Half-Baked Ideas

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CC Image courtesy of K. Yasuhara on Flickr

I hear from Perky who has just cracked and texted the guy she’s been waiting to hear from.

‘Don’t judge me!’

How can I?  I’m exhausted and instead of doing the sensible thing and crashing out on the sofa and ‘watching a film’, I’m baking.  Why am I baking?  Because with one eye on the scales, there’s only so much time I can spend staring at my phone.

‘Bother.’

I’ve added the flour before the butter and melted chocolate, which reminds me of a post I wrote.  The first ever post, in fact.  Like I said back then, it’s because my mind is elsewhere, thinking of the person I hope will eat these.  It’s not VP because VP isn’t in London.  It’s not Tristan either.

*

‘Try one!’

‘Ooh thank you!’  Colleague takes a piece.  ‘Yum!  Did you make these last night?!’

‘Yep.’

‘What’s in it?’

I hear a familiar step.  The man responsible for my re-writing the rulebook on baking walks past.  Our eyes meet for a moment before he turns the corner, out of sight.

‘Was that…?’

‘Yep.’  I lower my voice.  ‘Could you do me a favour and in a moment say how delicious it is or something?!’

She rolls her eyes.  He comes into earshot.

‘What’s in it?’

‘White chocolate, and cranberries…’

‘Mmm it’s delicious!’

She’s a bloody good actress.  The tub is still in my hands.  He glances at it as he walks past, cafetiere in hand.

‘If I’d thought faster I could have given him one!’ I say, doing a little skip on the spot.

Colleague gives me a pitying look.

‘OK, OK,’ I say, gathering up my things, ‘I’m going to lunch.’

CC Image courtesy of John Fraissinet on Flickr

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Notting Hill

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CC Image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan on FlickrHe’s sitting alone, feet up on a chair, reading what looks like the free copy of Country Life which turns up at the office every week, because once upon a time we put an ad in there and they forgot to take us off the mailing list.

‘Tristan.’

Which, as greetings go, would be fine, if I’d said it in a vaguely normal voice.  But instead I plump for something between Darth Vader and Voldemort.

He looks up and smiles.  ‘Hello.’

I pick myself up off the floor and saunter (sexy, huh?) over to the microwave – which is in use.  I unclip the lid of my Tupperware (one day that will be a euphemism) and start assembling my soon to be melted cheese and pesto sandwich.  A quick blitz – twenty seconds max – is all that’s needed to turn it into a gooey cheesy slice of deliciousness.  That’s the plan anyhow.

‘How is the fantastical world of data?’ Tristan says.

‘Oh fantastic.’  I laugh.  ‘I try not to mention the data thing, in social situations – I go with Marketing instead.’

The microwave comes free.  I set the timer to one minute.

He lowers his magazine.  ‘Oh!  I remember telling a girl what I did once…’

Would that be before or after you met Holly, and I don’t suppose you and she have broken up?!

‘… and she thought it was really cool!  She said it was her dream to work in this industry!’

I laugh.  ‘I hope you didn’t disillusion her!’

‘No, I told her about the chocolate fountains…’

I don’t recall what the guy says next because at this point he gets up – it gets better – and walks over to where I’m standing beside the bins… and drops his sandwich wrapper into the recyclable waste.  My sandwich meanwhile is achieving something close to nuclear fission in the microwave.

He sits back down.  I hear footsteps approaching and my heart sinks.  It’s probably Gus or Ryan or, worse, a woman.  But it’s a stranger.  Tristan is back to leafing through Country Life.  I’m trying to think of something to say and settle on the first thing that comes to mind: the phone conversation I’ve just had with my brother.  He’s decided, for reasons I can’t begin to understand, if they even exist at all, on a restaurant in Notting Hill as the venue for his birthday festivities.

‘Is it somewhere he knows?’

‘Nope, never been before.’ I laugh. ‘And all the guests live either East or South!  It doesn’t make any sense!’

He smiles. ‘Let me guess – you live west.’

I look mock-offended, then laugh.  ‘Says the guy who reads the ‘free’ copy of Country Life every week!’

He laughs.  ‘Harsh words.’

I smile, and cut my oil and basil leaf sandwich in two.

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FFS

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My mother‘s advice: make sure you leave with someone.CC Image courtesy of excitingsounds on Flickr

Isn’t that always the plan?  And it nearly came off.  It would have perhaps, if I’d liked him less.

 

The occasion is a dinner party.  My mother’s up for the evening and drives me to the door.

‘If you walk back to the station,’ she says, ‘make sure you go with someone – or take a taxi.’

There’s one behind us, waiting to get past.  I say a hasty goodbye, jump out and enter the building.

 

It’s the best kind of evening: relaxed, unpretentious, filled with laughter.  I arrive to find three guests already sitting at the table.  Introductions follow.  I take a seat next to the only man present.  Conversation is polite and pleasant, if a little stilted.  The doorbell rings.

He’s dark, casually dressed, and looks confident, walking ahead of the hostess.  We’re introduced and fall into easy conversation.  He doesn’t reel.  He does sail, but would enjoy it more if the boats had fewer holes in them.  Which brings us, somewhat inevitably, to Rebecca, other novels by du Maurier, Atonement (via characterisation), the short story genre, his burgeoning legal career.  He’s fun, funny and smart, and I’m glad when, supper being ready, he takes the seat beside me.  This is, again somewhat inevitably, when paranoia sets in: the desire not to appear too interested, not to ask the kinds of questions which I could only possibly be interested in hearing the answers to because I’m contemplating spending the rest of my life with the person.

 

Fast forward a couple of hours.  The hostess is telling a long story, which is entertaining because I’ve had some wine, and impossible to follow because she’s had some wine.  Fun, Funny and Smart (FFS for short) is sitting back in his chair, brow furrowed, mouth set in a smile.  I’m no expert – as evidenced by this blog – but the way he looks at me, the way our eyes meet whenever I glance his way, the fact he keeps offering me chocolates, his reaction when I get up to leave: it all suggests he likes me.

I pull on my coat.

‘Are you getting the last tube?’ he says, making as if to get up too.

The guy to his right gives him a friendly shove. ‘You can walk home from here!’

Shyness and paranoia (see above) stops me saying anything more than ‘Yes’.  I follow the hostess through to her room, find my bag.  She’s about to show me out.

‘I’ll just say goodbye….’

I go back through to the dining room.  FFS rises from his seat; we kiss on the cheeks.

 

Work the next day is a struggle, but I drift through it wearing the silly smile of someone who’s met someone they like who might, just might, like them back.  Lunchtime, my smile broadens (standard) when the guy in question adds me on Facebook (not standard).

 

Two days later, I’m on the blower to Beatrice complaining that I haven’t heard from him.

‘And it’s been, what, nearly 48 hours!’

Silence: the phone equivalent of an eye roll.  Then we laugh.

‘Fine,’ I say, ‘but…’

So not fine.

CC Image courtesy of Chapendra on Flickr



Anywhere But Here: Part II

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(Continued from Anywhere But Here: Part I)CC Image courtesy of Xeusy on Flickr

Lucy and I chat over cheese.  Benedict sits in silence nearby, occasionally eating from the plate of brownies at his elbow.

Just as Lucy turns to say something to Freddie, Benedict slides the plate across the floor until it’s right in front of me.

‘Thanks, I’m still on the cheese.’

He slides it away from us, then back towards himself.

‘It’s like a Ouija board!’ I say, laughing.  ‘A more exciting version.’

His face creases into a devastating smile.  He picks a bunch of grapes off the cheeseboard, puts it on my plate, then does the same with a piece of brownie.

I laugh again.  ‘I feel like a dog!’

He too laughs and takes a grape.  I wish I knew what was going on behind those eyes.

Our conversation becomes more flirty.  As the level in my wine glass drops, so does my guard.  I have no point of reference.  That is, people have told me things about him, about how he’s hopelessly in love with someone back in London who doesn’t return his affections (aren’t we all?), but nothing concrete.

He’s asking if I’ve been to an exhibition of etchings which he’s heard is good.  I haven’t, but it’s near where I live so I should check it out.

‘We should do an organised outing!’

The suggestion comes from a girl who’s overheard the end of our conversation.  She gives me a significant look. Yesterday she talked about being my wing woman.  Today she feels like a rival.

Benedict looks struck by the idea, as if it hadn’t occurred to him.  I’m not entirely convinced, but give a non-committal smile.

*

People are piling into the car, everyone except Benedict who has a train to catch.  We hug.

‘I hope to see you in London,’ I say.

Or Camelot, or Narnia…

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Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

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CC Image courtesy of Darice on FlickrI make a carrot cake for my colleague’s leaving party. At the end, there’s a quarter remaining. Take it home, someone says to me, give it to your flatmate.

‘No,’ I say, ‘we errr we don’t have that kind of relationship.’

Oh! is the reaction, more bemused than judgmental. I feel mean but can’t offer much by way of explanation.

Flatmate would say it’s because he’s very critical.  He might then describe how, in the early days of our tenancy, he pronounced the chocolate sauce on my profiteroles to be too bitter – which it was, but I’m never going to admit it to his face – and with those words forfeited all future offers of my cooking.
But his critical streak has its uses. The other day we’re talking men, or lack thereof. I’m arguing that a man who adds me on Facebook must have some kind of romantic interest in me: indeed I have empirical evidence that this is the case.

Flatmate looks amused. ‘Are you telling me you fancy all the guys you’ve added on Facebook?’

‘Yeah, pretty much.’

I’m exaggerating slightly, but only slightly.

He frowns. ‘I don’t understand why you never get any of them!’

I shrug. ‘Maybe they’re out of my league?’

I think of Nick, who incidentally isn’t on Facebook.

He shakes his head. ‘That’s not possible – statistically I mean. There are just too many of them!’

I laugh. ‘Sometimes it’s the same ones, recurring!’

Nice Guy, Nick…

He sighs. ‘So you don’t learn your lesson the first time round.’

‘No, it’s not that…’

He thinks a moment. ‘I can only think that you’re always going for the same type, and for whatever reason it’s not working. Does everyone you fancy have a posh accent?’

‘No.’

Yes, well, almost.  But I can’t help the fact that I find it sexy as hell, can I? Whilst I found Joe‘s pony club chat to be very annoying – but everything else about him was sexy as hell.

‘I don’t understand it.  You’re a nice girl….’

I make a mental note to start sharing carrot cake.

‘… you’re intelligent, funny, you’re good-looking…’

‘Aww you’re sweet.  Keep talking.’

‘… the only thing I can see which might be limiting you is that you’re quite tall, so you’d be too tall for some guys, but that doesn’t explain it.’

‘Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky,’ I say, with a shrug.

‘Perhaps.’

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