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I have a competitor

  Tue 28th May 2024

Last Sunday

It's Sunday afternoon and I wish I were in Blackpool, where Lancashire are 232-4 against Durham, and our captain is into his second century of the match. The BBC's commentary is a substitute. It's gentle -- inoffensive jokes receive a response of a couple of seconds of rapid nasal exhalation.

No news, ten days on, from my interview. I was startled yesterday when a colleague, who works in the kitchen, told me that he's got an interview for the same job on Friday. So none of us have got it then, and they've re-opened the advert? I don't know.

I hadn't told anyone that I've had an interview for it. Outwardly I was encouraging to him; inwardly I was outraged that someone who is not the sharpest pencil in the depot, who never listens to you, and has to include his identity statement that he is dyslexic and "has" anxiety, into every monologue, might be awarded the position over me. He likes me, and is always comparing me favourably to the other union rep at work. He gives me out of date food which would otherwise end up as a rat's dinner.


Today

I didn't get the job. It's too early to know if my competitor got it.

Yesterday, due to engineering works sending my train round a funny way, I ended up having an hour-and-a-half to kill in Trina's home town. Fifteen minutes before we were to arrive there, I sent her a speculative text, asking if she were free. She was.

She met me at the station and we went to the pub opposite for a coffee. I was a bit disappointed that my colleagues on the train didn't see us embracing and kissing at the ticket barriers, and then felt a bit pathetic for wanting them to see me in Trina's arms. "Hey look at looby! The old bastard's still got it!" like a scene from some elbow-nudging seventies TV comedy.

I came home dog-tired on Friday, sleeping open-mouthed on the train from work, but dredged up enough energy to apply for a position as trainee guard based at Trina's nearest station. I had little time to complete it, so it was mainly copying and pasting from an old application which had got me on to the next stage previously. I altered a few details to try to defeat any duplication-detection program they might use and submitted it with twenty minutes to go before a midnight deadline.

I haven't got a plan. I often do this -- applying for things requiring upheaval if they come off as a provocation to my future. More simply, I am desperate to get a job with a predictable roster. I like Trina's company, which can sometimes slide into getting turned on. We never act upon it, which makes the desire more intense, and then self-conscious, and we get all circumspect again, and laugh; we haven't drawn up our constitution yet.


This weekend, me, Kirsty, and the two younger of my daughters are going north to see our family's semi-adopted daughter's graduate art show at Newcastle Uni. She explained her art to us at Christmas and my very inaccurate memory of it is that it's something to do with x-ray pictures of food they give to long-term elderly patients in some sort of mental home. Me and Kirsty are staying with my mum in Middlesbrough while the gals stay with the graduand in the Toon. I must try not to drink too much. My teetotal mum calls alcohol my "medicine".

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Welsh farts

  Fri 10th May 2024

I'm on the balcony of my new flat. it's in a quiet cul-de-sac in the city centre. A few years ago they put bollards up at the end of the road and it's eliminated all but residential traffic. There are a few shouty people, but lunatics are often energetic walkers, so their evangelism and advice rises and falls like a passage of bad music.

I bought a rusting old folding seat this afternoon for three quid from the junk shop down the road, so that I can sit and look at the sky, the trees, and the fat black cat who fearlessly walks along the wall separating our block from the council block opposite. In my old place, I opened my front door onto a corridor, which made it feel a bit institutional and stifled. Here, there is an outside. I face northwest, so I get the sun twice a day.


Yesterday I had a job interview for a railway job in C---. 7K rise, fewer hours, long weekends every six weeks, and the thing I want more than anything else -- a roster, so that I know what I'm doing more than three days in advance. (It'd be thirteen weeks in advance).

I was interviewed by two men, senior experienced railwaymen. I would far rather be interviewed by men. You can have a bit more banter with men and let your guard down a bit. The manufactured, pretty young women, with their nails and hair and smiles and cold friendliness, unnerve me. You can't break through. At the end, the men asked me if this was to be my only job. "Yes, it will. I've closed my Only Fans page down," and there was a bit of blokey chortling, with the knowledge that all three of us will be wanking at some point soon.

In the pub garden afterwards, a woman on the table behind me farted. "Fuck me, that was good for a woman," her male friend said. "That's why you're common," her female one said. It had me in tears of laughter. I turned to them and said "don't do that again love, I'll piss me pants on the train home."


I spent last weekend with Trina. The original plan was to go to Glasgow for a night on the bop and stay in a hotel. Rail Replacement Bus Services killed that plan, so I stayed at hers instead. We slept in separate bedrooms and mainly spent the weekend eating and drinking. I walked off with another man's coat from the pub, then in the morning, wondered how I had slimmed overnight. I returned it with an apologetic note and a lottery ticket, and he somehow found my email address and wrote back to me. It was all most gentlemanly. Less gentlemanly was me telling Mel nothing about staying with Trina.

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I am aroused in Cheshire

  Sun 21st April 2024

You wouldn't think that the Crewe Alexandra v Morecambe fixture would be the event upon which a near-infidelity turned, but one must never undersextimate fourth division football.

Exploiting the fact that Transport That Fails doesn't know how much annual leave I have left, I booked the weekend off. On the principle that one must tell the truth as far as possible, I told Mel that I was going to stay with Trina instead of coming home on the same day in the early hours.

It was an absorbing game, Morecambe coming from 2-0 behind to score three in the second half, but not quite up to the excitement of the evening before. We spent seventy quid on starters and several pints in The Pointy Shoes Arms, before going to the common pub. One occasionally meets an interesting racist there, but the one we got was dull, making up fantastical figures -- both numerical and embodied -- from his fearful imagination.

Back at hers, we put some music on and added slippery olives, fatty cheese and yielding crackers to the simmering erotic mix. We started dancing together, I started gabbling on about how I love her, "I really do," and the headiness of spring rising in my soul pressed upon her.

The Appeal Court in my head kicked in at the same time as Trina's own version of caution, and we kissed like punctuation, reverting to chatting in separated seating sectors. It's still all there though.

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Browned off

  Wed 3rd April 2024

After successfully negotiating the circus of computer "games" -- they're no fun -- that railway companies use to sift the job applicants, I was invited to an assessment day for a better job (they're all better than mine).

My mood sank when I saw that a woman I used to work with on the trolleys had been promoted to something in HR. She met my smile with the same unchanged black looks she wore when we worked together almost six years ago. They said "but you got sacked for turning up tipsy. How have you got this far?"

I've done the exercises before. They were in four sections. Some of my fellow interviewees didn't get past the maths test in section three; most young people have no idea how to do arithmetic without a phone. I did well, I know.

A week later, I got the expected email saying I hadn't got the job. A couple of nights ago I bumped into another old railway colleague on the bus. He said that he'd met Miss Black. "I believe you interviewed my mate looby the other day." "Oh yes, well, as soon as his name came up I knew he wasn't going to get it."

I asked for feedback, but none was forthcoming. I assume that no-one in HR, including Miss Black, wants to broach the reason for my dismissal.


I was asked recently if I'd like to stand for election in our union as one of the reps. A great part of the attraction for me was the possibility of being sent to Doncaster with the other delegates for a week, to do a course about the regulations and legislation that I need to know. I like being in hotels I'm not paying for.

In order to achieve such office, I had to present myself at a branch meeting. In my head, I had a picture of a warm room in a church or Labour Hall, with a high table of men with papers and minutes and procedures, and an audience of a dozen "I've seen it all before" men and two fat lesbians.

Instead, me and my proposer, walked up a set of steps crumbling under the weight of its own flora and knocked on the door to a working men's club. We were admitted to a freezing cold pub populated by five union members, a young girl with two children and a dog, and a couple of blokes playing pool. My fellow union members were all around my age except for one young man who looked like he'd mistaken Gwent for Tenerife. "You dress for the weather you want," he said.

I sat turning my hands over together or pulling them up inside my coat sleeves. My proposer brought the drinks thick and fast; a show of hands, and I was accepted in to office in a branch where new members will turn up to one meeting and go home cold, never to return.


Just as I will be leaving here soon: I've been offered a flat (well, a "studio") in the city centre. I'm very much looking forward to having such modern amenities as pubs, and there are shops that sell things you can eat, rather than browning you in a big microwave before you go gambling. I hope to move in next month.

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Lager for Rosie

  Thu 22nd February 2024

Mel suggests getting the bus out to a pub she remembers, in a small village near Bath. We time it well as the locals are coming in after work. It's a cosy place, the bar in a low-ceilinged one room with a coal fire. Mel meets someone working on the house next door, which for decades has been occupied by a couple she knows. I feel local by proxy and start to unwind; I go to stand in front of the fire.

The same man points to my cast and asks me what I've done. I explain the broken wrist and fractured elbow, before throwing any advantage away.

"It's great," I say, "I'm on more or less full pay whilst I sit on my back side. I'm going to milk it."

There's a pause. "I'm not sure I hold with that attitude myself."

In the concentrated atmosphere, and surrounded mainly by self-employed men, it feels a bigger faux pas than it would in Bristol.


Whilst we were in Tenerife I became interested in the disputed territory you'd hit if you sailed East by South from Tenerife's southern tip.

Back home, ignoring the slight nag in my head that my girlfriend might not be interested in Pre-Modern West African History, I say "there's a suggestion that the Phoenicians might have been the first non-natives to reach Western Sahara."

She looked at me quizzically for a second, then said "where's Westminster Harbour?"


In the corner shop a woman cradling four bottles of cider clatters in with the bustling movements of the unhinged. She apologises for interrupting (but continues anyway), and starts on one of those voluble monologues that I've witnessed many times in there.

"I want to change these, change them you see, he wants a strong lager, not cider, no, he wants a strong lager, so can I change these? Some of them won't let you."

The unworried shopkeeper tells her to get four of something else, presumably a strong lager. As she show signs of leaving, she concludes "...and I'll think you'll find I'm sixty-five tomorrow!"

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


M / 60 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

"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

Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?
Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

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

Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
John Whale

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

The Comfort of Strangers

23.1.16: Big clearout of the defunct and dormant and dull
16.1.19: Further pruning

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