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The Poor Mouth

  Fri 25th March 2011

I was 47 on Wednesday. The best card was Barry's: it was homemade, in pen. "To a special friend", he put on the cover. Inside, several names were scrubbed out before mine. He also does these interesting Lucien Freud-ish nude drawings and he put one on the back.

That, or Kirsty's, which she made from a catalogue of an exhibition she went to of one of my favourite artists, George Shaw, who uses enamel paint, the kind you use on Airfix models, to depict everyday scenes, usually devoid of people or much activity at all, often from the nondescript estate in Coventry where he grew up. I find them very moving, and slightly eerie. I saw a big exhibition of his in Birmingham a few years ago and was stunned into admiring silence.

George Shaw

Linda and an old friend of mine Faye, who has the same birthday as me, who I met twenty years ago on teaching practice, came round for tea. It was great seeing them again. Linda's busy with her academic job and is often away seeing the lucky bastard economics professor she met last year, and Faye is devotedly, novelistically, tending to her aged mother who seems to stagger from accident to accident in a genteel but surprisingly injurious part of Morecambe.

Linda gave me The Poor Mouth by Flann O'Brien, a book which she originally intended to give me a long time ago, but didn't after we had an argument in a bar when she disappeared for fully half an hour to go off smoking.

"The poor mouth" is an expression both in Irish Gaelic and Anglo-Irish which means to exaggerate the sadness of one's situation in the hope of accruing some benefit thereby. O'Brien takes this to absurdly overstated lengths, where the villagers try to out-mire each other in expressions of destitution and poverty. On the blurb on the back, it mentions another Gaelic author whom O'Brien acknowledges as an influence. Her surname is IrishLawyer's nom-de-plume on the dating site, so I've used that as an excuse to get back in touch with her.

In the evening, down the pub, I was delighted to see Esther again. In November 2009 I was in a pub and Esther was there with a mutual friend. After several pints of strong ale I deployed the kind of subtle, playful and intelligent conversation that women love - that is, I leant over to her and whispered "I'd like to fuck you." We left the pub together and maintained the refined ambience that my understated prose had created by disappearing down a back alley for a snog. It was quite exciting until I discovered the acid tang of her cigarette mouth. She's got a boyfriend now, so I said "Hello Esther, how nice to see you. And what a shame I can't chat you up any more."

Tomorrow will be an early start: I'm girl-sitting while Kirsty goes on the big demo in London, but now, to Leeds. After the work bit, me and Kim are going to Bedlam - her name for The Angel, my favourite pub in Leeds.

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M / 59 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

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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.

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The Comfort of Strangers

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