Permalink Wed 15th October 2014

Trina sent me a couple of emails and texts. It's no exaggeration to describe the most desperate one as "pleading" for one more chance.

I'm very sorry Trina but it's too much like work now. You'd be better off finding someone who can give you the stability and happiness you deserve. This cycle of breaking up and patching it up again will just go and on forever, so I think it's time we were brave enough to call an end to it.

I have no interest in making mine or someone else's life difficult and complicated, by outweighing the good times with hour upon hour of endless arguments and recriminations and pointless, circular, analysis and head-splittingly Godawful "discussion". Just at the moment I am only interested in simple, carefree, straightforward friendship, such as that I have with Kitty or Kim.

That's not quite true. I'd like friendship like Kim's and sex like Donna's.

I'm sorry I can't offer you anything else, but that's all I have to offer anyone. If we do resume going out together as friends I don't want to mislead you into thinking that it might develop into something more. I have had it with "relationships" for the time being.

A couple of days later she was smiling hard by text again, hoping that we this can be the start of "a lovely new friendship."

I had told Trina I'd be in Manchester for this concert. She suggested we could meet up in the afternoon for a drink, under this new order. We met in the Lass O'Gowrie, a pub that always stops short of the greatness it could attain. Chilly, the radiators stone cold; intrusive Disco-Soul hits to pester you aurally, and flashing large screens of Ebola and unrealised terrorism to irritate you visually. Even looking outside didn't help: the sad sight of the clean-lined 70s BBC building razed to a crammed car park.

The conversation went well enough, in that way when things have changed and one is on one's best behaviour. We went somewhere else to warm up try to get a pint for less than three pounds. "Where are you taking me? Wetherspoons, in central Manchester? Oooh, it'll be rough, it'll be rough." Inside of course, the pub had the late afternoon stuffed fug of relieved workers untieing themselves, and all-day drinkers repeat-dosing.

She left at about half past six. I wrote a postcard to Kim, and meandered my way in a route I misremembered, to the concert venue, another chilly location. The vicar came on with a mic that spluttered like a broken internet connection, doing those jolly little apologies that the Church of England is reduced to nowadays.

The outstanding players performed a couple of noodlingly inconsequential pieces, but also one I liked a great deal, the Fitch, with its detunings for the cello, and a score that mixes tablature with conventional notation. I had an interesting chat with its composer afterwards, who looks like he considered becoming a tramp as a career at one point before turning into a fine composer instead. His piece was commissioned as a companion piece for a work by Brian Ferneyhough. I said I was at a conference on Ferneyhough about eighteen months ago. "Yes, I gave a paper there -- on his early music." "Small world," I clichéd.

"It's marvellous," he said. "So many composers here!" We huddled and smiled and stamped about, doing an enjoyable educated bonhomie, a subculture polishing itself in its own mirror.

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Up early

Permalink Fri 10th October 2014

After a period in exile in a part of Lancashire where parents smoke their children to school whilst wearing onesies, Kitty has managed to secure a job in Lancaster, and it was her housewarming the other night. It was one of cultured abandon in which we drank nothing but champagne cocktails. Two of the guests were excellent musicians. My heart sinks when I see a man carrying a guitar into a party, but Brendan can really play.

Wendy was there, attracting those glances that men are inept at hiding. She's got a sexy, reckless air about her, with her wayward, fearless conversation, and her secondhand dresses; more than one of us blokes were thinking the same thing.

Trina is coping well with the new description ("friends"), despite afternoons like last Wednesday. We went out and she drank too much (to my relief, stopping before her tipping point). Back home, she sat at the kitchen table while I busied myself with making tea, chopping and frying with what I hoped would be an infectious alacrity, but I could hear sibilant sniffing and sighing behind me.

"You alright?" I asked, knowing perfectly well what was the matter. "I've done this -- look what I've done," she said, trying to smile. "No, you haven't at all. I tell you what you can do though -- those need to be diced, about so big." I kissed her and she said she was silly and so on. If we can just get through this, things will be fine, I thought. She offered to get the last bus, but I said that there was no need for that, and being naked in bed together went with more ease than I'd expected, partly because she went quickly off, pissed -- leaving me to thoughts of Donna.

Next morning I had to get up early as Kirsty and boyf were off to France for a few days and so I've got the children all this week. Once she can bear it I'll raise the issue of why, if we're friends, I'm not allowed on dating sites. I got myself swiftly out of bed. No fucking discussions. No fucking; no discussions.

My solicitor rang the other day. He said that he thinks there isn't that much evidence to pursue even a possession charge. He explained that the procedure, when this interview finally takes place -- the alleged offence, of Untaxed Sensual Enjoyment, took place in June -- will be that the police will have to make a full disclosure of their evidence and then the solicitor and me will have a private discussion about how to go about the subsequent interview. I want it over and done with, partly so that I can tell you the full story.

It's our local music festival this weekend. In its sixth year now, the festival is a Ritalin substitute for its organiser. Old Uni Pal from Ilkley is coming over, and I am going to drag him out to see Özlem Bulut. What a beautiful voice she's got.


Wagon and Horses, 9pm, in case it's tempting anyone local. Free, no charge.

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Permalink Sun 5th October 2014

I was walking into town this afternoon when I bumped into Wendy, Helen and Kitty's friend, the tightly-dressed slender dancey girl at my last party who came up to my room to get a bit more self-raising flour and started talkingly keenly about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles before I lowered the tone by talking about teeming sexual desire and wanking. She had on a secondhand dress in an old print with green and dull brown from the age before optical brighteners; a glance to her beautifully-triangled small breasts, and a glancette at her strokable waist.

We kissed sideways. I tried to judge my holding her to a suggestive but unobjectionable degree beyond the friendish. "Yeah, fine," she said. "I'm pissed, and stoned, and I've been buying [her daughter's] birthday balloon." She showed me this bag from Clintons with a massive Jeff Koons-shiny balloon in it. I'd like to see her more often and I was glad when she suggested we spent one day of her four days off this week sitting around getting pissed. I'm going to get some sherry in for it. Sherry is the MDMA of alcohol: calm, empathetic, slow, close.

In bed the other night, after our argument, I was laying on the edge of the bed, trying not to touch Trina. I started thinking about an unsent letter I wrote to Donna while I was on holiday in Dieppe with Kirsty and the girls. A couple of days later I sent her a filthy text, then apologised for it the next morning. We had an agreement -- twenty-four hours, and it's not right for me to break it further than we have done already. It's the one relationship I've conducted honestly, (yes, I can manage relationships of up to twenty-four hours' duration) and I don't want to spoil it. I have an unforced interest in her happiness with someone who lives closer to her, just as I wish Trina could find someone.

Then, a few hours after I'd stroked myself deliciously into a Donna orgasm, a postcard from her arrives from Paris. It's one of those things where you send a photo to be made into a postcard. I thanked her for it by email, aware that I mustn't spiral again into a sexual desire for her that I tell her about. "Oh Donna! That's a lovely picture. I love any and all pictures of you. The ones in my head are incredible!"

I stared at the card, as I used to stare at her in between every item of her clothes being undone. There is a mystery about it: "why do you make me so electrified with sex?" The image, of her face and shoulders, is a glossy synecdoche of first, our sex; second (for me so very rare) the decency and honesty with which we conducted ourselves; and third, the adrenalined reminder that almost without talking, we negotiated ourselves into a relationship of power. "Put my cock in your mouth," I said once, as I lay selfishly out on her bed with her in her sex clothes. "'And suck it, bitch', you meant to add" she said, before she pushed it past her lips.

Edit: It's highly unlikely, even in erotic circumstances, that I'd use the word "bitch" myself. There are far dirtier and sexier ones. But she had exactly the right idea.

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The Pearl of the Atlantic

Permalink Thu 2nd October 2014

8pm and I am alone in my new workplace, a flourescently bleached office of well-meaning bureaucracy, where 578-page manuals about volunteer management sit as ignored as the leaflets about Okiwnba from Burundi, who brought joy to her village with her braided irrigation techniques. The white noise of a server and a photocopier the size of a Minolta dalek, breathes through fire safety doors.

I've been in my old home town of Funchal for five days. Me and Kirsty used to teach there and Trina was curious to see it. There were memories on every corner, many of which I swallowed, so as not to push my life with Kirsty onto Trina.

The flat was made of breezeblock and every scrape of every bit of furniture da cima came resonating to us down below. On the road down into town, there was a gym.

The humidity films your face and neck; I remembered this feeling too, and luxuriated in tossing my head for no reason other than sex at a distance. The Madeirense are kind, gentle, accepting people. We found a tiny bar with two blobbish, elderly men with agricultural faces. My weak Portuguese, learned there twenty years ago, was good enough for a mostly-understood bonhomie, while Trina ploughed on regardless in English. Portuguese is a physically pleasurable language to speak, with its mordant consonants, its suppression of most vowels, its mooing nasal sounds, and its shusshing 's'.

Three glasses of vinho seco, a cheap shop-bought home-made wine of tannic severity, cost in total 1€50. After dragging Trina around for half an hour trying to remember where it was, we found an old haunt of mine which served home-made poncha, with a dentinho of octupus. Next afternoon, the creased owner dished up spicy pork with pasta. The touristy place a couple of doors up gave you peanuts.

We went to the bar where me and Kirsty drank in till 4am one Tuesday, off work on Wednesday due to one of the many Saints' days, before one of the soaks at the bar offered to drive us home, has had a superifical poshing-up.

In it, I ran out of money, and the man sitting behind us first directed me to the Caixa Geral de Depositos, before getting tired with the effort, and offering to pay for our round.

Trina was melting getting up to my old flat. I took her the more interesting way, through a fury of roundabouted traffic and a huge garage where someone beeped us to get out of the way and I turned round and told him to fuck off, before the road narrows and quietens and you turn off onto a long, steep row of steps enclosed by tiny corrugated-roofed houses, where people who live outdoors urge you in sympathy towards the handrail -- "pega o ferro!" Dogs bark, then give way reluctantly, with some shame.

The nearest thing to a boring street in Funchal, Rua Fernão Ornelas, has, on one side, a life-size cardboard cut-out of the Pope standing outside a shop selling tracts, and almost opposite on the other, its cousin, a photographic studio with the Madonna and whore splayed on either sides of its entrance.

It's a beautiful city, held in by a claustrophobic corset of sea. Everyone is a gardener, and as you are fogged in the diesel fumes of the roaring buses up the steep pavement-less roads, you can turn your head away to gardens fecund with flowers and bananas. The mosquitoes love foreign flesh. In a farmácia, we asked for something for the bites and a local pulled up her trouser leg to show us her bites.

Back home, Trina was unbearable, snoring, and I wanted her to fuck off. She stayed another four days. We went down the pub on Tuesday and we got into this hateful argument. I was determined to retain self-control, and I did so for a couple of hours, before erupting into a horrible finger-jabbing, angry, aggressive attack on her. I sent her this and I really hope it's finished now.

Trina, I am exhausted with all this. I am physically at the end of the amount of effort I can put into these endless, circular arguments, which are coming to occupy more and more of our time together. I am also utterly ashamed of myself at losing control of myself the other night in the pub and that was a line I crossed which I never want to get even close to again.

I love our times together when we are having fun. Yes, I am shallow enough just to want fun. How about that? I love going out (and staying in) dancing, the holiday was fab, and I love going out and the concerts and of course, [pet name for conversation]. But it comes at too high a price, too much of a cost. I don't want them when they are partnered with arguments, hour upon hour of discussion and analysis. I want to perform an operation on us, excising the latter and keeping only the healthy former.

In order for that to work, the only option for us is to continue as friends. I am not relationship material, not with you, not with anyone. I am at heart a very selfish person, the only advantage being that I am aware of it.

I would love to continue the great, fun, times we have -- which I want with *you* because you add to them and make them different and infinitely better. But only in the context of friendship, because I have reached the brick wall at the far end of the cul-de-sac for any more talking, discussion, arguments, and all the crap I find unbearably uninteresting.


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The Opal of the West

Permalink Mon 29th September 2014

Trina got into a strop the other day because she found my profile on the dating site, which inconveniently reports when you were last on it. A couple of days later we were down the pub, exhausted after the weekend, the disinhibition of drink contesting with our mutual desire not to spoil anything before bed and our forthcoming holiday in Madeira.

"If you met someone else," I said, "I'd be happy for you, and glad, and as far as I'm concerned it wouldn't change anything between us."

But that's an incomprehensible idea to her, so we let the topic die in shrugs and a conciliatory rake of my hand through her hair that I didn't mean. Back came the comedown, comprised of equal parts of nausea, hunger and a revulsion towards food, in the body; and in the mind, a desire for sociability, as I turned and scanned the unpromising fruit of our fellow drinkers; and a physical restlessness which for the previous forty-eight hours had been poured into dancing at a Modern Soul and House weekender in St Annes, in the hotel next to the Conservative Club.

Erica and her uncouth husband came along this year. I was a bit worried about how it would go with them, aware that if Erica or hubby offended anyone it might reflect me. A couple of hours after we'd arrived at the hotel, me and Trina went to fetch something from her car, and found that he'd stuck empty cider cans underneath Trina's windscreen wipers, which I suppose seems funny if you're thick. In 1926, he won a prize for his dancing to Northern Soul, but it's not a Northern do, and he did awkward, slow movements at the edge of the dancefloor.

But nothing bad happened and the weekend flashed past. On Saturday we had a trawl round the chazzers, my prize item from which is a ladies' lime green Laura Ashley overcoat.

Me and Trina took far too much of the Beecham's Powders, which arrived in Lancaster last week in a plenitude of temptation. When we got home I was ill, throwing up horrible black bile, in bed for thirty hours, and not really right until Thursday. On Tuesday night I had this horrific, realistic, nightmare, with sounds, about being forced by the Nazis to play a game to decide whether my children were to be taken into the camps, in which we had to match quotations to their author, by sticking a pole into the correct one of several tubes which floated before us on a little lake. I got the questions wrong, but someone else in the same position told me it was rigged, so off they went for my children, and I was led into a large hall of desperately starving dogs and weeping mothers, whose teeth rotated laterally.

As you know I am under investigation by the police. What for exactly I'm not sure, but it's something to do with drugs.

I received the following misdirected email the other day, sent from my solicitor to the police officer dealing with my case.

Dear [Christian name]
Regrettably looby cannot make the appointment as he is attending a funeral. Can I rearrange it for a later date I will make sure he doesn't duck out next time.

The email then proceeded to discuss another client of his, speculating about whether he could be charged at his local police station. I wrote back.

Dear Mr ---

Thank you for your email, some of which, concerning another client of yours, was clearly not meant for me.

I am most surprised and not a little offended that you think my attendance at a close family member's funeral, together with my responsibilities as the eldest son in looking after my infirm father during a distressing time for my mother, constitutes "ducking out" of what has been described as a "voluntary" interview.

I am on my way to the airport later this morning and will be back in the country next weekend.



We've been and gone since I wrote this so I'll tell you all about Madeira next time.

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