Bar Exercises

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CC Image courtesy of viktoriawigenstam on FlickrHe walks away.

‘I used to have a massive crush on him,’ I say to the girl opposite, ‘and then the other day… we matched on Tinder!’

She does fish out of water and points in his direction. ‘Go – go after him!’

I shake my head, smiling, feeling our three-year age gap more than ever. ‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because….’ I shrug. ‘We’ve got nothing in common. It wouldn’t work.’

‘Do you still find him attractive?’


Hell yes.

‘Then… look,’ she says, ‘I’m going out with Sam and we’ve got nothing in common. He’s maths, I’m arts, but it works.’

‘Yeah but – you have got things in common. Friends and… you both reel. Whereas, well, when I spoke to that guy just now – we’d run out of things to say!’

‘Maybe he’s shy.’

‘Yeah… yeah, he probably is.’


Four years ago I quit my job in the arts and took an administrative role in a start-up. Its offices backed onto a wine bar and when important clients visited, it fell to me to reserve a table there. I would walk the 30 yards or so along the pavement, my hopes rising with every step. Sometimes I’d be wearing my red dress, just long enough to be office-appropriate, and if he was there I’d smile and turn the same colour as it. I confided in a colleague who, like me, couldn’t understand what it was about him. All I knew was that he passed the acid test.

One day, after a bit of flirty emailing, I went round to the bar. He was there and we talked our usual nonsense for a bit. Just as I was about to leave I suggested we go for a drink sometime. He looked a bit awkward. ‘Sure,’ he said. Which I interpreted as enthusiasm.

Fast forward a week and I’m back at the bar. I have a plan. The plan is to give him my number, which I’ve scribbled on a scrap of paper. The plan is to give it to him quickly, casual-like, as if I was passing and it had just occurred to me to do it. The plan is not to chat for a bit, repeat the suggestion of going for a drink then practically put the bit of paper into his hand. That was a red dress day.

Shortly after that I found out he had a girlfriend. Which solved the mystery of what it was that I liked about him.


I meet his eye, smile. He smiles back. He’s on his way out – that’s clear from the coat – but we exchange pleasantries and I introduce him to the girl opposite. His friends appear; they’re ready to leave. We kiss on the cheeks.

‘You should come down to the bar more often,’ he says.

Again he kisses me, and walks away.


Two days later…

I bring up his profile. Everything about it is wrong: the clichéd phrases, the dodgy grammar, the selfie. I hit the message tab and start writing.

CC Image courtesy of 27147 on Flickr

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I can’t wish I’d never met youCC Image courtesy of Thomas Leth-Olsen on Flickr

That you hadn’t appeared


A little shy

Around the corner

I’m looking for Anna

I think you said

And proceeded to tell me of our mutual friend.


That I hadn’t sat beside you in the kitchen

That first day

And listened to you talk

And thought you the leader of the group

And felt a little awed.


That I hadn’t read your words of congratulation

And smiled so wide

Because you were the first to write the way I felt inside.


I can’t wish I’d never met you,

Only wish I’d met you sooner.

CC Image courtesy of KayVee.INC on Flickr

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Better Men

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CC Image courtesy of alexis mire on FlickrGoogle ‘how to stop obsessing over a guy’ on my laptop, and you’ll be met by a wall of red.  Frustratingly, I keep getting the same answer: something about being happy with, and confident in, your life as a single person.  Looking for a man shouldn’t be your priority, Google tells me.  Bit rich coming from a search engine.

Another piece of dating advice I frequently stumble upon is know what you want in a man.  Until recently, I’ve been fairly clueless on this front.  (Male and… male?)  But then a couple of things happened.

I had coffee with a colleague – a girl – and we discovered we had loads of mutual friends, including Will.  It was through Will that I met Joe.

‘So do you know Joe Buckley?’ I say.

She frowns.  ‘No, I mean, I know of him, but no, I don’t know him well.’

I hesitate.

‘And… Tom Randall?’

Joe’s flatmate.

Her face softens.  ‘Aaaw yes, he’s so lovely.’

The praise keeps coming.  I tell her about Joe and I.

‘It’s annoying because the night I met Joe, I also met Tom, and, well, I can’t help feeling Tom’s the better man!’

The kind of man I’d be looking for – funny, kind, passionate, artistic – were I not happy in my life as a single person.

She nods, smiling.  ‘He is a really decent guy.’

She promises to introduce us at some point.

Then at a party a few weeks later, I bump into Very Pretty Girl, and she gives me the lowdown on Nick.  He’s calm, she tells me, gentle, romantic yet down-to-earth, has beautiful manners and a terrific sense of humour.  Oh and he’s writing a book.  Correction, a publisher has asked him to write a book.  So there you have it: what I’m looking for in a man.  Or would be, were I not happy etc etc.

CC Image courtesy of aulusgellius on Flickr