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Hayley comes to bed

  Wed 5th June 2019

A job interview at the airport. In the airside bar, which starts serving at 5am. I forgot to take all the documents they requested, but in that co-dependency that employers who only pay the minimum wage have with their employees, they offered it me anyway, after I'd schlepped all the way back home and out to the airport again to bring them proof that I have no taint of immigrant. I've accepted it and I have my training on Friday morning but I might have other options.

Yesterday, an interview at an insurance company. Better money and hours, although it would still colonise two weekends in every month. I was told that I'd have to give examples of how I will exemplify the company's "core values". Number six on that list is "bring all of yourself to work." I wondered if I could say that as an alcoholic I'll be bringing a couple of bottles of red to work, to demonstrate being honest to myself by getting on the sauce every day from about 10ish.

My spirit sank when I entered the black carpeted acre of call centre. A litter of headsets and computers. Company values and tweets from appreciative customers in coloured ink on the walls. I could only think of Vaneigem's adage, "work is a prison of measured time."

To my great surprise and pleasure, Hayley, she of the semi-successful Sunday sofa sex, rings. She'd lost my number but got it from Esther. At Esther's, she is there with a man she acquired the night before. Esther was as tiresome as ever, her constant demands for attention turning to infantile displays of nudity. To my relief, she'd lost the zapper with which one turns on her shouting television, so we were able to enjoy Hayley's demotic sense of humour. Esther took a phone call from the wife of a man who plays in an internationally famous Bristol band. It was one long crackhead's slur.

We all went down the pub, where we managed an hour or so of a deafening rock band. Esther, unable to cope with the attention being on a third party, stomped off home, ignored by the rest of us. All of us apart from her had had an e and some excellent speed, and none of us wanted the pacific mood to be torn up.

Last night Hayley, Acquired Man and me, went out. Hayley looked gorgeous, in a black lacy top and a blue cord miniskirt, black tights and flatties. I mentioned that I have to move out of here in the next few months. Hayley said that it's likely she'll be offered a council flat in the autumn, and suggested we could share it, an illegal but mutually beneficial sub-let. I was astonished and flattered by the suggestion. I think I've made my first real friend here.

Acquired Man wandered off, and Hayley came back to mine. She's asleep in the bed to my right. There were no consequences, despite being wrapped around her, so the semi-successful Sunday sofa sex was clearly a one-off.

When I got up an hour ago there were two messages on my phone from the landlady in the adjoining bedroom. 0012: "It's a school night. M-- has to get up early." 0029: "M-- has to get up at 7 and the walls are very thin. Weekends are for noise."

I am painstakingly quiet all of the time here, to the point where on several occasions they have been surprised to find that I am in. I thought I might have earned a little licence, a fifty-five-year-old man hopefully bringing a sexy miniskirted thirty-year-old woman home, but I'll go and apologise in a minute.

I was walking home the other night, along a section of a path which abuts some of the bleak office blocks with which central Bristol is scarred. A man and a woman were slumped in a doorway, smoking a joint. Some sort of device was playing drum and bass weakly. "You alright?" he said. "Yeah not too bad." "Do you want to join us? It's a party."


I pinch Trina's nipples whilst in Putney

  Thu 30th May 2019

I've just moved aside on the staircase in Wethers to let a wide woman come down unhindered. Fast after her was a skinny bloke whose size was no obstacle to my progress. I started to go up, but stopped myself in case it looked to the fat girl that I was making an exception for her on account of her bulk, rather than my action being an instance of my indifferently applied manners.

I worked at the European Elections last Thursday. To my right, sat behind the trestle table set out for us, the Presiding Officer, an Anglo-Jamaican girl in her twenties. Under a faux leather jacket, which she wore unzipped and never took off, she wore a white top shiny with the strokable sheen of cheap polyester which moved with its own knowledge of the male glance, and glance, and glance, to every shift of her tits when she bent forwards over the table. To my left, a skinny fiftysomething woman in sandals, jeans, a straightforward white shirt and denim top. We were in each others' company for sixteen hours.

Our voters included a Nigerian woman in her eighties, who started dancing round the room to illustrate her carpe diem, a couple of young white men dressed seriously and with a hint of a challenge, in dresses; acutely well-mannered Indians whose Brahminian refinement made me feel awkward; illiterate Somalis with their interpreting daughters ruining all rules about voting secrecy; white women my own age from the administrative and academic classes in grey shift dresses, the chefs de famille butlered by a man, both exclaiming over the trivial achievements of a pre-school child on a wooden bike with no pedals.

It makes you delirious, getting up that early. A young woman presented herself at our desk. Looking for her polling card, she removed a wad of cash. I'd already found her name on the register. I tutoyered her. "I do hope, Chrissie, that you're not trying to bribe me here. But if you are, I'd be quite open to it."

She went to the booth to vote, then proffered her slip back to me. Instead of directng her to the ballot box a yard away, I caught myself involuntarily asking her out. "Would you like to come..." My colleagues looked at me; I turned red. "Just put it in the box over there." She stared at me for a moment, then we both laughed. That was the best bit of the whole sixteen hours.

The concert in London that Trina was going to was cancelled, and she rang me to see if I fancied a night out.

I got off the coach a bit desperate, but managed to nip into a "no admittance" million pound garden, the door to which a workman had left open, and sprayed on a tree stump with my minimum wage cider-infused Lancashire jus.

We got very pissed and went to bed. I started pinching and pulling her nipples between my fingers. Thank fuck she was too asleep to notice, and my weak cock withered. I don't want to revive anything of that.

Following morning, we went to Putney Wetherspoons at 10am. I've never seen so many young white middle class people clamped into sports bras and spandex shorts, running. None of them were being pursued by the police, which confused me, but on asking at the bar, I was informed that running is considered a leisure activity in that part of London.

I'm down now to very little money now, but I've got an interview tomorrow in the bar at Bristol airport. If I get it, I want you to come and say hello. It serves alcohol from 5am.


Park life

  Mon 20th May 2019

I went to my GP's practice on Friday, a place of disorder, different from the prim Georgian living room of the surgery in Lancaster. I wanted to ask about my hernia, which I'm tempted to ignore, and my alcoholism, which I shouldn't.

I veer between worry and carelessness about my drinking. Every night lately, I fester in thoughts of being unloved. "You no more love me than you love the second lampost on the left," I say to an imagined Wendy. I run and re-run, the incident when Helen came over and I was exiled while they all partied, because the Little Dictator would be there. I can't get over it, and it's happening again on Saturday, when Kitty, Wendy and her auntie will be celebrating Wendy's birthday. "I'm a second class, inferior, arm's length friend," I moan, a muttering obsessive churning his self-pitying phrases. I try different positions in bed, seeking one that will be so comfortable it will smother this vandalising chatter in my head.

At the desk, there is a bureaucratic problem -- I am an "inactive patient", which means that they've lost the registration forms I took in months ago. I went home and typed in "help for alcoholism Bristol", and found a meeting of a group which practices a combination of CBT and something with the forbidding name Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. My gut feeling was that it wouldn't work. Apart from my Dad kicking me in the head in the hallway when I was nine I had a plain childhood, albeit with lots of moving around, so there's no early trauma narrative to get cathartic over.

Neither do I have a contemporary sorrow to explain my drinking. I'm in a financially precarious state, but it's one that lets me read, and acquire sunburn in Castle Park of an afternoon. Having once been imprisoned in a callcentre, I like to lay down, settling for sleep in view of the current bondservants in the glassed panopticon opposite. I am recognised in the park now by its habituées -- the black men who ask me why I'm not exercising with them, the Spanish bin man, the purple-haired, sexist punk, the generous Malaysian drunkards profferring endless Stella. I don't want to give this up; I never went to the course.

On my way back home, I popped into the local hardline Muslim bookshop, where I had a fruitless conversation with a polished young man over a book in which I was showing interest, which explained why music is haram. Joylessness, the overlapping centre in the Venn diagram of religions. I went to a Somalian cafe, where I had an espresso for a pound and felt self-conscious.

Walking home last night, I was approached by a man who offered me a box of wine for a fiver. As I didn't want to see him burdened with it in his arms, which might have developed chafing sores as he carried it home, I agreed to the bargain. I think it's important we do our bit for strangers.



  Fri 10th May 2019

Neither me, nor the new job, is working as I'd hoped. I haven't the slightest self-discipline, and my days have returned to my default pattern of full-time drinking. I took on an essay from a third year undergraduate from a London university. Thirty-five minutes were allocated for its completion, yet it took me well over an hour; consequently, my hourly rate worked out at less than the minimum wage.

Instead of dealing with this by learning techniques to work faster, I am willingly discouraged, and haven't returned to the site since. I've had two long (an hour-and-three-quarters each) interviews with a Chinese maths teacher who is setting up an online English teaching agency, and I've got my first two pupils on Sunday, half an hour each with a seven- and an eleven-year-old, for which, in total, I'll receive twenty pounds. It feels like an act of charity. Things fall apart for me when I don't have an employer.

Things have been improving over the last few months between Kitty, Wendy and I. Wendy sent me a postcard in return to one I sent her. "One good Shrigley deserves another," she wrote. "Love, Wendy Xx." But if I needed any reminder about the immobility of The Injunction, it came today.

I rang her for a chat, and to say that I wouldn't be able to make it up for her birthday later this month. Weekend after next has preoccupied me day and night; making myself feel unloved and miserable with bitter, resentful memories of when I was told I wasn't allowed to come up to hers when Kitty, Wendy and Helen were all there a few months ago, banished to Wetherspoons while my closest friends caroused all night.

We chatted away, about her very ill Dad, work, Lancaster. I then broached the subject of her birthday, saying that money prevents me coming up. I told her that I miss her and Kitty every day; but the train fare is over a hundred pounds, and then there's paying for somewhere to stay. Everyone in Lancaster thinks that someone else will put me up.

"I know looby, but realistically, you can't bankrupt yourself for two hours in The Fur Coat and No Knickers Arms, and I'd have to go back anyway and look after The Little Dictator anyway." My stomach sank. Without saying it, she had said that her and Kitty would be getting together later, a gathering to which I wouldn't be invited.

We chatted on for another couple of minutes before she returns, unprompted, to the subject of her birthday. "...and then on the Saturday, Kitty and Auntie V are coming round for the evening."

The accident of meaning takes no effort to grasp. I'd have been corralled with a pub lunch, after which they go up to Wendy's house for her birthday do, all of us smiling as I'm waved off. Neither of them will stand up to Wendy's ex's baseless jealousy; it's easier to send me away. There's no sign of her knowing how much this hurts me, as she chats away about her birthday night before moving blithely on to another topic.


Boxed set

  Sun 5th May 2019

I am in the pub, trying to concentrate on my flea market acquisition, The Norwich School, 1800 -- 1833, a monograph about a school of landscape painting that flourished in that city.

It's absorbing to the exclusion of everything except the fortyish woman with glasses and an overbite, light brown V-necked wrap-round top over a white vest, and a worn-in, paled demin miniskirt that tautens round her thighs, stray threads from the hem unpicked. She stands up. Sleek blackly-tighted legs. She tugs at her dress to correct its upward ride. "Don't do that," I say. She leans artlessly and fuckably with her hands on the table as she gathers an order.

In a self-conscious moment when decency suddenly kicks in to arrest my sexualised gaze, I look around to see if she is a shared desire, for it dirties the pleasure when you realise that you're just the same as him. It seems to be just me combing her.

I leave the Norwich School to go to the bookie's. On my way down Corn St I am greeted with a fist pump by the man who sorted out the ruckus the other day. It's over in a second, but I carry the ripple of his greeting in a subserviant place like a grateful little boy. With a build no bigger than mine, he is a potentate, possessing a power magnified by its being held in check.

Through him, I've been vetted, and admitted to some stripe. My hernia, or groin strain, I don't know which, isn't healed yet -- I am still blotched in black, purple and a dull yellow, from my belly button southwards -- but I am impatient to rejoin his exercising. I would love to carry a physical strength incommensurate with my appearance.

Walking down Old Market today, I am approached by an Irishman who wants to give me a knife set. It's boxed, brand new. He has five of them. He doesn't want any money. He just wants me to say a prayer for him.

Wendy and Kitty ring from Wendy's. How I want to be with them. We chat easily for half an hour, but the pleasure curdles as Wendy starts on a tentative plan involving me coming up for her birthday later this month. I keep up an appearance for the phone.

The call ends, and the corrosive, years-old lament, born of the knowledge that The Injunction would bar me from a gathering such as that from which they were ringing, seeps into my middle.


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

M / 55 / 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

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