear this week: 1) Donna: "I like you and I care about you." That was an eye-glistener. "I like you too Donna. Very, very much."
2) Overheard from the living room after I'd cooked the girls' tea on Saturday. "Mmm, roast potatoes. Dad's good at them."
3) Bumping into the former director of a performance space located in a higher education establishment not far from here: "Yes, you and A--- were the first people to really get what we were trying to do there."
I've got a date on Tuesday in Manchester. She's 5'11".
Trina drove my Mum back to Middlesbrough and collected me from there. Around Tebay we got a text from Chris wondering if we were out, and we had a testy couple of hours down the pub. It was easy to predict what would happen once the social brake of having Chris there was released. Chris is the wrong person for Trina to talk to about sex. Obliquely referring to the content of my steamy letter to Donna that she read the other day, she said "Yes but you just feel treated like a prostitute." "Oh yes please," replied Chris. Trina went to the loo and Chris said "She loves you." "Well, I can't help that."
Back at mine, we went searching again for something I'd dearly like to find. I deliberately set Trina to have a look through the kitchen shelves, on which is a jumble of letters, cards and paraphernalia.
It worked. She came up to my room waving a postcard Donna sent me from Paris, which she'd made from a picture of herself. "I know why," she said, about to lose control. "She looks like Kirsty. That's why -- she looks like Kirsty." I didn't look round, didn't look at the flapping picture of Donna. "Could you put that postcard back where it came from please?"
I heard her close the front door. An hour later, she sent a series of texts, one of which said "You are a cold-hearted, selfish perv." "I agree with your assessment of me. When you're sober let me know what we're going to do."
The following day she emailed saying that she'd still like to go dancing "as long as you haven't found anyone else by then." I replied saying that I was very pleased she'd said that and that I look forward to our Winter programme. As long as I manage her, she's fine.
Can't see us getting much of a swerve on at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, but we're also booked into a full afternoon in which the Arditti String Quartet play a demanding programme of the complete string quartets of James Dillon, with a two hour break in the middle in which I'm going to have a couple in one of the finest cities for real ale in the north. At the end, I want to feel fucked, by intense chamber music.
I'm going over the day before for a concert entitled EEEEE, which stands for Early English Experimentalism (played by the) Edges Ensemble. I am going to enter into the spirit of things by taking some e shortly before it starts.
When I got back from Middlesbrough there was a letter from the solicitors.
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