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.