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Fictions

  Thu 24th March 2016

Trina asked me where I'd most like to go -- within a budget -- for my birthday. Grimsby disappointed me slightly by being less shit that I was hoping it'd be, but it's the second sweariest place I know to Glasgow, and better than Glasgow in that respect, because there, you have to be aware of their fucked-up sectarian conversational boundaries.

We booked into the hotel. Muzak in the foyer, twentysomething facebookers in navy polyester costumes on reception.

We started in the Hope and Anchor. "You're not from round here." "No, you're right, we're not. I'm from Lancashire." "Yeah well I'm from Ireland, so fuck off." It's all ok though, give as good as you get and you're fine. They're sussing you out, guaging you through faux aggression. We talked about the floods, and dykes, and Trina told him about the arguments over who pays for the massive drainage pump near where she lives in the sodden flatlands of west Lancashire, which turns a marsh into a polder.

The Irishman suggested another pub, on a listing barge. There, a biker type tells us to hoover up the scran, residual chicken and mayonnaise sandwiches, from his next-door neighbour's wake. Like many metal/biker/leather pubs, it's a bit over-subcultural and small c- conservative. I ask directions to the next pub and a woman walks us out of the pub and points us over there.

In the Tivoli Tavern I immediately feel at home; that ragged-arsed air of people who have given up. I went to the bar and the bloke to my right said "Hey. Hey. Do you want to buy some deep heat?" "Deep heat?" I say. The barmaid, bantering, says "be careful with him." "Well I don't know," I say. "Are you offering to rub it in?" The man turns his head away from me then back to the barmaid, and says to her "you've fucking overstepped the mark now, giving the wrong impression."

Back at our table, I compliment a woman on her hat. She's got that giddy, unreliable air of the professional drinker but I feel we are classified with a thumbs up. Ten minutes later, four of her extended family walk in, and in a comment which I find so astounding that I have to check it with her, she says to me and Trina, "come over here."

We settle round a bigger table, and hear tales from retired trawlermen better than anything you'll hear from a history graduate in a heritage centre. A man in his forties turns up, plonks himself down. He's wearing a hi-vis jacket and is carrying a bike tyre. He murmurs a schwa as a greeting.

Next day, we went to Cleethorpes on the bus. We walked along the prom waiting for the pub to open. I was dying for a piss but the toilets were locked, but a Council employee turned up at the same time to clean it so let me and Trina in.


The next morning, my actual birthday, she gave me my presents, a razored set of knives which I had been turning over and over, admiringly, at her house a couple of weeks ago, and a book which I'd asked her for -- Jennifer Walshe's Historical Documents of the Irish Avantgarde which I heard about from this post from Simon Steen-Andersen's 5:4 blog. At first I wished that she hadn't given away the conceit in the foreword and on her website -- that is, that it's all made up, with the inevitable citing of Flann O'Brien. I'd have preferred to have been tricked first and find out later, but once you start reading it, you forget about all that, and relax into that surrealist delerium of fiction whose pleasure comes from the closeness to that on which it is based. It's more Borges, Pierre Menard, I would say, than O'Brien.

Back at mine, my actual birthday, one of my drinking pals got me a wind-up Dalek, four bottles of poppers, and some Brie, and we met up and he took me out for some Titanic Plum Porter and a couple of double Zubrowkas. We sat with this 91-y-o Scottish Communist I know who was telling me about his adventures in Bulgaria when he was young.

My present to myself arrived from Russia after I'd ordered it on 2nd March, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic, by Pavel Krusanov, a collection of true stories about his hard-drinking coterie in St Petersburg. It's in Russian, but I'm going to get it translated and published in English. Trina and me shared a bed, her wriggling with desire and me not interested. "Just have a wank," I was thinking.

4 comments

Comment from: J-P [Visitor]

I can’t tell whether that’s a holiday-destination recommendation, but it’s certainly a book recommendation. Borges or O’Brien would each do me fine.

K. and I were thinking of going to Cleethorpes on the bank holiday Monday. She’s a bit starved of the sea, although you’d think west Oxfordshire would’ve acclimatized her long since. It’s apparently rather flat, compared to Flamborough or Whitby, but as long as there’s some Hot Littoral Action, and chips, it’ll do.

There’s a faded charm in your description of Grimsby but I’m always ill at ease in that mix of roughness and canniness: one of Hoggart’s slightly adrift grammar-school boys (who doesn’t know how lucky he is, of course.) I make up for my rubbishness at socializing with the more working-class side of my family by trying to at least remember birthdays with a card. And I think it gets better as you get older.

Thu 24th March 2016 @ 19:47
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

There’s not a huge amount to do in Cleethorpes (but then, what does one actually *do* on a day out by the seaside?) and yes, getting there is miles of flatland pocked with belching power stations. Hope you enjoy it if you venture up.

Associating with rough types I find easy enough: if it’s not enjoyable I just walk away.

Fri 25th March 2016 @ 09:06
Comment from: [Member]

Wishing you a belated happy birthday! “…a wind-up Dalek, four bottles of poppers, and some Brie” sounds absolutely lovely! Nicely done!

Tue 5th April 2016 @ 03:14
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Thank you daisyfae. Yes, it was great. Lots of free drinks too, and the day and night out with Kitty and Wendy was ace. Nice to see you back in the comments too!

Tue 5th April 2016 @ 09:39


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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.
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.
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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?
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