Sat 9th December 2017

"I met a woman in town, she was drunk and apparently she'd recently fallen off a cliff. Must have been your lucky day. Are you free for a drink on Friday lunchtime?
Wendy X"

Every shred of resolve dissolves. I am drunk on unreciprocated love, again.

"I would be delighted to take you up on that. Thank you. Not sure I
deserve it but I'll say yes before you change your mind. Let me know
when and where suits

We had an almost unspeakably enjoyable hour-and-a-half. The low sun shining onto her face, wonky strands of her beautiful ragged hair hanging down over her left eye. Her dark blue eyes. Her skinny brown dress, the hem, her crossing her legs, her thighs. The always, always, far too brief, hug, her knowing what I want it to mean and her rejection of that.

As it behoves me to create more distance between a girl I love who doesn't love me, I sent a restrained email afterwards which I hope leaves her with an idea of the cool and reserved atmosphere between us which would be better for both of us.

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Depression as vanity

  Mon 4th December 2017

Apologies for the editing error in this post which visitors who arrived before 0955 UTC today would have noticed. The sub-editor has been subject to a peculiar and original humiliation.

9am, and Karen's upstairs in bed, still asleep.

We bumped into each other in The Shipbuilders Arms last night and ended up walking back arm in arm to mine. The soundtrack: her head-tilted, sotto voce insinuation from a month or so ago. You know what's going to happen, don't you, looby?

We got to mine and she announced that she wanted to go to bed straight away. We went upstairs. I took all my clothes off. She took her shoes off and mummified herself with the duvet. Her thick, glossy black hair poured onto the pillow, as impossibly inviting as her wide open legs that I was imagining. After an hour or so I got up, put my vest and pants back on, and went to sleep in the spare room.

"I woke up and you weren't there! Was I snoring?" she asked the next morning. "It wasn't you snoring, pet." "Oh I'm sorry, I know I do it." "No, Karen -- it really wasn't that. You weren't snoring." Don't pursue it looby. She's not interested. "Anyway, shall we have some coffee?"

A few days later, she texts me to cancel our drink for the following day with that unanswerable reason, "I'm going to Preston with my sister." I reply suggesting we don't make any more arrangements and just leave it to bumping into each other. Two days later our paths cross unplanned, and she tells me that she's going to give it another go with her ex. It's a shame we couldn't have filled the hiatus with a few weeks of futureless sex.

Flirting with the bank teller. I eschew internet banking as far as possible, just to talk to her. I pull a crumpled fistful of notes and change out of my pocket. "Hello! How are you?," I start. "Some more of my ill-gotten gains to pay in." "Do you know how much is there?" "No, I'm sorry, I don't. I just thought you were looking a bit bored, so maybe you could count it." I know exactly how much there is; poor people keep accurate accounts. I just want to prolong standing there and to glance very quickly down at her bloused, buttoned, tight-skirted sexiness.

She asks me about my children and how they're getting on at university. I ask her about her cat and whether it misses her when she's out and how her cycle ride home was in the torrential rain the other day. I type in my PIN number on the keypad, imagining her arriving home drenched and leading her to sex without letting her dry herself, the rain, part of it.

"Would you like a receipt?" "No, the less of a paper trail the better." "Don't!" she says. I smile and say goodbye, nodding slightly and keeping eye contact while I do so. I hope she knows. I walk back down New Street wording and re-wording her Valentines card. All this imagining, always imagining.

At book club, someone who has been absent for a few meetings while he splits up from his wife, reminds us a few times that he's been suffering from depression, and turns every attempt to move the conversation on to general or impersonal or literary themes, back to himself. He reminds me irritatingly of Julie Birchall's dig: "depression is the highest form of vanity."

Trina comes round with some of my books and records, which were at hers when I didn't have anywhere to live earlier this year. Whilst I am in the kitchen she reads a card from Helen in which Helen urges me to make things right with Wendy.

Trina then goes on an hour-long, Malbec-fuelled pestilential interrogation of me. What's gone wrong between you and Wendy? You never tell me anything. Why does Helen know and I don't? Why do you always hide things from me? "Of course I hide things from you Trina. This is what happens when I tell you things -- or rather, when you go poking about in my private correspondence."

She only ceases when I threaten to stay at Kitty's. I clap my hands to signal the discussion over, and put some music on, but her drunken resentment clouds the room.

Trina won tickets to go to see a singer I like in Manchester. One of the artists sat with me for a while and wanted to show me a couple of pictures of semi-detached Edwardian houses in a suburb of Manchester. They were unremarkable to me, but his delight in them was a pleasure to share. Only me and a very drunk girl dancing.

On the way back I stop for a couple of hours in Wigan. An execrable open air radio station doing something for cancer; and there's some kind of campaign going on in the pubs to try to get men to talk to each other about depression. I deface the beermat.

Someone confides "I think he's on his way out." His friend, pointing to someone on another table, rejoins "no he's not, he's over there!" "Oh, sorry, I thought you meant the dog."

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  Mon 20th November 2017

Helen is over from Norway, but a chatty afternoon in the pub turns sour. Helen blithely says that she is going round to Kitty's to have a couple of drinks with her and Wendy. On the phone to Kitty she says that I am coming along, then there's a bit of "oh, oh, right, yeah."

Because Wendy's daughter will be there, I am subject to the injunction by Wendy's ex, prohibiting my attendance at any gathering where The Little Dictator will also be present. "No, I can't come Helen, I'm not allowed."

I am angry and upset in equal measure, and I text Wendy. From memory: "I know it's difficult for you and you have to negotiate [the Ex], but I'd be very grateful if you could resolve this thing where my social life with my closest friends is still controlled by him. You did promise to sort this out months ago."

She replied, saying that The Little Dictator was ill so they can't go anyway. I went up to Kitty's for an hour or so, but the cloud of the injunction hovered over us. Kitty urged on me a greater understanding of how Wendy is under pressure enough, having to keep on the right side of a man she'd have nothing to do with were it not for the The Little Dictator, how he's got a powerful weapon of control over her -- the withdrawal of his time looking after The Little Dictator, which even now is granted with great reluctance if it's for Wendy's social life. She has to lie to him if she is seeing me.

The following morning, still incensed, I text Wendy to say that I consider ourselves estranged. I inform Kitty and Helen that I have done so, which provokes unanimous condemnation. In the week afterwards, I think of nothing but Wendy. I am unable to make up my mind whether I am relieved to have severed relations with her, ashamed of my petulance and self-centredness, whilst having occasional moments of feeling liberated at last from the way I allow her to have a hold over me in the pursuit of an impossible Wertheresque romance.

After a week, I dropped this postcard round, relenting with a written sincerity I did not fully feel, resenting that I am not allowed to knock at her door and hand it over in person, lest I breach my injunction.

A further week passed, and she replied by text thanking me for my postcard and saying that she didn't know what to say. After a day or two I said that I am truly sorry, and I hoped we could resume intercourse. "I'm sure that would be possible, you fucking boundah X". There's been only desultory contact between us since.

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Yer dain thess wegglin

  Tue 14th November 2017

Friday night, and over to Leeds for a night with Kim and The Racing Commentator. We all chipped in for some pepsi. Enjoyable at the time, streams of consciousness as conversation, but it made my stomach croak with the pain of repressed farts as soon as me and Kim were in our restless bed. I tried to relieve my gut-ache by doing minimalist farts that would not be out of place in Cork Street, but the operation proved noisier than I had hoped.

I had to get off the next morning because I was up to Glasgow. I fiddled a much reduced fare, paying only for the section where they're likely to check your ticket. Me, Trina and a female friend of mine I introduced her to, were going to my favourite club of the moment, a wee little basement place in the Merchant City.

I was staying in Govan, so I called in for an hour at The Brechins, one of those combinations of Scots Baronial and chipped 70s plastic that Glasgow does so well. I invited myself onto a table half occupied by a sixtysomething couple. When he stood up to leave, he took her in an embracing, mouthy, lippy kiss.

"Are yous two going out with each other?" "No, no, that's my brother-in-law. I've never had anything like that off him. Never. Never before known him like that in my life." "Oh right, it just looked like you'd been going out for years." "No, he's just so quiet normally. He's never had a girlfriend, I think. I've never known him do that. I'm not ready for anything like that though." "It's nice though, isn't it?" I didn't want to leave her, and we bade each other a stroky farewell short of lip-kissing.

In the club, girls outnumber blokes. A girl comes up to me and puts her hand round my waist. "Yer dain thess wegglin." "What?" "Yer dain thess wegglin. No -- yer dain thess wegglin. I'll show ye. I'll copy ye," and we wiggled together. I wasn't aware that I was wiggling, but was happy to go along with a touchy imitative Weegie bird on a dancefloor.

A man came up to me. "Next tam ahm heer, I'm wer'n those hot pants, lake Ozzez galfrend." Ozzy is one of the DJs, and he did have a woman arraying herself about him who was dressed in an orange translucent top, dark blue bra, orange hot pants, and black kitten heels.

I got touched round the waist every time someone I half-knew left the dancefloor, both by men and women. My policy on dancefloors is to say nothing, do nothing, never approach women or say a single word to them. And in the club I was at, it works.

Trina got jealous of girls talking to me, shuffling away in a stoop, before doing an ostentatiously unaffected dance a few yards away from me while I am being interrogated about mah wegglin. She had a cold, and at half past one she said she'd like to go. I tried not to look relieved. Once we'd gone through the long ritual of leave-taking, and once I'd clamped the women into a taxi and watched it turn into Ingram Street, I went down the stairs, went straight back onto the dancefloor, and exhaled with real relief.

My journey back was eventful. I thought it'd be about an hour's walk back to my airbnb in Govan. I dispensed a couple of quid to beggars and got some chips from the chippy outside Central Station. I walked out along Dumbarton Road, through Anderstoun and past Kelvin Hall, and got as far as the Clyde Tunnel, which I needed in order to get to the south side. Beside the tunnel for vehicles, there's one for pedestrians.

Arriving at the entrance, it was double padlocked. To cross the Clyde legitimately would have meant walking all the way back to the next bridge at the SECC (the Exhibition Centre), adding another two hours to my walk. I had 40p on me and had lost my cards at this point, so no money for a taxi. I clambered over the barrier separating pedestrians from cars, and started my descent into the vehicular tunnel. There's a narrow walkway less than a foot wide, every car roaring itself into a fury of noise. One false step, and that's it; and whilst dying from having been hit by a car at 3.30am in the Clyde Tunnel whilst full of powdered refreshments is an honourable way to go, I'd prefer the most mediocre demise, much postponed.

At breakfast the next morning, in a disarmingly bohemian place -- framed poems in the bedroom about letting yourself go -- I casually ask whether the Clyde passenger tunnel is open twenty-four hours a day. "Yes," she said. "You just have to buzz yourself in and wait for them to open it." I do vaguely remember an intercom button now.

In the pub the following morning, I saw a young lad about twelve wearing a T-shirt with the word "CUNT" in eighteen-inch-high letters printed across its back. I went up to him and told him that that was a brave T-shirt to wear. Someone, possibly his mum, didn't know what I was talking about until he turned round and showed it to her. She was laughingly nonplussed. I told him he'd be on this blog on Monday, so with apologies for being late, a drink in your direction. I'm not sure what to think about it.

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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

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looby, n.; pl. loobies. A lout; an awkward, stupid, clownish person

M / 53 / now in Astana, but from 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?
Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

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

Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
John Whale

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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