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.