Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New year. New job. New life?

Work has been a huge shock to my sedentary system. After three months off, my body and I were becoming accustomed to neverending days of nothingness. Now I'm up at the crack and don't get home till it's closed again.

And as I dither over whether I ought to watch the end of Newsnight or start reading the biography of Marco Pantani, now is probably as good a time as any to take stock.

So what have I learned about turning 30 and surviving it?

1) Don't fall in love with your best friend. If you must, don't tell her. And if you do, don't bother blubbing like a Norwegian whaler who's forgotten his Neutrogena.

2) Don't stay in a dead-end job longer than is necessary. And if you do, try not to play a pivotal role in getting an unknown Congolese IT man on the News, and then watch in horror as his career as a novelty celebrity takes off and his appearances on TV multiply while yours become a distant memory.

3) Don't follow up a five-year old fantasy and expect the reality to match. And if you do, do it properly. Don't be lulled into thinking that, despite the distance, the time, the boyfriend of three years, and the 48 hour time limit, you're going to make her fall in love with you.

4) Don't look at years gone by with rose-tinted glasses. They weren't that great. They were just years you'd lived in a particular time, in a particular place, and perhaps with a particular person.

5) Don't write a blog that no-one reads, and even less people bother posting on. If it's for catharsis, then write a diary. Some things are best kept between you and your cluttered mind.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

It's 5am in Tel Aviv airport. A middle seat, no doubt sandwiched between an blubbery-arsed mother and her three whining children - beckons.

Memories of the previous few days are blurry. But that's more to do with having gotten up at a ludicrous hour in order to sit in the waiting area for two hours before my flight actually takes off.

The highlight of my trip could have been the Yank I accosted on New Year's Eve. Sartorial disasters aside (she wore a backless top with an Atlas-sized purple bra to support her planet-sized bosom), she wasn't too bad. Though I only went for her because she and her friends had a corner table in the bar, and my friend and I could no longer be bothered to stand.

That said, the best bit of my trip was my first encounter with what must be television's winner in the race to the bottom: Man vs Beast. I was amazed at how a black, Alaskan bear trounced world (human) hot-dog champ Kobayashi; mesmerised at the sprinter who thought he could outrun a zebra (in fairness, I thought he'd lose to the giraffe too); and frankly disgusted by the score of dwarfs who tried to outpul an elephant tugging a aeroplane.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to see Beast vs Beast grace our screens. This would include fights to the death between an Orca and a rhino; a swimming race between a sea-horse and Lonesome George; and mud-wrestling between a blue-arsed baboon and a poodle. If it must be Man Vs Beast, however, then a who's-the-strongest face-off between an Anaconda and the Producer of Man Vs Beast would be my hope.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

I suppose I ought to change the name of this blog. I am now, after all, 31-years old, and no visibly the worse for that. But as the thoughts that have been zipping back and forth across my synapses began their uncertain journey a week ago, I'll outline them on this page all the same.

Not that there is that much to say. Except that it seems that as I have grown older, I've become less encumbered with the social graces I spent so many torturous years learning; I have, I've concluded, become a social liability.

The evidence, I think, has been there for all except me to see for a while. The thin line dividing chutzpa from rudeness - which I thought I trod so manfully - appears to have become worn out, like a septuagenarian's arthritic hip. I'm 31-years' old and I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.

Last week, at a conference lecture, there weren't enough handouts to go around. My mate B had to share with someone else.
"Do you want to share," he asked an attractive, young (married) woman sitting behind him.
"Sure," she said.
"Oh, yeah," I bellowed, as she moved seats, with Cadbury's Double-Decker still filling half my mouth. "You say that all the time just to sit next to good-looking women."

I said it to tease my mate. An hour later, he pulled me aside.
"I know there's a thought-process," he said. "But you could have embarrassed her."

He was absolutely right. I just never saw it that way. He told me of at least three other occasions in the previous 24-hours when I'd been equally obnoxious. Yet I was oblivious to it all. Living in my own little 31-turning world. Let's hope the process is reversible.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ten days on and I feel almost back to normal. This, I've concluded, either makes me a very cold emotionless soul, or it means that the foundations on which I had built my fantasies for the past five years were flimsier than I had feared.

Proof that I'm over the worst was my being at my lecherous best last night. I met a 25-year old bobbed beauty called K - though she had a whiney voice.

I chatted with several German girls who I would have probably been attracted to were it not for the fact they always sound as if they need to cough up phlegm.

And then there was a Canadian who looked like the pretty, younger sister of a bloke I went to schoolw with. But I couldn't ask her for her number because potential long-termer D was standing right behind me. So I memorised the Canadian's e-mail and drove home contendely through the fog.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Four days on, the pain has eased. I still think about L. I still wonder if things would have turned out differently had I had more time, had she let me in behind her fortified walls.

More than this, though, I feel confused. It's almost as though I was never there. I'm not in denial, it just seems so strange to think that I went to see someone I went out with five years ago, spent three solid days with her, only to be heartbroken by the same girl, in the same way. It was such a random interjection in my otherwise "normal" life, that I feel detached from it.

Simultaneously, I do feel sad that the fairytale scenario I had in my mind for so many years didn't reach the conclusion I'd longed for; that she didn't see in me what I saw in her.

But I have to respect her decision. I have to deal with it and, given a bit more time, I'm sure I will.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I feel better today. The mist has cleared, the tears have dried and I'm back on home soil.

It still hurts - rejection, frustration, loneliness. But I need to be strong. I need to realise that if I'm not for her, then she can't be for me; that if she was so wonderful you would have felt it; there would have been a chain-reaction with each of us feeding of the other's inspiration. The thin lady sang and it's over!

Maybe things would have gone differently if our bizarre social (a hybrid of Big Brother-cum-blind-date-with-a-pen-pal) experiment hadn't been so intense. But we tried that five years ago. No, it didn't work because it could never work, because she doesn't want it to work. I need to believe that.

But if she called tomorrow to say she'd changed her mind, I'd come running back like a wounded puppy.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

I came, I saw, I failed. And now, after crying myself home along the frosty, cobbled streets of this Balkan capital I don't much feel like doing anything. I don't feel like sleeping. I can't stomach any food. I don't even feel like writing. But it beats lying awake in bed thinking about the moment that my fantasy turned into heartbreak.

My friend T had warned me before that there was very little chance of the reality of L - or rather the image of L that had distilled in my brain over the years - matching my fantasy. She was wrong. L is as beautiful, as graceful, as decent and passionate as a I remembered her. Seeing her again merely brought these feelings back to the fore, even stronger than they once were. So reality did live up to my fantasy in that sense - the trouble is the reality of me didn't match up to hers.

As we walked home after a night out with the local community I asked her what she felt. In her inimitable style, she simply said that she was glad I came; that yes, it had been intense, but that now at least we could move on in our lives.

Her words were expected, but not the ones I'd hoped for. In a way, I kind of would have preferred her to have pinpointed my failings, or the things I said, or the things I did, which convinced her that I wasn't the one for her. But either because it was too hard for her or - let's be charitable - to spare my feelings, she didn't.

Could I have done things differently? I don't think so. I am, after all, me, and even with all the effort in the world it seems clear that whatever it was that made her break up with me all those years ago, it was still there today. True, what with her having a boyfriend and my having just two days to prove myself, it was always going to be an uphill struggle. But I guess I let my faith, my fantasy, my overwhelming desire to meet "the one" become detached from probability.

I told her that she was was gorgeous; she was a great person; she had a good heart; and that she has all the qualities that I would look for in a girl. Just seems that when measured against the qualities she was looking for, I was left wanting.

"Take care," I said to her as I handed her her father's umbrella outside her apartment. I kissed her lightly on the cheek and embraced her. A single tear rolled down my cheek from my left eye. I'm glad she saw it. I took her cold hand in mine. And I kissed her again. She went to hug me, but I had only gone in for the kiss. I walked away and the lachrymose torrent began.

Up until now, about 45 minutes later, I've managed to control myself. But I know that as soon as I go upstairs, I'll lose it. Right now I want to be back in London; I want to dig a hole, climb into it and wallow in my own-self pity until my new job starts in the New Year.

Am I glad I came because now I know we're not meant to be? Not really. no. I feel heartbroken. I feel crushed. I feel sick to my stomach. Right now I would rather be anywhere but in this three-star hotel in this heart-breaking city in the loneliest hour of my life.

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