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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

10 comments

Does Kim enjoy the full body scan? Is she even aware that it’s happening?

Mon 30th October 2017 @ 17:56
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I think probably Kim, like all women, is used to being scanned. I’m not one, but I image they learn that from a pre-pubescent stage they need to develop tactics to deal with being the subject of the male gaze. I am a perpetrator of the male gaze and I like looking at Kim myself. But yes, she’s very aware it’s happening.

Mon 30th October 2017 @ 19:12
Comment from: Homer [Visitor]

Exile - I can’t speak for all women but I can’t bloody stand being leered over. It feels like someone asking me for a favour I don’t wish to grant.

Mon 30th October 2017 @ 21:24
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yes, I can only imagine what that must be like. It works to men’s disadvantage as well. They sabotage the very thing they might be aiming at by doing it. I’ve done it myself, I’m not exonerating myself here. It must be so tiresome to be constantly subject to that inspection, with the implicit idea that it’s a flattery that deserves some kind of sexual thank you.

Mon 30th October 2017 @ 23:59
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

Homer- it’s alright, i used to getting blamed for all kinds of shite ;)

Proper comment to follow: it’s Halloween, we chronic weedheads will be ripping through candy at an alarming rate later tonight…

Tue 31st October 2017 @ 19:23
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

kono – hope the sugar rush is rushing rushingly :)

Wed 1st November 2017 @ 00:50
Comment from: daisyfae [Visitor]

Gurning? Finally a sport where i’m a natural!

Wed 1st November 2017 @ 02:00
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Isn’t it great? Takes the idea of making your own amusement at home to new heights.

Wed 1st November 2017 @ 12:01
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

I thought you had to take a shitload of ecstasy to win the gurning championship?

and i do like the inadvertent text that turns into an opportunity for “a day of fucking", even though it didn’t work out you never know if you don’t try, good man, i’d have been thinking the same thing…

Fri 3rd November 2017 @ 15:37
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Well, if you never ask you never get. She was so lovely and into it all. Hey ho.

Fri 3rd November 2017 @ 21:27


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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?
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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.
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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.
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Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
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