Bicycle thieves

  Wed 12th July 2017

My friend asked me to do the bingo calling at one of those mini blocks of flats for the over-55s. I was under the impression I'd be paid in a few pints but when we went to the pub afterwards, a drink for the caller there was none.

I'd thought of some ways to add a bit of zest to the ways you call the numbers -- "are you a Tory, number forty" -- but they didn't go down well. "Can we just have it...straight?" was an early heckle.

I've managed to get a few shifts at a pub in a village a few miles out of Lancaster. It's a friendly, locals pub. I like the late afternoon, where men who do jobs involving roofs and pipes come in with thick, dirty hands and order agribusiness lager.

I recognised straight away that the young girl who is the de facto bar manager is someone who's got to be managed. Insecure, attention-seeking, and anxious about her status, she drops little criticisms of me at any opportunity. I ask her advice, and I go to her of choice when I don't know how to do something. I want to help her feel superior.

An old school pal came in. "I'll have three pints of that," he said. "Two in a proper glass and one in a girl's glass for the handbrake." "You've always been on the cutting edge of feminism, haven't you Bill?"

After my shift on Sunday I locked my bike up outside New Favourite Pub (darts, swearing, and the snogging a seventy-two-year-old incident -- who, I found out the other day, is a retired prossie). Had a couple, then left to find that my bike was gone.

Walking through town this morning, I was astonished to see my bike, chained up with a new lock in the middle of Market Square.

With the benefit of hindsight, it might have been a better idea at this point to ring the police rather than take the matter into my own hands. Instead, I ran to a tool hire shop and told them that I'd had my bike stolen last night and that I'd just found it, and asked them if they had any bolt croppers. The nearest thing they had was a large hacksaw.

I ran back to my bike and started sawing through the difficult chain. The saw shouted out a metallic, rasping racket. The passing worker ants slowed down from their high-heeled and necktied haste at half past eight in the morning to give me their non-contact disapproval.

I was three quarters of the way though the lock when the police arrived. I explained what I was doing, detailing my movements through Lancaster last night. They told me to return the saw while they checked the CCTV from the pub. I said that I was not leaving the bike, but I did briefly, to buy a D-lock, so that when the robber or his dastardly accomplice returned, he wouldn't be able to make off with my bike.

I sat next to what had earlier looked like my bike, for two hours, during which my doubts grew about whether in fact this bike was mine. The thief, also known as the rightful owner, came back to unlock it, I decided to front it out with the story I had created. He started swearing and shouting. "I'm going to call the police." "I already have. They're on their way." He dialled the emergency number rather than the non-emergency one, swore his way through a frustrated rant, not knowing what street he was on, before telling them that they were useless.

The police turned up, took his side of the story, then decided that they would impound the bike until their investigations had been concluded. He went away swearing and shouting, while I walked away, faking calm, but rippling inwardly with the fear that he would lamp me.

Yesterday the police rang to say that whilst they will log my bike as stolen, the one I was attempting to liberate wasn't mine.

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If I say it existed, it existed

  Sun 25th June 2017

I don't ever want to go through that again. Whilst it didn't come to sleeping in the park, I was homeless in a mild way. I didn't know, sometimes into the late afternoon or evening, where I was sleeping that night.

I understand now how stress collapses one's mind onto only the most pressing, immediate concerns, which can sometimes seem so overwhelming that an escapist -- rather than a hedonist -- turn to alcohol or other drugs can become attractive. You don't eat properly because there's nowhere to cook, and the lack of sleep, from having to get up before one's hosts, wears you down. Night after night of sleeping in uncomfortable places is a provocation to private tears of self-pity and despair.

On Monday, I was installed as a "property guardian" -- a late C20th neologism which is design to escape any of the laws surrounding tenancy --in a little two-bed Victorian terrace about fifteen minutes' walk from the city centre. You get to live in a place at a much reduced rent as a substitute for security guards. Trina lent me the money for the deposit -- upped in my case from the usual £150 to a more cautious £600 because of my credit record.

I love knowing that there's no-one behind the front door, but it'd help if they had acted on their promise to turn the gas on. Six days in and no hot water. Can't shower, can't cook a proper meal. I am fucking sick of fruit and salad and sandwiches.

On what turned out to be my last shift at the golf club, I was humiliated to be asked into the kitchen by the manageress, "as there's too many mistakes here." I often input the orders from the bar into the till incorrectly, which are then transmitted to the ktichen. It was a public demotion.

I spent the rest of the shift red-faced, longing for what I thought were two consecutive days off. Then, on Saturday, I woke up in Kirsty's front room at a leisurely half past eight. I checked my diary, and saw that I was mistaken; I should have been in at 8am. I was first alarmed, then unbothered. I resigned in an email thanking them for their kindness and generosity in taking a chance on me and saying that I wish them every success, apologising for leaving a minimum wage job.

With the ambivalent thrill of leaving a job, I went down what's becoming my new favourite pub. I've taken to playing darts there. A very attractive 50ish woman came over to me and asked if her the three blokes who she was with could play together. Shiny dyed reddish, angled bob, and a lovely tightly-buttoned white blouse undone (deliberately?) to slightly below the bra line. When I sat down, and when she was stood next to me, my face was no more than a few inches from her tits, and it was a restraint I didn't want to have to employ, to have to keep my fingers away from that next button.

She and I went to the cashpoint at the same time. "You're a right fittie, you are," I said. "Are you from Blackburn?" "Yes, we've come here for the day. We're out on the lash. Blackburn's a bit shit." The giddiness of starting drinking early, my drinks spiked by the knowledge that I now have no income at all; her un-offered, imprisoned tits. We walked back, and she looked just as desirable from behind.

Last Sunday afternoon, and I am sat at the table opposite my youngest, who is revising, ploughing through Aristotelian virtue ethics and logical criticisms of postmodernism, (if all knowledge is socially constructed, how can the assertion that all knowledge is socially constructed be true?) while I strike a rather ridiculous figure with my bulbous headphones on, listening to Pakistan achieving an unlikely victory over India in the cricket. Radiant last days of my daughters being in Lancaster.

I was walking home in last week's drizzle, and a man fell in with me, saying that he'd dislocated his shoulder. "You want to get yourself to hospital mate," I said. He carried on talking as we went over the canal bridge. It wasn't dislocated -- he wasn't in enough pain.

"I'm off up here," I said, and then with an immediate prelude I can't remember, we ended up snogging each others' mouths off whilst stood in the middle of the street. He got hold of my hand, which was cupped round his jaw to push him onto me more, and pushed it down his trousers. He had a lovely cock, smooth and hard, and I started wanking him slowly, wondering whether this might be a good time to tell him about something I'd love to do, but we won't sully a family blog such as this with my sordid imaginings.

But then a car came -- rather than him. I withdrew my hand and said "we'd better be careful here." We parted without saying anything, and I walked the fifty yards to the girls' house.

I told Kitty and Wendy about it when we went down The Fur Coat and No Knickers Arms yesterday. Wendy said "how would you have explained it had you seen one of your girls?" which was a point I hadn't considered. Does one really consider anything when you're snogging and wanking a man off in the street at 6 o'clock on a rainy Thursday evening? "I'd have told them I was helping him get his money out of his pocket."

On Wednesday, I had an interview at Pax Feel Man, a chain of photography studios that do passport photos and printouts of photos for people who photograph each other having a good time rather than having a good time. I felt sorry for my interviewer. She was overfilled into one of the optimistic dresses that fat girls force themselves into. I was led up the the back of the shop, and up two rickety sets of fire escape steps. She ushered me forward before her, not wanting me to see her bulk clambering up the steps.

We chatted for seventy minutes, and I enjoyed talking to her, truth and lies the warp and weft of my side of the conversation.

My cv is almost entirely made up. My most recent invented employer is the Amalfi Cafe in [...]. "Whereabouts was it? I know [...] a bit." I was prepared for this, having researched retail units for rent there.

"You know when you come out of the main Wetherspoons," I prompted, "and you turn right, then right again, and you come on to a little street..." "Ah, I think I remember the place you mean." No you don't love, because it never existed.

Thirteen other applications currently live. One's for a Trainee Substance Abuse Counsellor. At least I'd be excused the practical module.

We had a power cut in Lancaster for about four hours the other day. No traffic lights; alarms shrilling all over town. In The Dun Cow they'd arrayed a constellation of tea lights. I watched an eyebrowless barmaid using her phone to calculate the change she needed to give me on a 2.75 pint from the 3.00 that I'd given her.

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A friend in need is a pain in the arse

  Mon 5th June 2017

There are Syrians in dinghies tonight hoping that that's Malta over there, but relativism isn't any use in quashing one's own moaning.

The worst thing about not knowing where I'll be sleeping from Saturday night is not the consuming worry that that causes, but the amazing realisation that my closest friends are reluctant to have me littering the settee for a few days. I find it difficult to ask for help as it is, and the slightest hesitation in it being offered is reason enough to make me swear never to request it again.

Everyone is "sure it'll work out." Everyone except me knows I will be fine. Everyone thinks someone else can put me up for a bit. I'm being passed around like the unwanted parcel, and the music isn't stopping.

I keep wondering if it's me, whether I am making an unreasonable request, but I would never leave a friend to fend for themselves, saying "it's a bit difficult". People whom I've known for two hours, and internet phantoms I had never met before I opened the door to them, have had my settee when they've needed it.

Something has shifted. I can't, at the moment, think how we'll resume the status quo ante. And in this way, completely unexpectedly, I find signposted my way out of love with Wendy.

Kitty and Wendy did today say that they could lend me the money for a deposit on a room or flat, which is kind of them, since they hardly earn anything; they've also offered to loan me the £50 I'll need to put down immediately should the property guardian place I'm looking at this morning be offered to me. With this new-found backing I have requested viewings on seven places, but it's a nerve-wracking schedule, to start looking for somewhere to move into on Saturday, on Wednesday.

I went round to see the property guardian place. It's a two-bed terraced house on a steeply sloping street in a middling part of Lancaster, where a diacritical mark is a bad result in one of your GCSEs. It's in a mess, a dead shoal of post on the mat and smears of paint pot samples on the walls attesting to abandoned decorating. The real draw though is the little south-facing garden out the back, which needs Prosecco and cricket commentary and barbecues -- and alas -- Wendy, with her untouchable summer dresses and their untouchable hems.

A few days ago Donna no.2, whom I don't know at all well, said that I could move into hers for a while. She rings to withdraw the offer, as her son's up. I asked Wilma again, who said that I could stay for the weekend, then a few hours later said that the thought of my being there was creating so much anxiety that she can't accommodate me.

Thursday's was a long shift; I got back at half past midnight. I woke up at midday, having slept right through my appointment to see a flat which was fixed for 9.45am. Trina arrived, and we hauled my more than a thousand vinyl records down from the second floor and into her car, and installed them in her mum's house outside Southport. We went to the pub and sunned ourselves with Prosecco.

Walking back to the station, I get on the phone and upset Wendy. I downgraded my request to asking if she could keep my clothes at hers for a while. "Yes," she said, "but you'd have to wait until G--- [the fuckwit lazy ex] has left." Her mention of that name and how yet once again I am to be kept in quarantine from him, poured fuel onto my bonfire of instabilities and resource depletion. "It's OK, it's OK, I'll find something else, don't bother," and put the phone down.

Her response was perfectly reasonable and helpful; mine, an insulting over-reaction, but I have run out of reasonableness at the moment. I apologised to her later, saying that I am "stressed to fuck at the moment, and unfortunately I'm visiting this on the people closest to me." We're meeting up on Thursday but some of the lustre has gone. And why would I try to get it back? "...and I love you too x". Which means not a fucking thing.

Today, Monday
I spent the weekend working mainly, and staying at the girls' house. Made several mistakes on the till during this posh reception at work, then cocked up a couple of orders. I am worried, worried, worried, and missing the chips off someone's order assumes inordinate importance. Will I get sacked? And what then? "Please give me another chance Terri. I'm ever so sorry the till's out and that that couple didn't get their chips."

I had arranged to couchsurf with someone on Sunday night and tonight. I left to go to her house. Looking like a bag man with a couple of shirts, a computer and a little bag with my undies, a razor, and a toothbrush, I bump into Kirsty, boyf, and the girls in the street. They all burst out laughing. "It's funny for you, but not for me."

The couchsurfer isn't in. No answer on the phone or text. I sit down on her step and have a little sob. Absolutely out of ideas now, I ask Kirsty if I could come back and stay for the night. I am humiliated, my secret now out with the girls. The cat curled up with me; my back ached from my unaccustomed labour.

A day off today, and this morning, I am pulled off the dinghy: Seriouscrush emails, agreeing to my desperate request (phrased more insouciantly than that) to stay at my old place for another week; my employer cc's me into an email confirming my employment status with the agent for the new house; and Seriouscrush informs me that she'll send back my landlord's reference today.

An advert on spareroom. Note the characteristics of the local paternal vegan landlord: the micro-management of your footwear, and to watch television is aberrant in ways akin to those that condition wanking, although I bet Dennis and Geoff like to get a New Private Window out at night. I'm tempted to set up a subscription to Mayfair for myself, then, after a careful perusal to ensure that there are no images unsuitable for a shoeless vegan, repackage it in transparent plastic, and deliver it each month to the Father of the House.

Local readers will note that Our Father has mistaken "his" property as a "converted Victorian Post Office" when in fact it's the old Victoria Hotel. I used to buy speed in there, and comparing the length of the lines I used to stick up my nose after my purchases there with the much shrunken ones of the greatly improved amphetamine available to one and all now, it makes me wonder how much belly fluff of a chav I sniffed in the 90s.

At least he's honest about the fees which will soon be illegal. A pedant would point out that quoting agent's fees without VAT included is already illegal, but it's the way that you'd find no-one to join you in a night of tinny lager, Iceland pizza, and Gogglebox, that really puts me off the place.

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Lost in knitwear

  Mon 29th May 2017

Sent a polite email to Newby Bridge apologising about the consequences of my invented accident in which I was knocked off my bike at Grange-over-Sands, providing my bank details in case the manager might be pining for them, longing to pay me for my trial shift. I have already been informed that I won't get paid for it, but I don't remember that conversation. I'm looking forward to a bit of ag.

Went round to Kirsty's and sat out in the sun today in the pretty yard, with her and the girls; my eldest sat Protestantly scribbling notes for History, on a circular glass garden table more intended for salad and wine than revision. "Dad," Fiona asked rhetorically, "do you want to know about The Great Terror?"

"What? A-levels?" said Kirsty, which made us all laugh and Fiona end her revision. I wanted to have a go: "A-levels were introduced in nineteen blah di blah. Many opponents of this change lost their jobs in official positions for expressing their reservations about this innovation." Kirsty's so quick and bright; she gives me things to follow, things that ignite a sentence I wouldn't have had without her.

Middle daughter came in, hot from rehearsals, and proceeded to remove her shirt. I looked down at a completely uninteresting report about a rugby match, but then noticed that she wanted to show us and talk about her new and comfortable bra. "It's nice isn't it?" I talked about the problems Trina has with bra straps that saw her when she walks, and Jenny told us about a girl in her school who is going to have a breast reduction.

Jenny reclothed herself and went off by train and phone call to her boyfriend's. I hope they're having kind and forgiving and laughing sex, or an approach to it. Me and Kirsty talked bits of The Observer out to each other.

I rang Donna number 2 because we were supposed to be going out tonight. You'll get the gist from my texts to her.

1834: No Donna no. 2, I don't want to just come round, I want to go out. Otherwise, I'll stay where I am, with my girls.

1841: OK, but next time, only tell me when you really want to go out! All the best x

2157: Well if you change your mind at the last minute I'm getting a bus at half ten from the bus station.

No reply. I've marked her card: unreliable.

I got the bus there, which for some reason seemed a very trying half hour. Other people were being searched as they went in but the bouncer ignored me flashing at him. Inside, a yoof said to me: "It's great that people your age still go out." "You," I said, pointing my finger at him, "are a cheeky bastard," and from then on he was me bessie.

I was also asked where I was from, and what I was on, so Morecambe's learning the etiquette at last. Fabulous venue -- a working men's club in the West End which looks clapped out and run down, probably because there aren't any working men in Morecambe.

Some riff-raff to skirt around on way back, although once out of the town I enjoyed the walk along the cycle path, and the dawn chorus of pissed up blobbers trying to find the kebab shop first and then their keys.

Walking through town up to mine at half past three, there was this bloke sat doing nothing in a car. There is always a bloke sat in a car doing nothing on your way home late at night in Lancaster. "No it's OK love of course I still fancy you, I just feel like driving to the next street and sitting in the car doing nothing."

My second shift at the golf club. There was a wedding so it had waves of being rushed. I had to be told what a "jaegerbomb" is. I thought it might be one of those surprise human telegrams, one where you get ambushed by someone in an excess of knitwear.

Edit: I've misspelt it. Depending on your norms of orthographic fidelity, it's either "Jägerbomb", or "jager bomb".

A couple of with-it staff, but also having to bite my lip with a slow-witted smiler, well-meaning but practically useless in that way that only boys from good homes can be. I made a mistake on a large glass of pinot blanc, so I had to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way.

The boss asked if I could come upstairs afterwards to sort the paperwork out, and told me that I'd be on 15K to start with, for a forty hour week. Well, that's below the minimum wage, since 7.50 x 40 x 52 = 15 600, not 15 000. And I need to be sure that I'll get paid for my hours in excess of forty, so I'll have to raise that with her when I see her on Monday.

Which has suddenly become today!

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A fucking interview

  Sat 27th May 2017

I like job interviews like the one I had on Wednesday, where you spend a meandering forty minutes or so talking about each others' pasts, and in which the word "fucking" is introduced by the interviewer within the first ten minutes.

It was at the golf club, and waiting in the members' lounge beforehand was to watch an almost laughably conformist subculture at what counts for play amongst wealthy men, who are conservative in both spellings, and who look long untroubled by anything like sex. I made a comment about the weather to two men stood next to me at the bar, one of whom inspected my clothes disdainfully without answering.

The club is based in one of the finest country houses in the area, a Grade I listed building completed c.1381 that latterly belonged to a linoleum magnate, before the golf club members clubbed together and found a sum in excess of twenty million pounds with which to purchase it. Vast picture windows look out over the golf course and the grounds. The boss seemed to like me and asked me if I fancied doing a trial shift the following day. This time, I made sure that I was going to be paid.

I'm not in much of a negotiating position at the moment, but I was greatly disappointed to have to cancel an assignation with Wendy. We'd planned to take a couple of bottles of fizz and various other intoxicants up to the castle grounds. How I was looking forward to seeing her reclined on the grass, looking so desirable in one of her summer dresses.

It was a quiet shift to begin with. Being the kind of person who knows psephologists, I recognised one of my customers. "Yes Eric, I've been working here for all of three hours. I thought I'd try to move myself into the higher echelons of Lancaster society. But I didn't get that job, so I'm working here instead," a remark which hope caused a ripple of Tory titters in the dining area.

Afterwards, I texted Wendy: "The golf club want me back! Infinitely better work [than at the hotel]. I've been folding napkins into roses, polishing flutes and serving in the two bars, under the friendly supervision of the 28-year-old bar manager who adds a most pleasing dimension to the phrase 'front of house'. Will be a really nice cycle ride as well. Now...drink! Wish it were with you of course but hope that will happen soon Xx."

Trina came round to help me shift my records last night, but I'm afraid to report that we ended up getting somewhat distracted from the task in hand. Wish we hadn't. It clouds the issue.

Got a viewing on Wednesday at another property guardianship house, a small terraced house in an undesirable area of Lancaster, but at £250/month and no bills, I'd be relatively well off. There's bound to be a great deal of competition for it though.

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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

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
James Meek

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

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