Category: General
Posted by: looby
Last weekend I was in Bristol for three days, prefaced by a sleepless night in Newcastle airport. Three days without a drink made me understand how wearingly accurate is the remark attributed to Frank Sinatra: "I feel sorry for teetotallers. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." I had to take a drug and alcohol test for the new job, and find somewhere to live. I was hoping the results of the drug test would have been immediate, but my piss is now being flung around in a centrifuge in Wales.

I had five appointments to see rooms in houses, and had to train myself out of exclaiming "how much? For this?!" A room with barely a foot round the bed and your wardrobe on the landing? Yours for £525/month. I saw an attractive place full of books and art, where I'd have been living with a wine-making retired engineer and his wife, but a couple of hours after I went to see it I was informed they'd offered it to someone else.

By Sunday night I'd seen nothing I fancied and had one more place to see. It's a manly place full of bits of scrap metal and car parts in the garden, clasp locks on the doors, and a dirty kitchen. My room is lampshade-less, with the hard emptiness of someone whose interests do not extend to reading. I took it, for £475/month. But it's in a good area, racially mixed, with shops that sell things rarely seen on the English high street, like vegetables. There's a cycle track which goes almost all the way to work.

Bristol is full of music, and good music too. Even the yoof in Castle Green have decent soundtracks of dnb, jungle and happy hardcore to go with their picnic of biftas and tinnies, and I don't think I'll have any trouble finding some decent scenes to get unravelled in. Even the DJ in the city centre was playing Peven Everett -- Heat Up (that's a very cool house track for you benighted rock fans). It was hard to resist joining the cider-addled bloke dancing to it.

Bristol also excels in litter. The city centre was bad enough, but out in Easton where I was staying they see the pavement as a free rubbish tip.

Wandering about, I sat with yet another dreary liquid, on a quayside street called "Welsh Back", which I wasn't sure was something to do with Welsh rugby, or a sex position popular in Swansea.

I took myself one stop on the train to go swimming in the North Sea at Seaton Carew. Getting out I looked more Mr Bean than Daniel Craig, but I had the place to myself. Miles of free swimming pool that only ends when you hit Denmark, with the disused mine shaft workings on one side, the oil refinery on the other, and a permanently closed toilet block behind you. Chips and curry sauce, a couple of pints of bitter, and twenty minutes in the arcade on the 2p slotties.

The only slight problem with a day out near Hartlepool is the language barrier, but if you politely ask them to speak slowly you can understand up to about 60% of what they're saying.

You can stick all your purple cocktails on crowded Spanish beaches up your Magaluf. Give me a clapped out seaside resort in County Durham any day.

Attempting slowly to regain Wendy's favour, I texted her on Saturday afternoon. She replied that she was in the garden with Kitty, The Little Dictator and the latter's auntie. This sent my mood plummeting, knowing that had I been in Lancaster, they'd have made efforts to keep it quiet from me, as my presence would breach The Injunction.

Today was better though; I've just come off the phone to her after a cordial chat. I told her about going swimming in the sea, describing Seaton Carew as a place of faded, kicked-in glamour. "That's like me," she said. "Well, the last word is true anyway Wendy. After the call I texted her. "Faded? Kicked-in? I think you meant to say "dazzling and beautifully maintained Xxx". I can't help myself.
Category: General
Posted by: looby
Exhausted after my night in Bristol airport, I went for a midday kip, and set my alarm for a couple of hours hence. I didn't need it. Ten minutes after I'd got into bed, I had a phone call.

"Hello, it's Resources at Name of Company here, about your assessment day yesterday. I'm pleased to say..." She asked me if I'd like some time to think it over.

As rash as it may sound, I leapt at £24,000 p.a., every sixth week off (on top of 5.5 weeks' holiday), and free rail passes for myself and the girls. I start on 13th August. The first thing I want to do is to start paying back the people who have helped me get this: my mum above all, but also Trina and Kim.

My delight in being offered the job, however, was muffled under a big cloud: what to do about my criminal records check -- or, in the company's strange usage -- "criminality check". I have in the past misunderstood some of the finer exigencies of The Misuse of Rugs Act, as well as being asked by a policeman once "do you like wine then?" as I had been intercepted on my way out of Marks and Spencer's without going to the till first. "Well, this is going to be the most expensive bottle of wine you've never had."

Two long weeks dragged by, during which the postman must have thought I'd started fancying him. My certificate arrived; I was felt heady, distant and sick as I cut it open. A surge of disbelief, then relief, then an urge to run as fast as possible to the pub. "Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands and Final Warnings: NONE RECORDED".

"Mum, I have news. My police check is clear. I've got the job now. I'm going for a drink."

"Well, just have the one, looby."

Wendy sent me one of the most coruscating texts. I wish I could repeat it all, it's scatalogical, literate, witty, admonishing, and kind. It began, "OK, let's snort a line under all this."

I've got work to do though, to restore things. Kitty told me Wendy had been most hurt by me severing relations with you. "It's always the same with her and blokes who want what she can't give." It made me ashamed to think that I am like all the others.

In the charity shop, a man walks up to the counter. "I can't remember if I've been here before." The assistant replies "Well, you're here now." "Yes but have I been here before?" "I don't know." "Oh well, I'm here now."

I'm flying from Newcastle to Bristol tomorrow, for a couple of house viewings -- that is, rooms in houses -- £24K doesn't go that far in Bristol -- and to have my medical, which should be an effortless hurdle.

I told Fitbit, who was trying to get me over to Lancaster this week for a couple of days, something I cannot afford to do. "Well done looby, its a descent job. Defo when u get paid cum thru!!! Xxx".

I'd love to cum through you, Fitbit, but I suppose you're using the Lancashire vernacular for "visit me".

23/06: Faint chance

Category: General
Posted by: looby
It's 3.40am and I am in Bristol airport. The slow, calm murmuring of night-time traveller solidarity; all in the same boat here, avoiding paying for hotels, or on flights so early it's not worth it.

I'm coming back from a job interview in Swindon -- a town which, does actually exist. Part of me was expecting a film set, where nothing is for real.

The position itself is in Bristol, and is a job is so desirable, with good pay by my 'umble northern standards, and annualised hours involving a shift pattern in which every sixth week is a paid week off.

Yet again, I had to borrow the money. Mum ransacked the plastic meerkat moneybox to pay for a flight from Newcastle, which was less than half the price of the train journey. I had planned to "sleep" in Bristol airport the night before my interview, but mum would have none of it, and booked me in to the cheapest B&B we could find in Swindon.

Halfway through the morning, I was convinced I had failed on a listening test. We were told that this had an obligatory pass mark. We had a tense break while they marked our papers. I texted Kim. "Almost certain I've failed. Disastrous listening test." To my great surprise, I was one of the six of the eleven who passed.

A role play, an announcement exercise, then an interview. I played up my northern accent, hoping to suggest that I come from honest, simple stock, someone who needs a bit of a hand up in life -- and the latter is certainly true at the moment.

My answers were galloping bullshit, well-rehearsed now. One is a heartwarming short work of fiction, set in a non-existent cafe, an establishment which has been useful to me before. Overhearing one of our customers getting a bit upset as the first anniversary of her husband's death approached, I got some flowers and a card for her, and next time she came in presented them to her and wrote off her bill; and a more audacious lie about me insisting in the face of managerial displeasure to retain in the firm's employ a young woman with so-called learning difficulties.

We will find out in a week or so, because we're also up against people in a second round of interviews. Halfway through a bottle of Prosecco on the train back to Bristol, to meet my middle daughter for a drink, I bumped into my interviewer, and got a text from Jenny. "Dad, one request. Don't have a drink before you meet me!"

Jenny led me on as long a walk as my imperfectly repaired broken toes could stand, through the seductive Italianate gorgeousness of the suburb of Bristol in which she expensively lives. She showed me round her drama school and all its warrens. We sat amongst the moneyed young. Men in tubular shorts, women in loose culottes and angled cardis. It is deep south, and they are not my people, even in their very body movements, but Jenny is, and gave me a lesson in how to speak Belfast, using the IPA charts modified for that purpose.

At Bristol airport, with six of the small hours to kill, I tried writing to Wendy's Dad, but my tired eyes were too weak to respect the feint lines (what an attractive word that is for paper, suggesting its orthographic relative is too crude.)

I wish I'd gone up to the bar earlier. At 5.30am, it was packed but queuing -- thank fuck we are in England; this would be chaos in Portugal. Hen parties, rugby lads, and families and the retired joining in. The jovial atmosphere continued on the plane. A man had to ask for an extension to his seatbelt because a normal one wouldn't fit round him. "Sit down, can't you?" said their friend. "I can't, 'cos Fatboy Slim here is taking up two seats." Fatboy Slim complained that he didn't want to sit next to the window. "I might get sucked out." "You wish!"
Category: General
Posted by: looby
I am in The Cucumber and Gastric Band in Middlesbrough. On my right foot is a shoe, on my left a slipper with a slit cut out, in order to help accommodate my toes, three of which are broken.

I was on my way to take up a job in Košice, a summer job which would have begun the process of sewing up my leaky cv. I was staying at Kim's the night before. She enjoyed clucking over me and wrapping my sandwiches in Enid Blyton style.

On my way out of her bathroom at 5am, I shut the door onto my toes. I went to bed and tried to ignore the pain. A couple of hours later, we walked to the bus stop and I got the bus into Newcastle. Getting off, I could hardly walk but at a list, and sat down on any wall that would have me. I made slow progress to the coach station. Halfway to London, a man trod his weight directly onto my bad toes. I let out a howl, thus marking me out as The Man Who Over-Reacts.

In London, I ate into what little, and borrowed, money I had, with a taxi to the nearest A&E Department. A Lesser Spotted White informed me that I had three "proximal avulsion fractures" -- which is a term from the Latin describing the consequences of a dolt stamping on your toes a few hours after you've slammed them into a door.

I was patched up with a centimetre-long bit of lollipop stick, a bandage, and a garish blue over-bandage. "Oooh you've got some bad arthritis in that big toe haven't you?" she said, looking at my larger member on the recto with an artless professional curiosity that I found endearing. Walking, standing up and other load-bearing on that foot was highly ill-advised and would make the breaks worse. She cheerily prescribed a week of immobility, perhaps used to people being grateful for that news.

I suppose a tougher man than me could have ignored this advice and borne it, amusing the teenagers of Košice by conducting lessons whilst standing on one leg, but I'm not as hard as my Northern elective affinity might have predicted.

I emailed the Director of Studies with the glad tidings. As I clicked on "send", there was an almost audible sound of me landing him in the shit. I sat in the waiting room in the hospital until it was time to get the first train back. I watched the theatre of a Friday night in A&E in central London, which could have been improved by some jump cut editing to make it a bit more interesting.

At 5am in Kings Cross, I bought a ticket to Peterborough (72 miles, £16) and stayed on to Durham (233 miles, £83). Mum was a bit surprised to see me, and my mentally disabled brother paced endlessly around the room, droning on a loop about the World Cup, oblivious to the hazard he was causing by repeatedly passing close to my throbbing foot.

I don't like the silence between me, Kitty, and Wendy. I think it is right that I have made an objection to me being corralled out of sight of Wendy's daughter, with whom I get on fine; of being subject to prohibitions about popping round to Wendy's house despite my de jure status as a friend, or being told to leave parties early, and being told I can't go to Kitty's on occasions when my presence would breach The Injunction. But I really wish Kitty hadn't been caught up in the crossfire. I have only Kim now.

Category: General
Posted by: looby
What a mess. Everything. Me and Wendy and Kitty, money, house, job; then this site decided to come out in sympathy with a virus.

I'm in Middlesbrough, at my mum's house. The cricket is on the radio. My mum is reading the paper and my mentally disabled brother is tirelessly pacing round the room. We've all been down Wetherspoons spending some of his disability allowance on a pizza for me and mounds of wet, shit-coloured, shit-textured meat, for the others.

My sister rang up asking if I'd like to go out tonight, but even round here, you can't get tipsy on 7p. I have an interview in Gateshead next week, but I can't afford the fare to get there.

The cricket's ceded to the football against Nigeria. "I love their exuberance, those dark people," says Mum.

My relationship with Wendy may be finished; that with Kitty hangs by a thin thread.

I was supposed to be returning to Lancaster for a few days last month, the highlight of which was going out with them both to a ravey do with them both on 18th for Wendy's 50th. The tickets were a prohibitive £44, so I said that I would meet them at the after-party.

For days beforehand, I could not stop ruminating on the likelihood of a repeat of what happened last November, which both Wendy and Kitty think is nothing, but which ground like salt into a wound, the detestable fact that The Injunction still bears heavily upon me. After a few drinks with Helen, she innocently said that she was going up to Kitty's to see her and Wendy, and assumed that I would like to come to, to have a couple of drinks with my closest friends. Kitty had to remind Helen of The Injunction, and that I wouldn't be allowed in her house, on the ground that Wendy's daughter was there too.

In April last year, when the Injunction had already been in place for months, Wendy said "I will sort all this out." Nothing's been done.

On the back of a few pints, I snapped, and told her, a week before I was due to come over, that I didn't want such a thing to happen again, and that I was breaking with her. Kitty informed me the following morning that she hoped that "one day [I would] reflect on your poor and selfish behaviour" and that Wendy did not want to hear from me again.

On the night of the rave, Wendy texted me. "We'll miss you tonight, you fucking idiot." "I'll miss you too. I'm sorry, pet." And that's been it. More than a fortnight's passed now. I regret falling out with them, very much.

A few days prior to all this happening, Wendy casually mentioned that she was in bed, "...and no Modern Abomination" (she's adopted my term for a shaved cunt), and a train of fantasies involving a unclothed Wendy accelerated onward, even whilst the higher court of appeal in my head urged me to stop it.

A long time ago, I had agreed to go to the wedding of the bloke who made me an illegal proposal a while ago. I had nowhere to stay, and "slept" under a bush in a car park until about 2am, went to McDonalds until I was asked to leave at 4am, then went to Lancaster's all-night bar until 8am, where about twenty of us talked the night away, all social barriers gone. We had conversations about low temperature physics, why we forget things, and a coded one about drug policy (which meant "I'm on something, are you?"). To complete the night, two little boys had a fight.

I went round to my girls' house the morning after, the day of the wedding. "Where are you staying tonight?" asked my eldest. "The bush is still there." "No," she said, "let's go on airbnb. I don't like the idea of you sleeping under a bush," and she booked me into a room in the city centre where I broke the key safe at the entrance as I left, slightly pleased to have done so, the better to irritate the Chilean landlord, who was would only communicate reluctantly.

I've been spending some time with Kim. She's been inviting me to spend a few days at a time with her -- practice for if we end up sharing her house in Durham. Most of the time, we're like an old married couple. Companionable evening silences. I clear the yards of washing up she manages to produce; I "cook" for her, reheating something from her vast store of frozen meals. Down her local, she is the desirable cynosure of all men, and the object of a look sometimes more envious from the lumpen female proletariat of suburban Durham; she manages her performance expertly. I'm the same as all the rest: I love looking at her.

After my Wendy fall-out, I texted her. I told her all about it. "Don't *you* chuck me will you? Because I'm down to one close friend now."

My sister wasn't to be put off. She came round and offered to lend me a tenner if I'd go out with her that evening to one of the attractive small towns in Middlesbrough's hinterland. She's thrown off the yoke of an unsuitable husband, and turned up in a little black dress, black tights and black heels; red lipstick; long, kinked and un-hairdresser-ed blonde hair. I felt uncomfortable with her at first. I've spent little time with my sister, who is fourteen years younger than me and looks even younger; I had to train myself out of my instincts. Within an hour she'd got chatting to a video producer who asked her round his "for a drink in the garden one afternoon."

This morning, I get sent a recommendation of "someone you might like" from the dating site. She's got the same name as Wendy's ex, The Injunction's author.
Category: General
Posted by: looby
Difficulties too miserable to go into now -- both on the computer, and in the wreckage of my relationships.

I'm off to Eastbourne tomorrow for my uncle's funeral, and will be back on Thursday, and as soon as I get back I will be battering these keys to death with my news. The short enticer is -- I might be divorced now from both Wendy and Kitty. I'm living at my mum's house in Middlesbrough. I'm spending some time with Kim in Durham. I am absolutely fucking skint as fuck. I'm trying to control my drinking.

There'll be more here by Friday morning.