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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/


One wedding and a wardrobe February 13, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends, Single London, Thirtynumbthing.

‘So lets get this straight’, I said to one of my oldest friends with whom I was having dinner (Entree in Clapham – go for the venison with a Malbec), ‘We’ve spent the last two hours talking about random shit, including our respective man-flu and mid-life crises, QPR’s home form, you going for a 72 hour round trip job interview to China and how you thought Facebook had been started by Bill Gates, but you forgot to tell me that since I saw you three months ago you got married?’.

– I thought I’d told you?

– No. You hadn’t told me. Now the wedding ring on your finger makes more sense than it did earlier

It is refreshing there are still, in this blighted age of cuts and austerity, friends whom never fail to deliver 24 karat surprises. Even more so as earlier in the evening I’d asked about the whereabouts of his partner and how things had been going in his relationship. ‘She’s gone on holiday to India with a girlfriend of hers’, he replied, ‘We get on much better when we’re not together. I enjoy the peace and quiet.’ Hardly a good prognosis for a new couple, let alone a marriage.

I asked what happened to the wedding that was supposed to be happening at a villa in the South of France, the one that sounded like a scene from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. ‘All too complicated, expensive and too many rows’, he said. So it was decided to do something very low key, just immediate family. ‘How was it?’ I asked. ‘Horrific’ he replied.

– ‘Her father doesn’t approve that I’m not Jewish or converting to the faith. He even wanted me to be circumcised’

– ‘Well, I think we’d all support him on that one’

And so there we were, the Saturday before Valentines, two professional men for whom our numerous relationships have never delivered a chequered flag but a chequered past, enjoying a romantic dinner for two in a high-end French restaurant to the sounds of live dinner jazz in the background, sniffling with colds, pondering our own insanity and that of the opposite sex, surprised at his turn of events and my making the decision the best thing we could do with our evening is go to a bar and drink heavily.

The poor sod. He looked genuinely shellshocked at how his situation had changed so rapidly. Once the man about town, he’d been, hung, drawn and neutered. Life used to be a lot simpler. We’d go to these same bars a decade or so ago in a pack, but that pack is dispersed in pram pushing duties and the money once expended on Saturday night is now saved for school fees and people carriers – or in his case toward shoes and handbags. ‘She’s obsessed!’, he said, ‘And I’m not allowed to buy anything for myself”.

He had to be virtually dragged to a bar, reluctant because of the noise, complaining he was too old for this and visibly flinched in horror- to the comment of queueing strangers who witnessed it – when I turned from the bar and didn’t hand him the vodka and lemonade he’d requested, but a Jagerbomb. Several more followed and we smoked fags, reflected upon old times and current predicaments and agreed it was essential we did this more often for mutual support. All until it came for me to think about getting the last train home to West Byfleet.

– ‘I would suggest you stay at mine’, he said, ‘But I’m afraid I can only offer you the sofa’.

– ‘What happened to your spare bedroom?’

– ‘She made me turn it into a walk-in wardrobe’

With that I depaerted, comforted by the realisation the only woman presently in my life is ‘The Bulgairan’ who visits no more than once and week and her demands rarely exceed more than a new mop and a bottle of Harpic.

This column first appeared as Thirtynumbthing