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Something New

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CC Image courtesy erin_everlasting on Flickr

‘Oh God,’ Ryan says, ‘it’s like something out of Miranda.’

Which is ironic, given it all began rather beautifully…

 

It’s past 8 when I ring the bell of Sarah’s flat, the task of decorating myself with paper snowflakes having proved more difficult than expected. I follow her up to the kitchen where a dozen or so people are gathered, some standing, most seated, nearly all familiar. Introductions ensue.

‘…and,’ she concludes, ‘I think you’ve met Olly?’

‘Y-es.’

Quite a good impression of someone who hasn’t spent an inordinate amount of time putting together a fun but (hopefully) sexy ensemble on the off chance that the man now standing before her would a) turn up and b) find her attractive. Olly asks if my feet have recovered, a reference to the dance we shared the last (and first) time we met.

‘Getting there,’ I say, with a grin.

There’s competition in the form of a petite brunette. For the first hour or so she doesn’t speak. That is, we manage a brief Q&A (no prizes for guessing who’s Q) but it’s not until Olly gives her the time of day that she perks up.

‘I think Olly likes that girl,’ I say to Sarah, refilling my glass. ‘The one he’s speaking to.’

‘No, I don’t think so. You should talk to him.’

I already have and it was fun. It was also the only conversation of the evening which felt unfinished, in a good way.

Petite Brunette leaves around midnight. I decide to shelve the possibility of catching the last tube and instead focus on the possibility of catching Olly. That is, I don’t really do catching, instead taking the view that if it’s right it will just happen. Fortunately Sarah belongs to a different school of thought and when everyone has taken a seat for drinking games – everyone except Olly who’s standing just behind me – she pretty much orders him to share my chair. I’ve had more red wine than usual by this point, and the fact that I’m not paying great attention to the rules of the games means I’m not doing very well at them. But with Olly’s arm around me, ostensibly to keep him balanced on the chair – though the idea that anyone would anchor themselves to me in my current state to ensure stability is a bit of a joke – I’m not likely to be paying attention.

The next round is karaoke which I swear I used to be good at. At one point I go through to the kitchen to get some water. Olly’s emerging from the bathroom. We meet beside the cooker and kiss. It’s gentle and soft and surprises me. In a good way.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

CC Image courtesy of Lotus Carroll on Flickr

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Grey Day

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CC Image courtesy of marfis75 on Flickr‘Do you think all-over stripes are too much?’

My long-suffering mother thinks stripes are fine.

‘Or spots? Spots are nice.’

Sharp intake of breath at the other end of the phone.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll decide! Oh also…’

We’ve been here before – the so-called afterthought.

‘… did you get my email?’

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘and I replied.’

‘Oh…’

The IKEA bedding department has everything it seems, except Wi-Fi.

‘… I haven’t got it.’

‘Oh.’

‘So… what did it say?’

‘So… you thank him and say Happy New Year to you too, and that’s all.’

‘Yeah that’s what I was going to do.’ I sigh. ‘Yeah.’

 

I contemplate the message. Gone is the dry sarcasm of our early exchanges, the tentative questioning when I knew things weren’t going as I hoped, the thinly-veiled hurt of our final conversations. In their place is a quiet neutrality and it saddens me. I hit send.

Getting up, my eye is caught by a bed set slightly apart from the others. I go over to it and sit down, absent-mindedly stroking the sheets. I rise, walk round, contemplating it from various angles before taking out my phone.

‘Is all grey acceptable?’

Seems appropriate.

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Back To The Future

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CC Image courtesy of 96dpi on FlickrI’m sitting on the train, bound for a New Year’s Eve party, and for some reason I’m reading old texts from VP. I say ‘for some reason'; it’s probably because I know that tonight VP is just 11 miles away. On finding this out I did something I’ve never done before: alone, at home, I cracked open a bottle of Martini and had a drink.

So I’m reading old texts from VP, from the top. I’ve got as far as the one where I’m telling him about an evening I spent with Perky who incidentally I’m en route to meet before going together to the aforementioned party. Perky’s been a saint recently, fielding endless messages from yours truly containing scintillating bulletins such as:

Tinder tells me VP is in London.

It’s a wonder she hasn’t blocked my number.

So I’m sitting there, reading, when something happens. Something I’ve been hoping for ever since a certain conversation took place in early October but which I didn’t really believe would ever happen.

VP’s messages, six months old, are before my eyes, when up pops… a new message. And suddenly we’re back there: back to holding my phone like it’s a piece of fine bone china, so that I don’t accidentally hit the message bubble, open the window, allow the message to show as ‘read’ before the ink is dry on the page. Back to staring at my phone with the most ridiculous grin on my face, wondering what it means, what to do next.

‘It makes me angry,’ Perky says, when I tell her. ‘He still hasn’t done anything.’

Tell me about it.

And when Karl comes on to me around 2am at the party, I cut my losses and tell him too. He knows about VP, whereas my neighbour – the main reason I don’t feel entirely comfortable making out with Karl in the hallway, or anywhere for that matter – is as yet undisclosed information.

‘You’re the ball of wool,’ Karl says.

‘Huh?’

Even without the four glasses of prosecco coursing through my veins, I don’t think I’d catch his drift.

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’re the ball of wool, and he’s the kitten in this scenario.’

I know he’s right.

‘How do I not be the ball of wool?’

‘You have to not care.’

‘Hmm.’

Like that’s gonna happen.

CC Image courtesy of Alicakes* on Flickr

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The Name Game

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CC Image courtesy of johanoomen on Flickr

The first person I see on entering the pub is Casper.

‘What do you guys want?’

Ryan and Gus request pints. Tristan pokes me. ‘What do you want?’

‘Oh… just water, thanks.’

‘Half or pint?’ he says with a grin.

I come back from the loo to find a gin and tonic and a half pint of water waiting for me. Once seated, I decide to do the honourable thing and make polite conversation with Casper who’s to my left, silently thanking God (and Tristan) that there’s hard liquor to hand.

The second person I noticed on entering the pub was someone I didn’t know the name of, incredible given the number of hours I’ve spent on Tristan’s Facebook profile. The guy in question is good-looking, casually dressed in jumper and jeans, with an intelligent face.

Casper is talking shop, which anyone should know is pretty much not allowed, unless you’re 007, and even then. And I’m listening, sort of. A couple of times my eyes drift in the direction of Intelligent Face, to find it directed at me.

Casper goes out for a smoke and I fall into conversation with the girl sitting opposite. Her face is familiar, and so is her name – Laura – though we’ve never met. I like her instinctively and the chatter is relaxed and easy. Talk of mixed schools leads to a discussion of whether men and women can be friends. She is for the motion.

‘Tristan for instance,’ she says, ‘I’ve known him for years, but I could never think of him in that way.’

What is WRONG with you, I want to say. But instead I smile politely.

People move round. I’m pretty much stuck between Casper and Ryan; Intelligent Face is a few seats away, between Gus and Tristan. Not ideal positioning for a tête-à-tête, so it feels somewhat pointed when he speaks across Gus and Ryan and asks me a question about my job. By this stage in the proceedings I’ve figured out who he is. Tristan’s spoken of him often. He’s a playwright and one of Tristan’s best friends.

Fast forward half an hour and Shakespeare has somehow engineered taking the seat next to me. We’re talking writing.

‘I didn’t know you had a blog!’ Tristan says, overhearing.

I look incredulous. ‘I told you I had a blog!’

I’m sailing pretty close to the wind here.

‘Yeah,’ Tristan says, ‘but I didn’t realise you actually posted regularly. What’s it called?’

‘Oh… it’s anonymous,’ I say, ‘I don’t promote it.’

Shakespeare tries pretty hard to get the name out of me, but I’m not forthcoming. I’m also a bit confused. I mean, here is a guy – attractive, intelligent, interesting – showing interest. And across from me is his best friend, a man I refer to among my immediate family as ‘Future Husband’, and among my best friends as ‘Perfect Colleague’.

Around eleven Tristan gets up to leave and I make as if to follow suit. Shakespeare looks mildly disappointed, and I’m disappointed too. But I mean really, how would it go, hanging out with Shakespeare and Tristan and Tristan’s girlfriend?

Things don’t go according to plan, and it’s nearly midnight when I find myself on the pavement with Shakespeare, Laura, Casper and several others, heading for the station. At the ticket barriers, Casper says he should take me out for dinner sometime, a suggestion which I laugh off. Shakespeare, when it comes to saying goodbye, looks at me steadily and says we’ll hopefully see each other at Tristan’s housewarming in the New Year, before going on his way. I head in the opposite direction with Laura and the others, chatting merrily.

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Mr. Chips: Part II

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(Continued from Mr. Chips: Part I)CC Image courtesy of the green gables on Flickr

We’ve had probably two conversations over the course of the three-year period I’ve been living in my flat, excluding the sporadic texts he sends asking if he can use our parking space.

The first was walking between the electric gate and his front door, when he attempted to persuade me to attend the upcoming street party. The sociopath-recluse in me wanted nothing to do with it, but after three different neighbours took it upon themselves to ‘check’ I was going, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. The second conversation took place at the party itself. I can’t remember the details but I do remember him saying something a bit catty about the neighbours who hadn’t put in an appearance. I defended them on the grounds they might have other plans, or be tired – either way, weekends are precious, and it wasn’t for us to judge them. That speech, uncharacteristic on my part, must have gone down a treat.

I also remember being a bit dazzled by him. He could talk to anyone, which I find incredibly attractive, and seemed genuinely interested in what they had to say, which is rare. And because I was dazzled I put him in the category of ‘couldn’t possibly be interested’.

 

I smile. ‘Hey!’

I think I know his name, but I’m not 100% sure.

He asks where I’ve been, offers me a chip.

‘Is it organic?’ I say with a grin.

‘Organic, Fairtrade, you name it….’

We joke all the way to his door, and over the threshold.

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