Yer dain thess wegglin

  Tue 14th November 2017

Friday night, and over to Leeds for a night with Kim and The Racing Commentator. We all chipped in for some pepsi. Enjoyable at the time, streams of consciousness as conversation, but it made my stomach croak with the pain of repressed farts as soon as me and Kim were in our restless bed. I tried to relieve my gut-ache by doing minimalist farts that would not be out of place in Cork Street, but the operation proved noisier than I had hoped.

I had to get off the next morning because I was up to Glasgow. I fiddled a much reduced fare, paying only for the section where they're likely to check your ticket. Me, Trina and a female friend of mine I introduced her to, were going to my favourite club of the moment, a wee little basement in the Merchant City.

I was staying in Govan, so I called in for an hour at The Brechins, one of those combinations of Scots Baronial and chipped 70s plastic that Glasgow does so well. I invited myself onto a table half occupied by a sixtysomething couple. When he stood up to leave, he took her in an embracing, mouthy, lippy kiss.

"Are yous two going out with each other?" "No, no, that's my brother-in-law. I've never had anything like that off him. Never. Never before known him like that in my life." "Oh right, it just looked like you'd been going out for years." "No, he's just so quiet normally. He's never had a girlfriend, I think. I've never known him do that. I'm not ready for anything like that though." "It's nice though, isn't it?" I didn't want to leave her, and we bade each other a stroky farewell short of lip-kissing.

In the club, girls outnumber blokes. A girl comes up to me and puts her hand round my waist. "Yer dain thess wegglin." "What?" "Yer dain thess wegglin. No -- yer dain thess wegglin. I'll show ye. I'll copy ye," and we wiggled together. I wasn't aware that I was wiggling, but was happy to go along with a touchy imitative Weegie bird on a dancefloor.

A man came up to me. "Next taam ahm heer, I'm wer'n those hot pants, lake Ozzez galfrend." Ozzeh is one of the DJs, and he did have a woman arraying herself about him who was dressed in an orange translucent top, dark blue bra, orange hot pants, and black kitten heels.

I got touched round the waist every time someone I half-knew left the dancefloor, both by men and women. My policy on dancefloors is to say nothing, do nothing, never approach women or say a single word to them. And in the club I was at, it works.

Trina got jealous of girls talking to me, shuffling away in a stoop, before doing an ostentatiously unaffected dance a few yards away from me while I am being interrogated about mah wegglin. She had a cold, and at half past one she said she'd like to go. I tried not to look relieved. Once we'd gone through the long ritual of leave-taking, and once I'd clamped the women into a taxi and watched it turn into Ingram Street, I went down the stairs, went straight back onto the dancefloor, and exhaled with real relief.

My journey back was eventful. I thought it'd be about an hour's walk back to my airbnb in Govan. I dispensed a couple of quid to beggars and got some chips from the chippy outside Central Station. I walked out along Dumbarton Road, through Anderstoun and past Kelvin Hall, and got as far as the Clyde Tunnel, which I needed in order to get to the south side. Beside the tunnel for vehicles, there's one for pedestrians.

Arriving at the entrance, it was double padlocked. To cross the Clyde legitimately would have meant walking all the way back to the next bridge at the SECC (the Exhibition Centre), adding another two hours to my walk. I had 40p on me and had lost my cards at this point, so no money for a taxi. I clambered over the barrier separating pedestrians from cars, and started my descent into the vehicular tunnel. There's a narrow walkway less than a foot wide, every car roaring itself into a fury of noise. One false step, and that's it; and whilst dying from having been hit by a car at 3.30am in the Clyde Tunnel whilst full of powdered refreshments is an honourable way to go, I'd prefer the most mediocre demise, much postponed.

At breakfast the next morning, in a disarmingly bohemian place -- framed poems in the bedroom about letting yourself go -- I casually ask whether the Clyde passenger tunnel is open twenty-four hours a day. "Yes," she said. "You just have to buzz yourself in and wait for them to open it." I do vaguely remember an intercom button now.

In the pub the following morning, I saw a young lad about twelve wearing a T-shirt with the word "CUNT" in eighteen-inch-high letters printed across its back. I went up to him and told him that that was a brave T-shirt to wear. Someone, possibly his mum, didn't know what I was talking about until he turned round and showed it to her. She was laughingly nonplussed. I told him he'd be on this blog on Monday, so with apologies for being late, a drink in your direction. I'm not sure what to think about it.

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Old English

  Mon 30th October 2017

Kim and her boyfriend split up earlier this year, so she asked me if I'd like to take the latter's place at Penrith for The Winter Droving, a revived old English festival which was originally an excuse to get farmer-bright after doing something involving sheep. The ex had already paid £120 for a hotel room for the night so there'd be no expense to me, other than my drinks budget.

In the bar at the George Hotel, there is a fake, pre-snowed Christmas tree, canned music, bar staff in waistcoats, and two thrusting televisions keeping us to date with domestic misogyny and foreign civil wars.

Judging by the accents and the bulk, we appear to be in the middle of the AGM of Wirral Weightwatchers, perhaps one of that organisation's less successful branches. A global woman, whose arse begins just under the shoulder blades, heaves herself back into her seat and announces that she's just been to put some make-up on, because it's well known that a bit of eyeliner makes you look eight stones lighter.

Kim walked in in a black dress with cherries all over it, black tights and black boots. Men do a quick full body scan of her, then a glance at me as the phrase "lucky bastard" flashes in their eyes, little knowing that mine and Kim's relationship is as sexless as that they have with their wives.

The actual Droving procession was a bit Girl Guide-ish -- literally so in that we inadvertently fell in with the local pack however much we tried to avoid them. It had all the elements of one of those formless English "celebrations of", in which the point has long been lost -- paper lanterns, torches, and badly co-ordinated marching bands. I had an amiable quick word with someone who was playing in one of them and whose wife helpfully disposed of my virginity when I was eighteen and she forty. I've been imprinted for older women ever since.

One is encouraged to wear masks, so Kim went as a ram and I as a bull, any virility bated by the fact that my right horn kept flopping down over my eye.

It was all over by 8pm, but the council decided to make a late night of it by putting on entertainment for a further forty-five minutes, The best bit of the weekend was just talking to Kim. "I've got the libido of a twenty-year-old," I said speculatively, knowing that she both understood my subtext, and that she'd ignore it.

Next day, Kim left me in town and got herself off. I wanted to look at some pre-Norman burial crosses in the churchyard. They date from the first half of the tenth century when the language there -- and here in Lancaster -- was Cumbric, the Brythonic language eventually ousted by Norman French and English.

In the pub I met someone I'd not seen for years, a Christian, teetotal woman who did her best to chat me up when I was doing my MA, despite the fatal objections just mentioned. Afterwards I composed a text saying it was nice to meet her and that I hoped we'd bump into each other again.

She has the same name as Trish, (which lasted only two weeks last year, but what a fortnight) and I inadvertently sent it to her. Riskily, I decided to ring her, ostensibly to apologise for the misdirected text but wondering if I could turn it into a date for a day of fucking. "Thanks looby, I did wonder what that was about. Are you OK?" We assured each other that we were indeed so, but she wasn't to be drawn. "That's alright then. Bye bye," she said.

Back at my table I get talking to the couple at the next table. She was from Egremont, so naturally the conversation turned to gurning -- a Cumbrian sport in which the aim is to pull the most grotesque face whilst inserting it through a braffin or horse's collar. I mentioned that a friend of mine, several years ago, organised a cabaret evening featuring the then World Gurning Champion. "Oh yeah, that'll be Snowball," they said.

The World Championships are held in Egremont at the Crab Fair, which has been held since 1257. "You should come next year." It's in my diary already: Friday 14th September.

Claire Spedding and Adrian Zivelonghi, 2017 World Gurning Champions

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In my underwear, I am surrounded by firemen

  Fri 27th October 2017

A repeated thumping from downstairs in the middle of the night; then, from my kitchen, a calm but loud male voice announces, "we're in." In one of those pacific intervals of insouciance that often precede great difficulties, I lay abed, turning over how the Rug Squad could have found out my new address so quickly.

I go downstairs, dressed only in my pants, and find myself surrounded by four bulky firemen. Yellow rubber. They have taken the excusable liberty of breaking into my house, as my smoke alarm has been going off "for hours. Your next door neighbour rang us." In the living room, a beeswax candle is guttering, a tall, black-tailed flame sloping smokily into the old whisky bottle. I am given a restrained bollocking about the need to blow candles out before I go to bed, but they want to be off, and my admonishment is brief. "You'll have to get a new bolt and clasp on your ginnel door. We had to kick it in."

A couple of days later, the landlady of the empty house next door comes round. I tell her about the broken clasp and blame it on the bad weather. I go to the other neighbour with a bunch of forced carnations, and apologise for the alarm.

Our Music Festival is the nearest Lancaster gets to carnival in a Bakhtinian sense. The crowd sloshes about bottle-necked streets, and for once, smiles are for no instrumental purpose. In The Shipbuilder's Arms, a couple sit so close, perforce, that my bare forearms skin and sellotape against hers.

She says she's a drug counsellor, and is interested in my stall. "Well, go on then," I say, reluctant to feel the suck of my arm if I stood up, but thinking of the money. "Would you be able to pay for my taxi? I haven't got it on me, so I've got to go and fetch it."

To my surprise, they are still there half an hour later. Chatting freely as rogues now, I tell her that I have, every day, a shadow self hovering at my shoulder commenting on my behaviour, criticising me. She shows more interest in this than I had meant to provoke, or that I think such a banal observation warrants. She says that I should go to my GP to get tested for schizophrenia. I laugh, partly because of the old-fashioned word. "There's no shame in mental illness you know."

Last week, from one of those email lists that one doesn't remember ever subscribing to, I was alerted to some English teaching positions in Colombia. It's a State-run scheme to find English teachers for the poorer urban areas of that country.

I gathered a parcel of evidence and sent it to them. The reference from my MA and (abandoned) PhD supervisor was so unbearably kind that I have still to read it to its end. I had a phone interview this morning. "Why do you want to teach in Colombia?" Because I'm stuck in a cycle of minimum wage jobs and masturbatory attachments to women who don't reciprocate my lust. Later, they email to say that I'm through to the second and final interview stage.

My sister congratulates me, starting her text with "Columbia!???" "Colombia, sis. Columbia's in America, and there's no way I'm going to such a dangerous country."

"It'll be a man. He got his throat cut. Women don't do that." I turn my head to scratch an invented itch, to get a glance at them. She's playing with her wine glass resentfully.

"Good job we got telly in our house, innit?" she says. "Why?" "'Cos you don't have to talk to anyone." He doesn't reply and a few long seconds pass. "Boring shit," she says.

I take a call from a man from Swansea, one of those dull commercial exchanges that one can only brighten by turning it into theatre. "My wife?" he says, "We don't have wives down here -- we have sheep. And you've got to get up early to get a pretty one."

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You are cancelled

  Wed 18th October 2017

Karen cancels our dinner date for the third time.

The night before, I text her to ask if she's still coming, and she says that she'll let me know. On the day, I ask her again, as gently as I can phrase it. "Don't know if you're still ok to come round for a bit of scran me petal?" "Just at my dad's love," which struck me as a non sequitur.

She went on to say that she's going round to see her friend on Thursday, and that I'd be welcome there. I tell her that I'm meeting Wendy at dinnertime and ask if the afternoon would be OK. "Yes, I'm meeting my friend T--- for dinner so it'll be afternoon love." "Great, that'd be lovely," I reply meekly, my status confirmed.

I wonder both at her lack of tact, how she didn't think that I might find it a little hurtful to be informed of another dinner date in the same exchange in which she'd cancelled ours an hour before it was supposed to happen, and at the knowledge that she's fixed the boundaries of our relationship at their present position.

I wanted to rid my thoughts of her. I made £40 on the horses the other day, thanks to a winner called Big Les. An habitué of the Shipbuilder's Arms -- Les -- made a lot more, having put a hundred pounds on it. In one of the occupational hazards of professional drinking, I got stuck for a long hour or so with a man who proves that having a degree is no warranty of intelligence, nor grants one an awareness that the word "conversation" has an element which means "with" or "together". His disjointed lecture, tolerating no interruption, reminded me of Don Paterson's adage about all his teachers having been women, whilst men have often told him things.

"I know you like her but just be careful," said Kim, a couple of weeks ago. "Because you do tend to get fucked about a bit by women." How prescient.

I ring her, and we slope into a mutual consolation of misery, talking about loneliness and the hard work that is the cost of being single, ever self-reliant, never getting a hand with anything. "I want to be looked after a bit," I said, and before we bucked our ideas up in the disciplined English manner, there was a bit of unhappy sniffing and the quavering voices that impending tears cause.

I felt close to her, and as the call ended, I told her that I loved her. "The feeling's mutual pet." We're having a weekend together in Penrith week after next, me taking the hotel place intended for her ex, from whom she split up this year. We'll be in a double bed together, and whilst the rules are established and respected -- apart from that simultaneous wank in my bed last year, which made me come with an orgasm which went on and on and on, and had me shuddering like an epileptic, a translated expression of everything I feel about her -- how I would love a bit of spoony physical closeness with one of the very few people I can really talk to.

"Let's text each other more often," she said. "We don't keep in touch enough." "I'd love that," I said, swallowing to control my voice.

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I used to fuck your mum

  Sun 15th October 2017

Karen, her unhinged friend, and me, in the pub, our table accreting with a community of the uninteresting. Karen looked like sex, in a black miniskirt, black tights and black flatties, and an embroidered loose black top. Whilst she was in the loo I texted her. "You look fucking gorgeous."

Unhinged Friend told us, at great length, rewinding every section of the story to pile on more narrative-stunting detail, about a disastrous night away in Ambleside with a bloke she hardly knows. A twin room which became a double on arrival; him letting her sit on her own in a pub for four hours whilst constantly inventing excuses not to join her but asking her to come back to the room "for a cuddle." "He thinks he's bought you," I said. "He sees you as a prostitute." She showed us the text history, which she concluded by thanking him for acting like a gentleman. Men spot women like her a mile off.

I felt that I was losing Karen, that those kisses last week were to be the last. We're always with other people, bores, all of them; endless unintelligent drinking. My constant worry about money and the distasteful combination of declaring that I'd have to go Dutch, and refusing with a false nobility, a banknote pushed across the table from Unhinged Friend.

Walking home, I felt low, and lonely, another foray into girlfriend territory which ends up dashed. I rang Kitty and drove out a fifteen minute volley of my self-pity and frustration. At home I texted Karen asking her how she was and to let me know if she'd got home OK. I put some music on and texted her again in the small hours. I thought it unusual, not to hear from her.

About eight o'clock n the morning she texted to say that she'd been mugged, her bag stolen after an unsuccessful fight with a robber. She told me that she was OK and no, I didn't need to go round. I got up and went into town, where I stole some chocolates and a card and paid for some cheap flowers, and went round to hers. I felt momentarily silly standing there with presents more appropriate to someone who's just had a new baby rather than having been attacked and robbed.

"Oh thank you," she said. "This means a lot." We went through the details of her attack, but it soon merged into more generalised tears. "It's so hard, being by yourself all the time. I give and give and give and everyone just expects me to be all sunny all the time. They never think what I might be feeling." I told her that I feel precisely the same.

Her friend rang her and told us to get into a taxi to her house. Her friend has a startled, fixed expression, as though she's just fearfully arrived in a foreign country. Her son and his wife turned up. I wasn't introduced. "Do you like being a dad?" asked Karen. "No, it's fucking awful." They chatted more than me and it was good to see Karen getting distracted. Son made the inevitable statement that has to be included, by some unwritten fiat, in every working class intergenerational chat. "There's only ever been one person who has stood by me, and that's her."

I stayed for a few hours, then left Karen there, on an excuse. She's texted a ftew times since, and she's coming round for this much-postponed meal on Monday, but it's withering. I've acquired another social work client who doesn't fancy me.

In the Shipbuilder's Arms, I start chatting incontinently with the daughter of a married couple I went to university with in the late eighties. "You know I had an affair with Celia?" "Really?" "Yeah, I used to fuck your mum." "How long for?" "About a year I suppose. We used to drive up to Jubilee Tower."

"Why do we need to know that?" chimed in her boyfriend, not unreasonably. "Well, I don't know, I suppose, it's just that I see Carrie as someone I can say more to." "Yeah but you shouldn't have said that." "Well, OK maybe not, but why not? It was thirty years ago. It's a long time ago, it's all water under the bridge now."

He shook his head in a gesture indicating both disagreement and a desire that I would leave. "OK, well sorry then," I said, and went away to sit down. A few minutes later Carrie passed me on the way to the loo and made a winking, pointing gesture to me which I took as forgiving any impropriety.

Three women and two men at the next table. "We're nicompoos. Nicompoos." "Nicompoops," her friend corrected her. "Idiots." "We're all idiots who come in here." "Well I am." "We all are." "At least we know it."

A man whose character is joviality comes in. We've both lived in Madeira in the past. Like all my friends with no recent knowledge of me, he assumes I recline on pensioned cushions of financial plenitude, and he invited me to spend all of next February with him in Funchal.

With my ropey Portuguese and my curiosity for the lowest types of bar, I could show him a side of Funchal beyond his enclave of waistcoated, name-badged waiters; as much as I would enjoy, in an anthropological sense, him introducing me to the complaining wealthy, England's chief export to Madeira. "Really, Keith, I'd love that, but I can't stretch to it financially," not knowing if he'd interpret that as an excuse.

Off mystery shopping later this morning, pretending to buy a diamond ring, checking that the staff are as robotic as management insists.

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

M / 53 / Lancaster ("the Brighton of the North").

"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

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

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

Partial archives only - uploading everything since 2005 will take time

"Just sit still and listen" - woman to teenage girl at Elliott Carter weekend, London 2006

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