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CC Image courtesy of francisco_osorio on FlickrThe Master of Ceremonies is wearing what looks like a high-end bin-liner.  ‘Turn to the person next to you,’ he says, ‘and share a story with the theme ‘Wasted’.’

‘I’m glad I’m next to the wall,’ I say, laughing.

Karl isn’t going to let me off the hook.  He goes first, with a story about how he wasted four months of his life working for an estate agents called Foxtons.  In that time he worked like a dog, to the point that he would get home to his girlfriend and be too tired to have sex.  ‘She used to beg me,’ he says, eyes wide with wonder, ‘but I just couldn’t!’  He shakes his head.  ‘It was such a waste.’

Now it’s my turn.  On reading the event description for the evening, I’d run a quick scan of the memory files for any relevant anecdotes.  Lately the saying ‘you regret the things you don’t do’ had been preying on my mind.  In Forget Me Not, the woman asks, ‘Any regrets?’  ‘Maybe,’ the guy says.  It’s a poignant moment.  Regrets, I realised, are something I never want to have and I don’t have many.  But there’s one I can’t seem to shake.  There it is, a wasted opportunity which fills me with feelings of regret.  It’s a trivial story, barely a story at all, but once lodged in my head, I can’t shift it.  And so, when Bin Liner invites us to share, it’s the only one that springs to mind.  I take a deep breath.

‘I should’ve gone to the ball at which I would have met the man I should marry but I didn’t because the guy who invited me I was still getting over and now the guy I should marry is going out with someone else….’

I said it was trivial, pathetic even.

Karl cuts in, ‘How do you know he’s the guy you should marry?’

I frown.  ‘Sorry?’

‘How do you know he’s the guy you should marry?’

I don’t, but the question is just annoying.  I mean, of course he’s the guy I should marry.

‘Because, when we did meet-.’

‘So you did meet him?’

‘Yes, we worked together…’

And if you’d let me finish the ruddy story, you’d have found this out!

‘… and we just got on really well.’

To the point that I was left in no doubt that he was the man I should marry.  Honestly, details.

‘But if you had met, you might have gone out together, and found it didn’t work.  I mean, you meet, you become lovers, and then you get to know each other, and then, if it works, it might become a relationship, but not necessarily.  More often than not, it doesn’t work.’

‘True.  But, well, I think it would work.  But anyway, now he’s got a girlfriend.  It’s such a waste.’

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Keeping Time

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As a dancer I pride myself onCC Image courtesy of machernucha on Flickr

Keeping time:




Two sat down

For dinner at eight

Knowing the table might turn

At nine thirty.


Half past ten

I checked my watch,


Not believing what I saw.

Is it just me,

You said,

Or does it feel like we’ve only been here an hour or so?

I smile

At my watch face

Feeling happy-sad

That time has slipped away.


It isn’t just you.

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CC Image courtesy of Andre Benedix on Flickr

I hear a step and turn in my chair.  It’s Tristan, holding a piece of paper.  He puts it down next to my keyboard.

‘Here you are.’

‘Oh!  But…’

It only means one thing.

‘…are – are you sure?  Because I – I don’t have anyone for it – I mean, I can probably find someone, but I don’t have anyone at the minute, and… don’t you want it?’


‘Oh, OK, well, thanks.’  I look down at the ticket, frowning.  ‘Are – are you sure there’s no one else who wants it?’

‘No.’  He looks puzzled.  ‘I got it from the design guys, so I don’t think any of them need it.’

In the top right-hand corner someone has scribbled his name: TRISTAN.  He won’t be there.

‘OK, well, thank you.  I’m sure I can find someone for it.’


Yesterday, over lunch, Tristan had mentioned that he might not make the gig as he had to pack for the weekend.  I’d then enquired casually of the assembled company if anyone knew of a spare ticket going and Tristan immediately volunteered his.

‘Well, I don’t have anyone at the minute,’ I mumble, ‘but there might be someone…’

The night before, I’d got a message from Viable Prospect.  He’s in London, well, Oxford, but the point is, he’s in the same country as me and has suggested a repeat of herbal tea.  Not knowing this was going to be the case, I’d given my spare gig tickets to my brother.  Now I’m a bit peeved that I can’t ask VP, not least because he’s actually a fan of the band.


I keep glancing at the piece of paper next to my computer, at the name scrawled across the top.  I’d known from Tristan’s tone at lunch that he wouldn’t come, but still, it’s a pity.  I was looking forward to spending some time with him outside of the office, and now he’s gone and dropped into my lap the means to enable me to invite VP.  Tristan had been the one big reason against asking the guy, so there’s a neat irony to this turn of events.  Not that I expect VP to come.  By half 4 I’m certain he’ll say no, it’s too much hassle etc.  That’s the cut-off I’ve given him.

At 16:36 I notice, out of the corner of my eye, my phone blinking.  I’ve been on edge ever since I first texted him the suggestion, three hours before.  What’s new is that now, for the first time, I’m certain: I want him to be there.  I know he’d be brilliant company, that I’d laugh all night with him.  It would be wonderful.

‘You’re on’

Shit.  That’s my first thought.  SHIT!  And that’s my second.  (My third is obviously, full stop???)  I fire off an email to Colleague who is excited in the way only a person who isn’t currently facing a clothing/make-up crisis of gargantuan proportions could be.


Grey eye shadow – or anything darkish?’

‘I’ve got this.’

Zoe holds out what can only be described as pale pink shimmer.


Colleague comes in. ‘You OK?’

‘Er no!  I am not prepared for this!’

She laughs.  ‘Can I help with anything?’

‘Err… make-up?!’

‘What do you need?’

‘Everything!  Eye shadow?  Grey?’

Zoe reoffers pearly pink. ‘It’s kind of shimmery.’

And still pink.

‘How about this?’

I take Colleague’s grey eyeliner pencil and set to work.


I leave through the main entrance, which takes me past Tristan’s desk.  I remember, as a child, always reading the phrase ‘he gave her an appraising glance’ in books, and never quite knowing what it meant.  What Tristan gives me is undoubtedly appraising, but it ain’t a glance, it’s a look.  I flash a smile.

‘Thank you for the ticket, Tristan.’

‘No worries.  Have fun.’

I don’t catch the last words.  ‘Sorry?’ I say, coming to a halt.  The effect is entirely ruined.

Too late I realise what he said.

‘Oh – thanks.’

But he’s already looked away.  Or has he?

Standing on the landing, waiting for the lift to arrive, a scene plays out in my head.  It’s a cross between the moment in The Office when Dawn comes back to the party and kisses Tim, and something altogether more dramatic.  It involves Tristan rushing towards the doors, pushing them open, starting to say something, only to break off and kiss me.

The lift doors open, and close on me.  I hit the button for the ground floor.

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CC Image courtesy of outdoorPDK on FlickrWe’re standing, chatting: Tristan, myself, Colleague, Zoe and Ryan.  There’s a lull in the conversation.  My mind has gone a blank, which is ridiculous.  There are always a million things I want to ask Tristan, beginning with ‘would you tell me your life story?’, but that’s the problem: none of them are remotely inclusive.  I look at him, in the hope that it will bring some kind of inspiration.  The effect instead is not dissimilar to what happens when you tap a mussel, or any kind of bivalve mollusc.


Tristan starts speaking and I can’t help noticing that, whilst he’s addressing the group, he’s looking at me.  Can I tell you what he said?  No.  This is becoming a bit of a problem.  He’ll swing by my desk with the latest copy of Country Life open at our favourite page, and I’ll stare at it.  I won’t read it, I won’t absorb a single detail.  And then I’ll attempt to say something funny about it.  Which never works.


I have more luck at lunch when I’m more relaxed, when I’m not worried he might at any moment disappear so I have to say something witty and brilliant in order to stall his departure.  The other day, having decided it was childish and silly to avoid the guy for the sole reason that I really really like him (in that oh-so-dangerous ‘the more I get to know you, the more I like you’ way, which isn’t supposed to happen), I find myself sitting next to him.  I know I’m laughing like an idiot, I know it must be clear as day to everyone else, but I can’t help it.


We’re mocking the cover of Country Life.  Then we move onto holiday plans or lack thereof.

‘I was thinking of the summer alps.’

I nod.  ‘I was there a couple of weekends ago.’

‘So you have been away!’

‘Well, yes, but it was the kind of holiday where you got five hours’ sleep a night and there was quite a lot of heavy drinking so…’

‘Cool,’ he says, nodding.

He has a slightly hunched posture which lends a conspiratorial air to the conversation.

‘Yeah, but I got back feeling like I needed a holiday!’

‘Where were you?’

I tell him.  He does this squinting thing which tells me he doesn’t recognize the place names.

‘My knowledge of French geography is pretty poor,’ he says.  ‘Even the UK, I’m pretty hopeless!’

This is the closest I’ve come in six months to discovering a weakness in the guy; and something tells me that his not knowing his Lyon from his Lille is going to make bugger all difference.

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The Voice Of Reason

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‘I heard from Germany today.’CC Image courtesy of mira d'oubliette on Flickr

This is what I’ve taken to calling him, him being Viable Prospect.  Never has a pseudonym seemed more ironic.

Colleague looks excited.  ‘Ooh you should have heard just now what Zoe was saying, about you and Tristan.’

Zoe is a colleague of ours.  I frown.  ‘Huh?  What was she saying and when and why?’

‘It was just now and like, half an hour ago.  She’s always talking about it.  She was saying how she thinks you’re such a good pair and she’s sure you’ll end up together.  Y’know, she’s got a sense about these things?’

‘He has–.’

‘She knows he has a girlfriend,’ she interrupts, ‘but she still thinks – you should have seen her!  She was getting so excited, saying how he clearly really likes you, how he takes every opportunity to come over and see you, and–.’

‘He doesn’t.  I mean, I know when he emails me rather than coming over, and – he doesn’t.’

‘He and his girlfriend need to break up,’ Colleague mutters, as if she hasn’t heard a word I’ve been saying.

It’s weird, being the voice of reason.

Something occurs to me. ‘I remember Zoe saying she loves romantic stuff, so I wonder – it might be that she’s looking for it.’

‘P-ossibly, but she’s usually right about these things.’

Colleague has a point.  There was the time Zoe guessed that Beth was pregnant almost before Beth knew it herself, and there are other examples.  But still…

‘I loved what you said, the other day, when I showed you the photo of his girlfriend!’ I say.  ‘When I asked what were you expecting, and you said, ‘I think I was just expecting to see you there, Anna’.

We laugh.

‘It’s so annoying,’ she says. ‘They need to break up.  When’s the office party?’

I laugh, thinking of Matthew.  They’re so different.

‘The thing is, Tristan’s so decent, he would never cross the line.  He wouldn’t even flirt.’



It’s weird.  He’s funny, hilarious even, but it never feels like he’s leading you on, not really.  Which, let’s face it, is a bugger.  There’s too much about the guy to admire.

I pretend to do some work for a bit.


Colleague looks up.

‘… do you honestly think he fancies me – I mean, finds me attractive?’


‘But, really?’

‘Yes, and Zoe’s convinced of it.  He clearly likes you, and you get on really well – and you’ve got loads in common.’

‘Yes, it’s a bit unnerving how much we have in common.’  I frown.  ‘Now I’m annoyed.  I wasn’t annoyed before!  It’s your fault!  And Zoe’s!’

Colleague laughs.

I shrug.  ‘But… there are other people you have lots in common with.’

Germany, for instance.  He loves poetry, and music, and we have the same sense of humour.  And… Tinder.  We have that in common.

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