Paradise Lost

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CC Image courtesy of Glen Bowman on FlickrSeveral years ago, the BBC broadcast a period drama called The Paradise. It was about a department store in the north of England run by charming entrepreneur Moray. The local totty thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and badly wanted to marry him (which would have been to his advantage, since totty’s father had pots of money ready to invest in the store).

Enter Denise: pretty, clever and ambitious. She makes her mark at the store (lots of bright ideas for displays, that kind of thing) and even catches the attention of Moray. Cue URST (UnResolved Sexual Tension).

Just when we think Moray and Denise are about to sail off into the sunset, there’s a twist (SPOILER ALERT). The crucial speech:

Denise: I don’t want to marry Moray. I want to be him.

That’s the line from the series that most stayed with me. And it’s the line I resisted the urge to quote when, earlier this year, I found myself on a date with the man who’d helped script the series.

‘It was great!’ I said. (I probably clapped.) ‘It was better than Mr. Selfridge.’

He grinned. ‘Aww bless you.’

(I should have known then it was doomed.)

 

We saw each other a couple more times, and each time conversation turned to his job.

CC Image courtesy of Marvin (PA) on Flickr

I’ve dated people from a range of professions: engineers, a journo, an architect, a theoretical physicist. Infatuation, I find, is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of job envy. And if I don’t fancy doing the actual job – me as a theoretical physicist LOL – I’m seduced by the lifestyle that goes with it. I still have no idea how the physicist managed to go on fortnightly holidays.

But – the journo aside – it’s all been fantasy. Until Moray.

 

I hung on his every word. Date one, I admitted to having tried to get into script development a while back. I’d even spoken to several script editors about the best routes in. He knew the people I’d spoken to. It just gave us more to talk about.

But, unlike Moray, he didn’t come to me on bended knee. So, shortly before the inevitable parting of the ways, I started mourning the relationship. He was fun; I’d miss that. I’d miss the sex too. But what I’d miss most was sharing a passion. We’d watched the trailer for The Crown and agreed about the lack of conflict. We hadn’t agreed about Michael’s character in Mum (I found him a bit annoying), but we did both love the theme tune (‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’) and listened to it together the last morning I spent at his.

I told him the best bit of screenwriting advice I’d ever read. He told me about the alien story his company was in the process of pitching. He loved his job. I loved his job.

I loved his job. I loved his job.

Five-hour meetings to determine characters’ back-stories. Brainstorming plot lines with a writer in their hotel room. Working all Sunday on a scene breakdown.

 

I set about updating my CV, making over my LinkedIn profile, emailing potential contacts – the works.

 

Occasionally I thought of him, pictured his head resting on my pillow.

I like you.’

I smile. ‘I like you too.’

We kiss.

‘What do you want?’ he says.

It’s a script joke – a protagonist should always want something.

The same thing as you,’ I whisper, and pull him closer.

If only that had been true.

CC Image courtesy of Oceans of Lilim on Flickr

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Four Candles

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CC Image courtesy of rvr on FlickrOne of the perks of writing a dating blog is that I hold the editing power.  I don’t have to include the less-than-brilliant moments, which expose me as human and fallible.  Like the fact that three minutes before I was due to meet James near Oxford Circus on Monday evening, I could be found sitting on a bench, coffee in hand, pondering a friend’s housing dilemma – in Hyde Park.  My phone flashes up with a message.

‘Sorry, got held up at work, going to be a few mins late – but not too many hopefully….x’

That’s odd, I think, looking at my watch.  We’re not due to meet for… oh SHIT.

I grab my bag, do some quick mental calculations, and start running in the direction of what I hope is Marble Arch.  At the subway entrance I hit send on a breathy apology.

The gods are smiling on me: a train pulls up as I arrive on the platform.  Bond Street… Oxford Circus.  At the ticket barriers, I search my pockets.  Nothing.  I put my bags down, and root around in their depths.  Bingo!  Muttering expletives, I dash through the barriers.

On the pavement, I try to dredge up the memory of the street plan I’d googled earlier that day.  I start running northwards, dodging pedestrians.  Ahead is what looks like a concert hall.  It should be the next building.

CC Image courtesy of Sarah.Marshall on Flickr

I scan the courtyard, then check my watch.  Ten past.  Not too bad, but still, I don’t think he’ll like it.  I toss back a mint and rush inside.  No sign of him.

‘Hello,’ I say to the man at reception.  ‘I’m here for the comedy…’

‘I am the comedy’ might be more appropriate, given what follows.

‘Just off to your left, Madam.’

Madam goes left, and that’s when I see him, standing in what must be the side entrance, frowning at his phone.  I smile and go over to him.

‘Hello!  I’m so sorry!  My excuse is a very poor one.  I just found out a friend might be made homeless and I was a bit distracted – and for some reason thought it was 8 we were meeting.’  I pause for breath.  ‘I’m so sorry.  I hope we’re not too late for it.  When does it start?’

‘Hello.  Don’t worry.’  I can’t quite tell if he means it.  ‘Not til 7.30, so we’re OK.’

Security waves us over.  ‘Bags please.’

‘It’s like an airport!’

James concurs.  We deposit our bags in plastic boxes, ready for the scanner.  I hold out my jacket.

‘Is there anything in it, Madam?  A wallet or phone?’

‘No, nothing.’

‘Then you can take it through with you.’

I approach the lady with the handheld scanner.  She looks at the jacket.

‘Has that been through the scanner?’

‘Oh, no.  Your colleague said it didn’t–.’

‘It needs to go through.’

CC Image courtesy of Theen on Flickr

I double back, giving James a weak smile.

Jacket-free, I get the green light, and go over to where the bags are accumulating.

‘You’ve got a fork, Madam,’ the guard says.

I look down at my bracelet, a remodeled silver fork, and make to take it off.

‘In your bag,’ he says, pointing.

‘Wh–?’

Oh God.  I find the offending article.  The prongs are wrapped in kitchen paper from when I didn’t have time to wash it at lunch.

‘Would you like to collect it after?’

‘No, don’t worry.’ I glance behind me.  James is out of earshot.  ‘Actually…’

He appears at my side.

‘… no, it’s fine, you can chuck it.’

Too late.

‘Would you sign here, Madam?’

James is looking mildly curious.  I don’t say anything, but take the clipboard and sign.  I’m about to turn away.

‘And here please.’

The guard holds out the bagged fork, ready for me to write on the label.  I’ll have to come clean, which is more than can be said for the fork.

‘It’s a fork,’ I say, reddening.  James’ expression is hard to read, somewhere between bafflement and amusement.  I nod in the direction of the theatre.  ‘I don’t think we need to go in there for the comedy!’

We go through to the bar.  I can feel beads of sweat forming on my brow and lip, the legacy of my earlier sprint.  And I need the loo.

‘Shall we get a drink?’ he says.

‘Mmm some water would be good.’

The barman brings two glasses.  I take a sip.  A voice comes over the speakers, calling for holders of tickets 1-50.  I can feel my face glistening.

‘It really is like an airport!’ I say, looking anywhere but at James.  ‘Shall we find a table?’

Once seated, conversation turns to the show.

‘It’s perfect,’ I say, brushing sweat from my lip.  Except that sweat won’t be brushed, not really.  ‘Cos I’m trying to write a radio script at the minute.’

‘I didn’t realize.’

‘Yes.’  More ineffective brushing.  ‘It’s about – no that’s a stage thing – what’s the one for radio I’m doing? – this bodes well!’

James is looking at me the way a doctor might look at a mentally ill patient: a mixture of pity, puzzlement and despair.  Which, by anyone’s dating standards, isn’t great.  

By the time our ticket numbers are called, things are looking up.  The sweating has subsided, and we’re agreeing it takes a lot to make us laugh.

I laugh pretty much non-stop for the next three hours.  Must have been the coffee.

CC Image courtesy of realjv on Flickr



A River In Egypt

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Strictly speaking, I was not responsible for making the decision to text Joe.  No.  That responsibility lay with:

  1. My editor (see The Bermuda Triangle).
  2. My mother, who told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to take the initiative.  So naturally I did, whilst temporarily transforming into someone who says things like ‘why are we still behaving this way in a post-feminist age?!’
  3. My closest friends, who virtually ordered me to text him; and who, when I tried explaining that it’s best to leave the guy to make the first move, asked me why this was so.  I didn’t have a convincing answer.
  4. And finally, the BBC (and this is the closest this blog will ever get to being topical), for scheduling a certain police drama at the time that they did, so that when I rang my mother she was unavailable to chat, which left me at a loose end with my phone.

See?  Not my fault.