Wednesday, 25 February 2009
Saturday, 14 February 2009
LOVE IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
He was taller than [she] had at first supposed, rather loose-limbed and he bore himself with a faint suggestion of swash-buckling arrogance.....he was dark, his countenance lean and rather swarthy, marked with lines of dissipation....*
Manolo-Man is something of a surprise: as I'm walking towards him through the stygian gloom of La Poule Au Pot, a Pimlico restaurant so busy doing authentic french paysanne bistro it could audition for a part in a Stella Artois commercial, I realise that contrary to internet dating protocol, Manolo-Man's photos have greatly understated his looks. He's channelling brooding byronic hero, euro-banker, officer-material and repressed output of English public school all at the same time. Not only that, but the fit of his jacket over his broad shoulders would not have disgraced Weston**. As Mr Trefusis -Manolo-Man being too flimsy a soubriquet for such substantial virility - stands up for me as I reach the table, I realise the dinner has distinct promise.
But the pleasing mien and elegant manners count for nothing compared to the real clincher of the evening. The waiter, straight out of central casting with white apron and superior attitude, comes over to talk about the specials or the wine list or some such, and Mr Trefusis, english as a scone or cricket or a red postbox, breaks into a volley of such fluent, flawless french, I can only gawp at him, captivated and drooling. Reader, early imprinting is not confined to dress sense. A pre-teen run-in with 'A Fish Called Wanda' left me fatally scarred: I go wild for a man who talks foreign and right now, listening to Mr Trefusis recite the menu, I feel like Wanda when Otto speaks 'Italian'. Oh yes. Oh Yes.
I have absolutely no recollection what we talked about that evening, in English or in French. My pants had flown off at the moment he started on the parley-voo, and all thoughts of not being 'that kind of girl' and of reputation and respect and similar archaic nonsense had flown with them. The next thing I recall is sharing a bottle of Laurent Perrier in the bar of the Royal Court theatre, and brazenly asking him if his hotel was conveniently at hand.
One taxi ride later, I find myself clutched to his manly bosom, and, like Barbara Cartland, I shall leave you shut firmly on the other side of the hotel bedroom door. All I shall say is that my unconscious knew what it was doing when it prompted me to shave my legs in the bath that afternoon. Though such was the allure of Mr Trefusis, I doubt I'd have cared if they'd been bristly as a badger.
A month later, and apropos of absolutely nothing at all not least a conversation with me, Mr Trefusis announces to my father he's going to marry me. The fact that I heartily disagree with this at the time, and vehemently protest I don't want a relationship, hardly matters now, being mere detail and history. And that I finish with him, heartlessly and unceremoniously, halfway through a holiday in Venice a month or so after that, doesn't seem to put him off either. Mr Trefusis knows better than I that my dating days are done. He has set his cap at me, and eventually, I concede he's right.
The moral of this tale? Ignore anyone who tells you a man won't respect you for shagging him on the first date***. Reader, I married him....
Seven years later, we're still living happily ever after. And because this is Valentine's Day, I should say something nice, and possibly even romantic. But I find that I've come over all British, and although I don't want sentiment, I shall probably eschew the writing of poetry in favour of a comradely and playful punch on the shoulder.
*Venetia. Damerel is one of Heyer's very best heroes.
** Another little detail for Heyer fans
***this is a moot point: it was after midnight, so technically it was the second date. That's my story and I've stuck to it til now despite it being utter nonsense
You tube: a fish called wanda- otto speaking italian
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LUST
Enough of the specious nonsense. On with the plot or I'll lose my audience - yes, you three, I can see you yawning. It might be dull but it's my life and you'll enjoy it even if I have to bribe you with promises of champagne cocktails in Claridges.
So. It's Easter 2002. London is, as ever on a public holiday, empty of everyone and everything. Thursday's copy of The Evening Standard blows like tumbleweed around the legs of the Japanese tourists blocking the entrance to the escalator at Piccadilly Circus. All of my friends appear to have dashed off in a fit of giggling coupledom in the direction of Babington House or other hip Mr&Mrs Smith hangout. Honestly, that kind of behaviour is designed to bring the twisted spinster out in even the most resolute dating devotee. And when one's audience has disappeared, gathering petits amuses about lecherous lecturers or demented dentists begins to pall.
I mooch around for a bit on Good Friday, watching Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story and spend some time in front of the mirror draping a black scarf round my head, wondering if taking up Holy Orders might not be just the thing. And then, whilst idling on the internet - not nearly as fun as it is now, due to it only being web 1 point zero, or whatever it was called before it was 2.0 - a couple of more than fortuitous emails drop into my RuUp4It.co.uk inbox. One is from Manolo-Man, with whom I've had a little desultory email exchange since the initial one-liner. The other is from Canadian Banker who, despite littering his emails with the kind of literary pretension guaranteed to get my pulses racing, has been irritatingly tardy in extending an invitation to meet. Being an ex-pat, he's evidently bored and home alone with the Audrey Hepburn box set too. Or possibly something a bit more rugged because I've just made him sound very gay. Maybe he was, albeit locked in a B&B Italia closet of his own choosing. I never stopped to find out.
Canadian Banker suggests getting together for the Modernism exhibition at the RA, and frankly, meeting for just a grande frappe latte at Costa isn't going to fill anything like enough of the long weekend stretching and yawning before me. But Manolo-Man's email is, curiously, much more intriguing. "I've had to come over on business, and I've stayed for the long weekend. Don't suppose you're free for dinner tomorrow night?" Well, the mountain has come to mohammed. MM is no longer in parts foreign, at least temporarily. Left to my own devices, Saturday dinner would be pasta with pesto at best: dinner in a proper restaurant with The International Man of Mystery is far to good to pass up on the grounds that I suspect he may be a man of few words. Yippee, I think, the weekend might not be miserable after all, send 'yes' replies to both invitations and nip off to start the laborious process of de-spinsterfying myself.
This involves more than an emergency Show Me Your Wardrobe session, though frankly it's a good job neither of the prospective candidates could have seen the Sweaty Betty yoga pants and a fleece so unattractive that I couldn't even have fancied myself. Obviously there's eyebrows to be plucked, face packs to be smeared on, hair to be laboriously blowdried, nails to be painted etc etc. God that I could have the time to go to this level of effort for anything these days. It's possibly so memorable because it's the last time I did. But it's relevant here, readers, because I break my golden rule: I shave my legs. Now, mistake me not - the hairy legs have nothing to do with sisterhood, though if you've been party to my rants about Observer Woman, you'll know that feminist is a much cherished word in my vocabulary. The unshaven legs were my tried, tested and trusted way of remaining chaste, despite all temptation and the most fervent persuasion. I have too much vanity to be in a situation where I get my kit off only to be unmasked as Mr Tumnus. But although I've read Freud's Psychopathology Of Everyday Life, consciously I believe I'm only defoliating because I have time to kill, rather than because my unconscious is almost certainly Up For It.
The following day, I present myself at the Royal Academy ticket office, and recognise Canadian Banker at once, he having helpfully worn an enormous pair of yellow Oliver Peoples sunglasses in the manner of Bono. Which he doesn't take off during the whole exhibition. In manner of Anna Wintour. We show off madly to each other, and nearly come to blows rushing to translate L.H.O.O.Q on Duchamp's Mona Lisa in a bid to prove that we're so damn cool we love a clever joke in a foreign language (though he cheated, obviously, being Canadian). He's utterly fabulous but really, we were too busy scoring points to notice if there was anything swirling in the undercurrent. And perhaps, dear reader, something has picqued my interest about the trappist with whom I'm due to have dinner....
Unfortunately for you, it's way past my bedtime, and this post has gone on long enough. To discover the true identity of Manolo Man, and to find out whether my unconscious knew what it was doing when it made me wield the Bic razor, you'll have to wait. Again. But I solemnly promise to finish the story next time, if only so I can get on with the business of telling you all about my super-strength British Botox.
Ok, here's a sneak preview for those of you who haven't already guessed the end: Manolo Man is, naturally, Mr Trefusis. But what's more, he's far from a man of few words and reminds me most spookily of favourite Heyer Hero, the Marquis of Alverstoke. Not only that, but I discover an Interesting Truth about myself. And yes, oh yes: Lady Luck has shone upon the future Mrs Trefusis and in the fullness of time, you'll get your happy ever after...Possibly in time for Valentine's Day.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
So. Where were we? Ah, yes. I was getting into dating as a cure for serial monogamy. Well, when I say 'monogamy' I am of course excising from the record the rather non-monogamous episode with that scoundrel Vronsky on the grounds that it was more than 10 years ago and the Statute of Limitations has expired. But essentially, there I was in 2002, having missed out on the excitement of 'dating' as a teenager, assuming it was even invented in the 1980's which I doubt*, mad keen to make up for lost time and enjoy a misspent adulthood.
Ah, the possibilities of new technology. Anyone that tells you there aren't any single men in London has merely set their standards too high. There's no point insisting on tall, or dark, or handsome, or rich, or poetic, or athletic, or funny or whatever else it is women are supposed to want from a man: he's just as likely to be Mr Wrong. So it was with a spirit of adventure that I accepted an invitation from anyone who emailed me and could also spell and demonstrate correct usage of the apostrophe (oh come on... low standards doesn't mean no standards). In practice, this sometimes meant two dates a day. I hasten to add that this was the early days of internet dating, there were many, many more men than women on the more popular sites, so it was very much a supply/demand issue, rather me being especially delicious. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Or a coffee.
And so, for several weeks, I became Costa Coffee's best customer. I drank espressi with ad men, capucchini with the IT guys, machiati with lawyers (maybe it's the wig-like white foam?), San Pellegrino with journos and a diet coke with a former marine doing 'private protection work' for foreign nationals. He didn't progress to cocktails.
In the midst of all this coffee drinking (wired? Moi?) an email drops into my inbox. "I had to look up Manolo Blahnik**,” it says, “But I guess that means I'm not gay". There’s little more to go on, barely enough to prove proficiency with English grammar and punctuation. 'All-comers', I remind myself, encouraged by the fact that he’d at least had a look at my profile, and I click through to his, as taciturn as his email, yet with promising photos. However, though buff and intriguing in manner of ‘strong and silent’ Heyer hero, Manolo-Man lives Abroad. No sense in whetting one's appetite for someone who's 500 miles away from The Sanderson - look, it was the ne plus ultra of cool in those days. Times change. I send something relatively non-committal in reply and think no more about it.
This being the early days of online dating, there's a certain Austen-esque etiquette to the process. You don't scout round after a likely lad, they are obliged to come to you, and make some courteous remark indicating interest. If he has a face like Nosferatu and lists the cultivation of flesh-eating plants amongst his hobbies, the polite form of refusal is to thank him for his interest, and say 'you're not who I'm looking for right now: wishing you the best of luck with your search'. And after the consumption of coffee - Costa's baristas being every bit an assiduous a chaperone as Charlotte Bartlett was for Lucy Honeychurch - things either progress to a second meeting or there's an exchange of' you're not who I'm looking for etc' emails.
Some men give better email than others, though this is, sadly, no guarantee of fabulousness. I meet up with one promising chap and discover that whilst his body was designed by Apple, his mind is definitely Microsoft Windows 2000, and realise that his mate Cyrano must have been helping him with the fancier elements of his on-screen wooing. And then there are those who tick every box, can quote poetry, have no visible literacy problems and dress unobtrusively, but with whom there’s absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. Sigh.
Anyway, if I detail all of the very nice men I met during my dating frenzy, I’m never going to get round to the story of Mr Trefusis.
Perhaps I have attention deficit disorder, but after several weeks of caffeine overdose and more expensive cocktails and sycophantic laughter than I knew I wanted, I realise that I have Worked Through Some Issues –I’m a quick study – and am ready to work out What To Do Next.
This is what I’ve learned. Hold your breath and wait for the astonishing insights:
There are a zillion single men in London. I don’t need to go out with the first one who expresses an interest. Hah! I can now say ‘Thank you for your interest but not if you were the last man on earth’.
Being picky is silly. Everyone looks pretty promising after a lavender martini.
Martinis are like breasts. One's not enough. Three's too many.
Through-put is easy. Chemistry is elusive.
I decide I’m still not looking for Mr Right. But I reckon I could cope with Mr All-Right-For-Now . Maybe I could meet someone I liked enough to progress from a coffee and a cocktail to a trip to the cinema? And what of Manolo-Man? Am I prepared to widen my dating territory outside W1? And what is the true identity of the International Man of Mystery? Will I work my way through The Sanderson's entire cocktail menu? Are you bored by this tale yet? Wait for the next exciting*** instalment….
*I think we called it 'getting off with' and, if that happened more than once, 'going out with'. **[about the only thing I'd put in my 'interests' box, not wanting my bluestocking tendencies to put prospective dates off]
***I realise this is a purely subjective judgement.