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The horizontal man

  Wed 2nd March 2016

Saturday, with Wendy, Kitty, and Wendy's child and the latter's auntie, started at a cafe in the heart of the macramé belt: adverts on the wall for hypnobirthing, shamanic drumming, and a "sling meet", for parents who carry their children in papooses.

Auntie Veronica's child died a few years ago, and conveniently for Wendy, she displaces her maternal instincts onto her niece. Whenever I am becoming irritated with her constant feminising compliments to her niece about her dress, hair, shoes, and so on, I rebuke myself for being so ungrateful about her endless patience with puzzles, colouring in, and the toilet.

After a couple of hours we adjourned, agreeing to meet later. I had an engagement, as my eldest had texted me a couple of days earlier. "England are playing Ireland [in the Six Nations] on Saturday!" That's her way of saying "I want us to spend some time together." Which we did, enjoyably.

Later that evening, Wendy texted. "Get your skinny arse round to mayhem." Mayhem is a half rhyme with the name of the street on which she lives. The inexhaustible Veronica sat in the front room watching Doctor Who with Niecy, until bringing us the glad tidings that she'd fallen asleep on the settee. "So -- are we going to have a game of dominoes?" asked Wendy.

At what seemed far too early, Kitty, who had only played a short form of the game, said she'd like to go. Well, you get in a taxi and I'll stay here dancing with Wendy, I didn't say. I tried gently to talk her round, but she does have the hardest job of all of us, in a rough school; and in a rare display of gallantry, I walked her home.

Then to my cold bedroom; mdma and longing coursing through me, a druggie on heat.

I'd left my diary at Wendy's. This morning, she dropped it off. It was enclosed with a card, another reproduction of an old Penguin book cover, this time of a novel called "The Horizontal Man". I texted her saying "The Horizontal Man sends many thanks and a kiss x".

"Ha ha, if ever a card had your name on it. I'm at my Dad's guzzling wine and snorting stuff. No lady Xx"

"Who'd fancy a lady? Have a lovely afternoon Xx"

"Oh, sweetheart... X"

It's very difficult not to feel something in addition to both lust and friendship for a girl you fancy and whose company can almost seem magical, who talks to you like that. But to entertain any hopes with Wendy will only ever lead to a pointless, circular sadness, born of that stupid form of vanity in which I spend nights wondering what I could change about myself to make her want me.

In literary news this week, I have managed to order the book which provides the first of the quotations over there on the right, Pavel Krusanov's tales from the lives of his coterie of heavy drinkers in St Petersburg. It's available only in print and in Russian, but I'd like to get it translated into English, and I know who I'm going to approach first despite him never replying to my appreciative and questioning email after I purchased his translation of some poems by Osip Madelstam. I've long wanted to read the whole thing myself, but I'm sure it would sell a few copies to English-speaking sots as well.


Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

Russia’s centuries-old relationship with alcohol always strikes me as somehow maudlin and klezmery: bonhomie and ill-starred fate bound lovingly together in a bear hug. (I don’t know if Krusanov’s work epitomizes or breaks free from this, mind.)

I’m currently reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of walking from London to Constantinople and I’m hoping it will get simultaneously sadder and smilier as it goes east, waxing tears of laughter at the same time as tears of neat spirit.

Thu 3rd March 2016 @ 06:51
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I get the impression this book is a bit more self-mocking and light-hearted than maudlin, but I’ve only got a couple of reviews to go on. Still, for 3 US dollars – for the hardback – plus 20 to get it sent out, it’s worth a punt, even if it turns out to be…

Thu 3rd March 2016 @ 08:19

A sling meet. Good Lord. I try not to judge. If it works for you and you’re not hurting anyone go for it. But I can’t help but give a proper eye-roll.

Nice of you to pick-up on your daughter’s request. Shows you’ve got some awareness about how she works. Some people never develop any.

You’d change yourself to suit her and then you’d grow to resent what she made you do.

Thu 3rd March 2016 @ 11:56
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I agree with you twice Exile. I wondered how you could possibly create a friendship group out of such a narrow self-definition. It’s like advertising a meet-up for people whose names begin with A.

And there’s no meaningful and rewarding relationship that depends on a pretence.

Thu 3rd March 2016 @ 23:17
Comment from: LC [Visitor]

It’s a kind of self-fulfilling behavioural shibboleth, I imagine. If you’re the type of person who uses a baby sling, moreover, the kind of person who thinks going to a sling-meet sounds like a good idea, you’re probably going to get along pretty well with the other people there.

You know what it’s like with little kids - everything changes, it can be lonely (particularly if one parent works all day or just isn’t around) so people do what they can to make friends with others in the same situation. Personally, I’d give the sling enthusiasts a very wide berth (I’m fairly certain our parenting styles would be incompatible) but good luck to them.

Also, fuck me, I’ve never seen anybody booze with quite so much single-minded determination as the Russians. A few weeks exploring the dive bars of Moscow and St Petersburg was an education. Until you can keep pace with those animals, you can’t honestly call yourself a drinker.

Fri 4th March 2016 @ 11:54
Comment from: [Member]

Yes I suppose “sling wearer” will extend outwards into other areas in which you might meet – left wing, organic, Guardian-reader, afraid of proper pubs, excessively rational with one’s children, rubbish drinker, etc. :) Anything to get out of the house though. I remember the days when my girls were young and I do not miss them one bit.

I’m envious that you’ve had a trip round the drinking dens of Moscow and St Petersburg. I don’t think I’d last very long there – I can’t handle vodka, and don’t really see what the fuss is about (except for Zubrowka – that’s lovely stuff).

Fri 4th March 2016 @ 13:55
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

I know your kids are older now but a man alone at the park playing with his children is like wet panty magic, suddenly it seems women can’t help but talk to you, maybe borrow that kid and head to the local park, doesn’t matter if they’re married or not they’ll be lining up cuz you’re such a nice guy, doesn’t matter that you want to do all kinds of kinky shit to them, by that time it’s too late… for them, hahaha!!!

Fri 4th March 2016 @ 14:24
Comment from: LC [Visitor]

Currently living with 1,3 and 5 yr old boys - if it wasn’t for the fact that I married a nurse with a caring, patient soul, all three of them would have been drowned in the bath by now.

Russia is a fascinating place and well worth a visit, but Russians are hard work - until they trust you enough to drink with you, then they’re cool.

Fri 4th March 2016 @ 14:31

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

M / 58 / 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.
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