How it all started
The Book of Dates – A fifty year old’s journey
Circumstances have brought me to a crossroads, where after 21 years of marriage I am alone for the first time. This state of affairs came about in part as a result of my hugely successful efforts to avoid a social life and make little or no effort with my relationship, I left all the work to my wife: when it came to going out as a family, as a couple, with friendships, with entertainment, the lot – all left to my wife to organise whilst I just rolled on from day to day working and doing very little else.
My lovely wife became increasingly adept at these social skills, she had little choice, making friendships, organising activities, hours filled, job done perfectly.
Indeed she did such an amazing job that one day it finally became clear to her that I was totally unnecessary altogether, we then separated.
After the initial shock and the weeks rolled by I began to realise that I had very little interaction outside of anyone other than a small group of friends, and these friends were for the main part all closer to my wife than me, I was on the periphery.
Realisation dawned on me that I was largely alone, that I either had to stand up, get out and meet people myself in my own right or face the possibility of a rather sad and lonely existence and slide into old age. When my wife suggested shortly after separating that maybe I should get a dog for company, why didn’t I go to Battersea dogs home, that was the final straw HELL NO! ( forget the fact at first I thought it was a good idea ) I like Dogs, but I want to meet people. thank-you for the thought. Nope, I want human company, but oh shit, how do I do this, I don’t like football, I am not going down the pub with the lads, I don’t have hobbies, I don’t like cars or sport particularly, I don’t get invited to parties, the phone isn’t ringing.
Eureka! Of course internet dating, that’s the way forward. my journey lies in Cyber-Space, that’s how I will do it.
I log onto one of the dating web-sites & in no time at all my credit card has been divested of a three month membership charge, & now I need to set up a profile. I decide from the start that honesty is the best policy, be true I tell myself, no stories, be real, its better that way, people appreciate honesty. Sex, Male, Age, 50, Status separated, easy stuff, then it comes to eye colour, eye colour, what colour are my eyes? Greenish or a bit browny, I don’t even know the colour of my bloody eyes after fifty years, I have a moment of clarity and remember my wifes words that I did not really know myself, she was right there. I then go on to complete the hair colour box, brown obviously, but then I correct myself, I’ve been grey now for years. Am I in a time warp?
The next section is appearance, three options, Very Attractive, Attractive, Average.
I again go for the honesty button, they are going to see photos anyway so no point stretching reality, I go for average and cross my fingers that out there somewhere are loads of beautiful sexy women that have a thing about 50 year old “Average men”. Then the profile starts to get really difficult, what do you like to do? What the hell are they talking about, what do I like to do?
“I have for many years really enjoyed sitting in front of the telly every evening for four-five hours,I have reached such Zen levels of concentration that I can sit for hours on end with only a brief trip to the toilet or fridge, I then like to go to bed and sleep.”
I suspect this may be a little limiting in attracting the opposite sex.
I decide that it will be good enough to put down what I would like to do if I had got off my butt after all that’s almost the same thing.
I then decide World Cinema sounds pretty darned good, deep, intellectual a bit sexy, yes stick with World Cinema, and the list goes on. I never realised how spiritual was or how much I loved Yoga, how much I liked to travel, how open was………………………… I really am a fascinating man.
By the time I have finished my profile I have learnt more about myself than I have done in years, well to be technically correct I learnt more about the person I think I am inside, just that he hasn’t stepped out yet, but that’s all going to change…………….
I hover over the profile update button, a last once over , reading though it I’ve convinced myself I have the best qualities of Richard Gere, the Dalai Lama, The Worlds best Father, the most generous, caring, loving man any woman is going to meet, ever.
I conclude that if I was a woman I would be in love with myself, oh that wife of mine, what a terrible mistake she had made.
I am now like a teenager, continually checking my mails, continually looking to see if I have been winked at, messaged or simply checked out, nothing, its been 15 minutes and nobody has contacted me, there’s a counter on the web page, it says 45,000 online on the website, not bloody one interested in me.
Several hours go by, still not a sniff , I begin to think the worst, and then it arrives my first mail, I open it up , first contact with a woman in a long time, I feel like Neil Armstrong, one small step for this man, one giant leap into the unknown world of dating, here we go.
Hello “Blue Eyes Girl, Les take a look at you my lovely , I click & open and then I stare in disbelief.
Bless her she’s trying, but it’s a long time since she was a girl, she has more wrinkles than Nellie the Elephant. She says she is 58, but I think that she’s stretching reality to levels of pure fantasy. I whimper internally,( just a little) and hit delete.
I fall back into my chair and slip into a miasma of depression & desperation, its no good I am all washed up, the only women that will look at me are old wrinklies, I am finished. The only alternative is going to be seeing a prostitute, the only way an attractive woman will look at me is if I pay her. I am doomed to walk the streets of Kings Cross looking for Tarts. What has it come to.
At first I am all ready to throw in the towel, but I manage to sum up some moral fibre and carry on.
I need a strategy, and I decide on attacking the task from different directions, be a man and fight.
My first date since 1991
I realise that the world isn’t going to knock on my door, I’ve got to get pro-active to meet new people so I start to send emails, instant messages, winks, I send emails that are funny, sometimes deeper and reflective, some sincere, I communicate in different ways and it starts to work.
Replies start hitting my inbox, they become a steady stream, in a two week period the counter on my home page tells me I have had 448 hits of one sort or another.
My attitude moves with the volume of traffic, and as I see that there are so many people out there looking to make connections that I begin to feel much more positive about this process.
With so many people out there, there has to be someone even for me, It feels like being a child in a candy shop and quickly dates start being arranged.
First Date Leanne, Artist Manager from Shoreditch
Leanne described herself as fun-loving, go anywhere, she worked in Artist Management
What drew me to her was that amongst other things she said she had been told she had a dirty laugh, that made her sound like fun and I wanted to find out more.
Leanne’s profile said she was 49, divorced, 5ft 6, with long brown hair and brown eyes, in her photos she was pretty, happy and smiling, she looked good.
She was looking for a man, 45-55, from 5ft 7 to 6ft 3, she seemed open and easy-going, I thought nothing ventured, nothing gained. After bouncing a couple of mails to each other Leanne said she thought we should talk and gave me her number, we arrange to speak at 12 midday on a Friday.
I dial the number really not knowing what to expect and then spend an hour on the phone. We get on like a house on fire, it all goes amazingly well on the phone at least. Leanne says she is going away for the weekend but that she will get in touch next week once she is back.
By Saturday morning she has texted me, saying she will be back on Sunday and that we should go and have a drink. We arrange to meet in a beer garden in Shoreditch on the Sunday Evening. I decide I have to spruce myself up, I’ve not been on a date since 1991, its high time I have a tidy up.
I need aftershave, I’ve run out and my ex usually made sure I had something nice in the cupboard, but now it was all gone, independence meant my own shopping. I was fairly skint but remembered some Liberty gift vouchers in my drawer left over from my birthday, I would use those. Sunday morning sees me on the tube determinedly off to Liberty to make myself smell nice.
I arrive at Gents fragrances where the shelves are arrayed with tons of stuff I’ve never heard of, I pause at Acqua Di Parma, a scent my ex liked and had bought me, I hold the tester to my nose, the scent seems to carry back memories of the past and I place the bottle back down again, no I need something new.
The Assistant watches me wandering up and down the counters aimlessly, I am sure I look lost and clueless, well I am so that’s a fair assumption! After a while of following me with his eyes and when he had judged that I needed to be sorted out he gets my attention. “Can I help you Sir?” He was a good looking chap, neatly turned out and smart, clearly batting for the other team. “Yes please absolutely, I need aftershave”.
He looked at me quizzically, “ and what does sir like? “ I wanted to say that’s why I am asking you, dopey but resist opting for a more reasonable reply.
“ I don’t know, I said, what would you recommend? He paused for a moment his face looked slightly melancholy and I am sure he thought that he was facing an uphill battle. “Does Sir like Leather or Citrus, or perhaps Woody? What on earth was I supposed to say, when he said Woody I thought of Toy Story, not aftershave. “ Listen I really haven’t a clue I said, I never buy myself aftershave, can you suggest something? Bless him, he tutted with an air of sadness and patiently took me around various counters he gave me this and that to sniff and try, I found little difference and remained clueless, he proudly showed me one scent, “This one is amazing, one of our very best sellers, go on try it” he said enthusiastically.
I sniffed, “I can’t smell anything” I replied, “That’s It!” he said triumphantly, ”It takes on your own pheromones and scents, YOU cannot smell it, its only other people who can”.
I felt my eyes glassing over, the price sticker said £92, I was contemplating spending £92 on a scent that I couldn’t even smell, was I completely and utterly mad?
I later left Liberty with a new scent and hope that I would at least smell nice, all part of the new man and new direction, I went for one I could smell that David, my new Scent Friend said was lovely.
Going home I thought about my appearance, Boy I needed some work, I showered, washed my hair & shaved. I then noticed tufts of hair protruding from my nose and little fluffy white bits of hair lingering around my ears, they had to go, this new man had no space for orifice hair.
I dug through my drawers for that Christmas present I never used, the hair trimmer with attachments, it had the lot but had never been used. I sorted the attachments and found the head for unwanted nasal hair, then addressed the ear fluff. I was within a few minutes clear of all protruberences, I was looking good.
Next clothes, tidy new clothes, not too casual, not too smart, Zara, Gap, all younger fashionable stuff, not the dull as ditchwater clothes I used to buy, I was a sexy beast and no mistake.
All ready to go, I set off to the pub ready to meet this woman I was already convinced was perfect and going to be my next lady, it was all amazing………………………..
I stand at the bar ordering a drink, looking at my reflection in the mirror, but not so that anyone would notice, I check myself out, I lean on the bar in a “manly” manner, trying to look a bit cool, a bit sexy, and like a real man, I keep adjusting, fidgeting, then take my drink and sit in the beer garden to wait for Leanne.
Leanne has already told me that she had an accident wearing heels that were too high, ( mental note to self, heels to high = sexy, its looking good ), she could still come to the pub but was on crutches, she said “ She hoped I wouldn’t mind being seen with an old gal wobbling around on crutches” The Old Gal phrase had me momentarily worried, but then I knew what she looked like from the photos, so no problem, I like what I had seen in the first place.I sat in the Beer Garden, The evening was drawing in and the light beginning to fade and weaken, it was warm with a breeze and the July sun had warmed everything beautifully.
And then I heard the clutter of crutches on paving stones and Leanne arrived.
She hobbles to the arm chair next to me, I buy drinks and we sip iced wine and natter whilst the sun goes down, I find myself staring at her legs, cellulite stares back at me, my eyes stray to her breasts, she’ s a lovely lady with a warmness about her, but I compare her to my ex and they for me are a million miles apart. We talk all evening, deep conversations about everything under the sun, love, life, purpose, children, it’s a great conversation but there’s no real connection for me other than as a friendly lady that it’s nice to talk to with no agenda.
It gradually moves from twilight to evening & darkness, the terrace is just low lit, we are both peckish and decide to go over the road to a little Thai Restaurant, the food is good but the lighting bright & neon. Leanne and I look at our menus, we choose and then we make eye contact over the table.
I suddenly realise for the first time that Leanne only has one eye, the other is false, I have spent three hours with her, not noticed, and nothing was said by either of us.
How crazy was this, I wanted to ask her what had happened, but I left it. We finished dinner, our conversation continued until the Restaurant closed and whilst we talked about so many different subjects not once was her eye mentioned.
I walked Leanne back towards her home, as we said our good byes we both genuinely said how much we enjoyed ourselves, I went to give her a kiss on both cheeks as I would when saying goodbye to a friend, we must have misunderstood each other, as I went for Leannes cheek somehow her lips went straight for mine, lips brushed for the shortest of times and I quickly pulled away, a knee-jerk reaction, I didn’t want to kiss her but I felt terribly guilty, we parted slightly awkwardly but on jolly terms with some loose talk about meeting again, but as I made my long way back to West London mulling over the evening deep down I realise this was the start of a long journey.
I’m Not attractive, but my tractor is a beauty
Internet dating does indeed bring you into contact with some unique people, one of my early on-line encounters was the enigmatic Lily from Lausanne.
Lily winked at me, I then checked out her profile, she wasn’t even in London, she lived in rural Switzerland, why on Earth was she trying to hook up with a bloke in West London? I had to investigate further.
Lily described herself as unattractive, I had never seen that before on a profile, there was no picture of her. I thought, or perhaps over-thought that actually she could be really stunning and this was a ruse, that she was sick of people just judging her on her beauty, so I carried looking and winked back. Lily then proudly sent me a picture of her Tractor, big red and shiny. Despite a number of attempts I never did manage to get her to send me a photo, I know not if Lily is in fact a Swiss Beauty, or otherwise, perhaps its best not to know and simply wonder but I decided to look closer to home.
London is a fabulous place to meet people from all round the world and London Internet dating even more so, people coming to London need to meet new people, make new friends, so at times it can feel that the whole world is online and looking for dates in London.
I’ve realised that I can be very judgemental of people and am trying to be more open, I have often assumed a whole story with a chat of a few seconds, or worse still made assumptions over dress or the way a person speaks. I am working on changing that.
One whole ethnic group I have judged unfairly was Russians, In my spirit of new openness I decided to ditch my pre-conceptions that Russians in London are shallow, bling obsessed and dodgy, and so I opened myself up to Russian dating.
I was winked at by a rather attractive Russian lady early on and decided to give it a go. Why not there are lots of Russians in London these days, some are bound to be really nice, it would be fun to hook up with one.
Maryana was divorced with two children, she said she had always loved London and it had been her dream to live here, but she still didn’t know many English people, most of her friends were Russian. We mailed each other over the course of a week, I put quite a lot of effort into my mails, they were finely constructed, informative, fun even. Maryana also likewise sent long mails talking about her children and the sort of man she hoped to find at some point.
After a week of mails I thought fair enough, its time to meet up, I asked her if she wanted to come for a coffee, her email came back, she said that she lived in a City 1000km South of Moscow, that she would love to come for a coffee, but it wasnt practical. What a pillock I was . ( note to self – make sure they live on the same Island) You live and learn.
F*ck Buddy? I can do that
Roxana grabbed my attention from the first moment, half Persian and half Italian, but all drop dead gorgeous. I cant remember who contacted who but we met after a few brief online conversations and texts at a bar in Primrose Hill.
I was late and Roxana was there before me, sitting down reading the Standard and drinking a pint of Guinness, she was full of contrasts, quite down to earth, North London born, but a theatre & opera lover, into fashion but quirky with it.
Roxana was really quite unique, there didnt seem to be anything that she wasnt intersted in seeing or trying, Galleries, Comedy, Shows, Music form Classical to Head-banging, she liked it all.
I couldn’t fathom why she was interested in seeing me, I was a good few years older than her and being brutally honest I was not in her league in terms of looks. My qualms though were answered in the first few minutes, Roxana said that I looked thinner than in my photos and that my hair was shorter. I was chuffed, having lost the best part of 20kgs, tidied my hair, had some grooming and started taking more care of myself in general I thought I was looking much better than the profile photos I had online. Roxana said that the way I looked had her interested, she thought I looked a little like Billy Connolly, she really liked that look.
That knocked me I must admit, before I had felt unattractive, overweight and unappealing, yet here now was this stunning woman telling me she fancied me more that way. Of course I said that I would be more than happy to start over-eating immediately & joined her in the Guinness.
My first date with Roxana started at 8.30pm and ended at 6am, a fantastic night, from Camden to Bar Italia at 3am nattering to all the night people, to watching Dawn over the Thames at the Southbank.
I’ve met her three times in two weeks and on each occassion we’ve done something totally different. Roxana cracks me up with her views on life, she told me on our second date that she had a Fuck Buddy, a guy of thirty to her forty-four. She said that it took away any hassle about sex, her FB was never going to be a man that she would have a serious relationship with, but he hit the spot (literally).
She said she hadn’t seen him for a while, being a gentleman through and through I was very keen to help in anyway possible but of course you will understand I am unable to confirm or deny if my services have been availed of at this point in time.
Roxana has made me re-evaluate my view to some extent on relationships. I always felt in my heart that the most important thing was to give yourself heart and soul to one person, that to truly love and be loved was the most important thing. for Roxana, right now, after two marriages her heart is her own, she is honest, misleads nobody, she enjoys her sexuality and meeting people, she is comfortable in her own skin, she doesnt need a signifcant other to feel complete. Maybe I dont?
One little thing with Roxana made me laugh to myself though, for all her independance and confidence and her way of operating that diverges so much from the traditional, one evening as we sat chatting she pulled at my shirt collar, I asked her what she was doing…………
Your shirt really could do with ironing, I love ironing a mans shirt……………
Hecho en México
Solange & I met for a drink in Portobello, on our first evening I didn’t really get a word in edge-ways, she talked like a machine gun, never a moments gap, at the end of the evening, when she said “Oh I have talked a lot haven’t I” I had to reply, “Yes Solange, you did, an awful lot.” But how interesting it was.
Solange was born in Mexico City, a crazy super-metropolis of twenty one million souls all scrabbling for life, her background was pretty poor, she lived with her brother and mother and an often absent father. Her father travelled quite a lot to make a living and could perhaps best be described as a jolly rogue, fond of the ladies and not the most attentive of husbands or fathers. Money was tight, but they managed.
Solange was bright, at junior school she was picked out by an American Christian Group who offered her a scholarship to an American High School, her parents were to pay a small contribution, the rest of the costs were to be paid for by the Church. Solange left Mexico City for Texas as a teenager, unable to speak English, but with a chance to escape the ties of poverty she was born into.
She quickly settled into School, rapidly learnt English and became a top student, but when it came time for her parents contribution for fees no money came. Solange was called up in front of the class and told to contact her parents, they had not paid the fees, if they did not she would have to leave.
Solange called home, a stranger answered the phone, her parents no longer lived there, no forwarding address or contact details were known, the police had been looking for her father over debts and the house had been sold. With this news Solange expected to be driven straight to the border and left to find her own way back home, wherever home was now.
At the last minute Solange was called to the School office and told that a private individual had offered to pay her fees until the end of her time at school, (on the proviso that they remained anonymous) and that therefore she could remain at the school.
Solange supplemented her money by washing cars doing gardening, any odd jobs that would earn her a dollar or two.
Solange did not hear from her parents for three years, not one single word. She graduated as Valedictorian from her School, giving the Student speech to the other kids there with their parents. She had no idea what she would do next, she planned to go back to Mexico and try to find her family.
At the graduation ceremony the school librarian who had retired two years before along with her husband also a former teacher at the school were waiting to talk to her. They explained that they were the people that had paid the school fees. Solange asked why, the librarian, lets call her Mrs. Smith said that when she was a child her mother had been an alcoholic and her childhood had been very difficult, that at her own High School graduation her mother had turned up to the ceremony drunk and abusive and was removed from the premises. Mrs Smith said that she had vowed to herself that she would help a young person who had challenges to do well in life, she and her husband had decided that though they were not rich they could mange in retirement and use some of their pension money to fund a child to have a good education.
They had been impressed with Solange from her start at the school, and when they heard she was going to have to leave and the reasons why they decided that they would finance her time at High School.
At the graduation the Smiths went on to say that they had looked at their finances and had decided they could afford to fund Solange through University. Solange said she burst into tears at this news and crumpled in a heap. When she finally composed herself she said to Mrs Smith that she wasn’t sure how she could ever repay her.
Mrs. Smith said she didn’t want any money from Solange, but that there was one thing she wanted her to promise. That, one day when Solange was settled and comfortable that she do the same thing, find a child that had challenges in life and no support and pay for a good education so that their life could take a different and more positive path. Solange again fell into tears.
Solange went on to sail through University in the US, she was offered a Scholarship to study business at a top French University which she took with gusto. The Business school was full of well heeled Europeans that were miserable, many were keeping parents happy by taking the courses and being expected to go into family businesses, in the holidays her college mates would be off to their holiday homes or family yachts, Solange would work to make a little money, but she said she was truly happy, she had chances the kids she grew up with couldn’t dream of, life was good.
In the middle of her time in France Solange had a message that her brother had been killed in a car accident, he was twenty-one. Solange calls her brother her Little Angel, she says he always watches over her.
From France Solange moved to Spain, began a career in Fashion Buying and made a name for herself. Ten years in Spain brought her a Spanish Passport, a failed relationship and itchy feet. I met her a few months after she had been head-hunted to the UK.
I asked Solange where home was, she said home was wherever she was living, she didn’t consider anywhere to be home particularly, I asked her what she wanted from life, she said just to be happy and to live, that you could never take anything for granted as life had a way of constantly surprising you.
Solange’s life is so different to my experience, I cannot really imagine the journey she has made so far, but her instinct for survival, her belief that her Angel brother watches over her and that she will always survive, her thirst for life makes me feel quite insignificant. The Texan couple who changed her life also touched me very deeply, a retired couple, clearly with little money who were prepared to help a child by giving up some of their own financial stability I found inspiring.
The fact that Solange will do her level best to do the same in time and change another child’s life for the better restores in one moment a hundred stories about the dark side of human nature. At the weekend I took Solange to the English seaside, she swam in the sea, her goosebumps had goosebumps, but she had a smile like a Cheshire Cat all the way. We took a boat ride for an hour or two and when the wind got up she asked me to hold her to keep her warm, it felt good to hold another woman after such a long time.
Late that night after I had dropped her back at her home she sent me a text, this is it word for word. “Tank you for this day, I was almost crying on the way back. I loved every single moment of it” Well, I don’t know if she realised it but she made my day as well.
Life given the chance is beautiful.
Natraj at the Market Bar, Portobello Road
It may sound rather strange this little story, but I can assure you that when sitting having a beer in the Market Bar in Portobello Road just a couple of weeks ago I realised that I had been visited by Natraj the Hindu God.
I know what you are thinking, I am a lunatic, I’ve lost the plot, but before you call for the men in white coats, give me a moment or two to explain.
Natraj in the Hindu Pantheon is the destroyer of weary worlds, a God that sweeps all away in a whirl of destruction. Once he completes his dance of cataclysm the destruction he wreaks leaves the way clear for creation and new life.
Well I realised he had called on me a couple of weeks ago. I had been at home on my own, it was early evening, I was to be honest feeling a little lonely and was craving some form of company and a little noise, I took myself off to Portobello Road which always has something to cheer my spirits. Indeed with spirits in mind I decided to have a beer or two in the Market Bar. As the evening was sunny I grabbed the one empty chair at an outside table and sat down ready to watch the world go by.
After a little while I began to chat to the chap next to me, John. He explained that he used to live in Portobello, but had relocated to wiltshire and now just came once a week for freelance work at a studio in the area. We both it transpired had a child of Twenty, he a girl, me a boy. John gestured up the road to an first floor flat “That’s where she lives with her mum” he indicated. My ears pricked up as I realised that we were both not with the mother of our children, I asked him if he was seperated, he replied divorced and had been for several years. He said the break up had all been a bit of a mess, his wife told him she had been having an affair, he then admitted he had also done likewise, they agreed after much arguing that it just wasn’t working and went their seperate ways. I assumed that like me he would be sad and full of regret, on the contrary he was far from it.
It’s all come good though, in the end he said, the little one keeps me busy and the wife is just the best. It took a while for the penny to drop, he explained that shortly after seperation he met another woman, twelve years his junior, that they got it together quite quickly and were now married with a two year old daughter. He pulled out a photo of a mop haired little sweetie with the biggest smile you can imagine. “Yep, the break up was horrendous, but you know what it was the best thing that could have happened to me.”
For me being a father and raising my son was the most fabulous part of my life, I considered myself truly blessed to have been able to play a part in his life and witness him growing from child to man. Despite still being there and hopefully continuing to be in his life for as long as possible there is no doubt that some of those early memories, marvellous days though they were have been compartmentalised, they are memories, but they are times past, they will never be repeated, or at least that’s what I had thought…………..
But here I was listening to John who’s path thus far was not far removed from mine, fast forwarded he was now in a very different place and once again a father. I had gone to the pub to escape dark thoughts for an hour or two and met a man whos life had changed totally after his cataclysm.
It was ironic that I was going through the greatest dissapointment and sadness in my life, in my head my marriage had been my world, it was now utterly destroyed and all that I had invested it with was gone. Yet perhpas like John that very destruction of my world could herald the possibility of re-birth and indeed even the creation of a new life.
Natraj had indeed visited me and I understood it drinking a beer in Portobello Road.
Beware the Crimson Leopard
She is out there and I am afraid, very afraid. Last night I had a nightmare in which she jumped me from behind as I was walking down Portobello Road on a Sunday afternoon. She tried to force her tongue into my mouth, her dentures fell out in the struggle. I did not sleep well.
Who is it that has struck me down with fear?
The Crimson Leopard that’s who, 4ft 11 of man hungry woman from Camden, she’s 71 years old and in her email says she’s very young for her age, has a healthy appetite for life and love and needs a younger man. Those her age are just not spunky enough, she says she is often in Portobello at the weekend & would like to meet me. Scariest of all is that she knows what I look like. Please let her find her spunk somewhere else.
I am going to keep a low profile for a few days, stay off the web site, cats have a short span of attention, I pray she moves on to new quarry quickly, I can’t take the stress.
This little gap gives me the chance to think about the last few weeks, its been fascinating to share time with women I would never have expected to, hear about their lives, their desires, to learn their motivations, in many ways hearing other peoples stories has also crystallised my own thoughts and motivations, every date has taught me something about myself. Yesterday evening at 8.30 when I was online there were over 55,000 people on the dating website I am using, my nightmare and sleepless state made me go online again at 3.30am, there were 8000+ on then. It is like a sea of humanity looking for connection, for love, for friendship, some sad, some happy, but all searching for something.
How we describe ourselves is so interesting, people find it hard to be totally honest, they exaggerate, stretch the truth, or sometimes down right tell porkies, from little things, one date said on line she was 5ft 6, she admitted she was actually 5 ft. 1 but as men didn’t like women so short ( or so she thought ) she added a few inches, to serious lies, a number of women have told me their dates have turned out to be married, or in relationships but just playing the field. All is fair in love and war? I am endlessly surprised by the mail names some women use, if the idea is to attract a man then maybe a moniker needs more thought through than some of these?
– High Maintenance Babe, Bushy Baby, GoldDigger69, Plump N Ripe, Silicone Babe, Fallen Fruit, Ever Hopeful, Gin&Milk, Meatily Dreamy? and my personal favourite, Ever Hopeful.
A friend of mine when they learnt of my separation said that for me as a man at 50 to go on to have a new relationship could be easier than for a woman, indeed that if I wanted to there was nothing to stop me having a second family, there would be women who would see me potentially as father of child material, I had not ever considered this, well certainly not prior to separating, but now and over the last few weeks I keep thinking, seeing and hearing things that make me think that it is a possibility that I could be a father again. I have now changed the profile of woman I am looking for from 45-52, to 35-50, I may be nuts and it may be a mistake, but what the hell, what do I have to lose.
I have two dates in a few days time, one with a rather stunning Jewish girl ( my Achilles heel ) approaching 40 and a classical musician who wants to start a family, & then a Japanese girl who is in to horses, Japan & horses are both categories in which I have zero experience whatsoever, so that should be fun.
Apart form that, no more online for a few days, but please I have something to ask of you.
If you have any regard for me as a human being, can I ask that if you happen to see me walking down Portobello Road and notice that I am being followed by a diminutive old lady in Leopard skin print can you please shout loudly “She’s Behind you!” you would be doing me a great favour.
The Hamster with the £15,000 Smile
Some years ago I lost sight of myself, I don’t know exactly when or more importantly for that matter why, but I lost all sense of and value in myself.
I decided that I did not matter, that I was a hamster on a wheel, endlessly running round and round, working long hours to make money and pay bills and provide. I got so used to running round the wheel I created that eventually I could not get off, it became my Prison.
I was afraid to get off the wheel, I believed that if I did my families lives would come crashing down and I would have failed them, the school fees, the debts, the bills, holidays, all had to be paid and that was what I had to do.
I felt there was no way out and I felt alone on my wheel, my partner saw me unresponsive, uncommunicative and distant, faced with this she pulled away, I felt worse still, to numb the pain and at times just to escape the feeling of solitude I would resort to the bottle. This made it worse as it always does, I had seen my father destroy his life with alcohol, I didn’t want to do the same, but, medicated intoxication, not so much that I couldn’t function the next day, but enough to enable me to escape my thoughts for a few hours each evening was what I did.
I added to the mix comfort eating which with the booze led to weight gain and obesity. The Spiral continued, I felt worse and worse about myself, combined to make me feel more isolated and more alone. Bad Health and a period of hospitalisation followed.
I was admitted as an Emergency to the Heart ward at Hammersmith Hospital, plugged in to so many different machines cables and monitors everywhere, I looked around the ward, every other person in there was at least twenty years older than me, how on earth had I let myself get here. I left the hospital 36hrs later, determined to improve my health, I did, weight reduced, joined a Gym, made steps to change, not revolutionary, but steps that improved my health.
But this was not a renaissance; many other things remained un dealt with. I still ran around that wheel, I just didn’t drink or over-eat, the fundamental problems were still there. I thought I was a pretty worthless soul, that I should be a better person and that my wife and my child deserved better.
This poor self-image seeped int many facets of my life, despite earning what some would see as a very good salary I would buy my clothes for the most part in Asda, where everything was cheap and lets face it pretty nasty to save money, it was what I felt I had to do, in retrospect it didn’t help me feel good about myself. Another big issue was my dental situation. This deteriorated badly over the years, my initial worry over costs meant I avoided the dentist, as the situation became worse I was then worried my teeth were so appalling that I was ashamed to go to the dentist. One friend in particular would say to me regularly, why don’t you get your F*cking Teeth fixed they look awful, that missing one at the front its terrible! Those words stung each time I heard them, but on my wheel I couldn’t get off.
My teeth and the state they were in meant I was ashamed to smile, when I look at photos over the last few years I never smile, not because I didn’t want to, just that I was trying to cover up my bad teeth. When I look back now that is so sad, surely to smile is just one of the most important things there is.
Other health problems came up, perhaps stress related, but Arthritis was the tough one, again I failed to deal with it and it debilitated me, drained me of energy and left me feeling hopeless and less of a man, in some way I felt that the Arthritis was of my own making.
Unable to see me suffering my wife frog-marched me to see a specialist, I got treatment and the condition improved enough for me to start exercising, that push was enough to start me on a new road, I exercised regularly, I started to eat well, I saw an Ayurvedic Dietician, I started going to the West London Buddhist Centre, Meditation was after failed previous attempts something I now enjoyed doing.
So I make all these changes, I start to feel better with and about myself and BANG, my wife decides our marriage isn’t for her, do you ever think you upset the Big Fella upstairs – I do!
After the split nothing really phases me in comparison, any perceived fear has melted away and there are just challenges to be faced, now after all those years I have been to the dentist, the treatment will cost a total £15,000. I am just starting slowly with the missing tooth which became my shame, just to feel that I am moving on, the rest will have to wait until I can scrape together the money, but it’s a start and a start I need……………..
I have so many self help books now that I need help to decide what to do with them all. But my Nemesis is “Happier” I got it free with the Observer months ago, – The cover tells me the book is the backbone of the most popular course at Harvard Today. “It is one of those rare self-help books that can really change your life – a crash course to help you live the life you love and love the life you live. Give me some of that!
Well, it ain’t so easy, try as I may I can so far get no further than chapter 2 of 15, I just am not getting how to be happier, and it is making me very unhappy. I read, get so far and then find I just simply don’t get it, then I start again. At some point I will break through the barrier, I am going to be happy if it’s the last damned thing I do. When I finish Chapter 15 & the Seventh Meditation and get my dental work done then it will all have been worth it.
It is only a matter of time before you will see me somewhere, a beaming smile on my face, pearly white teeth and a face that exudes joy, maybe I will be arm in arm with a woman who is clearly in love with me, people will whisper my God, that’s a happy man, but you and I will know the secret, it’s all down to a Hamster Wheel, a freebie from the Guardian and a rather nice Dentist in Kensal Dock. But what the hell, whatever gets the job done!
1983, Kissing with Confidence, Will Powers.
That cheesy song from back in the day has been going round and round in my head, I looked it up on Youtube and now it is ringing in my ears like a bout of Tinnitus.
“You may be a sharp dresser, you may be a fantastic dancer, you may be a lively conversationalist, but ………….unless you kiss with confidence…….you wont get a second date”.
Well that’s that, I am screwed. I haven’t kissed a woman other than my wife in 22 years. I am seriously out of practice. I have a moustache and beard, one web site says facial hair in a man can be a real problem for a women, ( I can relate to that, in the deep and very distant past I did see a girl with a hairy top lip, that didn’t last, but that’s another story ) Maybe I need to shave all my facial hair off? But can I kiss? More than that when is it right to kiss, am I going to make an utter fool of myself?
That’s it I need advice, lets look on the net, maybe the internet can help?
There are plenty of advice web pages, there is a Wiki on Kissing with Confidence, it has nine keys to successful snogging, 1& 2 are : 1) Break the kiss barrier (optional). If you’re feeling brave, test the waters with a small kiss on the hand or the cheek. If the other person seems interested, it’s probably safe to proceed with a kiss on the mouth. Ok that’s fair enough, I can cope with that. 2) Gets more challenging, Set the mood with a romantic compliment. Go big and pay the other person the sincerest compliment you can think of. If you get it right, the other person might take the lead and lean in to kiss you. Well I blew this one abysmally recently, the best thing I came up with on a recent date with a very lovely woman was “I like the shape of your nails” Yep, that’s right I like the shape of your nails, wow that was a killer move wasn’t it, what woman wouldn’t fail to be swept off her feet by a comment like that. But what do I say, your nose is lovely, I like the way you smell perhaps, or I like your hair, or am I honest and say what I am really thinking, I was walking behind you and I really liked your ass in those jeans, or as is far more likely with me, you know what I cant help staring at your breasts, and I am thinking to myself I would so like to get that top off and see you in the buff. Oh no that won’t work, its all wrong, wrong, wrong! How do I do this, its like being eighteen all over again and I am utterly clueless. What on earth does a woman want to hear?
The kissing is the easy part, what about the serious stuff, hang on a minute, I hadn’t even thought about that, is it all going to work down there? I’ve not slept with “another” woman in 22 years, maybe I am not up to it, maybe I will have a panic attack, my libido may be shot, maybe I’m impotent, oh hell, The wit to woo I have, but the how to woo is wanting, how do you woo?
Right, I am just over complicating this, what will be will be, let’s just enjoy the journey.
Wish me luck, I think I am going to need it.
I will smile and laugh whenever I can and bring as much joy as I am able into the lives of those I touch. I accept that life is a constant but that it never remains still and that to truly exist I must be open to each moment that I am given.
I will not look back to the past with nostalgia or sadness or regret, the past is simply part of my journey, the road that was meant for me. Along this road I have witnessed heart moving beauty, this beauty has come both from the darkness of pain and sadness as well as the brilliant sunshine of joy and love. I understand and accept that this is the natural order, Night cannot exist without Day, Light without Darkness, both give life its amazing beauty.
I will not look to the future as wish fulfilment or a place I need to escape to, it is the life path that I walk, not another time or another place, it is all my continuum and the future will become my present, my now. My journey covers hills, valleys, mountains and at times rocky ground. I may stumble and fall, but I will get up and walk on, I may carry a heavy pack along the way, but I am not afraid, I have a strong heart, a good back and stout shoes for my journey.
I will share the road when I can with fellow travellers, hold out my hand to those who may need it, I will give whatever I can of myself and accept those gifts that may be offered to me with thanks and an open heart. I will forgive those that may want to harm me along the way and accept that their journey has just had different challenges which I may never fathom.
I will summon all the courage I can muster from my heart and soul to be true, to act decently and treat all who’s paths I cross with dignity and respect. I will also not shy from questioning those things I feel are wrong or unjust, even if this causes me difficulty.
I will remember each day that my blessing has been to share truly beautiful moments with other souls on their journey. Every experience on my path has been a gift to live and learn from, every moment necessary for me to grow, to make me who I am and help me along the continuing path…………..
Ms. Slovenia & the Colon catastrophe
Ms. Slovenia contacted me through the dating website, she was moving to Portobello from her home country, setting up a marketing consultancy. As I was local she struck up conversations with me, but from early contact I sensed something was not quite right with her
I should have gone on my intuition at that early stage, but because she was moving to my area, a fresh new face and maybe a new friend that I could help settle into the area it seemed a good idea to stay in touch with her.
In one mail she described her home town “I am from Ljubljana, the Capital of Slovenia, it is a really bad place for weather, much worse than London, it is always damp, it is built next to Swamp, the City is also surrounded by mountains and in, what do you call it, a depression”. Spending the first 40 years of your life living in a damp and a depression is going to mess you up isn’t it?
Ms.Slovenia was divorced, she brought with her a fifteen year old daughter, the daughter didn’t like people very much, she liked to stay indoors, her mother didn’t like to leave her on her own at home, it didn’t sound good.
Ms. Slovenia when she arrived began to ask me all sorts of questions by text, first little things like, when is the rubbish collected, where is an internet café, where can I get a mobile, at first I was glad to be helpful, it was only a good Samaritan thing to help someone, so I did, but then it started to get more involved, what bus do I get to Ikea, should I shop at Waitrose or Sainsbury’s, what internet provider, I need a pet shop, is there one local?
When she finally moved to Portobello messages were followed by phone calls and texts, some of which were just really odd, we arranged to meet for a coffee last Saturday, texts were exchanged on the Friday night, I had a busy weekend line up so was spending Friday doing chores, food shopping, laundry, ironing, general domestics. Ms Slovenia asked me what I was doing, I said shopping & laundry, she asked me who I was seeing, I assumed she had misunderstood me, so repeated that I was doing domestic chores and that I wasn’t seeing anyone. She texted back, Is she more beautiful than me? Ok this is getting a bit nuts, I put it down to language misunderstanding and repeat I am not on a date. She texts back “ Maybe we should not meet if you are seeing another woman more beautiful”. Eventually I manage to make it clear I am not on a date. I haven’t even met the woman and I think she is just a tad psychotic
But I am going to go through with it, my curiosity has the better of me. We meet on Saturday lunchtime we chat as we walk around the market I look at the nail varnish on her toes, it is badly applied and she really could do with a pedicure, she has a thick layer of foundation on her face and it’s a bright sunny day, I think of Ms.Haversham lingering in her home and never seeing daylight. I just don’t find this woman in the least physically attractive, but hey what the hell maybe we could be friends. We stop at the pet shop, she needs supplies for her cat. She tells me rapturously how much she loves her cat and tells me her cat is really like a human being, this unsettles me.
We come out of the pet shop three quarters of an hour later, having gone through every possible type of cat food, cat litter, cat related appliance and cat anything the shop had, armfuls of cat ephemera, if I needed any convincing this was the last, I have always thought that women who were in love with their cat are unhinged. I decided to extricate myself as quickly as possible after the café, she invited me for dinner that evening for a home cooked meal, I said I was sorry but I was meeting up with an old friend, but that we should stay in touch ( OK my promise to myself about being truthful was ½ broken, I was meeting a friend, but no way was I going to meet Ms.Slovenia again) but I thought that the Cosmos would understand why and my sin would be forgiven.
That evening I had another sinister text, “ Do you love her more than me?” What on earth was she in? I am definitely out of here, goodbye Ms. Slovenia.……………
This dating business is for me some way of processing what has happened, and without doubt some sort of effort to find attention and affection from another person, but a more important part of what I need to do is find myself, I have made some efforts to work on my health, my diet, my mind, but it is early days and I’ve a lot to do. One area that I have only so far gone a little way into is Ayurveda, I want to do more.
A few months ago I made an appointment with the lovely Loretta Heywood http://www.lorettaheywood.com/ayurveda Loretta took me in hand, analysed me, gave me a diet to follow, massaged the stress and strains from an arthritic body and talked to me. I came away from sessions feeling fantastic, my arthritis symptoms slipped away and regressed as I took her advice on my food intake, my mind was calmer, clearer and the pounds tumbled from my weight. I felt great. All was good, then lovely Loretta introduced me to Basti.
She pulled from a drawer in her studio a plastic bag not unlike a clear hot water bottle, with a syphon attached to it and a small clip tap at the end. She handed it to me, I looked at her a little perplexed, I looked down at the equipment in my hands, I had heard about it before, but never in a million years thought it was going to be anything I was going to go near.
In short for those that may not be aware, Basti is simply a practice for cleansing the Colon, with either warm water, or water & oils or herbs are pumped into the anus and cleanse the colon, and you simply evacuate in the loo. Simples!
Call me old fashioned but my arse is unploughed territory and the idea of introducing any foreign body of any sort into my Jacksie is un-nerving to say the least. But, these days I am prepared to try new things and give anything a go if it is worth a shot.
Loretta explains to me that you start with a little warm water in the bag, she said she normally just filled it to 1/3 capacity, I should find a quiet time and space at home to do the practice, Well, it is simple if you are not me, but one of my bad traits is that I want to do more and better than those around me, I want to do it bigger, better, I want to be the best.
Stupidly I fill the bag to capacity, it must have been the best part of a bucket of water. My skewed thinking is Loretta, she’s a sylph like thing, I am a big bloke, I am bound to need much more water. I position myself with my bucket of water hanging from a hook on the wall of the bedroom, I introduce the tube, and turn on the tap, I see the water level of the bag falling as my colon absorbs the warm liquid, this is such a strange sensation, though not unpleasant, I feel a rumbling and a gurgling in my lower stomach, the water level in the bag is 1/3 down, well that’s Lorettas level, the flow continues, I feel myself getting a little distended, the gurgling and rumbling continues. I am now well past half way, I realise that actually I have absorbed a lot of water, I am beginning to feel a little uncomfortable, I try to apply the clip, it breaks off in my hand, I cannot stop the water, what do I do?
I do nothing, I lie there and absorb, my stomach seems to be inflating like a balloon, the rumbling reverberates, eventually I have taken in the whole bag. It is empty, I am not, I feel like I am ready to burst I am afraid to move, I realise if I do something horrible is going to happen. Then suddenly the rumbling increases to fever pitch, the tube still inserted into my butt comes shooting out, I can only describe the whole thing as one of those movies from back in the day about oilmen, and when they hit a Gusher, I was a human gusher, only this was not black gold, it was something far far fouler.
I got to my feet and bolted to the toilet as quickly as I could, gushing all the way, it was like a power hose spraying my bedroom, hallway and bathroom. It took me rather a long time to clean up myself and the house.
My lessons and reminders from Ms.Slovenia & Basti practice are threefold, Firstly, Your instinct is usually right, listen to it, secondly, listen to those with expertise in their field and with sound judgement, their knowledge can get you out of a potentially very messy situation and thirdly, the great truth of the Universe, Shit happens, accept it.
The Dirty Dentist the Philosopher
It is 1969, I am six jears old and I am in the Dentists chair, staring up the nose of Dr. Clarke, who is about to drill three cavities and give me amalgum fillings made with lovely toxic mercury. I look up into his moustachioed face, his tache is discoloured with pipe smoke, his breath is horrible, rancid and sickly, mingled with the smell of stale tobacco, yukky. My dad has told me not to cry and to “be a Big boy” but it bloody hurts. However I get through it unscathed and as a reward for not crying we leave the surgery and go straight to the sweet shop, I am given a box of After Eights – Chocoloate mints, in 1969 usually a Christmas treat, so clearly my father was impressed, but no bloody wonder I had bad teeth. I guess it’s the thought that counts though.
Unfortunately shortly afterwards we had to find another Dentist, as Dr.Clarke ended up all over the local newspapers, it transpired that of a weekend he enjoyed nothing more than to steal ladies underwear from washing lines, whilst this was in no way a sleight on his dentistry skills his dental practice closed soon after he was caught and his shennanigans made public. My next dentist was an Octogenarian, or at least he looked it, he used equally aged equipment, all enamel and pulleys and cogs everywhere, it was so slow I wondered if it was powered by clockwork. Drilling just one filling seemed to take an age, and the old codger seemed to have an aversion to anaesthetic which he seldom used. I was haunted for years by the thought of that drill………………….
Well now after too long a gap and no regular visits to a dentist I have started going to the Dental Hub, a swanky surgery in Kensal Dock, all is bright and beautiful, the equipment, the receptionists and dental assistants ( all rather lovely Indian & Brazilian young things ) make it a very pleasant experience, soothing Jazz FM plays on the radio, the dentist, Raj is a lovely chap who puts you at ease and knows his stuff, you really feel he cares about what he is doing, I am sure for his lady patients he is also rather dishy to look at. But the best of all, pain is a thing of the past, my memories of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and Dentists are just that, long gone. Things have moved on, my mind hadn’t that was all, I’ve avoided the dentist for years and really didnt have to.
All down to fear, in fact I now see that fear has played far too much a part of my thinking, I had a scare a little while back, well to be honest I had been worried for some time about a growth I had found, “where the sun don’t shine” as one might say. I noticed a lump, I panicked and assumed the worst. I hoped it would go away, I didnt talk to anyone or go for medical help. I preferred to try to ignore it, hope it went away, but each day it was in the back of my mind. This went on for months, then when I split with my partner that lump just didnt seem to be important anymore, it was just a fact, I had a lump, I needed to do something about it. I went to the doctors, I got myself tested and waited for the results, in that time yes I was concerned, but in a funny way I was calm, I had done my part and acted, I understood that me worrying about the outcome would make no differnece, what would be would be, all I could do was deal with the result. There was a gap of a number of days for the result, I did consdier all outcomes, even the worst, for a while I considered mortality and an early departure, the results came through and a sigh of relief, all clear, but I learnt once again that it was all about facing my little demons.
My inerita was all created by not facing issues, either perceived or real, that was the key, each time I faced a fear and dealt with it I came away empowered. Then as if by magic along came my new best friend.
Publius Ovidius Naso, or as his mates call him Ovid. The fact my friend has been dead for almost 2000 years has nothing to do with it, his words are alive and well and living on. Ovid is the kind of bloke that you can turn to for advice and you are guaranteed his help. Now there are not so many friends that you can say always have an open door, but my mate Ovid is one of them.
He is full of wise words, his poetry abounds with sageful sayings, his quips are goldust, how about
He who can believe himself well, will be well,
or Let your hook be always cast. In the pool where you least expect it, will be fish
or The lamp burns bright when wick and oil are clean.
Many many more, but one that struck me was
Courage conquers all things.
Of course there are many forms of courage, typically people will think of the hero on a battlefield, but courage takes many forms, some may seem insigificant, but every act of courage is food for the soul.
For me, just picking up the phone and making the doctors appointment was an act of courage, beacause of my fear of the unknown, for others this would have no meaning at all they would have done it immediately, but we all have examples of our battles with fear, the fear of changing a job, ending a relationship, moving home, speaking in public, hell I even know somebody who has a deep seated fear of touching broccoli!
Whatever it may be, over time these fears are built, brick by brick into high walls which hold us back, if we can find that courage and break down those walls we are free. Barriers fall, hang-ups dissapear, dysfunctions flee, we have open minds and open paths.
It’s not about the fear itself, or the thing we are afraid may happen, or what makes us uncomfortable, they don’t matter one iota, there are and will always be issues that challenge us, it’s about finding the courage in your heart to move on, find your courage and you are the victor.
I am off to have another chat with my mate Ovid to see if he can help me find mine…………..
Animus tamen omnia vincit, Courage conquers all things. Ovid, Epistolae, Ex.Ponto ii
Katy Perry, the Boiler Man & the Wheel of Life
Last weekend I was staying at a rather beautiful hotel in Warwickshire, I had to organise a works annual conference, normally quite a stressful but ultimately not terribly exciting affair, but for some reason at the moment many things seem to strike me with a message. This weekend had its fair share. The message ultimately is always the same, the chatter in your head is not the real world…………….
I booked fifty rooms in the Hotel, so they must have been under the impression that I was important as I ended up with a suite, a stunning bedroom with a circular staircase leading up to a marble floored bathroom with a lovely roll top bath. Luxury by any standard. OK well let’s be honest, I said to them look I am booking fifty rooms, will you make sure I get a decent one, they did, its handy being the Boss sometimes.
Was I happy with my beautiful room? Was I Hell! As I surveyed my opulent accommodation my only thought was I have nobody to share this with, my bed, big enough for an orgy was just going to have me in it, I was single and alone. Beautiful luxury but I’m still not happy.
On Friday evening I take a wrong turn in the hotel on the way to my room, I come to a long corridor, lined with marble busts of classical figures, big oak panelled walls, as I turn the corner directly in font of me is a man crouched on one knee proposing to his sweetheart. I have walked in just at the moment he asks her to marry him. I stand mesmerised, there’s a pause, the girl replies Yes. It’s an incredible moment and I feel privileged to have been able to see it. I ask them if they want a photo, they say yes, we swap numbers as I say I would love a copy. They tell me their names are Eva & Craig. Craig explained that he had a painting of Eva commissioned and put up on the wall in the corridor, he’d planned everything meticulously.
I came away from seeing this little vignette of life, I was feeling unhappy & alone, then bang, the world shows me that love and romance is alive and kicking just round the corner, it was sweet, life affirming and to be honest with you, just rather lovely to see. Over the same weekend at the Hotel there was a wedding taking place, as is usually the case weddings have all from babies to ancient grannies and granddads attending. On Saturday afternoon I was nearly knocked over by a dangerous old lady on a mobility scooter driving like the clappers, I suspect she would have failed a breath test if she’d been made to take one. She had a glint in her eye and I’m positive she drove at me on purpose just for the hell of it. It made me think about old people and how at times some can be deliberately and deliciously cantankerous. I thought of my mother, when she was terminally ill in hospital in Wales. Speaking to her specialist to ask about her condition, he gave me the prognosis and then went on to say, “Your mother is an interesting woman isn’t she” I asked him what he meant, “Well I asked her as an English Woman what had brought her to Wales, she told me she had no idea, that she thought it was the biggest mistake she had ever made and that she did not like the Welsh.
The specialist continued in his broad South Wales accent, “I was surprised she said that, people wouldn’t normally, would they? I really didn’t know what to say, to him, but couldn’t help but smile, good on the old girl, she was on her last legs but couldn’t resist winding up the Doctor, that’s the way to do it!
Mortality & Death can in the deepest & darkest times show great light, one such time for me was in the last few days of the life of a good friend of mine. He was gradually fading away with the ravages of Cancer, I found it very difficult to see his deterioration each time I visited. More than that I found it difficult to look him in the eyes, it was as though he could see into my thoughts and know I was thinking of his impending death and just didn’t know what to say to him. Each time I visited I really just wanted to escape and not have to see him. I would stay as little as I felt was reasonable and then slip away, On one visit close to the end I did my usual quick exit, out of the ward, straight to the lift, impatiently desperate to get out of the hospital, as I descend in the lift I am thinking about how this lovely man, one of the gentlest souls I’ve ever met was being robbed of life far to young, then the lift stops, doors open, in steps a new mother, baby in her arms, a new life has just begun as another is ending, and whilst it doesn’t take away the sadness it all makes sense, birth, life, death, bigger than us all, part of us all.
This week has been far colder, the seasons are changing, the wheel is turning, the one great truth of the cosmos has revealed itself again. As it is written, ” And when the great cold shall come thy central heating system shall cease to function. And Ye shall go without washing or warmth until the chosen one, he that is named the Boiler man, or as some doth call him, Heating Engineer visiteth Ye. And it is also written , Yea, the venerable Boilerman will not step out of doors unless you cross his palm with notes that number 50. And thou shall go on paying him until your bank account doth wither and empty.
My boiler man has class, Notting Hill class, when he fitted the boiler originally he came in regulation gear, overalls, in a van , the usual. When he came to collect his money once he had completed the job on a Saturday I didn’t recognise him. Armani Suit, soft top BMW or perhaps it was a Merc, I cant remember. I asked him about the transformation, he laughed and said, Well, you don’t think I would drive around in a van all the time do you? My Boilerman is a man of means, he owns properties I discovered, several of them. Yes the life of a Boilerman can be very financially fulfilling, and like life and the seasons its an eternal cycle, your boiler will break down, you will need to fix it and you will pay for it.
And Katy Perry, well that’s simple, on Sunday evening the words of her 2008 Hit became particularly relevant to me.
“I kissed a girl, I liked it”.
The Wheel Turns………………………….
The Fifty Year old Virgin
My present is sparking off memories from thirty years ago, back then I was a rather awkward youth of twenty, chasing girls, drinking, carousing and trying to find my way in the world.
Thirty years on, full circle, I am once again chasing the opposite sex, (maybe not so much of the drinking and the carousing), still trying to find my way and without doubt I am still rather awkward.
A little wiser, maybe, but knowledge and awareness of oneself does seem to simply lead to more questions, so overall am I so different? What was I thinking about three decades ago? SEX, what am I thinking about now, SEX, so no change there then!
Rolling back the years, it was at this time, mid September 1983, UB40 were number 1 with Red Red Wine, I was twenty years old and I’d been trying to lose my Virginity for an age. My long term girlfriend Diana was a sweet girl living in a little village on the Worcestershire-Herefordshire Border, ten miles from the nearest decent sized town, people were in the minority, outnumbered by Sheep & Cows. Finding a GF was not easy, getting to see her was not easy, it was a three mile walk cross country from my village to hers, I walked that path a great deal.
Each time I went to see Diana at her home we would kiss & cuddle, with time the cuddles turned to fumbles and more, but something held me back, the fear of the un-dead.
Each evening after parting company with Diana I walked home along country lanes in darkness, no street lights there, and each evening I passed the village church and cemetery, the same cemetery where Diana’s father was buried a year before.
Every night after contemplating or indeed trying to have my wicked way with Diana I would have to walk past the Cemetery, past the grave of her father – now, I am not naturally a particularly superstitious person, but As The Bard writes in Hamlet “ There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” . Walking past the graveyard gave me the willies and in turn meant I kept my own firmly in my trousers.
I figured if there were Ghosts and the tables were reversed and I was Diana’s dead Father and some vile little Herbert was walking past my final resting place after spending his evening trying to get into my daughters knickers then I would rise from the dead and haunt the little shit. This played on my mind as you might imagine, every time I spent the evening with Diana I had to walk past that cemetery, some nights I whistled a happy tune, looked straight ahead and just kept walking, some nights I even resorted to speaking to Mr Jones as I passed the cemetery, I would assure him I only had the best of intentions towards his daughter. Whatever I did, that cemetery played on my mind and I could not do the deed with Diana, it was a doomed relationship…………………………
As time went on I became increasingly worried about losing my virginity, though God didn’t really figure in my thinking on a day to day basis out of desperation I finally resorted to prayer.
“Please God, let me lose my virginity before I die, I’ve never asked you for anything much before, please don’t let me die before I have had sex, if you want me to die, please make it after that”
– ok maybe it was a long shot for a non-believer, but desperate times call for desperate measures, I was willing to believe in God if it helped me lose my Virginity.
Well, I’m not saying its definitive proof, but if there is a God he heard my words that Summer and answered my prayers…………………………
Enter the beautiful Nichola, two years my junior, cascading shoulder length blonde hair, a curvy sexy body, something of a wild child, it was a hot summer and her last before heading off to Art School,the weather was hot, she was hot and so was I. To cap it all I was also utterly and completely in love.
Nichola was one of five children, her family lived in one wing of a converted large Country house, Whitbourne Court, a former Bishop’s Manor House, it even had its own moat, that home was full of noise, laughter and love, the atmosphere was so much better than my family home that not only did I fall for Nichola I adored her family as well. That summer was a fantastic heady mix of excitement; it was also the summer I finally lost my Virginity.
One September weekend we had been out together all day and went back to her house very late, it must have been after two am when we arrived. The House was in darkness, all were in bed, it was a wee bit chilly so we lit a log fire in the fireplace, snuggled up on an enormous sofa next to the fire and canoodeld away. As the fire blazed so did we, by the time that fire had turned to embers my Virginity had taken a hike, I felt like my world had changed, I literally wanted to cry with joy, sex for the first time with someone I loved was a stunning experience, I shall never forget it.
I left Nichola’s house still in darkness, my head buzzing. On the walk home night moved to dawn and with it the dawn chorus erupted, my world was alive and kicking.
I also rather quickly said my final words to God for a very long time, I let him know that on reflection, whilst I was really happy to have lost my virginity, that I rather liked the experience and would rather not die just yet if it was all the same to him. That seems to have worked so far.
So now why thirty years later have these old memories re-surfaced, well I guess it feels as though I am losing my virginity all over again, many of the same feelings are there, nervousness, excitement, a real feeling that it’s a big change in my life, I want some loving, it’s not such a lot to ask for is it? Hang on it worked thirty years ago, maybe its time for another prayer?
On Tuesday Evening I ventured to the deep South, Brixton in fact and to the Ritzy.
There was an open Mike show where anybody could get up on stage and talk about true experiences from their life, the subject that you had to talk about was Bosses.
I thought the whole idea sounded great, the concept came from California originally and the move I would say has been a good one. It’s interesting to be able to have ordinary people get up there and tell stories from their lives. Originally I intended just to go and listen, but a few minutes in I thought sod it, I want a go at this, so put my name in the hat.
This is more or less what I said:
Tonight’s subject is Bosses, I am a Boss, I deal on a daily basis with Diahorrea, Vaginal issues, Food poisoning & vomiting, can anyone in the Audience guess my profession? The answers came and were medical, Doctor, Nurse, Ambulance man……….. I replied no to all and said I had worked in Retail.
I explained that these were the sort of things as a Boss I dealt with on a daily basis when an employee was sick, all the nitty gritty of their ailments, dealing with this stuff is irritating, sometimes the ailments are just really shocking, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes down right excuses and rather tedious. Here are some absolutely true examples.
Don, was a short, stubby tattooed fella from Slough that worked for me driving a van, he bit his nails, fancied himself as a Pool playing star and lived miserably with his wife. He said they lived separate lives in the same small flat and hated each other, neither would leave but that was because both loved their Alsatian and couldn’t bear to be parted, he was not an happy man.
One day Don called me “OWWWWWW” was the first thing I hear on the phone. Hello, Don what’s the matter?
“It’s my Arse, I’ve had the most terrible diahorrea, been going to the toilet for hours, OWWWWWWW it just won’t stop, its just terrible………..”
I interrupted as I got the gist, oh Don, that’s awful…….. Thanks for calling to let me know, I wish you well, let me know how you are in the morning……………… the next morning Don emailed me, he explained that he was no longer shitting like a human sausage machine abut now the problem was that he was very inflamed around his anus, he had applied cream to the infected area but couldn’t come in to work. I felt compelled to reply thanking Don for his full and in depth ailment description, I said that he may not in future need to go into quite so much detail, but thanked him for the full and comprehensive explanation. He then emailed me again, this time sounding quite angry, he said he thought I would want as much detail as possible and that’s why he had done so, did I not care?
Bill, another fella working for me called up one morning, he was slurring his words, Listen, I cannot come in today………. I got absolutely bladdered last night, there’s no way I am fit to work. Initially I was shocked, I said Bill, might you not have thought of an excuse, maybe saying you had an upset stomach or something like that? Well, he slurred, I thought you would prefer that I was honest. To be honest, I am not so sure I was, it didn’t fill me with confidence in him………………………….
Jilly called me up the morning after a works party, she had got totally hammered at the do, I remember at one point her snogging another female member of staff for a bet during the party, not the best thing to do when your MD is around, but there you go, well at the end of the evening she could not walk unaided. I being a caring boss got her a taxi, paid for it, gave the taxi driver instructions and her home address and thought I’d done my good deed for the day. The next morning no Jilly, I guessed just sleeping it off, but mid morning I got a call from her. She explained that she had spent the night in a Police cell. I asked why, she had been sick in the Taxi, got into a fight with him, then the police came…….apparently then she said a Policeman accused her of biting him which she was sure she hadn’t, but they arrested her, would I come and collect her?
Robin was a temp working for me, at one works night out he started fishing for a permanent position, he said to me totally out of the blue that he thought I was a lovely fella, I said thanks, but was feeling a little weirded out by the compliment, he then went on to say that all the other staff thought I was a bastard, he couldn’t understand that, he thought I was a great boss. I didn’t really know how to reply but thanked him all the same. He then went on to say that he loved his job and wanted it to be a permanent arrangement, he said he would do anything, to show his dedication he asked me if I remembered him being sent to Bristol for a job, he said he had terrible diahorrea on the motorway and had shitted himself terribly in the cab driving down the M4. He had nowhere to go to the toilet. To demonstrate how committed he was he said he just pulled up on the verge, went up the embankment, pulled off his trousers, wiped himself clean with his underpants which he then discarded, then put back on his trousers, went back to his cab and then did a days work, as if nothing had happened, because that’s the sort of man he was. As you can imagine was very impressed, but regrettably Robin was not successful in securing a long term career.
My favourite excuse ever for not coming in to work was by a female member of staff. what’s more it was 100% true.
” I cant get in to work today, because of the Lion”, Eh, beg pardon, thought you said Lion “Yes, Lion has escaped from the Safari Park and the Police have warned everyone on the estate to stay indoors until its captured, I cant get in to work, sorry”
On the news that evening it was corroborated, Lion escapes form Safari Park.
In my years as a boss I think I have heard of every conceivable reason why somebody cant come in to work, at times I find it shocking how many people get itchy vagina’s and discharge, diahorrea is a pandemic of epic proportion, food poisoning is rife ( but mostly at weekends), kebabs are a hazard to healthy living, one of the most curious absences – one fellow said he got food poisoning from peas, that one did surprise me, Oh and bless him, one chap who told me he couldn’t come to work because his partner was away and that would leave his dog alone. He then told me that if the dog was left alone it would self harm. That left me with visions of the beast racing off to the bathroom as soon as the front door was closed, jumping up at the bathroom cabinet and going straight for the razor blades, then scaring his paws and legs…………………. how does a pooch self harm? I really don’t know……………………….. there are so many more but I don’t have the time to tell.
Spark London – True Stories
Being a Boss isn’t all its cracked up to be I can assure you, but it can be rather funny…………………
Yoga, The Buddha & Me
My strap for this Blog Fifty Free & Single was the wrong title, I should have called it Fifty Free & Me.
I began thinking it was about me & women, at the start the reason for it was all about one in particular, my wife, and as I then thought my story was about searching to find another woman to fill the void I felt with her departure.
My feelings towards my wife remain confused and painful, but the story has changed, it has moved, somewhere between there and here that story stopped being some sort of song about my lost wife and it became my story.
Now don’t me wrong, being with a woman that I feel is in love with me and in turn I am in love with is a fine thing that I still very much want, but now I realise that I can never find meaning or value in my life as a result of someone else however close they may be to me, the answer to meaning in my life can only come from one place and one person, me.
Like far too many men out there I have spent a lifetime not really connecting with myself and my feelings, communication outside of the factual has seemed irrelavant, unnecessary, even “un-manly”. Worse still at times when I felt pressured from outside issues I would retreat further into myself and avoid communication even more – and where did this leave me? Disconnected, disconnected with those I loved, those that loved me, disconnected with others, and worst of all disconnected from myself. An automaton, unable to feel, to think freely and creatively, ultimately lost in my head in a whirling fog.
That fog has begun to dissipate with visits to the West London Buddhist Centre, a few months of once a week Saturday morning meditation classes and the constant chatter in my head, the pushes and pulls of thought quieten and dissipate, the snippets of Buddhist doctrine I have managed to take in about self, of awareness of ego and attachment make sense, they begin to have meaning and relevance. I come away from a class feeling more aware, more calm in myself, more at peace if that makes sense, despite or perhaps I should say with my inner turmoil. My issues are still there, but somehow there is a shift in how I perceive them.
Buddhism fascinates me, it brings me to myself, it shows me that the answers I need and I want are not “out there” – somewhere to be searched for and dscovered, they are within me, I need to find the space and the stillness to explore them.
Raja Yoga is another fascinating area I am exploring, I’ve taken a definition from the net which may give some basic explanation to those who may not be aware of it.
Rāja yoga (“royal yoga”, “royal union”, also known as Classical yoga and aṣṭānga yoga) is one of the six schools of Dharmic (astika) Hindu philosophy. Its principal text is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Raja Yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the viewer’s (ṛṣih) mind using a succession of steps, such as meditation (dhyāna, dhyana) and contemplation (samādhi, samadhi). Its object is to further one’s acquaintance with reality (viveka), achieve awakening (moksha) and eventually enlightenment, kaivalya.
I must thank Fausto Dorelli from Innergy for giving me the chance to participate in his Raja Yoga sessions, it is early days but I have such a sense that the tennants of Raja are a compelling path to being able to free myself from all the rubbish that I have managed to accumulate over the years that it is really quite an exciting prospect.
Yesterday I attended a Raja Yoga session at The Yoga Hall in St Albans. The session was organised by Findlay Hinde. An old friend who over many years has travelled his own path of self discovery with Yoga, well, I’ve avoided him aciduosly during this time, perhaps it was just not the right path for me then, but now it is a pretty compelling road.
Yesterday I listened as several women at the class talked about the dysfunctionality of their relationships, about partners who were unable or unwilling to communicate on any real level with them, their stories of couch potato husbands, unable to talk, listen or participate in any form of meaningful dialogue, happiest glued to TV Sets, computer games, or just ignoring the real world and their own lives made me think of myself, I have been that man, and what did I think as I heard these stories? Why on earth do you put yourself through this, it doesnt matter if he cannot move on, you can’t fix anyone else, just fix yourself and the rest will take care of itself.
& then I realised I had given myself my own answer, its not about anyone else, you cannot blame another person for your life and how it is, it is all ultimately your story, You write your own story, the charachters you chose to be in it are your choice, thier actions may be their own, but you are the hero or heroine and you chose your storyline.
My story continues, the plot remains as I conceived it, but new charachters are being added, I am not sure of where I want the tale to go just yet, and that’s ok, an open ending now gives it a chance to evolve which I think will be for the best. I am also warming to my hero I think he’s quite a fellow, I want him to be a very lucky and happy man, I’m sure that I can write the script that way. As every good story has to have highs and lows, I think I’ve written enough of the lows, he’s done his fare share of pain and its time he got some joy in his life, so i want to work the story that way, have you any recommendations on how the story should end
My New love
Epiphany From Wikipedia,
An epiphany (from the ancient Greek ἐπιφάνεια, epiphaneia, “manifestation, striking appearance”) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective.
Mine came yesterday morning, 5am, I couldn’t sleep, so decided to get up, I made myself a pot of coffee and stood on my back doorstep, in my underpants, smoking a cigarette, not a vision of loveliness I grant you or indeed the most auspicious or romantic sounding way to have an Epiphany but it was mine.
I looked out onto my garden as the first glimmers of light began to appear through the night sky, all was quiet except for the sound of a soft rain falling, something in me just made me want to stand out there in it, my head raised to the heavens and like some religious baptism have all the metaphorical dust and debris that I have covered myself in over the years washed away. Something happened out there, standing in the rain in my pants, something clicked, in a moment all I’d learnt, all I’d mulled over and examined and questioned, it all made sense.
The last few months have been a crazy roller coaster journey, searching for answers, sometimes without even knowing what the questions were, endless hours locked in my head, endless talking, to whoever would listen, a constant stream of thoughts babbling out of my mouth, many books read, hours listening to the thoughts and words of others. The endless churning of my emotions: pain, anger, sadness, confusion, moments of clarity, followed by darkness and depression, hope followed by despair, up, down, sideways, you name I have been there. Now realisation, now I truly realise where I am. I need to go on a journey, but every journey needs to start somewhere, until now I didn’t know where to begin, now finally I have found my point of departure.
I had thought that if I replaced my old love with another then that would fix everything, old love for new, how stupid I was. My old love is still in my heart, I cannot change this, it is a fact. Were I to move heaven and earth my heart would remain as it is. I’ve tried to force myself into pastures new, to ignore my heart and that’s led to more pain and hurt, the only answer is to accept, to accept that if my heart wants to be broken now, then so it must be. When it’s ready to move on it will, until that time I simply need to let go, explore and get out there and experience and understand that right now there’s no room for new love, the old must wither and fade, then and only then can a new seed grow.
I realise that I have lived passively for such a very long time, I’ve waited for life to happen, then I’ve reacted, in essence I have been the Spectator not the Lead. I cannot sit in the audience any longer, I am the Principal part in my story, and nothing less than an Oscar for best male will do.
I’ve been getting the strangest physical sensation, I can only describe it as being like a fire in my belly, embers that had all but died are beginning to glow. I need to fan those glimmering coals into life and build them up until they roar. The words of friends, sometimes in passing, sometimes comments on their own experiences have added fresh fuel to the fire, Jarka, wise woman you were so right, Loretta, Finlay, Fausto, you and many others have shone light on the dark and fusty corners of my mind and that light is not going away.
I have always known that somewhere deep inside of me, under the layers of pretence and bull lay something unique, something of value, something that I had to give, but I have never been able or ready or perhaps even brave enough to define it, develop it and bring it out – to harness the strength within me and make it shine. I am still not quite sure what my talent is, I’ve an inkling that in time and with perseverance that it may be writing and sharing thoughts and stories. Ultimately, above all I know that I have a massive potential, perhaps if I can master myself even a destiny. If I can reach that destiny, if I am successful I would see myself, hopefully many years from now, at the end of my days able to look back on my life and to say to myself that I made a difference, that in some shape or form I will leave this world the richer for having had me born into it. If I can achieve this, then my life will have had value. I may take small steps to begin, I may falter and cock it up from time to time, but I will do what I can to be that man.
Down & Out 2013
I read a lot of Orwell when I was a youngster, not sure what drew me to him, dour old bugger that he could be. I was fascinated by Homage to Catalonia, the quixotian march to war by well meaning English socialists fighting the rise of fascism, journeying from mild old England to dodge bullets and machine guns on the plains and streets of Spain all in the name of principle. Had I been around in the 30’s and of an age I am sure I would considered the journey to Spain as all of those other young, impressionable and principled Englishman as a romantic and rightful journey, a journey that ended for many in blood and guts. But I diverge, Orwells Down & Out by contrast wasnt the most sparkling of books, but I’ve always found the subject of the homeless, the lost and those on the margins of society fascinating. I regret to admit I have done my fair share of walking down the street and ignoring the beggars, the winos lying in the gutter, the destitiute, I guess many of us do, just walked by and pretended not to have noticed. These days though I am more pragmatic, if I think somebody needs a hand I will give it to them, my only codicil is that if i think they will spend the money on getting off their face then my pocket stays firmly closed, unless they are a real charmer with a good yarn and then maybe I will make an exception.
I’ve had some provoking encounters with street people, last year I was in Cambridge to see my son at University over the weekend, gourmande that my darling son is his favourite sunday morning breakfast in Cambridge is Carluccio’s, their magic with eggs gets him every time.
During one Cambridge Carluccios breakfast I sneaked out for a cigarette, as I stood outside the restuarant a chap sauntered up to me and asked me for a light. He had the tell tale signs of a druggie, he was unkempt, speech disjointed, hands a little shakey and rough, he lit the remnants of a half smoked cigarette with my lighter and handed it back to me, took a long heavy draw, exhaled and then made his move. Can you spare some change? I thought for a moment, I was far from convinced that he was genuinely trying to get clean, but gave him the benefit of the doubt and handed him some change. He thanked me and as he turned to go said, “I’m a poet you know”, I said oh really, assuming it was some old story being spun, then he said, yes, a poet, look let me give you my web site details and have a look, he scribbled his page details on a grubby piece of old paper…………………. In Cambridge only in Cambridge does the junkie,down and out write poetry and have a web site, how bloody marvellous.
My son Saul told me a classic tale about a friend of his from Sixth Form who on the way to school one morning in Hammersmith had a memorable encounter with the local bag-lady. If you know the area you may well have seen her for yourself, a largish lady, usually to be found pushing a Supermarket shopping-trolley overflowing with old tatt, plastic bags, bits of old wood, cloth and all sorts of detritus. On the morning in question this young fellow saw the bag lady and felt a pang of conscience and thought he would do his good deed for the day, he went into a local emporium, bought bread and cakes and then went up to the bag lady and offered his purchaases to her. She looked at him, the bag, and back to him and then swiftly and very effictively gave the boy a whacking left hook straight to the face. The bag went flying, the old lady trundled off, the boy clutching his bruised jaw went in through the school gates. At school he re-counted the tale to a teacher, the teacher roared with laughter and the boy, bemused and dumb-founded, with the best of intentions was left with no idea what he had done to offend the old girl. It was a beautiful little tale and so interesting, that at times we can think people are in the gutter and need help but sometimes they really dont want it!
There have been several encounters that stand out for me with down and outs in the recent past.
Just a few weeks ago I walked down the steps to the tube in central London recently with a friend, at the bottom close to the platform sitting on the floor with a coat covering her legs was a lady, probably in her early thirties, she held out her hand to the passengers, most walked by, my friend and I did not, we both gave her a little money, I was totally drawn to that womans face, there was a look of utter and total desolation in her eyes, but more than that there was also a look which just sang out that this was a woman who did not deserve to be there, it was as if there were some inner beauty and soul, now destitute and broken and begging to survive. As her hand clasped around the change we had given her gazed fell on her hands, her eyes watered and tears began to drip from her eyes. It was so clear that terrible misfortune had brought that poor woman to that place, as my friend and I continued onto the arriving tube we looked at each other, no words were needed, that poor soul deserved better……………………………………..
One sunday morning I was up with the lark, I jumped in the car to get petrol and the sunday papers, as I waited at the traffic lights on the corner of Barlby Road and Scrubbs lane I noticed on the pavement opposite a young chap walking, probably in his early twenties, he was smartly dressed, but his clothes were dirty, his hair matted, he looked hungry and cold. It looked like he had slept in a hedge, and as he had just come from Wormwood Scrubs I put two and two together, and realised thats exactly what he had done, slept out that night. Something told me that he needed help. I went to the garage and rather than the intedned fuel and papers I bought fruit juice, sandwiches and chocolate. I got back in my car and went to find the lad, it took me a few minutes to track him down, evenutally I found him walking by White City, I pulled over, got out of the car with my bag of goodies and walked over to him, when I said hello can I talk to you he looked at me with abject fear in his eyes, he was really scared, I said dont worry its all ok, I said I saw you walking and you looked like you were hungry I got this for you…………………….. He wouldnt take the bag at first, I again said it’s ok , please take this its for you. He eventually took the bag from me, peered inside and then looked back at me. I asked him if he was ok, he said yes, I asked him if he needed help and where was he from. He replied in very broken English, Frankcaise, now my French isnt the best, but I knew immediately that this lad was no Frenchman, he was either East European or Balkan, a young guy probably no more than a year or two older than my own son. He clearly had nothing more than the clothes he stood up in, hadnt eaten in a while by the looks of how he woofed down the contents of the bag. His English was too poor really to for us to communicate on any decent level, he couldnt speak French, I gathered he could speak some German, but that was a non starter for me, and so we stood there for a couple of minutes, he finishing off the remainder of the bag contents, me trying to talk and communicate with limited success. Eventually we came to a natural ending, I pulled a little cash from my wallet, handed it to him and he shook my hand and said thank-you. As I drove off I thought that that young fellow was some mans son, some mothers baby and he was lost, alone and a thousand miles from home. There but for the grace of God go I or mine.
Each night I go home to my comfortable house in Notting Hill ( well nearly Notting Hill ). I sleep in my comfortable bed under my goose down duvet (which I usually have to throw off in the night beacuse the central heating is turned up to high) This will be after I’ve eaten well, maybe at a nice Restuarant, or with food that I’ve bought at the supermarket, (where dahling I would never buy a packet that says economy on the lable).
I will moan about how terrible my life is, I will tell you how sad I am because my love life is a mess, I will tell you my health isnt great, or I’m short of money, or I’m lonely, what a load of selfish, utter old crap it all is.
Calling on the almighty once again, for God’s sake, if you ever hear me being miserable or sounding sorry for myself, or whining about how tough it is for me, or how sad I’ve felt, then please, you have my permission to tell me loudly and clearly to F*** off and grow up, because that my friends is exactly what I need to do.
God & The Bottle
I thought I would never have to write this, never have to say the words, but this weekend I failed to keep to principles I’ve sworn all my life to uphold. Many years ago I made an oath to myself that I would not take to the bottle like my father. I must confess to you that I have not kept my word.
I watched my father year after year and couldn’t understand why he needed the bottle to cover up the real man he was, now I have taken that very same path. What was the final straw? Well as usual my downfall was a pretty woman, a pretty woman and a Buddhist named Bob.
The pretty woman was working behind the counter at a Portobello Chemist, she didn’t mean to send me over the edge, but her words knocked me for six, hers and Bob between them. I’m never quite sure which box to tick on a prescription, so asked, the girl looked at me and said, well if you are over sixty you get your prescription free. I asked her to repeat what she said, I thought I had mis-heard, again she said those words, if you are over sixty. I beg your pardon, do I look over sixty? I wasn’t having it, 10 years of my life had not gone overnight, had they? She apologised, went rosy cheeked and we did our business, I left feeling a little rattled but could see the funny side.
That was until I chatted to Bob, the affable Buddhist at my Saturday meditation class. We were having a long discussion about God and the possibility of Divine existence, like you do in the Buddhist Centre on a Saturday morning, Bob in conversation remarked we must be about the same age, you and me, what are you, about sixty? My Buddhist principles went flying out the window and I wanted to call Bob an absolute C*nt and tell him to stick his meditation up his arse, but it wasn’t the time and place for that, so I just breathed, I breathed again and I let go of the anger. Did I hell, I’m 50 you swine.
I left the Buddhist centre like a rocket after the class, I headed straight for Sainsbury’s and went witout deviation to the aisle where I knew I would find my fix. I wanted that bottle and I wanted it now, my selection, “Just for men” , £7.50, Dark Brown. I was going to use Hair Dye for the first time, I wanted my 10 years back and nobody on the planet was going to stop me.
Well, now its done, my hair looks bloody mad, Its streaky, its too dark in some places, its too light in others, the bathroom sink has had a nice makeover, though dark brown porcelain I’m not sure about. But the job is done, if you see me in the near future then by all means have a laugh, stare if you like, but realise I had no choice. I am not ready to be taken for a pensioner, though one day I am happy to be so, its a decade to early. My options for now are to lie low until the colour washes out, or just to go to places nobody I know will be at, I guess I could also wear a hat, that would be an option for sure. Or maybe I find new friends who won’t notice the difference?
Bob the Buddhist apart from his annoying ageist comments is a nice fella, we talked today about Divinity for a little while. Buddhism appeals to me because I cant do God, well when I say I cant do God, what I really mean is that if God is the Christian God then I’ve hated him for most of my life, I didn’t choose not to believe in God, I chose to hate him.
My hatred goes back to a church in a small village in Worcestershire, thirty odd years ago, I was maybe eighteen or nineteen years old, I was at the funeral of my cousin, he was a few years older than me, had just got married and was planning to start a family, one Sunday afternoon he had a car accident, he was killed outright. Shortly before the accident he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At the funeral service a young blonde haired chubby faced vicar stood in the pulpit to give the sermon, he started by saying that my cousins death was all part of God’s great plan. After those words I remember no more, just an overwhelming anger inside, if the death of a young man with his life in front of him was Gods plan then that God was a monster and I wanted none of him. And so I’ve continued from that day, a God hating man. But we all need a religion or meaning for life, we all concoct or choose ours in one form or another, if not a traditional God, then a substitute, maybe a nebulous cosmic power, or an Atomic particle theory, or for others meaning comes though acquiring, acquiring belongings, or power or wealth, there are as many gods as grains of sands in an hour glass, just choose yours, none of us know which is real or which is false. My sustaining, or at least partially sustaining meaning was always the genetic imperative, the only meaning to life was continuation of the species, that we are here to continue our species, humanity and there is nothing else. And now do I feel differently? I have played my little part in reproducing, I did rather a fine job as luck would have it in producing a particularly splendid human, but now what? Now what indeed, I am not sure, there are many species in nature that die after procreation. Others where the older animals are teachers for the younger generations, for me I don’t really know where meaning lies ultimately, other than leaving your mark in some form or another. I feel that the cosmic idea, that we are all part of one great entity, is a powerful one, that there is a spirit in nature and the earth and the stars, that we are all connected, but beyond that I know nothing and can know nothing, it doesnt really matter, there is no answer to a search for meaning, just being is meaning in itself.
But what I do knwo is that I’ve spent a lifetime telling myself and others that I don’t care what people think about me, I am my own man, well that was a fat lie, I care, I care what people think about me, I want to be liked, I want to be loved, I want to be part of something bigger than just me and, if there is a God, I want him to turn off that bloody genetic switch which makes your hair grey and people think you are ten years older than you actually are.
Just call me the man with the undressing eyes.
Mail in today from Dee, 59 somewhere in South London. “I see you looking for someone younger but must say do like your photos and not sure if anyone has ever told you but you have those eyes that say it all as they say… “eyes that undress you”.
My goodness, eyes that undress you, well no madam, no never in my life have I been told that, well there’s a first time for everything. I looked at my eyes only half an hour ago in the bathroom mirror, and to be honest they said to me you look knackered, get an early night tonight, maybe we could split the differnce and call them go to bed eyes……………
I do think its time to stop the internet dating, this lady is 59 and just not my cup of tea. I’ve deleted the link to the dating website but am still getting mails, time to block it and disable if I can work out how to, it’s easy to sign up and harder to get yourself out of these things! Undress eyes indeed, I should coco, though actually I kinda like the idea………………….
I shall start practising my eyes that undress you look immediately……………………. will let you know if its a success.
Seven Million Stories
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ” the words of Ben Johnson written more than two centuries ago are as true now as they ever could have been.
London opens its arms to people from every corner of the world, it sucks you in and breathes life into all that come its way, sometimes it can chew you up and spit you out, it can lift you from the gutter or it can just as easily dump you there, it can bring you love, it can drive you to folly, it can break you or make you, whatever London is it has every conceivable colour, you simply cannot ignore it, if you are alive and open London cannot be ignored and certainly will not ignore you. Breathe it in, the beauty, the fumes, the soul, live it all.
I spent the last few years shallow breathing, just doing a little circuit, home to work, back home again and not a good deal else. Now I am swallowing great gulps of London, theatre, cinema, shows, talks, but above all the people, the amazing, wonderful, mad mix, where else would you find such a mass of exprience and colour and vibrancy all in one great City.
On Sunday lunchtime with the sun shining I ventured to Golborne Road, the little Italian Deli cafe has chairs and tables in the sunshine, though crowded I manage to perch on a table corner next to two ladies who are sharing cake and conversation. I try not to interrupt but big mouth I am it’s so interesting to talk to new people, within a minute or two the three of us are gassing away. We are telling each other our stories, my table companions are Turkish & Italian, a fashion designer and a mum taking time out from her work to raise her daughter. Both tell me in conversation that for them London offers freedom, opportunity & excitement, things they could not have in the same way in their native cities, the Turkish lady talked of the rise of Islam in her homeland and her discomfort with it, the Italian of politics and Berlusconi. The conversation drifted and evenutally I learn they’ve just come back form their allotment in Chiswick, they were excited about their tomato crop and ideas of chutneys were in the air………………… a great half hour of connection with two people and their stories, gentle people, gentle stories, just two of more than seven million in this city. A myriad of stories, running separately and inter-connected, so many tales to hear and share, all there if you want them, all you need to do is listen.
In my time in London I have spoken to Tramps & Millionaires, even a Billionaire who came to a sticky end, to Lords & Ladies, Junkies, Thieves, Beggars & Tarts, Transvestites, even a Transylvanian au pair with an amazing moustache, the good, the mad, the bad and the deeply sad, all life is there indeed.
I came to London in 1991 to find work, back then I had enough money to last a week, I stayed in a flop house in Earls Court, I shared a room with five others, you couldn’t leave anything in the room, it would be nicked, in less than a year I had married a beautiful woman and had a baby on the way, my life turned and moved dramatically, London gave me that.
What amazing people I have met here, where on Earth could you find such a mix, in my own street or the next couple along live a dwarf buddhist monk, Lodjero, he has a club foot and one leg shorter than the other for good measure, when hes not in London he’s up a mountain in Nepal, being holy, on the other side of the fence David Cameron had a house round the corner, I saw him a couple of times before he made it to No.10 walking with his kids to the local park, just another dad out being a dad, two people in my road have Aston Martins, but more have mobility scooters and not the proverbial pot to piss in, my neighbour is a dustman, but manages to travel several times a year to Thailand, where he has created himself as a figure of some importance in a small Thai village, his English pounds and working overtime make him a man of means, a somebody in that little village. In London I’ve met an Italian Prince who as a child remembered having tea with Adolf Hitler and thought he was the most charming of men, in turn I’ve had tea with the loveliest old man who was interned in Birkenau concentration camp, he had the tattoo to prove it and his words, from one who was there moved me beyond any I can find. I’ve been to Fetish clubs & Synagogues ( not on the same day ) , to Nightclubs like Heaven where its difficult to tell if you are looking at a man or a woman, to Buddhist temples, to Philosophical debates, I’ve swum in the Thames, I’ve crawled though tunnels under London, I’ve flown above the City in an hot air balloon, I’ve bought medicinal herbs at 3am in a back street when I should have known better, I’ve witnessed birth and I’ve witnessed violent death, what I’m trying to say is that this City really has it all, whatever there is is here, whatever you want you can find it, but you have to get out there and look.
For me, now I want to eat up all that London can offer me, I want to feel, hear, participate, learn, share, find.
There are more than 6,9million people out there I have yet to meet, there are people out there that will be part of my future and neither they nor I have the slightest clue that the other exists, at least not yet. How lucky I am to be in this place now, alive, open to what the world can offer, I am free and I am fifty and London is my Oyster and I have the card to prove it.
Have you ever had an Angel in your house? I’ve had quiet a few of them over the years, Margit, Julia, Luis, Angelica, Anna, Ludj, Valeria, Yolanda, and more. A string of Angels, some would stay for a few months, some we’ve never truly lost contact with, some have become life-long friends, all these Angels came as Au-Pairs, they brightened our family’s life, they brought laughter, light and love into our home and sometimes, a whole lot of madness.
First of all there was Margit, lovely Margit from Austria, we found her through a very auspicious source, a Convent of Nuns, based in London,as part of their good works looked after German speaking girls coming to London and found them work. When Margit came for her interview we met a blonde, quite prim, demure, one could even have called her shy, young lady, just what you might expect of a Convent girl, we agreed a day for her to start. A few days later, I opened the door to Margit, now a Punk, with a ring though her nose, hair now coloured pink, on her feet big black Doc Martens , her legs in Fishnets, and a skirt, or at least a small piece of cloth that resembled a skirt covered her middle, My sons Au Pair was a Punk, when my mother in law saw her she looked visibly shaken, but well we thought, thats fine, it makes life all the more interesting……………
Margit quickly became part of the family, she was young, energetic and eager to sample London, one night I awoke from a deep sleep to the sound of the doorbell ringing loudly and repeatedly, as I walked down the stairs I hear a woman’s stifled cry, help me, help me! As I opened the door I saw M. on the doorstep, crumpled and cowed, her white top was covered in blood, my God I thought she’s been stabbed! As I got closer I realised that it wasnt blood at all but blackcurrant, M had got absolutely sloshed on some blackcurrant concoction which had not stayed in her stomach, after the relief then came the problem of moving the semi conscious lump on my doorstep upstairs and to her bed. I tried pulling her, I tried pushing her, I tried waking her, eventually she was conscious enough for me to push her upstairs and into bed.
My favourite memory of M was travelling with her and my son on the tube into town, we were in a busy carriage, opposite us sat two girls who looked quite intently at Margit, they talked to each other in German. Margit just sat and watched. After a while she whispered to me ” They are talking about me, they say I look like a prostitute, you wait I will tell them”. She remained silent for the rest of our journey, as we got to our stop Margit rose, went over to the two girls and launched into the most beautiful and powerfull words i have ever had the fortune to hear, regretably I have no idea what she said, but thir faces told me enough. Afterwards I asked M what she had said, “Just to be careful what you say, as you never know whos listening”. Margit was a force of nature, she gave my son a lovely start and took him daily on adventures. Now years later she has a child of her own, I havent seen her for a while, but I bet she’s a fantastic mother.
Another Angel was Luis, a Brazilian whirlwind, cycling mad & the kind of chap that would just get things done, whatever he put his mind to, whether that was acquiring a tandem, getting himself an MBA, Luis was one of lifes do’ers, at one point in time Luis ended up working in a whisky distillery in the Shetland islands, boy that man got around. Luis endlessley entertained Saul, recently more than 15 years after moving on from us Luis once again entertained my son, this time as his guest in Brazil, showing him his Country, the people, the sights, Luis, thank-you for helping my son grow into a man, you played your part and for that I am eternally in your debt, you are a good man.
Angels in my House
I could go on an on, Ludji, such a good and special friend to us all almost a second mother to my Son, Valeria, late night lasgane thief, Anna Finkanauer, little sparrow from New Zealand, how lovely you were, making clothes and jewellery, your home made dairy free banana ice-cream secrets, Julia, culinary creations, nursery rhymes and adventures, Yolanda Rodrigues Fernandes, all your names bring back floods of memories of wonderul times, everyone of you played a part in helping to give our son the best possible start in life, you brought youth and excitment and energy to our home, we were blessed to have you all.
But nothing is ever all one way is it? There was one exception to the Angels, I am not sure, but it was quite possible she was from the other side. Well the dark side for sure, She was scary and she was from Transylvania, short, dark, very hairy, in fact a moustache of visible proportions, and to cap it all a seventh day adventist, with a will to convert.
She talked about an ex boyfriend, I would like to kill him she told me once, as I watched her explain with hand gestures how she would do it, her religous side seemed to leave her and she had the maddest look in her eyes…………………scary, scary.
Ms. Transylvania liked to cook her home specialities, a favourite was made with pig lights, from the packet contents we deciphered, pigs entrails, lungs and heart, now to begin with in a house with Jewish leanings its not the best meal to put on the table, but every bit of her cooking had the strangest odour, what was in it? My wife became frantic and would search the cupboards trying to find which herb or additive caused the smell, my wife became convinced we were being poisoned. But matters came to a head, after the fight, did I mention the fight? after the fight I had to sack Ms.Transylvania, she and another house guest both called me at work one day within five minutes of each other, each accused the other of trying to kill them, one by pushing the other down the stairs, the other by assault and battery, needless to say it wasnt going to work out and I had to let our Transylvanian Au pair go shortly afterwards.
Transylvania aside Au-pairs have been friends, have shared times good and bad and have been a priveledge to know, its was a gift to meet young people from around the world, have them stay in our home and have them share their cultures their energy and time with us, I havent the space to even begin to scatch the surface of all the superb people that came into our lives, but if you have friends with young children and for them a live in au-pair is an option, tell them to do it, tell them to make sure they treat their guest as a friend and not as hired help, tell them that they will learn from the exprience, their child will grow all the better for it and that possibly, quite possibly they will acquire life-long friends in the process.