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.

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.

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.

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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