Letter to The Observer on Brexit

Letter as written:

David Goodhart’s conclusion concurred with my thinking the EU isn’t negotiating in good faith but willing failure.  Davis ingeniously met the EU’s insistence on keeping the Irish border porous only to be rebuffed without any alternative being offered and a refusal to enter into negotiations on even a transitional agreement on trade in goods and services that might conceivably make a soft border in some respect possible despite the inevitable hard border that’ll curtail Ireland’s trade with its biggest customer.  May offered £18 billion for two years, roughly twice as much a year we pay as members and the EU insists on more.  It wants its citizens to have more rights here than ours.  Its attitude is so self-important and condescending it’s beginning to justify our coming out!   Because of the intransigence of the EU we are coming together, as Goodhart suggests, willing to make as much of a success as we can of the hard Brexit in prospect, and it’ll be unity against the EU and I suspect under a Tory government come the next general election, even led by May if she keeps her nerve.  What I cannot conceive is our admitting to the EU we’ve made a mistake and asking its permission to crawl back in on whatever hard conditions it lays down for our re-entry.  Pride would preclude that.


One factors in that the letter, if considered, will be edited.  As published in The Observer on 15 Oct. 17 under the heading, It’s us against the EU, the letter read as: David Goodhart’s conclusion (“Britons need to rediscover the ties that bind”, Comment, last week) concurred with my thinking: the EU isn’t negotiating in good faith, but willing failure.

David Davis ingeniously met the EU’s insistence on keeping the Irish border porous, only to be rebuffed.  There was a refusal to enter into negotiations on even a transitional agreement on trade and services.  The EU wants its citizens to have more rights here than ours.  Its attitude is so self-important and condescending that it’s beginning to justify our coming out.

Because of the EU’s intransigence, we are coming together, willing to make a success of the hard Brexit in prospect.  It will be unity against the EU and, I suspect, under a Tory government come the next election.  I cannot conceive our admitting we’ve made a mistake and asking permission to crawl back in, on whatever conditions it lays down.

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Review of Iris Murdoch’s The Philosopher’s Pupil

I did much of this yesterday, lost to Goodreads, which flickers. It’s the narrator says he knows ‘Delphi is empty.’ It is. The gods might as well be in Britain. The author’s playful, ‘If George was in a novel he would be a comic character.’ He’s not. His use of the term ‘semi-conscious will’ indicates he knows nothing of the unconscious will as distinct from that of conscious will which, left to itself, acts immaterially eg choosing one toothpaste over another and is, if ignorantly, informed by the unconscious will when it’s acting spiritually eg desiring one person over all others, otherwise interchangeable. One gets some idea of the animus the philosopher bears his pupil from his excoriation of the pupil’s brother, Tom. Who the fuck does he think he is! (the philosopher that is) was elicited from me and duly marginalised. It wouldn’t take much psychology on Tom’s part to realise if he says he’s going to a party the crowd will follow, his use of the excuse to leave them an example from the novel itself of an unconscious will acting through consciousness to effect something, the author’s in the guise of Tom’s. There’s many a hint of killing. Pearl’s confession is wonderful. I liked the detail of ‘a piece of the cracked glass …fell out on to the lawn.’ ‘How innocent I once was and could have been made happy by this.’ ‘No more …older persons between her and the grave.’ George’s teeth figure a lot. That he ‘felt vaguely unwell and feverish’ indicated he was the one like to die. Tch! she uses ‘burn’for ‘scald’. I thanked god that ‘Tom McCaffrey was standing outside.’ Murdoch is so cheeky: she answered my initial question how would the narrator know. He had ‘the assistance of a certain lady.’ That should mean of a character in the book but I’ll settle for Murdoch herself. It’s a brilliant way to justify the rationale of the novel, with one mighty leap, she is free.

The introduction I read afterwards. It’s a good analysis of her oeuvre. In quoting her he repeats the misspelling of ‘pedlar’, maybe because the publisher is American. He may be wrong about murder and accidents. It’s fairly clear the first was attempted murder, as was the last. What’s interesting is the would-be murderer can’t remember what he did ie he did it unconsciously, precluding its registering on conscious memory, giving plausible deniability. That’s how your unconscious takes advantage for your benefit of conscious ignorance. Maybe the introducer doesn’t know this of himself.

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I wasn’t sure I would go and if I did that I’d read; there was nothing appropriate in Mayakovsky to pay tribute to John’s communism.  John – not Elliott – wanted to go; of the Writers’ Group, he rated John’s writing and mine.  To make sure we arrived in time he made out we were late.  Three old women on the bus told us where the crematorium was and I should’ve known anyway, having been there before, but forgot and led us into the cemetery where we asked two women where it was.  One, Ebole, a Glaswegian, decided to take us there in her car, if we were to make it in time, as she’d already taken a woman who’d made the same mistake.  We were only a little late.  I remembered to wave back to Ebole in thanks.

Before us ranked the group.  A woman I took to be John’s niece presided and Quentin was asked to speak from another lectern.  I leant forward, straining to catch his soft delivery broken by sobs, tears and apologies, in contrast to my own impassivity.  John – not Elliott – said long after the event while everybody else’s heads were immobile I was looking every which way to see how people were taking it.  Quentin must really have liked John!  I must be more sensitive to him now I knew how chicken-hearted he was, as I told John.  Quentin’s was an appropriate artistic performance all the more effective for being sincere, as I would shortly tell him.  I can’t remember the content.  Jim Smyllie was then summoned to speak.  Why?  Kevin, the group’s leader, must’ve asked him.  Wasn’t somebody from John’s other group asked?  Why wasn’t I asked?  I’d known John for as long as Quentin, longer than Kevin and a lot longer than Jim Smyllie.  It was an insult not to have been asked, however reluctantly, by Kevin.  I’d’ve refused.  I had nothing of unalloyed good, even of any, to say about mean John, Elliott.  He’d softened toward me near the end, admiring that “John” – me – “refuses to be old”; and he was willing to have me read out his last piece for the WG though he had said he didn’t like how I read: fast, with inflection and infusing with life.  He didn’t read himself, blinded by cataracts.  John thought he liked me.  I was softening to him too in his infirmity, protective of his unsteady gait over uneven surfaces, without forgetting how negatively critical he had been of my writing, saying he would not be buying my book since he read every book he bought and wouldn’t read mine, a gratuitous insult I do not forgive.  It wasn’t the book I’d read out from he took exception to but another that hasn’t been published anyway.  I’d been going to but wouldn’t buy his books after that, though pleased Quentin had published them since it was what John wanted and I want people to get what they want.  That I hadn’t read him spared me coming to any conclusion about his writing.  I did not retaliate.  He was an old man who set store by it.  I’d likened a read-out piece of his to embroidery.  That stuck.  He said long after, smiling, “John thinks my writing’s like embroidery,” as if assuming it were anything but, and as others would agree.  They didn’t then.  “Embroidery can be beautiful,” I said.

After the service we stood outside where I realised the niece was other than the woman who wasn’t coming to the wake but off to direct another funeral.  We wended our way to the Mortlake Ship, by the Thames, beside the old Watney’s brewery where I’d worked as tank cleaner.  I couldn’t eat the food but could drink the gluten-free beer on some insistent relative’s tab.  I wasn’t that interested in getting to know people I’d never meet again except Frank, John’s cousin, who’d brought family photos not one of which was of John whom he hadn’t seen for twenty years.  He said John had gone to Glasgow University but dropped out after the first year, not that that was the verb for the phenomenon then.  I hadn’t thought he’d gone to university at all since no higher than an executive civil servant.  For some time Frank’s father was John’s guardian I think, from my questioning some disparity in an educational outcome between John and Frank, but I was becoming increasingly stocious.

I wanted to know how John died.  “A heart attack.  He was found in the bathroom.”  “A stroke.  Strokes loosen the bowels,” as I knew from persuading police to let me break in to open the door to them and sighting Mrs Mack quivering on the pan with her knickers about her ankles.

John – not Elliott – set me off to cadge a cigarette for him to roll a spliff.  Jim Smyllie didn’t have one.  People have stopped smoking.  I couldn’t complete my foray because the gap between a standing woman’s arse and the chair another woman sat in was too small for even me to slip through though a woman, encountering the same problem from the other side, simply put her hand on the arse which moved accommodatingly.

I asked Quentin if Beehive and Dan were coming to my party.  “You’ll have to ask them.”  “Is there a rift between you and Beehive, and Dan?”  No.  “You’re respecting their autonomy,” I concluded and he concurred.

John – not Elliott – procured the tobacco and I indicated to Quentin he should join us for a smoke outside.  By then I was so far gone I couldn’t remember a name, realising ‘Julian’ was wrong, “the co-editor,” of the book my short story was in.  “Justin,” Quentin said.  I asked him why he liked John’s – Elliott’s – writing.  I forget the answer.  He said he’d come upon a smile in the writing he didn’t understand and had seen an apparition.  John said I should simply have accepted Quentin’s statement, as he did.  That wasn’t likely.  I’m not him.  He says I laughed, in shock, and at once extracted as much information about the apparition as I could.  I ascertained it was of John, Elliott, and that it resolved Quentin’s difficulty of understanding John’s text.  I wasn’t disputing that Quentin had seen an apparition, only that it wasn’t John’s ghost, and gave alternative explanation.  He’ll most probably stick to his own.  He hasn’t much if any cognisance of his unconscious whereas I have of mine which first presented itself to my child’s inner eye as a man but stopped the visuals after juxtaposing himself on rooftops to amuse me as I walked to the school I taught in.  Once he’d told me he was my unconscious will, he limited himself to the auditory, as exemplified in my story Quentin published.  The auditory’s gone too now I’m old, three months younger than John Elliott, so I was freewheeling on remembrance of things past in providing an alternative explanation to Quentin who, knowing only a conscious orientation out, would think any projection by his unconscious to give him an answer he wanted was outside and not from within, disguised as out.  I’ve since asked if he was seeing with his eyes or inner eye at the time ie consciously or unconsciously, adding he might not know.  His unconscious, like yours, wouldn’t want him to know it.

I persuaded Quentin to come back with us and continue the wake at my place till half eight when he and John – not… – went off for a train, parting at Clapham Junction, whereupon John was sick, twice.  He said since, “You said you were going to be more sensitive to Quentin and the first opportunity you got you were insensitive!”

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An All-day Party

Night before I prepared the guinea fowl for slow-cooking.  In the morning I started on vegetarian dishes from recipes I’d been saving: harissa roast potatoes, beans, tomatoes and fried potatoes, baked eggs on chard but gave up on John’s appearing before twelve with flowers in a bag.  The cooked beans were left in a sieve.  The chard charred in the oven.

The sun flowers and roses were difficult to extricate, needing both of us, and put in a plastic pint glass as most suitable vase for floral display on the unfolded console table in the room.

Michele was first to arrive.  I’d forgotten she already knew John from an abortive drive to pick him up from hospital after an operation he hadn’t yet had.  Her present was a flask and cylinder of small whisky bottles to fill it.  She said she’d already bought it before I’d instructed her not to bring a bottle.  “This is different.”  It wasn’t a bottle for the party.  I’d plenty bottles for that.  She told John I’d never forgive her for two things, one being her taste for Jeffrey Archer.  The other I forget.  John asked how we’d met.  On a computer course, Michele told him.  I said I nearly cried, thinking I’d never get the hang of it but it made it so much easier to put writing that’s in the wrong place in the right one than when typed.  “Is that a real orchid!” she asked.  It was the best she’d seen.  Michele doesn’t even have brown fingers.  We ate guinea fowl and the harissa potatoes with champagne probably.  Michele, who doesn’t drink, had the best ginger beer.

Jean came, asking if she should take off her shoes.  “No, the carpet’s done.”  She neither ate nor drank – she never does – citing a ropy tummy and sat on the corner of the bed other side the swivel chair.  I sat on the bed up from Jean and the chair to include her and filled any hiatus, primarily with reference to her print of a red-haired witch pinned to a panel of my airing cupboard, explaining it was John saw it first: the pendulous nose, the eyes, the pointed chin, that perhaps you had to be at a distance to see it as Michele closed in and saw it.  Consciously it represents light from a torch.

After they’d gone it was just after five, when I was born, time to light the candles, seven on one cake, nine on the other, and blow them out.  I forget the wish.  With the cake we were drinking a £100 bottle of 2006 Comtes de Champagne when Steph came and partook.  “The expense adds to the taste,” I said and she agreed.  I found out she hadn’t actually got on with a common acquaintance.  Being Cancerian, I was resentful, I said, and persevering with it.  Steph said she’d have no more to do with whoever was objectionable.  “That’s what I do,” I said.  It simply is what people do.

Dan arrived with gluten-free goodies.  “You’ve brought me something to eat,” as had Steph.  He had a glass of the champagne.  Dan then helped himself to food in the kitchen.  I added the beans to the frying pan.  There wasn’t much Comtes left for Quentin when he came and sat on the swivel chair but I took a key out of the kitchen drawer and went out the door and along a bit to the door of the shed, or wine cellar, where I extracted another bottle of a cheaper champagne from the racks.  “Finish that first,” I instructed, before filling Quentin’s glass.  Dan positioned himself behind Quentin on the bed, reclining like an “odalisque.  What’s the male word?”  “Catamite,” Quentin said.  Once I pointed out the plates on the washing machine, Quentin helped himself, as did Steph to the guinea fowl.  I liked I could just leave them to it.  Quentin was having to eat with the difficulty of a plastic fork.  I retrieved a real one from the sink, rinsing and drying it, and gave him that.  “I want this magnum of prosecco drunk.”  Steph was happily surrounded by four men.  Finger keeping place, Quentin held the book I was reading as he talked.

Throughout music played at low volume from the cd memory of the Bang and Olufsen except when John played Bowie for his and Quentin’s benefit.  Quentin had predictably forgotten he was to bring a Bowie called Station something for John’s delectation.  John rolled up tokes we smoked on the balcony, making sure one of us was inside with Steph.  Somebody mentioned somebody we knew had an STI.  I was confused because my relationship with that latter somebody had begun with his broadcasting he had an STI when it turned out he hadn’t but knew what to do if he had.  I didn’t know what to make of it, so made nothing.  I am making something of it now but nothing much.  I’d had an STI myself recently.  Fiona came with a gluten-free cake she’d baked and helped herself to food.  Most of her cake and all of one of my two were eaten.  John stuck my phone in the other that apart from the dent remained intact.

Of my array of spirits, only the good rum was brought into play and entirely consumed, more reluctantly by the women.  “Just a little bit,” said Quentin.  “I know you’re drunk when you start doing your Dorothy Parker: ‘just a little one, darling, just a little one – and if I want to take home a horse, don’t let me.’”  Quentin told me he and his girlfriend were having a trial separation, since May, two months ago.  “I asked if there was rift between you and Beehive, and Dan,” judiciously adding the latter, when I’d wanted to know if they were coming to the party and he said I’d have to ask them.  “You said there wasn’t.  I concluded you were respecting their autonomy.”  “It was an inappropriate place,” John Elliott’s funeral, after which he, John – not Elliott – and I came back to mine to continue the wake.  “An inappropriate vessel,” I murmured, alluding to Quentin’s funniest, indeed only memorable line from the last birthday party when he protested my pouring spirits into his wine glass, that it was an inappropriate vessel, whereupon I got him an appropriate shot glass he sat over the rest of the evening, along with the bottle.  “Is it because Beehive was jealous of Dan? or me,” I judiciously added.  I was assured not.  “What was it?” I snuggled up to Quentin in a mock-seductive attempt to prise out of him what he would no more reveal than why bananas horrified him.  “You said,” at his birthday party, “you might divulge why at a later date.”  We’re never going to know of that unspeakable trauma.   Quentin and Dan left shortly after at about half eight.  I forget why.

Fiona stayed until half ten.  John said it’d been a successful party.  I tried to gauge had it been.  I’m fatalistic, tending to think things are as they should be and couldn’t imagine the party and the people at it being other than it was and they were, ideal.

I was having an erection and asked John to stay.  The sweep of the closing curtain over the table smashed two glasses.  “You should’ve let me do that,” said John.  I looked at him: he hadn’t shown the least interest.

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Gay Day

Boarding the train, I went one way for a seat and John the other, where he took a single seat.  I sat beside a bearded young man who kept looking at me furtively.  Opposite was a boy who said we could have where he sat, vacating it to sit across the way.  “Thank you,” I said, “he’s fine where he is.”  The boy across the aisle from me in taking something out of his pocket dropped a 20p.  I picked it up to give him.  “Thank you, Eric,” he said in a coarse voice suggesting he’d get out at Feltham.  I noticed a 5p.  “This too.”  “Thank you, Eric.”  “Who’s Eric?”

“Are you Scottish?” he was going on the accent.  “No.  British.”  “Scotland’s part of Britain.”  “Yes but I wasn’t born there.”  “Are you gay?” he asked, making another deduction from appearance he wanted confirmed.  “Is that a pass?” I asked.  “What?”  “Are you making a pass at me?”  “You look like Jimmy Savile.”  I don’t, “He was a paedophile.”  “Have you seen yourself in a mirror?”  “When I’m shaving.  Have you seen yourself in a mirror?”  He was not pretty, unlike the younger boy.  There was something wizened about his eyes.  He could’ve been sixteen.  The girl seated other side the younger boy laughed.  I stared at her, “You think this is funny?”  She held my gaze.  “You’re encouraging him.”  He put his feet up on the seat – I said nothing – and one shod foot between the legs of the younger boy, a homosexual act to assert dominance, as I thought to say before saying nothing.  “Get your foot off my balls,” the younger one said and decamped to the seat behind where he’d originally been sitting.

The Feltham boy said I’d – I forget the exact verb he used: not roger, not fuck, maybe had – John the night before and, he added, John me.  Although the boy was making a bid to draw John in, John had good reason to stay out and I’d’ve stopped him if he did intervene.  I am perfectly capable of dealing with any situation I find myself in, the difficulty being articulating the appropriate words for that moment.  John had …I’d’ve said, only come that morning before breakfast but that would’ve been raucously interpreted and in any case none of the boy’s business, nor meeting the intent of his statement.  He said I reminded him of Eric …Smithers, I think that’s the surname he gave, and that he himself was called Jimmy the Machine, a source of pride.  Why machine? I didn’t ask.  He asserted his heterosexuality with reference to the girl.  “If you have to prove you’re heterosexual that’s the first proof you’re not.  I wouldn’t have you if you paid me oodles,” I said.  “What’s oodles?”  “A lot.  You’re rough trade.”

They retreated as one along the carriage.  “That was embarrassing,” I said.  “Did I do okay?”  The train stopped at Feltham.  “Back in a moment,” John said and alighted, an odd time to dissociate himself now they’d gone.  He’s going for the guard I thought.  I saw the younger Feltham boy go through the barrier and wondered if John had got back on the train.  I recognised him farther down it.

We met up again on Staines station platform, walking to its boat club where we had coffee with the gluten-freaks, Sandra, Jacqueline and Wendy who talked of their diseases other than the coeliac I share with them and the glutenous John not.  After lunch back home again, we went up town to Waterloo, walking across the bridge into Gay Pride.  A fat girl was being arrested by police.  Why?  A small brown man stepped out of the crowd to tell me.  “A public nuisance,” I concluded.  “Don’t get involved,” I told John who got involved, rearranging the fat girl’s legs into recovery position, then rearranging the body onto its side to follow suit.  Once satisfied, John left off.  A policeman’s arm was glistening with spew.

Trafalgar Square was barricaded off and people were let in through a sequence of pens like sheep.  I demurred.  To end my bleating John moved on and we came upon the actual parade, as he thought I’d intended: a lot of exhibitionists showing off and a thick crowd being socially agreeable.  It was as boring as a Belfast Orange Walk.  We looked for a park.  John got his bearings in Old Compton Street which was jam-packed and where footing was made insecure with bottles and cans.  John moved in the wake of policemen and I in his.  I lost sight of him at the corner with Wardour Street and, after waiting a bit for him to come back, went home.  There I ate two bits of fruit before hearing, “John!” from outside.  There was John with my bottle of wine and corkscrew.   He’d’ve felt guilty he said next day if he’d gone to his own home and drunk it.

My neighbour is eschewing transgender or having himself castrated to become a eunuch.  After all, “you have an arse,” I said, should the woman inside every man want to be accommodated.

Moncie called up and I let her in though she turned up her nose at all my offerings.  She likes going under the bed and when I rolled onto my side so did she.  She also likes being let out the front door to the block.

John left at quarter past twelve.  He’s since complained I only wanted to show myself in a good light in this blog and not him, so I’ve added on the second half which I’m sure you’ll agree isn’t interesting.

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Email to London Evening Standard on Brexit

I was reading the letters page and the first letter seemed familiar, sounding like a copy of me, so I skipped to the end to see who’d written it: John Cairns.  I had.  Thankfully the editor had corrected my misspelling of a name I didn’t think to look up.  The end ‘too’ seemed otiose and I’ve checked from my sent folder to find out how it was edited.  In public writing you factor editing in.  It’s too much bother to give the published version.  Here’s the original email:

Since there are three times the Europeans here than British there, in a much bigger entity, May should have been asking for a major concession beyond the reciprocal recognition of rights.  Accepting Europe’s negotiating basis perhaps precluded her having done that.  It’s not too late.  If Baumier is illegitimately demanding a European court supervise any agreement on rights, Europe is intent on imposing a hard Brexit without any deal, as Davis, our negotiator, is aware if he says no deal is better than a punitive one.  We have to use what we have and the number of Europeans here gives us some leverage since Europe is so keen to exact that its citizens’ rights here should be as if we’d never left Europe.  Of course this is a bargaining chip to be used!  They’re not here for our good but their own.  Stop being maudlin about it when politically Europe is determined to do us down.

Instead of ‘the’ in the first line the editor put ‘as many’ and instead of ‘British there’ ‘there are Britons in Europe’.  He inserted a ‘Theresa’ before ‘May’ and ‘citizens” before ‘rights’.  He didn’t make a separate sentence but put a ‘but’ before ‘it’s not too late’.  After ‘If’ he inserted ‘the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier,’ and dropped the ‘illegitimately’ and inserted ‘that’ after ‘demanding’, changing the form of the verb to suit.  He inserts a ‘therefore’ before ‘intent’ and a ‘David’ before ‘Davis’, dropping ‘our negotiator’.  He’s put ‘must’ instead of ‘have to’ and ‘EU citizens living in the UK’ instead of ‘Europeans here’.  He’s dropped the ‘Of course’ and exclamation and inserted ‘for May to use’ instead of ‘to be used’ and replaced ‘They’re’ with ‘EU citizens are’.  He’s put ‘We should’ before ‘stop’, ‘this issue’ instead of ‘it’, ‘seems’ instead of ‘is’ and added the otiose ‘too’ at the end.

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Wild Boys Party

In see-through red shirt I’ve had for over fifty years and Japan windcheater, off to Quentin’s party with champagne, cake, box of chenin blanc, card and Latin dictionary.  He’d said he’s doing Latin.  Wrong address directed me to right one, Mornington Terrace, where, looking about, I saw an upturned bucket with the number on it, indicating the basement flat.  Dan let me in.  Quentin was having his face painted by Dominika.  In the kitchen Dan opened the champagne which spumed onto the floor.  “You should’ve had a glass handy.  It must’ve been shoogled on the way here.”  He made an attempt on the spill.  I had the smallest glass, Dominika the largest.  Quentin looked at the absence of words in his card I put in later.  I said I’d seen a card, crisis in the middle ages, but thought better of it since Beehive might call me a bitch.  He’s forty-five.  They laughed.  Quentin had a go at the spill.  Dominika wiped it up.

Mei-Ling and Yasmeen came next.  Yasmeen had a pillow – I eschewed making any pregnant remark – for her back she’d had an operation on, a vertebra replaced.  “You’re partly robot.”  (I later asked why the vertebra was removed: malignant.)  There wasn’t enough champagne left for two so they had their own pink sparkling rosé.  We reminisced how long we’d known each other – “I’m bad with names” – and still hadn’t got Mei-Ling’s right, “A hyphen!” subsequently addressing her as ‘Mei-hyphenated-Ling’ but may already have spelt ‘Yasmeen’ right.  I’d check.  (I’ve checked; I had.)   Mark Samuels in pork pie hat and Honey, who has Crohn’s disease and can’t eat wheat must’ve arrived meantime because they were other side the table when I said ei is usually pronounced ay, as in May.  This was disputed, by Quentin, but who then came up with ‘feint’ – “From French,” I said – and Mark with ‘reign’, probably, though I heard ‘rein’ unless he did say ‘reins’ and I’m misremembering.  I thought it was so pronounced in Latin and possibly Greek.  Mark remarked Quentin’s punctiliousness as editor, down to a comma.  Having gone over my publishing from my diary, the line of Quentin, Dan and Yarrow Paisley was easy compared to the work I put in on the other which foundered on the bad faith of the publisher.  “It makes for a better story.”  I was asked if the writers’ group liked my writing.  I considered.  They liked my blogs, so “Yes.”  I didn’t write for it.  “You know The Fling?”  Quentin agreed he did.

That might have led on to John who wasn’t there and I tend not to mention people who aren’t, as I haven’t Steph who, I told Dominika, wanted to meet her again, but in my trawl through my diary his was a better story than the publishing one.  I may have got on to him through telling Quentin I was a bit dispirited and the last time was connected with when John wasn’t about, John claiming that as the cause  “I’m becoming you,” I told Quentin.  “In that case, am I becoming you?”  “You are cheerier.”

However it started, I would have to say something to get to what I was wanting to tell Quentin that resulted from it.  “I thought John was a fling, a heterosexual having a bit homo on the side that demeaned me.  When he disappeared I thought he’d found cottaging suited him better.  You met him,” I told Mei-Ling, at Quentin’s last year’s party when I had John read out a poem of his I thought good she was less sure was.  Phase two, starting with the declaration of love on a Xmas card, ending with his being taken out by the police in shackles, handcuffs, would make the better story.  I could see they, electrified, agreed with that.  I went into his missing me because I’d gone up town in a blizzard to a book-selling by Quentin.  “You were there,” I told Mei-Ling.  There was a debate whether Mark also was.  Afterwards I was back home for five minutes before going on to dinner at a friend’s so wouldn’t be in for John.  Instead he sent the Xmas card, mentioning he’d got into a little bit of trouble with the police, thus didn’t have to explain himself when he did visit.  He didn’t want his name mentioned and would sue if I published what I’d call ‘The Convict’.  “It’s already written, in my diary.” Though a publisher, Quentin didn’t know what the legal position was on that.  “I was shaking after he left, with anger.  He threatened me!  His name wasn’t in it.  When police from Scotland Yard asked if I knew him, I shook my head.  I knew him as ‘Reilly’ or ‘O’Reilly’.  When they showed me a photograph, it was John.  I thought they were calling him ‘Mersh.’  It all becomes fiction in the end.”  Mei-Ling thought a surname given pretty defining.  “Makes for verisimilitude.”  Quentin nodded.  I went on to say we can’t say black any more but if we say ‘Fred’ and later he turns out to be …Japanese, that’s a little shock for the reader who’d be assuming something else.  Quentin nodded, saying something.  “Is there really a ‘Fred’ in Japanese!”  No. He gave a near enough equivalent.  There was something on assumptions made from appearances because Mei-Ling, half Scotch, thought from my cultured Scots accent I’m unaware of I was Scottish when ‘I’m British, born in Shoreham.”  What was his crime, Mei-Ling wanted to know.  “Conspiracy to murder.”  I explained the circumstances.  “I don’t know if it’s true.  I got it from John,” in dribs and disconnected drabs, though he wasn’t keen to give the last bit I wanted to know.  “He phoned the police afterwards in case the man was still alive.”  But that wasn’t the main point I was distracting myself from and wanted to tell while I remembered it.  John had my story in ‘Dadaoism, An Anthology’ read at the Wandsworth prison reading group and it was appreciated by Sadiq Khan.  “What was he doing there?” Mei-Ling asked.  “He was a murderer or rapist.  No,” he was visiting, showing he cared.  “I was disappointed but John assured me the murderers and rapists, with a yen for writing, did also appreciate my story.  They got the telepathy he said.  The book’s mine now,” I said to Quentin who wasn’t bothered about that and, missing the ostensible point, picked up on the mayor of London’s having appreciated his book and how that might be used.  “I could write to him,” I offered.  Mei-Ling said I must care for John I talked about him a lot.  “I enjoy his company.  He was the most beautiful boy in Liverpool.  Quentin thought he was good-looking.”  Quentin nodded.  “I didn’t notice.  He was the best shoplifter in London, he was told in a pub to his embarrassment and pride.”  She asked if he was a kleptomaniac.  I assured her he wasn’t.  I sounded off about something else as well, I can’t remember what.  I’ve composed a letter to Sadiq Khan.

I completely forgot this, until a reference by John, who didn’t want one, to bananas on my bookcase reminded me: Honey had thought to bring Quentin a present of bananas.  “Quentin,” a vegetarian, “doesn’t eat fruit.”  I’d once forgetfully offered him a banana and he revulsed.  He attributed the especial loathing to something in childhood he might reveal another time but not this.  Quentin doesn’t offer but, when asked, does usually tell.  Probably force-fed.  I had a vision of a Quentin in left profile with a banana protruding from his arse, shortly followed by one of a small, grey-haired man.  But would a father do that to his child?  The word, ‘banana’ recurred during the evening.  John said it was a wonder Quentin wasn’t gay.  “We don’t know that’s what happened.”  John went on to his being buggered by a parsnip.  “Wasn’t that sore?”  He couldn’t remember.  “It was a little parsnip.”  “I haven’t heard that from you before.”

Oh, yes!  Brexit.  How did I get on to that?  The French and Germans didn’t let the Romanians and Bulgarians move freely for seven years.  We could’ve been accommodated.  The Lisbon treaty actually waives freedom of movement in certain circumstances.  It’s not an absolute.  We could’ve invoked that.  We have more of their citizens than they ours.  We have to have concessions elsewhere.  Same with security.  We supply 40% of the information with 8% of the total population.  “And the Danes aren’t getting to fish in our waters, on the Dogger Bank, on historic rights, even if we don’t ourselves.  If we’re going to cut off our nose, we should take a slice of theirs.”  They laughed.  “I should’ve been prime minister except politics is boring.”  Mark agreed.  “You have to be agreeable to everybody.  I wouldn’t get far.”  Dominika later said the British part of her thought Brexit might be better; we’d be poorer but more… “Equal?” I suggested.  I didn’t understand the animosity against the Poles, I apologised.

Mei-Ling opened the box of wine for me.  I got hungry and had Quentin cut the cake to ‘happy birthday to you’, him, and I distributed it.  Honey could eat it.  There was a slice left I think Nigel had when he came.  Sitting by Quentin, I texted John I was at Quentin’s party.  He hadn’t come over as said on Good Friday and hadn’t replied to two texts then and that was a fortnight ago.  Dominika wanted to bake.  Dan had a gluten-free pizza for me and Honey I suggested be baked first.  Dan cut it into slices and in taking a slice from the plate I took exactly half the pizza, the slices connecting at the crust, leaving Honey the other half on the plate.  Dominika baked three lots of pizzas and is coming to my party to do a gluten-free one.  “She’s giving me a back rub with her breasts,” I said.  “I dreamt we were lovers.”  She surmised I might not be as completely homosexual as, presumably, she thought.  The assumption surprised me, “The unconscious doesn’t care about things like that.”  It didn’t occur to me, for me to say, I’ve two children older than Quentin.

Quentin had a video he showed in the other room of him as a Neanderthal at a pool.  “Vaughan Williams,” I said, Sinfonia antartica.  Quentin nodded.  He was being threatened by a spear-wielding Amazon he offered a dead animal to – I knew how this was going to end – when on the ridge appeared a white alien in a cap slowly flapping his wings and Quentin abandoned the woman and scurried up the ridge to the alien but without the offering.  He said the video was from some years ago.  He hadn’t cut his long hair for it.  I said to Domenica Quentin was braver than I was.  “He’s not brave.  He enjoys it.”  She offered to make me up too.  “I don’t like the feel on my face.  Three girls made me up at university to see if I’d pass as a girl.  I was pretty.  I couldn’t wait to wash the make-up off.  A lover wanted me to put make-up on and I did but femininely.  He was disappointed.  He’d wanted it dramatic.”  Dominika told me Joe and Quentin aren’t related as I believed but Joe’s the son of an ex-lover of Quentin’s father.  Dominika asked me to go out with her while she smoked a rollup.  The poems weren’t haiku but she couldn‘t remember what they were called.  I asked Quentin, “What were the poems of yours Dominika had on her wall?”  “Tanka.”  We considered whether drinking too much was related to childhood abuse.  “John drinks a bottle of spirits and then whatever I have.  I remark but don’t censure.  He said it’s because he’s not having sex.  That doesn’t affect me one way or the other.”  I was chittering with alcohol and cold.  Inside I looked on, smiling at losing Mei-Ling in animated catch-up to Nigel.

There were photos, taken by Dan.  “I should’ve pulled that in.”  “No,” Yasmeen indulged.  The first phase ended with Yasmeen’s leaving and Nigel’s coming.

Nigel’s married with two children and has to do with televised sport.  It brings in the money when finding alternative work nowadays is chancier.  I said my skills would be wasted on a good man, with no badness to mitigate.  We’d met before at the Cheshire Cheese I inevitably called Cat years ago at a Quentin party.  “You are my party people.”  Mei-Ling was pleased by that.  She, Nigel and Quentin knew each other from Durham.  “Who’s going to fill the hiatus?  The party’s flat.”  There was no unconscious drive or direction.

Beehive with bright blue hair, Naiem, who went out again for sparkling wine, and Joe came.  “I wanted to see your and Oscar’s shorts but there were no trains to Waterloo.  It would’ve taken hours.”  I asked if he’d seen the video we’d seen.  Joe nodded, smiling.  “You made it.”  Joe asked would I be blogging.  “No, I’ve lost interest.”  He thought that a shame.  “It started with you,” I addressed Quentin, “when I thought you important.”  Before she left I asked Mei-Ling to my party, looking for a piece of paper while she rapidly entered the information on her phone.  Mark remarked this but said nothing.

I said Beehive should win the prize for putting most effort into her costume, painting black stripes on a white jacket and enlarging its lapels “and you for least effort.”  “The booby prize,” Nigel said.  “Oh no!”  I left at ten to ten after a dance with Dominika, thinking it was later.  I embraced everybody goodbye except Nigel who held out his hand.  I asked a woman which way to the tube.  John texted he’d had flu.  On the way I replied I hadn’t thought there was anything really wrong.  I caught the Windsor train and was back in judicious time for a repeat of Versailles I was about to watch when John texted that I’d known because he told me, telepathically.  ‘Like fuck.’  On the day I’d bought his birthday card, I thought I might as well post it; he wasn’t coming.  There were no words and, if he could unconsciously transmit from afar, they wouldn’t be the conscious words he was assuming.  The communication bypasses consciousness.  I’d felt there was nothing really wrong.

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