Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tagged 2!

La Fille Mariée's tagged me (again), and frankly I'm grateful for the inspiration.

A - Available or Single? Is there a difference? Both.
B - Best Friends? I am nearly 33. I have friends. They are all Best.
C - Cake or Pie? Is there a difference? Both. Actually, cake. Chocolate. Triple. With shavings on top.
D - Drink of Choice? Summer: A nice refreshing G&T. Winter: A nice dark ale. I am an uninspirational bloke.
E - Essential Item? Erm, iPod. Sorry.
F - Favourite Colour? I am 33.
G - Gummi Bears or Worms? Pardon?
H - Hometown? One long street of restaurants and cafes, West London.
I - Indulgence? Triple chocolate cake. With shavings on top.
J - January or February? Neither.
K - Kids and Names? Two handsome sturdy boys with names from my family's history, Abraham and Hyman. That'll start 'em off well in life. And two pretty girls; Assumptia and Fanny.
L - Life is incomplete without? Complaining.
M - Marriage Date? A partner first would help.
N - Number of Siblings? One completely (in)different sister.
O - Oranges or Apples? Fruit is the antichrist.
P - Phobias/Fears? Jamiroquai.
Q - Favourite Quote? "What I'm looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an 'ot dog, know what I mean?"
R - Reasons to smile? I don't get this question.
S - Season? Summer. Warm. Happy. Bikinis.
T - Tag 3 People? Alright, Vi, Fussy, Joie.
U - Unknown Fact About Me? I actually like people.
V - Vegetable You Hate? David Cameron.
W - Worst Habit? Procrastin... a... back in a minute.
X - X-rays You've Had? Oh come on, this is a poor 'X' question.
Y - Your Favourite Foods? Food.
Z - Zodiac? Bull.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nothing's Update

(To be read in a dispassionate monotone):

A week at work with windy weather. Can't be bothered to cycle so spend four days on delayed tubes or buses. Didn't get into any interesting altercations or meet any cute women. Lack of excercise makes me tired and lethargic, so don't go to Martial Arts on Monday or Wednesday and am consumed by guilt. Feel fat and stupid.

Attempt to book ticket to New York but it goes wrong. Yell at poor bastards at Indian call centre when I realise price has shot up by a further £130. Re-arrange ticket for following week. Feel slightly better.

I take the day off on Friday to visit the dentist (one filling), then head off to Waterloo station. Meet Phil and Natalie, get train to Bournemouth. Train is five carriages shorter than normal as chavs have been smashing windows at Totton.
Bournemouth no warmer than London. Leave Phil and Natalie to pay my Auntie surprise visit. Her daughter, my cousin, is gravely ill, and I am accidentally drunk, a lightheadedness made more severe from the switch from friends on a train to lovely kindly Auntie in her living room. Auntie drives me to my mate Suki's, whose sofa will become bed.

Next morning, play football with old University friends and some older local men. Older local men beat us quite easily. I am castigated as the weakest link in the team and not voted Man of the Match by anyone. I did head the ball quite damatically at one point, but I also handballed twice, fouled a throw-in, and fouled the opposing striker by kicking his ankle and tripping him to the floor. Probably should've started playing football at eight, instead of 32. Knees now feel slightly wobbly and are making squish noise and hurt when I walk. Forgot to bring change of clothes. Have to shower with none of my own toiletries, and have no post-wash moisturiser. Whole shower experience lasts 40 seconds as my friends can see my nob. Called 'cunt' when I go back to changing room and ask if anyone has savlon for my grazed knee.

We go on to a dodgy pool hall to watch England underperform against Israel, which suits me as I'm not sure who to support. Am the only person on the planet happy with a nil-nil draw. Now drunk. Play pool. Am surprisingly Better Than Normal and manage to pot a ball with the cue behind my back. Lose anyway. Eighteen of us have a curry that takes nearly two hours to arrive. Drink more. Quietly regret my entire existence in a brief moment of introspection. Jamie steals my mobile phone and puts it back in my pocket, having changed the language to Romanian. Complete cunt. Return to sofa.

Wake up. Panic. Visit gravely ill cousin and her daughters who are becoming more attractive and ladylike. Go red. Shown home movies of their last holiday. Say goodbye to gravely ill cousin and call her by the wrong name, despite knowing her my entire life. Get train back to London buckling under weight of guilt and upper torso that's being propelled by aching thighs on top of fucked kneecaps. End up on a replacement bus as train track's under repair and Britain is a fucking joke. Get to London to find tube's being repaired too.

Arrive at flat. Chat to Large Northern Flatmate. Work on Monday. Consider Martial Arts but legs too fucked. This could be the beginning of the end for my shitkicking unless I force myself. On the plus side, I haven't smoked for 48 hours. On the minus side, I have moved on to crack.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Celebrity

I don't get it. I mean, I understand the urge people have to become famous; the recognition, the appreciation, the phenomenally easy access to sex (so I've heard), but it's odd. It's the fact that as a celebrity, people know who you are, yet the overwhelming majority of the planet are complete strangers by return.
I don't think I could face leaving my flat under those circumstances.

On Saturday, I was in Woolworths, frantically scrambling for Mothers' Day presents and a belated birthday gift for my niece (which would ultimately be a tiny pathetic pink sock for her iPod - I am a shit Uncle), when Mark Lamarr was stood shopping with his peroxide blonde girlfriend and shouting mundanities, a sort of casual celebrity Don't You Know Who I Am? without the confrontation, and I immediately went bright red. Actually, I immediately sent a text to Monkey Dave to tell him his doppelganger was in front of me and braying loudly.


Mark Lamarr

I don't know why I went red, and it annoyed me. (And I promised not to get annoyed again - sorry.) I know they're only people too, of fucking course, but I've got a particularly good head for faces and I know damn well if so-and-so's stood next to me and thumbing through the confectionary aisle. (And I'm equally clued up when faced with a gurning shortarse pretending to be Pete Tong.)


Monkey Dave

In fact, this was one of the reasons why I couldn't hack working at the BBC. If I wasn't feeling inadequate and unworthy among furiously hardworking pretty young things, I was positively apoplectic when walking down a corridor and running into Terry Wogan, or Esther Rantzen, or Toyah fucking Wilcox.

So I tried my best to ignore them. I wanted to ignore them as they're at work too and likely to appreciate not being gawped at. Although I did find myself hypnotically entranced one evening by Rolf Harris, good old Rolf, minding his own business, as he left a room. I stared at him like an enraptured deer caught in the headlights of demi-fame, staring at the man who, when I was a child, would draw pictures of Daffy Duck or Tom and Jerry before turning to the camera to introduce a cartoon of the very thing he'd been drawing.
God, the excitement of Rolf's Cartoon Time, my childhood admiration of his skill as an artist, the building tension as he'd draw - yes, it's Foghorn Leghorn, I love that dog-hating Southern rooster!

And so I stared at Rolf, unaware that I was staring. Until, after two minutes of subconscious goggling like an open-mouthed Tom Cruise in a gay sauna, Rolf winked at me.
A wink.
At me.
Because I'd been staring so hard I'd forced him into a 'Yep, I'm Rolf Harris' wink and I went crimson.

Unfortunately, going red's another black mark against being pale. I've made women across the Attractive Spectrum think I fancy them because I'VE GONE RED FOR NO REASON. I've also made men think I'm gay, made newsagents shift uneasily, and petrified my hairdresser.

But again, I'm digressing. Last weekend was kind of odd. The third member of BBC's Top Gear who isn't Clarkson or Crash Boy was buying fags in Tescos, making me shuffle awkwardly in the queue. The following day, after trying to avoid a shouty Mark Lamarr bellow 'Let's see if there's anything in Fopps', I found myself in a specialist music store standing next to the self-same Top Gear presenter from the night before as he treated himself to a mid-life crisis top of the range MP3 player. When I got back to my TV, there he was in a light-hearted Top Gear skit for Comic Relief.

Live TV, my arse.

On Sunday, as I presented my Mum with the pre-requisite 'Thanks for nine-and-a-half months gestating me' chocolates, and a mug with 'Mum' stamped on it (in case she forgot), my Mother told me about her best friend, or rather, her best friend's granddaughter.

The last time I saw her, she was a cute toddler (My Mum's best friend's granddaughter, not my Mum's best friend. That would be odd.) Now, she is an infinitely cuter 17-year-old, and in the dubious clutches of a gimp-faced ex-shit soap star. There, on that Sunday's really low market newspaper, was the evidence. 'HIDEOUS MACRO-FAMOUS CHARM-VOID CHEATS ON BELITTLED WIFE WITH DOE-EYED TEEN' or somesuch headline.

And there, in its mucky pages, was said Doe-Eyed Teen, the granddaughter of my Maternal Überchum, unaware that she'd been 'Papped'.

So that's the attraction of fame: Sex On Tap, despite looking like an unshaven dwarf that's been dragged along miles of badly paved roads by a dangerously drunk Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari Enzo V12 who's also on crack.

That, and the beautiful irony of being flung disgracefully expensive designer goods gratis, despite being fabulously rich enough to buy these companies and fifteen others outright only to let them sink into bankruptcy, for giggles.

Little wonder most teenagers' burning ambition is simply 'To Be Famous'.

And like Paris Hilton and all the fucking rest, nowadays it requires absolutely no talent either.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unnecessary Introspection Part 7: Nemesis II

Yes, Nemesis II. It happened twice. They say if you don't learn from your mistakes, then you're probably a bit of a twat.

I was temping at that inept Exam Board, the workplace where the clocks stopped ticking and started to go backwards and where people would begin their Mondays by muttering incoherently to themselves as they downed buckets of ethanol. I look back on those times with a fondness akin to, well, shame; the evil French girlfriend, the ripping my arse to shreds - yes, they were shit times.

And, of course, there was the other girl I fell for, except that too went kinda wonky.

Christ.

Anyway, I digress. The team I used to work for at this board was blessed with a new member, a seemingly pleasant guy called Geoff. It took only a week for people to start whispering about him. Perhaps it was his boistrous loudness, or his clapping heartily when something amused him, or else his lascivious manner, but in just five days our pleasant open-plan office was being dominated by this guy who either really wanted to be noticed, or was just plain annoying.

In the great scheme of things though, it was no big deal.

Within a couple of weeks, rumours were abounding. My female colleagues all got to know him, mainly because he'd approached them with his tongue hanging out. The conscensus was that he was a bit of a git.

One evening, a group of us were headed off for a meal after work. Geoff had heard of our plans and invited himself along. We all acquiesced, half-heartedly accepting our new guest.

As we waited on a tube platform, Geoff turned to me.
'Watch this', he said as he approached a lone woman waiting for her train and began chatting her up. I walked away disinterested.
At the restaurant, Geoff got quickly pissed. I was sat opposite him and Vicky, an attractive colleague and self-confessed Maneater. To her credit, she looked thoroughly bored as he launched into a string of barely-concealed boasts about blowjobs and whether or not Vicky would be willing to perform for him. Our entire table was now silent as we watched Geoff make Vicky squirm.
I turned to Pete sitting next to me and gave him a deadpan look to the accompaniment of Geoff's manic laughter.
'This guy's a cunt', Pete responded.

After the meal, and with Geoff long gone, Vicky told me that Geoff had invited her back to his flat for the night.
'I have a meeting tomorrow, Geoff', Vicky replied distractedly.
'Don't worry', he'd apparently replied, 'You can borrow some clothes from my girlfriend'.
Then Sally remarked that she'd been propositioned by Geoff around the time that Vicky spurned his advances.

But Geoff continued unabated. At an office party, he followed a girl into the ladies' toilets to ask for a fuck in a cubicle. She laughed it off. On another occasion, he told the new girlfriend of one of his male friends that he was devastated that they'd got it together as he wanted to be the one fucking her.
She was actually flattered.

'That's it', I'd decided, 'Geoff's the Antichrist'.

The following week at our desks, something made Geoff roar with laughter again, a booming foghorn of appreciation that was proceeded by lots and lots of clapping.
'What an arsehole', I shouted undiplomatically to a colleague, loud enough for the rest of the office to hear, including Geoff. And so, with that unnecessarily provocative comment, I'd made my declaration of War.

I'd stare at him fiercly. He soon noticed and learnt to keep his distance which was what I wanted. I also wanted him to feel extremely uncomfortable.
'Wanker', I'd spit as he walked past. In fairness to the guy, he'd not actually done anything to me and I was behaving like a bully and a petulant child, but Bryan was back again, back to haunt me at a new workplace. This time he would not win. I wasn't going to put up with another arrogant, self-obsessed misogynist with an incessant need for attention. A man for whom other men are individuals to boast to, or conduits to get at new women. A man who sees women as toys, conquests, and commodities to be fucked then disregarded.

Ok, fine, why should he cheat on his girlfriend and harrass or succeed with women while I remained the bitter and single Mr Nice Guy?

So I made it personal. His character stunk, I didn't like his morality, and it rankled me. Life isn't fair in a vast number of ways - and in much more important arenas - but in simple decency terms, in meeting other people, in treating them with respect and not using them for what they can do for you, this guy was breaking every rule. He was fouling and diving and still winning games. Plus he was crudely hitting on friends of mine. They might have shrugged it off as harmless, but I didn't.

I reasoned that if I was physically incapable of ignoring this man, smiling more in general, and confidently flirting with the women I liked, then I could scare him instead, flatten his ego, and win some kind of ridiculous Pyrrhic victory.

And it was all going to plan until my little accident. That was the night I'd fallen off my pub chair and hospitalised myself as I'd landed on broken glass. When I'd literally limped back into work on Monday morning, my power over Geoff had gone. Word had quickly spread that I'd given myself a splintered glass suppository, although the truth was I'd ripped open the small of my back. Either way, Geoff, I'd been told, nearly injured himself convulsing with laughter when he'd heard.

I tried walking as normally as I could past Geoff that morning, but it was no use. I was in a lot of pain and had to walk slowly, gingerly. Geoff was grinning from ear to ear. As I reached my desk and eased myself into my chair, he was cheering and clapping with gusto. For Geoff, this was karma; my comeuppance, pure and simple.

Perhaps it was.

Time passed. My arse healed. Geoff got louder and clappier. Our pathetic little tiff turned physical as we began shoulder-barging past one another in corridors. Then, one day, I'd returned to my desk with a salad from the canteen. As I sat there, I was amused to hear Geoff on the phone to the Human Resources department:

'So can I come up?'
Pause.
'Yes, it's to do with work.'
Pause.
'No, honestly.'

And with that, he left the room. This amused me as he'd been barred from the HR department because it was staffed solely by women. He used to go up there several times a week to flirt and chat blithely. Eventually, the HR manager told him to fuck off out of their office unless he had a work related query.

So, as Geoff left the room, I put down my fork and composed the following email:

'GEOFF CONTACTS HR FOR WORK RELATED MATTER:
Geoff D_________, 12, of no fixed abode, today visited the Human Resources department for a work related matter. At no point did he force himself onto anyone with a womb, dribble inane platitudes into their bored ears, or boast about his incredible sexual prowess as the belching of his shallow laughter numbed all who heard him while he clapped like a deranged seal on speed.'

I put the names of the three HR girls into the 'To' field and clicked 'Send'. Feeling mightily amused with myself, I went back to my salad.

Ten minutes later, Geoff burst into the office shouting, 'I've got the funniest email to show everyone, although it originated from a cunt.'

'That's me!', I thought, and watched in horror as Geoff walked to his computer. There, on his monitor, was my email.

Oh Sausages.

At the exact moment I'd pressed 'Send', Geoff had been leaning over an attractive girl in HR and peering down her top, his intention being to help her 'fix' an email problem. It was then that my email to her appeared. Geoff opened it, read it, and immediately forwarded it to himself.

Realising I'd been caught, I bit the bullet and patted Geoff on the back, telling him that I was pleased he'd seen it as I wouldn’t want him to be left out.
'Don't touch me', he snapped.
'Go fuck yourself', I replied as I walked off to get a coffee and have a little panic.

On my return, Geoff said 'If I were you, I’d fear for your future', which I laughed off as I choked on my vending machine mud. Later that day, I was summoned to a meeting with Margaret, our Head of Department, and a member of the HR team who took notes. After the meeting, Geoff and I were immediately sent home.
'But I've got work to do!' I protested for the first time ever.
'It'll have to wait until tomorrow', said Margaret. 'Go on, you have to leave now.'

Later that evening, Geoff had returned to a pub near our office with some colleagues to drink heavily despite being two days into a loudly self-proclaimed de-tox. He was celebrating in earnest, buying wine and beer for all and sundry and declaring 'Ebola's going down!!'

He had made an official complaint against me. In the days that followed, other members of staff were summoned to meetings to discuss what they knew. I had to write a Statement of Events as it transpired that Geoff was trying to get me fired for email abuse. And in case that didn't work, he had an ace up his sleeve, or perhaps a damage limitation plan; Geoff began telling people he was bisexual.

On the day of our disciplinary meeting, Geoff and I were sat together for the first time since this blew up, in a room with our respective bosses.
'Well chaps', said Barry, my immediate boss, 'Who wants to start?'
I looked at Geoff. He was resolutely tight-lipped. He wanted me to dig my own grave. So I began.
'Well firstly' I said, 'Let me start by apologising. It's no secret that Geoff and I don't get on, but for him to take this to such a ridiculous level and waste everyone's time - Barry, I know how busy you are and I'm really sorry - but all this...' I waved my hand around the room, 'It's just nonsense.'

I looked back at Geoff. There was the merest hint of a smile.
'Unfortunately', I continued, 'Geoff is under the delusion that people in this company actually have time for this bullshit. He also thinks that I will actually get fired because of this, but what he fails to take into account was that I was on my lunchbreak when I sent that internal email so, as stupid as I admit the email was, I haven't actually broken any specific rules.'

I was now warming to my theme. I was 110% certain that no-one would be getting fired any time soon. I knew there'd be a rap on the knuckles and a general 'Grow up', and that would be that.

'Sadly, Geoff', I said as I turned to look at him, 'You're a moron. You're a moron and a Sex Pest. Several female friends of mine still have the explicit emails you've been sending them - and sent during working hours. If anyone's been abusing emails here, it's you, sunshine. Now we could look into that further, or perhaps you'd prefer to stop calling the kettle 'black', Mr Pot.

'Oh, and by the way, if you're going to start telling people that you're bisexual presumably so you can accuse me of harrassing you, it would first help if that was a known fact for some time, and it would be even better if I'd ever said anything derogatory to you in the first place.'

I don't remember anything that Geoff said in return, other than us not liking each other, that I had been harrassing him, etc. And it all ended pretty much as I had assumed; Grow the Fuck Up. Our desks were moved, it made for good gossip, and everyone involved now had acres of work to catch up on.

I was overwhelmed to be able to calmly assassinate that jerk to his face and in front of management. After all, I was becoming accustomed to meetings where I'd fallen out with a twat. But what gratified me most were the lads from work who I didn't even know buying me congratulatory drinks later that week. And a couple of the managers involved had told me confidentially that they were well aware of his reputation and had enjoyed reading my email and Statement of Events.

All that excitement, over in an anti-climactic puff. The Bryans and Geoffs of this world may be ten a penny and I've since learnt to do what every normal person does when they meet them - keep out of their fucking way. Even if they manage to get to you, let it slide.

And so, slide I did when, one morning at work, I casually looked out into the smoking concourse. There was Geoff, chatting excitably to the one woman who was finding his sleaziness and come-ons attractive, maybe because it's so very French. Sitting next to him and grinning like a Parisienne cat who'd got the cream was Amira, my beautiful, angry ex-girlfriend who much preferred tall, dark, swarthy Italians to the likes of me. Except she didn't look angry any more. She looked very content and very fawned over.

Perhaps this was because Geoff looks like a tall, dark, swarthy Italian.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Late Nights, CAMRA, Traction

I am fucking exhausted. Ruthlessly fucking exhausted.

I went down to Brighton to see Monkey Dave straight after work on Friday. 24 hours later, and I was spending my Saturday night fighting to get home via a train that started life as a replacement fucking bus, only to get to London Victoria to discover the Central and District lines had been spirited away to Neverneverland for weekend repairs.

But I'm in a pretty good mood.

Work had piled up on Friday. The Boss Boss, or Capo Di Tutti Roger, left for the countryside the day before as he's semi-retired and doesn't much want to work anymore. He also doesn't seem keen to pass his business on to his son either, so Rog still comes in now and again to call me a London Peasant and complain that someone's taken the pens from his desk.

His son, the actual company runner, is currently skiing down a black run in Switzerland. So I'm in charge of the whole show, solo, the only one available to deal with those demanding, insolent, timewasting motherfuckers also known as customers.

I left the office at 6pm and ran giggling to Victoria train station. The weekend queue for tickets was unsurprisingly vast and, when reaching the machine with the faulty touch-screen, I was overwhelmingly thrilled to be afforded the chance to spend £25 (US$48/ CAD$57) to travel 60 miles south and back again the following day.

Monkey Dave was in the pub when I got to Brighton, and quite pissed. He's a Science teacher down there so I got to hang out with a bunch of other teachers, all drunk and sweary, and referring to their charges as 'Those Cunts'. At one point, Dave got very excitable when another Science teacher told him that Justin Donaldson had snogged Gemma Wilde, because Justin's a surly cool kid, and Gemma's a hippopotamus. I asked how old Justin and Gemma are. They're about fifteen. I reminded Dave that he's 31 and their teacher, but it made no difference; Dave hadn't been this animated since he escorted me to hospital with broken glass in my bottom. Dave then told me cheerfully that Michael Sanders greeted him the day before by yelling 'Morning Sir, you bald cunt.'
Monkey Dave replied, 'Thank you Michael, you're excluded.' Now he doesn't have to teach him for a week.

I wish I could do that to the people who come into the shop.



The follwing morning, Dave and I ventured off to the Sussex 17th CAMRA Beer & Cider festival, my reason for being there. True to form, I hadn't really paid any attention as to why I was going to Brighton in the first place and was somewhat surprised to find myself in Hove town hall about to get drunk at 11am.

We tried not to laugh when we got there. A stereotypical real ale drinker greeted us, all volumous patchy beard, thick glasses, and wearing a wordy festival jumper. In the main hall, the place was awash with the fuckers. The older members, mainly men, all had sturdy beer guts which were tightly encased in t-shirts from previous festivals. The younger ones wore Iron Maiden tops. Beards were everywhere, particuarly on the women, and I suddenly felt very very attractive. In front of us sat a Bore of balding pony-tailed hippes in matching t-shirts, eagerly poring over the tasting notes and scribbling in remarks of their own. We'd never seen anything so sad.
Half an hour later, we were doing likewise.

We started with a pear cider as I wanted something refreshing, so opted for Troggi Seidr without realising it was 7.1% until it was too late. After dabbling with halves of ales, the Golden Bine, the Saas Demi Wheat, and the Grumpling Premium, we were a lost cause. My notes in my booklet attain to this, writing intelligent comments next to the list of beers such as 'Roasty and verbose', 'Flirtatious' and even 'Saucy little bitch', meaning I was either very drunk or desperately in need of a shag, or probably both.

Yet by 3pm when we were thrown out, I was hooked. It was a marvellous afternoon, even if I couldn't walk. For £3 entrance fee, we'd been allowed to keep our limited edition Sussex 17th CAMRA Beer & Cider festival commemorative pint glass. I'd tried seven quite wonderful ales and ciders. And even though they'd run out of the raspberry wheat beer and a bitter called Mother-in-Law, I'd cultivated a taste for decent real ale.

So now I'm going to grow a thick beard and get myself an air of geeky arrogance.

I went to work on Sunday. But that too was marvellous as I finished what I'd left on Friday night and got myself to a point of No Work Outstanding.
And then today was the busiest day this year, on the only day of my working life where I'm likely to be running the place on my own.
Insane.
Non-stop.
And with more work than ever to finish.

But I couldn't care less. I'm dedicating myself to beer festivals.

Next Month ~ Becoming enthralled by 'Star Trek: Insurrection', learning Klingon, and dressing up like a twunt.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Unnecessary Introspection Part 6: Parallel Bars

There are many reasons why people date; sex, companionship, the fervent belief that if you don't act now you'll die blubbing and unloved in the cruel gutter of loneliness. But I should imagine the simplest reason for dating would be to meet someone decent. And if you do meet someone decent, then the differentials - fuckbuddy, good boyfriend/ girlfriend material, or just an activity partner - are down to what you and your new friend are looking for, or even how you both suddenly make each other feel.

A few nights ago, I was reading London Girl's blog. She wrote a post about Dating Morals in defence of a comment from a contributor, and I found myself slightly peturbed at her concept of Parallel Dating. I'm aware of its existence, but I've never heard the phrase coined before. Simply put, it is the act of dating a handful of people concurrently over the same period, a bit like eating in three restaurants in the same evening. Parallel Dating appears to be very common in the Internet dating arena, presumably because it is a normal outcome of having so many single people to meet.

I've been Internet dating for a few years now although I've never taken it seriously, apart from the dates themselves. For the women I'm about to meet, I've seen their picture and read their profile and if all the metaphorical boxes are ticked and the feeling's mutual, I'll go through the potentially spirit-crushing sexual job interview of the actual date itself.

It's nervewracking for me because I feel so laid bare. I'm advertising that I'm still available and thus possibly mad, I've shown a few half decent photos for the judgement of others, and I offer a hopefully amusing profile to get a shred of personality across. However, in my carefully handpicked half dozen or so dates I've had in as many years, they've all been great thanks to my approach of damage limitation. They all went well, they tended to lead on to something more substantial, and I've learnt a great deal from the experience.

Apart from one.

And the reason I mention Eve now is because the penny has only just dropped - I think I may have been just one of the guys in her Parallel Dating adventures that month.

We'd met in a garish bar in North London. I had driven there early and planned ahead by bringing along a paper to read until she arrived. Eve and I began on that well-trodden route; Profiles checked, contact made, email addresses swapped, numbers exchanged (Mental note: She keeps a stash of porn under her bed - excellent), and a meeting arranged.

So far, so good.

The bar itself was tremendously downmarket. A surly youth at the end of the bar put me at ease by grimacing at me. While stood at the bar, a stocky kid walked up and pushed me out of the way. Had I not been a bag of nerves, I would've happily escorted him out of the bar by his scrotum and laid him in the road like a speedbump but with plenty of room to get served, I ignored his trying to pick a fight and felt strangely gratified and grown up that I didn't rise to the bait.

Sat in the corner only half able to concentrate on my paper, a DJ was setting up for karaoke. He too was instumental in putting me at ease among my surroundings as he accidentally blasted shrieks of feedback out of the large speaker inches from my right ear. But I didn't jump. Perhaps I was calmer than I thought.

And then my phone rang. It was Eve.
'Are you in the bar?'
'Yeah, I'm by the window in the corner.'
'Ok, I'll be there in a minute.'

Ok, shit, I'm not that calm.

And so I sat.
And I waited.
And then there was Eve on her phone, waving at me as she passed the window outside and heading for the door. I wiggled in my seat, straightened my back, and attempted to look more Brad Pitt and less Mining Pit. Eve walked in to face me and stopped. She was still on her phone. She raised her finger, the international sign for 'Just a minute...!', so I nodded and smiled. Eve was still some distance away so all I could do was sit and watch as she continued her engrossing conversation.

So I sat back in my chair and pondered all this.
Is she actually going to end this call and say hello?
Who the fuck's she on the phone to anyway?
Oh no, is it a friend? Is Eve telling them that she's seen me, regretted being born, and now doesn't want to go through with this?

Evidently not. While she yapped away, Eve made gradual steps towards me until eventually saying 'Goodbye' into her phone and 'Hello' to me very casually. Her indifference put me at ease, and made me equally laid back. We chatted pleasantly, and when the karaoke started in earnest, she suggested we drive to another pub a bit further away.

So now I'm in the car of this girl I've just met. We drove to a pub in the middle of nowhere and got a table. I Upped the Chat. I asked her more about herself, and told her a bit more about me. I related some devastatingly amusing stories that she didn't seem that interested in, so I asked her about her interests, but she didn't have any, other than looking bored. So I stopped talking and sized her up with eye contact and body language. Maybe this is more about sex that a meeting of minds?

Nah.

This is slightly disconcerting for me as I like talking to people, and I like hearing what they have to say. As a result, I am fairly confident in these situations but find it difficult when up against a social brick wall. I like sex too yet with all pathways being sealed off before me like a major London thoroughfare, I soon began wondering what we'd met up for.

'So what's your story with Internet dating?', I asked Eve.
'I like meeting people,' she replied without offering anything else.

'But what's the point if you don't actually engage in a fucking conversation?' I wondered to myself, which was then followed up by 'Oh God, it's me, isn't it? You're actually cheerful and friendly but I repel you and you'd rather I had a heart attack now as this is all too awkward for you.'

Except I couldn't leave, as she'd driven me miles away from my car and into the back of beyond.

So I continued to force a conversation out of a girl who may as well be fluent only in Malay. At one point I said something which, after a silence that would last for all eternity unless I did something, I was actually forced to say,
'And your opinion on what I've just said would be...?'

When Eve drove me back to my car, I told her I'd had a nice time, which was largely true. If I wasn't with her then I'd have been at home staring at clumps of fluff on my carpet instead. I said goodbye and offered her my outstretched hand. She snorted at this as she expected a farewell peck on her cheek but she could keep it. I'd spent the last few hours talking to someone who seemed about as interested in a laidback conversation as George Bush would be to visit Baghdad for a casual stroll.

Maybe this was a personality defect in me, but I'm still pretty confident that she just couldn't be arsed to try. So Why, I'd always wondered, did she go through the motions, arrange a date, and then barely give me the time of day? I'd never known.

Unless...

I'll never know for sure, but maybe she was Parallel Dating. She clearly enjoyed meeting lots and lots of men for lots and lots of dates. Her lack of interest may have been down to the fact that she had other options, better options, and didn't have to try.

In which case, that sucks. I'm sure it worked out well for her, but for me, or for anyone in that position who is keen enough to give a date a shot, it all seems so disposible and disrespectful.

As I've said in London Girl's comments, it's all about respect for the individual. Many dates aren’t, for me at least, a halfhearted browse among Peopleproducts. You are meeting someone new and potentially fun, with their own idiosyncrasies, emotions, family and friends, and history. You are being unkind to yourself and to your date if they’re just one of many others, juggling your options as if people were commodities on a shelf, or pawns in a game of relationship chess.

So Parallel Dating isn't for me. I don't want to play the numbers game, even if the odds of me having sex and ceasing to whinge for half an hour are greatly increased. And if, as I suspect in Eve's case, I'm meeting a girl who's seeing me and several others, I'd like to know first. If anything, it would probably put me at ease as I'd approach any impending date with the flippancy that they'd be taking it. It still shows very little for the person you're meeting, but at least you're starting out honestly.

Of course, there's a chance that Eve may not have been seeing anyone else at the time. I may have bored her so much that she wanted to remove her intestines with a spork and strangle herself with them.
But that's simply not possible; I'm great.

Coming soon ~ Unecessary Introspection #7: Nemesis II

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mondayne?

6:50am: Alarm clock.

No, no, no, NO, NO!

There are two settings on my alarm; radio, or EVIL BASTARD BEEPING, so naturally I've always had the radio wake me up. But my alarm is old, and over the moronic chirpy banter of lobotomised radio DJs that snaps me out of my Coma-Lite every morning can now be heard the emerging torment of that fucking beep, growing in intensity until I feel the rage build up inside me like OJ Simpson at a wife-swapping party.

I went to bed late on Sunday night. I always go to bed late on a Sunday night. I just can't help it. It's my brain's fault, kicking and screaming against my skull and yelling 'I DON'T WANT TO GO TO BED YET!' while my body says 'Don't look at me, I only got up 8 hours ago.' So I do the dumbest thing possible and preoccupy myself til 1 or 2am because I'm a twat. And when I wake up, my temples are throbbing from lack of sleep and I want to kill everything.

I got to work later than my normal 8:45am. It was more like 9:30am, and half an hour after we open shop. Except we didn't open shop as normal because my Boss arrived on time but forgot his keys - a rare event, and on the one morning I'm not there to let him in. So what would've been a largely forgiven half-hour late spell on my part became a locked-out fume on theirs.

When I opened up, our van driver phoned. He wasn't on the ball either and had just filled our diesel van with petrol and couldn't understand why the fucking thing was dying on its arse, so our guys couldn't do any deliveries today.

Then Rob mentions that a friend of his mates was shot dead yesterday.

Fucking hell. All I need now is major dentistry.

For forty minutes this afternoon, every tooth in my mouth was being manhandled by a butcher with an electric scythe.
'There's a lot of plaque behind the gums', mumbled my hygenist distractedly as she attempted to punishment fuck my virgin nerveendings with a fierce rotating phallus, her only obstacles to attaining oral coitus with my jaw being my bleeding teeth. And after being x-rayed (I was locked in a broomcupboard with a '70s chic radiation machine while the hygenist yelled from the safety of The Other Side Of The Door, 'For God's sake, DON'T MOVE.'), I was told the joyous news that I need to visit hospital to have my wisdom teeth expatriated.

So that's an eventful start to the week, and one I hope never to repeat in a billion fucking lifetimes. And now I have this strange Chernobylesque headache.

Coming Soon ~ Unnecessary Introspection #6: The Crap Blind Date.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ha! Charmin'

Work, yesterday. I leave my desk to pay a visit to the bathroom. Answering the call of nature will be my only break unless I've decided to smoke that day. (In which eventuality, two minutes standing outside my office and looking at passers by with the same gormless sallow expression of an Essex nightclub attendee provides me with a little extra respite from the daily grind.)

But generally, my little breaks from work occur when I'm sitting on the toilet and reading that day's Metro or else thumbing through our resident copy of Titanic: The Ship That Never Sank. (Many a time have I passed sterling evacuations whilst noting the comments of an assortment of Captains, pursers and various other eyewitnesses from a 95 year old inquiry.)

Ours is an office occupied solely by men. As a result, our one nod towards sanitation is a purple cake enclosed in plastic and attached to the rim of the khazi - a cake which has long since gone yellow due to some primal urge to aim at something. I'm almost 100% certain that my colleagues all do this too, but we have yet to bring this up in casual conversation.

And so, on completion of yesterday's successful release, I reached for the paper on my left, hanging from the wonky dispenser on the wall. Nutsacks, just a lonely cardboard tube. I reach over to my right, to grab the remaining toilet rolls next to the dust-covered sink, where the Charmin reside. I noted the cover; a cute cartoon bear cheerfully cuddling a toilet roll. Depicted next to it was the self same bear, this time hugging a few more rolls and beaming with delight. Next to that was a final picture of the bear utterly enraptured, almost sexually so, as he cradled into his hairy bosom dozens of the fuckers.



Suddenly, and with Zen-like clarity from a mind unencumbered by any thought other than that of ursine caricatures, I realised; 'Oh My God. These are the bears that shit in the woods.'

I could use my spare time to ponder the Meaning of Life or else have a good hard think as to where I want to go in life, but Nooooo, let's just 'get' a Marketeer's in-joke whilst sitting on the toilet instead.

ABSOLUTE FUCKING GENIUS