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I bump into a man

  Mon 24th June 2019

Esther rang, asking what I was up to; it was code for "could you come round for a bit and dilute my mother?"

We spent the afternoon watching Royal Ascot and checking for any frailties that might give Esther hope of inheriting. We only started with the second race but Esther's mum went straight the card with winners. We tortured ourselves by calculating that a £5 accumulator would have netted £7000.


At the last possible moment, I am clutched from the jaws of my mum's house in Middlesbrough.

In a hotel room designed to drained all vitality from those who enter, I joined two other people at a presentation by a catering agency. We went through some health and safety questions, before we were tested on them by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down corresponding to the veracity of the statement presented.

The following day, at another agency, I was interviewed by a woman half my age. I only realised as I was walking home that I had had a button in the central chest area undone throughout the interview. No doubt mesmerised by a glimpse of my front elevation, she rang up and offered me a gig for Saturday.

It was for a "family fun day" for people connected with a local arms manufacturer. The inside tables were all set out around Concorde. The exhibits included this huge ugly missile launcher, painted battlefield green, looming twenty feet over children being introduced by their parents to modern "defence" equipment. We were outside all day. I was helping man the salad stall; mounds of colourful, glistening vegetables and feta, which served as my delicious tea.

Apart from slicing a tiny sliver of my finger skin into the cucumber salad after an argument with a mandoline, I got through unscathed. I did try to find it to fish it out but cucumber's a slippery customer, so whoever got that portion of salad was unknowingly induced into a bit of cannibalism. l felt like God yesterday; a living presence in another.


Down the pub with Hayley, Mick, and a little of his excellent speed which manages to be both soft and powerful. For all the eccentricity of Mick's manner, his voluble and often unidirectional talk while he see-saws on his walking stick like a Russian doll, he's bright; he also never says anything even remotely unkind, dismissive or sexual to Hayley.

Next day, I meet her in town after her job interview. "All he did was talk about himself." We sit in the park drinking Polish lager out of tins coloured Alcoholic Black. What a lovely girlfriend you'd be. "My first boyfriend Mel, he went to jail for seven years..." She's an artist with a talent in inverse proportion to the amount of remuneration it attracts, and is meeting a man who might be able to arrange some studio facilities. She doesn't like him for some reason and wants me with her.

In the street, we meet The Black Potentate -- the man who astonished me in single-handedly, wordlessly, breaking up the ruckus I was involved in a few weeks ago. He always greets me cordially, which gives me that location-less quiver that comes from meeting a person of whom one feels unworthy. I'm still learning his physical language. I've just about mastered the fist pump, but I need practice with the Opposing Shoulder Bump.

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A Mongolian lives in my head

  Mon 17th June 2019

An interview at the hospital for a catering assistant job posed such challenges in the tests as "10-?=6" and choosing between the spellings "thort" and "thought". They rang me up saying that I had failed at even this low hurdle, but offered me a kitchen porter job instead. I've accepted it, but only as a desperate insurance policy in case I can't get anything else. Pot wash is an unceasingly grim job. Even with it, I've no way of paying my rent on Friday.


Saturday evening I spent three hours in A&E with Esther. She has become convinced that she's got liver damage and got a referral for some tests. They came back negative, which wasn't the result she was hoping for. "I want someone to tell me I'll die unless I stop drinking." I slept over at hers, and she gave me a bottle of gin, as she wants to start clearing out her alcohol stocks. Then I had to leave; she was preparing to receive a man who wants to be pissed on.

Hayley rang asking if I fancied meeting up "for a drink," and we met in Wethers along with her on/off boyfriend. She said she'd got the sack on Thursday for being drunk at work. They were working as parking attendants at a festival, when a colleague came in with what he variously described as honey whisky or moonshine. After just a few swigs they were all incapable. Security were called, they were escorted off site and later, sacked. My immediate thought was that it had been spiked, but why would you spike yourself?

A man came and sat with us, curatorially proud of his collection of minidiscs and their player. They looked like square sweets, their plastic covers in saturated colours. He wanted to tag along, but quailed at our plan to go dancing.

As we walked up to Stokes Croft in search of music, me and Hayley got a bit ahead of On-Off Boyfriend. "He's always putting off sex as well. 'Oh I'm too tired...' Wouldn't you, if you were going out with someone, want to fuck all the time, every day?" He caught up with us quickly, perhaps reading something about us indicating a confidence from which he was excluded. "Have you been having a moan about me again Hayley?"

I spent the rest of the walk to the club wondering how to inoffensively translate "look Hayley, if you're not getting a proper seeing to from On/Off Boyfriend, would you like to meet up from time to time so that we could both get sorted out?"

A few minutes later we heard the Sirens -- young lads playing an enticing brand of house music. We were dancing in the garden till 6pm, then it went indoors till 4am. We had had the last of the e and speed, and had finished the gin mixed with our beer, which was surprisingly palatable. Hayley disappeared for half an hour and came back with some ketamine, that inexplicably popular cross-species stupefacient, but I liked having Hayley's finger in my mouth as I licked it off her nail whilst we were dancing.

Hayley filmed a minute or so of the bit in the garden.

As me and Hayley danced, On-Off Boyfriend was struggling with his jealousy, trying to do the right thing and not make a scene. Whilst Hayley was sat down, I started dancing with someone else, the two of us inching mutually closer to each other, before Hayley noticed and jumped in to wiggle between us. My dancing partner scanned her up and down with disgust. I wish Hayley hadn't interposed herself. Fucking hell, the both of them are jealous of me now.

Outside, we bought some whippies off an enterprising balloon salesman, and plodded up to a late night bar, dragging our ketamined lethargy like weights in our shoes. There was a fight going on on Park Street with all the ingredients you need for a decent punch-up, including ineffectual screaming miniskirted peacemakers, a ceasefire which is suddenly broken with another eruption of fisticuffs, and spectators regarding it curiously.

In the dive bar, the music was dire; to go from classy modern Detroit techno to Phil Collins and Shouty Metal was a let down, but it was fun in there, with everyone wandering about looking a bit fucked and it getting light outside. I walked back into town with an Algerian man, a chef who's really a singer, who was pleased I know (roughly) what raï music is. We went into a doorway and he played me some on his phone as he sang along to it in Arabic.

It was a balmy morning; thoughts of how Hayley's skirt hem stretched across her legs as she danced, turning over my proposal to her, how good the DJs were, how much I want to stay here, how on earth will I pay my rent. In Castle Park, the morning cross-cultural clash: stop-outs like me going home, while minimum wage workers rush in uniforms to pander to demands in hotels and cafes.

I sat next to a man who was halfway through a bottle of white wine. He was Mongolian, although looked more Russian. "Where do you live?" I asked, a clottish, intrusive question to push onto a man drinking wine in a park at 7am, which got the answer it deserved: "in your head."

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Hayley comes to bed

  Wed 5th June 2019

A job interview at the airport. In the airside bar, which starts serving at 5am. I forgot to take all the documents they requested, but in that co-dependency that employers who only pay the minimum wage have with their employees, they offered it me anyway, after I'd schlepped all the way back home and out to the airport again to bring them proof that I have no taint of immigrant. I've accepted it and I have my training on Friday morning but I might have other options.

Yesterday, an interview at an insurance company. Better money and hours, although it would still colonise two weekends in every month. I was told that I'd have to give examples of how I will exemplify the company's "core values". Number six on that list is "bring all of yourself to work." I wondered if I could say that as an alcoholic I'll be bringing a couple of bottles of red to work, to demonstrate being honest to myself by getting on the sauce every day from about 10ish.

My spirit sank when I entered the black carpeted acre of call centre. A litter of headsets and computers. Company values and tweets from appreciative customers in coloured ink on the walls. I could only think of Vaneigem's adage, "work is a prison of measured time."


To my great surprise and pleasure, Hayley, she of the semi-successful Sunday sofa sex, rings. She'd lost my number but got it from Esther. At Esther's, she is there with a man she acquired the night before. Esther was as tiresome as ever, her constant demands for attention turning to infantile displays of nudity. To my relief, she'd lost the zapper with which one turns on her shouting television, so we were able to enjoy Hayley's demotic sense of humour. Esther took a phone call from the wife of a man who plays in an internationally famous Bristol band. It was one long crackhead's slur.

We all went down the pub, where we managed an hour or so of a deafening rock band. Esther, unable to cope with the attention being on a third party, stomped off home, ignored by the rest of us. All of us apart from her had had an e and some excellent speed, and none of us wanted the pacific mood to be torn up.


Last night Hayley, Acquired Man and me, went out. Hayley looked gorgeous, in a black lacy top and a blue cord miniskirt, black tights and flatties. I mentioned that I have to move out of here in the next few months. Hayley said that it's likely she'll be offered a council flat in the autumn, and suggested we could share it, an illegal but mutually beneficial sub-let. I was astonished and flattered by the suggestion. I think I've made my first real friend here.

Acquired Man wandered off, and Hayley came back to mine. She's asleep in the bed to my right. There were no consequences, despite being wrapped around her, so the semi-successful Sunday sofa sex was clearly a one-off.

When I got up an hour ago there were two messages on my phone from the landlady in the adjoining bedroom. 0012: "It's a school night. M-- has to get up early." 0029: "M-- has to get up at 7 and the walls are very thin. Weekends are for noise."

I am painstakingly quiet all of the time here, to the point where on several occasions they have been surprised to find that I am in. I thought I might have earned a little licence, a fifty-five-year-old man hopefully bringing a sexy miniskirted thirty-year-old woman home, but I'll go and apologise in a minute.


I was walking home the other night, along a section of a path which abuts some of the bleak office blocks with which central Bristol is scarred. A man and a woman were slumped in a doorway, smoking a joint. Some sort of device was playing drum and bass weakly. "You alright?" he said. "Yeah not too bad." "Do you want to join us? It's a party."

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I pinch Trina's nipples whilst in Putney

  Thu 30th May 2019

I've just moved aside on the staircase in Wethers to let a wide woman come down unhindered. Fast after her was a skinny bloke whose size was no obstacle to my progress. I started to go up, but stopped myself in case it looked to the fat girl that I was making an exception for her on account of her bulk, rather than my action being an instance of my indifferently applied manners.


I worked at the European Elections last Thursday. To my right, sat behind the trestle table set out for us, the Presiding Officer, an Anglo-Jamaican girl in her twenties. Under a faux leather jacket, which she wore unzipped and never took off, she wore a white top shiny with the strokable sheen of cheap polyester which moved with its own knowledge of the male glance, and glance, and glance, to every shift of her tits when she bent forwards over the table. To my left, a skinny fiftysomething woman in sandals, jeans, a straightforward white shirt and denim top. We were in each others' company for sixteen hours.

Our voters included a Nigerian woman in her eighties, who started dancing round the room to illustrate her carpe diem, a couple of young white men dressed seriously and with a hint of a challenge, in dresses; acutely well-mannered Indians whose Brahminian refinement made me feel awkward; illiterate Somalis with their interpreting daughters ruining all rules about voting secrecy; white women my own age from the administrative and academic classes in grey shift dresses, the chefs de famille butlered by a man, both exclaiming over the trivial achievements of a pre-school child on a wooden bike with no pedals.

It makes you delirious, getting up that early. A young woman presented herself at our desk. Looking for her polling card, she removed a wad of cash. I'd already found her name on the register. I tutoyered her. "I do hope, Chrissie, that you're not trying to bribe me here. But if you are, I'd be quite open to it."

She went to the booth to vote, then proffered her slip back to me. Instead of directng her to the ballot box a yard away, I caught myself involuntarily asking her out. "Would you like to come... Er...no." My colleagues looked at me; I turned red. "Just put it in the box over there." She stared at me for a moment, then we both laughed. That was the best bit of the whole sixteen hours.


The concert in London that Trina was going to was cancelled, and she rang me to see if I fancied a night out.

I got off the coach a bit desperate, but managed to nip into a "no admittance" million pound garden, the door to which a workman had left open, and sprayed on a tree stump with my minimum wage cider-infused Lancashire jus.

We got very pissed and went to bed. I started pinching and pulling her nipples between my fingers. Thank fuck she was too asleep to notice, and my weak cock withered. I don't want to revive anything of that.

Following morning, we went to Putney Wetherspoons at 10am. I've never seen so many young white middle class people clamped into sports bras and spandex shorts, running. None of them were being pursued by the police, which confused me, but on asking at the bar, I was informed that running is considered a leisure activity in that part of London.


I'm down now to very little money now, but I've got an interview tomorrow in the bar at Bristol airport. If I get it, I want you to come and say hello. It serves alcohol from 5am.

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Park life

  Mon 20th May 2019

I went to my GP's practice on Friday, a place of disorder, different from the prim Georgian living room of the surgery in Lancaster. I wanted to ask about my hernia, which I'm tempted to ignore, and my alcoholism, which I shouldn't.

I veer between worry and carelessness about my drinking. Every night lately, I fester in thoughts of being unloved. "You no more love me than you love the second lampost on the left," I say to an imagined Wendy. I run and re-run, the incident when Helen came over and I was exiled while they all partied, because the Little Dictator would be there. I can't get over it, and it's happening again on Saturday, when Kitty, Wendy and her auntie will be celebrating Wendy's birthday. "I'm a second class, inferior, arm's length friend," I moan, a muttering obsessive churning his self-pitying phrases. I try different positions in bed, seeking one that will be so comfortable it will smother this vandalising chatter in my head.

At the desk, there is a bureaucratic problem -- I am an "inactive patient", which means that they've lost the registration forms I took in months ago. I went home and typed in "help for alcoholism Bristol", and found a meeting of a group which practices a combination of CBT and something with the forbidding name Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. My gut feeling was that it wouldn't work. Apart from my Dad kicking me in the head in the hallway when I was nine I had a plain childhood, albeit with lots of moving around, so there's no early trauma narrative to get cathartic over.

Neither do I have a contemporary sorrow to explain my drinking. I'm in a financially precarious state, but it's one that lets me read, and acquire sunburn in Castle Park of an afternoon. Having once been imprisoned in a callcentre, I like to lay down, settling for sleep in view of the current bondservants in the glassed panopticon opposite. I am recognised in the park now by its habituées -- the black men who ask me why I'm not exercising with them, the Spanish bin man, the purple-haired, sexist punk, the generous Malaysian drunkards profferring endless Stella. I don't want to give this up; I never went to the course.


On my way back home, I popped into the local hardline Muslim bookshop, where I had a fruitless conversation with a polished young man over a book in which I was showing interest, which explained why music is haram. Joylessness, the overlapping centre in the Venn diagram of religions. I went to a Somalian cafe, where I had an espresso for a pound and felt self-conscious.


Walking home last night, I was approached by a man who offered me a box of wine for a fiver. As I didn't want to see him burdened with it in his arms, which might have developed chafing sores as he carried it home, I agreed to the bargain. I think it's important we do our bit for strangers.

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


M / 55 / 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

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