Thursday, 25 November 2010

In which I run into a friend in the street

“You’re going to introduce him to everyone? All at once? Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Best Mate looked at me aghast as we wandered around John Lewis one Saturday afternoon. “I mean, isn’t it a bit - well, mean?! I mean, everyone together can be a bit… well, judgy...

We were talking about the celebration planned for my imminent birthday, and The Northerner’s intended attendance.

“Well, it might be,” I said, watching BM as she picked up and returned to the shelf a coaster with a rooster on it. “But he’d probably meet them all at some point anyway, and frankly I don’t really think I could get away with not inviting him. So long as your brother* behaves himself, it should be fine.” We wandered lustfully past mountains of Le Creuset. “And, er, it’s not as if this’ll be the first time he’s met anyone…”

I tailed off. BM looked up at me from a display of copper-bottomed pans.

“Oh? Who’s he met?”

“Well, it was a total accident…”

As we wandered round the rest of the kitchenware department, I told her how TN and I had been out the previous evening and then gone back to his to curl up on the sofa and watch films (gradually accompanied, it turned out, by an entire complement of flatmates and their various halves).

The following morning, we were wandering along the road outside TN’s front door when we ran into someone.

BM looked at me, faintly horrified, and clearly running a mental list of acquaintances who live in the area. “Was it PolitiGal?”

“Nope,” I said, “I wish it had been. She’d have been far more subtle about the whole thing.”

“Oh no, not…”

“Yup - Hot Flyer Boy.”

She winced.

TN and I had been on our way to the station, me to trek home, and he to the office (where he delightfully ended up spending the rest of the weekend) when we were accosted by 6' of crumpled, unkempt Hot Flyer Boy in a huge Arran jumper and no hair gel clutching a carton of orange juice and a packet of bacon.

Hed seen me - there was no hiding from him.

“Blonde! Hi!” He kissed me on both cheeks. “What are you doing here? I didnt think you came south of the river. Oh.”

The penny dropped - visibly - as he looked from me to The Northerner to me, winked, and then stuck out his hand.

“Hi boss, Im HFB. So, what are you to up to then? Nice day planned?”

“Um, well…” On the back foot, and desperately hoping that HFB wasn’t about to be horribly indiscreet, I ummed and erred.

“Look, I'm going to leave you two to it. Gotta crack on with breakfast.” He brandished the bacon. “But we need to have a drink, Blonde, and er, soon.” He raised an eyebrow. “Though I’m living just round the corner now, so you’ll er, have to pop in for a cuppa at some point. Have a good day, fella.” With which, he wandered off round the corner.

“Oh no!” cringed BM. “I can just see the expression on his face now. Oh well. Youve got one of the difficult ones out of the way at least.”

“AND without the help of booze,” I mused, “which I believe calls for a celebratory trip to MAC at the very least. I’m not going to get through the next lot without gin and an awful lot of eyeliner.”

*I adore BM’s Little Brother as if he were my own but, love him, he makes his opinions - good, bad or indifferent - known. And how.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

In which I am converted to the merits of a man who can wield a screwdriver

I don’t make much secret of the fact that I like my men to be men. It’s all well and lovely to find a chap with a nicely moisturised face and the ability to tell the difference between Blue Gray and Lamp Room Gray. But I prefer my men to eat steak, drink whisky and have a bizarre fascination with sports trivia that, try as I might, I will never, ever understand (I’ve tried. I really have. And I can see the merits of Alistair Cook. Just not the ones men normally want me to see).

In a recent piece in the Telegraph, Harry Wallop confessed to not possessing ‘dad skills’: the ability to “fix the leaking shower, put up a shelf, fit a lock and tinker with a suspect washing machine”. Now, whilst I associate these with Being A Manly Man (and, if I do ever need them done, call Pa Blonde instantly), the ability to put up a shelf is not something I’d previously considered to be much of an aphrodisiac – mainly because I’d never been faced with the prospect in a prospect.

Total DIY failure ran in the whole male line of Long Term Ex’s family. Having seen his pitiful attempts to put up a picture, the thought of him now wielding a scalpel and trying to fix people has me a quivering wreck. And Minor Celeb is so utterly ineffective at anything that isn’t having a jolly good time that his one-time preparation of an M&S ready-meal whilst we were together was the most useful thing he ever did.

But I was recently converted to the merits of a man who knows his way round a screwdriver when The Northerner came to Blonde Towers one night for supper.

We’d been chatting away as I stood at the oven cooking (ah, perpetuating stereotypes, what?), when he suddenly looked around the kitchen, faint bemusement on his face.

“Blonde, why are all the clocks in here at the wrong time?”

“Oh, that.” I looked around as I threw some asparagus into a roasting dish. “I’ve not got round to changing them yet. And I’m buggered if I can work out how to change the one on the oven. I stood there for ages the other day fiddling with it. No clue. I’ll just leave it, I think. At least I’ll always make my train if it’s always running fast.”

Whether it was disparagement or the thought of a challenge that prompted TN to put his wine down and walk across the kitchen, I don’t know. But within seconds, the microwave and oven clocks were sorted, and the main clock was off the wall and a screwdriver hunted down to take the back off it.

Over the course of the weekend, he re-set all the clocks in the house; tuned the ancient telly in the bedroom so that it not only works with the freeview box, but all the channels appear in the right order; and taken the lawnmower apart to find out why it’s not working (the motor’s gone, apparently). He even had a fiddle with the broken fridge, but concluded it was beyond his powers of repair (not surprising, since it turned out to be beyond the nice John Lewis man’s powers of repair too).

As I watched the mower being taken to bits on the lawn from the kitchen window (I’m no good with these things – I’d only have got in the way. And besides, it was cold and drizzly), it struck me that I found it oddly attractive, TN tinkering with stuff and being generally useful round the house. Quite why, I don’t know. The thought of not having to wait in for repairmen is a nice one. The thought that I can feel all girly whilst someone else looks after me is another. The thought that it’s a quality that TN shares with Pa Blonde is one I don’t think about, and the first person to mention it will get a slap.

Friday, 12 November 2010

In which there are differences in opinion

“Hah, that’s not a deal-breaker, is it?!” The Northerner said on a recent date as we both tucked into pan-fried herring with lingonberries at Baltic, the excellent Polish restaurant in Southwark.

I looked at him in faint horror. His joke that I might be so appalled at his previous statement as to call things off cut rather closer to the bone than he realised.

Early on in our dalliance, we’d already come across a couple of differences in opinion: preferences in art; sports it’s acceptable to expect your date even to feign an interest in; skimmed vs. semi-skimmed milk – that sort of thing.

Then we’d hit a slightly stickier conversation whilst out for dinner one night in Soho during which I made a flippant comment about the ancient furs in the wardrobe, and ended up launching a spirited defence of countryside sports.

This conversation, though, went beyond a difference in opinion as to whether foxes are just handsome vermin with excellent PR (they are).

We’d been talking current affairs and politics, which I’m aware is a minefield best avoided in a lot of social situations – but, I’d argue, not with the man you’re seeing if you think he has potential. Up cropped the topic of Ken Clarke’s prison reforms (I remember when Saturday nights were more likely to involve the drinking version of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 Top Trumps, a large bottle of Mount Gay and Best Mate being taken ill in a wheelie bin. Sigh).

Suddenly, I found myself sitting across a starched white tablecloth under the gaze of attentive waiters and eye-catching art, listening to my date casually defend both increased prison sentences and capital punishment.

Generally, I’d be hesitant to criticise someone for the views they choose to hold: if you’ve thought rationally about the arguments for both sides and found one more compelling, I might not agree with your conclusion, but I’ll respect the way you’ve reached it (huh. I appear to be softening in my old age).

But dating someone whose views are diametrically opposed to one’s own is a trickier situation. If you know the beliefs of the person sitting across the table differ fundamentally from yours, is it daft to keep seeing them, if there’s a chance that those differences could create rifts further down the line? Or are differences of opinion just that – and there’s nothing more that needs doing than agreeing to disagree? After all I have plenty of friends whose views I find perplexing (I mean – some of them have even voted Green. Bizarre) and we’re still quite capable of knocking back the gin like it’s going out of fashion.

But then, there’s the argument that I have bad enough luck when it comes to the males of the species without creating extra difficulties for myself. I don’t know that dating someone who’s fundamentally opposed to skimmed milk might not just be a step too far.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

In which I take the plunge and meet the friends

It was with a little trepidation that I wandered out of the office towards the City recently to meet The Northerner. It wouldn’t normally fill me with fear: the prospect of a date with a guy I’d seen more than a few times before (let’s face it - if it did and I were still seeing them, there’d be something distinctly odd about the situation). But this was different.

I met him at the tube station where he kissed me hello. “Oh don’t look so nervous - you'll be fine. They’ll love you.”

I was about to embark on a date that didn't only involve the two of us, but a varied assortment of his flatmates and their friends and colleagues. For a dalliance only a few weeks old and as yet unconsummated, I felt it was a bold move. But arriving at the door, I screwed my courage to the sticking place, gave the hair a quick smoosh and in I went.

The way you’re introduced to the friends can be a useful insight as to how the other person views the relationship. “This is my friend, Blonde” would be very different to “this is Blonde, my… er… this is Blonde” (let’s face it: no one ever introduces their date as their date. We muddle and um and ah, contemplate saying “the person I’m screwing” and then cop out and just say their name again). As it was, I didn't get to find out how TN would have introduced me before the birthday girl - one of his flatmates - bore down upon me instead.

“Blonde! Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! Come and have a drink - can I get you a glass of wine?”

I suddenly found myself with a large glass of rosé pressed into my hand (seriously, girls - when did distinctly below-average rosé become the default drink? Yeuch) and swept into a conversation that’s now relatively hazy.

Of course (and as predicted by everyone else), I needn’t have worried. His friends were all perfectly lovely, intelligent conversationalists and thoroughly good fun to spend an evening with whilst knocking back some outrageous cocktails (although I’d like to meet the man who thought putting Absinthe in cocktails was wise. Gods ABOVE, the hangover). Asking questions about who I am and what I do, they seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me – without employing the tone (favoured by The Father) of wanting to know my intentions with their friend.

It seems the feeling was mutual as, whilst TN was helping me into my coat some hours later, the birthday girl scrambled over a table to us.

“You’re not going yet, are you?”

“’Fraid so,” I said, “but it’s been really lovely to meet you.”

“Oh… Well, we’ll see you again soon, won’t we?”

“Um… I…”

“Well you’re coming to Other Flatmate’s birthday on Saturday, aren’t you?”

“She might do, if you give me a chance to ask her,” TN said firmly, as he kissed her on the cheek and we stepped out into the night.

Whisper it: I think this might not be a total disaster after all.

Monday, 8 November 2010

In which I'm not having sex

Other than the frankly surprised post back in the day about the first bout of Speckled shenanigans, I'm not the sort of blogger who routinely goes into detail about the sex she's having (mainly, if we're honest, because it'd make posting rather more sporadic and definitely less frequent than I'd like). The men in my life get a rough enough ride on here (no pun intended) without being given marks out of ten for performance and technique on top of it all. And so any between-the-sheets and on-the-kitchen-sides action is notably absent.

The same might be said, not just of this blog, but my life in general at the moment – and this despite my current, several weeks-long dalliance with The Northerner.

It’s not been a deliberate course of action, but to no one’s greater surprise than my own, I'm actually rather enjoying it.

As far as I can recall, none of my previous flirtations have enjoyed such chaste behaviour.

In a show of willpower – the likes of which I was unaware I possessed – I didn't end up in bed with Sports Nut on our first date (although holy cow, did I want to), but it didn't take much longer after that. And my years-long whatever-it-is with Speckled Lad has always been defined by sex – whether we’ve not been having it but wanting to; having it illicitly and swearing blind to all our friends that we're not; or creeping round his parents' house in order to have it. Smooth. (Yes, I’m well aware this level of hussyishness could well have been the problem with all previous dalliances and I'll thank you not to tell me what I already fear.)

And so, to be spending time with a man without sex being on the immediate agenda is both charming and refreshing.

I'm not concerned that the lack of carnal shenanigans is a symptom of anything other than impeccable manners. There's enough tactility, flirting and really rather delicious kisses that I would be exceptionally surprised if this were another one who turned out to be gay.

Instead I'm enjoying the opportunity to spend time with The Northerner; to discover that his tipple of choice is a Spanish red or a single malt; to learn that he’s currently reading one of my favourite books (Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, for those keeping count); to indulge in horribly romantic walks along the South Bank in the twilight – all instead of worrying that I really could do with getting my legs waxed and buy some sheets that don't have cat fluff moulded to them.

I’m enjoying being reminded that, as hot as it is to peel a man’s clothes from his body, having him gently entwine his fingers in yours; brush your hair away from your face; stand next to you, watch the river flow into the evening, then kiss you, lightly, and ever so slowly, can actually be the sexiest thing of all.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

In which I'm a walking cliché

I live in fear of turning into one vast cliché. Mainly, I think, because I'm on the verge of embodying so many already.

This fact was brought to my attention by something Gin Operated posted to Twitter a while back:

I have become the middle class cliché, tidying before the cleaner arrives.

I do this too. In preparation for the cleaner's arrival on a Friday morning, I run round on a Thursday night once I’ve got in, generally very late and rather squiffy, making sure that I’ve scooped up any cotton buds and nail files that Colin has hoiked from the bathroom; plumping sofa cushions and removing errant washing lest she think the radiators are where I keep my knickers on a permanent basis. It's something done by everyone I know, which would seem to suggest that I'm in a stereotypical hole it'll be hard to crawl from.

But where the others concerned, I am railing against the little things.

Being blonde, working in PR, and sounding like I do (I was told the other day that I have a voice for radio, which I am choosing to take as a compliment. Or, at least better than being told I have a face for it) people assume certain things. Which is why I take pleasure in only reading the sleb weeklies when I really have to for a client; try my utmost never to utter the word “daaahling”; and don't plan on jacking in the career as soon as I’ve been proposed to by the banker boyfriend (not that I'd be able to anyway: the current dalliance - The Northerner - is a management consultant).

It would appear I also fall into the dumb blonde category to look at. Which isn't entirely fair, given that I'm - by and large - deeply snobby about what I choose to stimulate my grey matter (by which I mean: I'll only read Jilly in private) . The next suited man to perform a genuine double-take at a station newsagent when I pick up the Economist rather than heat will get a sharp wallop round the head with a copy of Amis.

My politics don’t preclude me from standing up for the apparently antithetical things I believe in; and the fact I’ve not eaten meat in 14 years doesn’t stop me from dragging out the ancient fur when the January winds bite just a little too harshly.

Of course, none of that stops me going slightly gooey over a particularly beautiful pair of Louboutins; using a flutter of the eyelashes and a flick of the hair to get some strapping chap to carry a suitcase up a staircase or onto a train. Or, apparently, cleaning up before the cleaner arrives.

Some clichés, it would appear, are clichés for a reason.

Monday, 1 November 2010

In which I'm invited to meet my date's friends

“So,” said The Northener, with whom there have now been several dates, as we stood on the tube platform on a recent Saturday night, being one of those disgusting pairings who look smug and canoodle in public. “When can I see you again?”

We’d had one of those dates that left me thinking I was being utterly, utterly daft to let any of the niggles get to me, and that I should just man up and let them go. We’d spent a thoroughly lovely day wandering round the Natural History Museum (an aside: why, when a boy knows you’re utterly immobilised by fear by the mere thought of spiders, will he run his fingers gently up and down your back as you walk past a case of the horrid, dead critters? Hmm? Why? It’s mean), a leisurely coffee and then dinner in South Ken before going on to a bar for late drinks. And, given that he’d been funny and (arachnids aside) charming all day, I didn’t think another date was out of the question.

“Hmm,” I said, mentally scrolling through the diary. “Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday are out. Might be able to do Saturday, though.”

“Oh,” he said, “that’s annoying. I’m busy Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Well…Unless…” He looked at me, clearly gauging whether what he was about to say was a truly terrible idea, akin almost to putting a spider down the back of my jacket. “Unless you wanted to… Well, it’s my flatmate’s birthday on Wednesday and she’s having drinks. It would be great if you came along.”


Woah there, matey.

Meeting the friends?! This is rare behaviour in the dating life of the Blonde. The last guy whose friends I met was Minor Celeb (yes - that long ago), and… well, the less said about that the better.

For me, my friends are the family members I got to pick. I would walk on glass for them, and I know they’d do the same for me. Hell, Best Mate has been known to spend evenings sitting alone at the bar, just so she can keep an eye on me, supervising particularly ill-conceived first dates. As I say: they’re important. That being said, they’re a judgy little lot, with pretty high standards and it’s quite obvious when they think someone’s not quite up to snuff.

Given that’s the case, it’s small wonder that one of the most important questions that crosses my mind on a first date is could I introduce this man to my friends? If the scene playing out in my head is one of utter embarrassment as Best Mate quietly raises an eyebrow at something Chap in Question has said, or he fails to grasp the sometimes brutal but always hysterical humour of Boy Whose Job In The City I Don’t Understand, then he’s probably not going to get to date two. Silly? Maybe. But these people are a vastly important part of my life: if they don’t get on with Chap in Question, ultimately, I imagine I won’t either.

So, there I was standing in front of a boy whose arms were wrapped round my back, and whose eager expression would make saying no as appealing as the thought of kicking a Spaniel puppy in the chin. What else could I say but, “Um... Okay then. Sure. Why not?” And hope, to high heaven, for the best.

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