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Down and Out in Bristol and London

  Sat 16th March 2019

The work in the cafe is demanding. Not sitting down once, hauling heavy yard-wide trays of crockery about and sweating over an industrial dishwasher. I don't want this to last long. It's too physically demanding at my advanced age -- although I'm not the oldest there. Apart from an unpaid half hour for dinner we have no breaks during the day; worse than this, we only have two consecutive days off once a month. We throw kilos of perfectly good food away at the end of every day, yet we are not allowed even a coffee on the house. All this for 14p above the minimum wage. Like most companies, it behaves like a sociopath.

I have a day's annual leave to take before the financial year ends. Naively, I assumed my wishes in its allocation would be taken into consderation; I was handed a slip of paper by my boss with some date on a Wednesday wrtten on it and told that this is when it would be. I can adapt to the physical demands, but had I known about the single days off I wouldn't have accepted the job.

Nevertheless I am getting on well socially. In the midst of a sweaty afternoon at the dishwasher, the cycle of its moaning stopped to allow me to eavesdrop on a younger woman's sentence which ended "he's really nice." A witty and knowing woman round my age, who says that she only does the job to cover up her other better paid and untaxed one, said that she'll have me round next time she's throwing a dinner party.


As intensely as it burned with Esther was it suddenly extinguished.

On Sunday night I was at the Jazz Cafe in London, for a gig long since paid for. I got back to Bristol at 5am and had to start my first day at work at 9am. I rang Esther when I finished. "Please come up," she said. I need reinforcements."

Esther had seen two -- what? "clients" is too decent a word -- and she is always worked up to a pitch of anger and self-dislike when she's been through that, which we'd got into a habit of mitigating with alcohol. On just three hours' unrestful sleep, her mood was trying, but my work had yet to begin.

There is a male stranger in her bed fast asleep. "That fucking cunt just dumped him here. He's drugged and he's had three grand out of him." In as far as her tangle of talk allowed, over the television, I gathered that "that fucking cunt" was Midge Ure's Best Friend mentioned in earlier editions, who had been on a three day drink and coke bender with a friend of his, the man in Esther's bed. Midge Ure's Best Friend had dumped him at Esther's, where he'd promptly gone to bed.

Esther was distressed, shouting, and trying to ring Midge Ure's Best Friend on Whatsapp. I rapped on the bedroom door. "Alright mate, you've got to go now. You've got to get up and go." He went into the bathroom and I was waiting for him outside. I guided him -- he was much bigger than me -- into the living room. Esther's crazed sequence-less shouting and that fucking television, and a complete stranger slumped on the sofa.

I found his shoes and put them on him. He lives somewhere in south London. I told him I'd get him a taxi to the station but then I saw that he'd pissed himself and there was no way anyone would accept him. I managed to get him outside, Esther's ranting following us down the stairs.

I tried walking him down to the station. "I just want to go to bed," he kept saying. "Yes I know you do, but your bed's in London isn't it? Come on lad, man up a bit and we'll get you to the station."

He was heavy, leaning on me, and I got as far as what would be for me a five minute walk to the station, when he crashed against a barrier separating himself from the adjacent waterway. I gave up; I couldn't manage him any more. I rang an ambulance, which came in five minutes, and I told them that I'd found him there. What happened to him I don't know.

I went back to Esther's. She started to calm down, at least to the uncommon Esther level of calm, and at last she muted the infernal television. We had a tea of Quavers, chocolate, and wine.

We went to bed.

Next day, I went round after work again. All was going well until I explained that I had to drop something off at about eight-ish at my daughter's for five minutes, after which I'd be back. She turned horrible -- abandonment fear I suppose. By this point she'd booked me an Uber for my journey. Our argument and my irritation escalated and I told her to "fuck off then. After all I've done for you and that bloke yesterday." The Uber man was there and I asked him if he could change the journey to take me home.

As we were in the taxi, there was a phone call from Esther to the driver. "That Uber for looby. Cancel it. He's an arsehole." And so on, until the Somalian driver ended her rant with a courtesy of which Esther was entirely undeserving.

"Esther. I've done my utmost for you over the past month. I wish you a happy life. And it was a good month. Take care petal. I'll miss lots of things about you, but not being called an arsehole to the taxi driver after what I did for you and S-- last night. I hope you move on to higher things my lovely, but I am exhausted with knowing you x."

Since then, nothing. I like someone who can make a clean break.

10 comments

What a luvverly surprise to see your update! Gawd knows how you have the energy to live your life (home at milk float hour and then 1st day at work 4 hours later - gollygumdrops) and then write about it. Do you ever just veg out and stare at the ceiling, relishing the silence (or is that just me)? Who’s [redacted]? Esther’s avatar?

Sat 16th March 2019 @ 23:34 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Oh no lass, staring at the ceiling is one of my favourite occupations.

I’ve had to redact your comment and edit my post due to an inadvertent slip of the pen. I was obviously more tired than I thought.

Sun 17th March 2019 @ 10:48 Reply to this comment

Good to hear - both re ceiling staring and slip of the nom de plummy plumes (thought as much).

‘ave a gudun!

Sun 17th March 2019 @ 19:59 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Thanks lass. And you too whatever your one may be.

Sun 17th March 2019 @ 22:22 Reply to this comment

Are you staying relatively sober these days? I can’t imagine you could handle the taxing workload under the influence.

Thu 21st March 2019 @ 10:54 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

Not really. The first thing the physical demands of the job makes me want to do is to drink in the evenings. But I’m an alcoholic. I’ll always seek opportunities to drink.

Thu 21st March 2019 @ 20:39 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

I often found that my most physically demanding jobs seemed to coincide with an increased amount of drinking and drug use… and i realize now that most of the jobs i once held were all physically demanding… explains a lot i guess… keep on living and writing and the rest will sort itself out, whether we want it to or not lol!!

Tue 26th March 2019 @ 01:54 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Well, I’ve no choice in the short term. The landlady wants her money every month. The easier option would have been to go and live back with my mum but I like it here and work’s easier to find.

I am working on my escape plan though!

Tue 26th March 2019 @ 08:52 Reply to this comment
Comment from: Furtheron [Visitor]

Hope the cafe improves or is temporary before something better hoves into view

Fri 29th March 2019 @ 07:16 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

The only way is up, F. Anyway I’ve brought all this on myself so my justification for complaining about the situation I’m in is rather limited :)

Sat 30th March 2019 @ 09:17 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.
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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