Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Hello all. I am super-busy with work at the minute, and am likely to remain so for a while, so busy that I am unable to respond to comments from up to four posts back. (Not so busy as to not write a post, eh Mr. Busybiscuits?)

In the meantime, I have prepared this; the post I did about Facebook was a moderately popular one, so here’s another highlight from my personal social archive. It concerns the time I met and did some work for arguably popular British R&B sensation Lemar. It was quite sensational. He’s a sensation. Sensation. Yeah.

If you don’t know who Lemar is, good. The ironic lack of celebrity will make it funnier.

If you look at the bottom, you will notice Comedy Terence showing up two days late with the wrong end of the stick, devoid of grammar, laughing at his own joke, and spelling the key word wrong. As per usual. That man is a stand-up, ladies and gentleman. I realise I haven’t written very much about him, so this ‘as per usual’ schtick is largely ephemeral, but you get the gist.

Anyway, I hope you appreciate this lazy bit of filler candid sneak peak into what minor celebrities get up to, with specific reference to urination. Enjoy, and I’ll get back to you all hopefully this week.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

The Social Nitwit

OR An Uncomfortable Journey of Self-Re-Discovery Along Facebook Timeline

OR The Well of Self-Hatred Never Runs Dry

A Blast From Your PastI have recently been forced on a walk down memory lane, taken an unsolicited journey of self discovery, and suffered a deeply personal history enema. That last metaphor is one of mine. I wonder if it’ll catch on?

If you’re blissfully unaware, the social networking giant Facebook has forced all its peons into a regimented new system. Some people are born with Timeline, some people achieve Timeline, and some people have Timeline foisted upon them. I am of the latter subset, and we’re all quite annoyed about it. We’re the upset subset.

Those for whom Social Networking is a fun, active pastime will already have jumped at the chance to have a big splash picture accompanying their head-in-a-square, but for the rest of us (the Resistant, the Hesitant and the Uninterested) Facebook Timeline is now the best option out of a choice of one. For someone who is depicted to be the face at the forefront of the future,1 Zuckerberg seems to be obsessed with the past – specifically that time a few months ago before Faceberg went public and everyone could see exactly how financially ramshackle it is.2

Zuckerbook’s newest bright ideaTM charts your history on the site, as well as extending deep into the past to your birth, or if your parents are a particular type of Facebucker, your conception. It’s intent was presumably to provide users with a personal history book, celebrating their life’s achievements and zeniths and witty statuses and offering a nostalgic stream of highlights: your very own Greatest Hits record.

What it actually is is a perfect time-capsule of your lowest lows and most public failures.

I’m on Facebook, and I can just about stand it. I’ve avoided many of the archetypal Social Lepers that plague the site.3 I have my own uses for the network; my favourite thing about social networking is that it allows me to add a numeric value to my popularity and measure it accordingly.4

Now, however, I am confronted with all my past misdeeds, evidence of arseholery and endless, increasingly demoralizing photographs of my own nauseating face. According to the Grand Exulted Overlord Zuckerberg and all his little wizards, I had until August the 8th to systematically delete all that I’m ashamed of, which is everything.5

Through extensive research into the last five years, I have discovered that I am an astronomical prick.6

To be honest, I suspected this already, but I’ve learned that it’s true for for an entirely different set of reasons than previously thought. I’ve had to sit down and ask myself some very serious questions:

  • Why is past-me such a prat?
  • When did I stop being such a prat?
  • Will future-me look back at this in five years time and think that present-me is a prat? (Definitely.)
  • Is there anything I can do to quell the righteous self-hatred of future-me in advance?
  • Does voicing these thoughts make me look as mental as I think it does?
  • Is future-me a delusional mental prat too?

***

Anyway, you didn’t come here to read my witterings – you came here for salacious secrets and uncomfortable truths.7 Without further ado; may I present what I believe is my first proper blog-list:

Uncomfortable Truths and Lessons Learnt About Myself due to Obligatory Facebook Timeline

  • I joined Facebook to play a pirate game with my friend Paul. That game has escalated into a hideous social networking beast that I am unable to slay. I am not a pirate and neither is he, so on top of that, it was futile.
  • Apparently, a relationship, however farcical, is a more important life event than meeting all but two of my best friends, living with said best friends, going to university, winning an award for my design work and meeting four of my heroes. A relationship is on par with being born.
  • I was at one point deemed worthy of a relationship.
  • I can now calculate precisely how long said relationships lasted for, and judge myself accordingly.
  • My last girlfriend has managed to delete our existence as a Facebook-Official couple long before I had timeline forced on me. This is annoying because I wanted to do it.
  • Alcohol does horrible things to me. (Refer to previous point.)
  • I only learned to spell/communicate without resorting to slang in 2008, or maybe I was bring ironic. Irony does not age well, and I look like a moron.
  • I twice did those bullrubbish cryptic statuses that don’t mean anything. Fortunately no one cared.
  • I cared about my old band for much longer than was necessary or welcome.
  • The flyers that I designed for bands five years ago are so depressingly untalented that I deserve to be disemboweled, or at least sacked.
  • McDonalds warrants a status update.
  • It snows occasionally, and I recorded it for posterity. Nobody else ever does this so it’s a good job I did.
  • I have only been funny since April 2010. Thanks to FB, my first joke told to the public is preserved for posterity. Unfortunately, it is topical, so it is no longer funny.8
    Here it is. It concerns the run-up to the last British general election. Gordon Brown was the Prime Minister Incumbent and ‘The Mirror’ is a particularly unethical tabloid rag.

The First Time I Tried to be Funny

  • In 2010, I thought this was funny:

I'm Hilarious

  • I still think that’s funny. I’m bringing it back.9
  • In February 2011 I went to an art exhibition so shit it became a ‘life event’.
  • Best Friend Dan and I had an impromptu hat making competition in honour of the Royal Wedding in April 2011. Mine was three feet tall and had a paper Will and Kate and a banner saying ‘Eee! It’s a Right Royal Wedding Celebration Hat’ on it and a tiny crown on a stick as its centrepiece. It was a hat so awesome it had it’s own hat. Dan’s was a plastic sandwich carton with some penlids in it stuck to his head with tape. I do not regret this at all.
  • In late 2010 I spent four consecutive nights chronicling the adventures of the homeless people who camped in the band stand in the park over the road from my flat. They would do a lot of drugs and sing Lady Gaga and Bohemian Rhapsody til 3am. One of them shat in another’s sleeping bag.
  • I have dreadful posture.
  • I have dreadful haircuts.
  • I have dreadful fashion sense.
  • I have dreadful taste in everything.
  • I am pathetic and have achieved nothing.

Thanks a lot, Zuckerballs.


1 Because Justin Timberlake said so, and as we all know, The Social Network was 100% accurate.

2 Can you smell that satire? It smells good doesn’t it. Want to come back to my place and take a sideways look at the week’s news?

3 Here’s a checklist: the Excitable Superfan, the Activist, the Evangelist, da GramMMartick CRimmiNul, the Over-Sharer, the Promoter, The Self-Fetishist, The Passive-Aggressive Problem Child, the Comedian LOL, the Fundamentally Unstable Relationship, the 24-Hour Party Person, the Chest-Exhibitor, the Twat, etc. Please comment and add your own!

4 ‘If the numbers go up, you’re having more fun!’ – Calvin off of Calvin & Hobbes.

5 I could leave, but I don’t hate Facebook nearly half as much as I do Twitter, and anyway, how else would I show all my nemeses and ex-girlfriends that I’M DOING FINE.

6 Not literally – an astronomical prick would be hideous. It probably is a constellation though…

7 Unless the opposite is true, in which case you’re about to be sorely disappointed.

8 This is another sample of satire, however, it is two years old. Satire does not age well. It still smells, but now it smells like a stale trump. Or Donald, as he’s known to his friends. HELLO! We’re back in the game!

9 I’m also bringing back the phrase ‘bringing it back’.

Dinner For One

The world of culinary delights is vast, well populated and infinitely wondrous. If I had to come down on one side, I would say that I am pro-food, and that everyone should have as much as they like, especially if they’re hungry.

If I may paraphrase the great Douglas Adams;

When all the questions of space, time, matter and the nature of being have been resolved, only one question remains: Where shall we have dinner?

I like to cook for others; when I lived with Best Friend Dan we would make sure we made time to have Wednesday night off and I would make a spicy meaty pasta dish from scratch, with crisps on top, and homemade ice cream and we would watch stand-up comedy and thriller films and eat ourselves sick. They were some of the best nights ever.

However, there comes a time when one must fend for oneself, and only for oneself. If you’re like me, that time is all the time.

The amount of times I’ve been dining out alone, writing in a notepad to convince people who aren’t interested that I’m a restaurant critic and thus have a reason to be there, ruining the atmosphere and spoiling their night is, frankly, none. Why leave the house? I read an article about a man who proposed to his girlfriend and was publicly humiliated when she rejected him, but he had to sit and eat his steak because he’d paid so much for it. She took hers to-go.

***

One of the semi-tragic benefits of being fundamentally lonely is that whilst you won’t be sharing your mealtimes with a loved one, making pleasant small talk about the days events or what’s on telly, you will be able to relive the whole experience verbatim the next night when you eat the other half of your dish, with an additional aftertaste of microwaves and shame.

Your diet will hold out for as long as your pride, but there will come a point when it isn’t really worth putting effort in, as no-one will be impressed anyway. This is the tipping point; it’s very easy to give up and settle for quick fixes and things the come in plastic trays. A cheeky pizza or takeaway is an indulgence for a couple, or group of two-or-more friends1 but for one it’s a bit tragic. It says ‘I have given up on me. I do not deserve my own effort. I will eat this, not because it is tasty, but so that I can survive to see if things get better.’

Eventually you may grow to resent the process of cooking, opting instead for the quick and painless microwave dinner or similar meal for one, just to avoid being seemingly judged by your saucepans. This in turn may spill over into seeing every aspect of a meal as a failed test of companionship. It never goes quite as far as writing ‘PATHETIC’ in alphabet spaghetti, but I have caught myself staring forlornly at the plate like it’s done me a personal injustice.

The ultimate question is whether any dish, and the preparation thereof is a suitable metaphor for apathy, whatever the cause. Either way, I’m in trouble, as some of my favourite dishes are self-indulgence; macaroni cheese bagels, for example, or peanut-butter beans.2 

The self-scan areas of supermarkets have been a godsend for people like me who have to endure the admonishing gaze of scorn or pity from cashiers. A machine won’t judge me as I zip a microwave meal across it’s laser and straight into an opaque bag, lest anyone see. I make sure to thank the robot for its discretion as I pay. ‘Thank you, Discretion Robot.’ I say. It receives my platitudes coldly, telling me to take my change and sod off.

One of the first signs of madness must surely be personifying inanimate objects, and another still must be the feeling of being negatively judged by them3 but with all things considered, a microwavable dinner for one need not be a metaphor for your failings. You just need to make the meal look more miserable than you.

Macaroni Cheese Bagels

BWAAAAH!


1 I’m making it sound like Twister.

2 A recipe via Musical Adam: for a sublimely self-indulgent meal, thwack a glob of peanut butter in a pan of baked beans and cook. Enjoy this new goop over toast or a hot sausage roll. Add cheese to taste.

3 I assume that these are two signs of madness. I don’t want to look in case the first sign of madness is looking up what the first signs of madness are.

International Relations

Last night I spoke on the phone to Best Friend Dan.

Dan: …So, how’s the blog going?

Me: Well you could read it, then you’d know.

‘Sounds like effort.’

‘Well, I’ll have you know I’m blog-famous now. I’ve won no less than four awards. How many blog awards have you won?’

‘How does one win a blog award? Was there stiff competition?’

‘Never you mind. I’m a lovely, lovely, versatile blogger. In that order. And I’ve got plenty followers. So there.’

‘Oh really? Who follows you? Anyone we know?’

‘Nope. They’re all lovely, and I do mean that, even though this is a conversation between two friends and nobody else will ever hear that part. And I am moderately popular with actual bona-fide ladies. One of them even said I should go to the States and use my British wit and accent to my advantage.’

‘Hang on, did you get a booty call?’

‘No. It was a joke. A good one, but a joke. You know that sort of thing doesn’t happen to me.’

‘Stop. Go over the whole thing.’

‘I did a post about England, and in a comment she mentioned how British men would be exotic in America, and invited me over to California, where I could simply speak English and be swamped in women. She said to bring a snorkel.’

‘WHAT? (Dan explodes with laughter at this thought, and also the word ‘snorkel’, which in his defence is hilarious)’

‘I think she means that I’ll be deluged with babes, and hence might have trouble breathing.’

‘You don’t think – ‘

‘NO.’

‘So, tell me more about this girl.’

‘She calls herself the Silly Girl.’

‘I suppose she’d have to be. What’s she like?’

‘Funny, sweet, a bit neurotic. Pretty eyes. Apparently the rest of her looks like Gollum though.’

‘Just your type then. Has she seen you?’

‘No. She thinks I might be Hugh Grant though.’

‘Wow. You do realise you have to do this? You’ll never get this opportunity again.’

‘Do you know what, Dan? I don’t think she was being serious. I think she was being charming and lovely and a little bit flirty, but not serious. I think it was just a nice gesture. Showing up in California with a snorkel and saying ‘IT’S ME!’ in a British accent and a Union Jack thong would be tantamount to some sort of assault.’

‘And the point of this is your sexy English accent? But you only speak English don’t you? Or don’t you speak French as well?’

‘I speak un peu.’

‘The language of lurve…’

‘And fromage.’

‘She’s a lucky, lucky lady. This is going in the sitcom.’

And that’s how we wrote two lines of dialogue.

NOTE: Title changed to an amazing pun.

Thoughts on a Bigoted Tree

I think that I shall never see

A racist poem ’bout a tree

Bugger me! How wrong I be!

(Extract of ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer, bastardised by me)1

Racism is a serious subject, and not be laughed at or made light of, but I’ve blogged twice about cancer, (and once about trees) and no one seemed to mind, so bugger it.2

Last weekend, I went to visit Best Friend Dan to do some work on our sitcom-that-will-never-happen. I travelled up the country by train to meet him at Peterborough station, and I passed through the town of Loughborough. Now I’ve seen many alarming things on trains. I’ve seen a man arm wrestle himself for a laugh. I’ve seen a boy flirt with the girl unlucky enough sat next to him by drawing a picture of her face, and then when she didn’t reciprocate, add a mane and pretend she was meant to be a lion all along. I’ve tried not to see a girl with her hand down her boyfriend’s trousers, pumping like a plumber for all the world to see.

But last weekend, I saw something that (arguably) trumps all of them. There is a tree just South of Loughborough train station onto which someone has graffitied a big yellow Swastika.

Bang Out Of Order

Bang out of order.3

***

At this juncture, I’d like to point out that I am no way condoning racism; arboreal or otherwise by including its presence in this blog. I hate racism. It is rubbish. However, in this progressive day and age, no opinion should be dismissed out of hand, no matter how morally objectionable, and the best way to combat prejudice is to educate, and to sympathise to an extent to help the individual to improve themselves. Unfortunately, the dickhead in question appeared to have promptly fucked off, so in his absence, we must get analytical:

Firstly, why? For God’s sake, why? What on Earth does the racist vandal hope to achieve? Is this a method of venting hatred, of releasing the prejudice pent up inside like a politically incorrect timebomb?

Plausible Thoughts of a Racist #1:

‘Agh! Ethnic minorities wind me right up, for some reason! If only I could tell some of them how I feel, but I won’t, because society thoroughly frowns upon it, and quite rightly so. If only there were some passive entity around here for me to share my bigotry with. Ah! A tree! Prepare your self for some racial abuse! FEEL MY WRATH YOU TWIGGY BASTARD!’

If it’s simply a release of prejudice then, in a way, good on him for finding an outlet which doesn’t involve abuse or violence, even if it does damage perfectly innocent vegetation. Perhaps this is even a form of therapy or outsider art; imagine all the aggression and hate crimes that could be avoided if wankers were encouraged to go to the forest and daub the trees with racist symbols rather than oppress minorities… On the other hand, this might make for a very uncomfortable place to stroll through of an evening.

But this doesn’t answer why he or she4 chose to daub that particular tree. We can assume it was to draw the attention of passing commuters, as it is clearly visible from the tracks. In principle it works; the message can easily be seen from the train, and the yellow paint does catch the eye, but why?

Is it to deter incoming commuters who might be of an alternate nationality or religious persuasion from entering Loughborough? If so, in order to see the swastika they must already be on the train; a vehicle out of their control which travels in only two directions; you can’t turn around and flee the city limits whilst on a train. You can run it’s whole length to avoid entering an unwelcoming racist town, but you’ll only get as far as the buffet car.5

Or is the motive altogether more sinister; does the arboreal thug hope to convert passing train passengers to his cause? If this is the case, I must ask what kind of person is so easily swayed by what is only a single icon? Must they already be teetering on the edge of bigotry?

Plausible Thoughts of a Racist #2

‘Are you there, God? It’s me, a racist.

I come to you in my hour of need; I have these latent prejudices, but society frowns on active discrimination… I just can’t decide!

Should I, or should I not, become an racist? Please, give me a sign!

…Oh hang on, a fascist tree! Thank’s God, I’m off to go and scowl at an ethnic café.’

Of course, there is the possibility that the tree itself has grown some moss upon its trunk in the shape of an offensive emblem because it has developed sentience and is itself a racist. If this is true – and it isn’t – then the tree could simply be dismissed as being barking mad.6

In conclusion, there’s a lesson to be learnt from all this: if you’re stupid enough to daub a fascist symbol on an innocent tree, you are in no fit state to offer any thoughts on foreign affairs. Racism is bad. Pack it in.

NOTE: Changed the name of the blog because it seemed needlessly confrontational.


1 That’s a poem. I am officially deep.

2 I do worry that I’m being insultingly flippant about these serious issues, but I hope that readers will realise that I’m dancing around the edges for comedic purposes, and I mean no malice or trivial disregard. That said, if you’re going to have a cruel laugh at someone, it might as well be a racist. Who actually likes racists? Not even their mums.

3 This is an image I obtained from a stock-photo site and photoshopped a swastika onto. I just want to make it perfectly clear that the tree featured in that picture has no moral agenda, although if he did, he’d definitely be a progressive liberal. I looked at pictures of trees for ages, trying to find one that didn’t look too lovely to photoshop a racist emblem onto, and that fella drew the short straw.

4 Statistically, it’s probably a he. Probably with a shaved head and a football shirt and an sub-average wang.

5 I must point out that Loughborough is not a hotbed for racism, and everyone I’ve met from there is lovely. Admittedly I’ve met one fellow who is an exceptional bassist, but he is 100% cool, because bassists ain’t racists.

6 So happy right now…

Girl on the Bus: Parts 6-8

Part 6: The Letter

You join me a good three weeks down the line. It is early December, and the trees that I mentioned at the start of Part 1 are completely naked. In response to this, the folk of Manchester have taken evergreen fir trees into their homes, presumably to stop their naked deciduous brothers feeling jealous. Christmas is coming.

The atmosphere between bus-girl as she is now known and myself is as cold as the weather, which is quite cold. Glove-cold, if you want to be specific. Unsurprisingly, my weak attempt at an introduction fell flat, and didn’t lead to the glorious conversations I envisioned. We have spoken since, but only a muttered thanks, as one of us lets the other out of their seat first, my gestures accompanied by a warm smile (I hope), hers with a shy look of acknowledgment.

Looking back, it seems so obvious. Of course nothing happened. It didn’t go well, but equally it’s important that it didn’t go badly either. With all the multifarious, ever escalating options I considered, it genuinely never occurred to me that she might just not care.

I’m very glad I did it though – I’m glad to have experienced a crush, and allowed it to grow, and acted on it. It almost completely doesn’t matter that nothing happened.

I say as much to Dan next time we have another of our lengthy chats.

‘You can do better than that you insufferable gump.’ he says.

I am lucky to have Dan as a friend.

Dan is still keen for me to approach the young lady, however, and puts forward the idea of writing my feelings in a letter. I can hear you scoffing from here, you dirty great scoffer.

I think he has a point though; it’s Christmas; a special time; a time for miracles. If there ever was a time for archaic sentimentality and glaring proclamations of affection, it’s now. I can write a small letter of polite introduction and slot it inside a Christmas card – this would be an acceptable gesture at this time of year.

Or would it be? Romance is dead; that’s pretty much universally agreed on – even in lightweight forms, or so I’m lead to believe, what with LAD culture/Channel 4’s Yoof TV/Casual sex up against a bin and all that. Are Grand Romantic Gestures now considered social faux-pas? Is that kind of behavior actually likely to push her away? Should I knacker off the whole thing? Or should I be confident, knowing that I’d be more interested in a young lady who finds this sort of thing appealing?

I draft out a letter. It goes exactly like this.

Dear Girl on the Bus,

I hope you don’t mind the intrusion, I don’t normally do this sort of thing, but I wanted to take the plunge and say hello, even if it is via this odd little letter.

This probably isn’t the best way to say it, but I’ve noticed you on the bus a few times, and I’ve admired you from afar for a while, in a way I realise is probably coming across as quite creepy, so sorry about that.

You have a certain bohemian air about you that catches the eye, or my eye at any rate. I also notice you appear to enjoy a good read, which is right up my street. People ought to read more (myself included). I’d like to be able to tell you about all the impressive books I’m reading, but sadly the evenings currently find me nose deep in Alan Partridge’s fictional autobiography.

By way of introduction, my name is Chris, and I’m a designer at an agency in Manchester. I’m fairly new in town, and in my spare time I enjoy a good laugh, a good tune and a good cup of tea.

Anyway, if this letter hasn’t put you right off, I’d like to get to know you better at all. I would invite you to add me on Facebook, but I have an unfortunately common name and you’ll never find me. Instead, you are welcome to drop me an email at [my email address].

If (as I suspect is the case) this letter has only served to deeply unnerve you, then instead, please accept it for the compliment it is. I won’t bother you again, save to apologise for invading your privacy and to wish you a Merry Christmas.

So, sorry and that, and Merry Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Chris

x

Well that’s it. I’ve done it. I worry if it’s lighthearted enough: does it seem threatening at all? What I’m essentially doing is personally handing her evidence to be used against me in a sex trail. It must be absolutely spot on. It must also be earnest and personal – I know I ought to handwrite it, but as a designer, I’d rather put it in resplendent Garamond. I have a font problem. Actually I’ve got loads of problems, this is just one of them.

Talking of problems; the jokey part of my brain never shuts up. here’s just some of the lines I rejected.

‘You don’t know who I am, but I’ve been watching you for a while.’

‘I like everything about you. I bet you have a lovely bum.’

‘I cannot express my feelings better than this song. It is about death.’

‘You and me. Right now. Go on. Please!’

‘I’ve admired you for a while and have come to the conclusion that you’ll have to do. To be honest you look like you’d be quite a lot of effort, but you’re traditionally good looking, and that seems to be all that matters these days…’

‘If, as I suspect, this letter has served only to deeply unnerve you, please don’t alert the authorities. LOL.’

‘Roses are red. Violets are blue. Cabbage is green. Go out with me?’

***

I decide I need a second opinion. I ask my friend Clare to have a read through and to tell me her thoughts. Clare has been a girl since she was born, and her girl membership is valid for another five years. She is also engaged to Handsome John, so she clearly knows a thing or two about romance. Here are some extracts form Clare’s email.

Chris,

Thank you for thinking of me as a girl.

Speaking from a personal point of view, I would love to get a letter like this, provided two conditions were met. The sender must not be a total randomer, and must also not look like a total creepy goon.

When you give her the letter, I strongly suspect her response will be slight shock, awkwardness and a thank you. This is simply because people don’t do these kind of things any more. However, I also strongly suspect that after reading the letter she will realise you’re not a sex pest, and will actually be very flattered. I know I would be, and I also asked two other trusted girls, who agreed. Don’t worry, to preserve you anonymity I have told them you’re called Nigel, after Nigel Thornberry, a smashing gentleman.

So, in conclusion, yes, go for it. If she contacts you and things happen, wonderful story to tell the grandchildren. If not, you’ll always be the person who wrote her a love letter and told her she was pretty. Girls love that. She’ll remember it for a long time, either way! I bet it will be worth it. If she likes this kind of stuff, you’re onto a winner.

Good luck,

Clare

XxX

This proves that this is fine. I will take Clare’s advice and will try very hard not to look like a goon. I have been given the official thumbs-up by a registered girl, and if it all goes wrong it is now all Clare’s fault.

I also asked my friend Joe his thoughts. Joe is not a girl, not even an unqualified one, and in hindsight I have no idea why I asked him.1 Here’s his response.

Hi Chris,

I had a read through of your letter, and tried to put myself in the position and mental state of a girl on a bus. This was surprisingly easy.

Upon receiving the letter, my initial emotion was surprise, followed by flattery. I thought it was very sweet that someone would go out of their way to write me a letter, even if it was a little unusual. 

However, I did find some of the phrasing a bit creepy, but you then mentioned that you knew it was creepy. This kind of didn’t help with the general creepiness factor – the sex criminal who knows he is being sex criminal-y is still, after all, a sex criminal. Maybe going with something more casual would work, like ‘I’ve noticed you on the bus a few times, and you seem rather cute/nice/fancy/rapeable/pretty’. One of those was a joke, just to keep you vigilant.

I do enjoy a good read, but I’m a little creeped out by the implication that you’ve been watching me hungrily like a sex rapist. I know that’s almost certainly not the case – I read on the bus, and anyone glancing over can see that without necessarily wanting to do unspeakable things to me, but still. 

Tone it down a smidgen, maybe go with ‘I’ve noticed you with a book once or twice’. Then I will be less intimidated – after all, I read all the time, but if you’ve only noticed me once or twice out of all those times then you come across as less obsessive and therefore less likely to wear my skin as a cloak.

And I’ll never find you on Facebook? Never? That sounds like sexism to me. So I’m a woman, therefore I can’t work computers, is that it? I’ll find you on Facebook. I’ll find the FUCK out of you on Facebook. And then I won’t add you as a friend, but I’ll go through your pictures and laugh at them, even if they aren’t particularly funny. That’ll show you and your chauvinist ways… Oh, and ‘like to get to know you better at all’ doesn’t make much sense. Make more sense. Chicks dig that.

Anyway, let me know how it goes.

Joe

Joe’s response voiced many of my fears; I will reconsider some of the phrasing. I am potentially walking right into a court case here, and so is he with the ease in which he slipped into a female persona, figuratively speaking.

I thank my friends and promise to let them know how it goes, and I commend Joe on his use of the word ‘smidgen.’ I edit the letter accordingly, trying not to wonder if this really isn’t OK, and whether or not I should be publishing this…

Part 7: Stationary and Cancer

In my lunch hour on Thursday I go to a card shop in Manchester to buy a Christmas card to house my letter of romantic introduction. There are very few cards for people you don’t know; perhaps the cards-for-introduction market is one worth examining. There are cards dealing with every special occasion, but few for just general use and fewer still suitable for my intentions.

Anything with too much of a message on will be reliant on a connection we don’t (yet) have, and besides, the majority of cards feature cringeworthy missives of the highest order. Similarly, anything too humorous or twee might affect the judgement of my beloved bus-girl. I’m not getting any card with anthropomorphic animal mascot on because I have taste.2

After circuiting the shop twice, I notice a small box of ten Christmas cards at about 8 cm tall, each featuring the same picture of London’s Embankment in the snow. Not kitsch, not soppy, not overfamiliar. Instead; cold, stark, desolate, and, because we’re in Manchester, irrelevant. Perfect.

I scurry to the checkout, and pay £3.00. The shopkeep asks me if I’m interested in buying a pen to help a charity effort, and because I am in a cheery mood I say yes.

‘Well,’ he says, ‘the pink ones are for breast cancer, and the blue ones for prostate cancer.’

Ah.

There are some decisions in life that are very difficult to make, and whilst I’m not suggesting that choices involving actual cancer aren’t some of the most difficult and traumatic choices anyone will ever have to make, this is definitely up there.

Decisions, decisions…

How to choose? Should I compare the two forms of cancer? Or should I compare the varying forms of stationary? Or should I be needlessly and tastelessly flippant and contrast having breast cancer with buying a pen? No. Definitely not. That would never do.

The two causes are equally worthy, although breast cancer charities seem to have a wider profile, largely because stereotypical men don’t go to the doctor. Bloody blokes. Should I then donate towards a hidden problem? But would it be selfish to side with the problem that might affect me? What would the beautiful bus-girl think of my self-serving “charity”? Maybe I should double-bluff and plump for the pink pen.

But what would the people in the queue think if I was to choose breast cancer over prostate cancer? Would they think me some breast-obsessed pervert? And what does this say about me? That the mere thought of breast cancer conjures thoughts of breasts? Is that natural? Or am I becoming a ‘lad’? Does this mean I’m only a few steps away from stereotypically not going to the doctors and stereotypically not getting my prostate gland checked and stereotypically repressing cancer and stereotypically getting steadily sicker and sicker on a hospital waiting list, hoping some dopey gump will buy a charity pen to fund some research into saving my stereotypically cancerous bumhole?

Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way. Scratch that: I’m definitely going about this the wrong way. Should I then decide based on the practicalities of the pen? I’m a fan of stationary3 but I already have a preferred pen4 and am not looking to upgrade any time soon. I’ve never written in pink ink because I am not and have never been an eleven-year-old girl, and probably never will be. Should I let this cloud my judgement? Would it be dreadful of me to deny breast cancer sufferers my valuable research funds simply because I find black ink to be reliable enough thank-you-very-much?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ve been quiet for too long.

‘I assume they aren’t pro-cancer.’ I jest tastelessly, playing for time.

‘No!’ he chuckles, amused, thus proving I am funny. Then there’s silence again.

I need another joke to fill while I decide. I think about implying that the prostate cancer pen can be used as a rectal testing kit, but it is lunchtime, and nobody needs the image of me putting a pen up my bum, no matter what colour it is.5

Also it is neither plausible, nor funny. Instead I voice my internal dilemma;

‘Surely I shouldn’t be made to choose?’

He laughs again. I give up and pick the blue pen, pay and leave the store.

***

Back at home I look at my new cancer-smashing purchase. It’s cumbersome and tacky and I will never use it.6 Tits. Or should that be balls? Not this again…

Reaching for my box of cards, I take a closer look, and on further inspection the cards are festooned in glitter. Bugger.

This is already an extravagant enough gesture without involving glitter. Adding glitter to anything has no practical value, it is a gesture, the equivalent to adding hundreds and thousands to a cake; it doesn’t taste any better but now it looks fancy. It says something about a man when he chooses to apply extra sparkles to something – something entirely incongruous with my subdued and considered grand romantic gesture. If there was ever a mixed message…

‘Hello, I hope you don’t mind the intrusion but I reckon you’re pretty lovely and would like to get to know you. Also, SPARKLES!! xox LOL 😀 !!!1!!’

Ah well. There’s no helping it now. I’ll just have to hope she likes my semi-self-defeating whimsy, glitter and all.

I stayed late at work to print a nice layout design onto some special cartridge paper I bought earlier.7 Later I handwrite the letter (with a Fineliner). I start over twice due to mistakes. It takes me two hours.

I fold the letter in on itself twice. It fits exactly, just like I designed it to. I slot it into the card (another perfect fit), seal the envelope, write ‘Girl on the Bus’ on it and put it into my jacket pocket in case I forget to pick it up the next morning because you can never be too careful.8

I am ready.

from Flickr

Part 8: The Grand Romantic Gesture

I am so ready.

What a shame she’s not on the bus.

As we approached her stop I got super-nervous,9 only for the feeling to plummet as the bus shelter revealed a total absence of girl.10

I have left it too late – she has no doubt finished Uni for Christmas.

Dejected, I send a promised text, and my friends reply in kind;

‘Noooo!’ says Clare.

‘Noooooooo!’ says Joe.

‘Maybe she’s dead.’ says Dan, helpfully.

***

I keep the letter in my pocket. There’s a chance she might have been late, or ill, and simply missed the bus. There’s always next week…

That evening I take the train to visit the aforementioned Helpful Dan in Norwich. We watch comedy and eat biscuits. We discover that we have the same toothbrush. It was the best weekend ever.

The next day I meet Dan’s marvelous girlfriend Bea. I show her the letter and tell her about my Grand Romantic Gesture, which she thinks is lovely. I accidentally make Dan look like a bad boyfriend, so he has to take her to a nearby Drainage Museum for a treat. Dan knows how to have a good time.

The letter remains in my pocket the whole time. It pleases me that the letter will have had a bit of a life before it meets its recipient, bearing its tidings of awkward affection. Thanks to the British Rail Network, it will have travelled from Manchester to Leeds to Peterborough to Ely to King’s Lynn, before going back to Manchester, handed to a young lady and put in a bin.

She isn’t there next week. The letter remains in my pocket all Christmas, adding Leicester to it’s passport. As I head back up to Manchester to start work again, I contemplate re-writing the letter, but the magic of Christmas is gone. It’s January now, and in the stark light of the New Year, the whole business seems like a frivolous waste of effort.11

But how close did I get though!?12 At least I did it. That’s the main thing. And I’m happy I did.

Ultimately, however, I am still alone, and despite 8,000 obsessive words that will no doubt one day be used to convict me, this doesn’t count.


 

1 Once, I walked in to his kitchen find him shirtless and with his hands in a big bowl of what I can only describe as ‘purple’. When quizzed, he revealed he was ‘makin’ soup!’ He might not be the best person to ask for advice. He does have a girlfriend though, but she’s pretty much his carer.

 

2 Forever Friends. Boofle the Dog. Purple Ronnie. Slammed.

 

3 I’ve never owned the naked-lady pen, partly because it’s a bit base and partly because society frowns upon me enough without me being ‘Dirty Pen Man’ as well, but I do love a good novelty pen. My best pen features a frog-topper complete with a boxing glove mechanism. I remember I once used it to break the ice with a pretty young lady during my school days. Oh how times change…

 

4 0.3mm Fineliner. Don’t pretend you care.

 

5 Sorry.

 

6 Not even as a rudimentary rectal examination kit. Sorry again.

 

7 It cost me £3.20. This means I have spent just over £6 purely to introduce myself to a girl. Financially speaking, this is the most significant commitment I have made to a lady for years: one pound for every spoken word we have exchanged. I must really like her…

 

8 Check your balls.

 

9 It’s like regular nervous, only more so.

 

10 Good subtitle for the blog, that.

 

11 Another good subtitle for the whole blog, there.

 

12 Absolutely nowhere.

Girl on the Bus: Parts 1-5

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

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…

‘Hi.’

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

We have a winner!

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?’

‘What?’

‘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.’

‘A dream?’

‘With flowerpots.’

‘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?’

‘Definitely not.’

‘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?’

‘…yes…’

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.