Friday, 30 July 2010

In which I confess to some bad habits

It’s been almost a year now since I moved into Blonde Towers, my own little slice of the Home Counties property market, the place I call home. And thus, it’s been almost a year since I’ve been living alone. In that time, being on my own has allowed the bad habits I’ve always been aware of have been allowed to breed and multiply. And, as I assumed was always the case, living on one's own affords a freedom to indulge in all kinds of behaviours that are impossible when one has flatmates…

The first is my tendency to peel off clothing as soon as I get inside at the end of a day. It starts with shoes kicked off in the hall; a jacket dumped on the table at the foot of the stairs; a top whipped off and thrown over the banister. By the time I’m in my room, I’m in my underwear, jeans in hand, ready to dive into an old school hoody or jogging bottoms (and it’s something I really should stop doing, given Mr No. 7’s fondness for sitting in the garden of an evening. Hmm).

There’s no one to judge my supper habits. Much as I adore cooking, there are times when one lives alone when one Just Can’t Be Fagged, and cheese on toast - again - really does suffice.

I can have a pet. And I can call him Colin. What of it?

I can leave shoes everywhere. Currently, there are eight pairs in the spare room, lined up neatly by the cleaner; six in the hall; four under the stairs (freebies from the client, waiting to go to friends and family); three under the kitchen table; and a pair of wellies by the back door (I don’t count the ones I’ve actually put away in the bottom of the wardrobe).

There are mugs scattered, equally liberally, around the house (it doesn’t fuss me at all, but it used to drive Curable Romantic up the wall).

The ban on all forms of reality television (apart from Come Dine, obv) remains intact. Ditto that on Twilight posters on the walls. Am I a snob? Yes. Do I care? No.

I’m not a terribly noisy person at home, but there are some instances that call for it. And now, I can rant as loudly as I like without waking anyone up when the Today programme insists on giving Ed Balls airtime. There’s no one for me to wake up when I crash in late on a Monday night, and drunkenly construct my favourite snack (potato waffles, cooked in the toaster, if anyone's keeping score). And I’m able to have sex as noisily as I like (which, sadly, is pretty much totally theoretical at the moment. But it’s a nice theory).

It doesn’t matter that I have a laissez-faire attitude to cleaning: I have a cleaner.

There’s no one to judge if I pull something deeply indulgent off the wine rack and pour myself a decadently large glass, simply because it’s Tuesday.

And, when I’m running late to leave the house (best I don’t admit to just how often that is) and it’s nearing the, I’ve been known to drink juice straight from the carton. Not big, not clever, not pleasant. But also: not anyone else’s problem.

And yes - I could move someone else in, and have them cover the mortgage. But somehow, all things considered, that doesn’t seem a price worth paying.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

In which I get quite cross at one man's utter crassness

By and large, I’m quite a chilled out kinda gal. I’m fairly easy-going; I don’t see the point in being highly strung; and it takes quite a lot for another person to make me genuinely angry (other than poor spelling and grammar, but that’s a given).

But this week, the accolade of Making Blonde Grumpy falls squarely, and with a thud, at the feet of Andrew Cohen, a writer for Politics Daily. And I’m not the only one: yesterday afternoon, Cohen seemed to have a good percentage of the population of Twitter spitting bile at their screens.

His crime? A simple column. A shortish piece positioned as a toast to a lost love.

The catch? The title: On Her Wedding Day, Saying the Things Left Unsaid.

That’s right: for almost 1,500 words, Cohen waxes lyrical about a woman he’s not with; a woman who’s with someone else and celebrating one of the most memorable days of her lives. And, whilst some might - and, bizarrely, do judging by the comments - think that his is a tribute to a loved one on a special day, I’m afraid I’m rather more cynical about his motives.

If he does indeed mean well, and simply wishes to ponder the virtues of a past lover on a poignant day, then all well and good, but dear Gods - there are ways of going about these things. And passively-aggressively isn’t one of them.

Because the piece is essentially Cohen’s way, whether he’s aware of it or not, of seeking revenge; of telling his ex that she's made a terrible mistake. Any of us who has been crushingly in love, only for it not to have worked, has fantasised about the object of one’s desire realising their mistake, come running back. But most of us keep that fantasy to ourselves and sit on it privately until we man up and it passes.

What we don’t do is shout out into the echoing recesses of the internet that it should have been us - the digital equivalent of Mr Briggs’ announcement that “the marriage can’t go on”.

We don’t, under the guise of gushing happiness, list the reasons why our past lover should be with us; list how we’ve changed all the things about us that were used as reasons not to be together; drop in details that serve to remind how we knew them intimately.

Of course, maybe I’m doing Cohen a disservice. Maybe he genuinely meant the piece as a tribute to a woman he’s still very fond of; maybe he’s just happened to deliver it in such as way as so have a British audience, with rather a lower tolerance than our transatlantic counterparts for saccharine bollocks, hurling into their web browsers.

But, sadly, that doesn’t escape the fact that, even if his accolade was done with the best of intentions, it was still the most deeply selfish, self-obsessed load of wank I’ve read since Piers Morgan released his diaries. After all, it’s HER WEDDING DAY, you FOOL: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

And so, whether he’s manipulative, and passive-aggressive, or merely self-obsessed to the point of idiocy, I can't tell. What I do know, though, is that some things really are better left unsaid.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

In which noblesse oblige

Gone may be the days of the Mitfords, when class was strictly defined, and behaviours deemed 'unsuitable' caused real scandal amongst one's Peered peers. But I defy anyone to say that Britain isn't still inherently wedded to its class system. All it takes is a stranger to open their mouth, and we've assumed an education, their position in the class strata, an entire back story.

And so, despite everyone apparently being members of the "hard working middle class", it's not unlikely that - at some time or other - a girl finds herself dating outside her social sphere. So, for the occasions on which you find yourself with a date whose social standing is several notches higher than your own, some advice:

1. Learn to keep a straight face in all possible situations. It’s a skill you’ll need. You may be forced to have conversations with people called Peregrine.

2. If you don't already have one, invest in a copy of Debretts (ideally an old one. The new copies are essentially useless unless you want to know how to have a polite one-night stand). There is a difference between a Baron and a Baronet, and you'll only disgrace yourself if you get them mixed up at the dinner table.

3. At some point, you may be told in an extraordinarily offhand manner about the family seat. It may be a major English castle. Refer to the straight face (see above). Leave the perturbed squeaking till you're on the phone to your best mate.

4. If you're going to spend any time at the parents' place, invest in decent jumpers. The house WILL be draughty, and no amount of furtive sneaking round your date's wing of the house is going to quite combat the Arctic temperatures.

5. If you're in it in order to establish yourself on the society scene, don't bother. Social climbers will be smelled out a mile off, and dealt with accordingly.

6. There will be notable ancestors. Bear it in mind if you're having a cultural moment. It's frowned upon to squeak loudly in the reverential silence of Tate Britain, even if you have just worked out why the nose on the portrait of the 16th C Earl of X looks quite so familiar.

6a. If there are notable ancestors, it's more than likely there was some in-breeding at some point. Accept it, try not to think about it and hope that, if it all works out, the kid gets your chin.

7. Prepare yourself for long-standing family eccentricities. It doesn't matter what you think - some people simply don't believe in tea strainers.

8. However helpful you wish to be, whether it's carrying tea to the orangery or mucking in with weekend repairs to something crumbly, be careful. If it's breakable, steer well clear. That teacup you've just dropped on the floor had probably been around longer than the Antiques Roadshow, and was almost certainly worth more than your mortgage payment.

9. Accept that they do things differently, and pitch in. It doesn't matter if you've never eaten fruit with a knife and fork before. Now's the time to try. Being a game old thing will get you further than elocution lessons ever could.

10. You are about to be faced with more mustard corduroy than you ever thought existed. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Monday, 19 July 2010

In which it's not so much what was said, but the way it was delivered

A nice piece in this Saturday’s Times explored the concept of the break-up letter, and how, despite this being the age of digital communication, that letter is still a painful thing - to receive in the first place, and to re-read years after the event, when dug out from the box in the attic (I’d link to the article, but there’s a paywall, innit?).

I would argue, though, that the news of a break-up of any relationship delivered via the word on any page, be it a real or virtual one, is Not A Good Thing.

I feel I have some authority on this particular topic, having been ignominiously dumped by text message in the middle of the night a week or so ago.

As a recent commenter so astutely noticed, there had been no mention of dating on this blog’s previous incarnation in a couple of months. He correctly surmised that there must be a new man in the picture (rather sweetly, when one considers that the more sensible explanation would be that I just didn’t have any dates).

Things with Tall, Dark and Handsome* had got off to a pretty promising start, and as the weeks slipped by - and not needing any help in the Screwing Things Up department - I decided I didn’t want to jinx things by committing them to the page.

So we pootled along - lazy evenings by the river; dinners; late-night phonecalls. There was no drama, or attachments to exes. I was, apparently prematurely, feeling faintly optimistic about the whole thing. Then, one Sunday evening, with nothing planned for the week, I fired off a quick message asking about his weekend and whether he was free during the week.

Sent to sleep early by a mixture of tiredness and a touch of heat stroke, I woke up at 3.30am to push a howling Colin out into the night. Returning to bed, the comms addict in me checked the phone briefly as I was slipping back under the duvet.

Which was the moment that I found a message, informing me that seeing each other wasn’t “a gr8 idea”, because TDH “never intended this to become what it has”.

I don’t know quite what I was more offended by. The fact that what I had seen as something fairly casual but with decent potential was too much like commitment for him, maybe. Or the fact that he felt it acceptable to bring things to a close by text message. Or, whether he’d done it via a message containing text speak.

Hmm. No, actually, I know exactly what it is I’m most offended by.

So it’s not a message I’ll be keeping in the bowels of the phone, to be revisited at a later date, a beautiful, but heart-wrenching letter from a lost love. Rather, it’s one to be resigned to the digital dustbin - and hope that, with no plans to date 14-year old boys any time soon , it’s not the sort of thing I’ll be reading from anyone else ever again.

*One person, not three - just to clarify.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

In which I consider a man's magic number

I’m not a gal who, after doing the deed, collapses panting and sweaty into a man’s arms, stares deep into his eyes and asks dreamily, “what are you thinking?” (though I do enjoy the sweaty, panty collapsing if it’s on offer).

This is for several reasons, the foremost of which is: I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear “how cool it would be to be a spy” or, “whether Batman could take a Komodo dragon in a fight”. Because, more than likely, that’s what the answer would be. And let's face it: the type of girls who do ask that question only ever want to hear the words “that I’m so in love with you my heart might break”, and that just ain’t gonna happen.

The other question I never ask - again, because I have no desire to hear the answer - is, “so, how many people have you had sex with?”

That right there is a conversation fraught with danger, so when the lovely boys at Blokely wondered whether I’d give a gal’s take on the issue of a man's magic number - in answer to theirs - I thought I’d oblige.

I considered the matter as I sat at my desk, my eyes swimming in Excel budgeting hell.

It’s a question to which there’s no good answer. If you ask, you may get an answer that's too low, and you'll fret that the thing you like to do that ain’t for the fainthearted will have him fleeing for the door. Too high, and you’ll worry that not only are you merely a notch on a well-whittled bedpost, but you’ll probably also itch in the morning. None at all, and you know you’re going to have to put in an awful lot of tuition time into Navigation 101 (either that, or you’re channelling Mrs Robinson, in which case: good luck to you, but do be a dear and check he’s legal).

And, of course, number has very little to do with how Man in Question treats his dalliances. A chap who’s still counting ‘em on one hand is just as capable of doing and ditching as someone more practised. And a figure that might initially seem more phone number than magic number could simply reflect a life well lived: a couple of drunken nights at university; that one time with the two Swedish flatmates he met in a bar (and frankly, if you’re planning on keeping him, that’s a fantasy best out of his system already); and some terribly bad luck.

Really, the number is an irrelevance: anyone’s previous partners are just that: previous. And if they’re not, you’ve got bigger problems than the fact that his number resembles a bank balance.

But if you must ask, then be prepared to hear something you might not like. Maybe stick to what he's thinking instead.

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