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  Fri 1st January 2016

I spend weekends at the girls' house; drunk in charge of teenagers. The power went off all of a sudden while I was on the phone to Erica. Our electricity substation, built for some unfathomable reason next to a river, was flooded. All the mobile networks went down too. Me and the girls sat in the darkness, wondering what was going on. My youngest produced a battery-powered radio, but no local radio was broadcasting.

We found a torch and went scrabbling round for candles and batteries. Middle daughter, with the pellucid eyesight of the young, by reading out a creepy passage from Jane Ayre.

Following morning, the local radio station was back on. They performed heroically, two DJs broadcasting without ads or music for over thirty hours to keep everyone informed with what was happening. One by one, schools announced they were closing. There was joy in the house as Melanie and Fiona's school was announced as such, then redoubled delight when Jenny found that no buses were running to her school in Preston.

Next morning, we went out like disaster tourists to find out what was going on. Hundreds of others had the same idea. A single shop was open -- an off-licence, running on candles. There was debris everywhere, yard-high tide marks in the car park. People went down to the Quay to watch the Lune in replete flow. Erica said that she saw a container blow off a lorry and fall into the river. It was crashing and crashing against the stanchions that hold the road over the river, after which the police closed both the bridges which communicate Lancaster. We were cut off from Europe, or at least Carnforth.

There were long queues at the very few phoneboxes still working. Many young people struggled with the alien, antique machines. One youngster was seen trying to swipe the little screen.

The next evening, with the town still in darkness, drivers showing manners for once, without any traffic lights, I went back to my deserted house in search of candles. On my way round, I was most surprised to see that one pub had had its power restored.

Back at the girls', we were playing Twenty Questions whilst ekeing out the tea lights. "Make it really complicated," said Fiona. "Make it Fifty Questions, because we're going to be sat in the dark for ages." I made them a tea of half-defrosted chips and vegetarian sausages, but the mood was sinking, so I suggested we take a pack of cards down the White Cross.

The White Cross attracts a fair number of students and young people, and it was amusing to see entire tables of people staring into phones and tablets and the other paraphernalia of our technologically-centred life, plugged like Davros's head into extension cables plugged into extension cables, serving a multitude of yoof from a single socket. It was a wonder the whole pub didn't explode, shattered screens preserving the last moments of that update. Like. If you wanted evidence for how we are becoming androids -- half-human, half-machine -- you should have been in the White Cross on Power Cut Sunday.

The city had its fifteen minutes of fame in the Guardian, which illustrated a vox pop article about the floods by local architect Ian Martin with a set of pictures taken in Carlisle, which does make you think that for even the better national newspapers, it's all a bit vague once you get beyond Hemel Hempstead.

Martin's article wasn't an interesting to me as one posted by the other half of Lancaster's blogging community at Unicycle Emptiness.

I went on a date with a woman from Fleetwood.

She picked me up from Poulton-le-Fylde station. She greeted me with a kiss and sat me in her car. A ripple of aphrodisia from her hair -- just onto the shoulders, an outgrown bob, halfway between brown and ginger. A red shift dress with broad blue straps, at that sexy length of just lower than the knee; black boots and tights. French graduate, fifty-four, retired from something clerical in the NHS. Her house surprised me, pebbledashed and uPvC'd, on a kicked-in, wind-swept estate.

We went to the "best" pub in Fleetwood, which is a bit like saying that we went to the best gay bar in Jamaica. A sweeping early Victorian pile, its sophistication wrecked by three huge televisions with the sound on, a programme about Ian Wright's goals for Arsenal.

Ignoring this, we passed a friendly enough three hours. Her Dad has had to go into a home as he has Alzheimers and had been leaving an unlit gas ring on the cooker on all night, before attempting to climb out of his bedroom window to find the loo. She was touching me occasionally to mark the feet in her sentences. "So, what do you do in your spare time in Fleetwood?" I asked. "Gut fish."

I paid for two lots of dinner, two glasses of her wine, and two pints for me, until I ran out of cash. She still had almost a glassful left, and I said "I wonder if I could be so rude as to ask you to buy me a drink? It's just that they won't accept a card for less than ten pounds."

I liked her and wanted another meeting. We left the pub, and she walked me to the wrong bus stop. She assumed that the bus to Blackpool might possibly leave from the ferry terminal, but in the way that the English refuse to co-ordinate public transport, there is no bus stop there, just a pole with a yellow thing on its top that looks like one but which is actually some public art bollocks about Fleetwood's fishing "heritage."

"So, possibly see you again?" I ventured, the wind-whip of gills and fins desiccating our faces. At this moment, time slowed like frozen vodka. She flinched away from me as I went to kiss her on the cheek, jerking her head to look over there. She then walked off without a word, leaving me confusedly standing next to an information panel about cod.

The bus came and I waved it down. It carried on serenely, and the realisation came to me that this isn't a bus stop. Breathlessly late for my train at Blackpool, I ran on to a carriage suffused with that special quality of fug that only Northern Rail can manage.

"Had a great time this afternoon. Maybe meet for another drink / coffee / bottle of turps sometime?"

Nothing, no reply at all.

The following evening I sent another text. "Come on Veronica, don't keep me in suspenders like this!"

Oh dear me. Three days later:


I haven't bothered to read your further messages because you have totally overstepped the mark.

1. I told you my text allowance had run out & that the few mins I had left on call allowance were for emergencies only.

2. Did it not occur to you that something might have happened to my dad, (considering the call I got on Wednesday, & which I told you all about), you selfish idiot ?

3. On top of that, we met once.....let me repeat that....once!! How dare you harangue me with texts or messages on here just because I didn't respond when you wanted me to?

4. You are so self-centred & self-absorbed it's untrue.....anyone with a modicum of intelligence or maturity would not have behaved in the way you have done. So grow up, man up, & behave like the adult you are. I have absolutely no interest in you either as a man, or as a human being.

I replied.

Thanks for clarifying that. I'd have been only too willing to be whatever a shoulder I could have been vis-à-vis your Dad. I went through the same thing myself in November. [That's not quite true. My Dad died November last year and he didn't have Alzheimers.]

Never mind though, thanks for getting back to me, and I wish you well.


Comment from: Tony [Visitor]

Boy we’ve missed you.

This dating lark looks extremely hard work good job I don’t bother and stick to my girlfriend Real Ale she never lets me down, well not totally true sometimes she turns to vinegar or is a bit to malty for my taste.

Hopefully the floods have died down so you can enjoy Blackpool.

Sat 2nd January 2016 @ 05:19
Comment from: Suzy Southwold [Visitor]

What an absolute wagon - maybe the Gods decided to teach you a lesson for complaining about your past dates being over-polite!

(Text message bundles are about £5 for 5000, the cheap bitch.)

Sat 2nd January 2016 @ 05:25
Comment from: [Member]

You do right Tony, but what made it worse was that the Black Sheep was very ordinary – everyone was on the lager. It’s still raining but strangely it hasn’t affected Blackpool much and it’s only 25 miles or so as the crow flies. We’ll be reet for that.

Ha ha Suzy, yes – “be careful what you wish for” :) And no, I don’t believe for one second the “run out of texts” excuse. (Love the word “wagon” btw. Never heard that one!)

Sat 2nd January 2016 @ 05:47
Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

Heavens. I suppose chalk it up kindly to the stress roller-coaster of her Dad’s condition, and make a hasty exit.

Sorry to hear you were powerless during the floods, as it were, but glad to know it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. We’re just thankful we no longer live within wading distance of an Oxfordshire flood plain.

Sat 2nd January 2016 @ 12:54
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I suppose what she’s might be trying to say is that her Dad has died and I suppose frivolous texts from a date in the midst of that don’t appeal much. No need to get in such a strop though, after two texts.

Hope life back in Yorkshire is going fine. Hills are good.

Sat 2nd January 2016 @ 14:06

Happy New Year, indeed. Sorry for the harrowing tales but it’s nice to see you write again. Your posts remind me of how drab and flat everyone else writes. I’d have loved some photos. You’re not the only disaster tourist.

Tue 5th January 2016 @ 05:00
Comment from: [Member]

You’re too kind!

Well, as your friend Jim put it, “everyone is a photographer…but nobody has any pictures.”

My daughter’s the real photographer – she’s doing an A-level in it at college (don’t know what you’d call that in the States but you need three of them to apply to university) – I’ll see if she can send the worst of the pictures over :)

Many congrats on getting published in Bagazine. The whole handmade press idea is beautifully painstaking and will last longer than anything digital. (The curious should head over to Exile’s latest post.)

Tue 5th January 2016 @ 06:25
Comment from: Further [Visitor]

Dodged a bullet there mate… which was what I said to my daughter after Oscar Pistorius retweeted her once but didn’t reply to her direct message… there was (as is now happening no doubt) that moment of total silence when I realise my level of joky black humour is a bit beneath other peoples acceptable levels…. :-)

Tue 5th January 2016 @ 09:03
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Steer clear from him, even tweeterly, he’s a violent murderer and sexist bastard.

I piss people off all the time with black humour. I piss people off all the time, but it just demonstrates others’ conservatism to me. I’m not a bad bloke!

Tue 5th January 2016 @ 13:29
Comment from: furtheron [Visitor]

I missed the comment deadline on your Brussels post so I’ll comment here as a public service. Given I walk to and from St Pancras and Euston everyday I’m at work.

When you leave St Pancras leave by the Midland Road exit, either opposite the British Library or the newly constructed Crick institute. Turn right away from Euston Road until you get to the road the Crick is situated on (Brill Place) and walk along that with the Crick on your left. Just keep going straight on at every junction into Pheonix Road and along it. At the end you come to a T junction with Eversholt Street. Turn Left - you are now walking towards the Euston Station entrance which will be up the steps on the left.
This avoids the madness of the people on Euston Road and also avoids 60% of the pollution levels on that road.
End of public service broadcast ;-)

Wed 6th January 2016 @ 02:55
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Thanks F – that was a really crap five minutes’ walk, which made me feel like a right country bumpkin. God, what a hellish road that is, so many thanks for giving me the way of avoiding it in future!

Wed 6th January 2016 @ 05:55
Comment from: [Member]

Something about a community disaster that either restores or destroys our faith in humanity. You and your girls demonstrated great resiliency - playing games, reading by candle light, and seeking carnage… as good as it gets.

Dating is truly a combat sport. if i were still out there in the trenches, i might just give up. Seems she over reacted just a bit… but the dismissal at the bus stop should have been a strong clue that she wasn’t going to want to see you again.

Mon 11th January 2016 @ 20:55
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I think the least one can do is to tell the person you’d rather not see them again. And it was very mysterious. You don’t normally keep tapping someone’s arm when you’re talking to them if you’re not getting on.

Never mind – survived the floods, survived the dating carnage too!

Tue 12th January 2016 @ 05:16

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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.

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