Fiction- Venn

On The Tiles

Another weekend, another round of birthday parties. This week we’re celebrating Tony’s, Kate’s and Bert’s. Next week it’s Julie’s and Sam’s. It strikes me that a whole load of parents were getting jiggy in June and July. Must have been all the sunshine. So I thought I’d do a little research to find out which is the most fertile month.

Typing ‘What Month has the highest birth rate?’ into Ask Jeeves brings back a lot of results about teenage pregnancy and how to prevent it and decreasing overall birth rates and, indirectly, this piece about the spread of disease and disorder by birth month which does, briefly, allude to my theory of a Spring baby glut.

‘Birth Rate by Month’ in Google has a more useful spread of results. The first one out of the bag, however, tells me my Summer Lovin’ theory is wrong, at least in South Carolina– where April is the moribund month and August the fecund. There mustn’t be much else to do in South Carolina in December, which reminds me of the old line about Iceland- ‘There’s only two things to do around here- fishing and fucking. And in the Winter there isn’t any fishing.’ Most worrying statistic from South Carolina is that the youngest mother was only 11! (They should have given her a television set.)
Meanwhile, the rate of never married Japanese men has dropped, and it’s all because of the power of the Internet, Blueberries are good for the brain and sheep with hair are more efficient meat producers.
I can’t help coming back to the 11 year old mother. The world’s youngest mother was five years and eight months old when she gave birth. She was afflicted with a condition that brought on puberty ridiculously early, but the most important, and chilling, question is- who the hell was having sex with a four year old?
The world’s oldest mother was 63. Guinness doesn’t keep an oldest father record, but points to a 93 year old (there’s hope for me yet).
And finally, recommendations on the best positions for getting pregnant (it seems that the most fun positions- standing, sitting, woman on top- are also the least effective baby makers.)

Posted by Jim at 7:12:48pm

It’s going to be tense, what with Bob and Louise’s break up and everything. Everyone’s been assimilated, but back in the pre-friendBorg past, Kate was Bob’s friend and Tony Louise’s. Or was it the other way around. Bert’s only been around a couple of years. As a junior member of the collective he was the one who got to have his name changed so we could differentiate him from Bob.

The friendBorg is this sort of blob of shifting loyalties and power struggles. For a brief moment, back when I was a corporate whore and before inertia broke my heart, I was poster boy for career aspirations in the group. Now I think I’m the boogeyman of bad job decisions (“Remember children, if you’re going to quit a job, make sure you have another one lined up to move to. Otherwise Jim’s P45 will get you.”) I love all of my friendBorg and there are no other people I’d rather spend time with. It’s just that sometimes I’d like to meet someone new.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m horrendously, painfully shy. Most of the people who know me would get all puzzled at my assertion. They’ve been out drinking with this merry loud bloke, or heard me doing improv on why elephants can’t drive (their feet are too big, they keep pressing the accelerator, brake AND clutch all at the same time.) But I can’t start conversations with strangers and I don’t understand the art of small talk (unless you want to discuss elephants’ driving habits, of course.) So the friendBorg is a safe cocoon. It’s full of people I know, who I’m several years- in some cases over a decade- beyond making first impressions on. They’ve seen the good, the bad, the average and unique of Jim and little short of going postal is going to change their opinion of me in one night.

Of course, every so often we assimilate someone new, and sometimes this messes with the group dynamic or my stability.


Gah! I’m c rap. I don’t do the relationship thing. I certainly can’t do the chatting up thing. Not even when she’s right there in front of me. especially when she’s right there in fronmt of me.

I’m going to die bitter and lonely.
Posted by Jim at 3:47:28am

I wonder who you could be talking about……?
Comment by Steve at 10:14:37am
How many times do I ha ve to tell you. Don’t drink and blog!
You might get the keyboard wet.
Comment by at 10:46:35am
Who was she? You can tell me, I don’t know any of your friends and I promise not to tell.
Comment by Caroline at 11:03:23am
Get me an aspirin and don’t make me embarrass myself any more than I already have done.
Comment by Jim at 11:49:37am
Did someone mention squirrels?
Comment by Bert at 2:16:03pm

The Edge is a damn fine pub that does an evil thing. It sells Kwak. Kwak is probably the king of Belgian beers, and that’s saying something. It’s a dark lager, more mellow than pilsner and more bitter than some bitter. It’s also over 8% abv. Time was, we’d celebrate a birthday by trying to drink The Edge empty of Kwak bottles. I have many happy memories of birthdays fuelled by Belgian beer.

Actually, that last bit’s a lie. But I do have photos.

I rolled up at The Edge unfashionably on time. The birthday girl was there, along with Bert and Bob and a few others. “Jimmy!” Kate bounced over to me and gave me a big hug. Drunk already.

“Hey honey. How are you?”

“Drunk.” At least she’s honest.

“Good for you. Let me dump my coat. You want a drink?”

Kate picked a glass from the table, brought it up close and tipped it left and right to check the level. “Heineken please.”


“Wyre Piddle, please.”

“There’s a beer called Wyre Piddle?”

“Guest ale.”


I have this funky little thing I do with my trench coat where I shrug it off and catch it just before it falls to the floor. then I can turn round and dump it wherever. It was as I turned around that I spotted her. Lucy. I’d forgotten she was in town. Still cute. I still would. She caught my eye and gave me a little smile. Oh crap. Kate smirked at me as I set off for the bar.

Steve swung through the doors while I was at the bar. He nodded in my direction then waved to the others before tacking across the flow of a group who were leaving and heading for the bar. “Lucy’s here.”

“I hadn’t noticed. Beverage?”

“Wyre Piddle.”

“Someone’s taking the piss.”

“She’s a friend of Kate’s you know. I don’t think she’s got a boyfriend.”

“Is everyone going to smirk at me all night? Three Piddles and a Heineken please.”

– – – – – – – – –

It didn’t take too long to get Piddled out of my head. It’s not Kwak, but it sneaks up on you. Tony turned up at some point, with Louise and a bundle of others. She sat at
the opposite end of the big table to Bob, but there was no obvious glaring. Somewhere along the line, Kate managed to shuffle me along next to Lucy. Personally, I’d have preferred to sit at a discreet distance and sneak sly glances at the fit of her top. It went quiet in our little bubble. I knew I should say something, but what? Whilst I mulled over the least cheesey opening line, she seemed engrossed in the discussion to our left. To my right Bob, Bert and Kate were talking holiday plans. Adrift from the conversation, lacking chat up lines and with full bladder but empty glass, it was time to pee and then Piddle.

“When did you get back?” The question caught me as I was about to get up.

“Mwuh? Uh, sorry?”

“You’ve been away with work haven’t you?”

“Travelling the country as an Itinerant Technology specialist.” Lucy didn’t get the joke. No-one ever gets that joke, my best material is wasted. “Yeah, I was living in hotels for almost a year.”

“;So they finally sent you back here.”

“Nah. I quit.”

“Oh, right.”

And that’s as far as I got. I knew I was supposed to ask her what she was doing these days, how everything was going in her life, whether she’d come back to my place and let me tie her to the bed so I could tease her until she multiply orgasmed, or, “Would you like a drink?”

She studied her half empty lager. “No, I’m okay thanks.”

Maybe I should have asked her about the bondage.

– – – – – – – –

“I swear the squirrels are spying on me.”

“Squirrels?” Bert wasn’t sure what he was hearing.

“When I open the curtains every morning one of the little bastards is staring at me. Every morning.”

“They’re clever little buggers, maybe they’re just curious.” Steve was almost as Piddled as I, or he wouldn’t be discussing tree rats.

“Every fucking morning? No, there’s something sinister going on.”

“Do they have guns?”

“No. They might have catapults.”

“I don’t see how they can be sinister if they don’t have guns.” Bert was beginning to get into the swing of it.

“They’re not allowed guns. The magpies won’t let them have guns.” Steve had remembered a conversation from our last time in the Edge. Kudos to him, but Bert was getting lost again. I was running out of beer. I waggled the glass, the accepted sign for ‘I’m off to the bar’, struggled up and left.

– – – – – – –

I wasn’t following Lucy around the room, honest. She just happened to be where I ended up. I hadn’t seen Bob for an entire two days, so I just had to catch up with him.

The party was beginning to balkanize, with Louise’s group digging in by the emergency exit and Bob’s taking the high ground at the head of the table. I was going to be the UN. Maybe. Or perhaps one of those mercenary groups.

Except that I couldn’t think of anything to say. “What is that stuff?” Bob asked.

“Wyre Piddle.”

“You’re taking the piss.”

“May that joke never grow old. Are we going anywhere after this?”

“You’d best ask the birthday girl. Or boy.”

“Kate. Kate.” I did wave, but I stopped short of clicking my fingers.

“Heyyyyy! Whassup?”

“We going anywhere else?”

“Don’t know.”

“Helpful. Where’s Tony?”

The enquiry had already rippled down the table, hopped to the other group and a reply was on its way back. “Broadway.” someone said.

Ahh, Broadway. Sweaty, smokey, grotty little place. I love it. I don’t know who the DJ is on a Saturday, but he’s got pretty much the right selection of alt, indie and retro. Which I would dance to if anyone asked.

We formed up either side of a pillar, waggling bottles to the beat. Bert slid over, I swear he was moving sideways. “These squirrels?”


“The squirrels, are they grey or red?”

“Squirrels? Oh, the squirrels. Grey. Thieving little incomer bastards.”


“They’re American. Can’t you tell? They’re fat, bossy and they’ve come over here and kicked out all the reds and taken their jobs.”

“I thought that was Austrarlians.”


“Australians. They come over here and take all the bar jobs.”


I swear Lucy was glancing at me. At least as often as I was glancing over at her. I needed another drink.

At some point I made it onto the dancefloor. I don’t remember what to, but I’m certain I didn’t kill anyone. There wasn’t any dried blood on my shoes, anyway. Then it gets all fuzzy and the next thing I remember is waking up in the director’s chair with half a kebab in my lap. It’s been a while since that happened. Then I went and posted silliness, then I went to bed and slept past noon.

And now I’m staring at the ceiling and pondering it all. Relationships are odd things, and I’ll never understand them. Why risk so much heartbreak and such stupid things as a redistribution of friends when it’s all over. They take so much effort and for what?

Apart from the sex.

And the cuddles.

Having someone to hold at night.

Being part of something bigger than yourself.

Yes, of course I want to be in one.

Notes Another chapter from the earlier version of Post & Publish. You can probably guess that it’s from before Boyfriend Season but after A Sort Of Homecoming. There’s a plan for the novel in a notebook and another chapter half way through being transcribed. I’m dropping behind on my 1000 words a day average because of other projects, but I’ll catch back up again soon.

The Edge is quite blatantly the Knott Fringe on Deansgate. Broadway is probably meant to be 42nd Street, which I haven’t been into in years. Kwak is Kwak. Thankfully I don’t drink it any more. Wyre Piddle is a real beer. Lucy is based on a rather embarassing crush I had a few years ago. If you know who, you know who, otherwise I’m not telling.

Other fiction- So Much To Answer For, Heavensent, the propeller-punk sci-fi war novel, or download Another Education/Ruby Red or Ten Years Asleep.

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