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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Taste the Difference

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CC Image courtesy of akintsy_photo on Flickr

(Continued from Feelin’ Good)

‘What’s your thing?’ he says. ‘Dancing?’

Only in times of crisis.

‘I’d say… writing.’

‘Like, creative writing? Short stories?’

‘More like… memoir?’

‘Wow. I’ve never met someone our age who’s writing a memoir.’

‘Sorry, no, not memoir, that’s the wrong word. They’re more like… vignettes, of life, about things that have happened to me.’

With a heavy – make that total – bias towards scenes of a romantic nature.

‘How many words are you at?’

‘Oh it’s – it’s not that kind of format. I….’ I think of Todd’s words, take a deep breath and go for it. ‘So I write an anonymous blog.’

‘Why’s it anonymous?’

Yes why IS it anonymous? And why did I feel the need to mention this fact?

‘So I can write what I want.’

‘And, what kind of thing would you write about?’

‘Erm…’

‘Give me an example, of something you’ve written about.’

I think. A wedding, a ballmy four very attractive colleagues.

He goes on, ‘Might you for instance write about this?’

I barely hesitate. ‘Potentially.’

‘That’s all I wanted,’ he says, with a grin.

I laugh. I have no idea what he means.

He makes as if to unfold his jumper.

‘Are you going?’ I say, looking at it.

It occurs to me I might have just done something very very stupid. The sort of thing that would elicit a sigh and an eye roll and a ‘Well, what did you expect to happen?’ from my mother.

But I like this guy. I really like him. And by some perverse logic that makes me want to tell the truth.

He laughs. ‘No.’

 

Half an hour later, we’re outside Sainsbury’s.

‘I don’t know – if you want to do this again? Or you can tell me on WhatsApp,’ he adds quickly.

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘and you let me know too.’

I go to hug him. And there, in the afternoon light, on a busy South London pavement, we kiss.

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My Week With Tristan

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CC Image courtesy of Captn_Jack on FlickrMany more WhatsApp messages to Beatrice and I’ll have a book – albeit the kind you’d definitely have to self-publish if you wanted it to see the light of day, which I wouldn’t – called ‘What Tristan did today to make me love him’.

Friday, he took me on a lunchtime walk to brainstorm solutions to my work crisis.

Monday, he left the lunch table early to hint to my lazy colleague that he should also be getting back to work.

Tuesday, he sent me a printout in the form of a paper aeroplane.

Thursday, we both got very drunk, hugged and he told me I was one of his favourite people at the office.

Friday, I resolved to be satisfied with this.

Monday, we were laughing about something and I looked at him and thought, I can’t do anything but love you.

Fuuuuuuck.

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Lost For Words

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CC Image courtesy of tnssofres on Flickr‘What do you write about?’

‘Err…. ermm… errrr….’

This is me, one Wednesday night back in January. Two cocktails down and a nice software engineer is asking me about my writing. I might complain that none of the men I go on dates with seem to be remotely interested in my life, but it’s a damn sight more complicated when they are.

‘What do you write about?’ ‘What sort of thing do you write?’ ‘Is it fiction?’

And I am lost for words.

I explained this dilemma to a male friend the other day.

‘Why don’t you just tell them?’ he says.

‘Because… it would take a very confident guy not to run for the hills, wouldn’t it?’

‘But don’t you want to date someone very confident?’

There’s a pause.

‘Yeah I s’pose.’

‘So what have you got to lose?’ He starts to laugh. ‘You can begin your next post, ‘Last night I decided to be honest…’.

I join in laughing. So this is what it would be like, discussing the blog openly with a clever, funny, attractive man. And it’s not so bad.

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A Play For Voices

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CC Image courtesy of quinn.anya on FlickrLast week I threw caution to the wind and attended an event not as myself but as MBE.

The last time I played a part was in my final year of secondary school. I came on stage wearing a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers – I’m pretty sure I only got the part because no one else was stupid enough to agree to wear the costume – and halfway through the first scene my contact lens fell out.

This time I get to choose my outfit. I’m way too hot, but Bellinis are on tap and Beatrice is at my side, so what can possibly go wrong?

‘I don’t know what to call myself,’ I say, as we approach the venue.

Fortunately the whole guest list thing is beyond casual. We get in as ‘Clare’s friends’. I hope I recognise Clare from her Gmail picture.

Clare is lovely and the event itself is wonderful. After four Bellinis everything is wonderful and Beatrice and I are propping up the canapé station, talking intensely about her first boyfriend and where it all went wrong.

We do mingle, and I meet several members of that elusive breed, the dating blogger. It’s a bit disconcerting, like walking down the street and passing someone who’s the spitting image of yourself.

I’d wondered what the vibe of a dating app launch party would be, what sort of crowd it would attract. Socialites, tech heads, bloggers, men in skirts visiting from East London – they’re all there. As are the founders of the app, VoiceCandy. It’s a similar concept to Tinder but with the addition of recorded voice messages. Because, as one of the founders explains, studies have shown that voice, like non-verbal communication, plays a huge part in attraction.

 

I can remember as if it was yesterday the first time I heard VP’s voice over the phone and, aside from the weird instructions about Nando’s, it was entirely unremarkable. Later I would come to love that voice for its slowness – a sign not of stupidity but of a razor-sharp intellect measuring every word for its worth. But at first it was only a reassuring neutral.

Other voices linger in the mind. Tobias’s antipodean drawl carries across the office and I feel my back straighten instinctively. And the first time I call Tristan in his new role and hear him answer, ‘Hi Anna’, I have to take a moment to compose myself.

 

So it’s ironic when Beatrice asks one of the other dating bloggers present what the best singles event she’s ever reviewed is and she replies, ‘Silent speed dating’. Shhh Dating, she explains, takes voice and speech entirely out of the equation.

At which point a couple of guys join our circle. They’re too young, I think, a suspicion confirmed when they say they’re fresh out of uni. But even before they speak, and despite (or perhaps because of) their jock-esque good looks and sharp suits, something about the way they carry themselves, their unsmiling countenances – it makes me want to turn away.

 

Beatrice and I call time around 9. I’ve successfully not revealed my surname or place of employment to any of the assembled company, learnt that my Twitter handle is completely undiscoverable when you put it into the website’s search bar and affirmed my deep love for Bellinis and courgette tempura. The evening ends with Top Gun on the big screen in Hyde Park and a giggly stumble back to the tube.

‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ Beatrice says.
‘Tinder date.’
‘Oh of course! Let me know how it goes.’
‘I will.’

We hug and I go carefully down the steps, wondering how I’m going to explain the mid-week hangover to my unsuspecting date.

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