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My lack of struggle

  Wed 16th March 2016

I am in Liverpool, drinking in the magnificent High Early Victorian station bar. The restoration falls frustratingly short: the windows are uPvC and the chandeliers are made of plastic, but the Titanic Plum Porter is first class, and only £2.49 a pint.

I am waiting for my middle daughter Jenny. Her agent secured her a "workshop and preliminary audition" for a part in a soap opera on TV. It's all quite exciting. We walked through a leafy, thirties suburb of Liverpool to get to the studios and I left her with a fellow auditionee, an undergrad from Chorley whom we met at the security gate. I'm looking forward to hearing all about it on the train back. Then at 4pm, she's straight into a dress rehearsal for her role in The Crucible at our local rep. I've no idea where she gets her drive and ambition from; neither me nor Kirsty possess any.


On Tuesday I spent an hour in the police station. A friend was called for what is misrepresented as a "voluntary" interview, after she overlooked a stage in the procedure involved in obtaining wine from a supermarket. She was almost crying down the phone, asking me repeatedly if she will go to prison, or get in the paper. If they decide to send it to the Magistrates' Court then she will indeed have her fifteen minutes of infamy.

She drinks heavily, and badly. Never was someone less suited to alcohol than her. My experience with such people is that drinking is a shroud over depression, which in hers and many others' cases, has its roots in maternal deprivation, its recent past in a violent marriage, and its present in catty, co-dependent and aggressive relationships with her daughter and her ex. Her life is stuck, her conversation a palimpsest of repeatedly overwritten miseries. I drift off when she is on that riff; I thought of the Frank Auerbach exhibition I saw whilst in London last month. He paints and wipes and repaints over and over again on the same canvas.

She has achievable wishes -- to lose weight, to be pretty, to stop drinking, to meet a cliché (it involves shining armour), to sell her house and move to France, and to sever all connections with her ex -- to reify which she does nothing.

But she's generous and kind and our friendship is indissoluble. I'm loyal to people I like. She's bailed me with out with money she hasn't got when my gas meter has run out, or I say "no I'm going, I'm spent up" many times. We do micro-loans to each other all the time. When you're in the shit, only the poor will ever help you.

On Saturday she point-blank refused to let me pay for our dinner. I'm honest with her and won't pussyfoot about telling her she's "beautiful all the time", as Trina does. "What's going to happen, looby?" "Well, in the long run, you're going to sit with me getting pissed, going round in circles, saying the same things you've said for years, and not doing anything to help yourself."

In a cheap pub we had a two for a tenner deal of mono- and di-glyceride esters of fatty acids. She's awaiting a summons now to go to the Magistrates' Court. She finished a bottle of wine (to add to the one she had before she got to the police station), at which point it is time for me to leave, before the slurred flirting with the young barman becomes embarrassing.


Getting Away With It: Exhibit 1

I have just remembered that last night (it had been a really long day) I somehow ended up with my friend's ten quid that he'd won on a scratchcard and then promptly spent it on buying this foxy friend of a friend a triple G&T.

But as they say, nothing ventured with other people's money, nothing gained.


Getting Away With It: Exhibit 2

Friday, an afternoon and evening with Wendy, supporting the sparkling wine producers of northern Italy. I told her about my weekend with Kim and the man who asked me if a boiled egg feels like sucking something else. Kitty came round in the evening and me and Wendy danced through the whole of Born Slippy. We arranged to meet again on Friday to make some more spacecakes.

The stark record of the e-mail client tells no lies.

From: looby
To: Wendy
Subject: You
Date: Sat, 12 Mar 2016 02:56:02 +0000

Can I have one night off from the self-restraint? I love that red and white top you had on. You've got lovely tits and I wanted to tell you to take your bra off, because your tits would look lovely under that top. I would love you, appreciate you, laugh with you, and lust constantly for you, and I would always say what I mean.x

From: Wendy
To: looby
Subject: Re: You
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2016 15:40:13 +0000

Afternoon petal. I am staving off a rich, ripening headache with a beer. I loved our hedonistic day and looked forward to it all week. I've always thought you were more romantic than rake. Hope you got home without an enforced pickled egg in your mouth. See you Friday for our bake-off Xx


My eldest has urged Karl Ove Knausgård's My Struggle on me. She's already halfway through the second volume. No novel sequence sounds more apposite for the addictively self-disclosing blogger.

14 comments

Gold. As always.

I give up on blogging. Reading and writing. I’m going back to books. But I can’t let go of this one. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Wed 16th March 2016 @ 18:51
Comment from: [Member]

Well, you weak-arsed fucker, thanks for thinking you’re pitable for reading me! What a fucking backhander that is! (That is a compliment in Lancashire).

Hope you don’t give up blogging. There’s not many interesting people left.

Wed 16th March 2016 @ 18:56
Comment from: [Member]

PainedExile: The GF thought your wooden figures were kiddie prawn and is sulking. Why stop?

Wed 16th March 2016 @ 19:47
Comment from: Jonathan [Visitor]

I do hope your friend is shown clemency by the magistrates, those supermarket wine purchase processes can prove so labyrinthine and it’s easily done to miss the odd detail.

And I do love that station bar, so much more welcoming than our piccadilly’s hourglass with it’s Stella at four fifty a pint and the company of pigeons at your topply too high tables. Actually though I like how the pigeons are resisting the gentrification of the concourses, just I draw a line at sharing a postmark pint with them.

Wed 16th March 2016 @ 23:33
Comment from: Jonathan [Visitor]

Hurray I have managed to leave a comment! Must have been a fault with my laptop as proved OK with my mobile phone..you might have to get used to odd predictive text generated randomness though..I meant postwork up there but it insisted on its own preference…

Wed 16th March 2016 @ 23:38
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

Interesting point about only the poor lending each other money. You’re right. It sounds awful but I wouldn’t. I’d be thinking “I’ll never see that again.”

Flip side of that: would you honestly be as quick to repay a friend who could afford to write it off, as someone else who needs it back to feed their own gas meter?

Thu 17th March 2016 @ 12:44
Comment from: [Member]

Jonathan, it is a pleasure to have you furtling about in my box again and I’m sorry that the gates have been so difficult to prise open.

Yes, I have to say, Manchester Piccadilly’s bar is not a becoming place in which travellers of decorum might seek their repose, let alone have a postmark pint.

My friend will probably make a few lines in the local paper. I don’t agree with Courtwatch. It’s Victorian – grubby, salacious, holier-than-thou (and quite tempting to read to see if anyone you know’s in it).

Thu 17th March 2016 @ 12:48
Comment from: [Member]

Hello Hannah – Me and my light-fingered friend have always paid each other back because, I think, we’re in the same position. I’d be far less likely to ask someone who could easily afford it to lend it to me, which doesn’t make sense in one way.

Thu 17th March 2016 @ 13:04
Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

Maybe it’s that you know that borrowing off someone really solvent will never (need to) be reciprocated, so it has a more paternalistic feel to it.

I recently invoiced someone who’s basically a friend, including something that they think they didn’t actually ask for. Right now I’m worrying that, even if I get the money, that’s sort of it for our friendship. Sometimes I think the necessariness of the pursuit of money literally dehumanizes us.

But, eh. Merlot.

Thu 17th March 2016 @ 17:50
Comment from: [Member]

It’s so awkward that. Then there’s the “mates rates” thing to get round. I do hope your friend will be able to divorce the invoice from the affective side of things.

But, eh. Frosty Jack.

Thu 17th March 2016 @ 18:48
Comment from: isabelle [Visitor]

I like the sound of your daughters, they sound feisty and good fun. I’ve read about the book she recommended and it’s spurred me on, I think I shall read it too.

( the more I read aboout your drinking I have to conclude that you have an iron constitution )

Fri 18th March 2016 @ 18:09
Comment from: [Member]

They’re great – they’re fun to be with. I always knew I’d enjoy their company if I could only stick it out till they were teenagers.

Drinking – no idea where I get my tolerance from. No-one in my family drinks – apart from my sister, who’ll suggest sharing a bottle of wine between three people. It’s great, I love it. It’s such a rewarding activity.

Fri 18th March 2016 @ 19:22
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

The Electronic reference up there had me grinning like a monkey… what i seem to like the most is the dad parts mixed in with the debauched non-dad parts cuz there is a part of our lives that are nonfuckingdad, and that may (or may not) be debauched, good shit sir very good, i’ve read the Karl Ove bloke as well, it holds my attention, much like this post…

Sat 19th March 2016 @ 23:58
Comment from: [Member]

Thank you — yes I lurch from abandon to control, like many parents I know. I’m looking forward to the Knausgård. The LRB called it “amazing", which is a very unhinged word for them to be using.

Sun 20th March 2016 @ 08:31


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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.
George Szirtes

Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
John Whale

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

The Comfort of Strangers

23.1.16: Big clearout of the defunct and dormant and dull
16.1.19: Further pruning

If your comment box looks like this, I'm afraid I sometimes can't be bothered with all that palarver just to leave a comment.

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