A week later I return to the office, plonk my ass behind my desk and survey my little kingdom, I’m the boss at the site where I am based and nominally responsible for nigh on a hundred people up and down the country, for this I earn a six figure salary.
As I sit there it dawns on me that I have grafted for ten years, worked long hours – longer than I should have and it all now meant absolutely nothing, the money I had made was always spent and all I had to show for it was an overdraft, a five figure credit card debt, a family that no longer functioned as a family and a house that no longer felt like home. My son was now out of Uni and old enough to look after himself, my wife had voted with her feet & skidaddled so where did this leave me?
Where to begin? I think how much time I have spent working here: An average working week is let’s say 40 hrs, My average working week had been more than sixty, technically my employer owed me 20 hours per week over nine years, this I calculated to be in the region of 8640 hours, so right there and then I make a management decision to reclaim some of those hours with immediate effect, though still going to work each day I will use my best endeavours to do as little work as possible ever again, I figure they owe me that. Feeling justified I decide to use all my free time on something far more worthwhile for a change, Me.
I soon discovered that keeping my office door closed prevents most of the staff coming in to speak to me unless they really need to, and when someone did actually knock to ask a question, or the phone rang I could deal with it quickly and then go back to my real job, my new job, of not working. Each morning on arrival I would spill folders and papers liberally across my desk, it was a large one so it took a lot of papers to fill it, I felt this gave the impression that I might actually be working, I would move the files and paper around a bit at intervals during the day so they looked like they were being used and the rest of my time launching myself in my new world as a single man.
Being at work and doing no work proved remarkably easy, I should have done it years ago.
Clearer on nothing other than the fact that I needed change I began devouring self-help books, one after another, on-line and in print, change your life in seven days, declutter your life, Eckhart Tolle, Seneca, you name them I read them, None of them helped in the slightest, but the mere fact that there were literally hundreds and hundreds in print and that they sold millions of copies each and every year helped me to understand that I was not the only screwed up person out there, there were millions of others.
Next I phone Syd, I want some kind of closure and part of that is to understand his and my wife’s affair,, she won’t talk to me about it in any detail, other than to admit to it. Beyond that she says that I’m really not ready to hear. This feels like a threat and just makes me want to know more. When did it start and how long had it being going on? How serious was it, was it a fuck or two and a fumble? His mobile goes straight to voicemail. I leave a message and ask him to call me, he doesn’t.
A couple of days later I call a second time, voice mail again and no reply.
The third time I ring I leave another message asking him to call me back, I add that I don’t want to shout at him or scream, just to have a conversation.
In reality I would like nothing more than to get all Neanderthal and punch the little shit house, but I’ve arthritis in my hands and I couldn’t even ’t even make a fist if wanted to, this galls me I have to say. But what to do?
Finally he rings me back, third time lucky.
So Syd, how long has it been going on? There’s a long silence, Man, he says and tuts, it’s just one of those things, it just kinda happened.
I hate him calling me Man & what the fuck does it ‘kind of happened’ mean exactly? I really want to get Caveman and punch him in the face, but it ain’t going to happen, I keep asking him when did it start Syd? Another long pause, Well, it was a while ago, Man.
I ask, again two years? Three? Longer? It was a while ago he says, does it really matter ?
Yes it does to me Syd, was it five years I ask? There’s another pause……….Maybe he replies.
At least now I know, however bad the news is at least I know – this has been going on for years. After the call I ruminate on the conversation & what I’ve learned. I think of a conversation years before with my wife, I remember it because I felt awful about myself afterwards & continued to feel the same way for yearts. You see she did a number on me as we both stood in the kitchen clearing up after a dinner, I said I was uncomfortable with Syd and her friendship, something about it didn’t feel right to me, she launched at me, said I was a horrible person for even thinking such a thing. How could you she said. he’s just not my type, we’re friends that’s all……for you to make anything out of it is just not fair.
So that was the last that was said of the matter and when it came to Syd I felt terrible for thinking badly of him and for having a moment of doubt about her, for questioning their friendship, she and the man that I would learn one day had been fucking her all the time.
Then comes another rumination:- My wife had screwed me over for Syd, now whilst I might just be the tiniest bit biased I saw Syd as a commitment phobic second rate musician past his prime that had once had a hit, sometime in the 1980’s (somebody else recorded it as Syd had the kind of face that really only worked for radio). He suffered with a skin complaint ( I think some reptilian sort of skin shedding syndrome) He was pigeon chested, short & skinny and if memory served me correctly had some form of learning disability . To top off the ensemble in his manner and speech he sounded and acted like a dodgy market stall trader from the wrong side of Billericay flogging nicked electrical products from the back of a rusty untaxed van.
There was only one stark conclusion to be drawn: My wife found him more attractive as a partner than me so what the bloody hell was I like?
More convinced than ever with my need for change I continued with meditation classes, which I continued to fail miserably at, I also started to write a blog, on some kind of level finding my own voice felt necessary,
I began to write about my feelings, my stumbling steps and my rather messed up life. I continued to see Loretta for massages and the fat tumbled from my body, she was very chuffed with the change, assuming that it was down to her diet plan for me, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that in reality the hideous diet she put me on was so vile I ditched it in two days, mung bean soup and tea made from twigs was just too horrible, but instead I found that I had lost my appetite, in fact I had to remind myself to eat regularly, this was what helped me lose weight and when I looked in the mirror I looked better for it, so I was happy with that. Best of all having I had been diagnosed as diabetic just a couple of months before, with rapid weight loss the diabetes went into remission and then disappeared all together.
Next I decided to join a dating web site, why not, I didn’t like being single, I hated waking up in an empty bed and I figured I might just replace her with someone else, or that maybe she might get jealous and come running back to me, either way I had nothing to lose.
I joined a well known dating web-site looking for a match, setting up my profile I decided honesty was the best policy. Be true I tell myself, no stories, be real, it’s 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 have to check in the mirror, then hair colour browny/black, obviously, but then I realise I’ve been grey for years.
The next section is appearance, three options, Very Attractive, Attractive, Average. again I go for the honesty, average. (There’s no very average option).
Then its 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 don’t know?
“I have for many years really enjoyed sitting in front of the telly every evening for four or five hours I have reached such Zen levels of concentration that I can sit for hours with only an occasional trip to the lavvie or the fridge. After this I generally like to go to bed. Where I snore for eight hours.
I suspect this may be a little limiting in attracting the opposite sex.
Instead I decide that it will be just as good to put down what I would like to do if I got off my arse, after all it’s almost the same thing. World Cinema I like World Cinema and it sounds pretty darned good, a bit deep, a bit intellectual, a bit sexy, yes stick with World Cinema, and the list goes on. I am in transpires spiritual, I like Yoga, never mind I’ve never really done any, 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 I’ve learnt more about the person I would like to be that I am certain is inside somewhere, it’s 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 it through.
I conclude that if I was a woman I would fall for me, oh that wife of mine, what a terrible mistake she had made. I press save and my details go live into the ether.
The dating site starts to kick in and I get lots of likes, really a lot of them, tally ho!
I settle after deliberation on a woman by the name of Leanne, 49, divorced, 5ft 6, with long brown hair and brown eyes, in her photos she is attractive, happy and smiling, she looks great.
She was looking for a man, 45-55, from 5ft 7 to 6ft 3, she sounded open and easy-going, she lived just up the road from me in Kensal Rise & worked in Artist Management, I had this feeling of lots of boxes being ticked on both sides. After bouncing a couple of mails & messages back and forth Leanne says she thinks we should talk and gives me her number, we arrange to speak at 12 midday on a Friday. I dial the number really not knowing what to expect, I’ve not been in the position of talking with a woman with the idea of dating since 1991, we spend an hour on the phone. We get on like a house on fire, it all goes amazingly well in fact over the phone and I can’t believe how easy it is to talk to her. Leanne explains says she is going away for the weekend but that she will get in touch next week. By Sunday morning she messages me back, she’s decided to come back early and would I like to go out on a date that evening. YES I reply.
We arrange to meet in a beer garden half way between our respective homes on Sunday evening. I decide in the meantime to spruce myself up, after all this is my first date in more than two decades. I head into the west end on Sunday morning with some old vouchers given to me for my birthday for Liberty. I realise I have lost the ability to do my own clothes shopping, its been years since I took any care of my own appearance, my ex usually bought clothes for me.
I arrive at Gents fragrances in Liberty, where the shelves are arrayed with tons of stuff I’ve never
– heard of, I pause at Acqua Di Parma, a scent my ex 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 firmly on the shelf, no I need something new.
The Assistant watches me wandering up and down the counters aimlessly, I can tell he’s seen my type before, the clueless type. After a while of watching me he sachets over. “Can I help you Sir?” You look like you need help.
I don’t know, I said, what would you recommend? He paused for a moment his face
took on air of resignation, as if to say here we go again.
“Does Sir like Leather or Citrus, or perhaps Woody?
What on earth was I supposed to say, Woody made me think of Toy Story, not aftershave.
” Listen I really haven’t any idea,I never really buy myself aftershave, can you suggest something? he looks up and down the aisles of arrayed bottles until his gaze settles on one particular spot. He walked towards it, pauses, turns back curls his index figure in a come hither fashion.
This one is amazing Sir, go on try it” says enthusiastically.
He wands my wrist fairy like with a dab of the bottles contents and issues clear instructions that I am to wait for a full minute before sniffing the scent.
His assent given with a nod I then inhale.
“I can’t smell anything” I say,
He replies: ”That’s it!” In an air of triumph. “It takes on your own pheromones and scents, YOU cannot smell it, it’s only other people who can.
I look at the price sticker £92 on a scent that I can’t smell for myself, am I off my rocker?
Five minutes later, the Emperor in his new clothes, or at least doused in his new scent leaves Liberty £92 lighter heading up Oxford Street towards Selfridges and St.Christophers place in search of clothes. An hour and a half later I am back in West London at the Barbers having a shave & trim. By eight pm I am showered dressed and re-scented and ready for my date, I head up the road and hit the pub on Harrow Road where we’ve arranged to meet, I get there twenty minutes early, I can’t stand being late. I stand at the bar & order a drink, all the time looking at my reflection in the mirror behind it checking myself out, I lean on the bar in a “manly” way, trying to
look a bit cool, a bit sexy, like a real man, I keep adjusting, fidgeting, impressions are important aren’t they? I shrug my shoulders, it is what it is, and take my drink and sit in the beer garden to wait for Leanne.
She has already told me over the phone that she had an accident wearing heels that were too high the week before and so has one leg in plaster to the knee and is on crutches. This comment I see as a double edged sword, on the one hand I am it has to be said a sucker for a woman in heels, on the other could it mean that she is a boozer and falls over a lot? She tells me over the phone beforehand that she hopes I don’t mind being seen with an old gal wobbling around on crutches” The Old Gal phrase disturbed me, but then I knew what she looked like from the photos didn’t I?
In need of a little Dutch courage I sink my first drink and get another in quickly, returning to the Beer Garden. The evening is drawing in and the light begins to fade but it’s July and comfortable.
Then I heard the clutter of crutches on paving stones and turn to see Leanne bearing down on my table, I rise to greet her we say our hellos and she says she would like iced white wine which I soon return with.
We talk as easily as we had done on the phone, I catch myself looking at her body, I try not to be obvious. The evening goes pleasantly, the talk likewise is easy and uncomplicated. The time goes so quickly that by the time we think about food the bar kitchen has closed for the night. Theres a little Thai place close by the pub which locals know, cheap and cheerful but with good food, so we headed there. It’s one of those places that is good value, but not a posh joint, lit by neon strip lights it wasn’t exactly romantic, but hey we were hungry.
We take a table and sit opposite each other, under the bright lights I can see her clearly, I notice that her eyes are different, then realise one is false. Not once during dinner do I ask her about it, or does she mention it, though I don’t have a problem with her eye, nevertheless it strikes me as faintly ridiculous that neither of us mention not even once.
After dinner I walk her part of the way back home until we reach a point where we are both heading in opposite directions, we pause and I thank her for a pleasant evening and for her company, we lean in for what I assume is going to be a West London Goodbye, where one cheek is air kissed after the other.
You smell amazing she says, I’ve wanted to tell you all evening. Whilst I’m thinking what a good move my trip to Liberty was she lunges forward and plants a pair of lipsticked red lips on top of mine, her tongue follows swiftly behind them. Not expecting an oral invasion I pull back abruptly. An awkward silence follows and I apologise.
We part on jolly terms with some loose talk about meeting again. I know of course this will not be happening. I make my way the short distance home down Ladbroke Grove and as I walk I realise that this is only the beginning of a much longer journey.