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Looby and Trina on Tour

  Fri 19th October 2012

In the hotel there is a German family having breakfast. I am curious about them but don't want to quiz them, and I have no German. The woman serving breakfast tells me "Yes, they only tend to stay a day or two. I mean, you wouldn't come to Walsall on holiday would you?" The brochure in the room contains a warning for the adventurous ones who do: "A word to the wise. There are many bars in Walsall which can be a bit intimidating and there is sometimes trouble in and around the town centre." Our room had prints of cherubs on every wall as an emollient.

At the New Art Gallery, we spent some time reading a contemporary account of the bomb plot around which we were to do our pieces. It was entirely manufactured by the police, whose agent, Coulon, was only uncovered late in the day. When questioned about his apparent lack of resources, he declared "I am a true Anarchist! I live by plunder."

We went on a trip to some of the sites associated with the plot. We were shown the protagonist's old home, now a nail parlour, a Walsall District Council blue plaque signalling its safety and remoteness. Walsall Socialist Club, where the anarchists met, is now a female-only gym. One of our number met the owner, who said it had been a good business idea because most Muslim women aren't allowed to exercise with men.

I felt awkward and apologetic about abandoning Trina during the days, and included her as much as possible, at lunch times and in the evening boozing. She helped me with my contribution, which was an in situ spoken word piece, recorded outdoors and in a pub. At other times she took herself round the only other attraction of Walsall, an arboretum, which looks like any old park where some unusual species of trees are looked after.

We took a stroll to a suburb which was recommended for Indian food and wandered amidst its distinctive architecture.

We decided against it and went to the local CAMRA Pub of the Year, the Black Country Arms, instead, where a fine menu awaited us.

Trina said it was obvious which beer was choosing me: number seven.

We had some more drinks in the kitschy pub attached to the hotel, before a lovely, slow sex. Adrenaline, I suppose; relief and satisfaction that the quality of my work had vindicated the organisation's decision to give me a place on the weekend, and glad to have Trina around, grateful that she'd come with me to fucking Walsall, of all places.

North Wales
We left the noisiest hotel in the West Midlands, and took a journey that would have been difficult to plan and harder to execute before the satnav era. Asking for the shortest route, we were taken along wooded avenues of minor roads and through tiny villages, in one of which, Llandegla, we found Rosie's cider farm. The feeble little farm dogs were in cages the size of living rooms, excited at visitors.

In a village outside Llangollen, we saw an elderly man struggling up the steep hill with some heavy shopping. "Shall we give him a lift?" she said. "Hang on, that's my Uncle Ninian!" Her 81-year-old uncle got in and directed us on a tour of some almost impossibly narrow farm tracks he used to go sledding down as a lad. In the cafe in town, we made room on our table for a party of Chicagoans. Such a fucked-up country, such friendly people.

On to Prestatyn, to meet her son and his fiancée, in one of those "country" pubs which have been decorated from remaindered fittings formerly sold in Wilko when Saddam Hussein briefly acted as Artistic Director. Black and silver flowery embossed flock wallpaper, large, encrusted mirrors and even larger TV screens, chrome chandeliers with tubes of hexagonal glass; inescapable music. The company was pleasant enough, jokey and a little distant; her son keen, I suppose, to keep things light, trying not to imagine his mother having sex.

Back on the boat, we de-spidered the shower and windows, lit a fire and opened a sharp, foul, red wine. It was a relief to be away from the noise of traffic and loud wallpaper and canned music, with just the ducks laughing their heads off at us.

Next day we went to Wigan for a Chinese buffet lunch with her old work colleagues. We walked up to a machine-ventilated uPvc'd office, where we were welcomed by the Director of Management Solutions Delivery, a well-scrubbed, camp, hypochrondriac I took to immediately. "He'll like you," Trina had predicted. "He goes for slim younger men."

My competence in handling the meeting was thrown by the overwhelmingly attractive new girl who emerged from her office to introduce herself. Mid 30s, shoulder length dark brown hair, silver coloured square glasses, a long necklace of silver carrying small rectangles in the same colour hanging irresistibly over a black silky blouse; black and white dogtooth skirt to just above her knee and black tights and zip-up black boots to just below it. Conscious of the need to give a good impression, I deliberately looked at her to conceal my embarrassment at how attractive I found her, yet giving it away when I did so.

I fell asleep in the car and couldn't fuck her when we got back to the boat, when I knew that was her plan for the afternoon. In the evening we went to Liverpool to meet her friends from her uni days, where I was to be tested and evaluated. In the back room of a Victorian pub, a group of men opposite us were playing poker seriously, with chips. An older, grizzled man seemed to be in charge, dealing, but I understood little of what was going on through the thick glass of their accents.

One girl was quizzing me in a way that made me feel a little uncomfortable, making a joke out of something she found serious, distancing herself from the directness I'd have preferred. But then, that's concern for one's friend, and women have good reason to feel concerned about new men. It soon loosened up (oh blessed alcohol) and I drew Kieran's attention to the TV, where the referee in the Poland v England game was kicking a ball to demonstate the uselessness of playing on the rain-sodden pitch, and Northern Ireland came within ten minutes of beating the mighty Portugal, in Portugal.

Whilst in Prestatyn, we walked along the beach and found a lone chair, exported perhaps from a hotel, for the industrial view with the miraculously staked masts of a wind farm.

We replaced the seat, set the camera's timer, and ran away.


Comment from: [Member]

sounds like a glorious week… but you must tell, who REALLY does the de-spidering?

Mon 22nd October 2012 @ 03:04
Comment from: [Member]

I do it. I don’t like it, but Trina doesn’t like killing them.

Mon 22nd October 2012 @ 11:06

The brochure warnings would serve to entice some adventurous travelers. Into the breech and whatnot.

I love how these formally dangerous locals are now something innocent. The wheel turns.

Mostly, I’m glad your work went well. It can always go horribly wrong and I’m glad you avoided catastrophe.

Chicagoans are some of our best exports. They have a happy chip on their shoulders and deep roots in eastern Europe. Read some Nelson Algren.

The stadium in Poland has a retractable roof, but they can’t close it if it rains too hard. This, sadly, is my heritage. Half Polish, half Italian. The two most inept armies in WWII. Thanks, mom and dad.

A cracking post.

Mon 22nd October 2012 @ 11:58
Comment from: [Member]

Thank you! I gather they could have closed the roof earlier in the week but didn’t so for some bureaucratic reason. Feel sorry for all the England fans who travelled there.

Mon 22nd October 2012 @ 17:38

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