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Musique concrète

  Sat 7th December 2013

Only daughter at home has just gone to bed and the other two are at a sleepover.

My camera with some of the images I wanted to use for this post is at another house but if I don't get this down now it'll never get done. I've been "busy"--a term I started treating with disdain once I became a parent.

Straight after swallowing not spitting in the South African High Commission (maybe someone had tipped them off?) it was up to Glasgow, for a couple of days of seeing a man about a dog, and more importantly to me, to have a few drinks and to go to a performance of Stockhausen's Klavierstücke X. In Glasgow I discovered I'd left my cards at home and had to ring Trina to ask her to sub me £20.

I met my train driver pal and his distant, unapproachable younger Latino girlfriend at the concert. The music was exciting, great crashing armfuls on the piano, then some serialist-sounding bits, body music, full of irritated passion, an enfant terrible in destructive flight. Someone to my left was texting, her phone beaming into the dark of the Old Fruitmarket. Someone ahead was more into it, rocking slightly, trying to get the time signature.

We got the train back and they bought a huge pizza for us. In the pitch dark, an ice cream van was doing its rounds and there was some meeting in the local library taking place behind metal grilles. Back at home Ms Prickly got a bit more open but soon sloped off to bed, and me and Train Driver worked our way through a little metal barrel of German beer. He rang in sick because he had to take his ill mother to hospital and they'd refused him a swap day.

Next day, I went to an exhibition about concrete, which, I learned, has been used as a building material for at least ten thousand years. The gallery assistant was one of those hyperattractive art-scene girls in their twenties--flared yellow above-the-knee skirt, fashionably retro green cardi, stark red lipstick. She was pleasant though, keen to have something to do as she fetched me an uncomfortable wooden stool for me to sit on as I watched a film by The British Concrete Council from the 70s about the fucking awful Glasgow Inner Ring Road. I didn't know there was a British Concrete Council.


I was running short of money but had three hours to spare before the train. I was sat in the Wetherspoons near the top of Hope St and calculated that I was 20p short of being able to afford two pints. I put my leaflet about the Literature of Reinforced Concrete on the top of my pint and ran down to the Co-op outside Central Station and took two bottles of Freeminer off the shelves, tucked one under my jacket and paid for the other. A security guard smiled at me, and within a couple of seconds I felt hot fear, then resignation. Strathclyde Police don't do cautions: you're in for the night, listening to the wails and thumping of the druggies.

Back in the pub, I put the beers between my legs and opened them with the bottle opener on my trade union keyring. A huge man a few feet away was there with what I supposed was his mum and dad. I couldn't make out what they were saying but it sounded like they were saying "He's alone...looks like a paedo." I was irritated at him for causing me to project my fear that I'd be discovered for opening bottled beer in a pub into misinterpreting his talk.

On the train back a young woman sat opposite me got out an old computer which she said she was buying for eighty pounds and asked me if I thought it was worth it. She told me her brother had been done for rape and that her Dad disappears for years at a time and that when she was young she'd been fed mainly on chocolate. She went off to phone someone and I heard her saying "Yeah darling but I was hungry. It was three quid, yeah, but I was hungry." She stood up and went to get off. I noticed the big wood yards of Lockerbie and went down to the vestibule to fetch her back. "You're not getting off here," I said. "This is Lockerbie, not Carlisle."


I sat in the pub with Ned and Tess--the lodgers--and Helen, who was over from Norway at the end of a long journey from Norwich. I was a bit tired and I got a bit tetchy when I said I was going out next weekend, to a soul night, and they assumed I meant Northern Soul which no fucker can ever, ever differentiate between that and the types of soul--Modern, and soulful house--that I like. This is how subcultures develop--through unreasonable irritation.

Helen was saying she'd like to come over and how "wonderful" it is I go out dancing, which made me flare with anger. I hate that word "wonderful". It's only ever used by people who watch other people doing things, and Helen is not at all that kind of person.

"I've heard it all before Helen, it's not going to happen. You live in Norway. Well, OK, in that case, you could..." and I gave her the details of next weekend like a challenge. I was aware I was getting narky and excused myself. Everyone wanted me to stay, which only made me feel more like an amusement for other people. Tess and Helen chased me out of the pub to persuade me to tarry awhile, but I kissed them both quickly and went home. They all went round to ---'s where they stayed till 7am and took loads of catnip. I gather it was a good night; but at that moment I needed me bed.

11 comments

Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

A sublimely entertaining post, consisting mainly of your thoroughly enjoyable paranoia in regard to authority, large Glaswegians and your inability to fully understand the local dialect. You fail however, to realise the fact that you are rather interesting in a comical self-destructive kind of way.

I suppose it would be ill-timing of me to mention that the Co-op outside of the station pays a subsidiary company of mine for the use of its security staff? I will inform psycho Dave that the misappropriated bottles will be returned forthwith. Tell him, Jimmy sent you back in. That way he will at least leave you with a smaller scar my friend.

Sun 8th December 2013 @ 08:00
Comment from: [Member]

Yeah I would Chef but looking for someone called Jimmeh in Glasgow doesn’t really narrow the field down that much.

A glass in your direction for a grand comment. Really–I’ll be with Kitty in a sec–ooh, that came out as sex, hardly likely although often thought of–and I’ll point it northwards. My glass I mean.

Sun 8th December 2013 @ 08:15
Comment from: [Member]

i’ve been known to smuggle a flask into establishments that are stingy with the whisky… but i tip the servers well.

i find the banter between you and the Glaswegian to be as entertaining as it is unlikely.

Sun 8th December 2013 @ 09:08
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

We don’t tip here, we have what you call labour laws.

Sun 8th December 2013 @ 10:20

Nice vignettes.

Those motherfucking mobile phones during performances. It makes me much madder than it should. I sit in theaters and see faces in the audience lit up in a blue glow. The actors can see it, too. I’m beginning to regret mobiles were invented.

One of my childhood friends back in Cleveland is an owner/operator of a concrete mixing truck. It’s actually a pretty fascinating topic. Really!

Why all the irritation? Were they being insincere?

Have you got the back rent issue sorted out? I haven’t read of any magistrates banging on your door.

Mon 9th December 2013 @ 04:57
Comment from: [Member]

I just think “Why have you bought a ticket to see such-and-such? Do you say to your friends–’hey, the next night in the complete Ferneyhough chamber music is coming up. Fancy a night out texting?’”

Concrete’s an interesting topic! It should be, it’s the world’s most widely-used building material.

I went to see the first building in the UK made with pre-stressed concrete, which is in Glasgow. It’s listed, as is notable for its narrow interior walls, (something to do with load-bearing and how concrete diffuses stress differently to any other material), but amidst the painstaking, expensive, proud Victorian beauty of Glasgow, it looks like the plain girl at the party.

The night with my friends–it was just me. I just can’t cope with lack of sleep (which I’d brought upon myself through methods you can imagine) and nothing they’d have said would have done anything but irritate me.

The rent will be dealt with in the next post.

Mon 9th December 2013 @ 05:33
Comment from: Chef [Visitor]

I’ve had my moments in regard to introducing one or two work colleagues to the joy of concrete. It’s surprising just how much of a deal maker/breaker it can be when introduced in a certain type of environment. Personally, I favour the hours between 3-4am, especially during the summer months, and always before the site foreman arrives for his work.

Mon 9th December 2013 @ 09:43
Comment from: Leni Qinan [Visitor]

Aren’t you picky, Looby? You really got cranky because of that unfortunate misunderstanding?
Oh my! You need your beauty sleep!

Mon 9th December 2013 @ 10:25
Comment from: Hipster Yaya [Visitor]

Hm… don’t spoil your manly charm just for that, Looby. Would you get cross at me if you noticed that I can hardly tell SHIPS from SHEEPS, from CHEESE or CHIPS?

Mon 9th December 2013 @ 10:27
Comment from: furtheron [Visitor]

Well you aren’t alone in never knowing there was a British Concrete Council.

Anyway - what did the Roman’s ever do for us? eh?

Tue 10th December 2013 @ 06:49
Comment from: [Member]

I knew the proper Weegie round here would have had a more direct experience of concrete than one can get from a little video.

Re the narkyness–I’m not normally like that. I’d had a bit of this and that, and had missed out on my sleep. That’s the only reason.

Hipster—your language is very easy for us to understand.

Wed 11th December 2013 @ 18:10


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