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  Fri 29th July 2011

It was British Archaeology Week last week. Oxford Archaeology North, who are based in Lancaster, put on a first class open day which I enjoyed as much as the girls did. A charming and understated woman, who, with her slightly old-fashioned clothes could do no other job than archaeology, brought me face to face with an old enemy, a great source of bother every summer, yet no more than two or three microns across. She talked us through the way that different types of pollen grains can help give an account of the changing vegetation over the centuries.

The same couple of dozen families who take their children to everything were there. A Dad made an excessive courtesy of stuttering apologies when crossing on the stairs; a Mum said "No Pippa, we're going to see the pottery kiln upstairs first and then you can make a Viking helmet."


I stumbled across an affair last week, both people I know. Normally I wouldn't give such a thing a second thought, but seeing the gorgeous female involved tipped me into a vortex of jealousy. Apart from being walk-into-lamppost good-looking, she has a magnetically louche air and an acerbic sense of humour rare amongst women, brought up as they are to be conciliatory and emollient.

I walked home talking to myself, cursing myself for not having made a move before him, massing a knot of sexual jealousy layered with a self-pity based on a partial interpretation of the evidence. I asked the pavement over and over again "Why do women always see me as a friend?" discounting the days in my diary which didn't confirm such a woeful idea.

Kim, to whom ideas of romantic love and sexual fidelity are as laughable as Limbo or Bishop Ussher's chronology, rang with excellent timing. I could hear her holding herself back, before she interrupted with level-headed disdain. That worked for a while. For as long as actual sex is held at bay, it's easy to cleave to the idea that "love", "desire" and all the rest of it are conventional expressions of psychological needs determined by our material conditions. But the Historical Materialist view of hanky-panky is less of a comfort when you're plagued with formless images of a very attractive woman doing it. With someone else.

Kim gave me something else to think about: a day at the Tate Modern in Liverpool, again through a chemical prism.


In the pub the other night, there was a slight uncertainty about whether an advertised discount on beer was applicable to cider too. The barman said "It's a de facto discount, but I think we'll make it de jure."

Lancaster: the city with the country's most literate bar staff.

5 comments

Comment from: Redbookish [Visitor]

Crikey! Why did I only find this blog *after* I stopped living in Lancaster full time? Wot larks. And the Penny Bar makes the best G&T I’ve ever had (not being a beer drinker myself).

Sat 30th July 2011 @ 01:05

Hey, did I just read that they were going to close the Tate Liverpool because of funding problems? Hope I misread that.

Sat 30th July 2011 @ 03:38
Comment from: [Member]

Redbookish - Hello! Always nice to see exiles pop up here! Do you mean the Penny Bank? It’s lost its way a bit in the last couple of years and it’s been on the market for ages, but yes, I remember it in a much better phase as well. The man with a decent command of Latin phrases works at the White Cross on the canal.

Unbearable - This utterly Philistine Government we are landed with, who bend over backwards to protect the very rich whilst cutting everything else, have decided on some job cuts there. It’s not closing (yet) but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d like to gradually run it down.

Sat 30th July 2011 @ 10:31
Comment from: heybartender [Visitor]

Some of the most intelligent (well-read, overeducated, hilarious, etc.) people I have ever known are bartenders. Go to any good dive bar/rock club in any college town in America and you’ll find them. Come to think of it, maybe you’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places? Maybe you need to date a barmaid?
Also, Philistine Government?! I thought you lived in Engl- oh, right. You guys have the same fuckwittery issues that we do.

Wed 3rd August 2011 @ 03:27
Comment from: [Member]

I’d love to go out with a barmaid. I’ve met some lovely ones, in the course of my extensive research into their workplaces. I’m a bit out of the age bracket for most of them now but you never know.

We’re burdened with the most rightwing Govt we’ve had for a long time. Every day brings some new godawful plan. Norfork County Council closed its entire youth service the other day. The privatisation of the NHS is well under way. But nothing is done about the billions lost through tax evasion of large corporations and the ultra rich.

Wed 3rd August 2011 @ 07:56


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


M / 56 / 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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