Rescue me

  Sun 13th August 2017

Wendy and me went for a drink the other day, before going up to Kitty's. Wendy's ex has started sending her postcards, addressing her in the same way on the envelope as I do. I'm not allowed to be with her daughter, because I take drugs -- which, in the random hierarchy of the censorious, are worse than the ones he was snorting at a wedding a couple of weeks ago. I was told I'd have to leave at five o'clock, when he was dropping her off, while they continued the party.

The clock was ticking down, and her ex's presence was all the air in the room. He's controlling me now, as well as Wendy. Wendy has said that she'll sort it out with him but she's said that before and nothing has happened. Everything that we do together has to be lied about and concealed. It's awkward for her because she relies on him with their daughter, but I still wish she would be a bit more forceful with him. I was ushered out of the house at a good interval before he was likely to turn up, and I bade them all a cheerful farewell that I didn't feel.

Yesterday evening, I was informed that I wouldn't be working at the pub any more. The Cunning Little Vixen has ousted me and there is nothing I can do about it. I did some half-hearted job applications -- waiter, social media content writer, admin in a rail electrification project -- before texting Wendy with an unattractive mixture of self-pity, frustration and accusation.

I'm going to do this [CELTA] course then fuck off to Portugal. I'm getting nowhere here. I love you, you don't love me. My girls are going to uni soon. I keep losing jobs. What's keeping me here? You can get a grant to do it and I'm going to stay at Trina's house while I do the course in Liverpool. I'm drinking too much and I want to get a fucking grip. I'm sick of this.

Kim rang, as dejected as me. She's split up with her boyfriend. "It was nice not to think of the weekends as a big morass of loneliness. It's a shame. This one meant something." All the misery attachment can bring. She's coming to stay on Bank Holiday weekend. It can't come quickly enough. I could do with an arm round my shoulders at the moment.

Joining the band of the recently separated, is Attractive Former Barmaid, who seems more relieved than upset about her break-up. We bumped into each other in the pub. She was looking very pretty, in a white broderie anglaise top which narrowed in at the waist.

"It must be far easier for a bloke to find someone."

"Eh? It's a thousand times harder for men. It's almost impossible. Well, for me it is anyway."

"Well, you can go out and chat to people."

"Yes, but do you not notice the way men look at you Karen? Like that bloke you said hello to a minute ago? Women choose, not men. We're the commodities, you're the buyers. We're on the shelf; you come along and pick. So fuck knows what price I'd fetch."

We passed a pleasant couple of pints of time. That evening I texted her and suggested we should do it again.

U make me giggle! Anytime u want to meet is fine by me xxx

I suggested Monday, tomorrow.

I'm all yours love!! Give me a time and I'll be there xxx

There were a few more, but I wasn't sure what she was up to, so I sent her one at sex o'clock saying "Oh dear Karen, I'm having thoughts about you that I shouldn't be having X"

Aww least your honest looby I like that in a man thankyou xxxx

"You could wear that white broderie anglaise top you've got if you liked. There's a couple of buttons on it that need undoing very slowly XX"

Your a bugger I like it lol xxx See you on Monday my sweet xxx

Please fuck me Karen. Please rescue me from Wendy.

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I hold Kitty to my naked body

  Sat 5th August 2017

My mother was up for a few days, during which I demonstrated my utter selfishness.

We went to see my middle daughter, who has a part in a professional production of an adaptation of a book whose title sounds a bit like Pleasure Thailand. I had to look nonplussed when she said last night that it lasts for three hours.

Its duration isn't the problem -- I've sat (well, lay) contendly through a four-and-a-half-hour-long performance of John Cage's Imaginary Landscapes; it's the fact that Pleasure Thailand is produced outdoors.

In the evenings, there's only one reason to go up there, and it's not sitting on a cushion wrapped in a binliner listening to a three-hour play I can't hear. It's like a re-cast Milgram experiment. "Watch the play." "But the subject is suffering. He's saying his arse and back are killing him and that he doesn't give a shit what happens to the characters." "Watch the play."

I lasted about ten minutes. A set of harlequin-panted actors shouting at each other whilst dancing like chuggers. I made my excuses and sloped off: guilt and relief in equal measure.

I rang Kitty and went round hers. She reminded me that last time I was in her house, a few days ago, she said that if I wanted to stay over (a certain amount of alcohol and another relaxant had been consumed) she'd put my clothes in her washing machine. I promptly stood up, took every single item of clothing off, clasped her to my naked body, thanked her profusely, and took myself to bed.

Every workplace has one person who takes an irrational dislike to you and makes your job as difficult as possible. The Cunning Little Vixen never speaks to me except to criticise me. Glancing up at the cricket score whilst pouring a pint, I am told "keep your eye on the pint." Resting my elbow on the back of the bar for a few seconds has me told to stand up.

She does the rosters, and this week I have been allocated 5.5 hours' work. If I had anything as archaic as a contract it would be constructive dismissal.

Never mind, all will be forgotten soon. I'm off right now, to Glasgow, for house music all night long.

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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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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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