Faces contorted with hate, the floppy-hatted Prosecco-swigging socialists of Lancashire's anti-fracking rabble loll about plotting their next move.
I have mainly been opposing fracking.
The louche scene above took place at a picnic we held at Lytham windmill to celebrate Lancashire County Council's refusal of the first two fracking applications in the county. The councillors voted 9-2 against, despite what one article called "a morass of pro-fracking bias and legal and scientific misrepresentation from those meant to be providing impartial advice." It was a relief to do something purely enjoyable for a change, rather than standing around for seven hours outside County Hall.
They were long days, but not without their pleasures. And if anyone thinks that the reason I went and spoke to her had anything to do with her strikingly gorgeous face, the beautiful long bunches of the world's best hair colour on a woman, her lovely smile, her fantastic charity shop hat and secondhand dress combo, the latter of which slinked attractively over her lovely hips, well then, I pity you for how shallow you are in your evaluation of women.
We had Farmers Against Fracking drive slowly up the main drag to deliver a trailer-load of frack-free Lancashire produce -- strawberries, eggs, cheese and other things in which we excel. We had the police take over the percussion for a few minutes. I was interviewed by someone from a Norwegian newspaper, and had my fifteen seconds of fame on the news one night on that prominent media organ, Channel 5.
Mid-afternoon at the back end of last month, we all went quiet as the decision was about to be made, huddling around a computer which was relaying the live stream from inside County Hall.
This is how I wrote about it at the time.
I am absolutely exhilarated with the decision to reject fracking in Lancashire today, and am glossy-eyed with pride that Lancashire's county councillors have shown immense courage in the face of intimidation, verbal and written threats, and an Infrastructure Act which begins the task of dismantling planning law that the Conservatives passed as soon as they returned to power.
I am FUCKING PROUD today to be from Lancashire, because standing up to corporate power and the arrogance of these rich kid shits we are governed by, takes guts. We have shown that this county will not be a pushover.
A small socialist sherry was had afterwards, but it's far from over, and there'll be more on this story soon.
You will no doubt
not remember my tall, blonde ex-work colleague and long-time neighbour, who sports a fine line in the tight trouser, who turned up on the dancefloor at Morecambe a few weeks ago and requested my complicity in getting rid of her date.
During some flirty banter with her and her mum the other day, I said that I'd bumped into her sister at the beer and wine tasting at the Town Hall. We chatted a while, my head ringing with the knowledge she was single. When I got home I had the idea of inviting her to our wine club meeting. I wrote a note doing this, in which I attempted to continue the flirtatious tone of the evening.
She texted back and said that her daughter was having an exhibition opening that night, in the local yoghurt knitter's bar, but if I were interested in seeing it she'd be happy to meet me there for a drink another day.
Both Tilly and her mum Renee turned up. I had made a bit of an effort, attempting to signal that was interested in something other than her daughter's photography. I was relieved that I had, since Tilly was wearing a beautiful and quite revealing dress in green and cream and a thin margin of black bra. They're both good fun to be around. Scousers, so I don't have to censor my speech.
"The art of wooing is dead," said Tilly. Hmm. Do you think so? She's away with work all this week but I might try to find something to suggest to her for the next.
Thursday was a good day. 1) My actual plastic Booths loyalty card arrived. 2) My youngest just casually mentioned that when she went to Morecambe on Saturday she bought an album by Sun Ra. 3) I concluded a brief meeting with a few young lads in the pub, who joined us on our table, by saying "Right we're fucking off, 'cos you sound like a right bunch of boring cunts," which resulted in laughter and handshakes.
This proves: I am proper middle class; I have finally achieved something as a father; and that I am from Lancashire.
But my most momentous news -- well, apart from a funeral and a wedding, which I'll leave till next time -- is that Trina went on a date.
It's someone we both know from the house music event we go to. Trina said that he talked about himself all the time --- I gather some men even set up websites in which to do this --- and smoked throughout. He made a tea of overcooked pasta on top of which he'd poured a tin of tomatoes, and the apple strudel was shop-bought and microwaved. He said that he bought a dozen copies of a book called "How To DJ." He doesn't DJ himself but in a helpful spirit he's given the book to some of the most practised and talented DJs in the north of England.
The date didn't work, but I'm hoping that this indicates -- finally, after three years -- that Trina is becoming more autonomous.
I nearly chatted someone up today.
I was in the pub with Vic and recognised a girl we had a drunken chat to in a similar situation a couple of weeks ago. I asked her over to our table, from which moment the awareness that I was being rude in shunning Vic was insufficient to temper my interest in the girl. We bantered for a while, during which I gave her my number. "I like sex, and drinking, but I've never had much love," she said. Usual tale of heightened sexual response as a delayed result of maternal deprivation. We left together, but only because she had a doctor's appointment. She kissed me on the lips and said "Don't take it wrong, but I don't go for older blokes." "You cheeky bugger," I said, before realising that 51 minus 27 is 24.
Trina drove us up to Middlesbrough to see my mum for a couple of days. We went in her flash 80s sports car, with its pop-up square headlights and roaring engine. We stopped for something to eat in Bishop Auckland. I had a "Butternut Squash Curry", which was a clever joke dish intended to recreate the self-improving suffering of early British vegetarian cooking, in which you could charge good money for serving Vegetables in Water Sauce With Spice Rack-Aged Chilli Powder.
On the Thursday night my sister took us out to a new cocktail bar. Her boyfriend is adept at keeping her indoors with their toddlers, so it was a rare pleasure for her to get out. She's a very attractive girl and because I see her so rarely there were a few moment when the shadow-self intervened to correct my reactions. Feeling over-manly for my income, I waved aside Trina and Sis's offers to contribute to the bill for two bottles of containerised Malbec. 43 quid. Fuck. In Middlesbrough?
I wanted to broach the subject of debt with Mum. Not that I could do pay them off, but I'm quite experienced at bureaucratically avoiding them. I needn't have worried. "Dad's debts came to about nine thousand pounds, but they've written them all off." I thought it'd be more than that. "He used to buy things and just put them on the credit card. He said to me one day "'Would you like a tumble drier?' And I told him 'No, not really --- we've managed for fifty years without one.' And a couple of days later it was there. This big van from Argos turned up and they installed it. I never use it."
She said that she feels better off than ever now, now that she controls the income, which as far as I can see, consists of a State Pension, since my Dad's pension was rescinded after he had an affair with one of his parishioners.
When we got back me to mine, me and Trina and put some music on and we danced about a bit and threw a few pints down our necks, and then had sex. I wish I could stop doing this. It's the wrong form of desire, and it gives her encouragement.
A righter form of desire would present itself in the shape of Wendy, who has recently split up from Slightly Controlling Husband. Me and Kitty wound up back at hers at the weekend. "I'm a lot better off now, now that I have control of the money." I told her about my Mum saying the same thing. He's a Lecturer at the Ribble Valley University of Work Discipline so what the fuck he was doing taking the Tax Credits into his own bank account, when she does almost all of the childcare whilst doing a job that hardly gets into even the first tax band, I don't know.
She had on the same tight, secondhand green dress she was wearing at my NYE party. She was limitlessly generous with the wine, never too pissed or speeding to fail to notice an empty glass. It's so important to do that. Always have enough in and never make anyone have to go to the offy. Her and Kitty are model hostesses. I spread the love in a more desiccated form.
Another couple, whom I've met once before turned up. She's one of these raggle-haired witch-like women who want to be bohemian but lack the dress sense and the intelligence to become so. She started talking about children. The whole point of today love, is that yes we're all parents, but we're away from them for one precious day, so can we talk about something else? In that lazy, intolerant way that is the privilege of men, I left her to witter on about schools and so on, to Kitty.
Her boyfriend was more interesting. His knee's fucked from a failed suicide attempt, but he was quite other-directed for a suicider -- a group with whom I have little sympathy, given that they are apt to making an aggressive gesture designed to fuck up the people who have loved them. Do it on the quiet with some fentanyl. Don't make a fucking song and dance of it.
Wendy texted me today. "You forgot the Murakami." She is pressing The Wind-up Bird Chronicles on me and she'd given me a copy at the do and I'd left it there. "I'll drop it round sometime." "Oh please do, but only when we could be detained with a glass or two of something effervescent."
She went to a book launch the other day where there was a bit of free wine going. She said that at the end, she ended up in a bit of a contest for the last bottle of wine. "The girl was trying it to wrest it out of my hand! I told her 'Yes -- you might look all trendy with your piercings, but you're just a conformist." In revenge for this, she stole a book. I imagine the beleaguered staff member, on 6.50 an hour, but now into her unpaid time, might have turned a blind eye to her theft just to get rid of her.
I was asked to help out at a wine and beer tasting at the Town Hall the other day. I was given a table in our woody, portrait-y Edwardian Banqueting Suite, and enjoyed three hours talking about the beer, which came from Belgium, the US, Germany, and a canned IPA from north London.
As I locked my bike up outside, a wino who'd been sitting in the adjoining gardens came up to me. He informed me that he was an ex-soldier and that he'd be "kicking off in there in a minute." "Jolly good," I said. He managed to get in before we were open to the public but was politely ejected before he could practice his penalties.
Morgane's mum's sister was there. I was aware of staring at her for a couple of seconds too long, but she is so attractive it's an effort not to. We chatted for a little while and I noted that she is still with the angular-headed Christian. A few years ago, when I was going out with Morgane's mum Felicity, we were all sitting around at the Chilli Festival at Levens Hall, where Anglehead's children were testing my ability to restrain a laughter that would have been impolite. "Daddy believes in the Bible," one of them loudly declared, in a tone weighted with the precise ambivalence between factual statement and mocking pisstake in which teenage girls are expert.
I met Kirsty's neighbour's daughter, and made a point of asking her whether her sister is single. I know full well she is, having been told this by the girl herself on the dancefloor at North Lancs Soul Festival couple of weeks ago, but I hoped she'd pass on the enquiry.
On Thursday I was contacted on the dating site by this gorgeous Irish redhead, whose interests include real ale and foreign films. There was something I wanted to see at the pictures yesterday and I thought there'd be no harm in suggesting it to her. She said she was going too, with a friend, but suggested we meet up an hour or so beforehand.
In her initial message, she said how much she liked a Belgian beer that I mention on my profile. As I had been paid partly in beer at the beer tasting, I wrapped up a bottle of Brooklyn Blast IPA (8.4%) in some reused shiny purple wrapping paper, as a little present, and went to faff about with my hair and clothes. Eventually but only last minute happy, I rushed out to meet her, forgetting to take the beer.
She was every bit as attractive as her photo had suggested. Beautiful long curly ginger hair resting sexually on her tits. We chatted away easily enough in Lancaster's All Fur Coat And No Knickers pub before walking to the cinema. A Pigeon... is a surreal, straightfaced satire, wittily knowing about the specifically Swedish form of dour. She, on the other hand, thought it a waste of two hours of her life. I went to the loo and stopped a couple, complete strangers, to ask them what they thought of it, so desperate was I to gabble on about what I thought was a masterpiece, a modern dreaming Buñuel. The man I knobbled had seen Andersson's entire oeuvre and recommended another of his films: such are the little serendipitous joys of living in Lancaster.
Her friend joined us afterwards, having put a respectful several rows between us during the film. I was hoping we might go next door, where there's a proper English boozer, but we sat in the theatre's bar, a place whose bleak design and high prices might have been designed to prolong the stark air of a Swedish arthouse film.
Me and the Irish girl walked home in the same direction -- turns out she lives just a couple of streets away. It was time for the goodbyes. "Well, OK then. I'm not getting any spark," she said. "Er... no, er... yes, I don't know." I had forgotten we were on a date. This is the third date in a row where the woman has said the same thing at the end of the evening.
This morning I sent her a message saying that it was a pleasure to meet her "and I can't think that someone as good-looking and lively as you will be short of offers." "Yes, not short of offers," she said. "Most of which begin and end 'hi babe'." She said that if ever I'm in need of filmic company to give her a bell.
I'm not sure. One can't help but take such rejections personally, since they are precisely that; and I think there'd always be another agenda apart from the film, of trying to win her round, and I don't even want to put myself in that position. It is a shame modern daters expect everything to happen so quickly, with attraction expected to flare on the first evening together.
In the pub the other day I saw a friend leaning on the bar, about to pay with a twenty pound note. He's a loveable man, stooped and unbarbered, with that panicked look to a point in the middle distance that the infirm elderly often carry round. I've been wondering for years how to phrase this: "Listen Issac, I'll miss you when you're gone, and I'd like you to give my number to someone who could notify me when you're on your way to the crem."
I went to walk past him, then quickly reached back round his shoulders to nip the note out of his hand. I fluffed it and the note stayed where it was. We got talking, and he told me he'd just won a thousand pounds, and gave me the twenty.
I finished The Great Gatsby this morning, and so am now carrying round the melancholy with which that book closes. My youngest is an advocate of it and I read it on her recommendation. I found it hard going at first and I couldn't see how it was the defining American novel -- what, more than Revolutionary Road or Sister Carrie? -- but then halfway through, the reportage of cyclical parties fades into the sad, elegiac denouement, where the detachment that I found irritating earlier on in the book comes to be a strength, in avoiding the cynicism that might have lured a weaker writer.
I went to Manchester the other day for an appointment at the Insolvency Service. He was a harassed, heavy-laden young man and I kept my answers brief, sensing that he might sometimes be dragged into having to cut off autobiographical meanderings that blur the line between insolvency and social work.
All done by 2.30, I sought sanctuary. I noticed that the woman of a similar age to me to my left had ordered the same beer as me. "Nice to see a woman ordering ale," I said. "Oh no, I like a nice pint of ale." She was Irish, but I restrained myself from asking whereabouts. I am so fucking considerate. I then pushed my pint a couple of inches back across the bar and asked for it to be topped up. "Do you not want yours topping up as well?" "No, I like a bit of head." "Oooh, don't we all!" I said, nudging her and thinking who are you with? Want to sit with me? Teetotallers -- you miss all this.
On my way into the pub, a gipsy woman was selling those little sprigs of heather wrapped up in a foil sleeve. I like the look and smell of heather and it's harmonious with my tweed jacket. "Hiya -- I'll have one of them," and I proffered 50p. "It'll be a fiver my dear." "It'll be 50p or nowt," I said.
She gave it to me and asked to take my hand. "This line here," she said, vaguely stroking some general region, "this line, I think you've had a relationship split up recently, and you've had a few drink and drugs problems." Well that narrows it down a bit. Who would speculate that someone on his way into a budget pub in central Manchester might have occasionally had a couple too many shandies in the past? I almost wanted to give her her fiver for such imprecise divining.
A friend gave me an iPhone4 a couple of weeks ago and even another friend who uses one all the time can't set it up. MAC addresses, something something settings... why can't you just put the fucking SIM in and go? That's even after I've made a virtual machine on this pc to get iTunes on it.
A new Belkin router arrived the other day which runs on the N band which is my next step in trying to correct the chronic stop start stop start of the broadband in this house, reconnecting about twenty times a day and turning the whole modem off about twice. Got it going (or so I thought) but even with the wired connection, I think waiting forty-eight minutes for an IP address is a bit shit.
William Morris said "Never have anything in your house which you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful."
Kim's been here for a few days during a local soul festival and the unattractive prospect loomed of her meeting Trina, but as I watched nervously, they managed a civil-looking chat on the dancefloor. Trina sent me a text later that night saying that "she's far nicer than you." Back here, Kim said the music was too "smooth and loungy". Kim prefers it harder, and is the same with her musical choices too, and I couldn't convince her to go back.
There was a weird atmosphere towards the end of Saturday night. It had started well but in the last hour or so something changed and I couldn't shake off a feeling I was being stared at, when I just wanted to dance -- although seeing as we'd started Kim's visit by staying up on Thursday night till 8am, and there were various refreshments involved, it's possible I had lost my usual acuity.
That much might have been in my imagination, but there was nothing imaginary about seeing a girl slap another hard round the face and seeing the shocked and fearful expression on a friend's face as she and her husband got up to leave as a result; nor about the boorish men, outsiders, who strutted onto the dancefloor and stood aggressively looking around, or leering over the women. I stayed, but was trying hard to enjoy myself after that point, contemptuous of the drunken, coarse gatecrashers into our culture.
On her last night, we were in bed when I heard her little murmurings of wanking and saw the quilt ticking up and down. I love it when she starts wanking, and so we had the second instance of our occasional non-contact sex life, in which we masturbate in the bed together.
I saw her off at the station. As her train passed through the Lake District, she sent me a text remarking how beautiful it looked in the rain. "Yes," I replied. "It's very pretty and very wet. I'm not surprised you can identify with the place." Back home, she thanked me for having her. "Oh, I'm sorry about that. I thought you were asleep and didn't notice."
It was the final of Eurovision on Saturday and a merry band of teenage girls -- my daughters and their friends -- gathered to watch it. I thought Trina was going to be in Wigan with a friend but she cancelled that afternoon and so she invited herself along. I didn't want her there really. But ever generous -- or buying her way into my social life, depending on how you look at it -- we went to Booths for booze (that won't catch on -- not the image they want) -- where she paid far more than half of the cost.
I made little flags, printed the scorecards, and arranged a sweepstake. My eldest helped me make Marillenknödel -- Austrian apricot dumplings -- which needed quite a bit of encouragement when set amidst the more enticing crisps, hummus, breadsticks and soft cheese. I gave the guests a glass of Prosecco and the wilder girls knocked back a whole tin of Kronenberg.
Teaching Practice Colleague had warned me she'd be late after a party for a friend who is emigrating, and turned up with two songs to go, which given the generally dreary pallor of last night's offerings, was inadvertently a good idea.
All was going well. The contest ended and the girls were chatting away with that simultaneous multiple-threaded conversation that women can manage and enjoy. Teaching Practice Colleague was in a bit of a giddy mood and started pawing me and smothering me with herself and chatting away in a mock-flirty way, making what I found were funny, giggly and clever remarks. She came and sat on my lap and I felt some un-jokey physical attraction towards her.
We were laughing, but I felt all naughty in front of Trina. My youngest tried to take a large cushion out of the living room and knocked over and broke two glasses. Teaching Practice Colleague kept going to dart upstairs but the loo was occupied. "I could go outside I suppose," she said. I felt like kissing her. I told her that there's some kitchen roll on the side.
Broken glass cleared away and Teaching Practice Colleague's yard-piss over, she came back and sat with me in the armchair, her legs across mine; it all started again. "Oh dear," I said, your dress appears to be riding up over your thighs. I'll have to just make sure this hem stays down at a decent length." You must bear in mind that at this point there is an oakum-ravelled girlish banter going on -- it's not that my children and their friends were earwigging in embarrassed silence.
All of a sudden, Trina was in the front room, and leaving. I wrested myself clear of Teaching Practice Colleague. "No, no -- you don't have to see me off, you idiot."
"That wasn't awkward at all, was it?" said Teaching Practice Colleague. "It's OK, it doesn't matter, really. She's convinced I'm her boyfriend so that's why she reacts like that."
We drew the sweepstake and my youngest, having drawn Sweden, won eight pounds; she then did a most gallant thing of walking one of her friends home. A couple got taxis and the others walked by themselves and sent us texts when they were in.
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