Part One: Nice Bag
It’s about 8 o’clock on a Wednesday in November in Manchester. It’s cold, wet and miserable, like a forgotten cup of tea, or the nose of a sad dog. The late autumn winds shake the last of the leaves from their tenacious purchases on spindly trees and into the windscreens of passing motorists.
I am on the bus to work, snug in my coat-that’s-a-bit-too-tight-for-me which I bought to make people take me more seriously. Fang Island are playing on my iPod, if you’re interested. We’ve pulled up in a village near Oldham to pick up another glut of morning commuters.
An impossibly pretty girl gets on the bus.
This isn’t the first time she’s taken this route, and this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed her. It is, however, the first time in a while I’ve felt that giddy leap of excitement your innards do when you see someone you have feelings for, even if, in this case, they’re fledgeling emotions largely based on appearance and conjecture. I rarely get this kind of sensation, and when I do I misdiagnose it as hiccups or an approaching vomit session, which is why this time I am going to capitalise on it.
I – a socially awkward gump – am going to talk to her – a pretty girl. This can only go well…
More lecherous gentlemen than I would be quick to attribute a numeric value to women’s attractiveness, but in this case I will concede for the sake of accuracy; she’s about eighteen Susans.1
However; unlike popular R&B tosspot Akon, I can describe this girl without being disrespectful because I am literate.2
She’s small and slight; a wisp of a girl who stands awkwardly, demurely. Her deep brown eyes peep from behind a tawny, tumbledown fringe; her tousled hair done up in a loose bun gives her a nonchalant, bohemian air; a devil-may-care appearance which is a welcome relief from the immaculate, make-up-caked try-too-hards of today.3
Or, if you like, she looks like an even-prettier Kristen Wiig.
As well as ripped jeans and battered casual footwear, she is wearing a hoodie, emblazoned with the name of a local University, and has withdrawn her hands inside its sleeves to keep them from the cold, with only her fingertips protruding to turn the pages of the Metro. I find this ludicrously endearing. Additionally, if she’s wearing a University hoodie then logic suggests that she must be at least eighteen, which means that I haven’t accidentally committed a horrific crime.
She has caught my eye not merely because of her unconventional good looks. Whilst I stuff alternative music up my earholes, I’ve noticed she spends the bus journey absorbing the world via the Metro, a free newspaper for commuters, then with the day’s events digested, she often opts instead for a thick slab of young-adult literature, taken from a rather snazzy bag, festooned in an illustrated pattern and with a little penguin keyring dangling from the zip. I don’t recognise her book of choice; part of me was hoping she’d be reading romantic classics or a philosophical novel, or even something I’m into, but in this day and age, I am simply thankful she’s not reading anything that might be classified as ‘Dark Romance’. Ugh.
I infer from this that she’s inquisitive and informed, and yet has an imagination; a girl who likes to get lost in a story, perhaps has a keen interest in the written word, and maybe has a creative streak. She could even be a misunderstood genius! I’ll understand you, darlin’. Huh huh huh. Dirty jokes aside though, she seems like she might be my cup of tea. And I love tea.
And then the inevitable happens and the evil part of my brain starts nudging me, reminding me of past failures, and of what happens whenever I talk to a pretty girl.4 ‘Have you learnt nothing?’ the devil’s advocate lobe seems to say. However will I pluck up the courage to even speak to this angel?
I resolve to get off the bus when she does and talk to her, but what to say? There’s still forty minutes of journey in which to decide; I’ll open with a compliment, then progress from there, but I need a nicety that will imply I haven’t judged her solely on her appearance, which is true – I haven’t – in fact I wrote two paragraphs on it. Can’t you read?
Equally, I need something that will lead on to a conversation. If only I’d remembered the name of her book! Or had read the Metro myself! We might have a story to discuss. I could make it up, I suppose, but that would be dishonest. And I’d definitely get it wrong and look like a fool. This is a fact – I’ve seen sitcoms.
Perhaps I could remark on her ‘style’: she has chosen to ‘wear her personality’ if you will, via the medium of some shoes and a bag, all of which are patterned with illustrated characters. Illustration is part of what I do as a designer, and… er… I like characters. We could get quite the conversation out of this, but I still need the right line.
‘Nice shoes’ is right out of the window, because it is traditionally followed by ‘Wanna fuck?’ and that would give totally the wrong impression, and besides, laddish behaviour really isn’t my game. Our first conversation must not cause her to think of smut, especially not at 8:50 on a Wednesday morning.
I could compliment her on her ’nice penguin’ but not only does this imply that I’ve been looking at her far too closely, (true to be fair), but, like the shoe example, it also might be misconstrued as a euphemism. ‘Look at the penguin on that…’5
No, it will have to be the bag, if anything. But even that is so strange as an opening line… I must think of something better…
Forty minutes later I’ve got nothing. As we enter Manchester city centre, she has already stood up and is waiting by the doors. Something about her tells me that she won’t disembark until the vehicle has come to a complete stop. Health & Safety conscious; that’s my girl.
The bus pulls up and she’s off first. Stepping briskly down the bus in her wake, I exit too, saying ‘Cheers’ to the driver, even though he has actually done quite a substandard job of driving us all to work, and shouldn’t be rewarded with encouragement in case he becomes complacent, but there’s no time to think about that now.
Another few strides and I’ve caught up with her, and fallen into step; near enough for her to hear me if I say something but not close enough so that it’s invasive. She must know that I respect her personal space, even if that will result in shouting, which might actually be more alarming, come to think of it…
Christ, should I say something? I read somewhere that ladies are meant to be flattered by interest even if it isn’t reciprocated, and that they wish men would talk to them more,6 but that can’t be true, surely? Do I say ‘excuse me?’ Should I cough? Or tap her on the shoulder? Does this not qualify as premeditated assault? She’s going to think I’m a hideous stalker or something…
No, I think to myself. This is exactly the kind of thing I should be doing more often. I will compliment her and wing it from there. I take a deep breath and open my mouth to speak, just as she veers away to the right and crosses the road.
‘Nice bag’ I say, to the air.
The air says nothing because it is the air, and because it does not have a bag.
I become conscious of the morning commuters eyeing me suspiciously. I pretend I was going to the Co-op and walk towards it, furious at myself. In my blind anger I buy a loaf of bread. At work I have six rounds of toast. They all taste like failure.
Failure on toast.
Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester
Part 2: Deep Thoughts Over Toast
Throughout the morning I replay the earlier events in my head. Despite this setback, I resolve to talk to her. As I said, I’ve noticed this girl a few times now, and have already formed quite the unhealthy attachment to her. In my head we’re already married. She looked so beautiful on our wedding day… Ah, memories…7
But in order for this to happen, I will need to first talk to her. The ancient Chinese Philosopher and all-round wise man Lao-Tzu once said ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’ but that was before buses were invented, clearly, so this sage advice is out-of-date and useless. I think I need an opening line…
No, that will never do. I need a better idea, and fast.
I have about seven weeks left at my current address, after which I will no longer use this bus service, and will never see her again. Seven weeks to make first contact and establish enough of a connection for meet-ups to be suitable.
Or more accurately, fourteen days.
See that’s the thing; I’ve noticed she only takes the bus on Wednesdays and Fridays, presumably as this is when she has early lectures. I have simply observed two facts; the two days a week I see her and a University hoodie she wears, and drawn a fairly logical conclusion. I hate this, because it makes me look and feel like a sexual predator.
How lonely do you have to be before ‘sexual predator’ becomes your default personality trait? How long does it take for all normal flirtatious behaviour to fade away, leaving only an unsettling weirdness and desperate gaze, at best unsettling and at worst criminally threatening? Have I crossed that line?
For those who don’t know, I have been proper-single for a period of time delicately classed as ‘a while’, and haven’t actively flirted for ‘ages’. It feels great to have this kind of feeling again, even at this most basic (and largely superficial) of levels, but where on earth do I go from here?
From my first impressions, she’s the kind of girl that ought to be cared for. She seems shy and coy, something I find quite attractive as a quality, although I know it’s incredibly bad for me. During deep conversations with my friend Dan we’ve discussed how it really is the personality that makes a girl a ‘keeper’; more than anything else in a relationship, I want a best friend; someone who’s not only going to laugh at my caustic jokes and relentless puns, but will gleefully join in. Whoever she is, I want her to enrich my life, not simply be an accessory.
From my experience, shy ladies require a lot more effort to attract, and are often completely inscrutable. Try as you might, you just can’t scrute ‘em. It takes a lot longer to know whether or not you feel ‘that way’ about them, and while I’m doing horrible sweeping generalisations; the same is true for men as well. Fun people are just easier to love.8
My noxious over-thinking aside, I would still like to get to know her. I have no friends in this town, and the (largely imagined) qualities I admire in her make her good ‘friend material’ if nothing else. It would be good for me, I think, to at least try flirting again, and this is quite a good opportunity to do it; if it goes well, it needn’t get so deep that either of us get hurt when it ends, (and it will end) and if she has a boyfriend, or it goes badly – even if it goes so badly I get a court summons and a restraining order – I need only avoid her by getting a different bus and being deliberately late for work two days a week. I’m sure my boss will understand. Not that he’s a sex pest with first hand experience of cease-and-desist letters or anything, just that he’s a swell guy who won’t mind my possibly necessary lateness. He’s definitely clean. As far as I know anyway. I’m going to stop now.
Is it wise to pursue a relationship in this town? 9 My contract will be up in three months, (sooner if my boss reads the last paragraph) and I have a new job lined up in London, about 200 miles away. Is this enough time to build up a relationship – of any kind, romantic or platonic – with anyone, enough that it can stand that distance?
If I’m going to talk to her I ought to do it as soon as possible, but equally I’ve got to be confident when it happens – there’ll be no second chance, there simply isn’t time. I’ve got to have the correct mindset, and why only put off til tomorrow what you can put off til next week?10
Finally, there’s the issue of any contact between us – positive or overwhelmingly negative – affecting our daily commutes. I don’t want to make a scene, and I don’t want to impinge her freedom by making her want to avoid me. If we do speak, I must make it clear that I won’t be bothering her continuously – it’s a one-time shot, and if she’s not interested, I won’t pursue her.
Once again I’m obsessing over negatives, but what if it goes well? Whether we become friends or something more, either way I’m giving up two hours of me-time a week to talk to her, possibly more. I have become reliant on a bit of upbeat music to get me going in the mornings, and as I have to be awake at 6:30 to be in work for 9:00, I need all the tunes I can get. What if this young lady is not as invigorating as a good punk-rock album? Will she affect my performance at work? Is this even a problem!?11
A sharp ping interrupts my reverie, and about time too – it was starting to get silly. That sound denotes the arrival on an email. I flick it open. It’s from my boss.
‘Are you going to eat toast all day or are you going to finish that pitch document?’
Bugger. She’s already started.
Part 3: Swordfish & Fences
It’s Friday, and as usual I sit in trepidation, or a seat if you want to be literal about it. I feel confident today; I woke up refreshed for once, early enough to enjoy a delicious hot beverage and a slice of toast before I left the house, so the day is already off to a good start. Fortune is smiling on me today, I can feel it. This makes me even more nervous.
Today I have read the Metro myself in preparation, searching for a newsworthy item that I can use as an opener, making a witty and/or insightful comment on it, initiating conversation and showing that I am both witty and/or insightful. Who doesn’t love a man who is witty and/or insightful? No-one, that’s who. This issue will give me my ‘in’…
There is an excellent pictorial article about a swordfish. Specifically, a shoal of fish out-swam a shark, only to have one of their number gored by the business-end of the stiletto knife of the sea. Lord knows what a cameraman was doing there, but I’m not complaining. This could well provide the opening line that starts a beautiful relationship…
However, I must be very careful about my choice of words. Today’s Metro also features two double-suicides and a horrific traffic accident. Being too vague will end in contempt and scorn, and possibly a conviction of hate crime;
‘Did you see that picture? Brilliant isn’t it?’
‘You are a sick man.’
But the swordfish can swivel, because overleaf is the perfect opener. A real humdinger of a story:
Page eleven has a splash-spread on the most recent evictee of ITV’s flagship Saturday night entertainment show. This itself is totally uninteresting, not least because I don’t watch that crap, but nestled in the bottom-left corner, below a large image of Gary Barlow’s ankles are seventy-nine words of absolute gold.
Fence Factor has a clear winner
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the winner of Fence Factor has been announced. The proud owner of Britain’s best fence is farmer Gary Harrison from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and it offers a spectacular view of the field behind his house. Mr. Harrison, 37, beat 50 other fence owners to win what was dubbed the ‘most boring competition ever’. He said: ‘I knew there was something different about my fence.’
After a bit or research, I can tell you that the thing that was different about Gary’s fence was that he’d put some patio doors in it. The fact that the Metro doesn’t mention this adds to the charm and cements Gary’s landmark victory.12
Anyway, I have made up my mind. I am going to talk to her today and I am going to say; ‘Did you read the one about the fence?’
I admit, this isn’t the best opener, but this is such a bizarre thing to say that I hope she’ll be momentarily non-plussed, giving me the opportunity to explain, thus introducing myself;
‘Did you read the one about the fence?’
‘Page eleven, here. This bloke’s won what’s being widely described as ‘The Most Boring Competition Ever’. There was something ‘different’ about this fence.’
‘Oh yeah. [Impossible cute giggle, I imagine.]’
‘Sorry, I’m Chris by the way.’
‘I probably have a name too.’
‘Hey, I don’t normally do this, but I’ve noticed you on the bus now and again, do you want to grab a coffee sometime?’
‘WHAT!? What do you think this is, Friends? Fuck off! And take your fence with you! Help! Police! Police! This guy is harassing me! Help! Somebody, for the love of God, taser this wanker!’
Or maybe that won’t happen. Either way, I will definitely say ‘hi’ first, just to make sure she knows I’m not a mental.13
The bus is filling up, and bus-girl’s stop is fast approaching. I glance around the bus at the usual characters. Star-Wars-Novel-Man is reading a Star Wars novel. Tiny-Woman is staring into the middle distance. Goth-Boy-at-least-I-think-it’s-a-boy listens to some overly-dramatic pop-punk on his iPod (probably), whilst next to him, Glamorous-Business-Woman, leafs through her own Metro and plans her Apprentice-style putdowns for that morning’s power-brunch. In a seat of his own, the Weird-Gnome-Bloke is eyeballing nipples in the Daily Star.
With only one stop to go there are two seats left; next to me and, over the aisle, next to a middle-aged woman. The bus pulls alongside her, and my heart jolts, reminiscent of a schooldays crush. She alights, shows her pass to the driver, daintily picks up a copy of the Metro and glances shyly around, making only the briefest flickers of eye contact, assessing the limited number of seats available to her.
I don’t really believe in ‘love at first sight’, but she might, so maybe it’s best to stare directly at her as much as possible. She glances my way. For a split second we make eye contact. I give her my best winning smile.14 Everything is going according to plan…
She sits next to the middle-aged lady.
Of course she does.
Even so, she is still right there, less than two meters away! There’s nothing from stopping me from talking to her now! Apart from common courtesy, basic politeness, and the overbearing cloud of fear, shame and public disapproval. Society frowns upon talking on public transport, and there is some society on this bus, just waiting for a good frowning opportunity to arise. Also, if my amazing opening line is going to work, I have to wait for her to have read the same article. I can’t just wait for her to catch a mere glimpse of the paper and shout ‘FENCE AN’ THAT, YEAH?’ in her ear.
I keep stealing glances to chart my lady’s progress through the column inches, ready to make good my introduction. I am conscious that these furtive looks might me look like a dangerous predator, so I keep them as short as possible to arouse suspicion. I then reason that this probably has the opposite effect, and add a few blinks and weird ocular motions to make any concerned observers think I have an eye infection. Better conjunctivitis than a lecherous peeper. You can quote me on that.
And then… Disaster! She skips right over the page with the fence story on! She must have seen Gary Barlow’s self-satisfied gurn and turned the page! She has taste! She’s amazing!
As one Gary gave me a romantic opportunity, another Gary has taken it away; such is life. That said, for this, and for so much else, fuck you Gary.15 This is all your fault.
As the bus once again nears the City Centre, she packs her Metro and book away. With no-one in her way she’s on her feet and bus-surfing before I’ve even had the chance to sling my bag over my shoulder and appear nonchalant.
A crowd apart, we disembark. As I increase my speed, my nerves keep pace. I can still begin conversation, if only I can fall into step once again! I could even steer the topic onto the fence competition, because as anecdotes go that really is a belter.
Alas. She’s across the road and into the foot-traffic of the morning commute. I nearly do that thing they do in films where they slow down and stop, calling after their companion in a dramatically futile way, but there are people around who would happily judge me, and also I don’t know her name, and shouting ‘FENCE?’ would be social death. I go to work.
Part 4: Dan
It is Thursday evening, and I am chatting to my bestest friend and ex-flatmate Dan on Skype. I love Dan. He is brilliant.16
After graduating together this year, we are discussing our futures; specifically moving to Bristol together, writing a sitcom and all the other things we will never actually do. Naturally all this talk of hollow dreams doomed to failure leads directly to my love life.
‘So how about you?’ he asks politely, ‘Any young ladies threatening to potentially hover on the horizon?’ He knows me very well.
‘Well last night I dreamt I was hanging out with my ex and her friends, she kissed me a bit and then put a flowerpot on her head and declared herself to be a robot.’
‘Right. You need to sexually assault someone by the next time we talk, or at least make something up, because this just isn’t good enough.’17
It is with this kind of support that I hope to one day successfully woo a pretty lady.
‘Actually, there is something. Or someone. There’s a pretty girl on my bus who’s quite nice…’
Twenty minutes later he knows as much as you do.
‘I really want you to talk to her,’ says he. ‘It’d be good for you to open up to a relationship.’
‘I agree,’ I agreed, ‘but it’s easier said than done.’ Dan goes on to say many lovely things about me, and my confidence bolstered I promise to take the plunge and start a conversation with this girl. After all, he says, I have little to lose. We have no connection, so I’m not gambling a friendship to win a relationship, and even if it goes badly, at least I can get a blog out of it.
Dan is the biggest fan of my blog/diary/ramble/confession/whatever it is, which is why he mentioned it just then.18
‘Ah…’ I begin, ‘I’ve already started…’
‘Brilliant!’ he exclaims, proving what I just said about him being a big fan.
‘No,’ I refute. ‘Not brilliant. A bit weird to be honest. I hope to God she never sees this.’
‘Yeah, if you do get together, you can never show her this.’
‘Agreed. Imagine that as a marriage proposal; ‘I loved you from the minute I first saw you and here’s 8,000 words to prove it. Some of them may be about a fence competition.’
‘How are you going to write a blog about a girl you’ve never spoken to? Do you even know her name?’
‘Of course not, Dan, that would require speaking to her. Or going through her bins. And I’m not doing that. I don’t know where she lives. And even if I did I still wouldn’t go through her bins. So shut up Dan.’
‘Are you going to give her one?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘A name. In the blog, are you going to give her a name?’
‘No. What if I’m accidentally right? What if I call her Emily and that’s her real name? I will look like a sex criminal.’
‘Well how about a cute nickname?’
‘Her hair is a sort of toffee-blonde colour, what if I call her Treacle?’
‘Well I’m out of ideas.’
‘You’re out of ideas after one go?’
I steer the conversation away; ‘I’m probably going to blog about this too, Dan, because it’ll be the funniest and least awkward part of the whole story.’
‘Wouldn’t that be repulsively self-referential?’
From this, Dan and I go on to chat about post-modernism in comedy, and sign off a few minutes later, promising to give flirting a go, and to chronicle my anxieties a bit more. But I will talk to her. Whichever way it goes, I can’t really lose.
On the other hand, she can’t really win. She can either be the subject of an obsessive, obscure and deeply, deeply worrying blog post or she can become romantically involved with me. No girl should ever have to make that choice.
Part 5 – Thanks
It is Friday. Today is as good an opportunity as any.
As per usual, I am nervous for twenty minutes. As per usual, she embarks at her stop. As per usual she doesn’t sit anywhere near me.
Forty minutes later and it’s still business as usual. She has read the Metro and a few pages of her book, and has put them back in her bag ready to disembark. As we pull into the city I get the usual butterflies; this is the nearest we ever get to a connection, even if it is does mainly involve getting off a bus and walking across a road. Same old, same old.
But I’m wrong. Today is different. She is at the mercy of events beyond her control. She won’t be able to flee my well-intentioned advances, even if she wants to.
She’s penned into her seat by a tubby woman.
No one is sitting next to me, (can’t imagine why) which gives me the opportunity to time my cool, nonchalant bus exit in time with the beautiful bus girl’s, thus ensuring proximity. As the she-walrus rises so do I, and as she waddles off I am able to walk up next to the young lady’s seat, as she too stands up to disembark.
Oh my God. This is it. This is the moment I’ve been
dreading waiting for. She is immediately behind me, about a foot away, out of her seat, waiting for the bus to come to a halt. I sway with the movement of the bus, trying not to breathe in. If she smells distinctive I will have to put it in the blog and I will look like a dirty weirdo ladysniffer.
I estimate I have about twenty seconds to make first contact. I try to catch her eye, but also glance around the bus and out of the window for good measure, lest anyone think I am staring. This probably only serves to make me look even more like a sex pest. She keeps her gaze firmly away from anywhere I could be looking. I do nothing.
The bus pulls up and I exit, noting the quiver in my voice as I offer the driver his obligatory ‘cheers’. I turn left, glancing behind me to see that she’s waited for several people on the stairs to pass in front of her, the kind and generous she-bastard.
In the darkest part of my brain, some horrible synapses snap into connection. It all falls into place now. She saw me catch her eye the first time, marked me down as a creepy stalker paedo and deliberately avoided my lecherous gaze ever since, cleverly timing her disembarks to escape just this situation. She hates me! No – that attitude gets me nowhere. Today things change.
As she steps off, I dawdle, messing with my iPhone. Arms in her hoodie-pocket, face wrapped in a scarf against the wind, she ambles past me, towards her presumed early lecture.19
I have to do this now. I might never get this opportunity again. I speed up until I am behind her. I fall into step. I forget that I have nothing to say. Something latent inside me asserts itself. I open my mouth to speak, but I panic.
‘Nice bag,’ I blurt.
‘Thanks.’ is her alarmed reply.
She crosses the road.
1 The Prettiness Scale That I Just Thought Of is measured in Susans, a unit derived thusly: At one end, Susan Boyle, who – like Martin Luther King – had a dream once, but – unlike Martin Luther King – will not be thanked for it, and at the other end, Susan Coffey; a lady so beautiful it’s actively depressing. The numerical values are completely arbitrary.
2 Akon, if you’re reading this, try harder.
3 I remember once seeing a girl so orange it was a traffic safety hazard. I nearly went over and told her she looked ridiculous but I didn’t in case she was either very insecure or had a vitamin deficiency.
4 It ranges from ‘disaster’ to ‘mild inconvenience’ but it’s off-putting all the same.
5 It’s not really my story to tell, but my very good friend Joe works in a cinema, and once sold tickets to the mother of a young man with stuffed toy penguins in his shirt pockets. Joe remarked ‘I like your penguins’, to which the boy shied away behind his mother, who prompted him; ‘what do you say to the nice man?’ The young man peeped out from his hiding place to shout ‘MY PENGUINS ARE AMAZING!’ If I ever have a child I hope they’ll be half as awesome as this kid.
6 Who is this woman who speaks for all womankind? Was she elected by popular ballot or did she assume command via a military coup? Bah, I’ll never understand women…
7 This is a joke: I am not a crazy. I’m a commitment-ophobe like every other bloody bloke.
8 Christ, what a tosser I am.
9 The name Manchester comes in part from the Latin, Mamucia meaning ‘Land of the Breast-like Hills.’ I kid you not. If I’m going to meet a girl anywhere, it might as well be in Tit Valley.
10 I put the ‘pro’ in ‘procrastination’. Ba-dum-tsh!
11 On an totally unrelated note, an old friend once remarked that I go looking for problems to prevent myself becoming vulnerable. A welcome insight, but she had funny knees, so she can shut up.
12 Seriously, well done. I like a good fence.
13 Said the anxiety blogger…
14 The nice one, not the one that looks like a racist cartoon from the 50’s.
15 Barlow. Not Fenceman.
16 Not everyone is a fan of Dan. A fellow named Lucas has written a (since deleted) blog detailing a personal vendetta against my chum, which is largely based on the fact that Dan is seeing a girl that this guy has an unhealthy fixation over – an unhealthy fixation which apparently counts for nothing, as he’s getting his end away into someone else by the very next blog post. At least when I do unhealthy fixations, I do them properly.
Some particular highlights of his blog included; a misspelled self-description of being a ‘mildly amusing TV’, some unfortunate self-absorption and selfishness as he forces his bleeding heart into the hands of a girl and the eyes of any unfortunate readers, and two sentences he has since edited which once said ‘She gave me a dinosaur called Percy and a book of beards. I will treasure them forever.’ I think I might get that tattooed.
UPDATE: I’ve since met him and he’s alright.
17 Just to clarify – Dan is very definitely joking here.
18 Dan, I know you’re reading this. BIG SHOUT-OUT!
19 Never presume. To presume makes a press out of u and me.