Wilma's in a bad way again with her drinking, and is almost becoming annoying, with the stuck record of her woes, in between bouts of crying. I went round to hers because she's run out of money, and I lent her twenty quid; we started on the sherry at 9.45. The other day, down the pub, she won £100 on a scratchcard. Like all decent depressives, she made the worst of it, saying that she owes her daughter £60, it'll soon be gone, hundred quid's nothing these days, and so on.
"Look Wilma, you've got a good job, your own house, a car, some very loyal friends, and you've just won a hundred quid. Fuck's sake love, how much better has it got to get?" I went to the bar and the landlady said "Doing your social worker bit again I see, looby."
Kitty was more enjoyable company the night before. She said that Wendy's Somewhat Controlling Husband was saying that he's thinking of leaving her, but apparently he often says this without acting on it. Kitty said that their relationship is sexless. I know that often happens after a while but how you would not want to fuck Wendy, in and out of her gorgeous secondhand dresses, which are just aching to be slowly unzipped, I do not know. I bumped into them again this afternoon and we sat in a beer garden for a couple of hours. As Wendy went to the bar, Kitty said "I can read your mind." "She'd be better off with me. She could have complete freedom and abject poverty."
Morgane suggested we have a dinner party as compensation for the Lancaster episode of Come Dine With Me getting shelved. I made Sussex Pond Pudding from a Saturday Kitchen Live recipe. Basically you bake two lemons inside a steamed suet pudding. I found some unwaxed organic Amalfi lemons in Booths and no I don't care how poncy that sounds. When you cut into it the juice and liquid sugar pour out and surround the pudding with a lemony pond. It's absolutely delicious, and could serve as a useful blood-clotting agent if required.
We got through what I thought was a modest amount of cider and wine. Next morning, Morgane said "I just can't keep up with your drinking." I didn't tell her that before the party Trina had had a bottle and one glass of wine and I'd had possibly five pints.
I got a message on the dating site -- the first for months. It's from a woman thirteen years younger than me, in a polyamorous marriage, who said that she likes "well-written smut." The spark from seeing a message appear is quite addictive. We've learned that we both know Chris, and she says I know her husband, although I can't place him from the name. Chris gave her an excellent reference. We keep it in the family up here.
My débâcle at the rave night is compounded. I got a phone call on Sunday morning from Morgane, saying that the police had been round wanting to talk to me, but assuring her that it was "nothing serious". I went back to mine. Morgane watched me intently as I read the letter "inviting" me to a "voluntary" interview in connection with the fact that "you were found in possession of class A controlled drugs on 15th February 2015." I had to improvise. "Oh, they want me to come in because I might have been witness to something."
It's just a very small amount of e and acid; I'll have to admit to it. Optimistically, a caution; perhaps, a fine. Pessimistically, local readers of this blog may enjoy tittering at the sight of me wearing a hi-vis jacket with the slogan "Community Payback" emblazoned on its back, before we are herded on to the miscreants' minibus, which takes us off to redecorate a youth club.
Down the pub with Vic and Wilma. Everything's fine. Back home Trina asks me if she was flirting with Vic. "Yes, you were." "What, obviously?" "Well, it doesn't matter. It's nice to be fancied." Then, somehow, the conversation leads me into saying that it wouldn't bother me if they went to bed together. She got all tearful, saying that I am heartless and don't care about her and so on, then stood up, went outside and got into her car, and at the back end of a bottle-and-a-half of wine, drove herself home.
I've seen all this so many times before I simply ignore her. This evening, three concilatory emails arrive. But I've had enough now.
I'm not sure .... I think we've tried this before and it always ends up the same way. I absolutely abhor and detest from the bottom of my soul, stomach and mind -- I cannot tell you how much -- all this endless drama, and it's bound to happen again. I really am way beyond the far, outermost limits of the amount of crisis and crying and teenagerisms that I can stand. I want an easygoing, carefree life and that's not going to happen with you I'm afraid, due to the irreconcilable imbalance in feeling. I'm acutely aware of my own mortality and to waste what little time I've got left on things that aren't enjoyable isn't attractive to me. I am very happy to be shallow and that's how I intend to run the rest of my life.
I can't be with anyone with whom I have to watch what I am saying. Women bang on about honesty then don't like it when they get it. This is why men sometimes think it's just easier, just to get a quiet life, to lie. You have also said some very unkind things to me over the past couple of years and whilst I am more than happy to be criticised, yours is not a helpful criticism that I can learn from. I am not interested in defending myself in the lunatic asylum that is your head, but I would just say, as a statement of fact, that I am anything but cold and heartless. Of all the things you've said to me, that's the one that comes closest to hurting me.
I am also tired of your relentless paranoia -- my "dirty little secrets" as you called it this morning. I have tried absolutely every trick I have to try to talk you out of this -- up to and including roping Chris in to make fake phone calls in order to make you see the funny side of it, but nothing works, and I'm out of ideas now.
So I think we should call it a day. I don't think you're ready for someone like me. I know how big-headed that sounds and it's not meant like that. I just mean we're at different stages of life. I feel like the older one sometimes. I know this will make you bridle but you need someone more conservative and staid who won't keep upsetting you, as I seem to do by dint of me being me.
You are a very kind, generous and funny girl and I've had some lovely times with you which I will remember fondly. But I am tired to the point of exhaustion with all this fucking discussion and meta-analysis of a life, rather than just enjoying it.
So --- moving on to practical things -- I'm definitely going to the do in St Annes on Saturday and if I see you there that would be fine. Given that I thought you weren't coming I've asked Italian Looking Woman and Wendy along. Wendy almost certainly won't be able to get a passport off her husband by then, and Italian Looking Woman's on a date with a new fella on Friday so won't be able to tell me till Saturday -- I think she's hoping it might turn into 48 hours in bed -- so if you'd like to go you take the hotel room, and whatever happens I'll find my own way back or Italian Looking Woman will drive.
Just now though, your cruel, heartless, unfeeling, and cold friend is off to bury some more of his dirty little secrets.
Above is a sensational picture of the eclipse as it appeared in Lancaster. I avoided blindness by not looking at this dazzling spectacle directly, but instead through a pinhole projector that I made from instructions on the BBC. Special award goes to the students who turned up at Williamson Park without being arsed to get out of their 'jamas.
There were loads of people there; I went with Kirsty, but a female friend of mine had yesterday expressed an interest in going. Trundling along as I do on the hard shoulder of the information superhighway, I went to send her a message on farce book.
Talk about not being allowed to forget any more.
Afterwards I went back with Kirsty to hers, and we had a bit of a chat. It's always amiable. You fucking idiot, leaving her.
Then into town to meet my pal Vic, who's become quite a good drink-blether partner in the last few months. Wilma turned up. I said "You're not an alcoholic Wilma, you're a depressive." She's on day two of this pointless programme called "Journey to Recovery." She said "I've got to tell them I don't want to stop drinking."
A deaf girl I vaguely know turned up with her friend, and Vic got his Swiss Army knife out and cut down a photograph of her friend's recently deceased fiancé so that it would fit in a frame. Deaf girl was asking me if I knew anyone who could interpret the funeral on Monday. I wrote back "You'll get the gist, and most of it is quite boring." She showed it to the bereaved girl and I felt a moment of alarm, in case that'd hurt her feelings, but they both reacted with assent. Deaf girl screwed the paper up.
This gorgeous friend of theirs -- late thirties, darkish blonde hair in a bob that was strokably growing out, green eyes, a cotton green loose top -- came and sat with us for a few minutes. I saw Vic's look widen into an eye-smile, and I had a moment of self-disgust, knowing that mine had done the same. So fucking obvious. You're just the same.
Teaching Practice Colleague -- with whom I share an imminent birthday -- who I've known for thirty years -- rang late on tonight. Neither of us have planned anything, but I said that the one thing I would like to do is to see her. I suggested I could cycle over to her house in the morning, before Trina gets back in Lancaster at about 2pm. Trina would invite herself along and dominate the conversation; afterwards she would recast the chat as an accusation, dyeing it with jealousy about a girl who predates her.
I received a letter this morning: Donna's handwriting. I turned the envelope over and over. I thought it would be some precisely concise and honest letter about how she feels insulted by me having Trina on the margin while I was seeing her last year.
It was a birthday card, with kisses. She's happily seeing someone more propinquitous, both in terms of income and location -- and possibly in other ways too -- so I'm not going to interfere. I'll write a little thank you note, affectionate but light. It's understood now: gone.
To Manchester, for a concert by Philip Thomas, the UK's foremost advocate of the work of Christian Woolf. Not a single mobile phone or watch alarm went off, and there was not a single person fucking about in front of a dazzling blue screen during the entire concert.
The first work was "For prepared piano" from 1951. After the piece, Thomas picked out the various items inserted between and on the strings, which included several door stops. He said that he'd found them in a hardware shop in Leeds. "Why do you wanted fifty-three?" asked the ironmonger. "To put them in my piano." "Oh."
One of Wolff's interests was rejecting the pervasive idea, in Western music, of continuity. To effect this break, he wrote the piece (at the age of seventeen) in the normal linear left to right fashion, before rewriting it vertically, down to the bottom of the page, then across for an inch or two (he wasn't fond of bar lines), then across, then up, then across, then down, and so on.
The result didn't make for easy listening. Whereas another well-known formalist model, twelve-tone music, can produce beautiful, passionate and affecting music in a way which is still mysterious to this Romantic mind, I struggled a bit with the hesitating result of Wolff's experiment. But I think Ray Conniff is playing Manchester on Thursday.
The previous day, Trina had got the hump about not being invited, and was getting on my wick no end with her rampant insecurity, alleging that my story was but a cover for seeing another woman. "You're totally wrong," I said. "Well, not entirely right. I'm seeing Samantha and her sister. Right, come on, are we having that drink?"
As we walked to the pub, I said I'd forgotten my key to Kirsty's house, and told her to walk on ahead. Back in my house I rang Chris and explained the scenario, and asked her to ring me at 7pm. "You don't have to say anything -- just nod and go hmm. I'll explain later." I changed Chris's name on my phone to "Samantha".
We were sitting at our table in the pub when, on the dot, the call came in.
"Oh hiya -- yes, just checking up about tomorrow. So, is your sister still coming? Great. And, er... will she bring those shoes and that skirt, you know, from last time? Brilliant. OK, so my train gets in at 12.45 and so I'll meet you and Theresa in the Lass O'Gowrie and we'll take it from there then. Oh -- by the way, the cover story, just to make sure we're singing from the same hymn sheet, is that I'm going to a concert of way out piano music at the University of Manchester. Just in case anyone -- you know. Ok then, thanks Sam -- can't wait!"
I put the phone down. "Just a friend," I said. "You're horrible you are," she said, smiling. Two young punky-looking women came and sat at the next table. They were carrying a placard which said "A Dress Is Not a Yes" and were going on the local Reclaim The Night march. I chatted to them briefly, before going back to our table, where Trina, with her customary lack of generosity, said that they were only tolerating me "because I am a lot older than them." It's not even worth pursuing.
Back at mine, with us both in our separate beds, she texted me from hers, amorously. I replied
No, to be absolutely honest Trina. You've not shown your best side today. Putting the phone down on me, suspicious, needy, demanding. We really really must keep this as friends where it works very well. But as a girlfriend ... it'd be like going out with a 16-year-old. I want a simple, enjoyable life and as friends, we're definitely on. But as a relationship you are hard work.
My brother, a Hartlepool Utd fan, came up from Hertfordshire on Saturday for the match against Morecambe and me and the girls went along. I'm not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination but it was a cracking good afternoon out, despite losing at home to the team bottom in the league, and by an almost comical own goal.
My brother told us about a time he was watching Hartlepool on a particularly cold afternoon. His friend kept disappearing to say he was going to the pie shop, then returning with no evidence of a pie. After the sixth such visit, my brother said "Are you quite keen on those pies then?" "I'm not eating them," he said. "I'm wearing them." He was stuffing them up his jacket and in his pockets to keep warm.
It was the thirtieth anniversary of the Musicians' Co-operative, and I was asked to compere a benefit gig for them on Saturday. The upstairs pub room was chilly but there were young flimsily-dressed girls there doing that pivoted talking and laughing with their friends, before their men came off the stage and hooked their hands round their backs and slid their hands down onto their arses. Less a gesture of mutual sexual interest, more a public display of ownership.
After an hour of respectful attention to a dreary acre of guitar-based rock music, I retreated downstairs for much of the time to mingle with the boho crowd, returning only to introduce the bands.
A man who started his PhD a little after me and works in a pub I rarely go in, came up to me with this friend whom I'd never met before, to my knowledge. "This is Stu," said my friend. "Hiya, y'right?" I said, and extended as I always do, my hand, thinking it was just another introduction. He took it properly and firmly and shook it for a long time, so much so that even as someone who likes handshaking, I had to inch it out of his grasp.
"I'm Stu," he said. "I was trying to help you at the Castle the other week." I realised that he was talking about my shameful performance at the house night in the old prison a couple of weeks ago. I looked in his eyes and felt a flood of gratitude and humility.
I shook my head in mute apology for a short while. "I am so, so sorry Stu. I'm so sorry for all that. Was it you then? I'm sorry. I realise I imposed myself on you and other people that night... I'd had too much acid."
"I know... but honestly, don't worry about it. It wasn't your fault. I'm just glad that you're OK now."
Richard, my PhD friend, then said some very nice things about how he thinks I am a top man and how he'd like to have a drink and spend some time with me. I'd like to do that, but I'm not in his intellectual league. It makes me feel nervous when people say things like that. I can only disappoint.
Kim, whom I'm very much looking forward to seeing again at the soul weekender in Morecambe in May, sends me a text. Prefacing the sentence with a qualifiction about the disinhibiting effects of drink, she tells me that she loves me.
Well, you don't really pet, because you don't feel any sexual attraction towards me, and I know that you won't make a move on me when we're next in bed on 24th May.
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