Friday, 7 December 2001

A weekend sailing on the Solent.

I've made a big decision, I don't really like sailing much. Actually, more specifically, I don't really like sailing with my boss much. About 4 times a year, my dimunitive (some might say stunted), Napoleonic, goatee-wearing boss (who is really quite important and is potentially being lined up as CEO) decides to put his sailing knowledge and experience to some use and charters a boat and invites some friends down for the weekend. It's a chance for him to invite some young graduates from work who might be impressed by his posturing. I get invited, partly because I sort of get on with him, but mainly because he needs some experienced crew on the boat.

It's always stressful. The thing about Gary is that although he may be little bigger than a 50p piece, his ego doesn't fit comfortably in anything smaller than a medium sized African republic. He thinks he's the best sailor in the world (based on a week's sailing course and a few weekends in coastal waters) and is prepared to shout loudly enough to prove it. Unsurprisingly, he's not a very good sailor, he has neither the patience or experience to skipper a boat full of novices, he cannot anticipate the wind and weather and I certainly wouldn't trust him to take me any further than a few miles.

My main complaint is that while he understands the basics of sailing, and the concepts therein, when he skippers a boat full of 8 people, concepts alone aren't good enough. It's not enough to say "we're going to tack", you have to say "we're going to tack, the following will happen, you pull on that rope, you let go of this rope and then...". It irritates me immensely, and will at some point prove to be dangerous. He thinks I'm an over-anxious jessy, I think he'll get into serious trouble unless he wises up and don't wish to be with him when he does.

The slightly odd thing is that I always accept his invitations. I have a deal with another friend who also gets invited that we have to both go (we're both pretty competent and capable of running the boat whilst giving Gary the illusion that he's in charge) or neither of us will go, but even so I get wound up and fed up. I think I must be a bit sycophantic at heart.

Anway, enough whining. The weekend passed off without incident, and apart from being bloody cold, we had lovely weather. The most entertaining moment came when Gary decided we'd have a sail in the dark ('cos it's pretty innit) at about 4pm on the Saturday. Everything was fine, right up to the point where he decided just to head straight for Cowes. Cue much beeping from the depth sounder as we get down to 40cm of water beneath the keel as we approach the huge sandbar that is clearly marked on all the charts. Cue also me wearily (to derive maximum coolness) telling them to turn the boat round and follow my directions as I go downstairs, find the chart and guide us in.

Gary's pride was sufficiently dented that he has challenged me to a sailing race in March. I'm a good enough sailor to know that I'm not good enough to race boats, so I just need to search for a ringer to skipper the boat for me. Bring it on.

Thursday, 22 November 2001

I was in Frankfurt last week delivering a training course. The return plane made its descent over central London after night had fallen. Clear, cold air and no clouds to interrupt a magnificent view of glittering lights as we slowly tracked the Thames from 5000 feet up. Canary Wharf, Regent's Park, Baker Street were all laid out like tiny versions of their normal selves. Everything seemed 2-D, buildings that normally tower and arch above my craning neck and slack-jawed face were puny and inconsequential on the bigger patchwork blanket of London at night.

Bizarrely everything was sparkling, occasional blasts of light appeared at junctions below, green or red or yellow puffs of flame balling into the night and dying. It looked like a Bladerunner clone - fireballs against a neon backdrop - and I could not work out what was going on, the only theory I had was that it was some sort of celebration for the fall of Kabul, but that seemed unlikely. The pilot later informed us that it was a celebration of Diwali (the Hindu festival of light).

Later, from the Heathrow Express, the fireworks were all around and not below. More impressive in their immediacy, less imposing in their scale.

Monday, 5 November 2001

Up to the Lakes for the weekend and all was beautiful.

270 miles in four and a half hours on Friday night - one day we'll get busted. I'm so anal that even in my stupid car I normally obey all speed limits (give or take) but there's something weak inside of me that bends like a paper-clip when the 100mph peer group of Gus n Baz are sitting in the same car as me, so I gun the thing and don't drop below 90. I feel so...naughty.

We camped in the Langdales, pitching tents at 1am and instantly dropping off to sleep. It rained gently during the night but was pleasant and dry when we woke. Baz made infinite cups of tea as normal, Carla was slow getting up, as normal, and we talked constantly of kit, costs and buggery, as normal. We blasted off to walk a 10 mile horseshoe, up out of Ambleside, onto Fairfield and back down and the fitness test started. Gus won. He stormed off into the encroaching cloud, his shadow getting vaguer as we rose and he stretched his legs in front. When I'm feeling slow and unfit, each step hurting, calves burning, lungs straining, sweat dripping and condensing all over my body, I hate everyone, especially people who aren't obviously struggling. The hatred burns and spurs me on, but it always dissipates by the time I reach the next stopping spot.

It was a perfect autumnal weekend and the whole of the Lake District was on fire. Every tree consumed by shimmering waves of yellow, brown and green, leaves dropping like consumed ash and swirling around the paths. All the colours were somehow right and so perfect that each change of light - from the occasional blast of bright, cold sun to the warmly enveloping mist - brought out a different set of complementary hues. Even when thrashed by 60mph winds on ridge tops, water blasting into the hillside and any exposed skin, even when the visibility dropped to 20 metres and the world just dropped off into blankness, all the colours were appropriate, crystalline, correct.

Monday, 29 October 2001

Well, it still hurts, and my friends are probably still bored of it all.

This whole business is teaching me some funny things about stuff (he said in his very specfic manner). For example, on the days where my whole world has tipped and lurched I've stood on the train, wrapped in music and thought, inches from other commuters. I've come into the office, drunk coffee with my co-workers, had slightly productive days and gone home again. In short I've done all the things that were expected of me, and almost nobody noticed that inside me all was confusion and upset.

I'm not upset that no-one noticed, why should they, the manic, panicked knot that twists my stomach and addles my mind does not translate to a glint in my eye or unusally crazy hair. But it's made me wonder how many other people, people I can see now, people I'll see walking across a station concourse, buying drinks at a bar, queuing for a till in Marks and Spencers look to be fine and yet inside are questioning everything in their world, wondering where life will go next, how they'll get through the next week or month.

It's a bit humbling.

Wednesday, 3 October 2001

We stole a week from somewhere, and had the holiday we should have had. No obligations, no commitments, no anger or resentment. And it was all fun (well, I'll admit I was a bit 'emotional' for the first day). We lay on the beach, walked in the high mountains, rode horses along the seafront, swam in the glassy sea, ate like royalty and had the most marvellous week.

Saying goodbye on Sunday was the hardest thing I have ever done, and it looked like she didn't find it easy either, which I suppose is what I wanted. Despite that, all of it seems like it was the right thing to do, I have no regrets.

Now I'm back in the real, grimy, damp, war-threatened, dull world with the romantic equivalent of a hangover and I still want her back. All my friends are busy advising me that I should walk away and that she's not worth wasting my breath on, but I do love her very much, and (although I can see how this makes me sound) I can see that she's confused and upset and hurt. None of which excuses her behaviour, but all of which makes everything seems a lot less black and white than this page makes it appear.

I am slowly walking away now even though it hurts very much (and things are slightly complicated by the fact that she's just rejoined the same company and we're both working in the same office). It's up to her if she wants to make entreaties to me to get us back together, she needs to sort her head out (such a trite and annoying phrase) and decide that she wants me for the right reasons (because she has fun with me, not because she thinks she owes me) - and work out what she can do to win my trust back.

And I'll get on with the rest of my life and won't wait.

Saturday, 22 September 2001

I have no idea why I'm doing what I'm doing. On a scientific level it's interesting to watch my actions and emotional responses change over time, but I'm worried that actually I'm just a bit emotionally sub-normal.

I met up with her last night and we talked. I've never had such an emotional talk, never been more honest with my feelings, and never used so many cliches in open conversation (just going to prove that they're generally only cliches because they're true).

And now we're going to go away on holiday together.

I'm making it feel like the weekend I took her to Marlow, when I knew it would lead to failure, but I could walk away with my head held high and be proud of my actions. I want to spend the week with her because she's someone I love, and I want it to be spectacular, soaring, elegant, romantic, sexy, exciting, fun and beautiful. Then next Sunday I will walk away, and my year of dalliance with her will be over. Then this week will stand in my memory - and hopefully in hers - forever, growing in perfection as it recedes through the years, a testament to how wonderful we were together and all that will never be.

And if all that feels like a load of romantic claptrap then I don't care.

There other possible explanations for my motives that are less pretty, namely

1) Such is the Hollywood-like enormity of her betrayal and deceit, I'm still in denial and just haven't come to terms with it at all

2) My self-esteem is so pathetically low I'm prepared to put up with anything and anyone

leading to a possibility that I'll attack her with a large, sharp knife during the week. She's prepared to accept that risk and so am I.

I like to think that the real explanation is

3) I'm the nicest, most noble person ever to walk the earth

I'll update this again on my return.

Friday, 21 September 2001

I've been quite comprehensively fucked over.

She got back from her two week holiday in the US last night, I hadn't heard much from her because she was apparently on a farm in Washington and had no internet access, I hadn't had any phone calls, but I'm an easy-going guy. It was great that she managed to get back on the right day so we can go on our holiday together to Corsica on Sunday (two days away fact fans).

So we went down the pub ready to get a bit of food, and for about the fifteen billionth time this year she said

"Simon, there's something I want to say"

Cue, yawning, churning stomach feeling and brain feverishly working out the various possible things she could want to say to me.

"I haven't been in the US for the last 2 weeks, I've been in Georgia [as in European country] visiting the diplomat I had a fling with at Christmas to see if I still had feelings for him. And I still do".

How in the name of sweet Jesus am I supposed to react to something like that? Apparently one method is to storm out of the pub, throw the profered cheque (to cover the cost of the Corsica trip) back in her face, and spend the night failing to understand why and how.

12 hours later I'm no nearer the answers and guess I won't be. I'm currently scheduled to go on holiday with her on Sunday morning and she's said she'll do what I want with regard to the holiday and wants to pay me for it.

Words are currently failing me.

Wednesday, 19 September 2001

Time for the lovelife update. I'll make this relatively brief.

After the romantic weekend in Marlow mentioned below, I was very, very ready to move on and put it all behind me, so I did. Although it was difficult, I stopped phoning her, stopped inviting her to things and even told her I didn't want her to come to a family wedding I had previously invited her to.

I did the thing that I've seen various of my friends do when they go through a breakup and started contacting people I hadn't spoken to in months. I also went through all my belongings and chucked away loads of things that I no longer needed (anybody want an old personal CD player, or a slightly worn pair of Doc Marten shoes). It was all very cathartic.

I did feel guilty about cancelling the wedding invite on her at such short notice (I'd never make an evil dictator) so I suggested we go to the cinema one Sunday afternoon, she leapt at the chance. When we met up I was weak for about 1 minute and invited her to see me in Nottingham during the week (I was to be alone in the hotel for the week). I knew I shouldn't have invited her, but...well I was crap. Anyway, we watched the film (Tomb Raider - absolutely dreadful) and went our separate ways.

The next day I got a phone call from her saying she had booked her ticket to Nottingham and I was to see her on Thursday. Hmmmm.

On Thursday she turned up and we went to a bar and started to make slightly forced conversation. After about half an hour, she put her glass down, looked at me and said

"There's something I want to say".

Never a good thing to hear, but I asked her to continue, and she said

"I've been stupid over the last year, I think you're great and if you'll have me I'd love for us to give it a try".

In response to which I remained speechless for about 20 minutes.

Of course, I'd had lofty imaginings of this conversation, but never expected it to actually occur. Anyway, most of those imagined dialogues had included lofty ideals on my side which saw me say things like

"Well, I should think you've left it a bit late for that haven't"



but I couldn't say anything like that at all, and am still really rather chuffed all in all.

So, being a bit of a bastard seems to work.

I ran the Great North Run this weekend. With a mere two weeks training and a gut as big as Croydon I managed to drag my sorry ass round the half-marathon in a time of 1hr 56 (although our official time was 2 hr 4). I have no intention, repeat loudly, NO INTENTION of running a marathon. EVER.

My legss have only just stopped aching, three days later and I got a cold. It hurt a lot, and I didn't even do it for charidee.

Monday, 3 September 2001

Lovelife update to follow...

Went walking in Snowdonia at the weekend, Wales revealed its damp side to us.

Standard late night London escape, Gus and Baz driving way too fast up the motorway and A5, weaving between cars, swearing at all other traffic, and in one unforgettable moment (in the always having nightmares about it sense) Gus overtaking down a long straight and then appearing to simultaneously forget the location of the next bend and how to work a gearbox - a feat made even more amazing by the car being an automatic.

Arrived in Betws-y-Coed (a small Welsh town, not an American style university) just after midnight only to find an array of campsites loudly proclaiming

'No pitching of tents after 4:30pm/midday/10am. None at all. NO EXCEPTIONS. THIS MEANS YOU FATNOSE.'

A little bit more driving found a suitably damp field and we bedded down for the night.

Saturday saw us get the train to Conwy, and embark on a planned two day, 25 mile walk across the Carneddau. After a 6 hour slog, my right heel was a pink and sore mess and we had found a spot to pitch a tent, at a small lake at the foot of some mist-wreathed cliffs, with a (crashed?, junked?) plane propellor sticking eerily out of the shoreline. Despite the nourishment of some Super Noodles (they really are Super) and the heartwarming effect of listening to England roundly thrash Germany on a small transistor radio (that's listening to the commentary on the radio rather than 23 men and football running around on the radio, oh never mind), my previous enthusiasm to forgo the luxury of a tent for the confines of a brand spank-me new Gore-Tex bivvy bag was being slowly subdued by the howling wind and torrential rain (note to fellow campers - all rain sounds torrential when you're in a tent). Nonetheless, I bravely ran the five yards from Baz's comfy tent and zipped myself into my new toy.

Two hours later, still awake and discovering that when the fabric of a bivvy bag gets blown around it gets blown into MY angelic, semi-asleep face, I heard some voices. Icy fear gripping me I unzipped the bag (thus revealing naked flesh to the cold Welsh wind) and saw two headtorches picking their way down a deserted mountainside in the murky gloom. Close inspection of the facts lead to the inescapable conclusion that a Deliverance style experience was about to unpleasantly force itself on (and presumably in) me, so it was with some trepidation that I switched my headtorch on and said Hello in a tremulous voice.

An equally fearful sounding voice replied and I discovered two lads wandering around in the gloaming, looking for a bothy that they claimed was nearby. I professed innocence, wished them luck and zipped myself back in to the bivvy bag. How foolish did I feel when I woke at 6:30 to the sound of rain roundly thrashing the outside of my bivvy bag and discovering that the bedroll I lay on was in a big puddle of condensation.

We swiftly packed up our rain sodden kit, took a look at the mist-wreathed peaks around us and walked off the mountain to the comfort of a pub.

My heel still hurts.

Monday, 6 August 2001

Bittersweet weekend.

I couldn't have asked for a better time on Saturday night and Sunday morning. From the moment I picked her up in a torrential downpour on Saturday evening to the moment we said goodbye in the blazing sun on Sunday morning was nothing more than a procession of joy and pleasure.

The venue was fabulous, a Victorian stately home overlooking the Thames near Marlow, the food and drink were in keeping with the surroundings, the setting was stunning and the company was perfect.

She looked stunning, and despite my fears about her being a little freaked out by the whole jaunt (or kidnapping as she kept referring to it) she accepted the whole experience with good humour and poise.

And for all the much feared build-up about this weekend being the time we would talk about our relationship, and why I thought we would work as a couple and she didn't and where we were going blah, blah, blah, yick, when it came down to it all that needed to be said was that I don't give her "butterflies". If only I could.

So it was with heavy hearts we parted. I guess we'll remain friends, but time for me to move on.

Friday, 3 August 2001

Interesting weekend coming up.

Tonight (Friday) I'm going out in Leicester with the lovely L (oh, and a group of her friends too). I don't think anything is going to happen - in an eminently predictable development in the context of my romantic life she's just started seeing someone else. Shame, as I reckon there's a bit of interest there, and a lot of interest from me.

And then tomorrow, I'm going out for dinner with her to talk about it. She thinks we're going out for a quick dinner in town, but I'm making one final, noble, doomed romantic gesture in an attempt to woo her and I've booked us in to a posh hotel and restaurant in Marlow for the night. The plan being something like "a similar ploy works in the movies".

Thursday, 26 July 2001

I still don't care, this heartbreak malarkey is clearly easier than Eastenders and Hollywood make out.

Actually that's not quite true, I'm trying to get her back, but I don't know what to do and there's a small bit of me (and a large part of my friends) that's telling me that it's not worth it. We've reached an agreement in our still frequent and amicable phone calls that while she's working on her current project (just a week left) we won't talk about it. Fine by me.

Monday, 23 July 2001

She's ditched me again. That's the third time this year.

Got a phone call last night as I folded my clothes for a week away (my flat is little more than a clean clothing production line with Sky). In tears she explained that she didn't want 'us' to continue because after 9 months she still wasn't sure, but that she didn't want to lose me as her closest friend. I listened in a cold silence as a spiralling pit yawned in my stomach, told her I'd been expecting it, hung up and went out and got drunk.

I woke at 4am, and while my blurry head adjusted to the half-light of my room, the chasm reopened and I fell in, my stomach whirling and churning. It wasn't pretty. But after an hour my thoughts crystallised into one conclusion - I wasn't going to accept her answer. As a conclusion unfortunately, it doesn't help, making me sound like a petulant toddler, screaming and screaming until I'm sick. Also it probably ultimately leads to a seedy experience living at the bottom of her garden and picking up court orders.

The second conclusion I reached, once two cups of tea to the good and ensconsed in a Nottingham bound First Class compartment, was that I'm beyond caring. Although spectacularly at odds with previous behaviour, it's sustaining me at the moment.

Thursday, 19 July 2001

She's procrastinating again.

We spoke briefly on the phone last night and she'd like to not see each other for a while (actually just a week and a half, because we're going walking next weekend and that's SET IN STONE). She'll call me if she wants to talk, I'm not to call her. This would be alright if she needed some space to "sort her head out", but the fact remains she's had nine months, that's three quarters of a year, to try and think in a straight line and I don't think another week (in which she will be working too hard to do much other than sleep, eat and go to a Robbie Williams concert) is going to help much at all. She'll carry on as normal, be vague and unsettled next time we meet, and not have made any decisions at all.

I don't know why it's annoying me because I'm not surprised.

Wednesday, 18 July 2001

We're going to split up.

This funny fandango we've been at for the last year (or thereabouts) is in stasis - not going forwards (to a 'proper' couple) or backwards (to 'just friends' again). It's stopped because she's indecisive, I know what I want, and have told her, but she's trapped between two choices, both involving an element of hurt, unwilling to bring any pain onto either of us.

So what must happen is that I will have to make the choice for her, and the choice is to split. In many ways such an outcome is ideal, she gets the decision made for her, and can feel like she's been wronged, I get to feel like the wise, all-knowing one and I can feel like I've been wronged too. It's just that it sucks.

Monday, 16 July 2001

Bit nervous of this 'blog malarkey at the moment. Not only do I feel a bit Nathan Barley for even having it, but I've also got no idea what to use it for or who will read it.

Oh well, let's stick something down shall we.

The train was late this morning. As if it wasn't bad enough being turfed out of bed at 6am and schlepping semi-conscious across London to a grimy St Pancras. as if the super-strong and harsh tea that seems to be the main benefit of First Class wasn't penance enough, the second leg of the journey contrived to be 70 minutes late.

What upsets me more about train delays is the way other passengers refuse to be philosophical about the whole affair. I quite relish a bit of quiet time for snoozing or staring at the sunny countryside or reading, but I find the waves of fury and frustration radiated by my fellow travellers quite unsettling to my inner tranquility.

As they swear under their breath and mutter angrily into their mobiles at the cab they mistakenly ordered (there are always 400 cabs outside the station with 400 bored cabbies, what's the point of booking one in advance) I want to jump up, grab them by the lapels and shout incoherently at them, my spit flecking their Mark's and Spencer's shirt and tie combo, until they sink into a stunned silence.

But I guess that would defeat the point.

Friday, 13 July 2001

Friday afternoon, sweaty office, watching the minutes tick past on the clock. Lazily hitting refresh on websites that update often enough to provide interest, not able to summon the energy for a proper surfing session (and anyway, I'm at work, I'm not supposed to do that sort of thing). Waiting for the earliest possible time it's considered decent to leave - 4:20 is looking like a good bet.