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No overall control

  Sat 6th May 2017

I got up at a quarter to five on Thursday to work at the Local Government Elections. I was garlanded with the title of Presiding Officer and stationed in a ribbon development village, where houses tremble trying to front lorries.

Many good-looking middle-aged mums. One came in with ruffled hair, a long dress over trousers. Their little girl, about four or something, walked in looking like an interested invitee to a cocktail party, a beetling nappy showing up her spindly legs.

She was running up and down, doing a long "haaaa" and giggling as she ran from one end to the other of the click-clack floor of the community centre. We turned it into a game, where I would lift my hand, hesitatingly, hesitatingly, no, no, no....and eventually I dropped my hand like a race starter, and I said "haaaa!..." and she ran across the room, laughing, It was just fucking lovely. The two of us playing.

The parents took a long time over voting, dawdling after they'd done so, noticing their daughter occupied in some silly racing game with the person who seems to be in charge. As they all left, mum did a little nod of appreciation. I dipped a headlight smile at them all.

Me and the clerks were fifteen-and-a-half hours together. I told one of them that I used to be a signalman. He had been one once too, and like many men when they light on what they think is a shared interest, went into a monologue that would have been interesting had it had a decent editor. My Life On The Railway: Fascinating Facts About Signalling In Lancashire In The Fifties. Do old people command the conversation because they know they're going to die soon, and they need to get their stories out? I hope that I never assume I'm interesting.

We did our complicated accounts, got all packed up, and drove the ballot boxes to the Town Hall. A camaraderie, men burlily taking the heavy work of relieving us of the boxes and screens, and anxious girls checking checklists. Everyone mucking in, a collective pride in what we are all doing, in the Council itself, in Lancaster itself. I asked a policeman outside the time, then laughed, and said "do you know, I'm fifty-three-years old and this is the first time I have asked a policeman the time. "Aye, and you're not pregnant and..." [male smut redacted]. A sinful joke of inclusion.

All done, I went to the Sun Hotel. Shouting men see-sawing on their foot pivots, girls dressed up for nothing, their treble-sharp laughter wrongly calibrated for the occasion. There's a back room, a bit quieter. I had Ulysses with me. I chewed the serviette corners into two spitty boluses and waxed them into my ears to pillow the canned music. Yvonne Elliman and James Joyce, both fine in their own fields, but not at the same time.


My housing options shrink by the day. 2.15am yesterday, Kim texted me to say that she'd started seeing her former boyfriend again. "I won't see you homeless, but you must see chez Kim as the very last resort."

There's a homeless shelter in a church where you can stay from 10pm to 7am, in the company of people whose idea of culture is the subtleties of heroin injection. Went on the church's website, and found out that it closes from Easter to October.

I ring Wilma to see if her offer of a room is still open. She was out of her head on Librium. "There's too much stuff in it and I'm not sure I can handle anyone else here at the moment. I've got to do this Librium thing."

Trina, however, texted saying that she had had an idea: me staying with her at her mum's house. She was secretly delighted that I won't be going to Kim's, pleased at my current state of dependency.

I turn over a plan, were I to go to stay with her. She lives in a hamlet of privatised Conservatism near Southport, but it's only half an hour on the train to Liverpool. I want to do this CELTA course and I found two colleges in Liverpool that offer it.

I rang the first one, and asked whether their CELTA was approved in such a way as they would be able to accept a student whose fees would be paid by an Advanced Learners Loan.

This was too convoluted a sentence for the second languager who answers the phone. An unerotic, nervous breathing. "Yes, all our teachers are experience." "No, I'm not asking about that." I tried to simplify my request. She played me some music, and came back with an even more irrelevant answer. Fucking dodge college. Certificates for the uncertified, so that they can work in their cousin's burger bar before accidentally forgetting to use the return portion of the ticket.

At the second one, a chatty Scouse DoS said that whilst they'd never had a student using the Advanced Learners Loan, they'd be willing to look at an application. And yes, they are accredited. By the British Council, and whatever the Department of Education is called this week.


Wendy said she might be able to come out for an hour or so today. She turned up in my favourite dress of hers -- that is, favourite in a competition won by an infinitesimally small degree of sex over the other ones she wears. Eye-stroking her, because that's the only stroking of Wendy that I'll ever do. My hands crossed politely in my lap, I am reaching, as distant as Mary getting the brush-off, noli me tangere. A small rib of dark blue bra. The relentless sexiness of her, the shape of her green dress over her; her rough, sexy hair.

I mention the plan to live with Trina for a while. She isn't keen, recommending that I continue banging my head against the cul-de-sac I'm in, going through application forms as long as essays, online webcam assessments, telephone interviews, failed face-to-face interviews, target-driven, hungry for success, minimum wage. "You living with Trina would be just be the same as with [her ex]. Getting control over you. You should tell her to stick that offer up her twat."

"I don't know what I'm doing here," I said. "My girls are going away in October, I'm never going to get anywhere with you, I can't get even minimum wage jobs here, and I haven't got anywhere to live in under a month's time."

She left to pick up her daughter from school, because it would be unreasonable to expect the unemployed father to rouse himself off his mum's settee at such an hour of the afternoon. As she left the pub, I watched her dressy slinking, till I couldn't see her any more.

4 comments

Comment from: kono [Visitor]

Section 1: The difference between you and the old man is that you tell an interesting story, the ability to make a mundane story interesting is what sets storytellers apart, to find the bits that are interesting and relatable to the common man, and you sir have that ability…

Section 3: I find it interesting that Wendy doesn’t want you moving in with Trina, your response was much more chivalrous than mine would have been, i’d have told her straight off it doesn’t matter what she wants because she’s not the one who’ll be homeless and doesn’t seem willing to offer a place so tough titties, we’d need a shrink to sort out all the sexual tension and manipulation and sado-masochistic behaviors, but most striking was that she doesn’t want someone else with control over you, that i believe might be used to your advantage, food for thought…

Sat 6th May 2017 @ 16:01
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Thanks kono. I didn’t want to sound cruel towards the old fellah, it’s just that a lot of people, in social situations, never ask a single word about you, even after going on and on and on about themselves. They never ask a question back. Men are terrible with this. I always ask questions about themselves to people I meet.

And re Wendy. I love her and fancy her, but I was thinking “Yeah right Wendy, I’ve got £6.75 in my bank account. Of course I’m in a great position to refuse Trina’s offer of somewhere to live.” I had to borrow £10 off Wilma this afternoon.

The only people who are really in a position to actually help me are Helen and Trina. And now Wendy is saying I shouldn’t accept Trina’s offer. She doesn’t understand the position I’m in.

Kitty texted me yesterday: “You’ll be fine looby, you really will X".

Really? How do you know? I’m going to be OK am I? Well please, tell me the secret then. You know where I am going to be living in under a month’s time? Don’t keep that knowledge to yourself.

Sat 6th May 2017 @ 23:26
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

God, I agree with the start of your reply to Kono. What does Amy Schumer say about people’s boring small talk? “Maybe I’m a cunt anyway, but it’s not because I don’t want to stand there and smile as someone tells me they ran middle-distance in high school.”

I kind of agree with Kono. As Wendy isn’t offering a Trina-free solution, she should perhaps butt out of this one.

Mon 8th May 2017 @ 07:40
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I don’t miss those awkward mornings and afternoons in the playground!

It’s strange how both Kim and now Wendy have been so cool about my idea of updating my EFL qualifications, which are getting dustier each year and why they’re so keen to keep me in dead end jobs rather than improving my chances of finding a type of work which, on a good day, is interestingly and decently-paid. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to feel more secure by having to rely on some zero hours minimum wage job.

Mon 8th May 2017 @ 10:03


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

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