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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The dreaded V-Day is almost upon us….

February 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Posted in love | 4 Comments
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…so to ‘celebrate’, I’ve decided to list my favourite literary lovers.

1) Cecilia and Robbie in Atonement. So gorgeous, and so goddamn tragic (though the casting of Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as the star-crossed lovers may be partially to blame for my use of the former epithet). And Robbie writes a very dirty love letter.

2) Antony and Cleopatra. She pretends she’s killed herself, so he kills himself; he dies in her arms, so she kills herself. What could be more tragic than that? Perhaps Shakespeare inspired The Smiths? ‘To die by your side, would be a heavenly way to die…’

3) Jude Fawley and Sue Brideshead in Jude the Obscure. Yeah, so there’s suicide here too, and a nasty scene with a pig. And – SPOILER ALERT – they don’t ultimately end up together. But Jude loves Sue, and Sue loves Jude, and but for a bit of fratricide, they might have stayed together.

4) Humbert Humbert and Lolita in Lolita. You might not like it; in fact, you’ve probably not even read it and have already decided that he’s a pervert, pure and simple. But this IS a love story.

5) Hanna and Michael in The Reader. Hmmm…suicide, murder and an unusual coupling…can you sense a pattern here? Despite her sadism, despite her war crimes, and especially despite her illiteracy, I believe that Michael never stops loving Hanna.

Enjoy your V-Day, happily or unhappily single or paired up. And maybe try to have a normal, boring relationship, unlike this lot.

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

February 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Death, Regrets | Leave a comment
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…but then again, too few to mention.  It’s fair to say that, like Frank, I don’t have a long line of regrets haunting my every waking hour.  In general, I’m pretty stoic about what does and doesn’t happen to me.  But I think it’s true that most of us regret the things we didn’t do, rather than those we did.  Then again:

1) I regret being such a horrible teenager to my parents.  I swore at them and ran away all the time.  This was unnecessary.

2) I regret accepting a proposal when I didn’t love the person who asked me.

I can’t think of anything else.  That’s not to say I’ve lived a good, generous and kind life: although I have tried to be good, generous and kind.  But as I seem to regret the things I’ve done rather than those I haven’t, I’m pleased to think that I’ve always lived my life by following Polonius’ advice: ‘To thine own self be true’.

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.

Beautiful things

January 15, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Posted in friends, house, love | Leave a comment
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I’ve seen some beautiful things the last few days:

1) My new house.

2) My new pair of tobacco-coloured trousers.

3) Cambridge.

4) My new bookmark.

5) My best friend in love.

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