Category: General
Posted by: looby
It's Sunday afternoon. A long weekend in Lancaster draws to a close; as does, if I am not careful, my friendships with Kitty and Wendy.

I flew into completely unwarranted anger at Kitty for them not being in The Macrame Belt and Arse Clencher -- when only a couple of hours previously, I had said that I would ring her nearer the time to see whether they were there or chez lui. I went up to hers, we went to the bar, and I think I lasted about an hour before I stormed off again at some perceived slight or other. None of this was in any way connected with the fact that I had been drinking 8% cider since 10am.

My drinking is now beyond "problematic", it's dismantling even my friends' over-stretched patience. It's pointless apologising any more. This is the letter I have posted to them both.

"I think it would be best if I didn't see you (pl.) unless I have not had a drink at all, and do not have one in your company, or there is evidence that the microdosing, which I haven't started yet due to budgetary constraints, is working. However, I would not blame you for saying that even these conditions are insufficient.


After leaving them, I went and slept down Bath Lane for an hour or two, then went to Kirsty's, who had agreed to let me stay for the night. I'd said I'd buy us pizza and a bottle of wine if she'd let me stay. By the time Strictly came on, the thought of wine was unattractive, which conveniently made me look unwontedly abstemious; I had a glass and a half and she had the rest. The sleekit deceit of the alcholic.

To my surprise, Trina invited me to stay with her in her new house in a posh northwestern city after a dancey event we discovered we were both attending. I left all my clothes on the train, and lost my airbnb reservation. Trina let me sleep in her car.

An enjoyable couple of days, the second of which was spent with her friends from London. After an afternoon's walking and drinking, Trina was showing the familiar signs: speaking in rap without the rhymnes, banging her hand down, cracking her ring on the table with emphases that make me wince.

The following morning, Wendy rang to make some arrangements. It was a short, practical, friendly phone call in which I mentioned Trina only in half a dozen words to say, truthfully, that it had been a most enjoyable time.

Trina came back into the room and unleashed bile in a form unchanged since c.2014, mishearing what I had said to Wendy.

I thought she'd got over it, and but then this, that evening.

Subject: Mistake
From: Trina
To: looby

You shouldn't have come over. Our friendship was based (for me) on us trusting each other. I don't trust you any more not to slag me off. Your real friends are Kitty, Wendy, Kim and Fitbit. You would NEVER slag any of them off the way you slag me off. I am just a convenience to you. I'll see you at dancing but that's all now.

From: looby
To: Trina
Subject: RE: Mistake

What nonsense. You're very egotistical if you think that you're such a hot topic of conversation.

It's a shame that your obsession with Wendy still prevents our friendship continuing, but as you wish.

From: Trina
To: looby
Subject: RE: Mistake

It's nothing to do with Wendy. I got over YOUR obsession with her ages ago. She means nothing to me. I know what I heard with my own ears and you've never explained why and never apologised. I am not obsessed. Just very dissolutioned. You lie so easily.

She's sent a few more conciliatory texts and messages, which I have ignored. Just like the drinking, it's up to me to break the cycle.

More enjoyably, I spent an afternoon and evening with Fitbit in The Shipbuilder's Arms. Fitbit starts by being attractive and then progresses, drink by drink, to being sexy. She clasped my hands and left her leg against mine, freely touching me, and I her, my cock hardening and flagging with the delcious drunken ebb and flow of desire.

Ten hours in, we both wanted our respective homes. I was staying in a B&B in Morecambe. We spent the whole journey to her snogging in the back of the taxi. How I love being kissed. By her.

Next morning, she was on the phone. "I don't really want a relationship. I just love kissing. I just want a snog and an occasional shag." Word for word, that's me.
Category: General
Posted by: looby
The day after I stomped out from Wendy and Kitty's do a couple of Fridays ago, the blessed alcoholic erasure had worked its effect. I woke up in the B&B in Morecambe knowing apologies would have to be made, some of which I didn't mean.

Helen was annooyed with me for objecting to her disclosing stuff I'd told her in confidence about Trina. Helen is a member of my coterie, and for her to pass things I'd said about Trina on to the latter, I saw as a betrayal of confidence, and a misunderstanding of what the trust between me and Helen involves. She still doesn't understand what she's done wrong.

I turned over these thoughts for a few minutes, and then stopped worrying about it, knowing that Kitty would clarify things with her reliable good criticism and that Morecambe would be reliable also, in it's drizzly and beautiful and run down state. I appreciate being told off by Kitty. She makes me think.

I left the B&B to walk to Wetherspoons to have breakfast. Fine gusts of aleotoric rain-mist, gradual slopes of lour sky that made the outlines of indefinte clouds seem sharp.

In the pub, retired couples, the hale faces of people cushioned by the pension provisions they vote against for the young; alert early drinkers, keen to the nine o'clock digital tick which signals the beginning of their licence.

I had no particular plans for the evening beyond meeting Fitbit. "You'd look good in a sack," I'd texted her earlier, "but your short little miniskirt might just edge it." She turned up in the short little black miniskirt. We embraced pressingly, sexlessly, and I couldn't keep my eyes off the hem-skirt interface all night. We chatted away easily, except me having to bat away the desire.

Then in came Erica, who has helped me out of so many scrapes. Erica, who hid me in her house when I thought I was going to prison. Erica, who manages to be so good-looking and well-dressed and yet whom I fancy not one jot. She's lovely. She's someone who would help you. Not all your friends would. A frend in need is a pain in the arse.

Her ugly and uneducated husband was there too. I don't understand why I get on so well with him, at least when outdoors. He took me in his crushing roofer's hand grip, and we just ended up laughing and laughing. I looked away sometimes, happy to the roof. This moment, now, all the colours and sounds and manners.

All of a sudden, Valerie is at my side asking me I am. She's never appeared on this blog nor at my side in a pub before. She's blonde-haired, small, bright, a bit of a professional illnesser. She said that she appreciated how I backed her up in a farce book argument about fatness, where I said that being fat is a choice.

It doesn't matter. All that faded and in a way I can't remember, we had our arms around each other. I was saying, "we should practice like this," and I put my lips as gently as I possibly could, on hers. She took my hand and put it on her tits. We kissed some more. Then we all went home. We all went home. That is what happened.
Category: General
Posted by: looby
Hello again. Thank you very much for your patience.

A few days after I posted the last entry, I left my computer in the pub. Thinking that no-one would want a slow, old machine running Linux, I expected it to be handed in, but it's been reallocated. I have only in the last couple of days bought a "new" one. Bristol's libraries give you only half an hour a day of access, which isn't long enough to polish my despatches. So thank you for bearing with me.

Wednesday evening before my first pay day on the Friday, I received a message from my boss. It was written with the degree of consideration I am coming to expect from her. "Looby, you won't be getting paid on Friday." I had already put the landlord off for a fortnight, and I had a weekend in Lancaster planned as soon as my money dropped in.

In her apology-free message, she said that someone had entered my name incorrectly into the payroll. Manual transcription errors, doggedly persisting into the digital age.

I checked my contract for the company's obligations, and replied to me manager, saying that if I were not paid in full on Friday I blustered, saying that I would start an action against the company in the Bristol Small Claims Court. I capitalised "action" to make me look threatening, although the actual effect was probably closer to pompous frustration. "We'll do our best to pay you," she replied.

I woke up at 4am and checked my account. It was all there. Later, I thanked my manager for sorting it out. She replied by stressing that a functionary in the payroll department had stayed late to get my wages to me, as if I owe them gratitude for their efforts in remedying their own fuck-up.

I jumped on the first train to Lancaster and got to Wendy's at half past ten. We performed a clamp, a kiss shunted into the cheeks; tense with the imbalance, both of us spending the long moment trying to turn it into something else. She opened the wine and sat fiddling her fingers, but chatting openly. I sensed my weekend release probation I must not fuck this weekend up going round in my head. But already, I was falling, drinking too fast.

On my way to check in to my B&B in Morecambe, I fell in with a DJ pal who asked me in for a couple at The Shipbuilder's Arms. I left to go round to Kitty's, where the plan was for the whole coterie, and Wendy's auntie, to convene in a convivial convening.

But in Wendy's words, "[I] turned up absolutely shitfaced and went to bed, when you knew that wasn't was Kitty wanted." I'd come off two weeks of shifts which involved getting up at 2.30am, but I can't use that as an excuse. It would have been better to have had a nap at my B&B.

I was woken with them drawing something on my face. I went downstairs to join the conversazione. I thought things were going reasonably well. Then, from a trigger I can't remember, I stood up and said "I'm not welcome here. These constant criticisms," and attempted to stomp off, an act hindered by the fact that I couldn't find my shoes.

I located them in Kitty's bedroom, came back down and slammed the door on my way out. A more graceless leave-taking I have never pulled off.

The following morning, I sent: apologising texts to Wendy and Kitty; a note to Wendy's auntie, and the following day, a letter to Wendy's dad, saying with a genuine force of meaning, that I am fed up of what my alcoholism is now doing.

The place towards which I am steaming is a lonely place empty of my friends, whom I put so much unmeant effort into alienating. I've got to break this alcoholic's scratched record of mood-wrecking behaviour, followed by contrition, and flimsy promises which convince no-one.

Self-censure doesn't work; neither does that of others. Admonishments about health and cancer risks don't work. Leaving my debit card at home and not taking any money out with me is ineffective: I shoplift from the shops that are easiest. There is always money for drink.

The one thing that has worked in the past, when I tried it briefly a couple of years ago, is microdosing with LSD. It's indicated in the more marginal psychiatric literature for alcoholism.

I'm not interested in a redemptive, quasi-religious conversion process which conflates moral improvement with the a relinquishment of pleasure. Microdosing doesn't ask for an heroic narrative of the non-drinking alcoholic, trumpeting every drinkless day as a triumph. Reformed alcoholics are as boringly prolix as the loosed drunkard, but less interesting.

We were in Oxfordshire, so I should have expected trouble.

He asked me if I had iced coffee, and then, peppermint tea. He made a great show of sighing about their absence. As I am a courteous person, I said "yeah right, we've got both of those, you fucking poncy-arsed Oxfordshire wanker," which fortunately came out as "no I'm sorry we don't have either of those. We've got normal tea though." I deliberately chose the word "normal" because I knew that he doesn't want to be seen as normal in front of other people.

The highest award of stupidity is not knowing when other people see you as a self-important wanker. But then, in another way, it's a win-win situation. He feels a pride that someone he sees as inferior in class can't cater to his fine choices, and I feel a corresponding class superiority in him being too thick to understand that I see through all his fragile pretension. Getting off the train, we were both pleased with ourselves.
Category: General
Posted by: looby
I discuss the call girl plan with my friends.

Wendy: "You're not exactly putting your best feminist foot forward there are you? But you'll do what you want to do, won't you?" Her tone was both critical and resigned.

Kitty didn't seem interested, at least not to my face: "Mmmm. OK. Right." And then she changed the subject.

Kim: "Good idea. Yes, make it simple. A straightforward exchange. How much? That's a bit high looby."

Helen: "Oh God looby. Oh dear. No prostitute goes into that willingly. No little girl has ever said she wants to have paid sex with men when she grows up."

"It's alright for you Helen. You [women] can turn it off. No-one has tried harder than me to get a sexual and romantic partner. So I'm giving up, and I'm paying for a poor simulacrum of what I would like."

"[...] Well, with a bit of luck Helen, what remains of my inner feminist will be so disgusted by the circumstances surrounding it that I will abjure any further involvement in the prossie business, and I will be applauded back into the sexless fold with my thin moral sheen shining."

So in sum, I'm justifying what is often considered an immoral and misogynist act with a mixture of self-pity and specious reasoning that I deserve sex, asserting that it's a woman's job to service my sex drive. If I heard this from anyone else, I'd be critical of it, but when it's oneself, there are limitless little rhetorical tricks and exceptions that one can use to evade facing the moral problem.

On my own in the smoking area. It's quieter. I'm on the phone to my daughter with a money saving split ticket wangle I've worked out to get from Lancaster to Gatwick. It's quite complicated.

Knobman comes out and stands a few feet behind me so that he can get lung cancer and stink.

Me: [...] So, you'll arrive at New St at 0805.
Knobman: 0806

Me: And then you get the 0833 to Banbury.
Knobman: 0834

Me: And then you just stay on the same train and there's a separate ticket to Reading, and so you get to Reading at 1024.
Knobman: 1025

I've had enough now. I turn round and turn up my Lancashire accent, before Knobman receives my ejaculation.

Me: Can you not shut the fuck up?

Knobman's friend looks embarrassed, and Knobman goes quietly.

Kim rang today, telling me in an untypically bright tone that she's had a good seeing to from the pub landlord. She follows it up with a text in which she says "we seem to be dating!" She never uses exclamation marks.

I said the right thing, about how that's "great! and nothing more than you deserve," but inwardly I'm worried. Friends are never the same once they meet someone.

On another cheery note to start the week, one of my house mates informs me that he is in possession of a hundred rounds of ammunition. For what, is a matter I did not wish to pursue. He's a massive stoner too, so no need to worry about sudden fits of paranoia then.

16/08: A tart(t)

Category: General
Posted by: looby
My last day in the Northeast. Kim and my sister and I, sat on a beach, eating tomates à la sable. The rain started as soon as we'd got there. We repaired to the local micropub where Kim's ill-tempered little dog snarled at every other member of its species. It wasn't an entirely relaxed evening. Three is an awkward number, and I felt like a conference facilitator at times. It would have been better to see them separately.

I arrived in Bristol and met my landlord at my new house. There was a slow moment of staring at each other. I thought he looked younger and I wasn't sure if it was even the same man who had shown me round his profitably neglected house a couple of weeks ago. I wondered if he was having a similar slippage of memory.

I was hoping that I'd misremembered the clasped, padlocked doors to our rooms, but I hadn't. We signed contracts and we had a falsely matey moment when he shared the URL for a site through which you can watch the Test Match.

I looked round my stark room. No lampshade, no shelves, no chair, no table, and the promised crockery and cutlery hadn't materialised. The curtains, as I discovered later, are too short, so the light from the street lamp stands in my room all night. The kitchen is tiny -- a converted corridor. The garden is a dumping ground for rusting bits of car and redundant gym equipment, crowding round a cherry tree and an apple tree, the latter with fecund, edible fruit. There is no living room; that too, in the endless rapacity of the landlord, is let out.

I arrayed some photographs -- me and Kim, the girls when they were toddlers, and in their teenage years -- and the little knitted creatures Kitty gave me for Christmas, and felt forlorn. I wanted my mum.

I briefly met two of my housemates. One, an organising Saffie; another a scrap metal merchant and house clearance man whose bearing betrays the constant low-level paranoia of the committed stoner. I knew straight away that we will have little to do with each other.

But it's a start. Now I'm here, I can look round for somewhere better. Before then I can soften and feminise it: fairy lights, lamps. I have relocated a mug from our training centre, and taken an unwanted wicker loom chair from outside someone's house. I hope to abandon myself to the sensual luxuries of a plate and some crockery soon.

I like the area. It's a blacker city than Lancaster, more properly multi-cultural. On my second night I went out dancing till 3am in an artfully scruffy pub, to a night of first rate disco and funk, not a Gloria Gaynor track for miles around. A friendly, aggro-free crowd, and -- always a good sign -- plenty of women.

We've been in Swindon all week so far, sitting through one of those "corporate inductions" that appear to be job creation schemes for people who love the sound of their own voices. Several short films about values, the future, people being our greatest asset, and clips of smiling female receptionists looking up in slow motion, children holding teddies looking out of the window. But our commute is included in our hours at work, which means I'm getting paid to read for eighty minutes a day. (Donna Tartt's The Secret History, in which I am engrossed.) It was intermittently interesting: there were over a thousand applications for eighteen jobs. We were given modern phones, and I had to keep asking a young person to rescue me from a wrongly-pressed button.

My eldest has been teaching on a summer activity course for teenagers, many of whom were Chinese. At the end she and her fellow teacher performed a version of a song from the musical Mamma Mia for them. "How did it go?" I asked. "Brilliant," she said. "Although it's easy to impress the Chinese. Sing a song banned in their own country and show some emotion."

I've decided to see a prostitute, or call girl, as I will deflectingly call her. In a sadly comical coincidence, she shares Wendy's name. It's quite a liberating decision. Not having to advertise myself any more. She has a swish flat in the city centre. £70 for half an hour, so it'll have to be a rare treat. It was a turn-on describing in an email what I would like to happen, and I read and re-read it back to myself. I was excited when I got in from work to see a message from her, which I hoped would go over my plans in detail, but her reply was simple. "Yes, of course I can see you. Ring me the day before please x."
Category: General
Posted by: looby
I rang Helen last night. Twice. Twice she asked me to ring her back because "oh God, I've got another call coming in."

Is this the new phone etiquette? You speak to one person for only until another call arrives? But my problems pale to nothing compared to Helen's dreadful year of being over-trusting to two exploitative and eventually violent men.

We were discussing her coming over to England in September. Immediately I am back to my small concerns, worrying over a repeat of the miserable and hurtful exclusion last time she came over, when I was disbarred from going to Kitty's, with three of my closest friends, because of The Injunction. "No, no, Helen, he can't come up. You can, but he can't."

I spent a couple of days with Kim. Miraculously, she had preserved some rare refreshments from before I went to Kazakhstan, and we spent the night on something now very difficult to find, even with the modern technological gateways into the underworld.

I miss those glossy, shiny nights and mornings. We danced like we hadn't done before -- close and tactilely, not quite like lovers, hands running only over the permitted areas. How I wanted to kiss her properly.

We wended our way slowly into Durham for my train home. She was wearing her black and white dress and looked so sexy that my speech had to be parked into auto-pilot, my eyes doing the active work.

Walking through Middlesbrough town centre, I notice a fittie a few yards away. Late 30s? Early 40s? Long shimmery blonde hair; cerise top; pencil skirt; wedges. I scan her appreciately, then for one tiny moment I am on the verge of elation, as she turns and smiles at me. Girls never do that.

It's my sister.

Kim told me about her on-off affair with the local landlord. "It counts as a good fuck though." My sister has three blokes after her and at least one on the go. Everyone's fucking in the summer, and I'm masturbating thinking about a girl who doesn't fancy me.

Well, goodbye Middlesbrough. I will miss you.

I love how Smoggies treat you as one of their own. The only people I've encountered who match them in that respect are Glaswegians, but Glaswegians are too embittered and sectarian and obsessed with religion for me. Weegies always say how separate they are from England, but when they got a chance to enact that separateness, the majority went running back to mummy England's apron strings. like a gay in denial.

I won't miss Middlesbrough's way that a mixture of shouting at children in between long silences whilst playing with your phone counts for parenting. I won't miss seeing pregnant women smoking, nor involuntarily inhaling fag smoke every single time you step outside. I won't miss the exaggerated faces that men pull at me sometimes when they make a head nod to the next table where some gay blokes are sitting.

I will miss the matchless openness of the Smoggies. I will miss the way that people who hardly know you will start, with no preamble, upon what is precisely on their minds when you walk into a pub. I'll miss the sub-£2 pints. I will miss the swearing, especially hearing women swear unsqueamishly. I will miss the secret pleasure of hearing someone say "fucking Paki bastard" which makes me cover my mouth with disgust and amusement in equal measure.

I will miss people down the local alky pub who I've only known for a few weeks making insulting jokes about "when on earth are you going to fuck off to Bristol?", and segueing that into some comment about me not having had sex for a bit. I will miss someone from there who said "I've put you in my phone as 'That Fucking Lunatic'." I'll miss the local smackhead, coming in in his hiking boots, thick socks and orange waterproof, to fence gin and vodka.

I'll miss playing Fatso Bingo with my sister, where one player subtlely points out a tub, then the other player has to raise you by pointing out someone even fatter. I'll miss the woman who left the crusts on her pizza, saw me eyeing them and asked me if I wanted them, before stirring her drink with her upturned fork. I'll miss the way that brain damaged people, padded into their preventative contraptions, let out the strangulated yells of their private mental lives, and no-one bats an eyelid.

I'll miss Kim. I'll miss her mum and dad, who said "it's beans and chips" when I went round for tea. I'll miss the proper handshakes, where a man takes you full in the hand, palm, not these wanky feeble little finger-clasp efforts that you get from polite, academic, fearful men. Northeast people are the best.
Category: General
Posted by: looby
Down The Black Cat, I am talking about my new job to Ex-Army Bloke. "Yes, but how much is that in your hand?" "About fifteen hundred." "What, a week?" "No, a month."

He leans back to amplify his scorn. "You're going to work for that ?"

I was in Lancaster for three days, my valediction before Bristol. Wendy was occupied with visitors from abroad. She probably doesn't have a great desire to see me at the moment but I was sad that she couldn't find even five minutes to say goodbye. I was tempted to pop round with my change of address card, to show her that no harm will come from a five-minute-long visit from a man holding a postcard, thereby demonstrating the absurdity of The Injunction.

First night I went to my book club. I hadn't been for a couple of meetings, and someone had lent me the fare to get there, which produced a bit of performance anxiety, not helped by the fact that I didn't like the book -- The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann -- in which the author cannot resist showing us how clever he is, with tedious longeurs about humanism and objectivity, or something.

We sat in Charles's garden with good food, wine, and company; yet it still felt a bit of a struggle.

I stayed at my book club friend's house that night. He's a professional painter and his whole house is one big art gallery. Nor precious, but workaday. The following morning I jumped in the sea, ignoring the blobs of pale brown froth on its surface.

Fitbit was more welcoming. "Is it Friday yet lol xxx". "Cant wait to c u luv! Xx". "Aww, my lovely looby!!! I bloody miss you!! X".

We sat in the worst pub garden in Lancaster, bordered by the A6, a taxi rank, and a stinking chicken-derivatives fast food outlet, and talked effortlessly for four hours. She always looks so sexily English, with her broderie anglaise tops and her lustrous big kinked brown hair; but she doesn't behave Englishly: her language has that coarseness which only Northern English and Glaswegians understand as closeness.

A man who knew me from teaching practice days turned up. He gallantly, consciously, included me in the conversation, whilst more interested in Fitbit.

Kitty had warned me about turning up pissed, so I left them to it after about four hours. We didn't do much, both of us tired, and we went to bed early. She gave me her bed, and I lay there for a while thinking how lovely it would be for Kitty to be in there with me, just cuddling each other.

I got up at 7.30, and left a note for Kitty, who likes to stay abed. I was on my way to get some breakfast in town when a friend hailed me from an upstairs window into a party in someone's flat.

A fat girl was sitting (clothed) on an appreciative man. A busty young girl was in a tight white blouse and a black sheathing miniskirt; a couple sat by the window smoking. My friend was talking volubly in a way that bore the stamp of stimulants: he was happy with an occasional "yes" or "right". And the host, slightly older, was welcoming and slightly wary, looking over to the smoking couple to make sure it was all going outside. His flat was a friendly mess.

I left at about 11am and soon felt far worse than a few whiskies for breakfast should make an experienced man like me feel. On a busy Saturday morning, I went for a lay down on a bench, which drew well-intentioned enquiries after my welfare. I managed to sit myself up, but was serenely immobile, even as everyone scurried for cover when the rain came. I must have looked a bit odd, since I found a leaflet in my jacket pocket. "Have you given Jesus a chance?"

Some friends from decades ago turned up. They took me to their house, and tucked me up with a biscuit and a cup of tea. Later, they ran me to the station. On the way back there was some gutsy collective singing on the last train from Newcastle. Chants of "we know what you're doing" when someone went to the toilet.

I went to bed and threw up repeatedly that night. Delirious and hallucinating, I had a red balloon man sitting with me on the side of the bed at one point, and abstract shapes I thought I was dreaming but persisted when I opened my eyes. The following day I almost lost my voice, and developed small but bothersome sores in my mouth. I blame it on the frothing sea.

The surest sign of recovery from illness is the return of self-pity. Immiserating in texts to Kim about not being "able" (pouvoir / savoir?) to see Wendy, Kim gave sage advice, but then ended the exchange mystifyingly. "Goodnight love. If we'd both been different people we'd have had the love affair of the century x."

If you understand that, you're doing better than me.
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!"