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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."

8 comments

Comment from: Hannah Currington [Visitor]

We’ve all got that voice. It’s called a conscience, not schizophrenia. Dopy cow.

Fri 27th October 2017 @ 08:21
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Of course we do. We *need* that voice.

Fri 27th October 2017 @ 09:47
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

Actually Colombia isn’t that bad anymore to tell you the truth, i was just reading about some places there that are great to move to, beautiful and safe and cheap, so don’t rule it out yet, if it was in the US i’d say steer clear cuz this place if fucking batshit, Columbia? not so much anymore…

Fri 27th October 2017 @ 15:57
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I don’t think it’s the safest place in the world. Some highlights from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice to travellers to Colombia.

“The Colombian Government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) hve announced a temporary ceasefire from 1 October 2017 to 9 January 2018. Violence may continue and armed groups remain active in Colombia. Great! The ceasefire ends the week I arrive!

UK health authorities have classified Colombia as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

Main roads are generally safe within daylight hours.

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Colombia.”

—–
Despite all that, I wouldn’t go to America while the gun laws are as they are.

Fri 27th October 2017 @ 19:06
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

On the bright side- as long as you’re not a pregnant woman Zika is a non-factor, and who knows maybe they’ll extend the ceasefire lol!!!

Of course the gear is probably cheap and uncut meaning fantastico!!! the cerveza is dirt cheap and Colombian women are gorgeous…

And you’re right, i wouldn’t go to the US either with our maniacal gun laws, it tells you something that i’d rather be in Colombia than here, we have terrorists everywhere, mainly white males with concealed weapon permits suffering from hegemonic white butt-hurt… and our roads aren’t even safe during the day, see above, if you accidentally piss one of those clowns off while driving you could get shot… in broad daylight.

Sat 28th October 2017 @ 19:55
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I think I’ll be ok – I’m not going to go looking for trouble and I’ve talked myself out of hundreds of iffy situations in the past.

I’m not really into coke – it makes me feel not myself, too big and manly and over-confident, whereas phet heightens only those characteristics I already possess. I’ll miss it! :)

Sun 29th October 2017 @ 19:29

What the hell is the Rug Squad?! God, you kill me. She didn’t fall for that bit about the weather, did she?

But if you’re tested you might get some meds. You like meds, right?

Mon 30th October 2017 @ 17:48
Comment from: [Member]

What the hell is the Rug Squad?!” Try adding a ‘d’ somewhere.

And yes, the landlady did believe that it was the weather’s fault. It’s been a bit stormy here lately and the clasp was almost off with rust anyway.

They haven’t mentioned a drug test. “Meds"? My turn to be a bit confused. I don’t take any legal medicines apart from antihistamines and various creams to arrest my eczema’s poorly disguised long term plan to take over my limbs and hands completely.

Tue 31st October 2017 @ 03:52


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