Northern Intelligentsia

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

“I never said I didn’t think he was an interesting 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 Marxizst 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 eat 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 with its brothers and sisters. Sean casually examined the long varnished-over graffiti hacked into the wood of the table, while Tom rolled some more from his half-empty Golden Virginia packet before re-igniting the conversation.

“Well, it’s not Camuuz fault yis 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 numerous passers by flitted along in the high-level window that let most of the light into the once grand, now well-worn, lounge bar.

Sean restarted the chatter once more. “Eh, talking of frog writers, I read this thing in The Guardian 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, fe sure, you n’all? For yeaaaars I thought that till I was talking to some university cunt when I used to go to the writing group when I was about 20 and he was like “It’s Rambo you cretin” in the arseyiest voice you can imagine and 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 like. 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 ‘Whosse 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 grand issue of being mostly self-taught. I used to say Hedgemoney for years rather than hegenemy.”

“You fucking spaz. 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 fucking top yerself.”

“Ah, don’t get all Daily Mirrorfied on me sunshine it don’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 lubricated head slowly and looked around the room once more and 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 pink 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,” he said appealingly, “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 man. 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 fucking depressing 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!”

By Kenn Taylor