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In Brussels

  Thu 17th September 2015

Last Tuesday I got up at crack of dawn to wave the girls off on the bus to Sixth Form College, silently protective and concerned. It's a long bus ride to Preston and they have to be out of bed at 6.15. Neither me nor Kirsty are sure how long it will last. Once they'd gone, Kirsty said "I wish they'd chosen Lancaster. This means I can't stay in bed now."


At Wine Club, there is no-one I fancy, and I am stuck with the elderly male bores who always pour themselves bigger measures than everyone else. The woman who said "You [plural] must come round" two months ago has still not offered a date, despite me reacting warmly and saying that she should suggest one as I've probably got more free time than her. In some middle class circles, "you must come round" means "goodbye."


August's book club meeting was cancelled as no-one was around, so we had two books to discuss this time. H is for Hawk, and Frenchman's Creek, Daphne du Maurier's piratical bodice-ripper. "Perhaps nothing has happened yet. But as we are dealing with a Frenchman, it is only a matter of time before something dastardly happens!" T-- , the actor who chose it, couldn't act enough to suppress his bridling at us dismissing such a corny book. N--- was doing that tic in which he keeps scratching himself close to his cock.

I'd met him in the pub earlier; the secret society of habitual heavy drinkers. He said he's not sleeping very well. Money problems, he said, but I think he's forgotten that a few months ago he told me that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. He rents a comfortable old house in a village up the valley where he goes back a long way. I asked him if they could move somewhere cheaper, but he doesn't want to leave his village. The locals can't afford to stay. We're being zoned now, like in America.


On Friday, my benefactress took me to Brussels. It's her birthday round about now and she wanted to go away somewhere, but I didn't realise it would be Brussels.

"I'm a gigolo, " I tell my friends. It's true. I give her an access to a life of dancing and drugs and fun that she'd never get from her friends, all human rights and yoga. She thinks the sex we have is brilliant but it's pretty ordinary.

This is how it's going to be from now on. My poor background, my ambivalent class status, and being class-ly bilingual, and my "daring" lifestyle, will be the currency which I will use in relationships with women, which will remain at heart, commercial. The women I find sexually attractive with whom I have giddy nights of druggy, unpredictable fun -- Kim, Wendy, Kitty -- don't want to fuck me.


Inexpressible lust crackles between the tables at
Les Gens Que J'Aime

So with that much tacitly understood, Trina paid for almost all of our long weekend at the Brussels Beer Festival, where we got through about 10% of the 450 beers --- all Belgian --- available in a crowded Grand Place. It was a very poor show on the train at Calais, not a hitchhiker to be seen.

Late afternoon, a brewer stood on a pedestal and sliced the top of a bottle of beer off with a sword. We found our favourite bar -- Le Coq -- where we sat drunkenly talking in my mediocre but adequate French to the locals. I pretended to be Cypriot when the France v Cyprus match came on. Trina told the bony, uncommunicative man sitting next to us that he had lovely hands and asked if he was an artist. He looked at her with the wide-eyed stare of lunatic solipsism.

The Flemish pronunciation is quite a challenge. I had particular difficulties with asking for a "Leeuwse Schutter". My attempts to say it raised titters at the bar and an impromptu lesson. The bloke I was talking to said -- "don't worry, we can't say those words like 'Worcestershire', which is a shame because I really like Worcestershire sauce."

7 comments

Don’t flatter yourself. The sex might be pretty ordinary for her as well but she won’t let on because she’s afraid she’ll hurt your feelings. That, in turn, could have a negative impact on your already ordinary performance. Where will THAT leave you?!

450 beers is unnecessary. Really?

Fri 18th September 2015 @ 11:42
Comment from: [Member]

No really, Exile, she’s not faking that. It’s just that I’m only her second sexual partner so she hasn’t got much experience to go on. I didn’t mean to flatter myself, only to say that one can’t help but remember more exciting times with other people. It’s just natural, it’s not being unkind, and it doesn’t mean that it’s not a successful relationship on its own terms.

Of course 450 beers aren’t “necessary". Modern art galleries aren’t “necessary". Music in stereo isn’t “necessary.” Hand-designed limited edition books aren’t “necessary". But why live life without them?

Belgian beer is one of the gastronomic glories of the world, with a depth and range of flavours and styles unmatched anywhere else. But to be honest Mark, as someone who would fall over after half a glass of Westmalle Tripel I don’t think you’re that well-placed to comment on it really! :)

Fri 18th September 2015 @ 11:51

This is the first time a comment response made me laugh harder than the post itself. Nice volley.

Fri 18th September 2015 @ 12:54
Comment from: isabelle [Visitor]

Nowt wrong with a bit of yoga….keeps you flexible ;)

Fri 18th September 2015 @ 12:55
Comment from: [Member]

But why would one need to be flexible, Isabelle?

Thanks Mark – I thought I’d have a go at your Achilles Heel of chapbooks :)

Fri 18th September 2015 @ 13:06
Comment from: furtheron [Visitor]

This could explain as to why sex with one particular partner in my life stands out. It didn’t with her I believe… but she was much more experienced than I - I’m at the Trina end of the league table.

Wed 23rd September 2015 @ 11:17
Comment from: [Member]

It’s a fabulous form of learning though isn’t it? :)

Wed 23rd September 2015 @ 13:58


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There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
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