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.

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In Search of Perfection

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CC Image courtesy of Rev Stan on Flickr

‘I’m giving you a cheque,’ my grandmother says, folding the slip of paper, ‘but if there’s anything else you want…’

‘Like a wedding dress,’ my aunt puts in.

I laugh. I don’t know how long my relations have been suppressing the urge to quiz me about my love life but today, finally, they’d cracked.

‘Has your brother got a girlfriend?’ is how it starts – a complete non sequitur to what we’d previously been talking about.

‘No,’ I say, ‘not as far as I know.’

‘He needs a strong woman,’ my aunt says.

I laugh. ‘I doubt he thinks that!’ I take a sip of my drink. ‘What do you think I need?’

‘I don’t know,’ she says slowly, ‘but I suspect you’re looking for perfection.’

‘Why do you think that?!’

‘Well, you can’t even choose a draining rack!’

The draining rack had gone back, hence the cheque.

I laugh. ‘Mmm yeah. But it was too small! There were things wrong with it!’

My aunt doesn’t say anything. I take another sip.

‘So there’s no one…?’

This from my grandmother.

I think of my Saturday dateTall, charming, successful… looks a bit like Tom Hiddleston: I know better than to mention him after just one drink.

‘Hmm no,’ I say, ‘but I’m trying!’

‘Is there anyone at work?’

‘I have some wonderful colleagues, but they all have spouses or long-term girlfriends.’

My relations look almost as disappointed by this as I am, which is saying something.

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The Sound of Silence

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CC Image courtesy of H.J.Righolt on Flickr‘How was your wedding? Not your wedding…’

I laugh. ‘No. Yeah it was fine.’

I try to think of something funny or interesting that happened, besides slicing my legs open with a men’s razor in my haste to get ready, calling for a very attractive patchwork of plasters.

‘How was the party?’ I wind up.

 

I’d missed Tristan‘s house party for the wedding – a couple I knew from university. For the first two years of our degree he had a long-term girlfriend and she we pined. For the third year, they dated and, on graduating, moved in together. She looked radiant with happiness standing opposite him at the altar.

 

‘It was good,’ Tristan says. I get the feeling he’s also struggling for material.

There’s a pause as we apply ourselves to our lunch.

‘So did you meet anyone?’ he says.

I frown. ‘You mean…?’

‘Did you meet the love of your life?’

I laugh. ‘Well I only had about four men to choose from! There was one guy – he had his own mobile home – but he wasn’t the most interesting company. Actually the bride messaged me today saying ‘I hear there was some excitement’ and offering to help, which was very sweet given she’s on honeymoon. But anyway, she misread the situation…’

So much for confining myself to the funny or interesting.

What the bride had actually said was ‘I hear there might be something for the blog’, but Tristan doesn’t need to know this. He’s not listening anyway; at ‘mobile home’ he’d started to laugh.

‘Was he wearing a wife-beater?’ he says. ‘And did he have long sideburns?’

‘No,’ I say, also laughing. ‘He was quite good-looking, but that’s pretty much all he had going for him.’

I could go on, tell him how the groom had come over to us and said with a meaningful look in Mobile Home’s direction, ‘I don’t think Anna needs to worry about accommodation tonight.’

How, faced with the story of my taxi crisis, Mobile Home had offered me a cup of tea in his van (he preferred to call it ‘The Van’).

How I declined in favour of a good night’s sleep, went home to my own mobile home and cried for I don’t know what.

There’s another pause.

‘Tell me more about the party,’ I say.

CC Image courtesy of Nic Taylor Photography on Flickr

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Memories

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CC Image courtesy of kcr@in on FlickrThe most precious – and arguably the most delusional – thing VP ever said to me was over dinner in a restaurant just off Trafalgar Square. It was our third date. He was asking me about my job and I was being vague, unwilling to reveal the mindlessness of my day-to-day employment to this dazzling Renaissance man. And that’s when he said it.

‘I imagine you’re well-liked at work.’

I resisted the urge to pull a face. ‘Er… I hope so.’

 

I went to a wedding the other day. In her speech the bride said of her husband, ‘He makes me be the best version of myself’.

 

Now, when I’m having a really shitty day at work and a colleague comes over to ask me a perfectly reasonable question and I want to snap and scowl, I remember VP’s words.

 

After dinner we crossed the river, walked west and sat on a bench kissing and sharing stories in the shadow of Big Ben.

 

I’ll never forget the nights we spent together but I’ll treasure more what he said to me as we sat across from one another, my hand in his, fingers interlacing.

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What to Expect From Dating in Your 20s

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You will meet The One, the love of your life, the man you want to marry. Then a few weeks later, by which time you’ll have the order of his profile pictures by heart and all your friends will know his star sign – a few weeks later you’ll unexpectedly run into the guy and wonder what strong drugs you were on.

You will install every dating app known to man. After several weeks of Hinge-ing and Happn-ing you’ll start to wonder if the cute, sun-kissed guys on your screen actually exist… before remembering that cute and sun-kissed isn’t your type.

You will occasionally meet nice, attractive people the old-fashioned way – through friends. Nothing will happen with them either.

A painful experience of unrequited love in your early 20s will teach you precisely nothing.

If you don’t mind paying for his drinks you’re probably in love. If you keep the receipts in a box on your bedside table…

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