Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 49

It's all over and I feel kind of hollow and empty. I'm kind of unsure what to do with all my childish anticipation. Yes, I'm talking about 'Star Wars'. I'm sorry, I can't help myself.

I wasn't going to write anything about this, but then this column is all about demographic changes and relationships of sorts and, well, it seems appropriate to write about what has turned out to be an almost 30-year-long attachment. Who says guys can't commit?

Oh, I see you were looking for something more than a long-term affection for 'Star Wars'? Jeez, how was I supposed to know?

It could have been very different. If I had been a little older when Star Wars came out, I'm sure I wouldn't still think a little green puppet with a funny speech pattern was really very cool, but being nine there were no such other distractions, and once caught up there is no escape. Yes, we did play kiss chase, but really only because we wanted to pull girl's hair rather than anything more sloppy. I like to say things have changed.

I'm not going to bang on all fan boy like about the new movie, there's already been acres written about it. I will just say I really did rather enjoy it. It got a lot of things right, more so than it got wrong, which is just as well as I took half a day off work to be among the first to see it. I really couldn't help myself.

The only weird thing was that all the way through I kind of found myself rooting for Anakin as his fellow Jedi shunned him nudging him all the while into the clutches of evil. It was senseless as I already knew how it was going to end for him -- with crappy dialogue and an awesome light sabre fight that was the final step on the road to the dark side for young Skywalker. Talk about legless.

As I sat there with a mate in the cinema I was thinking about when I saw the first movie as a nine-year-old with my then best friend Graham. Not sure what happened to Graham, I think he became a body builder or went to work for BT, maybe both.

We went with his father to the Odeon in Enfield, which is I think part of a Tesco -- talking of evil empires. I'm thinking if we could just find its exhaust ports... or something. I seem to remember people smoking -- but then it was the the 1970s and the dark side was indeed strong that particular decade.

Later we both got light sabres, which only came in red like some Model T Ford for Jedis, and were essentially torches with long plastic tubes on the end. They were, I remember, not cheap. I begged and begged for that light sabre and was finally rewarded. Those Jedi mind tricks always worked on parents. Or was that wailing and banging the floor in despair, one of the two.

I had lots of 'Star Wars' figures for a while, but was never that geeky and I sold them all when I was about 14 to Paul Barden who I think became a police officer. He always did have a thing for Storm Troopers. I remember, he was very happy with the deal: "I've doubled my collection!". Maybe he still has them. Maybe he sold them on eBay.

I think the only 'Star Wars' stuff I ever had was a few comics, some of which I still have, including Star Wars No 1 from 1977. And you know what? It's totally worthless, I know, I checked on eBay.

I like all six movies to varying degrees, even the not-much-loved 'Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace', which I will own up to seeing twice on consecutive days when it opened in 1999, possibly more because I was in San Francisco and and... OK, I have no excuse.

I'm just sad enough to have a favourite 'Star Wars' moment, but in my defence it does, I think, qualify as a great movie moment per se.

From 'Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back' as Han Solo is prepared for carbon freezing.

Leia: "'I love you."
Han: "I know."

I mean come on? You just don't get to do that in real life.

I can't be the only one. Favourite 'Star Wars' moments anyone?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 48

I've been having rash 'High Fidelity'-like thoughts of late, and it seems tracking down old flames is all the rage.

I blame Bill Murray, who is up to similar tricks in the new Jim Jarmusch movie 'Broken Flowers', and a recent viewing of the John Cusack movie 'High Fidelity'. As you'll remember, Cusack in 'High Fidelity' decides to track down past girlfriends who have dumped him to find out why. Apparently this is typical male behaviour, before realising that his future in fact lies with his Danish model girlfriend -- go figure.

I swear I would never have thought about doing this in the past. It must be an advancing age thing. I know I'm not the only one, Adam was talking about something similar in the past and Susan has been at it too.

"I've found that you can search Friends Reunited for just about anyone. I've tracked down loads of people," Adam told me.
"That's scary, I would never do that, I can see where it's heading. One moment you are searching on your computer and the next you are on the phone."
"That isn't me," Adam reassured me. "I have no plans to call anyone."
"You say, it's a slippery slope."
"I'm not sliding anywhere."
"It's too late for that. You're like a guy with your finger on the nuclear trigger, you've got to push the button because your finger's getting all sweaty and button pushy. Anyway, don't you want to see what happens? Go on push it, I dare you."

He gave me a look that said, "really I think you're too old to say I dare you". He might be right, but I feel it is a duty to encourage a certain recklessness in my friends.

"There is no button."
"That's a very existential way of looking at it, have you seen 'The Matrix' lately? Anyway, I can see you cracking, you'll find an email address and before you know it you 're writing 'hey, long time no see, how are you?' Accompanied by exclamation marks and smiley faces, while at the same time asking yourself when did you become the kind of person who used smiley faces."

Adam shakes his head. No I won't, he's saying.

"I'm not the kind of person who uses smiley faces."
"You will be, you will be."

And I say this, of course, in a Yoda-like voice, trying desperately (or just desperate) to get the menacing voice right from 'The Empire Strikes Back', in the scene where the all powerful green one tells Luke, that really, he should be rather afraid... give me a break, it's 'Star Wars' week.

Talking of sliding back at home, after leaving the pub, where all bad ideas start (and thankfully usually end), it took me absolutely no time whatsoever to queue up a long-play list of girlfriends and encounters who would be on my list of people to go track down.

It's a sloppy slippy thing, as soon as you start down this road you're thinking that you probably have someone in your past that you think maybe I didn't give them, or maybe I didn't give myself much of a chance.

Here's my list -- with the usual no particular order proviso.

1. First girlfriend - Michelle. I have a really good image of her in my head, I think because of the Beatles song, which I knew the words to for a time... I vaguely remember a telephone conversation where I said something about "friends", which she responded to by telling me to piss off. Can't remember why I dumped her, she bought me 'Hungry Like the Wolf' by Duran Duran. OK, reason enough.

2. and 3. First serious 'ish girlfriend, Sally/Linda. The girl I first dated at sixth form whose mother I met and who I dumped due to huge besotted type crush like thing on next girl, which never amounted to anything apart from lots of dates that went nowhere. Sally was blonde and funny. These are really good things.

4. First person I slept with, Claire. Slept with being just a euphemism. I don't mind admitting that it took place in my mother's VW Golf. It was not very comfortable. Classy, I know, but hey I was 17, at sixth form with a car, what did she expect? To be honest I'm not even sure her name was Claire, it could have been Karen. We went out for a few more weeks and I dumped her right before I was due to spend the weekend at her house while her parents are away. What was I thinking?!

5. First girlfriend at university, Jackie. You know how it is, it's all new and kind of cool. We went out for the first couple of months of term and then she dumped me. I must have been bitter because I saw her right at the end of term just after she had dropped out. I was doing my laundry one Sunday when in she walked. She said hello, I sort of ignored her and then as I left, she said "see you around" to which I responded "I don't think so". I obviously thought this was genius at the time.

6. Last university girlfriend, Louise, Not a big thing, she was a first year and me a third year and we had quite a laugh. The only thing I regret was that she borrowed all of my course books and I never got them back. Bitter much.

7. Sara - just because every list has to have one. This one being the slightly pushy kinky one. We really did get on, but kind of failed to recover after silly argument. Final conversation went "You can't just call me up at the last minute." "OK I won't then." Very mature.

8. Kate, I was kind of mean to her despite her being very sweet and having a cute dog. Overriding memory was of going on numerous demonstrations: me, the girl and the dog. Not for everyone.

9. Anna - First big post university relationship, which started as tawdry and fun office affair and which got kind of messy in that she was living with her boyfriend at the time. It got kind of melodramatic and ended in tears. Other people's girlfriend are definitely for other people.

10. Larissa. OK, I managed to get myself dumped twice here. We had a "thing" (and it was a thing), a bumpy, wrong grooved, awkward and drunken, and fumbling sort of thing. I think it was in fact the closest I have come to experiencing the joys of a teenage relationship since... well since I was a teenager and it was never much good then.

11. Mary, oh just because she was she was the last girl I went out with for any (short) length of time and because I like prime numbers. She's a lawyer. We argued about the war. She thought I was joking.

There are possibly four others, maybe more worthier candidates, but I could have been up all night. Having drawn up my list and being kind of sober, I realised that I knew what happened to most of them.

Michelle got a Saturday job in Woolworth's (possibly some else happened to her after that), Sally got married and Linda got a job in PR.

Jackie went off to do history of art at Leeds and Louise went back to Sheffield; Sara got married and Kate became a psychologist (actually that could be a sociologist); Anna got married to some old bloke and moved to the seaside; Larissa moved to Paris and Mary. well she's a lefty lawyer. And no I'm not joking.

The only one I didn't know anything about was Claire/Karen. I wonder what would happen if I try to track her down.

I'd have to ring up Ware 6th Form college and I imagine the conversation would go something like this.

"Hello, I'm trying to track someone down. I wonder if you could help?"
"Do you have a name?"
"Well, I think it was it was Claire or Karen."
"Claire or Karen?"
"Well to be honest it's all a little vague, she was doing fashion or something."
"Or something?"
"Yeah, you see she was the first girl..."

At which point I imagine the woman on the other end of the phone hangs up, which is pretty much my feeling on the whole subject. And as I type this, I remain Google and Friends Reunited free. Seriously, I have better things to do. Guessing, wondering, and only occasionally regretting.

I can't be the only one with a list to get out of their system?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 47

I swear it's no wonder I'm single. I never realised how much it cost. The average cost of a date is £200, and even more if you live in London.

Whatever happened to "a couple of smokes, a cup of coffee, and a little bit of conversation. You and me and five bucks". I swear that was what it used to be like.

OK, well I guess there was the giving up on the cigarettes (you know pretty much), cutting down on the caffeine, oh and the mortgage and general financial obligations that make their way into your life, which generally cost more than the modest outlay of a fiver. In my experience, I have spent a fiver before I even get into the office.

Men apparently spend almost 10 times as much buying drinks and meals for potential partners than women, according to debit card company Maestro. However, women match the amount spent dating, as a result of the cash they invest in the pre-date preparation/beautification process, which men, OK me, then go on to fail to notice unless there is a leading question ("so what do you think of my NEW dress?")

This is no surprise. Generally, men buy the drinks and if you're going for dinner you have to offer to pay. Of course, being strictly honest, and depending on how much you actually like your date (I know that shouldn't really be an issue, but...), you're probably thinking "oh I hope she says no, let's split the cost, and go Dutch, because I'm broke".

You're kidding me, you don't think that? OK, it's just me. Again. Damn. Last of the (broke) romantics. I have an excuse, I mean seriously, who would have guessed that buying a house in need of total renovation was going to be a taxing financial burden. Wait a second...

In London, there is the additional joy that the cost of dating is 50% higher than anywhere else in the country. Add to that the fact that Londoners are also afflicted by a certain sense of pickiness (I mean it must be it has 33% more singletons than any other part of the UK) making the capital the worst place to be single in the country.

Maybe best of all is the revelation that the average dating singleton in the UK spends £38 on lucky pants each year. Lucky pants? I don't have any lucky pants, I swear. Who has lucky pants? I thought this was a myth or only true of people who live in, oh, Birmingham or something.

I do a quick piece of research. I start with Alison, who is of course, best -- best job, best looking, best house -- and, while married, is exactly the kind of person who would know the answer to the lucky pants question. I mean, she does say she still considers herself to be lucky.

"Oh yes, I definitely had lucky pants when I was single... it was rather a long time ago, but I thought everyone did."
"Really, this is a shock, I've got to tell you. What kind of lucky pants did you have?"
"White, a bit skintight, jeans."
"White and a bit skintight? I can't say I remember them."
"Well, Gordie, there's a reason for that..."

I think really hard about what the reason could possibly be. No luck.

"I'm confused."
"They were my lucky pants..."
"R-i-g-h-t..."
"So I only wore them when I wanted to get lucky."

Oh, now it get it.

I check with Susan, I thinking she has some lucky pants and I just never knew about it.

"Gord, of course I have lucky pants. Sort of black and skintight."
"Black and skintight? That sounds painful. Alison said she had some that were white and skintight."
"Yes, but that was the 90s, of course they were white and skintight. Things have moved on."

I tell her that I'm concerned about not having any lucky pants. I mean how does one choose a pair. I have rather too many pairs of jeans in various state of repair. Maybe I could nominate a pair from the jeans mountain to step on up to a new elevated role in my wardrobe. Maybe not the Wranglers, apparently these are very uncool. I have to remember that while cowboys wear them I am not a cowboy and no amount of Willie Nelson and horses can get around the fact that I do not come across cow dung on a daily basis. Actually I think this is a good thing.

"How do you select lucky pants?"
"What, you mean you don't have any?"
"No, to be honest, I didn't even know anything about them until this week."
"Gord the fact that you do not have lucky pants is absolutely no surprise to me. What with the lack of luck. You should go shopping."
"Gee, thanks."

I swear that girl can be so harsh sometimes.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 46

Susan takes us a long to a house party of a friend of hers. Sadly I get quite excited as I haven't been to a house party for ages, but I prove to be slightly unpopular party guest and get us thrown out. I blame George Galloway, he's a bad man.

We're walking through Highbury on the way to said party when I am struck by the fact that really these kinds of parties are something of a rarity and I can completely understand why. That said, I've been encouraging (somewhat unsuccessfully) Susan to hold a house party of her own.

"I'm not having a party, besides my friends won't go out with you."
"Are you sure?"
"Quite sure, besides you had a house party at Christmas, so really it's not strictly true that no one has them anymore."
"People put cigarettes out in my yucca plant."
"You have a yucca plant?" Susan asks.
"Er, I think so, you know it's green with big leaves, I thought all plants like that were Yucca plants, but the point is these were people I knew, not to mention the food that turned up in generally weird places."

There must be like a rule, you know, like the weird food places rule.

"Weird places? Like where?" asks Adam.
"Well there was flan in the washing machine. I mean who would do that?"

Susan thinks this is very funny.

"Well that will teach you for buying flan. Anyway that's another reason I'm not having a party. I have a new washing machine."

The party is in a Victorian house, which save a few crucial details (ie it's finished and is in Highbury) it's identical to mine, which is not in Highbury and is nowhere near finished.

I say finished, that's not strictly true. I come over all Sarah Beeney and am aghast that the party hosts have painted the floorboards in the dining and sitting room white and the walls a pale kind of bathroom blue. What kind of insanity is that?

"The floorboards are white, what kind of insanity is that?"
"Gord you're pointing, people are looking, stop it."
"Besides, you painted all the walls in your house white?"
"I know, but white's the new…er, off white."

After a while, I end up in the kitchen natch and I'm talking to someone called Esther and her friends, who seem to be taking the piss out of her name because of something to do with the 1970s. Really I have no idea and I am explaining this when someone taps me hard on the shoulder.

I look around to see a twentysomething women with big red hair and freckles holding a baby and standing next to a guy with thinned out hair and a pin stripped shirt who is a good 15 to 20 years older.

"You're very naughty," she tells me.

Two things: naughty? Who says that and, two, I have no idea who this person is.

"I saw you earlier and you ignored me," she continues.
"Well, that's because I have no idea who you are."
"Are you sure we haven't met?"
"You know, I think I would have remembered."

Her husband guffaws at this. Apparently I'm hilarious.

"Oh you are naughty aren't you? You really do look like someone I know."
"Really who's that?" I shrug.

This question just draws a puzzled look, which she follows up with news of the Big Red Bus. Boy do I hate the Big Red Bus.

The Big Red Bus, in case you missed it in your area, is the bus of Gorgeous George Galloway and his Respect/Trotskyist/SWP pals. I would never have brought up the Big Red Bus personally as I never bring up politics as all the people I know are either failed to reform left wingers or road to Damascus Liberal Democrats who think they are the new lefties and so give me a hard time. When the truth is, rather than being the new lefties, they're just muddled and orange. I don't personally have a problem with muddled, but orange? I mean come on. Orange? There's no excuse.

I should own up to heckling our local Respect candidate as I shouted out something about the War and their refusal to come out and say that Iraq is a better place with Saddam gone. This precipitated the local hustings meeting descending into a row. Whoops.
I digress, the Big Red Bus was being discussed or rather talked of in baby talk by woman with the big red hair.

"Mummy's going to vote for the Big Red Bus isn't she sausage?" she says looking at her child.
"You're voting for the Big Red Bus?"
"It's our favourite colour, isn't it?" she says playing with baby's lips.
"Do you know who drives the Big Red Bus?"
"No we don't do we?" she says.
"You mean you're voting for the Big Red Bus even though you don't know who's driving? That's not very sensible."

See what happens? This is why I never bring up politics. Mr thinned and pinstriped continues his slowly deep-throated laugh.

"He's a rude man isn't he?" she says talking to baby.
"I'm just pointing out that Gorgeous George Galloway is driving the bus and well he's loudmouth with a moustache who plays the race card, demonises Jews, refused to condemn suicide bombers and is in league with Trots. Not to mention he kissed the hand of Saddam Hussein. He's a bad man."
"Oh but, we like the Big Red Bus, don't we darling?"

Really at this point I should have left the kitchen, it was definitely leave the kitchen and not return kind of moment, but it was five days before the election and it was blindingly obvious that to go any further would not end well.

"No, but seriously, you're not going to vote for the Big Red Bus are you? I mean that is madness."
"Yes we are, aren't we?"

You know, I'm sure the baby gurgled. There was definitely a gurgle.

"But do you know what the bus stands for?"
"We don't care do we, we like the red bus."
"You know, I think you're possibly too stupid to vote."

I say this apologetically. I feel bad about it, but really. Despite my offensiveness Mr thinned and pinstriped dished more of his slow deep-throated laugh, but the woman with the big red hair (who was voting for the Big Red Bus) jabbed me hard with her finger. OK, I deserved that.

"Ouch!"
"You're a very rude man and I think you should leave now."

This made me laugh, I never did meet the party host.

"Oh come on you mean this is your party?"
"No, it's my brother's."
"Is he voting for the Big Red Bus as well?"
"He's a very rude man, isn't he, David!"

Yeah I know, that phrase 'quit while you're behind'? Yeah, it means nothing to me.

***
May 9

I couldn't let it go. Just a small update. I blame the woman and the Big Red Bus and other misguided people who might have voted for George Galloway and got the Saddam loving former Labour MP re-elected.

I enjoyed the election and I learnt a couple of things along the way. Politics continues to bring out the worst in me i.e. notably old tribal politics, which have remained pretty much unchanged since I was a student. Okay, that's not entirely true, I might have become a 'little more' centre left than left…okay a lot.

I was glad to see another Labour government elected and while lots of people lost their seats, which was sad, the election of George Galloway was sadder.

I did look up the group I used to hang around with as student and early twentynothing and like most reasonably intelligent people on the left they were also arguing against Galloway whether or not they were for or against the War in Iraq.

It's not just the things he said about the war (that he "incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops".) He's duplicitous. He's an old style Stalinist (saddest day for George: the fall of the Soviet Union), in league with Trotskyist and largely elected by playing up to 'conservative. Muslim voters. He's a demagogue and con artist of the worst kind. The interview with Jeremy Paxman was, however, hilarious.

I think it must have been about half past three or something that result came in and at least half a dozen of us were still sitting up around my house. We were all pissed off. Even the Liberal Democrats.

I kind of wished I'd gone to bed then when a couple of people went home rather than staying up a little longer and still being on the couch at…half past six in the morning with something of a hangover. Ouch.

That's the other thing I learnt I can not stay up all night anymore without feeling pretty awful for several days afterwards. I think I'll tape the next one.