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Santa comes to Leeds

  Thu 16th December 2010

I had a rather awkward supervision meeting in Leeds. I knew I hadn't done enough work, but for almost two weeks I was in Huddersfield (which was bona fide research), there's been some desperate financial stuff to sort out, there's been no internet or phone in the house for ten days, and there is the small matter of helping to look after my children. In an exquisitely British and understated way, I felt a bit told off.

Afterwards, trying to banish the feeling by doing something that would only increase it, I went for a drink in the Angel. A girl who looked about 14 walked in in boots, a thigh-length Santa dress and a Santa hat. "That's a bit racy for a girl who hasn't done her O Levels yet," I thought. Then I saw that she had a pint in her hand and heard her say to a man feeding money into the fruit machine "Are you coming for a fag?"

On Monday I went to Felicity's house, where I felt out of my depth with the way that her teenage children speak, missing all their references and slang. One of them said "doss" in a context where "to laze about" made no sense at all. Exasperatedly, 17-year-old Sharon said "No, not that 'doss'. Dos, two! Everyone knows that!". Sharon kept the needling up all day, fastidiously keeping a hair's breadth from outright rudeness, but at breakfast the following day, she said, unprompted, "You're alright looby", so I must have passed.

Me and her mum spent the day making truffles and Christmas presents. I was quite touched actually: she'd dug out a lot of stuff that her daughters had no further use for which could serve as, or could be turned into, presents. I made The Box of Fascism, an old hundreds and thousands container covered in silver paper, which comes with an instruction leaflet warning of a decade-long Europe-wide conflict, together with sillier and more absurd consequences, if the box is opened.

Last night, intentions to keep it Platonic with Frances were discarded. She made a leek and potato pie, then organic salmon and roast vegetables; I did an apricot flaugnarde (I thought it was a clafouti but apparently a clafouti must be made with cherries: if it uses something else it's a flaugnarde).

We chatted on the sofa and I made what in retrospect was the right move, to sit cuddled up to her with my arm round her. This morning she said how much she preferred it that I didn't sit primly at the other end of the sofa like last time.

The Hungarians leave today for Christmas. I didn't plan having three foreign strangers moving in but I'm happy at how it's worked out.

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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

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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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