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Look at me

  Thu 2nd July 2020

My boss at the Plague Attenuation Centre asks me how I'm getting on with the unpaid online study we're expected to do.

Despite several deadening hours on Infection Control and Paediatric Resuscitation, I can't get the pass marks required in the tests. I resent being expected to do this unpaid. Neither do I look forward to self-suffocating every day in my clothy breath, in a job where I couldn't care less whether anyone gets better or worse as a result of my actions, an attitude which might not be that expected of NHS employees.

I send her an email saying I've been offered another job. I hadn't, but the agency offers two days' work on a badly drawn estate on which its architects would never live. We're cleaning flimsy student-occupied houses. I like the physical effort, sweating, and banter with my colleagues. At the end of the first day, my supervisor says "I'm going to ask if I can have you on my team again tomorrow. You just crack on with it." I feel boyish, the pleasure of pleasing.


It's the third hottest day on record in Bristol. I make three salads and serve them up for Cath and Richard. Everyone woofs them down, which is the best reward one can get from cooking.

Cath asks me to take some pictures of her for her profile on a dating site. She had just criticised me for pointing out a woman walking past our house, of whom I said "that woman there, she works in the newsagents. Don't you reckon Cath, if she did her hair and had a bit of make up and some better clothes, she'd be quite a looker?" She didn't like me saying that.

"So hang on, you're telling me that it's an unfeminist thing to say to someone to get some make-up on, then you ask me to take some pictures of you for a dating site? I'm not saying that the newsagent woman should get some nice clothes just for lascivious attention from blokes." "I'd love some lascivious attention from blokes."

We laughed and had another glass of wine. I scratched my head and looked at the table for a few seconds, because if Cath is in need of lascivious attention, she wouldn't have to look far to get it.


The pubs are allowed to re-open on Saturday, but I'm having second thoughts about going. It'll attract all the part-time drinkers who can't handle it, shouting and screaming their heads off as they gobble multinational lager and order food to smear on the table and floor.

I want to drink with chronic, dedicated drinkers, those who continue to compile a long list of regretted pointless arguments, cruel and unjust put-downs to others, friendships strained to breaking point or final severance, missed appointments, trains, work days and birthdays, yellow-flowered bed-wetting incidents, hours spent slumped against a wall, disciplinaries and sackings, getting in at 7am and crashing loudly against objects which normally go untouched, mornings spent apologising, well-intentioned, unsatisfying and sometimes comical sex, lucky journeys home, long seconds desperately trying to remember who the fuck is the friendly, chatty person who comes up to you and remembers you from Friday --a day of which your recall stops around 11am, and muddy bruises and scabbed-over wounds which caused not the slightest pain at the time.

These are my people. A weekday afternoon sesh is when we might commune, in the latte-free places for the unravelled and dishevelled, where no-one talks about work because no-one does any.

7 comments »

7 comments

Comment from: monkey man [Visitor]

No one comments on good news.

Fri 3rd July 2020 @ 16:57 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I’m just waiting to see if there was actually one lunatic who opened their pub at bang on 6am this morning.

Sat 4th July 2020 @ 10:38 Reply to this comment
Comment from: isabelle [Visitor]

Fab writing as ever . And Johnathan is right , you have a constitution of iron . xx

Sat 4th July 2020 @ 09:47 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

isabelle! What a lovely surprise to see your name crop up here. Long time no see. Hope your style isn’t too cramped lately.

Thank you for your kind words. Wendy and Kitty call me The Cockroach on reason of my firm resistence. Years of lard and open doors.

Sat 4th July 2020 @ 10:40 Reply to this comment
Comment from: Scarlet [Visitor]

No pubs for me either. For starters I’d have to walk miles and the weather is nearly the foulest it’s been all year. Good luck to those dragging their caravans southbound on the M5!
Sx

Sat 4th July 2020 @ 14:51 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

Proper drinkers in proper drinking establishments, it’s a vastly under-rated concept. We reopened bars and restaurants in my city only to see a massive spike in the lergy and had to shut them down again. (majority of the cases were 19-25yr olds and almost all were under 40)

But you’ve inspired me to revisit an old haunt, now gone, that was as proper as they come, now all i have to do is write it.

Comment from: [Member]

Ah, Miss Scarlet – such splendid isolation! Did you see that sign someone hung over the road near Bodmin telling people to go home and fuck off :)

Yeah, kono the pub I was thinking of won’t be opening soon I don’t think. The punters are surprised to be alive every day they wake up as it is.

Wed 8th July 2020 @ 09:12 Reply to this comment


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M / 56 / 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

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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

The Comfort of Strangers

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