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Je Nicorette Rien April 29, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London, Thirtynumbthing.
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The other morning, on my way to work, I was just a whisker away from being run over by a Nicorette delivery van. It was my fault as I was actually attempting to light a cigarette at the time so the irony hasn’t escaped me and I wondered if perhaps this is a way of thinning out the numbers for those of us whom still prefer a puff to a patch. 

Such near-death experiences are a good cause for contemplation about life and how brief and fleeting it all is. My initial reaction when faced with such compelling evidence at the frailty if not of humanity then certainly your truly was to quit my job, sell the house and decamp at once to Las Vegas to eke out my final years enjoying the infinite possibilities to be had in a Cohiba and cocktail haze staring at flashing lights and pestering showgirls.

Yet, that will have to wait, perhaps until next year at the earliest. The present isn’t just about self-preservation, but self-improvement because I’m actually doing my best to fight the ageing process and remain attractive to the opposite sex. What any Thirtynumbthing will tell you is that we are extremely conscious that time is running out. Maybe not our mortal time, but to find someone left who would make a decent partner in daylight, but also that own physical marketability is if not quite on the wane, but coming quite close to its sell-by date.  Meanwhile friends who did precisely bugger all in their twenties then settled down with wives and kids now spend all they free time running, swimming and cycling as far away from their domestic responsibilities as is possible,

It takes only a long shift during the working week and then an idle weekend (these invariably consist of a messy Friday in town with dubious characters and colleagues; a Saturday of Anadin, regret and Sky Sports and and a hearty pub roast and a decent Malbec to round of Sunday) and one can actually feel a girth developing and the lines around eyes setting in to the extent that if you put a stylus in them they’d play the first few bars of ‘Who’s Sorry Now’. There comes a stage where it is all too easy to give up, accept it as fate and one actually finds oneself contemplating for the first time, with no hint of irony, maybe now is the time to invest in a sports car?

A Permanent Partner

A futile gesture in this direction is a weekly visit to a personal trainer. I started seeing James about five years ago when he was only 21 and we’ve been together ever since. If you think that sounds like I’m talking about a relationship that’s no coincidence: I’ve never been with anyone else that long, he’s constantly on my case and, in the absence of a permanent partner, I have someone to argue bitterly with, be a source of constant disappointment to and irritate the hell out of due to my wayward antics. At the same time, I do like and respect him though not sure James would always say the same about me though we both agree that my name won’t be causing too much debate among the selectors for Team GB at London 2012.

There are certain rituals to be observed. Firstly we always start amiably and check each others mood so we know what boundaries we will be working within (there was one session conducted in smouldering silence after we’d both overstepped the mark in each other’s eyes – he by making me exert myself after an excellent weekend and me by throwing an unsavoury tantrum as a result) Second, sessions now commence only after my car keys have been handed over. This is to prevent repeats of an unfortunate lapse on my part saying I needed to go to the loo and promptly did a flit.

Our sessions mostly consist of him telling me what ‘we’ are going to do, him then telling me to do it and me trying to come up with some unfathomable reason why I do not consider this to be possible. The fact that he is younger, stronger and more intimidating than I am and that I have already paid him at the same time as handing over the car keys mean inevitably relent. There follows numerous periods of rolling around on a mat in my own sweat, cursing, panting and making threats that make me look like I’m auditioning for the role of the possessed little girl in a remake of The Exorcist.

One trick he’s also picked up on is when I take a moment to consult him on a matter of nutrition or wellbeing: ‘So what are you eating at the moment? What would you say would be a good breakfast for me tomorrow?’ Impressed at my inquisitiveness he’ll go off down a merry path on the merits of mackerel and kale before the penny drops and my nod and wink gives away that I’ve just stolen a minute. That never goes down well and is repaid in equal measure.

Not that James is always entirely correct, especially when it comes to his penchant for motivational mantras and my aversion to the sound bite. Online one evening I spotted he used the medium of his widely followed Twitter feed as a celebrity personal trainer to state: An active mind never worked in an inactive body’ to which I replied immediately ‘I would like to see you say that on live  national television to Stephen Hawking’. Maybe not a victory for me in the long run, but at least I finally got some points on the board.

In masochistic fashion there’s something in all this because if you actually stop moaning and procrastinating it actually works. There are periods, sometimes stretching for a month where the pendulum swings toward protein based breakfasts, early nights, regular gym sessions and even James admitting he is impressed with my dedication and fitness levels. He even tweeted about me once. The trouble with every working pendulum it does, have a horrible tendency to swing back in the other direction and does so in spectacular fashion. This could be triggered by anything: work, holiday, sunshine, rain, a woman, a man (or a bunch of them), a good QPR result, a bad QPR result, QPR not playing or near death by Nicorette van. It’s just a case of enjoying it while it lasts, dealing with it and when you find yourself again thinking you need a sports car to remain appealing to the opposite sex we’ll try anything – except triathlon.

This post was first published as a Thirtynumbthing column at Blokey.com


This is ground control…please confirm your position April 23, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London, Thirtynumbthing.
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Last week a friend consulted me on a man problem she was having and immediately I tensed up. She’d been seeing a chap; late thirties who works in the media and it had all been going extremely well. Over cocktails, she talked about how they’d shared a giddy couple of months, his charm, idiosyncrasies, but also his inability to accept his age and ‘settle down’, then, apparently, the fellow became evasive and then simply just fell off the radar.

“Isn’t it odd?” She asked, “I mean how a man can just suddenly become so detached?”

“Actually, I think you’ve just given a flawless description of myself,” and then added with a caveat, in case I got a Long Island ice tea tipped over my head, “…and any single man of that age.”

There should be a self-help group – others may say internment camp – for Thirtynumbthings, though I do wonder if we are a lost cause altogether. Certainly we are a source of constant frustration and bewilderment to the opposite sex, especially during The Ashes, yet we approach each new endeavour with the best intentions that, despite all evidence to the contrary, we aren’t merely hopeless, but hopelessly romantic. We just can’t find ‘The One’.

The truth is – if we haven’t by now we probably never will. There will almost always be something not quite right, something that rises to the surface that niggles, that we know we can’t live with for the rest of our lives. That’s unless she’s a Perfect Ten – the Rourke’s Drift of relationships – in which case we’ve been known to overlook and endure anything, including everything always being our fault and with disastrous consequences.

Alarm bells

My last brief relationship was brought to a juddering halt thanks to Raoul Moat. Before you jump to conclusions that she was taken out in a rampage, it was simply a case of her not knowing who Raoul Moat was. There had been doubts already, but the alarm bells rang when I described someone as looking like a “young Raoul Moat”, and she asked, “Who’s he?”

“You know,” I said, “the guy that was all over the news for weeks last summer, killer on the loose, a nation gripped, spawned sicko admirers on Facebook prompting outrage. Raoul Moat!” Still she looked at me blankly. It occurred to me that while the rest of Britain was in fear of this testosterone-fuelled psychopath who’d gone into hiding armed to the teeth, she’s the only person who’d have invited him in for a cup of tea. “I don’t really follow the news,” she said nonchalantly, “We can’t all be as informed as you.” matter-of-factly dismissing my Moat complex.

I mean, I don’t expect to date Kofi Annan, but she still found time to know what was going on in Heat magazine. Well that was it and quickly it began to fester. What if we went out with my friends and some other highly topical individual cropped up in passing and she said, “Who?” (come to think of it Martin Scorsese elicited the same question, meanwhile I noted she had at least two Danny Dyer DVDs in her collection). The next day in the office I was going up to anyone who couldn’t get away in time asking, “Do you know who Raoul Moat is?” just to be sure. Combined with her penchant for Tesco Value olive oil and a tendency to lick my face in public, I was out. I, too, fell off the radar.

She called after it ended to ask where it had all gone wrong. I did what any man does when asked to give a straightforward and honest answer – I gave an evasive and dishonest one. There were mutterings about lack of time, work and that maybe we just don’t have enough in common. What could you do, say, “I agree it had been going well, but this Raoul Moat thing?”

It would have sounded deranged, especially as I’d also exhibited some weak character traits that would be enough to justifiably end the relationship – such as bolting out of Le Pont de la Tour mid-conversation when a friend called from Fratton Park to say QPR had just been awarded a last-minute penalty (hardly the image Conran had in mind when he thought of his ideal clientèle).


Actually, as the latest ex and I talked she agreed it was for the best. The above sort of behaviour and lack of commitment was apparent and I got a lecture that sounded familiar to any other Thirtynumbthing. It reminded me of an email a friend (the one from who now suddenly finds himself married by mistake) received from a girl informing him his services were no longer required.

It opened with the line, “Do you practice at being useless or was it something they taught you at school?” Then followed a tirade, questioning every facet of his poor character and psychological flaws that was brutal, damning, beautifully written and completely accurate. He was most put out, but everyone who read it agreed entirely with her assessment and one or two speculated whether she had gone far enough. After all, she only had a glimpse of the brushwork, God knows what she’d have written if she could’ve seen whole canvas.

None of this, of course, was any comfort to the friend I was having drinks with. She has impeccable wit, conversation, gravitas and excellent taste in olive oil (she concurred on this point). It could just be that women have a far better grasp on reality and, while we don’t practice it, some of us are just better at being useless than others.

First published at Blokely.com http://blokely.com/life/thirtynumbthing-this-is-ground-control-to-thirtynumbthing/

Delays, pomodoro sauce and near death by Nicorette – a week in commuting April 6, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Suburbia.
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The other day whilst smoking a cigarette en route to work I was just a whisker away from being knocked down and killed by a Nicorette delivery van. Maybe this is their new way of tackling the smoking problem. You certainly won’t get me joining the other smokers on the maiden flight of Air Nicorette, not on your nelly. It’d be like Flight 93 only in the face of being wiped out in a pre-planned crash you can bet the collective war cry of ‘Lets roll’ from the smokers on board will not be to take the cockpit but to share round the Cutter’s Choice.

For years people have reminded me of the fatal dangers of smoking but here’s proof that a man  is in equal danger from the preferred method of giving up. The irony hasn’t been lost on me especially as I was just crossing the road opposite the Old Vic to get a revitalising morning carrot juice from Pret.

It all adds to the monotonous merry-go-round life and death experience that is commuting. Yesterday was so bad on a delayed train staring out at the drizzle that I showed typical stoicism and English stiff upper lip by dumping my bag at my desk and booking the first available flight to Marbella for Friday.

This evening was no better due to a suicide at Surbiton (and who could blame them, probably a Spurs fan to compound matters) meaning trains were non-existent and the concourse at Waterloo looked like a scene from Schindler’s List. Chaos. In the absence of anything but a single train out of town it should come down to compassion and valour: women, children and PR men first.

Rather than loiter with discontent the best thing to do in these situations is to decamp to the nearest decent restaurant, order two lavish courses, an above average bottle of wine and get the book out, people watch and indulge as much as is possible in the circumstances. There will, of course, be absolutely no change upon returning to Waterloo but its infinitely preferable to having your ankles bashed by commuters with pull handle cases (possibly the most unpleasant and irritating invention of the last century and I include the atom bomb in that), being approached for change from the same Scouser half-a-dozen times and working ones way through the a la carte menu at Upper Crust.

I’d have gone back stayed on the office sofa had I not got pomodoro sauce on my new shirt. Apart from free wi-fi and a choice of loos, sleeping in the office has one major advantage for the suburban worker and that is the attraction of a ten second commute to one’s desk. Tonight it was three and a half hours after leaving the office before I finally got to cross the home threshold and even then I was looking over my shoulders for anything coming toward me at speed bearing a Nicorette logo.

The only positive to come out of all this was from a friend who called me not much later at 10pm. He’d just woken up, showered, changed and readied himself to make his own morning journey to work before realsinig it was just only an hour after he’d nodded off after drinking two bottles of red. Seldom after a week like mine is there cause to feel there is someone worse off than yourself, but he made me feel like I was living in a benign age of enlightenment compared to his situation. Goodnight or, in his case, good morning.