To the opera. Well, a recording of it anyway.
A plot so predictable -- the maverick outsider winning a song contest and thereby a girl offered as a chattel -- allows you to concentrate on the orchestration and the grain of the voice. It's an idiotic artform and I don't find it musically interesting until you get to Die Soldaten or Lulu, but there's something luxurious about being in an era where massive resources are put into making something so silly, elaborate.
The cheapest seats with an unrestricted view at Glyndebourne are £80, so £13.50 translates the discount for a vicarious night not at the opera. The theatre's bar is staffed by young people whom I would have assumed, when those in that age group were less conservative than they are now, to be stoned. I think they're just self-absorbed. In the intervals, they dreamily offered up chocolate bars and crisps. It was a pity we couldn't have started an hour earlier and had a proper "long interval" with frocks and canapés and cava. They had us in there for five hours, and nothing to eat, although given the speed I was able to key up in the darkness, the amuse-gueles might have been wasted on me.
Thursday, and the First Test against Pakistan, and Mohammed Amir's first international match since spending a couple of years by himself in a small room for match-fixing. I got sozzled in my back yard listening to it. I was supposed to be going to Manchester that evening for a talk by some Cubans who were jailed for a longer time than Amir, over something or other, but I rang the co-ordinator up half an hour before the train went with a story about being detained in Preston having to wait for my daughter. Getting out of bothersome obligations is a rarely announced benefit of parenthood.
And inevitably, we come to Wendy. I wish I could come in Wendy, on Wendy. I would like to do everything short of coming, with Wendy.
We bought two bottles of cava from Tesco, straight out of the fridge, went to a chazzer and bought two glasses for a pound, each assuming the other would bring them. We sat sun-speckled under a tree in the castle's grounds. All afternoon I could hardly keep my eyes off her dress hem. She reclined back onto her elbows and I was full of desire for her; specifically, to stroke her. "Wendy, I think your dress would look better like this," as I took her hem half way up her thighs. With the exception of what I really want to say, I talk freely with her, almost like word association. We keyed up some mdma and she had her vape thing for the kush. There was a gust of wind and her dress blew up over her knickers.
She texted me twice later that evening. "Thanks for a blissful episode -- spots of time we won't remember xxx." I was so off my head on mdma, and so enjoying the headphoned techno, and the tesselated, fractal patterns that were appearing on my bedspread when I opened my eyes, that I couldn't reply until the next day. "Oh Wendy, I was so deliciously wankered yesterday. Had a few more sparkles and was high as a kite all evening. Twas a lovely dappled afternoon. And I finally got a look at your underwear. See you as soon as possible. PS. You are so effortlessly sexy. You have little idea of what a pleasure it is simply looking at you Xx."
Trina texted me at about 10pm, annoyed that I had turned my phone off. "Is there a day in the 4 years I've known you when you haven't protected me from the truth. I doubt it. Whatever, I'm getting a bit fed up with it all, actually. You don't have to come round tomorrow. I'll just see you on Sunday for [a dance night we're going to]."
I went round in any case. She said she'd forgotten her messages, which became increasingly hostile after the one I've quoted above. We sat in her garden and got through five (oops) bottles of cava, then had sex. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But not wrong enough to stop me sexually exploiting her. The girl I want to reject me pushes herself towards me; the girl I want reminds me wordlessly fifty times in an afternoon, of the boundaries that she has set.
Four women at the next table.
"...sitting on't balcony, looking down at all them cunts down there -- she's dobbed him and she's ditched him and she's getting fingered in the bushes, fucking fat joint, fuck, no, it's not a blokes' holiday...no, no, you're not [going home], you're coming to Galgate and getting off your face."
One of them came over to me. I couldn't remember who she was. "You remember, you were talking about Jeremy Corbyn the other day." Two of them just had their wedding ceremony at the Registry Office. One of the brides was wearing a see-through red artificial lace top over a white bra, the other, trying much less hard, a plain black top and black jeans.
Two hours in and it's all winding down in a familiar vortex in which longwinded expressions along the lines of how lovely you are and how I've never met someone that is such a kind person, no shut up I'm talking, no listen, you know what I'm saying..." are now souring into bitter, drunken, loud, life-as-soap-opera. They've been refused any more drinks. One of the brides' mothers has grabbed her jacket and stomped off. "Fucking pricks."
Me and Trina went to Middlesbrough. My mum wanted a second opinion on her clothes for my sister's wedding next month. My sister has been fretting, asking me, amongst other inanities, if I'd like her to buy me a "burgundy" tie to co-ordinate with that of the groom.
We took my mum to a cheap pub for a dinner: a bolus of reconstituted potato, and stools of extruded vegetable fat. Back at hers, she tried on a boxy navy outfit, which I said made her look like a Tory councillor. She had another idea, a white and creme combo which at least has the advantage of a kinder colour. She said "I'd prefer to turn up looking like a scruff. I've no interest in clothes whatsoever."
I am spending the least amount of time possible at this wedding, since I avoid work whenever possible. Trina is collaborating in a lie to my sister that I've got to leave early in order to get to a freelance job in Glasgow.
In fact, we're escaping to a hotel in Appleby, a town whose attraction is that it lacks anything of interest. Dribbly, somnolent afternoons in the bar are enlivened only by the arrival of the militantly healthy types dragging the rain in with them, beaming with a self-satisfaction that comes from being razored for hours by sleet.
Me and Wendy ventured up the park. She wanted to nip off into the bushes. "Hang on, I need a wee. Have you got a tissue? No, I can't use my Barclaycard statement." We came back to mine and had a bottle of Prosecco and some weed instead. We text and talk like lovers. We are not lovers. "Being with you would feel incestuous," she said a couple of weeks ago. She sees me like a brother.
I've got sex on a plate with a woman I neither love nor fancy; I cannot have a physical relationship with someone I do. It pains me. It's sad. I feel it as a loss, a waste, a waste of ignoring the natural part of the spectrum of affection that I feel for her.
When she stood up to leave, angling her head and lips away to offer me a sisterly cheek, I held her for a fraction of a second beyond the moment at which I could feel her relaxing to tell me to unclasp her; desire, time racing, the intense few seconds in which I am allowed to hold her to me, desire as strong as the horror of appearing pestering or needy.
Saturday afternoon. I'm in a crowded pub in Loughborough, pleasantly dazed with tiredness with my second pre-5am start in 48 hours. Eldest is at the University's Open Day. It's a strange accent, as difficult to place as the area -- the "East Midlands". A woman hands a man her bag. "Oooh blimey, that's heavy. What have you got in there?" "Slug killer."
I had my interview at the betting shop. I changed my jacket so came out without any money or cards, so had to blag it on the train, there and back. I did a maths test which even at its applicant-sifting apogee amonted to asking us to multiple 4.5 by 7. The manager led me up a staircase strewn with disarrayed boxes of paper, like a set for a fire safety hazard film. Minimum wage, no overtime, no enhancements for Bank Holdays, shops open 364 days a year. I'll find out on Wednesday.
I was working at the referendum. I rang Kitty to ask if she could help take the screens and the ballot box and all the paraphernalia up to the church social centre which was to be my station. She said she could do it straight after school on Wednesday, "but shall we have a drink first?" so we sat outside and she told me some tales of Wendy's estranged husband's attempts at maintaining his control over her, using the daughter as proxy and her drinking as the moral high ground.
I felt glowing with sympathy for her as Kitty told me the details. I texted her, knowing that she'd know that Kitty had shared the story with me. "I love and care for you very much Wendy. I want you to be happy, with all the door-opening vistas that you deserve. I am tremendously fond of you." I was implying a criticism of her husband's behaviour, and advertising myself.
She replied an hour later, "And me you. I'm very busy next week but maybe I could sneak you in round the back when [daughter] is in bed."
Text exchanges with Wendy can make me feel crumpled, screwed up like a fisted sheet of A4. She doesn't fancy me; doesn't want to sneak me in to her house for the reasons I'd like. I replied with a levity that was not mine.
Thursday, and voting day in the UK and Gibraltar. Got up at 4.45, was at the polling station by 6. It was in an airy room with large picture windows. I had two poll clerks, one of whom annoyed me greatly. He turned up in jeans and a T-shirt, a ring through his lip, an ugly gargling speech that was difficult to understand, a reluctance to talk to the voters, a droopy-lidded man who wants to tell you things: I learnt that the Ring Cycle has never been performed in its entirety outside of Glyndeboune, the opera house built specifically for its performance; and that I am wrong about the name of the street next to the one in which my children have spent all but the first year of their lives. I imagined his house, all World of Warcraft boxed sets and board games. I steered him into him doing the role which requires the least interaction with the public.
All finished at 11, I got back to the girls' house to follow the results. Eldest wanted to follow it too. Kirsty was all ready to go to see boyf but fetched a sleeping bag down for me. I felt that adrenaline chattiness, ran down my clockwork with a sleep-deprived, glassy, sociabilty. We both went to bed for an hour-and-a-half, then got up again at one o'clock. I lasted until a quarter to six, then was woken again at seven by the other two, who had to go to school. Kirsty arrived back from her night with boyf at about nine, articulately twitchy on sparkle dust, and we talked about it all.
I voted for the frying pan of Remain rather than the fire of Leave, but the Remain compaign came across as a group unable to speak to anyone outside their own class. You can't dismiss people's concern about immigration. It's a subject that the left finds embarassing even to approach, but there are many people in white working class areas that have been made spectators in their own streets, as a functioning cohesive community has been undermined by the arrival of immigrants. The established inhabitants are expected to settle for a mannered apartheid in their suburbs to replace a practical closeness, an instruction which perhaps reflects the middle class preference for distance in social relations.
I went down the pub for a Brexfast pint. Everyone I spoke to thought it was a great move. I went home to see Fuckwit Lodger in the act of moving out. I shook his hand and wished him all the best with a neutral face designed to mask my relief that he is finally out of my hair.
Kim's here for the weekend. Her dog pissed on my trendy G-Plan chair and over the hem of two of her dresses which were draped over it. Kim's meticulously fussy about cleanliness -- she resolutely avoids showering or bathing in my bathroom whilst she's here -- but a dog pissing over my furniture and her dresses is OK. She woofed through a big plateful of spaghetti alla puttanesca, then said she was still hungry, so I made us some drop scones, of which she ate fourteen.
She started wanking again in bed -- or at least, I read something sexual into the way she seemed to be breathing and constantly moving. This turned me on very much. I spent a long time thinking about how what a good state her cunt must be in to receive a proposition: "Kim -- could I put my fingers inside your cunt?" but I didn't: the bed, with Kim, has a border.
We spent last night snorting meow meow off a book called Historical Documents of the Irish Avantgarde. The book was chosen for its laminated cover and size, but I liked the conjunction of the sparkling, crystalline white lines of the most visually attractive of all drugs I know, and the book's title.
It's an invented documentary of Irish contemporary music, written by Jennifer Walshe, an actual Irish contemporary composer; Flann O'Brien's pisstake of the comical forced nobility of Gaelic language preservation contests, in The Poor Mouth, can't be far behind it. I wish she hadn't given the device away in the foreward, as it dulls the joke. Whilst I haven't noticed any indication of a mephedrone habit in Walshe's recent programme notes, I think such a playful woman would appreciate the way we used her faux research. I read a couple of chapters of it in between dancing and re-dosing, but meow meow fucks your reading sight up pretty early on.
I get a phone call from a rough-sounding bird. She's ringing to offer me an interview for a job in a betting shop; I applied back in February. I deliberately sent them a revisionist cv designed to make me sound thick, omitting any education beyond my 'O' levels, and inventing several menial jobs to replace my teacher / signalman / technical author years. It's secured me the interview, but I can't find the cv on my computer so I'll have to improvise my lying. The reviews from former employees on the internet who've worked for the firm are almost universally adverse, but it's a case of co-dependency at the very bottom of the ladder.
Wendy said the other day, "The obvious career for you is staring you in the face. But neither Kitty nor me would want to visit you in prison."
Fuckwit Lodger delights me with a text saying that he's moving out on Thursday. I have never wanted to see the back of a lodger as much as he. His constant presence demands an equally constant tiring sociability. He never has visitors or goes out to meet friends, and his poor cat is kept a prisoner in the house, never let outdoors. He visits his controlling personality on her. She's staying here when he leaves and she doesn't know of the vista of back alley adventures about to be opened up to her.
This really is alcoholism. Buying a bottle of wine at quarter to fucking eight in the morning. I don't care, I am laughing to myself coming back from the shop, drunk already, not been to bed, after a deliriously loved-up day with Wendy, of which more later. I love losing myself in drink. It's such a lovely experience -- and I have many lovely experiences.
I somehow got roped in to helping Chris put a shed up. I have not the slightest interest in DIY nor the merest practical abilities. My education amounts to a shaky, sub-Wikipedia grasp of aesthetic theories of contemporary classical music, but I haven't the foggiest about drills, screwdrivers, and reverse flange lever lug rivets. We sweated about ineffectually in her garden, and got as far as unwrapping the various parts, gathering up all the screws which went flying everywhere, laying two panels on the ground and failing to screw them together. We put it all back in the outhouse and had a much pleasanter hour chatting in her front room. She said that this period of four months is the longest she's ever gone without sex. I told her that there was a time in my twenties and thirties when I didn't have sex for eleven years.
A couple of days later, we went to the bingo in Morecambe. I really enjoyed bingo night when we used to go on holiday in Brittany. The difference being that in Brittany you're surrounded by elegant women in linen shift dresses, walking by as you drink excellent cider and Breton ale, but it being Morecambe I thought I might pull some desperate pissed-up wallop in trackie bottoms after a couple of pints of Fosters and a hot dog instead.
Chris turned up in a tight black dress and a belt collar with a clasp on it round her neck. It said "sex"; Chris carries off that S&M look very well. There were more young people there than I'd expected. It was the one place where mobile phone addicts leave their phones alone for a few minutes at a time.
The caller doesn't use the picturesque bingo argot of old any more. There are no fat ladies, and legs do not come in elevens. Numbers are called rapidly, demanding a degree of concentration and manual dexterity, which nevertheless didn't prevent the woman next to us gobbling down chips and a burger down in between numbers. She was a picture of everything that is wrong with fast food, but helpful as well, inducting me.
Friend of mine asked me if I fancied helping him out at Barefest. Not some nudist festival but basically an excuse for a twelve hour-long piss-up in a suburb of Morecambe with a rather unusual name, Bare. "Play what you like," he said. "I could do a bit of disco going on early house if you liked?" "Whatever, looby." (Vanity playlist here). It went down well, by which I mean that the Brexity, uPvC'd crowd ignored my music. We had to stop for the fucking stupid football but carried on later.
I got ten pounds for "expenses", which nearly covered my taxi back. I got home at half one. Kitty and Wendy texted me asking me to go round but I was absolutely knackered. Five days straight on the sparkledust and I was collapsing, and also theoretically in charge of my daughters. I went to bed and slept for twelve hours straight. I found my youngest raking through my records in the morning and that gave me a thrill. She's really into music, contemporary popular music, and it felt an honour to have her riffling through my records.
I am utterly and stupidly, stupid, stupid, anti-intellectual, wrong, wrong, useless, foolish, stupid, an idiot, in love with Wendy. She called for me yesterday. She turned up in this gorgeous brown dress. "You look lovely. Is that a new dress?" "Yes, brown's not really normally my colour but I liked this one. Can I wash my hands? The dog's ball has gone in some shit." She stood at the sink. We were talking, and it was all I could do to not wrap my arms round her lovely waist and kiss her.
We took a bottle of Prosecco up to the park at 10am and drank it and talked, had a bit of mdma and some yellow haze, which made us laugh. She was talking about Theodore Dreiser and struggling to remember what school of literature that is. I've read Sister Carrie but couldn't really think of the term that she was looking for, but I loved her in that moment (although I love her in every moment in which I am conscious). It was coursing through me, a river of emotion incapable of being expressed physically. We scrabbled around for terms. "What, American Realism?", I ventured. She shook her head.
We went to the pub and had loads of cheese. There was this massive party of solicitors in there, all strangled into ties and high heels. Having lunch with ties on, what the fuck's all that about. There was a tang of sweat. We met this bloke and me and Wendy both gave him our numbers. He was a depressive, intelligent, self-deprecating but not irritatingly so. "Depression is the highest form of vanity," as Julie Birchall once cruelly but accurately said. He assumed we were a couple. Afterwards me and him walked a short way together. "Yes," I said. "I do love her. First of all, every time I see her, I want to fuck her. I want to have sex with her. Then, when you've had a few, her lovely characteristics, her kindness, make me love her more."
I got home and sent Wendy a text. "... and I do love you. I don't quite know what love is but if it means every single time I see you I think I have never seen you looking so lovely and wanting to rake you with my eyes, and a desperately suppressed desire to stroke you and hold you and snuggle you, and if it means being constantly open-eyed at your kindness and generosity to others, and how I can feel so much myself that I never say anything but the truth, well then, I love you."
I thought it was over then but then she rang. "Looby, have you had enough of me?" "What? What are you on about? I could never have enough of you!" "No, it's just that Gerald [husband] has gone off in a huff. Just had a row with him because he accused me of always looking nice when I see you Xx."
I went round to hers, sat in her garden with The Little Dictator (aka her daughter) and her aunt, ate pizza, drank wine, threw the slobber-soaked ball for the dog, and stared at her legs, her dress doing that lovely oblique hem slant that is a consequence of leg-crossing. I am smitten.
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