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In the black

  Sat 20th April 2019

My day off. There are some property guardian flats going near me for the same amount as I'm paying at the moment for a room. I stand outside them for a moment. There is a hairy man in a red jumper standing a couple of yards away from me. "I'm thinking of moving in here. Above here, it's all flats."

I have to simplify it for him. He's Polish, and was pleased about having the previous day acquired an NI number, so he can work legally now. He lives -- in a tent -- and works, in what is now Bristol's port, eight miles away. We have a broken chat for a bit then shake hands and part.

In Tesco, I meet the two youngish white blokes from my previous exercise session in the park. We're all full of sunny bonhomie, and nattered about the locations and severity of our aches after we joined in with the wiry black men who were far more practised than us.

I took my three for 5.25 cider into the park and sat down. An irritating couple talked vacuously about their jobs in finance. Plastic domed drinks with straws. "You know, it's not a problem if a company isn't making money as long as it can service its debts..." while ahead of me, a bit too far away for reliable reception, a more interesting conversation was going in a group of two young girls in tube dresses, and a Spike Lee impersonator; all drinking cider. "It's only because we care about you Chloe that we don't want you to go back onto that stuff." Eventually finance couple leave, trailing their balance sheet drivel into inaudibility.

I have finished my drink. I do my mental fencing with probity, in which I know the result. I ask someone to look after my jacket and go back to replenish.

On the way back to my patch, I see the hairy Polish man standing stock still and silent in the face of a ranting white man whose lips are lined with foam. I put my arm around the Pole. "Hey, leave him alone. He's alright. He's Polish. He lives in a tent. What's your problem? Why can't we all just be nice? It's a lovely day, we're all in the sun, some on."

"So if he's your friend, why did you take so long to come over? Eh?"

"Come on mate, let's go." I turned back to the foaming man. "Fucking arsehole," I said. "Bristol's not like that mate, don't worry. He's pissed as a fart. I'm sitting here if you want to join me." He said something in Polish and indicated that he was going elsewhere. I shook his hand for the second time that day.


I was drawn, again, to the black men exercising. I'd shed my shoes at this point and was wearing odd stripey socks, the eccentricity of which I only realised when I got a text after recounting the episode to my eldest. "I am so glad I live hundreds of miles from you."

As I was trying to do more of those squats where you hold your legs horizontally and lower yourself towards the floor, I felt a repeated painful spasm in my left side, ignored it for a while in my quest for a horizontal approach to the floor, before giving up.

"You like cock?" one of the men said to me.

"Sorry?"

"Cock. You like cock?"

I initially thought it was a homophobic insult. I'd heard him on his phone earlier using the term "batty man" so I had to doubt his commitment, at least in public, to the LGBTQ+ cause, but realised that his accent was occluding the commercial nature of his question. He repeatedly fished into his underpants, withdrawing bag after bag of contraband. We settled on a tenner's worth of weed. Me and his friend went to have a joint away from him. It was lovely to be stoned. I haven't done that for months.

On my way home, the pain got worse and worse, and by seven o'clock I was in bed, moaning in pain, massaging the unnaturally beetling mound just northwest of my manly area.

At work this morning, I made all sorts of mistakes on the till and gave inappropriate greetings like "goodnight". I explained about my bulging groin.


A week ago I was in the bank to get some money out. I can't use my card at the moment after the Mistakenly Ordered Bulk Buy Poppers Episode. They had a display on a table which reminded me of the kinds of things that the church to which I was compelled to attend used to make in a vain hope of interesting children. "What do you like about our mortgages?" it asked. There were little paper cut outs of idealised houses, trees, gardens, and children. I got the pen and wrote "How fucking sad is this?" on a blank space in the egalitarian garden city.

Today, I went in to get some more money. The transaction concluded, I was about to leave, when she said, "just one more thing Mr looby, we're going to have lots of those displays out there and we really don't appreciate what you wrote on the last one, so please don't do that in future." I straightened up deliberately in order to conceal how sheepish I felt.

6 comments

Comment from: Scarlet [Visitor]

How do answer a question about liking mortgages?!
I would like a mortgage where I don’t have to pay the money back. If they ask silly questions, they deserve silly answers.
Sx

Sun 21st April 2019 @ 06:58 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

The question inflamed me. It was also possible a small amount of alcohol had been taken.

Sun 21st April 2019 @ 09:40 Reply to this comment

He lives in a tent? I have *got* to stop feeling sorry for myself all the time.

“…trailing their balance sheet drivel into inaudibility.”

Just look at that. That’s gold. Like it or not, you’re a writer.

Mon 22nd April 2019 @ 10:33 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

A tent is a step up from some of the sleeping arrangements that I see every day.

Thanks Mark – I sometimes use you as an unpaid editor. ("Hmmm…Mark likes that bit, so it can stay in").

Tue 23rd April 2019 @ 19:10 Reply to this comment

Steady thar now Looby, tha’ canny be askin’ wot sorta accent some bird wot reads thee blog saaaaands loike. Innit. On a more articulate note, the prosody of your prose fair stopped me in my Saturday late night tracks. I rolled this phrase o yersen around in my mind’s gob for yonks:

“Eventually finance couple leave, trailing their balance sheet drivel into inaudibility.

I have finished my drink. I do my mental fencing with probity, in which I know the result. I ask someone to look after my jacket and go back to replenish.”

The biscuit taken award goes to this quickstep quartet: “mental fencing with probity". Firkin Delicious.

Anyho, how be thee this blustery & blowy Sat’day night? All reet?

FWIW I purposely held off checking in as I didn’t want to only be seen as the early worm nit pick bird.

You give good read (to this logophile Lass).

‘appen

Sat 27th April 2019 @ 23:02 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Blimey, you’ve moved about a bit.

You pic nic away love – tis only by plucking at our nits that we’ll ever be free of them.

I brefly ventured out on Saturday but decided but it was a bit windy round my gusset, so I decided not to risk anything.

Thank you lass. One aims to please.

Mon 29th April 2019 @ 14:43 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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