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.

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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?

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

February 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Posted in relationships | Leave a comment
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Recently, I entered the world of online dating.  It didn’t work out amazingly, but the gentleman and I have remained on good terms.  I didn’t join Guardian Soulmates to find a friend, but I’m glad I found this one.

The excellent columnist Eva Wiseman wrote about the end of relationships in our brave new digital age in the Observer Magazine last Sunday.  I thought she made a very interesting point in saying that we can no longer disappear when we are dumped or dump another: there is always the temptation to Google his or her name, or to request him or her as a Facebook friend, or follow him or her on Twitter.  In this increasingly digitalised age, we have to be more strict with ourselves: we have to make the choice not to use the internet as the virtual equivalent of walking past an ex’s house or sending him or her a letter.

What I found most bizarre was the website where you sell the presents your ex gave you.  Can you really not bear to be reminded of them that much?  Could you not have just thrown them away?  I shan’t be putting my wedding dress, red bracelet or leopard print stilettos on there anytime soon.

Speaking of online relationships, you must read The Powerbook. It offers a fascinating glimpse into them, as does the beginning of Ben Brooks’ novel Grow Up.

The Birdsong backlash begins…

January 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Posted in books, History, love, relationships, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It was inevitable, really.  Most critics have praised the BBC’s Birdsong production, so one grumpy old man journalist had to fight popular opinion, didn’t he?  It’s like Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga: many people will hate them simply because so many people love them.

So what, exactly, was David Aaronovitch’s problem with the production? Well, for starters, there were too many posh people, apparently.  Let’s not forget that ‘Other classes took leading roles in the First World War’.  Except no one’s forgetting, David: what about the character of Firebrace? Not exactly a toff, is he?

His second issue is with the fact that there are lots of ‘lingering glances’ and ‘slowly melting eyes’ before the love affair between Stephen and Isabelle begins.  What’s the matter, David? Do you need the actors to enunciate what they’re feeling every five minutes?  Can’t you decipher what is being implied? Poor David.  You’ve obviously not seen Lost In Translation.

He also questions whether Wraysford ‘would […] really be thinking of his Grand Meaulnes time with the heroine before final curtain down’. Do any of us really know what we’re going to be thinking just before we bite the bullet? I’d like to think I’ll be thinking of the people I’ve loved, and – stop reading now if you’re a prude – I may even recall a time I slept with one of them.  Sex is a massive part of life, David: deal with it.

I also disagree with his argument that casting directors are only scouting for pretty boys now.  Redmayne is a really talented actor who can convey more meaning in a glance than many can in a soliloquy.

Finally, ‘if I were a woman enjoying passive oral congress’ with Eddie Redmayne, I’d be grinning like a lush in a winebar. Face facts, Mr Aaronovitch: you’re wrong about this Birdsong.

Note to self…

January 23, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Posted in love, relationships | Leave a comment
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…do not attempt to turn a love triangle into a square.    Step away from the Geometry Master software.  Good girl.

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

Que sera sera…..

January 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Posted in love, music, relationships, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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….and here is the antidote to earlier’s cheerless tunes. Doris never fails to sort me out, but in her absence, here are some other fabulous offerings:

1) Pulp, ‘Naked’. One line in this never fails to crack me up. You know the one.

2) David Bowie, ‘Modern Love’. The sentiment is unfailingly refreshing, and the tempo is gloriously 80s.

3) Hole, ‘Celebrity Skin’. Such a song to sing your heart out to.

4) Elbow, ‘One Day Like This’. For making me want to get up in the morning.

5) MGMT, ‘Kids’. Just for being amazing.

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.

Impatience is a virtue

April 17, 2010 at 8:49 am | Posted in motherhood, relationships | 3 Comments
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Mammoth multitasking ability, check.  Introduction of books from day one (or thereabouts) so that child becomes as literate as early as possible, check.  Clean home of which Kim and Aggie would be proud, check.  Patient mummy?  Yeah.  You’re funny.

It’s fair to say that the so-called virtue of being patient has never graced me with its presence.  Yes, I can be patient when I really have to (oops, sentence ending in a preposition – bad ungrammatical mummy).  It wouldn’t have been fair to tell the elderly residents in the home in which I used to work (better, but a rather unwieldy construction) to upgrade their snail-like pace to that of a meerkat, say.  Oh yes, I can be remarkably patient when I want to be  – that’s the benefit of being a contrary Libran.  But, in general, patience tends to pop its head round the door, ask if it can stop for tea, and then leave immediately when I give it the look.  If any film character epitomised my inability to wait, it would surely be Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada.  ‘By all means, move at a glacial pace.  You know how that thrills me.’  What a line, dear reader.

‘Get to the point’, my friend Fiona would say.  Well, what I really mean is that, for all its bad press, a little impatience can be a good thing.  For example, if I didn’t sometimes (ok, all the time), lose my perpetually lost rag with Asher, I doubt if he would ever do the washing up (sorry love, but you know you need my influence).  And if I didn’t sometimes overtake the impossibly slow drivers on the A256, I would never get anywhere – literally.  So the real reason for my impatience is high standards.  If I stopped nagging or trying to be Lewis Hamilton (my dad’s nickname for me), I would stop caring.

Indeed, I prefer to save my very small reserve of patience for the new man in my life – baby Jude.  For those of you unacquainted with the lad, he is about 50cm long, has blue eyes, resembles an infant Phil Mitchell in the hair stakes and is incredibly chilled out.  Seriously.  I’ve never known a baby who only cries when he wants something and smiles at me every time I get him up in the morning (sadly, I don’t always return the gesture).  Jude is as helpless as those lovely ladies and gents I used to look after, and doesn’t ask for much, and so it would be totally unfair for me to be impatient with him.  That’s not to say that I haven’t found motherhood ever frustrating, or overwhelming, or, dare I say, a little boring (feeding isn’t exactly the most thrilling thing in the world).  But I would be telling a giant, Pinocchio-style fib if I said that I didn’t spend most of the time being fascinated by my little lad and the new things he learns every day, and going into his room each night to watch him sleep, his hands above his head as if he is saying, ‘Don’t shoot!’.

Ok, my nickname is Croccy for a reason.  I am never going to be earth mother.  Yet each day, I become a little more patient with Jude.  And a little bit more frustrated with the socks on the floor.  That’s just me.

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