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Unbirthday

  Wed 23rd January 2019

After our day in Manchester for her birthday, Kirsty invited me back to hers.

I order us pizza from L---, run by a Mezzogiorno immigrant, who left his rented shop on Market St to the highest bidder and now runs it from a phone order only and pisshead-free unit on an industrial estate. He's an habitué of a betting shop in town. He always smiles the same smile to me -- outside the bookie's, as when he arrived at Kirsty's. I like the uniform lack of apology on his face.

I'm on a warm high from the gas fire in Kirsty's house and the cheap wine from the corner shop, when L arrives with stacked boxes of pizza and garlic bread. I shake and then clasp his hand and we chat for a couple of minutes. It's lovely to be warm with someone without the slightest qualification.

We watch shit telly, which I enjoy, fat people and first dates and baking disasters. I say to Kirsty "I like you Kirsty. I'm still fond of you." I feel free saying it, not aiming at something, nothing tendentious. She gets me a quilt and I snuggle down, contented, on her settee.


In the pub the morning after, I'm with the 11am drinkers. Mel is there, the man who knows a bit about horseracing and who once won me eighty pounds. "Very well thanks. I'm in Bristol now." "Yeah, I know." I like Lancaster's monitoring reach.

I went over to talk to the Scots man I know. Twelve months ago he was all pally, inviting me into a fraud he was setting up. "You're as dodgy as me looby, so shut the fuck up," he said, when I demurred. I didn't want to get involved with him in that respect but went along with it. Business inconcluded, he told me he was getting married.

A few months later I came up for his wedding. Having just moved to Bristol with very little money, I "slept" under a tree on the cycle path that night. I thought this might be a good introductory anecdote, but he just nodded and shook his head through my tale, waiting for me to finish. He's still wrongly convinced I am after his wife. "Just go back and enjoy your drink." I shrug at her, and she shrugs back.

It's not finished. Back at my table, some unwanted reputation precedes me. "Hello," says the small-headed man whose eyes are too deep in his skull, who once burst into our cubicle when me and Well Meaning but Loud Mouthed Friend had just finished a chat. "Hello," he said, leaning into me. "I assume...I assume, you can get some coke for me?"

"No, no, not any more. I live in Bristol now mate, I can't do that." "Yeah but surely you can get it?" The best way to get rid of a cokehead is to make them wait. "No," he said, "I was thinking in the next five minutes." He looked at me disdainfully and walked away.


All that was easy to say; this is more difficult. It's Kitty's birthday in a couple of weeks. Wendy texts me to ask if I'm about in February at all. I'd love to see her, and I tell her that I'll be in Lancaster for Kitty's birthday weekend, although there's no arrangements yet, and it depends on Kirsty having me to stay.

"Oh dear," she replies. "I'm working Friday, then it's The Little Dictator all weekend."

This means: "At some point me and Kitty will be getting together for her birthday, but I just need to remind you that The Injunction still stands and as The Little Dictator will be there, you're not to turn up."

It cuts me so much, that I can't see two of my closest friends together, that I am excluded from the gatherings we used to have. I miss those times, but I can't talk about it with either of them. They take a resigned view of it, not being affected by it.

It's a re-run of the time when Helen came over from Norway. We were in the pub, having a great time, before she rang Kitty to tell her that we were going to come up to hers. I could imagine the call without actually hearing a word. "Oh God no Helen, are you with looby? No, The Little Dictator's here -- the invite's for you, not him!" Helen had to say "thing is looby..."

When is this going to end? When she's sixteen? Eighteen? When she leaves home? How long must this jealous ex have his power over me, and for how long will Wendy enforce his judgment?

6 comments

In the pub at 11 am is rough trade. A lot goes on. An admirable Bukowski-esque existence. I couldn’t do it. Too thin.

The difficulty is that this is all out of your control, innit? Your life is being decided for you. Who you can see. Who you can’t. That’s also rough trade.

Wed 23rd January 2019 @ 17:55 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

It starts a bit earlier than that over here Exile.

Yes indeed. There is a third party – Wendy’s ex –, and Wendy’s timidity in only seeing me when TLD isn’t about, that are impinging on my friendship with her, and by extension, Kitty. I have tried to raise the subject but they see it as being selfish and inconsiderate. I am powerless. So what kind of friendship is Wendy extending me? A truth that I might have to face is that we’re not as close as we once were. Which would make – is already – making me very sad.

Wed 23rd January 2019 @ 18:14 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

That first bit is well nice now innit. My days of 11am drinking have long gone but i remember being in the boozer early doors and thinking how wonderful it was to do the crossword and not have to listen to shit tunes, lol!! Now i’d have to change boozer to coffeeshop, the Dam style that is as the only thing i do that early anymore is toke up… or eat mushrooms on the odd day… as for K and W, what can you do? accept it for what it is and don’t beat yourself up, the rules might not be fair but you take what you can get…

Sun 27th January 2019 @ 14:09 Reply to this comment
Comment from: daisyfae [Visitor]

it must hurt still. can’t imagine that going away quickly or easily. bringing it up doesn’t seem to change the situation, so there really doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it. somehow makes it worse…

Mon 28th January 2019 @ 02:07 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Nothing I can do DF. We’re drifting further apart. I can feel it. I made the mistake of looking at some posts from three or four years ago and it was full of lovely times with Kitty and especially Wendy.

Never mind, the pubs open soon :)

Mon 28th January 2019 @ 10:26 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

kono – yes I’ve never liked canned music in pubs and I’m actually in an organisation that campaigns against it – Pipedown. I love it when you can find a calm, quiet boozer where time seems to be thick and slow.

As to Wendy and Kitty – it’s out of my hands, so I’ll just have to learn a bit of resignation.

Mon 28th January 2019 @ 10:29 Reply to this comment


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


M / 55 / 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.
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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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