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A Wigan Salad

  Thu 9th February 2017

To Wigan, and an afternoon in a fine, sweary old pub. Above the coal fire, a gallery of photos from the World Pie Eating Championships and further along, a collection of early C20th erotic photographs. I texted Wendy about it, "... let me take you to Wigan for a pie, petal." She asked me if I was having a Wigan Salad. "A Wigan Salad?" "Yes, pie and chips."

It was generally a gnarled, frame-assisted clientele, with the exception of a mother and daughter, the latter with a pint of lager, and dressed in a tight scooped-necked grey top which delimited the outlines of her bra beautifully, a wet-look black miniskirt, black tights and flatties.

The in-house bookie herded money on a table. I put £2 on a horse with a name composed of Wendy's real name and an abbreviation of her daughter's. I texted Wendy saying that any winnings were hers; it came third. A man moaned about an acquaintance. "It's like that cunt Arthur. Right fucking grassing bastard he was."

At the station at Wigan, two policemen are arresting a man for not paying his fare from Warrington. All that effort and resources to wring £5.10 from a poor man, as silent millions are nodded into nondescript addresses in the British Virgin Islands.

A few yards away, a man is talking telephonically into his importance with all the vacuity of modern commerce, a meeting and a heads-up and Anna can confirm the details so if you can just get back to me on that.

I had a bottle of port and Ulysses for the journey home. I sank back willingly into Joyce, and wished that I could stay on the train all the way to Glasgow.

Back in Lancaster, and one for the road, I am bored for a while with an ex-Navy chap I have made the mistake of talking with, one of the many who make not the merest enquiry about you in conversation.

I am glad to get away when I notice The Barmaid, (the girl who didn't turn up for our drink the other day), her landlady, and a very attractive fortysomething barmaid, Emma. The Barmaid explained that she had passed on a message to Emma saying that she had had to cancel our meeting. Emma said that she hadn't known who I was. "What do you call a good-looking Paki?" asked The Landlady. "Asif." I'm afraid I found that very funny, so we'll pretend it's "transgressive" rather than "racist".

"Are you single then?" said The Barmaid. "Yes, I'm on the market. Not sure what I'll fetch but I am at the moment. Are you, Emma? Are you single?" "Yes, but I've got a date tomorrow." "Do you like him?" "Yes." "Well you know, if it doesn't work out, I'd go out with you. Seriously, I'd like a date with you. I think you're pretty fit."

I went along with the laughter before looking sideways at Emma. I'm not fucking joking, love. She had her hair tied up, for work maybe, but it looks lovely when it's down. "Why don't you ask [The Landlady] out?" "Because she'd be a fucking nightmare."

Doesn't look like there's much of an opening there, but a good afternoon's work I think: Expression of Interest and Tender Documents delivered to the relevant party.

They published my letter in the local newspaper last week.

Dear Editor

The announcement of the latest block of several hundred student flats presents a good opportunity for Lancaster to face some tough decisions over the city’s future.

We have to face up to the fact that students, not residents, are the dynamic force in Lancaster society. With their high disposable income, gregarious nature and the way they dispel the sleepy, quiet gloom on our residential streets at 3am, students are to be welcomed with open arms.

The clear brake on such positive developments is the presence of so many long-term residents – those who have worked here, brought their children up here, and contributed to the cultural and economic life of the city.

Whilst I am sure we appreciate such people, and whilst we undoubtedly need local citizens to service the needs of students, it must be accepted that the city cannot accommodate all those who would like to live here.

Far too many well-maintained, attractive terraced houses are underused at the moment, housing only couples and small families. Look down any street, and you will see the odd gap where a student house does not presently exist, a house perhaps occupied only by an elderly couple, who together have given a hundred years of labour to the City, which today results in Lancaster being such an attractive destination for young people from Hemel Hempstead interested in reading Change Management Performance Assessment Evaluation Mindfulness Studies.

In order to address this problem, I urge the Council to consider a Resettlement Scheme for residents, who would be given incentives to move to camps on underused brownfield sites such as the wasteland around Ocean Edge or land that could be reclaimed from Salt Ayre tip. The experienced sands guide Cedric Robinson could be consulted on which mud flats in Morecambe Bay are least likely to swallow a Portakabin and a family of five.

This would leave the city to thrive as an exciting student super-village, with residents and those born here allowed in on a day pass scheme administered by the Council. Those allowed to enter could have some sort of identifying mark, which could be something as simple as a brightly coloured badge in a bold geometric shape, to help the toll bar personnel. A special grade of Night Time Pass could be introduced for those who have a genuine reason for being in the city after midnight – for example, for those employed cleaning up sick after 2-4-1 Shots Night at Hustle.

We may even see an upsurge of creative endeavour in the camps. For example, talented residents could arrange chamber music and other concerts for visitors, as I am sure that even international organisations would be keen to see how Lancaster would be leading the way in Europe, in tackling a problem to which we had previously struggled to find a definitive answer.



Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

Very droll Looby. Extra points for use of the term “portacabin".

Sat 11th February 2017 @ 00:45 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Thank you! A follow-up letter this week from someone else suggested I go into politics :)

Sat 11th February 2017 @ 05:51 Reply to this comment

You should’ve taken your copy of Uly and smashed the phone talker over the head with the spine. I tried reading that book twice. 2x fail.

An afternoon of witty banter is always worthwhile. It beats the hell out of sitting in front of the telly.

Any feedback on that letter?

Sat 11th February 2017 @ 13:59 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

I should have bought the ticket for that drunk and given it to the police and said “here’s his fucking ticket, now let the poor fucker go.”

I am enjoying Ulysses – I deleted a whole load of amphetamine-fuelled rabbiting in this post about why. It’s funny, it’s scatological, it makes me have this vivid film of my own life going on in my head, it’s clever, and has got this physical joy in language itself. It’s allusive, and whereas the conventional idea of a novel is to enter someone else’s world, reading as escapism, Ulysses insists on being an equal partner in mine. Sometimes I throw my head back after a paragraph at the wonder of it.

Feedback about the letter – well if you’d read the comment above you’d have noticed that someone has said I should go into politics. Get some better specs :)

Sat 11th February 2017 @ 14:24 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

There’s a reason i started avoiding the pubs, a place where i spent countless hours in my youth and not so young manhood, part of the reason is that most people are fucking boring or pretentious twats (your man and his business meetings, in America that’s about every other wanker at the bar) and the fact that as i’ve gotten older i’m trying to avoid beating the shit out of idiots and getting arrested, i prefer to drink at home these days, not the least of which so i can get pleasantly stoned while sip my black pints, i venture out now and then but then some fucking knob will do his/her best to remind me why i became a shut-in… and of course the fact that 90% of those at the pub are staring at their fucking phones…

and in keeping with my long-winded comments, I’ve never read Ulysses but i might have to go steal a copy now, haven’t read Joyce in 25 years? on book 4 of Knaussgaard right now and just finished Once a Jailbird by Hans Fallada, along with a steady diet of Vonnegut and book called Soccer in Shadow and Sun by Eduardo Galleano, (i’ll admit i got a footie problem but unlike most yanks i support a shite club- see Crystal Palace FC)… oddly i’m thinking about running for office on the Freak Power ticket made famous by Hunter Thompson, my campaign slogan in the cesspool known as American politics “Who needs facts when you have opinions… no fuck off!!” i think i stand a real chance.

Sun 12th February 2017 @ 07:07 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

He he..kono – Crystal Palace! That’s pretty good going for an American :) Would like to know how you got into them.

I like being in a pub and whilst you do get the odd wanker, the ones I go in are generally populated by quite interesting and intelligent people – I mean that working class form of intelligence that comes from having a broader experience of life than most of those convinced of their own intellectual superiority.

I’ve stalled with Knausgård at the end of vol. 4 but my eldest has just this evening aid she’s got vol. 5 if I’d like to borrow it. Vonnegut – I’ve only read Slaughterhouse Five but I enjoyed that.

In these days of alternative facts kono, I would vote for you. Whilst secretly hoping that the more sensible and less stoned candidate got in :)

Sun 12th February 2017 @ 16:35 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Fucking hell. Looking for a bit more on Knausgård, I’ve come across an essay by Hari Kunzru about My Struggle. It’s a brilliant piece of writing, and tackles head on the idea of authenticity in Knausgård’s novel.

Sun 12th February 2017 @ 16:55 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

That is an excellent essay, read it last night and it’s stuck with me all day, of course i’ve always been of the opinion that every memoir is the purest of fiction, our memories play tricks and we manipulate the scenes we show and those we don’t, is Knausgaard any more authentic than Frey? all depends, (and i despise Frey) i do know that i’d most likely be facing the same lawsuits and shit if for some reason i ever had the discipline to sit down and undertake an endeavor of that sort and for some reason it got published and garnered that sort of publicity… or maybe not, the people who made it out of that shit may just want to pretend it wasn’t them and i’d change the names… like i do now.

Mon 13th February 2017 @ 19:58 You are currently replying to this comment

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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.

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