Northern Intelligentsia

By Kenn Taylor

“CAMUE!” Tom spat with vigour. “Don’t you talk to me about fuckin Camue!”

“I never said I didn’t think he was an interestin writer, I just disliked his characters at the time.”

“Oh come on. You couldn’t handle the Existentialists for years cos yer filled yer head with all that Marxzist bollocks. And now you’re trying to tell ME about Camue.”

“In me old age I realised the cunt had a point. But there were just too many fuckwits in my college carrying around a Penguin Classic of The Outsider and wearing long coats and leaving their shitty fucking poems around and all the dopey bitches ate it up.”

They fell silent. Tom sucked hard on his tightly wrapped rollie, scrutinized the end to see if it was worth taking another drag, then squashed it hard into the ashtray along with its brothers and sisters. Sean casually examined the long varnished-over graffiti hacked into the wood of the table, while Tom rolled another one from his half-empty Golden Virginia packet before re-igniting the conversation.

“Well, it’s not Camuze fault ye went to a wanker’s school.”

They both went quiet again and gently surveyed the yellowed back room of the pub and the strange gaggle of Wednesday afternoon drinkers slumped in its corners. Sky bubbled away in one corner while the feet of innumerable pedestrians flitted past the high-level window which let most of the light into the once grand, submerged lounge bar.

Sean restarted the chatter once more. “Eh, talking of frog writers, I read this thing in The Gurdian the other day, and it reminded me…I bet you used to think tha Rambo was pronounced Rimbaud, like it’s spelt not Rambo.”

Tom snorted, “Ahhh, fer sure, you n’all? For yeaaaars I thought tha till I was talking to some university cunt when I used to go to the writing group when I was about 25 and he was like “It’s Rambo you cretin” in the arseyiest voice you can imagine. I would have lamped him there and then, but I just thought he was wrong, so I was like ‘Naah man, that’s the dude out of the filums ya know. It’s Rimbauued! And he just walked off. It was only when I saw something on telly about him…”

“Ha, come to think of it, that happened to Cantona too ya know?”

“Cantona? Eric karatekicking fucking Cantona?”

“Aye. Some journo asked him ‘Oose yer hero Eric?’ and he was like ‘Rambo’ in his dusky Frenchie and people started sending him all these fucking pictures of Sly Stallone!”

“Ha. That’s classic. Ah, the issue of being mostly self-taught. I used to say Hedgemoney for years rather than hegenemy.”

“You fucking twat. Even I knew tha.”

“Bugger off. Anyway. Did you say you’d been reading The Guardian again? It’s bad for ye health tha. It’s a slippery slope, you’ll be listenin to Radio 4 next and then you might as well just fuckin top yerself.”

“Ah, don’t get all Daily Mirrorfied on me sunshine it doesn’t fucking wash. You used to read The Guardian every day when you were last working and you could nick it from there. Yer just cheap.”

“Well,” said Tom, staring into the black of his pint and then back at Sean, “just don’t start getting Private Eye or I’ll fucking disown you.”

“No fear.”

There was a marked silence as again they looked around the room. Tom glanced at Sean. “Same again?”

“Yeah. Oh aye, get us some Bacon Fries while you’re at it.”

“Rot yer insides!”

“Fuck off veggie!”

Sean swayed his well-lubricated head slowly and looked around the room once more at the other drinkers all talking their respective bollocks and thought: Was there anything in life better that this?

Tom retuned with two more jars of Beamish, a pack of Bacon Fries and some no-mark Cheese and Onion crisps stuffed in his pockets.

“Talking of long beuks, ya finished Ulysses yet?” He said as he plopped down the pint glasses and tossed the Fries at Sean.

“Ah, god man. No, not yet. I am ploughing through it. It’s not fucking easy though man. How long did it take you?”

“I shudder te think. It was years ago n’all. I should probably read it again to be honest.”

“I mean ‘Portrait’ was hard going enough as it was. Especially that bit in the middle were he goes on and on about his Catholic guilt over shagging that prossie. He needed an editor man. I would have been like ‘Nice book Jimmy, but shave about twenty pages off the guilt trip’. It was fuckin depressin man. When I read it I was in college and it brought back all those church memories too. I was like ‘Ah, I’m deffo going to hell after what I did with Sarah McLaughlin.”

“Ha. It never leaves ya, lapsed or not.”

“Aye, lapsed Catholic, lapsed Socialist, lapsed Evertonian. But a glimmer of faith always still always burns in yer somewhere.”

“Apart from with the Evertonianism!”