The Perils of the Internet

January 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Posted in internet, love, men, relationships | 3 Comments
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Ah, the Internet (or t’internet, if you’re feeling affected). It’s revolutionised our lives, allowing us to browse shoes, men & car insurance deals effortlessly. It was J D Salinger’s dream, surely? For with the internet, one need never leave the house: just buy your food and friends online (don’t forget your vitamin D tablets).

But, and I concede that this is not an original point, I fear that poor old E M Forster, beloathéd of A Level English students everywhere, would have a (quietly British) fit. Only connect? Only disconnect, more like. Because the internet has reduced us to window shoppers, browsers of the browser; there is no need to pay up or or fully commit to anything, whether it be a pasta bake or a person. Not only have we been reduced, but our emotions and actions have also: we can like, follow and unfollow, block and unblock in seconds.

Internet relationships are unique, and I have been intrigued by them ever since I read The Powerbook by the wonderful Jeanette Winterson, surely a prescient novel given the fact that one in five people now meet online I have tried online dating, and I am trying it now, but mostly, I am bored by it all. I know that many have found love online, and good luck to them, but it is such a cutthroat process: it’s so easy to scroll through hundreds of people and not be interested, as though they were merely a pair of shoes. Don’t like the photo? Ignore the person. Simple.

I left Facebook because people have started to use it as a ranting forum, and I am considering leaving Twitter because dirty messages and declarations of love from strangers don’t really do it for me, thanks very much. For the internet is an enabler, like alcohol: it can make us too impulsive for our own good.

Please Tell Me You’ve Heard of Stalin?

August 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Posted in History, men, relationships, Teaching | 4 Comments
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My friend Tania and I used to perform something called the Nietzsche Test when on a first date. Basically, if you hadn’t heard of the great Nihilist, we weren’t interested. Well, it looks as if I’m going to have to rename it the Stalin Test.

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Have you seen this man? (Last spotted circa 1999 in a GCSE textbook, I imagine.) Not in the flesh, obviously, but you know who he is, don’t you? Because, dear reader, there are people out there who have NO IDEA. The conversation which follows illustrates this fact:

Ignorant Man: I saw you walking towards the beach and thought you were going skinny dipping! Guffaws.  An embarrassing silence ensues.

Ignorant Man: So, what do you do then?

Me: I work in a bookshop.

Ignorant Man: And what’s your five year plan?

Me: I’m not Stalin.

Ignorant Man: Who’s Stalin?

Me: You know, Stalin? Stalin the DICTATOR?

Shaking my head in disgust, I stumble off into the sunset to drink onion-flavoured gin. You don’t even want to know what that tastes like.

How has this happened? How are there people out there who can name every Big Brother contestant ever but have never heard of a 20th century dictator responsible for millions of deaths? Yes, I had a brilliant History teacher whose method of demonstrating Blitzkrieg I have never forgotten (after explaining its characteristics, he asked us to use a board pen to show what it would have looked like: kinetic, visual & aural learning simultaneously, PGCE students). Stalin’s Five Year Plan didn’t exactly thrill me, but I would be appalled if I had no idea who he was.

We are becoming stupider by the day.

So Long…And Thanks For All the Writing Material

July 16, 2012 at 8:13 am | Posted in Honesty, love, men, relationships, women | 3 Comments
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There were some poignant but funny reasons for ending a relationship in this Guardian Weekend article: not a recent piece, but one that has been waiting patiently, in the nook of my coffee table, to be discussed. They were taken from The Breakup Project, a truly democratic website which allows you not only to sever ties with that no longer ‘special someone’, but also with the rather more abstract concerns of death, God & fear of rejection. My favourite was this one:

We break up because communists always break up with me. We broke up because you are so busy being a communist, you forgot how to be a person, how to treat people. We broke up because there hasn’t been a revolution yet.

If I ever met this man or woman (but somehow, I think it’s the latter), I would ask her these two questions:

1) Just how many communists have you dated that you are able to utter the phrase, “because communists always break up with me”?

2) Are you going to stop dating communists now?

Karl Marx 1, matching Ikea bedside tables 0.

But I think the one to which I could relate most was this:

We broke up because you love the feeling of falling for a girl more than you loved me.

What touches me so much about that sentence is the way the tenses move from the present to the perfect. This is you now, this is the behaviour from which you can’t escape; that was you then and can only ever be you then.

Here are my most bizarre reasons for ending relationships:

We broke up because you were obsessed with World War Two, and I wasn’t.

We broke up because you wanted a civil partnership, and I had to break it to you that, being in a heterosexual relationship, we didn’t qualify for one of those.

We broke up because you ran away from the chavs in Coventry city centre. And then told me I was ‘just perfect’.

We broke up because you thought that aura photography was an actual career.

And the most bizarre of all:

We broke up because you had a vitamin D deficiency.

So come on, spill: what are the weirdest reasons for your relationships ending?

Give up red lipstick for a man? I don’t think so, Sarah Vine

February 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Beauty, Fashion, men | 3 Comments
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For most of my life, I have worn red lipstick.  I have worn it on many memorable occasions: to see a German production of Othello at the RSC in my final year at Warwick; for my graduation; to meet a certain special person for the first time.  No man has ever commented negatively on my wearing red lipstick; in fact, I’ve only ever had good feedback when my lips are scarlet.  It’s lip gloss with which men have a problem: it’s far too sticky for kissing.

My lips are one of my better features, and I like to show them at their best.  If that involves wearing red lipstick and looking – shock! Horror! – a bit of a scarlet woman, then so be it.  I’ve never exactly been the type to follow conventions of fashion.

Perhaps Sarah Vine and I just have very different taste in men?  After all, she is married to Michael Gove.

All the single ladies, all the single ladies….

January 22, 2012 at 10:38 am | Posted in friends, love, men, relationships, singledom, women | Leave a comment
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Last night, I was talking to someone about the singledom stigma.  When you break up with someone or have been single a while, the old familiar clichés start to be recited: ‘You’ll find someone’; ‘Plenty more fish in the sea’; ‘It’ll happen when you’re not looking’; blah blah blah Botox.  It’s as if some people are so scared of being alone that they confuse the state of being alone with loneliness, and they project that fear onto you. It really doesn’t bother me being, to all intents and purposes, single. I would far rather be on my own than with someone for the sake of it. But sometimes, I wonder if I’m in the minority there. This article was the inspiration for this post: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/janiceturner/article3293424.ece

The Luddite relents….

January 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Posted in books, capitalism, film, men, women, work | 1 Comment
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Have you seen Metropolis? No? Well, what are you waiting for? It is one of the greatest cinematic achievements known to mankind; sadly, the version Fritz Lang wanted is lost, leaving us with only a fragment of his vision.

Anyway, Metropolis is a truly beautiful film which shows what happens when society becomes increasingly industrialised. There are two characters called Maria in the film: one is angelic and endeavours to save her fellow humans from the horrors of the Heart Machine, and the other is a devilish and sexy mechanical Maria, engineered to incite the workers to rebel, whilst encouraging them to remain at the mercy of their dangerous, industrial surroundings.  Well, my new IPhone has turned me into the latter, and to hell with it (gentlemen, I would never trust an angelic lady: cinematic studies have proven that they usually have teeth in unmentionable places. More on that subject later).  What I mean to say is, is that I am finally embracing technology and joining the twenty-first century. I will never ever own a Kindle and will continue to fight to preserve the book; I will never worship at the Apple shrine or give a toss about Facebook again (cue one giant collective sigh of relief). But I shall continue to develop a passion for computer shortcuts, and the quirks of the somewhat antiquated Phoenix system. I shall continue to enjoy the thrill of seeing just how quickly I can type an email or text. I may never be a technophile, but I’ll certainly never be a technophobe again.

Kaffee und Kuchen

January 16, 2011 at 8:31 am | Posted in friends, love, men, relationships, work | Leave a comment
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I appear to have entered the caffeine-free zone – save for a sachet of Nescafe which I discovered speaking to me in the cupboard.  I cannot stand starting a work day without a coffee and a cigarette (tea is suffiecient on a day off), and although I cannot expect Emma to stock the latter, I fully expect to see a Willy Wonka’s factory – size coffee jar the next time I come to visit.

I am not a coffee snob, a fact I’m sure you’ll have gathered from my allusion to Nescafe (although if I’m out, my preference is Caffe Nero, then Starbucks, the Costa), but I cannot abide awful tea bags.  Ideally, it has to be Sainsbury’s Red Label, Twinings or Yorkshire Tea, and the bag has to brew for a good two minutes – none of that gnat’s piss malarkey for me, please.

My dear friend is getting married in April to a guy whom I have been informed is a coffee snob of the highest order.  I am sorely tempted to greet him with a cup of Nescafe’s finest instant when I finally do meet him.

What will survive of us is love

January 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Posted in books, debate, men, Waterstone's, work | Leave a comment
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The Doobyman

When I was but thirteen or so (ok, sixteen, but I wanted to go all poetical), my parents started giving me £100 a month pocket money (what a spoiled brat I was).  It never went very far, for on that first Saturday of the month, I would hotfoot it to Canterbury in search of the finest gin, kitten heels and new publications.  Yes, I would dabble with Methuen, the charity shops and the independent bookshops, but Waterstone’s was my favourite.  Back in the day, there was only the one in Canterbury, the ‘chip shop one’, as I call it, and I would linger there in the poetry section, hoping to meet my future husband (what a ridiculously romantic teenager I was).

 I am no longer that sixteen year old in her secondhand Burberry trench, scouting the Sylvia Plath section for lines to rip off.  Twelve years on, and my lyrical tastes are more Thomas Hardy and Hugo Williams than the suicidal poets (although Anne Sexton’s verse is truly beautiful).  But I still believe in beautiful bookshops, and I still rage against the company which offers half price chocolate at its tills and employs someone who thinks The Life of Pi is a cookbook.  I still believe in bookshops in beautiful buildings, where the booksellers actually know if Nigel Slater wrote a cookbook called Simple Suppers and who the author of The Master and the Margarita is.  And I really do believe that the company for whom I work will rise, Phoenix-like (how fitting), out of its slightly financially dubious ashes and remain the bookseller’s in which I once loved to roam and for whom I now love to work.  Simples.

Do I look like a girly girl to you?

May 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Posted in books, debate, men, Uncategorized, women | 6 Comments
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I didn't have an umbrella, alright?

I’ll start with a couple of disclaimers:  I never wear jeans, am incredibly vain and am obviously pregnant in the photo above.  So, we can conclude that not only am I a woman (sorry for being ridiculously obvious, but you know), I could also never be described as a tomboy.

Then again, I am convinced I am the man in my relationship (in no way do I mean this in a physical sense).  Asher bows down at the throne of Richard Curtis (he also loves war films and Bond, to give him credit), I crack up every single time Jenna and I watch ‘our’ film , ‘Misery’.  (Anyone who doesn’t laugh when Annie Wilkes says she’s going to put on her Liberace records needs a personality bypass.)  Asher bought me this card for Valentine’s Day:

whilst I bought him this:

You get my point?

So it really rather pissed me off when some foul man asked me recently whether or not I liked Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, and, after I said yes, implied that he wouldn’t like them, because I’m a ‘girly’ (yes, he really said that).  Oh, I’m sorry: I didn’t realise that literature had become gender specific now.  Heaven forbid that both the female of the species and the greater sex enjoy the same book.  Christ, is that the time?  I better get back to my manicure and Mills and Boon bonkbuster.  (Exit in my pink Nissan Micra complete with pink furry dice, pink  headrest covers and pink steering wheel cover. )

Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you….

May 3, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Posted in dreams, men, money | 1 Comment
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Apologies for the Celine Dion, but I feel that its foulness is in direct proportion to my offensive dream last night.

I went to Paris and I got stalked by a man with coins all over his body.  What does that mean?  Do I want a magnetic Frenchman, or merely a rich one?  Or is this one of those things which doesn’t have to  mean something?

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