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Cherry picking

  Mon 8th July 2013

In Kirsty's front room a man glistered with sweat is trying to mend her landline phone. "I'm going to have to get a cherry-picker," he says, and I stand there mute, trying to make sense of an incomprehensible requirement for a telephone engineer.

I end most of my sentences to him with the word "mate". I mentally kick myself, yet keep doing it. I feel silly around him, the class inferiority of being apparently well-educated yet doing nothing that is of any practical use to anyone. "Could you come and have a look at my phone please--the line seems to be dead." "Sorry, we haven't got anyone available for that, but we could send someone to have a chat with you about communitarian and individualist models of social life in the avantgarde music 'artworld' instead?"


To Liverpool, with Trina. She forewarns me, repeatedly, giving me several opportunities to excuse myself. And herself, I begin to think. "They're just old work colleagues."

"No, no," I say, as she veers towards the ticket office at Lancaster. "I'll get us through." A ticket collector on the train, a privatised enforcer team on the bridge at Preston station, and the man on the barriers at Lime Street are all indifferent to my waving of an old ticket from St Annes to Preston and its ticket-like receipt. Trina is both silently grateful that we've just saved £34, and slightly pissed off with me. That's a relief. Much better than being interpellated as "edgy".

We go to a retro-modern bar, bare brick walls, a collection of old radio sets--the sort of design cliché repeated up and down the country from Stockwell to Shoreditch. One badly-kept, over-warm real ale at 3.75, implying that the pub wants to turn the three unused handpumps into serving gassed dead drinks.

How fat they all are, I think, and I suspect that they practice the Public Virtue - Private Vice Diet, common in female-dominated administrative cadres. A woman with lovely big tits held in a scoop necked dress is a distraction for a while. They talk over and interrupt each other, disrupting any attempt at following a topic. The evening doesn't matter to them. She who is loudest, wins.

Trina gives me a private downward glance at her watch. Thank you. This is turning into a crap night.

Outside, Liverpool is alcoholically brightened. The sunlight is stroking me, I can feel it. I kiss Trina without stopping walking and start slagging off her colleagues.

We miss, slightly deliberately, the penultimate train home, and settle into the Victorian, muzak-free luxury of The Crown Hotel, sunlight contouring its alabaster ceiling and sending sharp mirrors onto its thousand carats of glass. We get talking to a couple of blokes with whom we share the table, their Ayrshire accents close to the edge of my comprehension.

The journey back is faredodged again: the railway's agents have given up on the last train from Liverpool. Back at mine, I can't be bothered with the pretence, the inevitable lack of an erection, the exhausting overhang of her inevitable snoring, and I embrace her as an apology for saying that I'm going straight downstairs to sleep in the living room.


Discovered this today, from a commenter on Isabelle's blog. It's very good. I printed sixteen pages of it off (I can't read the eye-straining grey on grey Courier font). It reminded me of The Overnight Editor, in its commenting shadow-self voice, its author's ambivalent attitude to drink, and its vein of sex. All the way from South London, On The Rocks.

6 comments

Comment from: David Oliver [Visitor]

I think we all do that - try to fit out talk to the level of the person we’re talking to. I mean we do it automatically… Looks like you did as good a job of it as anyone, certainly better than some of us.

When someone says cherry picker to me I expect some kind of contraption with a long arm, either mechanical or human.

About the other stuff, sorry my mind wandered…

Tue 9th July 2013 @ 10:07
Comment from: [Member]

I thought for one minute the telephone engineer was going to come back with a clafouti.

Tue 9th July 2013 @ 10:42

My oldest joke: Q: Do you know what I keep in my toolbox? A: A checkbook. I’m USELESS in the manly arts. I blame my father for not teaching me a damn thing or igniting a spark of curiosity. I read an article recently that said all the manly arts—carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc.—are all on a slow fade. Everyone wants to be a hedge fund manager.

Tue 9th July 2013 @ 12:15
Comment from: smallbeds [Visitor]

That’s the problem with today’s management: too many hedge funds; not enough hedges. You can use that one yourselves in future; I won’t ask for it back.

I’ve found myself growing more interested in manual tasks as I’ve got older, but I couldn’t say whether that’s cause or correlation. Adopting gardening as a hobby, for instance, I put down to location - living in the leafier end of a small market town, near a volunteer-run museum-with-a-garden - twinned with generally greenish, permacultural tendencies. And replacement tap washers only came about when the homeowner’s burden finally combined with a dislike of having workmen in the house. I don’t yet take apart a tap for fun.

Tue 9th July 2013 @ 20:21
Comment from: [Member]

I replaced my computer screen, the hard drive and the optical drive the other day and felt a frisson at doing “manual” labour. I still felt envious of the telephone engineer on his phone telling someone else about how many ohms are across A and B.

Gardening becomes more and more attractive as I get older. I love watching things grow in Kirsty’s tiny garden, which is starting to look more and more attractive, with its simple, pretty, thriving-in-Britain plants and herbs.

Tue 9th July 2013 @ 22:06
Comment from: isabelle [Visitor]

OE sprung to my mind too.

I’m not sure replacing the hard drive et al is so much manual ‘labour’, but it’s certainly impressively geeky. I wouldn’t have a clue .

Sun 14th July 2013 @ 21:51


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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

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Eryl Shields Ink
Exile on Pain Street
Fat Man On A Keyboard
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George Szirtes ditto
Guitars and Life
Infomaniac [NSFW]
The Joy of Bex
Laudator Temporis Acti
London's Singing Organ-Grinder
The Most Difficult Thing Ever
Quillette
Strange Flowers
Trailer Park Refugee
Wonky Words

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Golden Pages for Musicologists
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