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Morecambe 1 Newport County 0

  Mon 7th June 2021

The idea was to see Morecambe in their promotion play-off final against Newport County. I would meet the girls in London. Where and when exactly, I didn't know. But we've all got phones nowadays. My eldest had my ticket on hers.

On the bus to the station, I realised I'd left my normal phone, a reliable old Nokia with Snake on it, at my house. However, I had brought my other phone. It's the cheapest possible "smartphone" I could find when I was failing to teach Kazakh children anything. My head of department told me that everyone communicates by WhatsApp so I'd need one.

I rarely use it, so bought a SIM card for it at the station, but it wouldn't register, so on a sludgey train internet connection, I was forcing emails out to my eldest, each short text taking a disconnection and reconnection to send, trying to arrange a rendezvous.

In the meantime, friendly Newport County fans were as deprecating of their team as I was about Morecambe. We shared our drink and shook hands.

The day before, I had suggested to the girls that we meet in the Wetherspoons at St Pancras. In there, a barmaid came up to me, and said "Lubin?" "Well, looby. Why?" "Have you got three daughters going to Wembley this afternoon?" "Yes" "They'll meet you at Wembley Central."

"Thank you, thank you, that's very lovely of you!" I disconnected and reconnected again. "Barmaid's just told me where you are. Fab initiative Eldest! I'm just having some machos. I'll see you there!"

I followed it up. "Yes, I'm having some machos. They're called Rupert and Richard. I'll see you once I've finished with them."

Delighted at my eldest's initiative, I headed to Wembley Park instead. At a different station to where she said they'd be, I was frustrated and sad that I couldn't see them. At the portals of Wembley stadium, homely accents all around me, I turned away at three o'clock and walked back down the concrete avenue back to the Underground station. There was a crappy sports bar place showing the match, but the bouncer wouldn't let me in because "you have to register on the app." I pitched for sympathy, showing him my phone, aiming to stimulate a pleasure at indulging the incompetence of 50somethings, but he was unmoved.

On the train home I met Sexy Ex Boss and her husband on the train, which postponed my disconsolate feelings until I got home. They had a spare ticket to Bristol, which was a relief. I don't like risking my expired train pass on the trains of the company from which I was dismissed. I told them my tale of incompetence and disappointment. They got me my second free pint of the day.

In my flat, I found my phone, all innocent and grey, which had sat the drama out on the settee. It was showing a text from Mel saying that she supposed that I was celebrating somewhere.

8 comments »

Un ballo in Yorkshire

  Wed 26th May 2021

The rhubarb glut continues in its fecundity. I've found a recipe for a rhubarb bread and butter pudding requiring port, which sounds voluptuous enough to be a starter for sex.


To Leeds, to see middle daughter in her play. More in hope than expectation of his being able to come, I invited along The Singing Organ Grinder of this parish, who has recently moved to Leeds. I was pleased to have a male buttress against my familial coterie, who can be a bit self-assuredly female en masse.

First though, a drink, and welcome to Yorkshire: £2.49 for Landlord in the Pack Horse. The man next to me was anxious, waiting for his friend to return from "nipping out". "I'm not really a drinker myself. My dad was an alcoholic and he beat my mother. He didn't beat me but it was psychological. He was a horrible man, and my mother was the sweetest woman."


The Playhouse's long bar and foyer, where, the last time I was there, I asked the pianist to play A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, was bleached beyond necessity, a stark, inhuman rectangle, policed by a mask-enforcing vigilante steward.

Not for the first time, middle daughter had to work hard to breathe life into an unconvincing and inauthentic script. She was well reviewed though, especially in the Guardian: "As wide-eyed new squat resident Loz in Alice Nutter’s ode to dole-funded creativity, looby's middle daughter is an especially captivating stage presence. She brings the right mix of youthful enthusiasm, tender vulnerability and spiky edges to this engaging story of a young woman trying to figure out who she is amid the social and political tumult of the 80s."

We all ducked out of the second half. As we were sitting drinking from our covid-resistant plastic glasses, me and the Organ Grinder were rounded up with the gang, to leave to find a bar. PC Maschera rushed up to split up the gang as the nine of us as we were leaving together, panic rising in her controlling breast, before middle daughter said, catholically, "we're all one family!" Me and OG took our drinks with us, and we lagged behind them, me rather embarrassed about involving OG in street drinking.

The Organ Grinder had to leave, while the rest of us had a pricey pizza. The daughters and friends left for a Eurovision party in Leeds. I got Kirsty through the barriers on my outdated rail pass.

The train to Lancaster at about 6pm on Saturday was full of maskless, tipsy, chatty people, social distancing out the window. Girls on the next table with plastic glasses and bottles of Prosecco. Lads standing around with their tinnies. It was like coming up for air.


Next day, I met Wendy in the park. We sat in one of the shelters that the Victorians built in its many little dells. They might have been designed for snogging, and I still feel a physical pull towards her lovely slim body, ragged hair, and way of talking.

"Well...", she announced. "I've got a fella." "Oh! I'm so jea--- I mean, happy for you!" "Well, we were occasional lovers while I was with T---. Monogamy has never been my forte. He is going to get it."

Stomach pangs. The reach of your promiscuity doesn't extend to me.

"And I found him on farce book, and we started exchanging the odd message and it got a bit flirty, and now it's utterly pornographic. 'You want to do that to me? Oh I don't mind!' It's lovely to be desired."

I don't feel particularly desired by Mel. I feel that I'll do, as she does for me; which is far better than the Wendy-ache from which I suffered for years. I'm very happy with Mel. I have to resist telling her this, because I don't want to start a verbal competition of affection.

5 comments »

Hayley makes me think

  Tue 18th May 2021

A Hare Krsna man collars me and starts talking to me about something. Purification might have been involved, because I remember saying that I'm not looking for progress up the slippery pole of self-realisation.

Impatient to get to the point, he asks me for some money. I tell him I'll give him the cost of the bottle of cider from which I was drinking, so £2.49. In the modern style of soliciting, he gets his wireless card reader out. "Could you make it a tenner?" I tell him he's a cheeky bugger and he types in 2,4,9.


At half past two in the morning, I text Hayley, telling her that the new speed is very nice. She rings immediately and asks me over. I have transport now -- my new electric scooter -- so I'm there twenty minutes later and we have a pleasantly retro night of music, speed and both types of crack. The journey back, on quiet Saturday morning roads at 7am, is sensual, vivid.


The pubs are open inside again. Wethers at Temple Meads was almost full by midday, contrary to the doomsayers' predictions of (read: hope for) permanent social coldness.

Everything quickly settled to type: bits of food on the carpet, middleaged couples who have come out for a good afternoon of silent texting, the gay male couple having an irritatingly considerate conversation, and the ciderheads with their pockmarked, rubicund faces, who sit yards and a world apart from the office workers' striving positivity, before they go back to work for companies which offer Solutions.

In the cider bar, the usual conditional, reluctant welcome from the landlady. A man sits next to me without asking and tells me about his alcoholism, how his stomach started swelling up one day as he was sat in the same pub -- "I was on about twenty pints in those days" -- and how he felt more upset about the death of his cat than that of his estranged wife. I have become fond of several cats in my life so I played my own stories of feline bereavement. Then, his friend -- Cat -- rang. "He's got a scar on his head that looks like a cat's arse, so we call him Cat."


I meet Hayley off the train. She's looking very attractive, with a little bit of blue eye-liner. She's got a large, old teddy bear, but no ticket and I watch her make a gesture with her one free hand to which the gate assistant responds by opening the barrier for her.

"How the fuck did you do that?" "You liked that didn't you?", a sentence which made the thought of her taking my cock out of her mouth flash across my mind. "I said I'd just got out of hospital. Seventy-five quid saved."

We have a pint in Wethers. She surprises me by paying for it. She talks, drifting off when I do. She's waiting for the man, and her eyes are on the phone. The one appointment we always make.

She leaves and I wander over to the first person ever to talk to me socially in Bristol. He used to take a little desk thermometer out with him and place it on the table, along with his own beermats. Neither are allowed now, banned under the hysterical general licence to invent regulations that have no justification attached to them. But there's a glow settling around the end of the day now which can't be sullied.

2 comments »

Rhubarb and custard

  Sat 8th May 2021

Hayley rings, the day after her deadline for moving out, asking me for the number of the Man with Van who moved me. A couple of days later, and after some pleading, I walk to hers, my hot feet moaning at the prolongation of their shift after twelve hours at work. In the lift, there is a poster requesting "no spitting".

Her new place is spacious, with a living room showing off views to the rise up to the postcardy bit of Bristol, but has the bleakness of a recently eviscerated flat. She has no sheets on the bed. The lightbulbs stare autistically at the white vinyl flooring, working together to dissuade a woman who wants everything to be done, rather than to do it, from making the flat her home.

We make plans for a decorating party which will never happen. She'll lapse back to her boyfriend's, which is already her de facto home address. We share a bottle of Pieroni. I listen. I give her the couple of grams for which she said she was going to pay me.

Resolutions for henceforth: money from Hayley in my hand first; only then the handover. At times, she's a taker.


Looking at my leaky bank account the other day, I calculated that, in the last thirty days, I have spent eighty-seven pounds on bus fare.

I wrest myself from Mel's arms at 7am to look at an electric scooter on ebay. I trump all bids with four seconds to go, the slowness of Mel's phone's internet connection working excitingly to delay my hurdling over the others. The scooter arrived when I was out, and was taken in by someone in the same block as me.

When I collected it, he wanted to take a picture of me with it as "some people claim it's not been received. Let's have a nice big smile." I felt like some starlet being ogled in a soft porn photoshoot, certainly the first time in my fifty-seven years that I have felt like a starlet in a soft porn photoshoot. "They're actually illegal you know. I know they're everywhere but they're illegal on the public roads."

"It's not a scooter mate, it's full of weed." My joke, intended as a stopper for his hectoring mouth by making him think that he'd been harbouring fifteen kilos of cannabis in his flat overnight, went unnoticed, and he finally released the scooter to my possession.

I "assembled" it, in a manual operation at the limits of my engineering skills involving no fewer than four screws and an Allen key. It looked tall, black, and daunting. But today, under Mel's supervision I took it up and down our close. I think it's going to be jolly good fun.

I told middle daughter about it, saying that I'll feel happier once I've got a helmet. "You'll have to go into a shop for that. You and mum have bequeathed us very small heads. I can't get that sort of thing off the internet."


I can't remember the last time that due to my impatience to get everything off, my trousers, pants and socks ended up in a sort of rolled up sex ball on the floor. I fucking love it, when all the preliminaries are disposed of, and the murmuring collapses into an abandoned, inelegant undressing. Then afterwards we sat there in this sweaty Ready Brek glow of love. I'd made us a rhubarb crumble shortly before this episode. It was quite tart and Mel enjoyed more than one mouthful.

I won't mention this to Trina when I see her though. It's my brother's fiftieth in July and I was going to use the day to present Mel to my clan, but the care home in which my brother resides under benevolent control has changed the date for the barbeque to one which clashes with a family do for her.

So I've invited Trina instead, who is glad to come. I don't know if I'm prolonging her frustration by doing this. I know what it's like to feel corroded by unrequited attraction, and how the friendliness of the desired one can add more hurt. But she gets on well with my mum, and I need a drinker-in-arms to rescue me, once nightfall comes, from my family's teetotalism.

7 comments »

Selection

  Sat 24th April 2021

It's half past ten and I've just got in after work. Hayley has been tugging at me -- six missed calls; texts pleading with me to ring her as soon as I've left work. I've done thirty-two hours shoe-horned into three days, in a works canteen where I serve large dollops of unhealthy food to large unhealthy men. I'm low on resources to spend on others.

Upstairs on the bus with aching feet and a bottle of cider, watching Bristol on a determined Saturday night out. Women whose feet will feel worse than mine by midnight; skirts tightening and riding up. How glad I am to see them.

I ring Hayley, who is on track 1 of side A again, Boyfriend Woes. She wants: me to come round, five pounds for a bottle of wine, and for someone to do her move tomorrow; the implication being, me. She's done nothing about it by herself despite several weeks' notice of the date. "Well, I don't know," she says. "There's Wayne over the road... maybe I could ring the police, they're sometimes nice."

I am not giving up my day with Mel tomorrow to rescue you Hayley.

At home, mid-shower, she rings again. I ring her back, saying that I'll put a fiver in now, exaggerating my tiredness and annoyance. I put seven pounds in her bank account. All is silent.


There is rejoicing in the House of looby. Middle daughter, who, at the age of one, almost ruptured her mother's stomach by bouncing on it at 5am, announcing "I, awake!" -- has landed a proper acting job at a big Northern producing theatre. She announced it from Leeds, where she'd been for her "third recall", which I am guessing means fourth audition.

I am radiant like a heater with joy for her, and a fervid hope that this will be the start of her making a living out of what she's always wanted to do. She's a dogged and constantly optimistic Lancashire lass who's had no advantages at all in a world in which working class candidates are filtered out by endless train fares, unpaid work, and assumptions of money available to pay for every bit of candidacy, which neither me nor her mum can provide.

I don't know how much more inspection my out of date rail pass can withstand, but I want to join the whole looby clan, who will cancel everything to see her when it's put on -- before we're shunted into the pub after the show while she goes off to glitter.

4 comments »

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


M / 57 / 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

If your comment box looks like this, I'm afraid I sometimes can't be bothered with all that palarver just to leave a comment.

63 mago
Another Angry Voice
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Clutter From The Gutter
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Eryl Shields Ink
Exile on Pain Street
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Guitars and Life
Infomaniac [NSFW]
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The Most Difficult Thing Ever
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"Just sit still and listen" - woman to teenage girl at Elliott Carter weekend, London 2006

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