Going Places

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I gave a dinner party the other day. One particularly beautiful couple came and held the floor with tales of their travels and adventures.

As always seems to happen when I’m in the company of couples, conversation at one point turned to my love life, or lack thereof.

‘Everyone puts the same thing!’ I say, referring to online dating profiles. ‘They like travelling, meeting new people and seeing friends. I don’t like travelling, meeting new people or – I do like seeing my friends.’

‘You don’t like travelling?’ This from Mr. Beautiful, whose usually mask-like face is wearing an expression of faint surprise.

‘It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just, I dunno, I find it tiring – it’s not what I want to do when I’m tired from work.’

‘Why don’t you say on your profile, ‘I don’t like travelling’?’

Mr. Beautiful – and this hardly comes as a surprise – is evidently not familiar with the cardinal rules of online dating, one of which is ‘don’t be negative in your profile’.

‘Because it’s not true,’ I say.

This is lucky because next week – and it would be happening this week except that the guy in question is travelling on the only days I’m free – I’m going on a date with a pilot. And not just any pilot. This one I stumbled across on TinderMy favourite kind of match: someone I already know of – if not actually know – and spoke to several years ago over online chat when my brother left his Facebook logged in (rookie error), and who sounded funny and nice.

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CC Image courtesy of noodlepie on FlickrEvery time I try to play Mrs. Dalloway and have people round for dinner, it goes wrong. Last time I was mid break-up, though I didn’t know it for sure until the other party knocked on the front door, wine bottle in hand. I opened it, he crossed the threshold and kissed me on the cheek. And that was when I knew. I’d gone for the lips – that was what we did. I pretended not to notice or care and led him through to the sitting room. I couldn’t look at him though, and didn’t really know what I was saying as I introduced him to one of my best friends and her other half. The first chance I got I escaped to the kitchen and remained there for as much of the evening as possible.

So this time I invite couples. Safe, right? Wrong.

‘I don’t want to sound like someone with Asperger’s,’ I say to Gus at the desk opposite, ‘as in, I’m aware that the real tragedy here is that the couple is having issues…’

That’s not the real tragedy.

‘…and not that I don’t know how many crisps to order!’

That’s not the real tragedy either. No, the real tragedy as Neighbour wouldn’t hesitate to point out at great length is that millions of people around the world have no food at all. And I’m fretting about the guest list for a dinner party.

Gus looks sympathetic.


That night I get in late, too late to make the pudding for the following evening as planned. There’s a text on my phone from Neighbour, unanswered, and a draft reply, unsent. I consider the draft a while, move the sentences around, but it’s no good. This isn’t like one of my work marketing emails: it’s not the phrasing that’s wrong, it’s the medium. I delete the whole thing and dash off a question in its place.

Ten minutes later I’m sitting on Neighbour’s sofa, politely listening to his flatmate talking about farming practices in Australia – or pretending to while actually wondering if Neighbour can sense what’s coming. A short while later the flatmate goes up to bed. I turn to my neighbour – in every sense of the word – take a deep breath and begin.

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‘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?’


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.


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Tech-y issues mean I find myself reading old blog posts.CC Image courtesy of {Lina} on Flickr

‘…and, bottom line, we need to have a laugh together.’

I smile.  No change there.


‘I’m going to a ball on Friday and I can’t wait!  My partner – oh….’ I sigh.  You’d sigh.  He’s tall, dark, and impossibly handsome.  ‘And he can dance ballroom!

‘What’s wrong with him?!’

A fair question from Colleague.


That I know of.

The last time I saw Johann was at a ball.  We danced foxtrot, but it was like no foxtrot I’ve ever danced before, full of dips and spins and drops.  After each dance he queued to get me a glass of water.  Then when I left my dress strap in his room – not what it sounds like – he went to considerable trouble to ensure we were reunited.

‘He has the most beautiful manners,’ I say, with another sigh.  ‘Not like…’

My face darkens.  Being ditched on my birthday, I can handle.  OK, so the timing could have been better, but the act itself is forgivable.  What’s not forgivable is the absence of any kind of thank you note for the dinner.  No text, no letter, no card – nothing.

‘But at least, this way, it makes it easier to move on, cos, well, you don’t want that.’

‘No,’ Colleague says, with a look of disgust.  ‘You don’t.’


It’s in the kitchen for some reason that thoughts of FFS come to me.

‘No NO.  Don’t think about him,’ I say out loud, clattering pots and pans, as if the noise might drown out unwelcome thoughts.

I’d read about focusing on someone’s bad points as an effective way of getting over them but had never managed to make it work for me – not because I refused to believe that the men in question had bad points, but because I didn’t know them well enough to know what they were, not having dated any of them.

‘He’s lazy and RUDE,’ I say, to the empty kitchen.

And with those words it’s confirmed, what I always knew, my actual bottom line.

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‘You look nice!’CC Image courtesy of El Bibliomata on Flickr

‘Thanks!’  I take a seat.  ‘There’s a reason.’


‘Not that.’

‘I want to hear it.’

We order coffee.

‘Do you have a d-?’

‘No, it’s the opposite of that.  I’m going to something tonight which the guy who recently called things off will probably be at.  So I need to look good.’

‘Well, you do.  You look good, but not like you’re trying.’

I laugh.  ‘That’s exactly what I was going for!’


Hostess of Carrier Pigeon fame opens the front door to me.  ‘Hello!’


We kiss on the cheeks.

‘You’ve got cold hands!’

‘Oh it’s fine,’ I say.  ‘I took the scenic route from Victoria – but at least it was actually scenic!’

She’d changed the start time at the last minute, so I had twenty minutes to kill in the West End.  That, or risk arriving early and finding myself forced to make awkward conversation with FFS.

‘Could I put my…?’

‘Of course.’  She shows me through to the bedroom.  The last time I was in here, I was gathering together coat and bag.

‘Walk me to the station?’

‘Of course.’

‘That’s an order,’ I said jokingly, putting my hand on FFS’ lapel.

I don’t think he liked being told what to do, even in jest.

The night air was cold, and we walked close, my hand in his, tucked into the pocket of his coat for warmth.  He tried to persuade me to stay at his, but I would go home.  We kissed on the pavement.  I nearly missed my train.


I can hear a man’s voice coming from the sitting room, but it’s not his.  Perhaps he’s late.  Perhaps he’s not invited.  Unlikely: they’re very close, in every sense.

The doorbell rings.  Voices on the stair.  A girl I know well comes in.  We chat about balls, past and future.  I’m going to one the following week with a guy I don’t know very well.  ‘He’s a dreamy dancer though and he knows ballroom so I can’t wait!’

The hostess’ phone vibrates at my elbow.  A familiar name flashes up on the screen, and she answers it.  Talking, she goes to the door.  Moments later, a guy – he must be mid-twenties – comes in.  He’s casually dressed in jumper and trousers.  We’re introduced.

‘You’re Maria’s cousin, is that right?’

‘No, well, we have a mutual cousin,’ he says.  ‘Have you met Will?’

Yes, I’ve met Will.  Met Will, kissed Will, been dumped by Will on my birthday: the works.

I learn in the course of the evening that Will’s abroad, presumably on holiday.  His cousin is pleasant enough, and a shrink would probably say I was guilty of transference.  It’s obvious though that whilst Will thought me sexy, funny and attractive, this guy is indifferent.  Which is fine, but by the end of the meal I’m feeling a bit sad.  I’ve worked my arse off to keep the conversation flowing and I haven’t laughed once, not really, not the way I laugh with Will.  I know, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, that I wanted him to be here.  I miss the jokes, the irreverence, the laughter.  It doesn’t grow on trees, that kind of chemistry.  He said it himself.

‘I liked you, and I thought we had chemistry.’

That’s why he got in touch in the first place.

He added.  ‘We have chemistry.’



The cousin and I leave at the same time, something Will and I failed to achieve the night we met.

‘Nice to meet you,’ he says on the doorstep.  ‘Have a good week.’

‘You too.’

He mounts his bike and sets off in the direction of the river.  I cut through the backstreets heading for the station, hands tucked into my pockets for warmth.

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