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Put your hands up my skirt

  Mon 15th February 2016

To London, where middle daughter had an audition for some small parts at the National Youth Theatre.

Her teenage enthusiasm for the city was a vicarious pleasure. We walked along Southbank, the Thames spangling, coloured lightbulbs necklaced around food stalls. I saw her off to Covent Garden, where her friend's dad has a pied-à-terre, then went to buy a few bottles of beer to drink on the platform, to preempt the teetotalism that is decreed at my brother's house in St Albans.

The stifling moneyed Southern life that is St Albans is not congenial. Men wear those pointy brown leather shoes that curl up like a jester's and drink in "bars" with shiny curved electronic dispensers, black aprons, canned music, and no real ale.

I went early into London next morning with my brother's wife on her commute. I stayed on the tube until we got to the nearest suburb to central London in which there's a chance of meeting my own, and settled in to the Wetherspoons in Elephant and Castle. The emollient calm of morning drinkers; the spasmodic restless leg of pneumatic drills. I thought of a line from Leroi Jones's poem: "cars stall and rise."

I texted Trina. "These Southerners are soft. 9am and not a single person drinking." Immediately I'd sent it, two Irish blokes were served their Guinness. I got talking to one of them. "She told me that I'd have to wait seven seconds, as it wasn't nine o'clock yet."

He was a ticket tout, travelling the world at vastly over face value. "There is not a single sold-out event I can't get you into. Black market prices you know, but I can get you into anything." I was torn between my curiosity about such an interesting job, and the omertà that is its condition.

"Well, for example, a group of six lads buy tickets to Forumla One, and only five turn up. I buy the spare ticket off them, then add a couple of hundred onto it. Once you have one customer, you get more. I give them my number and it soon gets round. Would you like a drink?" He scrabbled around in his pockets and pulled out a crumple of fifty pound notes.

I left to meet my brother's wife for "lunch", as it's known down there, at the glassy HQ of the large international charity for which she works as a Disaster Relief Co-ordinator ("OK, so are we sure that the Philippines flood, the Japanese earthquake, and the Danish bombing will all happen at the same time?") Six-foot-high posters of black African children looking happy because of water. We chatted easily, but there's something slightly uncomfortable about being in the company of someone who spends her days reifying a sincere, unaffected desire to help others.

She showed me some anonymous art on the nearby Millennium Bridge. Someone comes and paints the bits of discarded chewing gum trod into its surface. They are periodically cleaned away, then he or she does it all over again. In the evening they took me to a Bangladeshi place, and we had one of those over-mannered meals to which nights in South Asian restaurants can veer.

On the train down, we stopped at Milton Keynes, a place charged with memories of Donna. I couldn't resist texting her, calling up the filthy nickname she has in my phone. "Donna, I don't know if this is intrusive and I apologise if it is, but I've just gone through Milton Keynes on the train and will be in London for a couple of days. I don't suppose for any moment you might be free for a drink? If not, I just wanted to thank you again for the lovely indelible memories you gave me."

To my surprise, she replied. "Ha ha! I'd join you for a drink tonight but I've got a committee meeting." She said she'd ring me the following day. "It's all going great looby. It couldn't be better, and we're moving in together in a couple of weeks." "Oh! That's great Donna, I'm so pleased to hear it. You're a lovely woman and you thoroughly deserve it."

It was an effort to control my voice, one which failed. I was swallowing, and my eyes were glossing over. "Don't get all emotional on me, will you?" "No, I'm just pleased for you!" and I redoubled my efforts to be cheery. "Thank you. I went through deleting a lot of numbers recently but kept yours. Let me know when you're next down and we'll definitely go for that drink." No we won't Donna. You were my lover; I'm not interested in your job and boyfriend. I want to fuck you on the stairs again.

I bade her goodbye, got another pint, and watched the roadworks outside through an eye-film of dejection.

Time to go home, and there was more inadvertent street art outside Euston station, where colourful daubs had a prettiness incongruent with their practical purpose.

Me and middle daughter got pleasantly pissed on the train back, her giddy and voluble, pronouncing out loud the outlines of another life opening up for her.

Back in Lancaster, straight to Kitty's birthday do. Just me, Wendy and Kitty, getting through everything that could be drank, smoked, or snorted. Wendy suggested we turn the rest of my weed into flapjacks. She had to stand on a chair to fetch the flour, and it was all I could do to keep my hands off her arse. We left together a couple of hours later. At the end of the street, she stopped suddenly, turned to me, and put her hands out to stop me walking. "Put your hands up my skirt," she said.

The next morning, I made and took her Valentine's Card round. I crouched down so as to remain hidden and quietly glided the envelope into the letterbox. The "card" was the size of a postage stamp. On the front, I wrote "I like you". Inside -- "Someone not a million miles away thinks you are clever, witty, well-dressed, and very sexy x." An hour later, I got a text from her. "I like you Xx."


Comment from: Furtheron [Visitor]

The Euston Street art is all to do with the bloody digging in Eversholt Street more fibre optics so the expansion into Camden for the business zone can continue

Mon 15th February 2016 @ 21:41
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Ah, that makes sense. It looked like there was some big project going on, or being prepared for.

Mon 15th February 2016 @ 23:44
Comment from: LC [Visitor]

>>>9am and not a single person drinking.

Get yourself to Smithfield Market. You’ll find pubs which serve the meat-market workers pints at stupid-o’clock in the morning, along with clubbers taking the edge off their narcotics before they call it a night, and black-cab drivers grabbing a burger and a beer at the end of a night-shift.

I work near there (and spent a few years living nearby at the turn of the millennium) and it’s one of my favourite parts of the city. The whole place is dripping with history.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 09:31
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Ah yes – Smithfield, why didn’t I think of that? I was one of those clubbers once!

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 10:20
Comment from: LC [Visitor]

Having a house within staggering distance of Turnmills was a blessing and a curse.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 10:48
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Turnmills! My weekend home when I lived in London :) Good grief, the things that went on there!

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 11:14

So lucky to be in London. Say what you want, I love it and would get on a jet from JFK if I could.

I want a pied-à-terre in Covent Garden. Is that too much to ask for our of life? Apparently, so. That’s quite a boast the tout made. Life on the hustle. I’ve never been able to do it. I don’t like working for ‘the man’ but I do like his steady paychecks. I sleep better.

It’s hard to be happy for an ex-lover but it’s the right thing to do. You’re very evolved. Much more so than I. I have loads of ill-will for the boyfriends/husbands of my cast-offs.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 11:43
Comment from: [Member]

I don’t like burning bridges with former lovers if at all possible. Even with Donna, once a bit more time has passed, I’d like to keep in touch. It’ll be a bit more difficult with her. I was surprised how upset I got on the phone to her.

If you’ve got 425K to spare you too could live in Covent Garden. You don’t even get a separate bedroom.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 13:16
Comment from: [Member]

Must have seemed like heaven when it was still undivided & housing association. So there is something after heaven after all.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 17:22
Comment from: [Member]

I know. There’s a one bed flat in Judd St going for 350. The advertise it as being ex council housing, so buyers know it’s good whilst rejecting the collective state-provided ethos that built the place.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 21:46
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

It’s always a bit of a blow when we realize the door (legs) might be closed, yes we smile and attempt to say the right things but fuck all that, don’t tell me about how wonderful your new man is, tell me you want to fuck me in the hallway or toilet… and then shuffle on back to your wonderful new man, ah well.

Tue 16th February 2016 @ 22:28
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I am genuinely pleased for Donna. It’s just that tinge of being rejected, but I wasn’t rejected – she contacted me first and from our first email on Thursday, we were in a hotel in Glasgow on Tuesday – and she was honest from the beginning that it wasn’t going to last, because of the distance. We fucked, (and the sex was brilliant, just superb – “I love how you look at me,” she said once. “I feel adored"), we went out dancing, we got drunk, and talked endlessly. She made me feel confident and attractive, whereas with most lovers, I feel that they put up with how I look as the cost of knowing me. Donna’s a loveable woman whom I will always remember with a great deal of affection.

Wed 17th February 2016 @ 01:48
Comment from: LC [Visitor]

It’s worth staying friendly with exes because if you’re lucky they’ll introduce you to their single friends once the dust settles.

Wed 17th February 2016 @ 08:58

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looby, n.; pl. loobies. A lout; an awkward, stupid, clownish person

M / 56 / 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.
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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

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