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Social drinking

  Tue 1st October 2013

On Sunday, about seventy of us from Lancaster set off to join the other discontents in Manchester at the march and protest at the Conservative Party Conference. The police, not known for the accuracy of their assessments of the magnitude of left-wing protests, said that there were fifty thousand people there.

People were there from all over the country: our coach got stuck between one from Northallerton and another from Glasgow. There was a man in a dress, waving a placard which said "Frocking Not Fracking"; a cardboard box with windows, which was a prop made by Gorton Against the Bedroom Tax; a group of black-clad hunt saboteurs calling for a cull of David Cameron.

We turned a corner and found ourselves on the crest of a small hill, and looked down to see the street full of people and banners as far as the eye could see, in front and behind. It made me feel un-alone, that millions of others also want a modern, civilised, compassionate society. In the words of one placard, "The welfare of all is the highest good." If the day had a dominant theme, it would have been the resistance to the Americanised privatisation of the NHS--which is already established in the areas where private firms can hide themselves most effectively.

The march took well over two hours to file into Whitworth Park. The first speaker I heard was a psychiatrist, undermining the ragged-trousered stereotype of the left with his clothes and accent. But I judged it was time to go out on the socialist lash.

In the Lass O'Gowrie, the pub looked like an outpost of the demo, with placards and posters stacked everywhere. I had to repeat, questioningly, the unpleasant surprise of the price of my pint. I met a woman from London whose union had chartered a train for them. "It's brilliant," I said. "We've taken over Manchester and I want to enjoy this." "Oh yes," she said, "a couple of pints afterwards is essential." She described another beer there as "fucking excellent", but the toilets stank and the beer cost £3.65 a pint.

In a crowded cheap pub I asked if I could squeeze onto a table with a late-middleaged couple. "I've been on that rally against the Tories." "Oh, our favourite people," they said. I straightened myself up. "Right, why do you..." "No, no, we're joking." "Oh, it's changed a lot Manchester now," she signalled, and I knew what was coming next.

How has resentment at financial inequality and the unfair allocation of resources become more frequently expressed in racial rather than economic terms in popular talk? I feel ambivalent in such debates: I resent the separatism of what I experience in day-to-day life, of the Muslim families who share my street; but the continued crafting of the UK--by all major parties--into a privatised, corporate disciplined misery for anyone but the rich, is of far greater concern.

On the train back an overweight punky couple were coming back from an afternoon's slutting down Canal St. They were amiably and loudly drunk, past the point of giving a shit about what anyone thought of them. One of them started lighting up a fag. A tall young man in narrow red jeans, big round glasses and with a quiff, was chewing gum ostentatiously and checking who was looking at him. He was becoming jealous that the gay duo were the cynosure of the carriage. When the latter got off at Bolton, Rich Kid came and sat in one of their seats in front of me. "Huh!" he said, turning round to me, hedging his bets as to which side the carriage was on in regard to them.

At Preston, our connecting train was delayed by an hour, so I wandered across to the Vic and Station, where beer was a more Lancastrian £2.40. An American man was hosting a round of the quiz; couples were lobbing a tennis ball to one another from cardboard cups. A man who organised a theatre festival I performed in a couple of time was in there. He's an obvious Tory, so we tactily agreed to ignore the subject of the demo, especially seeing as he bought me a drink.

Back at home the new lodgers were still up. I looked at Tess, and wondered why I don't fancy her, with her curly voluminous hair, shapely tits pushing against a red cotton top. To my relief, they'd also been out drinking. I was chatting, with no ulterior motive at all, about the former occupant of their room owing me £360, and they offered to pay next month's rent early.

Oh dear. My favourite contemporary poet, who turns me a bit silly, is appearing at our Literature Festival. I'm not linking to him from here: he's clueless about the internet but I don't want to hover around him any closer than I already do. Instead, here is part of my section about my favourite books, films and music on my dating site profile.


Comment from: [Member]

Ah, taking to the streets! What a concept! Here in the US of A, we can’t be bothered with that! We take to Facebook! We boldly strike that “Like” button to vocalize our agreement with a Position on Matters of Great Importance! And then we have time to get back to the sofa to watch the latest episode of Breaking Bad, and assure that we have recorded the finale of Dancing With the Stars! Take that, establishment!

Tue 1st October 2013 @ 17:23
Comment from: [Member]

One person likes this.

Tue 1st October 2013 @ 18:36
Comment from: isabelle [Visitor]
Wed 2nd October 2013 @ 13:17

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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

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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Clutter From The Gutter
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