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For the first time in my life, I cook bacon

  Tue 13th April 2021

I've got a few days in a works canteen. I'm on my own most of the time and the shifts are up to twelve hours long. I had got to the age of fifty-seven without flipping a burger or cooking bacon.

The pricing seems to be determined by the closeness of the manager's friendships with the individuals, and several people bridled at me charging them the published prices, so I've had to draw up a long list of concessions. I was told this morning that the manager likes me, unfortunately.


In Castle Park after work, the hot sun lit a model of social inclusion so inclusive it could have been staged.

It was great to see some of the familiar denizens again: the man who looks a bit like Jamiroquai was perched on his bit of wall and got talking to the peripatetic habitué of Wethers; the man who's overdone the henna a bit and who is left alone to sleep in between intervals of talking to himself and swinging a small bottle of vodka like a pendulum.

Two Muslim women sat on a bench next to an East European couple who were parking an over-stuffed pushchair, with a baby lost somewhere amongst the Wilko bags. We just lacked the sixtysomething who rides around on an Elvised-up bike with a large speaker belting out stadium rock classics.

Someone saw me struggling to get my cider open on a wee jut of stone, and hailed me. "I'll do it with my lighter," he said, before failing to find his lighter. From another group, a lighter was thrown to him and he took my cider and popped it like champagne. A man in a tight vest swaggered past and... asked to borrow a lighter.

Someone sat down with our shapely protagonist, who said he'd just got out of prison after five years. One or the other was trying to angle it towards drugs. "No, I don't really do that any more, well only you know, occasionally," almost apologising. An irritant -- "I don't really find exams difficult. I've never had an exam in which I've got less than 80%" - buzzed off once his time was up, to fret with Excel in an office.

Once the workers bees return to prison, the atmosphere loosens a bit. There was drum and bass from one quarter, house from another, and there was something else which I couldn't identify. Unfortunately it also loosens the bladder.

Hayley and boyf turned up and started snogging on the grass, because I like being tested for jealousy on a hot afternoon, so to escape the erotic tension I went to have a piss behind the old Bank of England building and laughingly, in cahoots with them, I had to wait for two girls to finish.


Yesterday, the pubs -- outdoor areas only -- were allowed to re-open in England, and with it the chance to dive down to my socio-economic level after a year of pretending I find walking interesting, and half-heartedly trying to identify trees. The weather made it a keen pleasure, but I stayed for three pints.

Every table was taken by half eleven. Couple on the table next to me had been there since half nine. How I've missed earwigging on other people's conversation, and the peculiar pleasure of being on your own with other people.

Man on table 1 to man on table 2: "Fucking 'ell mate, been a year when we can't go out and now you're sat there with your fucking headphones on. Why you doing that?" Another man from table 1: "Cos he"s a cunt."

6 comments »

In a school, I make lumpy custard

  Thu 1st April 2021

Three days' work in a school canteen. Young Italian chef who was once told by an Indian hotel manager that he was "doing the pasta wrong". A brigade of middle-aged women, some of the anonymous saints who do the poorly paid work that holds up everyone else's vanity.

They were friendly, funny and foul-mouthed. Their manager is off on long-term sick which they are all hoping will become final; she insists on throwing food away rather than letting the staff have a meal.

"It doesn't matter, we all take the piss out of her behind her back," said Jules, before going into an exaggerated dance where she thrust her hips forward and crossed and uncrossed her arms in front of them, accompanying it with a sforzato "take, that, bitch!"

The sous chef was a cheery Rasta who, seeing a new dog in a pack, had to establish his place in the hierarchy. We got on fine; all I had to do was nod and say "wow, really, did you?" all the time. I felt a bit sorry for him at the end though because out of nine hundred children only two chose a pot noodle thing he made, and it's shit seeing the food you've made getting sluiced.

We walked back to the bus stop together and the unenglish cultural pattern of constant touching came out. I normally welcome any tactile punctuation (Kitty is lovely at it), but there was something a bit challenging about the way he kept putting him arm against mine. I wished it were the women I were walking with.


I'm going up to Lancaster later this afternoon for essential travel reasons, as these Lindt bunnies are going to melt soon if they don't spend four hours on a train. Me and my shit telly and red wine little boos will all be together for the first time since Christmas.

Eldest has landed a TEFL job in the state school system in Russia, middle one is looking for acting jobs (she's a graduate of a well-known drama school down here), and doing FOH in a Manchester theatre as soon as it re-opens, and youngest is doing Chinstroking and French at mine and her mum's alma mater, and playing in two bands. Then there's our semi-adoptee, who's had to stifle a few tears in her young life and is counted as one of us now. I love my little clan of girls.

12 comments »

Five and seven

  Thu 25th March 2021

Last weekend, Mel suggested her coming over and staying for two nights. "We could relax a bit more." I smilingly acceded to the suggestion for as long as she could see my face, then let it unmask into worry in the kitchen. Is it now that the little irritations start? The sexless "tiredness"?

In fact, the weekend didn't seem a moment too long. Mel's spent most of the past thirty years in Greece, so I overcooked us a spanokopitta, which came out rather dry and spongy. She'd said that the oven was fast, so I turned the heat down and left it in longer, but in future I'll just follow the recipe.

It didn't matter at all. Afterwards, she put on the shoes, and my other investments. We turned up the heating, which, handily for lovers, is included in the rent here. She looked down at her tits, bemused. She doesn't find herself as sexy as I do.

Reporting this to Kim after she'd left, Kim said "so, looby, are you going to have your Boring Years now? Stable girlfriend, own flat?"


I went to the bingo and raffle afternoon yesterday and sat with some of the other rezzies in my block. I was nervous about how I'd fit in, and felt scrutinised at first, but as the chicken legs and chocolate rolls kicked in everyone relaxed.

We're not allowed to sit in the communal lounge, so we're all in the right angle of a corridor instead. Six women, two blokes. "Oh!" said Keith. "So you've come for your initiation then?" Carol juggled her tits when 88 came up, and I said "ey up, double trouble". "Don't make me jealous!" said Lena. Brenda farted as I was going to get one of my prizes. "Was that you?" I said. "Don't mistake me for a lady, love." I wondered if we were being secretly filmed by Ken Loach.

They knew all the phrases for the numbers, a folk knowledge that will die out soon, with words like "fat" and "legs" being censored as mechanical numbers-only bingo takes over. I was taught several new ones. like 77, Sunset Strip; 69, Yours and Mine.

I won a tube of hand cream, a tin of baked beans and a packet of cheese straws in the raffle. Brenda asked me afterwards if I'd enjoyed it and I said "no, it were shit." I helped with the tidying up, in order to conceal from the block's management evidence of us associating.


I picked up the post from my old address the other day. If one simply ignores debts, they eventually dwindle and die.

7 comments »

I could have done that

  Thu 18th March 2021

I left work at The Big House last night, and walked along quiet residential streets to get my bus, strongly conscious of my privilege in worrying far less than the women I saw (and quietly tried to avoid), who were engaged in the same blameless activity that was Sarah Everard's last act.

I am sick of it all, and of the 80% male police force who employed her murderer tacitly indicating to women at the demonstration in London, that they shouldn't be in public places, at night.


As I return after sitting in the park with the LRB drinking, the smoking clan is in the doorway. Inside, the weekly bingo party, along with the chicken legs and sausage rolls, is hotting up. I want to join in one day but I have to decline the invite as I'm back at the The Big House later. Not many people in this block work, their main objective being never to let their lungs have a glimpse of clarity.


Mel has also found herself a social housing flat. It's spacious, with a shared garden, in a sixties arboreally-named street. One would think Bristol was teeming with dark fruit. As in my block, it contains preventative fixtures to arm us against the falls we're expected to take.

My flat still has sections of raw particleboard flooring showing, a visual irritation I can't afford to conceal at the moment. Someone on The Instatok said that she sealed hers with clear PVC glue and then painted on it, but the thought of doing anything DIY-ish gives me a shiver of distaste and anticipatory incompetence, an instance of which might be my only completed job on the flat so far -- covering the interrogation-quality fluorescent light in the kitchen with front covers of the LRB, which I heard somewhere is printed in a flame-retardant ink.


The other night, Mr Patel in the corner shop said to me "no, for you sir, two for four-fifty."

I went to put my recycling out the other day, bottles sticking akimbo out of my carrier bag, and one of the other rezzies said "oh! You're going to fit in really well here!"

It takes less than a fortnight to aquire a reputation in a new suburb if one behaves consistently.


Littérateurs: has anyone else struggled a bit with Cafavy? I'm halfway through his collected poems and it sounds like the pub bore cut up into shorter lines. If anyone can give me a key, I'd be grateful.

From Perception, trans. Evangelos Sacherperoglou

The years of my youth, my sensuous life---
how clearly I see their meaning now!

What useless, what futile repentances...

But I couldn't see their meaning then.

From Painted

I'm careful about my work and cherish it.
But today I'm disheartened by the slow pace of composition.
The day has affected me. Its aspect
keeps growing darker. All wind and rain.
I'd rather look at things than speak about them.

Eight-nine pages in, I'd rather he would too.

9 comments »

Is that a normal man?

  Mon 1st March 2021

Ah-ha! Finally worked out how to get the internet on the rather complicated router-clock-intercom-VoIP phone contraption in my new flat.


I moved in on Wednesday. The removal man was called Mr Stent, so I was worried he'd have a heart attack as he struggled with my sofa.

Having been barred by the block's management from using the communal lounge for their weekly raffle and bingo, the residents now come closer in the corridor. Me, Mr Stent and a cheerily helpful resident barged apologetically between them, arresting their dabbers poised over possibly remunerative numbers.

Mel came round and watched me timidly wire up the electric cooker her friend had given me. I poked the on switch and leapt back. A silent elemental red started glowing under the black screen.

Just as everything was in, I got a phone call offering me an almshouse. Whilst the nature of the tenancy here is highly attractive, the neighbourhood -- where vegetables are harder to find than pornography -- is not. This is not the gaily coloured Bristol of the postcards; it's white, working class suburbia, where B&M Bargains is your best bet for a food shop. The almshouse is in the city centre, a bungalow in a quiet street behind one of the oldest churches in Bristol.

The next day I rang the manager to express a concern. I'd heard that some almshouses impose in the Licence a prohibition on overnight guests. She confirmed that this was the case in St Joseph's Close, so I declined the offer, and omitted to say anything about how the poor are always expected to be models of chastity in a way never demanded of people with their own housing.

Besides, the accommodation seems to have a baleful effect on one's health: this is the (uncropped) picture on their website with which they lure potential residents.


Mel came round for the weekend. I was nervous about the volume at which she wanted the music on, and we have very few overlapping areas in our Venn diagrams of likes. Had I not insisted on us improvising our own soundtrack, she'd have had it on whilst we had sex.

She was disappointed by my dinner offering of three-day-old reduced price quiche, cauliflower, sprouts and carrots. I agree that that ensemble might lack a certain seductive allure, but my kitchen armoury until yesterday consisted of two dinner knives and forks, and a saucepan. The carrots, refusing the blunt edge of the knife, turned my worktop into a skid pan. I am also financially wrung out from overlapping rent payments at Cath's and here.

She refused it, and all I could offer instead was scrambled eggs. I usually warm plates, so I poured some boiling water onto hers. Turning into the living room to humour her, aware that I had displeased her, I then returned to the eggs. Forgetting my plate-warming technique, I plonked them down into the hot water.

"I'm a bit disappointed looby. I thought you were going to cook something nice for me. 'Oh, I can make a souffle!' and now it's out-of-date quiche."

"It was in date when I bought it. Anyway it's nicer at room temperature." "Yeah but not three days."

But we're at the sexed-up stage where desire can stifle arguments, and a couple of hours and a bottle of wine later she asked "do you want me to dress up?", a cock-hardening question which I pretended to be reluctant in answering. The sex, now I'm free from Cath's supervision, was the best yet. Selfish, for both of us, many overlapping pleasures. "I like it when you're in all this," I said. "It reduces you to sex."


As I was sitting in the park the other day, a little girl walked past and enquired of her parents, "is that a normal man?"

13 comments »

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


M / 57 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

"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

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
James Meek

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

La vie poetique has its pleasures, and readings--ideally a long way from home--are one of them. I can pretend to be George Szirtes.
George Szirtes

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

The Comfort of Strangers

23.1.16: Big clearout of the defunct and dormant and dull
16.1.19: Further pruning

If your comment box looks like this, I'm afraid I sometimes can't be bothered with all that palarver just to leave a comment.

63 mago
Another Angry Voice
the asshat lounge
Clutter From The Gutter
Crinklybee
Eryl Shields Ink
Exile on Pain Street
Fat Man On A Keyboard
gairnet provides: press of blll defunct, but retained for its quality
George Szirtes ditto
Guitars and Life
Infomaniac [NSFW]
The Joy of Bex
Laudator Temporis Acti
London's Singing Organ-Grinder
The Most Difficult Thing Ever
Quillette
Strange Flowers
Trailer Park Refugee
Wonky Words

"Just sit still and listen" - woman to teenage girl at Elliott Carter weekend, London 2006

5:4
Bristol New Music
Desiring Progress Collection of links only
Golden Pages for Musicologists
Lauren Redhead
NewMusicBox
The Rambler
Resonance FM
Sequenza 21
Sound and Music
Talking Musicology defunct, but retained


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