Chapter One: Oh Mercy

Good Lord.  It’s been a while.  Thirteen days by my reckoning.  But, reader, I have news!  I have beheld many wonderful things.  Pure as the morning.  Angry, boisterous, and keen, as Wordsworth says.  All since the weekend.  And I wasn’t even drunk.

Today, and I utterly kid you not, a large bird-of-prey deposited a nearly-dead pheasant upon my windscreen whilst I was navigating a country road.  It arrived out of the sun.  Just a shadow, and a hint of movement at the very edge of my vision.

And then a THUMP.  Blood and feathers, and the June sun strobing through wings as it circled away.

The windscreen held.  Which is a good thing.  I am unsure if my insurance covers acts of extreme portent.

“a harbinger, you say. and how would you be spelling that?”

Well that was a fucking turn-up.  For the pheasant too, I imagine.

Talking of turn-ups, I can’t actually work-out where she came from.  I can’t recall a first message, or suddenly being struck by her profile.  No polite online mutual appreciation.  In fact the first thing I remember is annoyance.  Silly posh cow.

Anyway, it seems she can draw a laugh out of me like she’s twisting pliers.  She’s fucking funny. And just out of reach.  In short, she’s deadly.

We meet for a chat.  Rain puts paid to our polite picnic plans.  Chain pub puts paid to our polite staying out.  We go home.  Home puts paid to polite.

She cooks.  Casual expertise.  A practised hand.  She has this place at the top of her spine, between her shoulders.  It’s like there’s an invisible wire holding it high, and poised.  I want to reach out for it, brush her hair from it, and get very close.  The yearning starts to burn.

“You’ve got lovely eyes,” she says.  It totters out of her, in the middle of a different sentence.  Oh fuck.

In the morning we’re in the garden.  We have a couple of hours, and we’re building something.  There are a few odd pieces of wood that can be put together.  And she has a tentative plan.

She looks for someone to help.  The only guy I’ve bought with me seems to be an official from the Department of Whimsy.  He blathers.  He shakes, and is very earnest.  He talks shit.

Idiot.

I should have brought the rude and robust guy.  He’s much better in these situations.

My anxiety floats.  It will not shift. We’ve nailed something together.  It holds for the moment.  Maybe I should a bring a hammer.  I used to have one.  I know I’ve still got it; I’m sure it’s around somewhere.  I’ll get the robust guy to bring it with him.

This thing we’re making is going to hold soil.  Things can be planted in it.  Things might grow, if the net holds and the fat pigeon leaves it alone.  It’s not very pretty at the moment, and could quickly fall apart under the wrong pressure.  Fragile, and easily pulled up.

It’s done.  She smiles at me.  Lovely, still.  Claws in for the moment.  Like the hawk first regarding the pheasant.

Oh dig them in.  Please.  Carry me back to your nest.  Feed me to your children.

But I’m listening for the screech of brakes.  And the thump.  And for her to circle away.

And I’m suddenly aware that I’ve not got my seatbelt on.

x

Auto Fellatio and Melon-bothering

So the sun resumes.  No more nasty texts; just lovely correspondence from lovely people.

Sunlight filtering through beech trees.  The buzz of single-prop planes dragging gliders into their thermals, and lazy vapour trails being languidly drawn across an opaline sky.

Hair tied for a change, in red indian fashion, and a modest pile of empty blue beer cans tinkling in the breeze at my feet.  Life is good.  Would be better with some company, but I do have you, reader.  And you’ll do fine.

I have today been thinking of panache.  Elan.  Esprit.  Dash.  And how much I respect it.  Heroes I have known; windmill-tilters, and chasers of lost causes.

Take this school acquaintance, for example.

The house is empty.  Our swashbuckler steps into the shower.  During his ablutions his mother returns home, and installs herself silently downstairs.

He gets out of his shower, and with his towel wrapped round his waist he strolls into his bedroom.

Five minutes later, mother bursts into his bedroom to find our venturer upside down on his bed, towel abandoned, all red-faced and trying to fellate himself.

Our hero calmly rolls off the bed, stretches, and tells his mum he’s doing his ‘exercises’.

Bravo.  Now that’s the sort of vim I’m talking about.  You can’t learn it, or fake it.

Or take this chap.  Another school acquaintance (yes, the school I attended was run-down, boys-only and very posh.  And it oozes ridiculous material).

His sister stumbles across this little soldier trying to penetrate (with some urgency) a melon that he’s just warmed up in the microwave.  He brushes this off by sticking his nose in the air and declaring it his ‘homework’. [round of applause]

just heat and serve.
just heat and serve.

I love this stuff.  Bravado in the face of absurd ignominy.  Throwing your gauntlet into the face of shame and ridicule.  I mean look at this blog.  Quixotic.  And not very sensible.

And then I came across some of it on Guardian Soulmates.  She describes herself as a “Gloomy misery guts. No friends. Little joy. Hates cosy nights in.”

She’s looking for a “Miserable old devil. Disillusioned with life, but prepared for further disappointment. Preferably without a huge circle of friends who think you’re great”.

Someone “Fond of uncomfortable nights out, competitive hoovering and wheelie bin admiring. Hands like loaves of bread… No sense of humour, does not enjoy laughing and prefers misery to any abstract notion of “fun” … “

Obviously you’re wondering if I got in touch.

Sadly, no.  Despite your suspicions, I am not a miserable old devil, nor am I disillusioned with life.  And I have LOVELY hands.

But wait.  I haven’t even mentioned her photos.

She attaches three.

#1  her bin

#2 her hoover

#3 a brick

Regarding her style and verve levels, my boat is being floated to somewhere near Mars.

This woman needs to join the circle.  Should we contact her?  What do you think?  At least register our respect.  Or nominate her for an award.

I’m off down the greengrocer’s.

x

ps – Online Dating is Shite is now accepting contributions.  All you need is a nom-de-theatre, lyricism, profanity and a liberal use of the word ‘fuck’.  Perhaps there’s something you can say here anonymously that you can’t say anywhere else.  Contact me at maturin@onlinedatingisshite.com

La Nausée. And Online Dating.

I am a sick man … I am an angry man. I am an ugly man. I believe my liver is diseased. Actually no I don’t. I’m just showing off. Yes. With that endearing mix of self-loathing and self-aggrandisement, plus a quote from Dostoyevsky, it must be another journal entry from your favourite periodical Online Dating is Shite.

But I am sick. Really quite sick. I have THE BOWL next to my bed.

Before you all send flowers, or congratulate yourself on having correctly cast the hexing spell, I am feeling a little bit better. Thank you.

There was a moment on Saturday morning, however, when I would have gladly exchanged a toe, no TWO toes, for another hour in bed, but my son got me out of my sorry pit to play Robin Hood. I tried all the old favourites; “Next week, I promise” through to “Go down and put the TV on and I’ll be down in a minute”, finally down to “Here’s the iPad. And my phone. And the iTunes password”. All failed miserably.

So we settled for playing the bit where Robin dies. He lies on his deathbed and fires his last arrow out of the window. Where ever it lands, that is where he is to be buried. I was Robin Hood.

There is a lot to be said for a bout of something nasty. It reduces the parameters. Your normal landscape draws down to an intimate knowledge of the bumps on the ceiling of your sickroom, and which parts of your pillow are the coolest. And not in a nightclub way, either.

Twenty-four hours ago, it was wonderful: I only had to close my eyes and straight away my head would start buzzing like a beehive: I could recapture the taste of couscous, the smell of olive oil which fills the streets of Burgos at mid-day; I was moved. This joy was worn out a long time ago, is it going to be reborn today?

Actually, no. I’m showing off again. That whole paragraph was Sartre. And I fucking hate couscous. But Jean-Paul knew a thing or two about Nausea. I mean, he went out with Simone de Beauvoir.

At weekends I like to draw all the consequences from a position of consistent atheism.  And going for long country walks.
At weekends I like to draw all the consequences from a position of consistent atheism. And going for long country walks.

The way it creeps up on you. How it installs itself cunningly. Little by little.

And suddenly you know if you see another LifeLiver77, or Cuddle_Bucket, you are going to puke your hot snaking guts all over the keyboard.

Time to reduce your parameters. Time to love the REAL people in your life for a bit.

Don’t worry. You’ll feel better soon.

You’ll be logging on again in a few days.

x

ps  You know, I think it’s only jumping the shark if you come back down again afterwards.

My Arse, the Tell Tale Wasp, and Other Stories

I attended the doctors’ surgery this morning, so that a very polite nurse could stick a large-bore needle into my backside.  There I was, leaning over; my belt line now halfway down my bottom.  And she asked, “left or right?”.  That’s very nice, I thought.  They talk about more choice in the NHS.  This must be what they mean.

It turned out that she was retiring.  Today.  I asked whether I was her last ever arse.

“Yes!” she responded enthusiastically.  And for a moment I thought she was going to autograph her work.  Or add a smiley face.

“Although you never know,” she added, rather mysteriously.

Yep.  You never know when you’re going to see your next arse.  Very profound.

I came home to find THE LARGEST FUCKING WASP doing military-grade aerobatics around my desk.  RIGHT.  The sudden surge of combat adrenaline.  The narrowing of the eyes.  The rolling of the newspaper.  Bring it on, my friend.

Cue a desperate amount of ridiculous wafting and girlish shrieking.  The thing is, I don’t really want to hurt them.  I just want them to go away.  And once my ruthlessness is compromised by my absurd wasp empathy, I make a terrible warrior.  And the worst thing happened.  A half-hearted thrust left the poor bugger injured, and he disappeared into the dust bunnies under my bed.  I think he’s stuck.  And now my keystrokes are punctuated by an awful throbbing buzz.

fucking WASP.
fucking WASP.

Oh the guilt.  Oh the terror.  It’s like that endlessly beating severed heart under the floorboards in that Edgar Allan Poe story.  Sheesh.

Believe it or not, I was once bitten by a bloody great cow-eating spider in the forests of Guatemala.  Alright, maybe it didn’t eat cows.  But it could’ve done.  IT COULD HAVE DONE.  My hand soon assumed the size and shape of a mango.  The guide proffered aspirin, and anti-histamines.  I was extremely grateful.  Thank you, I said.  Thank you.  That’s my headache and hayfever sorted, now what about MY FUCKING GREAT SPIDER BITE.

Sorry.  Rambling.

On to happier things!  The sunshine!  The woodpecker knocking loudly in the woods behind my house.  The buzz of lawnmowers.  The Rustlers microwave burger and the four-pack of Fosters from the one-stop.  Oh sublime, ephemeral nature.  Be my master for the afternoon.  Let me drink from thy Lethean tin.  Carefully crafted to refresh.  In Melbourne.  Since 1888.

And let me wander from Tennyson’s place, “where each man walks with his head in a cloud of poisonous  wasps  flies … And most of all would I flee from the cruel madness of online dating …”

Okay, I changed that last line a bit.

But Tennyson would get it.

I’ll leave you alone now, and take my plastic sword to the nettles.

x

Pppffffffffftttt

Things I have learned this week.

  • The British electorate is fickle and capricious.  And lacks empathy.

I saw some of them today, in the park.  With their sunglasses, and Jack Wills sweatshirts.  Their expensive pushchairs, and their stupid tight trousers, and their beards they’ll shave off as soon as someone asks them to.

  • Erotic emails can be intensely sweet*.

Which one would you like me to talk about?

Ha ha!  No chance.  Sorry.

Although I’ll say this.  Check your spelling.

And they do need to happen spontaneously and unexpectedly; out of the blue, and with a ‘how did this happen?’ moment.  Like a Conservative majority.  OH NO now I’ve spoiled it.  Cameron and his shiny face.  Bah.

Anyway, I thought I should say something about the election.  I was thinking of buoying myself up with thoughts of the appalling five years ahead for the Tories.  Within three years they could be facing an internal backbench collapse over Europe, a constitutional crisis in Scotland, and a worsening global economic downturn.  All this with some young rising Labour star tearing the guts out of a tiny, tiny majority in the house.  Yes.  That sounds good.

So here it is.  My informed comment.

Pppffffffffttttt.

I’m glad that’s dealt with.  Back to the rebalancing of my internal chemicals.  I’m going to lie down and chew my pillow.

Drastic action needed.  Wordsworth, possibly.

Normal service resumed shortly.

x

*Send all erotic messages on a ten-pound note.  Care of me.

A Story for the Eve of the Election

It is election eve.  Tomorrow a lot of people put a lot of paper into a lot of boxes, and then we get to spend the next two weeks wondering who’s in whose gang, and who isn’t.  Marvellous.

So anyway.  Who wants to hear a story?  It’s an improving one.  With a stout moral core.  And it’s got drugs in it.

All of you?  Good.  Bring your chairs around.  And your drinks.  And someone turn that thing off.

Right.  Ahem.

Imagine a man.  An addict.  He no longer takes his fix to feel good; that stopped a long time ago.  He now takes it to not feel awful.  If you look in any thesaurus, one of the synonyms for addiction is ‘enslavement’.  This man is no longer his own master.  He is miserable to the core.  He knows that these days, after every fix, there’s a chance he might not wake up.  And he knows something is very wrong, because he doesn’t care.  And he loathes himself for it.

He has tried to stop by himself.  He would rather die than let anyone else know he has a problem.  But within 36 hours of stopping, he feels so physically fucking awful that he can’t get out of bed.  Or shower.  Or get his kid to the nursery.  Or work.

And he knows that one tiny fix will prop him up for a bit longer.  So he weakens, and fails.  And then he fucking hates himself more, and is out to punish.

If he’s lucky, he will at some point realise that he can no longer stop this by himself.  He needs other people.  He needs someone to believe that he wants to get better more than anything else he’s ever wanted.  And he starts looking around.

This man finds a website, which talks calmly about treatment options for parents.  He discovers a walk-in centre, that is in the heart of his community.  He doesn’t even have to make an appointment.

He walks past the door for two straight days in a row.  The third time he walks in.

The guy who met me was Johnny.  He was a short Scotsman, thickly built, and with tattoos on his arms that showed he had been a Guardsman.  Yes, he told me, the army had taken him all over the world.  Brunei, and Germany.  And in 1982 it had dropped him on the side of a shallow mountain (“more of a hill, really, sir”) called Tumbledown in the South Atlantic.

There, at night, he had slithered up that rocky incline on his belly, watching the tracer fly far above his head.  Until the sun came up, and then they were all sitting there in plain sight, under the Argentinian guns, like some sort of appalling duck shoot.

Johnny had done okay, though.  He’d done alright.  Came out without a scratch, or so he thought.

But he took that battle out with him when he left the army.  He’d taken it on to the streets when his wife had kicked him out.  He’d taken it to men’s shelters.  And ultimately to community rehab.

And now he was looking after me.  Efficiently.  With clipboard in hand.

When Johnny put his hand on my shoulder, and told me it would all be alright, I wept.

He quickly put me through triage, then explained the titration process.

Within 48 hours I had my script, my plan, and Johnny’s number.

And now I work, voluntarily, as a drugs and alcohol counsellor.  It’s my turn.

But here’s the punchline.

The website that directed me home was closed in March due to ‘cuts’.

That walk-in centre was closed last year, in an effort to ‘centralise’.  There are no walk-in centres at all now.

Proper, qualified people like Johnny have been let go.  It’s now all agencies and volunteers.

If I were to ask for help today, I would be told to fill in a form and wait three weeks for an appointment letter.  If I ask what I am supposed to do for the next three weeks, I’ll be implicitly told to go back to my dealer.  Or website.  Or whatever shit-awful place I had decided that morning to never go back to again in my life.

Look.  Here’s the point.  These changes have only happened in the last SIX YEARS.  There is a plethora of independent research that says these kind of cuts aren’t necessary.  They just feed an ideology.

So I have to tell people to fill in a form.  Crying is okay, because I understand.  Trying to punch me in the face is even better; at least I know that you’re motivated.

It’s the quiet ones that haunt me.  The ones that nod, and look at the floor.  And walk right out of the door.

Please vote.

x

[update]  save some lives, Corbyn.  Work at the middle ground.  For all those dead people I met.  The dead weather.

Hoobree, Miss Ives, and Jamming with the Devil

Wind down the windows in your Micra, bung some Led Zeppelin on the stereo, and remember to stick your hands in your pockets quickly before the nice lady notices that you’re shaking. Yes!  It’s another lonely evening here at Online Dating is Shite.

Busy as I have been writing random nonsense and sending pictures of my plastic sword to ladies who like Vikings, I thought I should get back to you.  My favourite people.

Hubris.  Hubris is on my mind.

I once mispronounced that word in a school debate semi-final.  I pulled it out in my summing-up, thinking I was Hitchens; postulating that the opposition was guilty of it.  But I’d only ever seen it on the printed page (it was not the type of word we used in the Maturin household), and I thought it was possibly French, so I pronounced it ‘hoobree’.

You can imagine how the debate went.  It was one of those unique moments.  In which you learn exactly how a word is pronounced; and, in a very personal sense, precisely what it means.  All in the same revelatory instant.

So.  Hubris.  Hubris and Guardian Soulmates.

Take this, for instance:

“Don’t worry.  All my emotional baggage is sorted and neatly put away …”

Aha ha ha ha!  Really?  Brilliant!  Cue the half empty bottle of Vodka, smeared eyeliner, and two community police officers at the door.

I say jolly good to baggage.  I’m all for a bit of baggage.  I’m a gentleman, and will gladly carry it for a while.  I’ll even rummage through it, and see if there’s anything I can take out to make it lighter.  In fact I want a bit of baggage.  With baggage comes wisdom.  Actually that’s quite good.  Could somebody please quote me?

Or what about this:

“I am looking for someone who has attained financial security through entrepreneurship, but is not driven by money or status.”

I’m not even going to bother with that one.  It would be like going to a coconut shy with a laser-sighted rifle.  The same goes for this:

“Someone well-established in her career, but willing to try anything.”

or

“I am looking for a normal, kind and sincere woman who is happy taking risks.”

Oh okay, I realise they don’t all technically qualify as hubristic, but I can’t resist sharing.

I mean, I still believe that my very special person exists.  And I have high hopes for my next date.  But I do keep it kind of real.  Otherwise I’d be tailoring my profile to Miss Ives out of Penny Dreadful.  It would read:

“You are poised, mysterious, and utterly composed.  You are a seductive and formidable beauty, full of secrets and danger.  You have supernatural gifts that will threaten my safety and even my sanity.  And you go like the clappers.”

It’s not going to happen is it?

Qualities I absolutely need in a partner: Understanding. Open mindedness. Lycanthropy.
Qualities I absolutely need in a partner: Understanding. Open mindedness. Lycanthropy.

It’d be great if it did.  She could bring Lucifer round, because I think he and I would get on quite well.  I mean we’re both generally misunderstood.  And probably both like Led Zeppelin.  Maybe he plays bass, and we could try ‘Black Country Woman‘.  Anyway.  I digress.

Hoobree.  Let hoobree be your watchword.

I’m off round Miss Ives’.

x

ps – I’m disproportionately excited about the new season of Penny Dreadful.  I think I’m going to put on my black velvet coat and ponce about in old London pubs.  Like I did after reading Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell.