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I have uninteresting sex in Liverpool

  Sat 22nd February 2020

The squalor of a commercial kitchen. What I have given up. Taking the discarded food out. Scraping. Slurry, bins, cold sausages, the unfed.

"No, no, don't do it up," I say with alarm, moving her hand away from her hem. Hayley's new black miniskirt has big silver buttons down the front, and she's noticed that the last one is unbuttoned, a V over her glossy blackly-tighted thighs. "No, leave it like that, it shows off your legs." If I had a girlfriend I'd turn her into sex. I'd spend all my money on dresses and lingerie and test how good fucking her was in all of them. Pull it up, pull her knickers aside but keep everything on. They all think I'm gay.

"Do you think she's pretty?" I say, tilting to the barmaid. "Hmm. Yeah. But not as much as me." A twinge of irritation at her. Never enough.

Sitting down the pub straight from work watching Wales v France. The two men sat next to me start clapping loudly at a French try. I'm offended. "Why you clapping at that?" "Because we're French."

A woman with false eyelashes introduces herself and asks me to to take a picture of her and her friends. "No, no, it's alright," her friend says, refusing the picture. I feel sorry for her. She's a bit fat, and the refusal of a group photo is a rejection, elided somehow with her fatness.

Trina doesn't want to go to the house music weekender that we've bought tickets for and I've turned down work for and travelled from Bristol to Liverpool for. We get pissed, and have sex. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" It's dull sex in the missionary position. I wish she could stop commentating. She doesn't want to suck my cock nor offer herself from behind. She finds sex a mixture of the comical and the disgusting. She's good company outside of bed though.

9 comments »

Hayley hoovers it up

  Wed 12th February 2020

I've just been to the dentist. I arrived with a bike ride glow. All downhill (it's going to be a fuck of a ride back) along cycle paths. Past a snug, smug eco-homes development, pure, white.

I was surprised to be asked for £22 before he'd even asked me to open wide. I can't remember once paying in any of my previous infrequent visits to the dentist. I declined the transaction. "Yes, so next time, if you can remember to bring £22." Reasonable enough, but then he made an attempt at sympathy which won't work with someone on irregular hours paid at the minimum wage. "Because now, I'm not earning any money for half an hour."


Saturday. Techno night at a club I frequent. DJs from Berlin and Rome, 6am close -- none of this 2am nonsense, leaving you looking for something sensual at a bus stop.

At Hayley's scoured and unsoftened new council flat, she is concaved over her phone to her abuser. A couple of half-hearted how are yous, trailing off; turning her head towards me, her eyes pivoting on her phone. She'd said she'd blocked him, and he knows her address, which she averred she'd not reveal. I've lost you, haven't I? You're his. I'm the social worker. Even then, I knew we were not to spend the night dancing together.

I put out two small lines of mdma. She took them both. "I've left you a rock, looby," she said, pointing to a speck. I had some more so it didn't matter, but by far the greater disappointment was having to be mistrustful of her in future with something valuable I'd have been willing to share.

Hayley scrolled on and on and on, green-framed sentences. We finally got out, and so did the Hayley I like. She told me about meeting an African bloke the previous night who had her over the meagre furniture in her room. "The Abuser asks me if I look at other men. I wasn't looking at him much." It was raining, and I did this ridiculous walk on my heels, because my shoes have holes in them.

I'd told her we needed to get tickets in advance, but she was confident she'd blag it. At the door she was asked for £25. I neither had £25 nor would have given it to her if I had. I made a sympathetic but unhelping face, and went in.

It was 1am before anyone asked my age. "This bloke's fifty-six!" he exclaimed to his mates. An elderly seal still performing. But the drunk people drifted off to have a good shout by two or three, then the e'd up people could claim the space and the harder, more serious DJs could come on.

I settled in a space upstairs with a couple from Merseyside who were on the same drug wavelength. There's a particular e-smile which a drunk can't fake. We got talking about how they met and why they're here; but mainly, it was dancing, with others like us, not doing all this checking to see if everyone's having a good time. Mdma is a fucking great drug.


The weak dinnertime sun here in Wetherspoons outside Temple Meads is amplified by the privatised composite stone outside. Chatty groups of work colleagues from DEFRA and something to do with taxation will have to get back to work soon. I am eyeing a plate of half-eaten nachos which I could legerdemain to my table once they've gone back to sort out post-Brexit fishing policy.

Nope. Fucking cunt of a waitress has cleared it away.

5 comments »

Old School

  Tue 4th February 2020

On Saturday me and Trina went to Glasgow, where a friend runs a house night. Before leaving Bristol, I text Hayley. She moved into her new flat on Saturday. It's an affectionate text, using her pet name, appended with three kisses. I accidentally send it to Trina. Twice.

I cursed myself for releasing Hayley's pet name into the wild, and sure enough, it was used like a mocking weapon against me several times in the following few minutes, which began with her telling me to fuck off and go on my own.

I tried saying that I love Hayley like a brother, but that didn't convince her (it doesn't convince me either), but a tactic in which I adduced my hard labour on Friday -- dinner ladying, then nine hours at a not that dissimilar do for four hundred employees of Jeff Embezzlement until gone one o'clock, yet still getting up at six to get to Glasgow -- was more effective. "It would have been far easier to have had a lie-in today and help Hayley with her furniture [for her new flat] but I choose to be with you." You sleekit man.

Now that I can no longer have her, she's started looking sexy, and when she came out of the bathroom having changed into a clingy red top overlaid with a lacy black one, it was difficult to keep my hands off her. We were in a little basement club with large, unnerving murals of famous Weegies. Afterwards, we had a couple of pints upstairs, and found ourselves next to a table full of moustachioed men wearing dresses. Next time I won't bother with the drugs.


In a pub in Clifton, I was typing with desquamated fingertips from my immersive dinner ladying. The job was in a posh public school I hadn't been to before. I made a hit with my entrance. Going to sign in, I headbutted the plate of glass separating me from the receptionist. I just didn't see it, and gave it a good crack with my head as I leant in to talk to her.

It was an international crowd, with me the only white English person working in a deafeningly noisy kitchen in which my Venezualan colleague wore ear defenders.

Before I started on my down and out journey on the minimum wage, I held an unthinking view in favour of the free movement of labour. Now, I oppose it. The English are collectively refusing to do these kind of jobs, but this doesn't create the scarcity of labour that would force employers to pay us properly. A poorer foreigner will always jump in to accept the misnomer of a "living wage".

Then, my boss at The Big House, where I iron cravats and pants, and do my balancing champagne flutes trick, tells me that there's no hours for me next week. As much as I bridle against it, a normal full-time job might be better for a while. I've applied to be a traffic warden. I don't like cars, think I'm right even when I'm wrong, and enjoy a bit of aggravation provoked by my sangfroid, which can wind angry people up into apoplexy, an actor in a private spectator sport.


I am released from the interesting prospect of becoming legally bound to Cath. The landlord replied, saying not to take such a drastic step. Instead, he will look into paying off the mortgage early so as to free all parties from the mortgage condition that would have the paper partnership necessary. I was quite looking forward to the committment-free party, but not to the expense of it.

13 comments »

A right ding dong

  Sat 18th January 2020

On Radio 4 the other morning there was an interesting programme about the future of work. Academics and policy advisers on what? 60K?, were being interviewed by someone on more than that, to talk about the redemptive value of work. An ex-GP said that he had wished that he could have prescribed "work -- like shelf-stacking" [sic]. You don't need to read a thing to acquire a class consciousness: the middle classes will dole it out to you daily with their giveaway speech.


Payday. From top to bottom:

  1. Savings.
  2. For when I'm 65, or my funeral, whichever is the earlier.
  3. The week's rent.
  4. To Kirsty, for our family holiday in Brittany in August.
  5. A week's pay.
  6. Booze.
  7. Cash withdrawal done after I got paid to stop any direct debits or standing orders being taken.
  8. A pint in Wethers.
  9. Bus fare.
  10. A bottle of Katy from the Co-op. So hardly the balance sheet of a spendthrift.

This is becoming a typical week. It's not viable. I started an application for Universal Credit, but got stuck at the point where they wanted details of my landlord and rental arrangements. I can't involve Cath in anything like that. She's sub-letting to me -- I don't want to complicate things further for her. However, things are about to become complicated for all of us.


There's a knock at my room's door. I checked to make sure that I am neither mid-wank nor mid-drugs. "Can I have a word?" says Cath. I feel my breath decide to exit from what might be an awkward situation.

She explains that the landlord has raised some issue to do with his mortgage conditions, and that it's likely I'll have to move out at the end of next month. Cath has lived here for twelve years: she's more or less bought the house for her landlord. Now, he's arguing the toss over her having lodgers. We are model tenants, late fifties, employed (after a fashion, in my case); a random inspection would reveal our gleaming toilet bowl.

"It's a rather extreme idea", she says, "but it might just work, if you and me entered into a Civil Partnership. You are single, I suppose?"

I agreed to the plastic marriage plan enthusiastically. I said I'd love having a party over something fake. We might have to kiss publicly, but that's what cheeks are for.

I like living with Cath and Simon. They're my age, bright, well-travelled, uncynical. We're on a quiet, catty street with little traffic, yet only a couple of minutes away from Gloucester Road, in case you fancy queuing behind prams carrying Beaumont and Tilly, pushed by parents in walking gear, to pay £3 for a biodynamic loaf. I will report back after our summit meeting tonight. In the meantime, I've been considering my options.

1) I ask to move in with Hayley. I think I would become exhausted with her within a fortnight, although she's got a full time job now. Me and Hayley work best as druggie dance partners.

2) I try to find somewhere by myself. But a fiftysomething man has little capital in the sunshiny world of young house sharers, and I have no means from which to raise a month in advance, a deposit, and removal expenses.

3) Trina said I could live with her for a bit while I prostituted myself out at the hiring fairs, until such time as I could afford a room. I'd greatly miss Hayley, my Bristol adventure has hardly begun, and Trina lives in a drowsy city.


At the Extraordinary General House Meeting last night Cath made us a delicious peanut soup out of the Lidl brochure that came in the junk mail the other day. We're all in this together: if I were to move out, neither Cath nor Simon could afford £675 a month each to stay here.

The situation is that we can have a maximum of two separate households occupying this house. There are currently three: Cath and her daughter, Simon, and me. Were I to merge with Cath in a civil partnership there would only be two. Cath is less enthusiastic about that than I am, but will consider it. Once we've got the certificate to shut the landlord up we could just wait a couple of years and obtain a separation. Don't buy your hat just yet though.

11 comments »

Jump For Joy

  Wed 15th January 2020

Hardly any money, hanging on till payday again, card refused at the monocultural pub full of dependently rich students, wondering how I will drink, and pay my rent.

Tonight, on the bus home from work at The Big House, a bulky black man was sat opposite, playing gospel music on his phone. He turned it off. I said "that's good music brother, don't turn it off." "Are you a Christian?" "No but that's good music. We should try to lift ourselves up, overcome things. You carry on playing that." I never used to use the word "brother" like this before I came to Bristol.

Then Hayley texted, saying she's got her own flat. A sparkler lit in my head. An old rave track, called Jump For Joy1. Say jump, say jump for joy. She just needs furniture. We can do that. I look forward to scavenging, kitting her flat out with free furniture, buying fairy lights, lamps. We're going to make it her own; not tell The Abuser where it is; send him down a vortex of neediness. He'll have a key, but it'll be to my house.

I rang her, knowing it would go to voicemail because The Abuser doesn't want her to have any outside contact, so her phone always has to be on silent, but knowing that, maybe in the toilet, she would read it.


1. My first ever footnote in fifteen years: I don't mean the well-known 2Unlimited track with the same name, but this one by KC Flightt. It's fucking dreadful, but at the time (1990), it sounded great.

2 comments »

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


M / 56 / 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.

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Another Angry Voice
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Exile on Pain Street
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George Szirtes ditto
Guitars and Life
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London's Singing Organ-Grinder
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The Most Difficult Thing Ever
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