Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 80

I'm not eccentric. I just want to make that clear. I'm telling this to Susan who is of a different opinion and she points to my cereal-combining activities as proof positive.

"You're definitely getting eccentric. I'm noticing a lot of eccentric-like behaviour with you."

This is totally uncalled for. For instance, eccentric people wear slippers. I don't wear slippers. I tell Susan this.

"Eccentric people wear slippers, I've never owned slippers, well at least not in living memory. There were the crazy aunt slippers, but slippers were crazy aunts Christmas thing."
"I'll give you the slipper thing."
"You're a generous girl."
"It's been said. But you walk around the house in sandals. In the winter."

Susan throws her hands forward to emphasise the point about sandals. It's true I do, but they're black Nike sandals, and I only do this as floorboards are kind of tough on socks. See I'm definitely practical and not eccentrical. Okay, that's not a word, but it could be.

"But they're Nike sandals, they're black and cool and I only do this to emphasis that I'm a slave to globalisation."
"I'll give you the slave thing. You are so a slave."
"Gee thanks."
"The cereal thing. That is definitely eccentric."

The cereal. I hadn't thought about that may Susan was right. Maybe that was the one chink in my eccentric-free life maybe that was the start. The start of the getting older/getting slightly wacky with the eccentricity.

I should explain. I really like breakfast cereal. I always have. A house without breakfast cereal is like…oh I don't know a breakfast cereal-less kind of house, but the thing is, despite a long search, I have never found the ideal cereal. I know because really I have tried and I have gone through every cereal phase that is humanly imaginable. None of these last as cereal sickness kicks in and you find that you can not got on for one reason or another.

For instance the really really healthy phase.

This involves each a solid like bran cereal, straight up no punches pulled chunky bran (such as All-Bran or Bran Flakes) or Shredded Wheat. I tell myself it tastes good and that even better it is doing good, but after a while I find that the whole eating cardboard with a look of staunch determination on my face is really perhaps not the best way to start the day. Not to mention that special taste of wheaty straw. Healthy cereal kick is abandoned.

The really really not so healthy phase
This involves eating something like, and almost certainly is, Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. You know what I'm talking about, you know exactly how delicious they taste. They're nectar of the cereal gods and I'm pretty much convinced that up on Mount Olympus Zeus, Apollo and the crew tuck into this bowl of heaven every day. Well that is until it dawns on me and my body that despite their absolute Hobnob tastiness the process it is in fact just like sitting down to a bowl of sugar for breakfast and after a couple of weeks I start to think that really I'm probably getting a little too rushy in the morning with all the sugar intake. It's at this point that I switch again and opt for the third way.

The kind of healthy phase
This involves eating one of those cereals like Fruit N Fibre, a mix of bran/oat flakes. You know kind of healthy, but still a little tasty, but like all third ways, this phase is a disaster. It's neither one thing nor the other and really it's more of the other than anything else. More cardboard and not even a hint of sugary goodness.

There are other options of course. Sometimes I go mad for a bowl of Shreddies, but really they're just another variation of the sugary goodness of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, and who needs to lose another tooth?

The solution – cereal combining
I swear I have found the answer. Why no one doesn't do this I have no idea, but here's what I do. I buy (and it varies) a packet of either bran flakes with sultanas/Fruit N Fibre and combine with some honey nut cornflakes.

Sure, I get cereal all over the worktop and kitchen floor as I pour from one packet to another and shake well to ensure a good intermix of cereal varies, but it's the only way to get the perfect cereal that combines a certain sugary goodness with healthy bran/oaty/fruity goodness.

"I think you're right on the cereal front," I tell Susan.
"Oh I know I'm right. If you were a woman you would have cats, but instead you stand in your kitchen mixing up packets of cereal, like some crazy cereal person."
"Hey, it taste good."
"I know that's exactly what the crazy cereal person would say, wait until you're like sixty. You'll have a house full of cereal."
"You're harsh," I tell her not for the first time, "why don't you go out and get a cat, make it two."
"But Gord you know I don't like cats."
"Oh damn you and your lack of cat appreciation."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 79

So I went on another date and as it turns out I should have given the whole thing a miss. I really need a new approach. Maybe I just mean approach.

In retrospect, maybe I should have asked a few extra simple questions and maybe meeting at a bar in Soho where I know people who go to it wasn't so hot either. Who was to know that the one time I go there on a date I'd have an audience? I'm no good under pressure, I swear, I mean like any pressure.

Susan said I made it happen. She probably has a point. You know, like a confluence of events. That she says is the only reason in the world that I could choose to date on her doorstep.

"Date on your doorstep? I don't see that."
"Gord, I work literally next door to the bar, you may as well have buzzed me at reception and said 'I'll be next door on a bad dating experience'."
"But at that point I didn't know it was going to be a bad dating experience, I was full of….."
"Optimism?" Susan smirks
"Well that might be pushing it."

Maybe she has a point. There was something about the girl in question, I just couldn't put my finger on it. It's impossible to tell really what she looked like. That's really one of the problems with internet dating, but she sounded okay in a brunette works in TV kind of way.

I bought a couple of drinks at the bar having texted drink choice ahead and then I sat down. To be honest at this point I did text Susan to say "I'm on a date, eek!". Don't ask me what the whole eek thing is about, as really I don't know. Susan texted me right back drolly as ever "again?" She's a total wag, what can I tell you.

Then she turned up. I've sort of nicknamed her SMG3. Catchy, right? Stay with me, I'll explain that little TLA in due course.

As soon as she sat down I got it. The hint that I had been afforded by a small photograph. I think I was staring. Apparently this is not polite.

"Are you okay," SMG3 asked.

I nodded, really I was, but I was just struck. It wasn't just the whole 5'3'ness, the brunette'ness or the media'ness of it all. It was the whole package. She looked almost exactly like a girl called Anna(now SMG2) who in turn looked scarily like Ms Pushy (now SMG1). I mean like in a George Lucas kind of 'Dating the Clones' kind of way.

But anyhow, we started talking. We talked about work, or rather for like an hour (or two drinks) she talked about her job. She should have been promoted, she was mightily pissed off. During this conversation Susan walked in with some friend. She rolled her eyes at me and pulled a face, but sat on the far side of the bar.

We talked some more about her job during which started to spark flashbacks to SMG2 and SMG1. She was concerned she wasn't getting enough credit for her work, what did I think she should do? Me? I told her I thought she should relax, she was by this vodka fuelled stage, stressed about the whole employment situation.

"So how do you relax," SMG3 asked me.
"Me?" I replied cagey.

I can't help myself when it's like that. I'm always cagey offering an edited persona to newcomers as one does occasionally when you find yourself unwilling to reveal certain simple truths about the inner workings of your life.

Somehow, I didn't feel we had reached the point in our relationship (now 1.5 hours old) where I could tell her that to unwind I played far too many video games and in particularly I have a PS2 online thing for SWBF2 and Socom 2. Why? Let's face it, that's really kind of geeky.

Anyhow, I do lots of other stuff, I go to yoga, pilates, kickbox and horse ride. That's right I only spend a limited amount of my free time bugged out on the couch wondering how that motherfugger managed to kill me five times in a row. I mean seriously how did he achieve that? Yeah, I know, the force is strong with that one.

"Oh, you know, yoga, pilates, running."

I hate running, it's like the ultimate boredom. Hell, I'm sure is one endless treadmill, but you know, with fire and brimstone. I don't know why I said that.

"Yoga, I like, but I really can't relax in the evening until I have had a glass of red wine and a smoke."

Then I got it. She was yet another Stoner Media Girl. Red wine and a joint and vaguely screwed up and really only suited for a fellow stoner, which is so not me. I don't even drink much red wine, and it's always red with Stoner Media Girls.

That was it for me, I'm just not suited for thirty something Stoner Media Girls. No more SMGs. I looked at my watch. Two hours. Fairly generous.

"Oh wow is that the time? I need to get going, I've got some errr stuff to do for the morning."
"Yeah me too, it's always work isn't it?"

With SMG3 gone I wander over to see Susan.

"I didn't know you kept in contact with Ms Pushy?"
"Ms Pushy? I don't. That's the weird thing."
"That's spooky. Does she know she has a double?"
"That's not even the half of it, they're like a clone army. Short stoned red wine drinking media brunettes," I tell her.
"Oh that's bad for you considering your weakness."

Who would have guessed, apparently I have a weakness.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 78

"At first I thought it was a demographic thing, baby boomers reaching an age where they're dealing with the deaths of their own parents and looking at their potential mortality. But a lot of people who come to events are much younger," says Joan Didion.

Joan Didion has long been one of my favourite authors although too few people seem to read her, which is odd as her prose style, Norman Mailer has said, may be the finest since Hemingway.

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She's just won the US National Book Award (non-fiction) for her moving recently published memoir on the death of her husband and fellow writer John Gregory Dunne - 'The Year of Magical Thinking'. It seemed a good time to acquaint people, you know, for the unacquainted among you.

Best known for her journalism with books such as 'The White Album' and 'Slouching towards Bethlehem' and her novels 'Play it as it lays' and 'Democracy', this latest book, published at the age of 70, has been her most successful. Incredibly when she has published so many well crafted sentences, so many stories that linger long after the last page has been turned, it is this, and her own personal tragedy that brings so much attention.

She writes sparse beautiful, short clipped prose, that flows off of the page and into the reader. In all of her work, fiction and non fiction alike, 'I' always takes centre stage. Didion above all else is all about 'I':

"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind."

So really one for bloggers, among others, to read. So often the vein that she mines is nihilism, so when she tells you in 'Play it as it lays', her story of a model turned actress turned emptied-out woman that "I know what 'nothing' means" you tend to believe her. That book might not have won a prize, but it is one of Time's All Time Top 100 novels. Besides it's also the basis of the Lloyd Cole & the Commotions song 'Rattle Snakes', that unborn child haunting her as she speeds down the freeway.

"What makes Iago evil?" some people ask. I never ask.

"Another example, one which springs to mind because Mrs. Burstein saw a pygmy rattler in the artichoke garden this morning and has been intractable since: I never ask about snakes. Why should Shalimar attract kraits. Why should a coral snake need two glands of neurotoxic poison to survive while a king snake, so similarly marked, needs none. Where is the Darwinian logic there. You might ask that. I never would, not any more. I recall an incident reported no long ago in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner: two honeymooners, natives of Detroit, found dead in their Scout camper near Boca Raton, a coral snake still coiled in the thermal blanket. Why? Unless you are prepared to take the long view, there is no satisfactory "answer" to such questions."

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'The Year of Magical Thinking' is a slim volume, as are most of Didion's books, and this one was published against another tragic loss, her only child, Quintana Roo Dunne, died at age 39 shortly before the book's publication. In contemporary American literature, there are few bigger deals. Time to get reading.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 77

I really should have learnt my lesson, but it turns out that really I'm not so good at the whole lesson learning thing. So in case you wondered this is what happened with Difficult Third Date Girl.

Besides Susan had been badgering me for information and really for a while there has not been much to give. The whole Difficult Third Date Girl was really lacking some kind of next installment or in this case, as it turns out, conclusion.

Anyway, as they say, last time on Difficult Third Date Girl, we had a fourth date and then she went on holiday for three weeks (I know that hardly seems fair). Oh and then I bought her a book, which was either just a very innocuous yet slightly charming move on my part of something of a lame gesture. It was, of course, intended to be the former rather than the latter, but who knows how people take things.

"So remind me," Susan goes, "where did she go on holiday?"
"To Australia."
"Didn't you once meet someone else who sounded promising and who then went on holiday to Australia? I seem to remember you banging on about it for ages."
"Funny you should say that."
"Really? How funny?"
"Not so funny as it turns out."

Susan is right, I swear that girl has a better memory for the women I have dated than I do. It was going swimmingly, we had a couple of dates and then she went to Australia for three weeks. I anxiously waited and then when she got back she texted me to say she wasn't into seeing anyone just now, but we could be friends.

"What did you text back?"
"I texted back, that while that was a nice offer, I didn't think so."
"I bet that felt good?"
"Yeah for about 20 seconds."
"But what a good 20 seconds," Susan said smiling.

And just so you know it was one of those rather sly smiles, which are really not smiles at all but on closer examination wry grins. I swear, Susan is the queen or wry grins.

"Mmm, whatever."
"So Difficult Third Date Girl must be back by now? Isn't she?"
"She sure is."
"Well she texted me."
"She texted you? Oh this isn't going to end well is it? She dumped you by text didn't she?"
"Yeah that's exactly what she did, I mean who does that? Wait I already know the answer to that question. But that one time I did it was, you know, much less bad."
"Much less bad? Oh you have a way with words Gord. So what did she say in her text?"
"This is great. I mean seriously, apparently she isn't in quote 'seeing anybody kind of mode...good luck with the dating' unquote."
"Good luck with the dating?"

Susan seems to find this really rather amusing when really I think I should make the point that it's not amusing. In fact it is the complete of opposite of amusing. It's unamusing.

"Suze it's not funny okay?"
"Good luck? What's that about. I mean who says that?"

And no, this time I do not know the answer to that question.

"Maybe she didn't like the book?"
"All The Pretty Horses is a good book. I mean one of the best."
"Not exactly sex drugs and rock 'n' roll is it?"
"True, but it's a coming of age novel part meditation on courage and loyalty, and oh there is the disastrous failed romance."
"Oh good choice, books about failed romances are always a winner. So I guess that makes it difficult third and final fourth. So what was the last thing she said to you after the final fourth."

This is kind of funny, you know kind of, after a little confusion what she said, if you read it at face value, sounded sort of, you know, good.

"Well she was on her way to meet some friends and just dropped me a text to say, among other things, it was worth it and that she had a good time. I mean that sounded sort of positive right?"
"Oh definitely, but then I bet she met up with her friends and after talking it over, she had a change of heart."
"Oh definitely, you would have been reassessed and not come out so well. Any shared blame would have probably fallen on you. It's what we do to make each other feel better. So you would have been down graded from worth it to really not worth it at all."
"Gee thanks, tell me again why I discuss these things with you?"
"Oh Gord you know why you do. I give you great advice and tell it like it is."
"You do?"
"You know I do, besides look at it this way, if you had been playing softball, a fourth date would be like a home run."

This time, Susan is not giving me a wry grin, but a big honest to god goofy - I'm going to make you feel better - smile and really I'm not quite sure which one I prefer.

"What and now you do sporting metaphors? Suze what gives?"
"Oh I don't know, I'm trying to put it all in perspective. Talking to you in your own language."
"Suze, when do I ever do sporting metaphors?"
"Okay, that's a good point, you're less about the sporting metaphors than most men."
"Besides, fourth base is no good to me. I had a really good fifth date idea."
"A fifth? But Gord there are only four bases. Maybe you could move away from the flat back four to five across the middle?"
"Suze, is five across the middle even a formation?"
"Well I'm sure Robin used to say that 5-3-2 or was it 3-5-2 was the key to England's problems?"
"But he was so effete? I didn't even guess he had such deep tactical knowledge of English football. I'm kind of impressed. What am I talking about? Enough with the sporting metaphors. She knew how to horse ride."
"Oh that's handy what with you being oddly horsy. That would have been a good fifth date. At least you can go forward with that knowledge. Or it would have been good if only you hadn't fallen at the fourth..."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 76

Everything costs more. That's the thought that struck me the other day. It doesn't matter what it is just that everything costs more and really it's that simple.

In this instance I was talking to the builder. What can I say it's my life? The builder had just popped around briefly to take a look at the gallons of paint I had literally poured onto the kitchen walls. It did not look good. Nothing to do with my painting talents, I might add, it's just the walls of my 122 year old house were not in great shape.

I kind of knew this by the time that I had put the first coat on and the way that it had dried. Patchy bits where the paint just would not take, yellow bits, rough bits from the rewiring, acne like pockmarks holes and a couple of bits that were simply "blown".

Still I painted on, but as we stood there looking at the state of the walls and imagined the shiny new oak kitchen it became abundantly clear that the whole room, all 26 ft by 13 ft would have to be replastered.

"That's going to cost," the builder says.

Of course, it was, because everything costs more. Sometimes it's easy to see what that cost is. Its tangible. Its £50 worth of white matt paint from Dulux, but at other times you can't exactly write it down. Can't gauge its tangibility and you can't exactly put a figure to it, but you know all the same that everything costs more.

Like I said it doesn't matter what it is just that everything costs more. It's the invisibles that they talk of. It's all economics and it's complicated, but really the bottom line is quite simple. Everything costs more.

It's like the phone call that you never make to that particularly person, to apologise in someway, to express quite how you feel, to make sure that really they know that most of the time, just lately at least, you spend a lot of time thinking about them and not much else. That cost because everything costs more.

Or like that day when you drove out and the two of you were lying in the sun for hours and no one said anything and at the time while it seemed fine really you knew it wasn't, which is why you walked off for a while, as there is only so much room for silence between two people and after a while that silence is just space and after that it's just empty space. So when the two of you did finally start to talk somehow there wasn't anything to say. That cost because everything costs more.

It's like the shortcut that you took on that job you were doing that didn't turn out quite as everyone had hoped and made everything a bit hellish for a while and maybe really what you did next was not the brightest move you ever made in the world. That cost because everything costs more.

It's like that old friend of yours that you never caught up with the other day, the other week, the other month, and really by now that must have been a couple of years ago. That'll cost because everything costs more.

Or maybe just like the fact that it's been about three years for you and longer for her and still neither of you speak to him. And if you think about it hard, you are pretty sure there was a good reason for that, but really as you start to interrogate yourself more thoroughly you're no longer entirely sure what it is. Just that it must have been something significant as its three years and counting. That cost because everything costs more.

It's like that trip to the hospital that day just after New Year's that you don't make as the weather was kind of bad, people were kind of tired and busy, and really it was a long trip, which all turns out to be something of a massive shame as you don't get a chance to make another visit and thus to say goodbye. That cost because everything costs more.

This all sounds like a short list of regrets, but really it's not. It's just a reminder in case anyone had absentmindedly forgotten that everything costs more. It really does.

Everything costs more if you are not honest and true to yourself and others. And really, so don't ask me, I have no idea which one of those is hardest.

Everything costs more if you don't sometimes ask yourself the question how much will this cost and then be frank with yourself and the price you are willing to pay as you should know by now that everything costs more.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 75

After the flak from last week something a little more banal, but close to my heart none the less. It's also something that is at the heart of being single and is at least on a par with being at a loose end on public holidays.

With the trauma of the bathroom out of the way, where two becomes five weeks, things have moved on to the generally dilapidated 1960s kitchen. Like I said kind of prosaic.

I have lived in this house almost two years and finally the time has arrived for action. So I did all the stuff. I measured, I catalogue shopped, I got nice little computer aided design drawing done in store of what my shiny new kitchen would look like. I was made fabulous promises by several stores about the incredible deal that were coming my way, but never quite materialised. I, of course, repaid such wonderful empty promises by going elsewhere.

D-day arrives, minus the tanks and huge loss of life, and I order the kitchen. To be honest, I find it hard to contain my excitement. I won't wax about it too much, suffice to say, it's oak and there's a lot of it. Anyway, I order it. Not only that they say it will be delivered the very next day. I'm thinking that's insane how can I order at five pm one day and you deliver the next?

Next day comes around, its Saturday, there's a knock at the door. I open and find two early twenty van delivering youth types.

"Kitchen mate?"
"You’re early."
"We're always early," he tells me and then he tells me something else, "You know this is a kerb side delivery, right?"

I start to turn this over in my head. Kerbside? I think I know what it means, but really he can't possibly mean he is going to dump my kitchen on the street? I mean right?

"What you mean?"
"Yeah, that's right, kerb," he says pointing to the kerb.

I start to say something like "oh come on", but I stop myself as I know it's totally pointless. The only thing that will work on these two is cash and having already paid once I refuse to bring it up. At least it's not a roadway delivery.

"Could you at least put it in the front garden?"
"Dunno mate, ah go on then."

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So there I am with a garden full of kitchen, minus nine metres of worktops, which are leaning against next door's garden wall. The boys are in the van and gone, no doubt laughing their Nike socks off as they hurtle through N8.

See my problem? While I can carry bits and pieces as a lone single person I am in fact totally unable to really move cookers, cabinets and worktops. People walk by and look. I try my best to look nonchalant and cool. Whilst taking in my dilemma, I then phone Adam who luckily lives three streets away in sunny Harringay Village.

Adam it turns out, at 11:30am, is still in bed having only got in from the night before at sometime a little after six following a night of much hard partying.

To say that he was a little worse for wear is a terrible understatement. After we have carried the kitchen into the dinning room Adam collapses on the couch and groans about how he is never doing it again. Like ever.

He related his night of excess, which involved much alcohol, as these things do, and women, which these things also tend to do, unless you’re a girl and then in that case they probably involve men. You know at a guess.

"I'm not sure how much longer I can do this. I think I should stop."
"Really? That seems harsh. I'm just mentally comparing my evening to yours and I think you win. I ordered a kitchen and had a few drinks and went to bed before midnight. You have only just stopped."
"Yes, but…"
"You have no commitments, no one got hurt and so as far as I can see no reason not to. I'm jealous."
"You're being very devil's advocate like?"
"I think you’re right. You on the other hand are being all Mr Remorseful and the hangover hasn't even started."
"True, maybe I'll sleep on it, but I think that's the last time."
"Really? But where are we going to get our kicks listening to your stories or excess, tall blondes and short Europeans."
"Why don't you get some of your own?"
"My own are you serious? I'll fall asleep mid way through the excess. People will point. It will be embarrassing. I'll end up with marker pen on my face."
"Do I have marker pen on my face?"
"Just a little."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 74

Career and sex-obsessed harpies who are no fun is the view of one writer in a national newspaper of single women.

I'm not even going to tell you the name of the newspaper. I mean harpies, who says that? I mean seriously.

Over the course of two pages Gareth Sibson complains at great length about an apparently endless parade of desperate and needy women who simply used talk about their independent lives as smoke screens.

Frankly Gareth was bored by the whole lot of what he dubbed Bridget Clones.

The piece had elements of all the worst things you hear about men. He moans at length about how these women talk endlessly about their jobs (did someone say men don't listen?) and what a terrible crime that is.

To be fair, it's true women do talk at great length about work, but then who doesn't, courtesy of the fact that most people spend 8-10 hours a day in the office. It's always an office.

But when they do this rather than groan, you do actually have to smile and pay attention. Hey, go out on a limb and ask some questions. Otherwise you should get up and go. Gareth, it seems, stayed.

"Not wanting to be beaten by the harpies… I made an effort to take an interest in what they were saying. But they were having none of it. Talk about boring - all they seemed to care about was trying to make themselves sound incredibly important… Not only are they obsessed about themselves and the way they look, all they want to - or indeed can - talk about is work."

There's worse, must worse. One of his most damning insights about the Bridge Clones was the subject of sex. Apparently they were too upfront about it.

Gareth earnestly asked what kind of man wants to be propositioned on a first date? Not him, that's for sure. "These women are unsavoury and positively rapacious ladies with a penchant for boasting about their bra size within moments of meeting."

Rapacious? Again, who says that? Whatever, point is it's all quite good going for Gareth to get all of this so quickly, as he admits that his cut off point is the difficult third date – a place I think we're all pretty familiar with. Personally no woman has ever told me her bra size. Maybe I'm just asking the wrong questions. I worry about these things.

Anyway, it got me thinking, you know sort of, about the kind of person who wants to be propositioned? And then I thought, boy I have probably been one of those people.

I feel the need to add that I haven't for several years, but definitely in the past I have ended up far from where I started on an evening out, whether this was explicitly to meet a girl on a date or if I just met one along the way.

So sitting on the tube I started to cast my mind back. Yes that was what the stupid grin was about as I sorted and threaded together a potted history of, you know, said encounters. No real order to be honest, just how they came back to me.

1. Red wine girl number 1 - I thought, a good place to start as it was the last time I did this. It was three years ago and she tipped half a bottle of red wine over the couch. At the time I didn't really care.

2. Red wine girl number 2 – who uttered the line, "I have a bottle of red back at my place". I should have said, "I don't like red wine", but had already lost the reasoning power to utter a sensible phrase.

3. Girl who lived in Tooting – I know it was Tooting, as in the morning when I left her flat I distinctly saying "where the fug is Tooting". Another lesson in the art of taking black taxi cab to somewhere you know not.

4. Girl who lived in Wood Green – sadly I already knew where Wood Green was.

5. Mystery girl number one – I had absolutely no idea who she was, couldn't remember her name and she got kind of offended in the morning and stormed off. Fair enough really.

6. Flatmate's friend number 1 – really never a good idea, but really to be honest I paid for as we dated for a while, after that and her Jewish mother interrogated me one night at length ("Journalism you say? There's no money in that". Seriously, I'm not joking and, of course, she was right).

7. Stag night girl number 1 – Met her on stag night, decided to have first (last date) night before friend's wedding. I was best man and had to jog down Upper Street in tails and was half an hour late. I caused panic. At the time I seem to remember thinking that at 34, she was 10 years older and that seemed kind of old. Have since revised this thinking.

8. Girl with really deep voice number 1 – evidence of the 2,000 Marlboro Light cigarettes. I can still hear her voice. Seriously, more Hilda Ogden sounding than Mariella Frostrup.

9. Ex girlfriend's best friend number 1 – I feel bad. I still feel bad, honest.

10. Wrong girl number 1 – I went over to talk to her friend and somehow I ended up in Queen's Park. I'm still not sure how that happened. Oh wait I do…

So there you go. Unsavoury and positively rapacious? I don't quite remember it being like that, but then it's kind of blurry stretching back as this does over 12 years.