Down Beer Street

Permalink Thu 19th May 2016

4am and I am on my way to wearing myself out over Wendy, and trying to keep away from my phone. Last night, before going to sleep, I texted her. "Night night, you wordsmith. I wish I could be next to you now, slowly undressing you and stroking you with my fingertips, my lips, my eyes, and all of me. See you Friday x"

It really doesn't help. It rams home to me my sexual frustration and rejection, and it's an imposition on her -- although she is sometimes a bit ambivalent about such texts. I lack clear guidance, so it ends up desirous.


Me and Trina had a successful afternoon in Ormskirk. She gets a meagre four hours a week State-provided respite from her demented mother, and we sometimes spend it in the pub there. It took me a while to come round to Ormskirk. I thought it was a bit fur coat and no knickers at first, but the seep of Liverpool has produced a Scouse lack of side; the people are warmer and more frank than they are here.

I quite like the Moneyed Working Class South Lancashire style -- women in tight white trousers and narrow lapelled pale blue tailored jackets, men in well-fitting jeans and un-tucked-in simple shirts with lined patterns without obvious branding -- and there are enough young people from the local university to prevent the town becoming too stale. There was a gorgeous young girl sat opposite with one of those tops -- I don't know what you call them -- with an exaggeratedly wide, high neckline that just about perches on the outermost reaches of the shoulders. This results, as I am sure you are now imagining, in The Visible Bra Strap Syndrome, which is lip-bitingly attractive on a woman.

I didn't get the job I went for last week. I am indifferent about it, and I didn't read to the end of the rejection letter before throwing it into the recycling, but Trina, endlessly kind, bought me a gallon of proper unfiltered Somerset cider she got in a farm shop in north Wales, when she was visiting her son last week. It is excellent stuff and I've already made progress.


Talking of drinking, I came across an online journal the other day, New American Notes Online which did an issue on "Intoxication". One of the articles, by Michelle McClellan, discusses the special obligations of self-policing on women who choose to be intoxicated. Starting from a memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola published last year, the article critiques the standard model of recovery alcoholism -- a tale of excess, fall and redemption in which pleasure's true nature is eventually revealed as deceptive and sinful. Hepola opens with a refreshing shrug of a response to a leaflet which aims to help you self-diagnose whether one has a "drinking problem." To the question "Do you ever drink to get drunk?" she thinks back, "Good lord. Why else would a person drink? To cure cancer?"

From such open-minded a beginning, McClellan then outlines Hepola's relapse into the familiar story of the slow process of abjuring alcohol, a story owned by those who have renounced it. "As a result," writes McClellan, "Hepola's initial defense of intoxication rings hollow."

It's a fascinating article which goes on to outline several problems in any simplified or innocent account of alcohol as pleasure with which one might counter the redemption narrative. The article's main, and liberating point to me though, was that it suggests that we hear less from people who love alcohol, and live with it happily (perhaps storing up silent liver damage) or who have an ambiguous but generally happy relationship with it, and have no intention -- as is the case in the vast majority of my peer group -- of renouncing it.

The word "alcoholic" is crushed under such a weight of context-specific social connotation as to have lost any autonomy of meaning. Saying this (less wordily, perhaps) leaves one open to an accusation of resisting the sober physician's diagnosis, which provokes, in a contrarian like me, the impulse to put a neon sign above my head reading "alcoholic", in order deliberately to incite and then examine the responses to such an admission -- or, as I would more bare-facedly call it, a declaration.

I am happy to be considered an alcoholic, but I have no interest in the curative redemption narrative and its heroic teleology, that I'd have to sign up to by adopting such a label publicly. Nor do I fancy being seen as the hopeless ruined figure slouched on Beer Street, slopped pint in hand and volition vanished. I enjoy my drinking, and one day, when I'm less pissed, I'll write A Defence of the Sot -- one of whom might be a happy fellow, interested in others, sensual, with a sexual drive unknown to him in his twenties, intellectually and artistically curious, politically involved, and who rejoices in the disinhibiting sociability that drinking produces in him.

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The annexation of The Crimea

Permalink Sun 15th May 2016

Apologies for the editing errors in the original version of this that you will have seen if you came here before 0600 British time on 16th May. This was due to an inebriated sub-editor, who has now been dismissed. It's not the first time.


Kitty rang me with a warning. "Looby, you are going to come in your pants when you see Wendy. She's bought this new dress and she looks absolutely stunning."

I was nervous as I went through to the pub garden. The dress was indeed beautiful, green, with a lovely neckline. I got her a bottle of Prosecco; a strange polished little pebble I found in a junk shop in Morecambe with a single word inscription, "Pray", to which I attached a label to its wrapping, "Because this is the only thing I can think of in the short term"; and a book, "Lost Words" by Philip Howard, because she is never lost for them.

Kitty texted from the bar. "Come and help me carry drinks!" "Fucking hell," I said. "You were right. For God's sake, I can't stop staring at her." At which point the girl herself turned up, and I could say the same thing in a more refined way. Her aunt had also given her a bottle of Prosecco, which was still cold, so after ordering one from the bar she opened the other under the table.


Then it was to the girls' house for our annual Eurovision party. Me and five teenage girls, including an American friend of theirs from school watching ESC for the first time, complete with scorecards, flags and a sweepstake. The preparations for all this were undertaken in something short of complete sobriety.


Ukraine won with a song about Stalin's deportation of the Crimean Tartars in 1944 used as a metaphor for that territory's more recent annexation. It is an artistically godawful song, and drags needling cross-border politics into a song contest which was originally intended to bring countries together, not to divide them. You can only do that in a shared community, and it made me wish we could go back to only admitting members of the European Coal and Steel Community.

We gave six votes to Spain, their best song for years -- which isn't saying much -- and one for Bulgaria, who sent a dancy number all about the "lav".


Kitty texted me afterwards. "Oi! Come round. We're dancing." Me, Kitty, Wendy. Kitty was pissed and was making an right pig's ear of putting the music on. She's not really into music and was giving us this stop-start disco from the first result from typing in "hard house" and turning it off after twenty seconds because she didn't like it.

"Don't get arsey," she said, after I gave up and sat down. "What would you like then? she said, faintly aggressively. "Just type in 'Reelow live'," I said. She couldn't manage that, and went to bed. Wendy put her phone in a mug and put the Chemical Brothers on and at last we had a proper dance. She was sexy as fuck in the green dress, abandoned, waggling her arse and her swishing green dress in front of me and, I know, enjoying it without the sexual overtones that it had for me.

Wendy laid down on the floor. "I need to get Ingrid and Veronica home." This is her six-year-old daughter and her aunt who were jointly asleep with the dog on the sofa in Kitty's front room. I laid down next to her and kissed her neck. "I love you Wendy. I love you." I opened my fingers and raked them through her hair. "They've got to take a dog," she slurred, from the floor.

"Hiya, can we have a taxi at 44 Acacia Avenue? Can you take a dog?"

I woke the sleepers up and we all got into the taxi and I delivered everyone home. In bed myself, I got a text from her. "Looby darling, thank you. I love you xxx." No you don't Wendy. Not in the sense in which I want to be loved, anyway.

At four o'clock or something, she rang me, thanking me again. "Where are you sleeping?" "I'm at the girls' house." "Where?" "I'm on the floor, I don't feel right sleeping in Kirsty and boyf's bed." "Well, thanks for tonight. I needed someone to take control and get us all home."

She texted me again a couple of times, the best one of which was "I love my presents, petal."

Why do I constantly become close female friends with women who don't want to fuck me? It's an insult, telling you how "sweet" you are (fucking hate that word) -- but making you feel unattractive and unwantable. It is immensely depressing to me that someone that I have such a lovely time with doesn't fancy me. I am stuck between a needy, emotionally immature woman I don't fancy, and a gorgeous, clever, witty, woman I love who doesn't fancy me. It's fucking shit. Why can't Wendy fancy me? She doesn't though, and it doesn't help knowing that the story of frustrated one-directional attraction is thousands of years old.

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How to prepare for a job interview

Permalink Tue 10th May 2016

1. Go on a two-day, two-night bender in Leeds with a couple of good friends who consider 11am a decent time to start a-drinking and a-chopping -- I mean, for the ingredients for a three-course meal involving pomegranates and za'atar from the Guardian, no idea what you were thinking for a moment there. Was it fuck, we hardly ate anything. We were working our way through Kim's meow-meow, which is such a forgiving drug. She shusshes her clothes off (is that her bra?) before getting into the sexless bed that we share.

2. Get up at the crack of dawn after three hours' sleep to get the train back to Lancaster. Wangle a successful half-arsed story to the guard about not having a valid ticket. Make a reckless offer to a homeless person to come and live in my house. Swap numbers. Felt the right thing at the time, now regret it.

3. Get back. Attend to one's toilet, remembering to apply the Quackery Cream -- tradename: Clarins Baume Beauté Eclair crème anti-fatigue visage -- which Kitty gave me once, implicitly suggesting I've got a face which might benefit from a potion which claims to réduit l'apparence des rides.

4. Do five minutes on Gargle as research.

5. Forget to go over the largely made-up cv that secured me the interview and worry about not remembering the lies.

6. Realise I do not possess a tie, so have to divert to the chazzer to buy one. This makes me late and I end up having to get a taxi. The taxi driver's stink of BO and poorly-evacuated smoke fills the vehicle. "Difficult to get out of there sometimes, isn't it?" I say, anxiety rising as we take an age to get onto the main road. Ignorant fagging Morecambe get doesn't reply, and I make a note to pay him the exact fare only.

I haven't had a job interview for years and it was hard work. I was nervous and I did an impression of a Parkinsons as I drank the water they gave me, wobbly glass. Endless "scenario" questions. After forty-five minutes I thought I was about to be let out, but there was a typing test, in which I typed badly, (I'm a good typist) and a filing one (easier).

I won't find out till Saturday. And all that for 7.27 an hour. It's Morecambe though; you can hear the hiss of deflating wages as you cross the parish boundary at Torrisholme.

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Dishonesty is the best policy

Permalink Fri 6th May 2016

Got up at 5am and got back home at 11pm, working at one of the various elections that are being held today. Trina drove me and all the paraphernalia there for 6.15 and picked me up again after the poll closed at 10pm and drove me to the Town Hall where everything has to be checked. I feel that hot head like sunburn that lack of sleep can cause.

We prepared for this important exercise in democracy sensibly last night, with Chablis, sherry, mdma and speed. It was a successful evening -- by which I mean it was sexless, and she didn't criticise me or start ragging on about what she sees as my alcoholism and my deprived childhood. I long since gave up arguing my case with her about any of her idées fixes, but it was a pleasure to be neither analysed nor lectured.

At around five o'clock a private number rang. I don't know why I answered it as I rarely answer numbers which aren't already in my phone; boredom maybe. It was someone from a GP's surgery offering me an interview for a medical receptionist job I'd forgotten I'd applied for. I'll have to find the cv I sent them to make sure I can remember the particular mixture of truths, half-lies and straightforward ones that I concocted for the application form.

Edit: just found it. My main referee is someone who doesn't exist who works for an imaginary company in a virtual office in Glasgow. All the enquiries to her will be diverted to me so I'll write my own reference. My children are a few years older than they are, and I need to warn Kitty that she's my second referee.

I also had an unnerving online video interview with a bookmakers, who rang ten days ago saying that I'd passed that and that they'd be in touch with a date for a face-to-face interview at the local branch. It's a palaver of a process for 7.20 an hour, but I do fancy it. The clientele are my people -- heavy drinkers, people who've given up, people secretly convinced they'll win the lottery, who have an honest camaraderie and unchanging habits which make them easy to know. I'm not doing it if it's all targets and selling though.


In the meantime, I've secured an occasional gig as a mystery shopper and I've got to go round some crappo DVD shop tomorrow morning. But it's ten minutes' work for a fiver and I get to keep the DVD they'll refund me for buying. Then Wendy's coming round and we'll take a funny fagarillo and a bottle of sherry up to the park. I wish I knew that we would end up laying about together, kissing, me toying with her dress hem. We won't though.

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Enid Blyton, but with cider and marijuana

Permalink Wed 27th April 2016

Wilma was up at the Magistrates' Court for shoplifting. I said I'd go with her. On Monday I had had to go down the court office to find the time of her appearance, as she'd lost the relevant letter.

She was anxious and tearful about it, although I wondered whether there was an element of a performance of distress in order to further the nihilistic future at which she aims: either death, or, preferably, to be looked after, to revert to a state of childhood with the State as a replacement kindly parent; both erasing her self, her agency.

The court building has recessed lights sunk into a ceiling that is half carpet tiles, half pebbledash paint. The Duty Solicitor was excellent and weaved a persuasive exculpatory story from a five-minute interview with her before she went in.

She received a conditional discharge for twelve months, with imaginary but enforceable "costs" of £145. We went to the pub and I got her a bottle of wine and her choice of a disgusting looking dinner of "ribs" glutinous, fleshy and shiny, Wetherspoons' artificial chips; the peas were the only thing that survived in something like a natural state from such a Fordist food production line.

I left her at 3ish and went home. I found out last night that she'd then gone and stole a bottle of wine, one of sherry, and some chicken before the shops shut.


Wendy texts. "Hiya petal, looking forward to our country walk. I'm thinking Enid Blyton only with cider and marijuana."

"Me too. If I be George, even though she was a girl -- the line's quite fine in 2016 -- will you be Fanny?"

We met up at the railway station, sandwiches in Tupperware, the clanking of our bottled refreshments.


We had sun and hail within ten minutes in Arnside. We were a bit off our trollies by this time. "It's psychedelic weather isn't it? It's like the beginnings of a dystopian novel," she said, and then went on to improvise its first few sentences.

We saw a huge tree with a massive root system. She told me about a poem sequence she'd started writing and abandoned, and now wants to take up again, about Morecambe Bay. One of its poems is based on a true story of a wedding party which sank beneath the sands -- bride, groom, guests, horse and carriage and all, all still there.

The hail came down for about ten minutes. "Right, I've had enough of this now," she said. I turned to look at her. Her gorgeous dishevelled dark brown hair was dotted with hailstones that looked like those little crystallised sugar cubes which are sprinkled over bun tin cakes. I thought first, a thought, then immediately afterwards, how cliched its expression was even in my head. The thought being, I've never seen you looking so beautiful. And then third, my shadow-self tapping me on the shoulder and saying "but you mean it!"

I told her the un-italicised bit and she looked at me and smiled. Everything was happening in instants; a joy sufficient to obliterate my sense of the lack of physical closeness between us.

"I do love you a little bit," I said, when we were back on the train, thawing.

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looby, n.; pl. loobies. A lout; an awkward, stupid, clownish person


M / 52 / Lancaster ("the Brighton of the North").

"Looby is a left-wing intellectual who is obsessed with a) women's clothes and b) tits." -- Joy of Bex.

WLTM literate woman, 40-65. Must have nice tits, a PhD, and an mdma factory in the shed, although the first on its own will do in the short term.


There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
Sergei Korovin, quoted in Pavel Krusanov, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic

I am here to change my life. I am here to force myself to change my life.
Chinese man I met during Freshers Week at Lancaster University, 2008

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
James Meek

I hate the iPod; I hate the idea that music is such a personal thing that you can just stick some earplugs in your ears and have an experience with music. Music is a social phenomenon.
Jeremy Wagner

La vie poetique has its pleasures, and readings--ideally a long way from home--are one of them. I can pretend to be George Szirtes.
George Szirtes

One good thing about being a Marxist is that you don't have to pretend to like work.
Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
Mick, The Golden Lion, Lancaster, 21 Mar 2011


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