Toby-hunting

Being a school-night, I’d given myself plenty of time to get home, put away the chickens (yes, I’d given Dorothea a present of a play-mate. She was a little ungrateful at first, giving Lysistrata the same treatment as Wimbledon Man, but by the next morning, they were friends for life – however long that was – give or take a few feathers) and wind down before hitting the sack.

But sleep seemed an unattainable goal that night. Over the course of an evening, everything had changed. Such is the nature of being single. Life is much more predictable when you are in a relationship. Clearly, it was all over with The Dude, which was sad, but expected. I felt the relationship was ambling towards a dead-end, but while I stopped to admire some flowers, it started hurtling at break-neck speed towards that brick wall.

And then there was titian Toby. I kept replaying our brief meeting . . . he took me by the hand and complimented my back dimples. I complimented his hair . . . I made the mistake of mentioning Mick Hucknall and he visibly prickled so I apologised. Turned out he didn’t like Mr Hucknall and he felt stereotyped by my faux pas. But we continued to chat and agreed that the trilby-wearing black guy playing ‘original blues’ who was the backdrop to our conversation, was indeed an amazing musician. I returned to The Dude but Toby and I were sitting close enough to each other to snatch the occasional interchange.

Then he left.

And I didn’t notice.

I left . . . and I passed him as he stood on the pavement with his friends.

And then I realised how stupid I’d been . . . he hadn’t left the pub – he’d gone outside to smoke! I thought he was rude, for chatting me up and leaving without a word, but I was the rude one, for leaving without a word! This was simultaneously wonderful and catastrophic. Now I had more reasons for sleep to evade me but at some point, my mind gave way to sleep because at 6am my alarm went off and I woke up.

The Dude had sent me some long messages, telling me it was all over, which I didn’t really expect. I mean, I knew it was over from the disastrous date, but I figured it was a given. He hadn’t noticed that another man had chatted me up – he had plenty of other reasons which were all really the same reason, that I didn’t love him. Only he didn’t say it just like that; they were wrapped up in an array of insults. I didn’t love him, but I’d never claimed to do so, so I felt it was a moot point. He told me not to contact him again, so I put my phone away and went to work.

I didn’t intend shouting from the rooftops about Toby, but I did. I told my colleagues that I’d met my lobster and they were pleased for me. Then I told them that I went and lost him and they sympathised. They advised me to return to the same pub that night, being sure to wear a back-dimples-revealing top, so I did.

Alone.

He wasn’t there, so I went back the next night . . . and the next night, until I felt I needed reinforcements. So friends started to accompany me to the folky pub, but there were some nights when I had to brave it alone. I couldn’t afford the time or the money to go there every night, but I made sure I was there on Sundays, for Open Mic night, because it was a great evening of free entertainment in a very cool pub and of course, because I’d met Toby on a Sunday. I was usually on my own, as it was a school night and it was difficult to persuade friends to support my cause on a school night.

It became like a local for me; the bar staff even began charging me ‘local’ prices and one night the amazing, trilby-wearing black guy who played ‘original blues’ came over and asked me when I was singing. I said I’d love to, but I could only play the piano to accompany myself. He offered to teach me how to play the guitar, we exchanged numbers and became good friends. I had to make it clear to him of course, just to avoid any confusion, my initial reason for my regular attendance in the folky pub.

But I still hadn’t found him . . .

A Bit of a Dude

I met The Dude in the centre of town on a particularly warm spring day. I was a little disappointed because he was such a scruff, but we went for a coffee anyway and in fact, it all went very well. It was not unlike a movie date, where you find yourselves constantly hitting on common ground. Because we enjoyed chatting about books, movies and music so much, and because we were loving the long-awaited arrival of the sun, we ordered more coffee and then I found myself physically unable to stop talking, because my body is Ninja-trained to expect just one cup of coffee per day. But The Dude didn’t seem to mind . . . in fact, roundabout early evening, when I was wondering what to do with my evening, he texted and asked if a second date in one day would be too much? I guess not, because I was on the next bus into town and that was the start of a lovely relationship.

We went to see local bands (folky, jazzy, punky) . . . We went to the movies (cool indie movies in half-empty Bohemian cinemas) . . . We had an all-round great time for about a month. Then it all got a bit serious and there was a bit of jealousy and I started to wonder if I wanted this in my life. But anyway, there was an Open Mic night I wanted to check out in a folky sort of pub, so we arranged to meet up there. Weirdly, he’d brought his friend. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it hadn’t been for a couple of things: firstly, there had been tension between us, because he wasn’t happy that I had gone to London to meet up with a male friend. So I suggested the Sunday night sojourn to the folky pub, in order to help the wounds in his male ego to heal. Secondly, he hadn’t told me, let alone run it past me, about his friend, who, by the way, was a complete nerd. Intelligent, but socially clueless. I felt sorry for him, actually – clearly The Dude was using him and he was blissfully unaware of this fact.

So the music started and it did not disappoint. We were sitting, for this strange, tension-filled, awkward date with three people in attendance, at a small square table right in front of the Open Mic, like an odd island of anger in a sea of fun.

The Dude chatted to Friend while I watched the music, then when The Dude went to the bar, Friend and I chatted, about Star Trek mostly and which series was actually a truer representation of what Gene Roddenberry would have liked. I started to wonder if I was a nerd, too, but I would have noticed the awkwardness of the 3-way date situation, so I reassured myself that I was merely a Trekker. Friend did not go to the bar at all, because he was so socially inept that he didn’t even get rounds.


Then something changed everything. Apologies to any friends or family reading this, because you’ve heard this story too many times already, so skip to my next blog post.

I noticed movement on the floor, to my left. I looked down and there was a hand, waving at me. I slowly leaned round the crowd of people that was obscuring the owner of the hand from my sight and there was an arm attached to the hand, which belonged to a man sitting on the end of a bench on the next table. With his hand, he beckoned me and then put the hand out for me to take and because he was the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my life, I allowed myself to be led over to where he was sitting.

He was tall, slim and with thick, shoulder-length, dark red hair. His name was Toby and he told me that my back dimples (I was wearing a cropped top) were the sexiest thing he’d ever seen. We chatted and I fell completely in love with him. (I’ve researched this, guys: it takes just 4 minutes of gazing into each other’s eyes to fall in love. So Jerry Herman was right when he wrote the song, It Only Takes a Moment, for the musical Hello Dolly.) Eventually, I returned to The Dude, because that was the right thing to do but Toby and I still chatted when big crowds of people weren’t in the way and clearly, he was as interested in me as I was in him.

Then I got lost in the music and at some point Toby left because I became aware of a silence to my left where once there had been happy noise. I made my excuses to The Dude and left. On the pavement, outside the pub, was Toby plus friends, obviously deciding where else to go. I was disappointed to say the least and a little baffled, but put it down to experience and went home.

Ah … you thought it was the end, but checked anyway! More on Toby in good time … 

The Italian

That first morning after the return from the Alps is always the hardest, I feel. Looking out of the window back in the UK, you can’t help missing the craggy, snow-capped horizon and there really isn’t anything like the cold mountain air filling your nostrils, your lungs, your mind. But my timing is strategic; I choose the very end of the season, so on my return, everything is warmer but most importantly, temperatures and people.

I collected the various animals from their various abodes for the week (there is definitely a gap in the market for a magical, as yet mythical place that looks after ANY animal – how wonderful it would be to have them all under one roof) and tried to get back to normality. I have a good friend who loves Dorothea, but if anyone is considering keeping chickens, it can be difficult to get them looked after for the week. As it was, I had to transport her hen house, so the poor bird had to travel in a borrowed butcher’s van . . . bad enough for me, being vegetarian, but I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her, with the more-than-faint aroma of ill-fated chickens who had passed on under violent and bloody circumstances.

Back to Tinder then and date number two with The Italian. He was late and it was a nippy evening, so I almost called it a night, but then I noticed a smiling, long-legged chap bounding toward me. Just wow.

‘Sorry sorry sorry!’ he apologised, with the dulcet, lilting tones you’d expect from a beautiful Italian man.

I didn’t actually reply for a moment, I was so struck by his beauty. Late? Was he? I hadn’t noticed.

We went for a drink and he liked to talk, so I did a lot of listening. I like to talk, but I was seriously struggling to comprehend most of his words. Like many people I know with heavy accents, he spoke at a rate of knots but with passion, so agreeing or disagreeing with anything was dangerous territory.

I did understand a few things though, like the fact that he was a Buddhist, a vegetarian and ate raw food all the time. He had a cute, black, peaked cap that he wore at a jaunty angle and I couldn’t help laughing when he removed it, as it had been hiding a completely shaved head. Nothing wrong with that, except that he was a hairdresser . . .

We met up again and ate at an Italian restaurant, which I found strange, as I thought he only ate raw food, but there we are. I let him choose, being Italian, and it was, without doubt, the most delectable Italian meal I have ever tasted. I was tuning in to his accent and understanding a lot more, but actually finding that it was hard to be a part of the conversation.

We met up one more time down on the boardwalk and I had come to the conclusion that our relationship was platonic, which was fine. He was, indeed, beautiful, but quite hard work, to be honest and clearly not even slightly romantically inclined toward me. I dropped him home after our date and he asked if I’d like to see his Buddhist altar. I felt I knew him by this time and as there was no romance and I was quite interested to see what a Buddhist altar looked like, I parked up and followed him into his abode.

He held the door open for me and I think I caught a glimpse of an altar (maybe it was Buddhist – who knows? I’ve never seen one) before the light mysteriously disappeared and he was closer to me than he had ever been on any of our ‘dates’. I have to hand it to him – he was smooth. And definitely interested in more than friendship! But I wasn’t and fortunately I had seen where the light-switch was and while he fumbled with me, I fumbled for the light-switch to reveal a look of shock on his face. Rejection must be hard when you are unaccustomed to it but maybe it was a lesson for him. A lesson for me too: ‘Buddhist altar’ is clearly a euphemism.

 

 

The Holiday

Skiing holidays are very clever. You get to all enjoy all the sinful pleasures of being on holiday (I’m talking food and drink here) without feeling guilty because you’re burning it all off on the slopes the next day! And if you stay in a chalet, as I always do, you won’t want to leave the chalet in the evening because of the lure of unlimited wine. And it’s a struggle to move, anyway, after the three-course meal which you eat even before you’ve properly digested afternoon tea which always comprises a different home-made cake everyday. Although it is true that afternoon tea can cause dissension amongst the troops whilst out skiing, as there are always those die-hard skiers who want to bash the mountain until the lifts have stopped, who put to shame those who like their creature comforts (or afternoon tea, anyway) and can’t stop fantasising about being warm and dry whilst necking tea and scoffing cake from about 3.30pm onwards.

But anyway, I digress. The skiing was a welcome break from the dramas back in the UK. I treated myself to a private lesson halfway through the week and learnt from the instructor where to buy hollow ski poles that you can fill with alcohol. I also learnt, on a separate occasion, that if you fall whilst off-piste and your ski becomes detached from your boot a long time before you come to a standstill (or a sitstill, if that word exists), and you lie in the snow, sobbing, for long enough, a man will help you, eventually. It was all going just fine and dandy until my son appeared from nowhere, having sidestepped all the way back to me, without my noticing (I was too busy fake-sobbing into the snow) and exposed my tears as crocodile tears. Which was fair enough, really, because they were and I could have climbed back up to get my ski, probably in half the time it took him to make his way back up to me. And he’s a fast skier, so he’d sidestepped for quite some time before reaching me. In my defence, it had been a long day and I was a little preoccupied with thoughts of French apple cake.


So, back to the Tinder updates . . . I found myself having Tinder conversations with 3 potentials whilst in the Alps. One was actually Wimbledon Man, wanting to put the whole scene from The Birds behind us and start over. Another was one that my friends had drunkenly chosen on my behalf, the night before departure, declaring he looked ‘like a bit of a dude’ and the last was a tall, stunning Italian. I kept ‘play-time’ on Tinder to a minimum whilst away and decided I would arrange a date or 3 on my return . . .

The week gathered momentum around Day 3 and it was all wrapped up far too quickly. Chalet holidays are bitter-sweet; I can’t really think of any other experience that is similar. You become so close to your fellow chalet-dwellers that they become like family to you. You see each other first thing in the morning, bleary-eyed, half-dressed in salopettes with the braces dangling, padding around in ridiculously bright ski socks . . . after a day’s skiing when you’re dripping with sweat and slush and full of tall stories . . . then finally at dinner, when you actually get to know each other and everyone smells nice once again. Then the week is over and you say goodbye, with promises of staying in touch but the reality is that you probably won’t see each other again.

Tough.

The Journey


Tinder is a game. I have no doubt that some lasting matches have arisen from it, but for those of us who have emerged from the Tinder experience single, it is difficult to view it in any other way. You get ‘rewarded’ for getting matches, which encourages you to ‘like’ people, because obviously you increase your chances of matches then. But you only want to ‘like’ people you actually like, so you have to ‘play’ more so you actually find people you like.

So, I weaned myself off it until some friends came round and were intrigued enough to make me want to show them my new toy. One of them said, ‘hey – how about we choose for you?’ It was one of those drunken suggestions that seems like a laugh and indeed it was . . . They sat either side of me and hooted with laughter whilst randomly selecting unlikely men. I was going on a therapeutic skiing holiday the next day and so I went off to the Alps armed with a whole new set of Tinder matches.

My journey to the Alps was one of the worst journeys in the history of journeys. Ok, I’m not including those of intrepid explorers like Captain Oates or the entire crew plus passengers on board the Titanic, but in terms of reaching holiday destinations, it was pretty horrific.

It started badly when the taxi was late. Now, the taxi company I used was pretty much at the end of my road. I waited till the due time, then called to hassle them and they still took 10 minutes to arrive, even though it is about a minute’s drive away. Now, I was not in the best of moods by the time he arrived but bizarrely, he was in a worse mood! No tip for Mr Taxi Driver then. So, we arrived at Brighton Station and in my naïveté, I thought it would be open. At least, I thought it would be open by 3.50, when my train was due to leave but no, it opens at 4am. This is good to know for future reference. No matter what time you book your train for, if it’s the small hours, it won’t leave till some time after 4 even though they have this whole selection of fancy times on the website.

So, there we were, my daughter and I, in town at around 3.30 am on a Friday night, being jostled at the locked gates of Brighton Station. I felt like I was in one of those movie scenes where you have to share a cell with a bunch of hardened criminals and you’re the goody goody who shouldn’t be there because it’s all a mistake . . . Or a zombie movie where the undead are clamouring at the conveniently locked gates. The second analogy is more fitting, given the drunken state and vacant looks of most of the would-be passengers. Silently (lest I should burden Rhiannon with my fears) I concerned myself over the likelihood of any of these reprobates sharing our train. I hoped that, like zombies, they were merely drawn to the gates because they were locked.

My thoughts, descending into increasing negativity by the second, were interrupted as the gates creaked open. The openness of Brighton Station was most welcome as we scattered and left the drunken contingency of the crowd at the gate to stagger slowly and aimlessly.

A few of the zombies made it onto our train, so we moved carriages and as zombies are not known for their cerebral prowess, we managed to outsmart them and shake them off. The train stopped at every possible stop plus a few more. The journey was so long that I think some new places actually popped up in the suburbs along the way. Finally, we reached Waterloo, only to discover that my son’s coach had been delayed . . . We waited . . . And waited . . . And then he arrived with a few minutes to spare.

And breathe. We arrived at Paris with one hour to cross the city to board the train to the Alps. This sounded easy but was not . . . After nearly falling off the (incredibly slow) Metro in my haste to board it, we finally threw ourselves onto the snow train literally seconds before it departed.

Surely we could relax now, I hear you say! Well, we did, but we still had one final leg of the journey. The bus from the train station to Tignes. Which was fine, until it arrived in Tignes. Just somewhere in Tignes. Now, it was getting dark by this time and we’d had our quota of stress for one year, and we were tired . . . And hungry, so this was not ideal. We wandered around for a bit, with luggage in tow, then spotted a small shop in the distance, about to close. I spluttered some French, failed to understand his reply, but the children took note of his arm gestures and so we managed to wend our weary way to our home for the week and everything became worthwhile. I took my phone out and what should greet me but 3 Tinder notifications . . .

Foray into Tinder

So, Christmas came and went, children returned to uni, I returned to work and Tinder mysteriously appeared, downloaded, on my iPad.

Well! After a spell on Tinder, I told so many people that I could write a book about it, that the least I could do was write a blog about it, so here goes . . .

I waited until January 11th. Hubby had announced his unexpected departure on November 11th and I promised myself that I would give him 2 months to change his mind, after which time I would draw a metaphorical line under our relationship and move on. He had said, too, that maybe he just needed ‘a break of a couple of months’.

Anyway, back to the slightly sinister world of internet dating!

I started ‘liking’ random faces of random men on my iPad, not once considering that they were anything more than 2D images on my tablet. The 2D images started ‘liking’ back and I started getting cheesy rewards of wobbly hearts with announcements that I had matches. It still seemed like a game . . . which is what Tinder wants, I believe, on the grounds that once you get a match, it asks you if you want to ‘continue playing’. Then the 2D images started to message me and I found myself having conversations with them . . . I wondered if they, too, considered me to be nothing more than a 2D image and how many females they were chatting to, besides me.

After some interesting conversations, such as whether or not I had the physique for nude hiking in Southern France (that conversation was wiped and the match unmatched), I had my first Tinder date with Wimbledon Man. The following is entirely true; I could not improve upon this account if I tried.

We met in town and he seemed nice enough. We’d chatted a lot on Tinder and become friends on Facebook and a concerned friend had insisted that I inform her of my whereabouts for the duration of the date. So, after careful consideration I came to the conclusion that I could invite him back to my place for dinner.

It was an unusually warm evening and as Dorothea (my newly acquired chicken – long story involving my daughter, her housemate, his friends and a farm) hadn’t been out of her run all day, I suggested we sat in the garden, sipping red wine, watching my big, fat, white chicken frolic.

So there was Wimbledon Man, sitting in my garden, sipping red wine, looking rather dashing in his light cotton trousers . . . There was Dorothea, boc-boccing around at his feet and there was me, walking over to join them. Wimbledon Man smiled and nodded in the direction of the hen house, on top of which my glass of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon sat, looking ready to round off a lovely first date. I approached the hen house, stretched my arm to collect my glass and heard the most terrible sound I have ever heard. I spun round to the source of the noise and like a scene from The Birds, there was my beautiful chicken, levitating near Wimbledon Man’s shoulder, emitting a noise that a chicken could surely not emit. His arms were curved around his head, in a protective position, as she was managing to attempt an attack on him whilst making the terrible, alien sound.

I leapt forward to help, glass in hand, but unfortunately, wine did not stay in glass and within seconds of the ambush by Dorothea, poor Wimbledon Man’s light cotton trousers bore the stain of a whole glass of red wine. Dorothea was returned to her run, to have a good, long, hard think about her behaviour and we went inside. After I attempted to mop up the stain, Wimbledon Man sat down, finally, to enjoy his wine. I put some music on and went to join him on the sofa, only to be greeted with the scene of the dog humping Wimbledon Man’s leg . . .

So that was Wimbledon Man. Rusty’s penchant for sex with random strangers’ legs knows no bounds so his opinion is not to be trusted (and I’d hazard a guess he rather liked him, based on that) but Dorothea became my judge and jury from that moment on. If she didn’t like him, neither did I . . .

Life

My husband announced that he was leaving me completely unexpectedly.

So, I retired to my son’s room (my son is at uni, as is my daughter . . . in fact, she was weeks into her first year when this happened. Empty nest syndrome is seriously painful when compounded with one’s husband leaving) and cried.

Then I remembered that I was running a Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-play club (at my school) for the first time the following day, with which my (soon-to-be-ex) husband had promised to help me.

So, I emerged from the room of tears to request the latest edition of the hardback book associated with this cult and forced myself to ask which pages would be most helpful to me. I tried (ok, I didn’t try very hard) not to cry on said pages but I admit I left a few teary bumps on some pictures of wizards and the like.

And at some point I went to sleep and went to work the following day . . . and the next day . . . until finally we were told that Ofsted were going to pay us a visit! Woo hoo! So, that came and went and took my mind off things for a while and literally, as the last car containing the last inspector zoomed off-site, I began to feel seriously ill.

And I continued to feel seriously ill for the next two weeks. I didn’t really want to eat anyway, but in-between hubby leaving and Ofsted arriving, I had, at least, wanted lager and Maltesers. But now . . . nothing. I lost my sense of taste too, to the extent that chocolate was like cardboard and wine like vinegar. (You will note that I was paying particular attention to the important food groups during this time.)

Days off-sick always sound appealing when you’re healthy and at work, but when you are actually very ill and living on your own, you start to feel trapped in a grey cloud of doom. Which is how I felt when I took the decision to return to work, even though I didn’t actually feel any better. But fate had other ideas and in the middle of the night before my intended return to work, when my cough was rendering me sleepless and exhausted and the cat was wrongfooted (wrongpawed . . ?) by the sudden disturbance to her bed which was, in fact, my chest, I managed to find myself a lump. Yes, a lump. Alone, in the dark, in a room that is starting to show signs of mildew (hubby and I moved three weeks before his unexpected departure) some things seem like the end of the world.

I did return to work two days later. A stone lighter but with a mild case of depression and sense of impending doom. Everyone was full of Christmas spirit, so I did my best and then found out two weeks later that the lump was harmless. Then the children returned home from uni and it was Christmas and I counted my blessings.

Watch this space for New Year 2015 and the foray into Tinder . . .