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  Tue 8th May 2018

Wendy's dad is a retired journalist. A while ago Wendy suggested I could start a correspondence with him, a suggestion I have taken up with pleasure. He's infirm and unable to write back, but I enjoy writing to him, and vicariously, his daughter. This is my letter to him which I wrote yesterday.

Platform 2,
Durham Station

Dear Charles

It's 7pm and I'm on my way back to Middlesbrough, a town described on a comment on a newspaper article about my adopted local, as "like Doncaster but with learning difficulties." I've spent the weekend with Kim, and for part of it, with Sarah, a girl -- I say "girl", she's 52 -- who contacted me on the dating where I've put myself up for adoption.

She turned up in pleasing attire: a tight-ish red dress and red heels. As first impressions matter, I suggested Wetherspoons. We had a couple in there, getting on very easily. She's bright and open and straightforward -- to the point where she said "right looby, I'm going to put you in the friend zone. But you might want to meet some of my friends. I'm sure you'd get on with them."

On that somewhat dispiriting note, which momentarily had me thinking that I might put myself forward as a candidate on The Undateables, we went to another bar which the wincingly high prices were slightly compensated for by it having an outside area. I gave her a Penelope Lively novel on which to sit, as the only space available was on the wooden frame of these half-hearted flowerbeds which were bordered by a rim of centimetre-high plastic spikes. I folded up my coat to dull the feeling of being of one of those Indian fakirs who lay themselves on a bed of nails while someone walks along their back.

As is my wont, I acquired a few compadres, which included a couple, the man of whom knew quite a lot of the music that I like. Sarah's hold on the Booker Prize winning insulation I had provided for her rather appealing but now inaccessible arse, was becoming unreliable, and the rosemary bush that she was using for support was proving inadequate in righting her list.

She announced that she'd like something to eat. I concurred in this proposal, but she straight away gathered her things and walked off in search of fish and chips. I downed my pint inelegantly and chased her up the high street, where, with a hungry woman's keen nose, she had found the nearest chip shop.

We sat on the bench outside and I opened a bottle of beer I had bought earlier. Thankfully, she declined my offer of one for her.

It was a warm evening and the more refined sort were out promenading. We were joined by a homeless couple, the woman of whom opened my next bottle of beer with her teeth, while the man requested I buy him a bottle of Lambrini. In a spirit of solidarity with my homeless brother, I bought two, and we all shared the bottles between us, me safe in the knowledge that swapping small quantities of saliva with two heroin addicts poses only a small risk of contracting hepatitis B.

The evening was drawing to a close, and I returned to Tesco for a couple of bottles for the walk back to Kim's. I went to enter the shop, whereupon an employee interposed his person, informing me I was barred on the ground that I had been seen buying alcohol for a person who is himself barred. I went to McColl's instead up the road, where my reputation is as yet unblemished.

Sarah refused all aid in getting to the station. I returned to Kim's, went straight to bed and lay there wondering why I wasn't more upset about yet another physical rejection.

Today me and Kim have been at a "Labour Party Fun Day" -- four words rarely combined. We had to sit through the obligatory amateur socialist choir mangling a morbid song about a mining disaster, but one or two of the speeches were good and to my great relief there was a beer tent.

I'm coming to Lancaster soon to see your preternaturally lovely daughter, and I very much hope that we can all arrange an afternoon of whisky and blather together.

Best wishes


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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.

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

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