Tuesday 29 October 2002

Back to the comfort zone

After a couple of years of soap-opera histrionics my love-life has segued neatly into sitcom territory.

The spectacular failure of my experiment in picking a partner from my close friends has made me realise I need to start meeting more people. Consequently, I've made myself more amenable to the relatively frequent matchmaking attempts of numerous smugly coupled-up friends. Much as I hate being match-made - all that pressure to live up to someone else's horribly oversold version of your virtues under the gleaming eyes of would-be Cupids - I nevertheless managed to get a couple of phone numbers in my blundering style:

Me: You know we're being match made.

Her (innocently): No.

Me (full of drunken insistence): No, you KNOW we're being match made.

Her: Yes, well, they have mentioned your name once or twice.

Me: Well, the thing is, I'm too drunk, too drunk for talking, or dancing, or...,or..., whatever. But give me your number and I'll call you next week.

Her: OK.

Cupids: Aren't you going to exchange numbers?

Me: OK, but I haven't got a pen.

Her: OK, but neither have I.

Me: Here's my business card, call me next week.

Romance, I've heard of it.

Encouragingly I'm also starting to overcome my morbid dread of "dates". I am hampered by a long-term hang-up about people thinking I harbour anything other than scrupulously honourable intentions, which doesn't sit comfortably with either the long or short term purpose of dating (de Botton's views on the necessity of never admitting this during courting and flirting notwithstanding).

So, after a few entertaining phone calls in which both they and I proved we were able to rise above our initial drunken conversational fumblings I arrange three different dates with three different women, things are looking up for our bold hero. Until

Date 1: Cancelled due to tube strike. No problem, reschedule to Date 4.

Date 2: Cancelled due to her dog savaging another dog at an obedience class and needing to go to the vet's. Excellent and inventive excuse, reschedule to Date 5.

Date 3: Cancelled due to thing going on with someone else or something, doesn't feel ready.

Date 4: Cancelled due to thing going on with ex-boyfriend, not a good time, maybe later.

Date 5: Still to come...dog is currently healthy.

Now, as the lovely L pointed out over e-mail, 0 for 4 isn't necessarily a poor reflection on me as

It's only when you have dates, and they never want to see you again that you know there's something wrong.

but I am currently feeling that the universe is conspiring against me a little. Either that or I've bought some duff shaving gel again.

Monday 28 October 2002

Sunday 27 October 2002

Winter Malaise

On good days my job is fabulous, I carve great chunks of satisfaction from building and delivering IT systems. I feel like a Victorian engineer constructing soaring precision marvels in a virtual world. Others may not see it, but I build, shape and precisely dam great flows of information where choked pools once sat. And even if I don't write the code or connect the cables myself then steering a team of sometime non-believers through that process lets me wring happiness from my career.

Recently though, the good times have seemed less frequent and a pressure is building within me. I'm fed up. On rain-washed winter work days the duvet presses my body to the bed with the weight of a thousand past holidays and last night's ill-advised late night TV. The lure of returning some 17 hours later is all that prompts me to leave the bed's warm arms and stand dully beneath the tepid tendrils of the shower.

The grey of the trip to work is oppressive, row after row of boxy water-streaked single occupant cars cough needless exhaust and drag slowly through stagnating traffic systems. A colourless sky pinned at the horizons by production line office blocks stretches above an ill humoured 8:30am city centre.

Each day at work is a battle between my need to feel like I'm doing something constructive and the heavy ennui engendered by a lack of progress and another set of "issues". When stimulation is low I waste time like a sad tiger pacing its zoo cage, I visit and revisit the same websites, go to the coffee machine, repeat dull gossip.

I'm treading water, letting the hours of my life dribble like so much sand through my fingers, and while I can't stop the flow I should be able to take more pleasure from its steady rhythms and ever-shifting shape.

There's a life-change in the post, I just don't know when it's arriving.

Thursday 17 October 2002


The change was so sudden it ought to have been accompanied by a cheer or loud pop of champagne corks, a tiny but firm click as everything dropped into place would have sufficed, but the transformation happened silently.

On Friday night Baz went round to dinner at her place, an 'introduce the boyfriend to the friends' session as far as I could work out. He told me ten minutes before he left, and the small tornado of emotions it kicked up on top of the fatigue of a week at work left me dazed and reeling for an hour. I lay on the sofa looking at but not watching the television and thinking about but not coping with the whole situation.

And then it changed. All of I sudden I was over her. What was bizarre was quite how instantaneous the change was - one second my mind was whirling with

"bastard, I hope he ruins her evening,"

the next it was serenely floating through

"oh, I wonder how she is".

The emotional wound I have been probing for the last four months has healed and my still quite regular mental prods elicit a small tickly sensation rather than great swathes of pain. All the bile and rage has drained cleanly out and left me light, hungry and happy.

I can't be totally certain that I have reached the end of this emotional curve, at least not until I next see her, but I'm relieved to see there is happiness beyond the anger.

Sunday 13 October 2002

A wasted evening

Blown out by a date with an hour's notice I moped uncreatively around the house on Saturday night. After spending any number of week nights sitting in a deathly dull Holiday Inn hotel room wasting a Saturday night on TV and navel-gazing seems criminal. Weekend evenings seem immeasurably more valuable.

The evening was filled by watching Amelie and dreaming of bringing random happinesses into the lives of others.

Wednesday 2 October 2002

The art of posture

Juliette sits perfectly, her gently curving spine topping out in a relaxed and symmetric pair of shoulders. Her command of Pilates and physiology is constantly demonstrated by flawless execution - her movements are well-balanced and gracefully executed, a raised arm makes the the appropriate muscles move in a flowing and efficient melody.

Next to her my habitual slouching is magnified and I am made awkardly aware of my slumping back and taut shoulders. My frame sags into its seat, lazy muscles ceding support to the hard angles of the furniture. My body positions are wrong and my mind cannot shepherd the joints into the correct angles I enviously watch flow through her movements.

I'm trying to hold myself properly, hips and buttocks positioned just so, shoulder blades back and down, wrists held lightly above the keyboard, but a moment's inattention makes the wrong muscles tauten or soften and by the time I am next aware of my body my posture has failed me once more.

Tuesday 1 October 2002

Late summer evening

Logistics dictated that I walk the four miles over the fields between my parent's house and the comforting Victorian architecture of Princes Risborough station. It was a pleasant time to be out, the sun had started its slow arc to the horizon over my shoulder, a translucent veil of high cloud wallpapered the sky. The gaudy inverted tear-drops of distant hot air balloons hung on invisible pegs in the still warm air of the Vale.

The footpath soon strayed off the quiet country road and cut a sharp line through straw-stubbled fields. Its passage across a village cricket pitch did not disturb the match in progress - white-clad fielders still lazed in the field, the batsmen scored good, quick runs.

The path rolled past The Lions, quintessential country pub. An ancient low-eaved building, small stone steps carved into gentle curves by centuries of feet led up to a stooping front door. The spacious front garden home to rough wooden benches sprawled beneath an enormous tree.

The leaves were losing their spring freshness, the fierce summer rays of July and August had laid dusty reds and oranges over the original vibrant green. Each tree was quietly preparing for the oncoming winter, shedding leaves and dropping newly minted conkers to gleam like brown pearls in the dust of the track.

The path lost its clear trace in the pale, dry clods of a newly ploughed field, but its invisible edge notched dark cuts into the far-off hedgerows. My shadow flowed from furrow to furrow as horses hooves rattled on a distant road.

As I move around the country I'm frequently embarrassed and depressed at the tedium of the new retail and business world progress has brought. As planner's pens scrape new roads of featureless tarmac across once quiet vales and as retail parks, housing estates, and office blocks slop over the rims of small market towns it's good to know that a slice of picture perfect England can still spring to warm, engaging life for those in the right place at the right time.