Monday, 22 November 2010
Thursday, 28 October 2010
The pints bounce off each other as we toast over our catch, our prey. The glistening contract lies before us like a concubine scattered with emeralds. A two day hunt, one catch. Our flat. A symbol of freedom, liberation and ultimately expense, but it was ours and it was perfect. I stretch my back half in contentment, the other in pain. I hate bar stools. I want to lean back and settle into a comfy chair not topple over backwards and crack my head on the pub dog grazing on pork scratchings behind me, so I lean forward in discomfort.
“That was quick,” I say, “Usually flat-hunting takes at least a week with as many arguments as a series of Big Brother cross-bred with the Apprentice.”
“Aye,” Ellen replies swirling her pint into a mini cyclone in a vain attempt to de-fizz it, I’ve never been convinced this works but I don’t tell her because she drinks faster this way. My phone rings and I answer.
“No we’ve found a flat, cheers Bobby,” I whittle into the phone.
“Twat.” Ellen bluntly states spilling the tsunami of cider over the lip of her glass in indignation. It subsides to a whirlpool as she speaks.
Bobby. My new arch enemy. The bad guy in our flat hunting saga. Fresh off of the 108 bus; we had walked eagerly though the area that, until now, I had always associated with my school days. Hand in hand with a real life boyfriend, looking in estate agents windows, lingering in kitchenware shops, party hats from my 21st birthday still stowed proudly in a box in my room; I had returned a fully-fledged grown up. Then along came Bobby.
“Alright then Angus, what is it that you do?” he had asked.
“Oh, I’m starting work in a Whisky bar in November.”
As Bobby dutifully noted this down I knew that this was it - my turn to show how much of an adult I really was. My pre-prepared answer on the tip of my tongue, he continued.
“Ok then Angus, well there are two places in the price range you’re looking at…”
The arrival of my cheesy chips woke me from my tooth grinding rage. I elegantly stuff one in my mouth as I voice my opinion for the umpteenth time.
“I mean who does he think he is!? Do I not need a job to pay my half of the rent? Am I, as a woman, doomed to do nothing but sponge off you for the rest of my life!?” More chips are consumed as I continue. “And then he had the cheek to ask if he could talk to you after calling MY mobile! NO YOU BLOODY WELL CAN’T BOBBY! …That’s what I should have said…” Without taking breath I cram another handful of the comforting cheesy mess into my face. I can sense that Angus is a little bored of my passionate rants against such blatant sexism and begin to slow my chewing to a more sensible pace.
“I agree with you,” I say calmly, “It took me back that he only talked to me, but look on the bright side he won’t be earning any commission off us, and to an estate agent that’s like a disciple getting a bitch-slap off Jesus,” I pause and feel a look off disgust cross my face as I observe my girlfriend lick the bowl of chips we were meant to share clean and hiccough, “As I was saying estate agents aren’t human they are like… like a sub-race lying and cheating their way into a world of estate cars (no pun intended), holidays in Ibiza and glamorous champagne cocktails…”
“Shaken with cyanide.”
“If you like. Like I said they lie and cheat because their ego gland inflates every time a lie hormone pumps through it. I don’t want to get into eugenics but they aren’t even worth caring about. They are lower than the slug.”
“I like putting salt on slugs,” Ellen interjects her huge eyes wide with enthusiasm.
“They are like a bully reincarnated as a slug.”
“I don’t like bullies.”
“Exactly, so I wouldn’t worry about Bobby. Besides he’s probably got some weird fetish where he goes into properties and masturbates over images of macaroni cheese,” I notice a gentle whirlpool has returned to Ellen’s pint, an indication that she is calm and judging by the size of the chip bowl probably a little full.
As I sup on my nicely de-fizzed cider, I reflect on the rest of the flat hunt.
“Still, I guess we should thank Bobby really.” Angus looks confused, proof that men may never understand the way a woman can so easily change her mind. “If we hadn’t agreed to go view that basement flat with the crazy kitchen-come-bathroom, we’d never have walked past that last estate agents.”
“Our flat is amazing,” Angus grins.
“I can’t believe we signed for a place after two days of looking. It was just so perfect. I was bricking it that the landlord wouldn’t accept our offer.”
I gulp down some beer with a pork scratching scrounged off the pub dog that is now snuffling in the corner rather than acting as my crash mat. I lean back on the stool’s back legs, wobble, then control it before Ellen notices.
“Probably could have made an even cheaper offer, but probably not worth the risk.”
“Definitely not worth the risk,” Ellen agrees.
“I wonder what special conditions we could have haggled for,” I say referring to the offer we put in and the section on said special conditions.
“More furniture maybe,” Ellen says patting the rotund pub dog on the head as it waddles past her with a sausage roll disguised beneath its chops. We watch the bar man tell the dog to drop the sausage roll. It gives a look as if to say ‘who me?’ and the sausage roll slowly disappears into his maw.
“Could have asked for a man servant or a Jacuzzi,” I venture.
“You wish,” I murmur, staring at the whirlpool I am creating with the ends of my pint. “Anyway, I don’t think you’d have to go to those lengths. If it’s men you’re looking for I’m sure there’d be someone you could pick up at our new gym and pool!”
“Yeah, I’m a bit tired of using you as my beard.” Angus jokes, but it falls on deaf ears as I spit the remains of my cider back into the glass, preventing my giggles from forcing it out through my nose. Before he can question my strange outburst, Angus starts laughing with me as our new favourite dog drops the urinal cake from between his teeth and begins to groom himself.
“You think it’s too late to request a barmy dog as part of the deal?” I laugh.
Monday, 11 October 2010
“Fancy some lunch to match our team name?” suggests Angus as we walk past one of our favourite pub chains. This question does not even require a response and Angus smiles at me as I open the door for him.
Having ordered ‘the usual’ we plonk our pints down messily on the table and nostalgia sweeps over me. Or is it just half of my cider sloshing out over my hand?
“Do you remember when we came up with our team name?” I say, grinning whilst I wipe my sticky hand over Angus’ lovely clean t-shirt.
“Yes,” I laugh. Ellen thinks that she’s wiped her hand on my ‘clean’ t-shirt, this isn’t strictly speaking true and I wonder what germs she’s caught off its one week prison break from the washing basket.
If this was a cheesy nineties comedy the screen would swim and we’d both be plunged into a flashback. However, it isn’t, so I stare into the middle-distance as I remember. We were at a party following a day’s caving, or spelunking or potholing or whatever you want to call it, and as usual festivities turned to ridiculous games designed to bring out either a competitive edge or heavy bruising. Apart from table traversing and Ellen’s favourite trick of wrapping a broom about herself without letting go, a new game gets announced. The purpose is to clip a karabiner or climbing clip to a chair whilst you sit on another with your team mate straddling you. It involves balance, strength and technique. Step forward Beer & Burger the team with more balance, strength and technique than an Olympic squad. We are elite. We are the finest. We have also been drinking and think it will be a laugh.
“We didn’t have a team name then,” I point out, because we are so finely attuned that I can also see his daydreams, “In fact, that was like the first time we even spoke properly.” He’s still staring into the middle distance, “Didn’t you get off with one of my friends later that night?” I poke him in the ribs, waking him from his daze.
“Well we weren’t even seeing each other then,” is the defensive and worried response. I laugh and settle back in my chair as the barman brings us our burgers.
“That was epic though,” I say, picking up a chip as I start to go off into my own daydream. With the completion of every round the two chairs are moved further apart. After several knock outs the only people left are us and ‘team hefty’.
“You’ll never do that!” snorts one of our friends at the start of the round, “Ellen’s way too short – it defies physics!”
“Watch us!” I shout, or possibly slur. And watch us they did, with baited breath and in complete awe as we beat our opponents (and apparently physics) to a room full of cheers and applause!
“Oh yeah,” I reply, “But that was the event. Well, that and a string of catastrophic pub quiz failures.”
Ellen takes a whopping bite out of her chorizo and halloumi burger and says between mouthfuls, “It was our first date wasn’t it?”
“Yeah!” I laugh.
To many people romance is typified by Hollywood clichés of flowers and sit-down dinners, people supping on oysters and chewing on mussels whilst being fanned with a bouquet of roses having chocolates catapulted at them by giant teddy bears. We on the other hand have a team name. When your parents name you Angus they do so with some pride but forget an Angus is a cow that is made into a selection of rather fine burgers, and if you enter into a team with someone with the surname Beer - there is only one logical name to have scribbled on your pub quiz answer sheet.
It was after a couple of weeks of hanging out with the other cavers and getting to know each other better, that I decided it was time to swallow my pride. Sat in my room staring at my phone I started to type.
“So I was thinking!” Exclamation marks always make things sound more exciting and lighthearted. “My name is Beer, and your name is a kind of burger meat… so we’re like… Beer & Burger!” Did that sound too geeky? No, no it was endearing. Just add a single kiss… ok… send! Almost immediately my phone started doing the ‘you have a text dance’ on my desk and I looked at it reluctantly.
“THAT. IS. AWESOME!!!!” My relief was unprecedented. I smiled and started my reply.
“So, we should go for a Beer & Burger deal one lunch… in homage to our team name. If you want?”
“I can’t believe you were apprehensive,” I say to Ellen in the present.
“It might have sounded stupid and sad”, Ellen says quietly and when she sees my incredulous face she says, “Not everyone thinks like you Angus.”
“Oh yeah,” I grin, “I thought it was amazing. And here we are.” I raise my glass in one hand and my burger in the other, “To Beer & Burger!” We salute with our pints and our food to the Aberdeen Angus run brewery in the sky and behind Ellen’s back I clip her belt loop to her chair with a karabiner I happen to have in my pocket and smile innocently as she catches my eye.
Friday, 8 October 2010
I’m sitting on the little bar stool, hunched over my beer like a miser over a pot of fake gold. I’m brooding, not broody I hasten add, thank God. A raucous regular shouts something incoherent and obtuse across the bar, I’m not in the mood, in my head I make an obscene gesture but my masculinity is too fragile. I take a few gulps from my drink, walk to the bar and order another two. After a commotion over a dime I tried to pass off as a five pence piece, I get my drinks and turn to go back to my seat to find Ellen standing in front of me, with a happy grin on her face.
“Hi!” she says beaming happily.
“Hi” I reply.
We sit at the table.
“That one mine? URGH beer!” she cries after picking a pint glass up and taking a sip.
“No” I grumble downing my drink and taking the glass out of Ellen’s hand and begin on that.
I concentrate on absorbing as much of the drink in one gulp as I can, which is no mean feat when you account for the pint glass to mouth size ratio and subsequently it looks like I’ve wet myself again.
“I can tell something’s wrong.”
“Fed up of living at home.”
“Well a drinking competition isn’t going to help matters,” I point out, nodding towards his pint before attempting a small smile, “At least not if you’re the only one playing! I’ll be right back ok?” With that I give him a small kiss on the head and escape to the bar.
No matter what we’ve done this summer, no matter how many fun things we’ve thought up to de-stress, it always comes back down to this. I feel my unusually good mood take a small jolt. It’s difficult to think of something new to say. After three years of the ultimate freedom, hundreds of miles away from my parents and surrounded by friends, fun and the cheapest pubs known to man – returning to my fourteen year old routine at home is far from fun. It wasn’t great the first time round, and now I’m maintaining a long distance relationship to boot. As I put my pint down and slide onto the extremely saggy sofa next to Angus, I place my head on his shoulder. “So what’s happened this time?”
“I mean what do they think they’re doing. There I am being as unobtrusive as I can,” Ellen eyes the rather beautiful collection of empty glasses, “This is here not at home,” I declare defensively, “Anyway there I am minding my own business and then it’s a lecture. ‘Apply for jobs, London’s too expensive, get a job at home!’” I take a breather then continue, “As if I’m doing anything but apply for jobs and if London’s so expensive how come seven million people can afford to live there, that’s quite an achievement.”
“Don’t get a job at home otherwise we won’t be able to move in together,” Ellen says a worried look passing over her face as she drags her fringe out of her hazel eyes.
“I’m not. If I get a job at home I’ll never leave. I’ll join the legions of dull-eyed ambitionless graduates who take up a job for a year to find their feet, then are still there scrubbing a sticky pub floor with back ache and a baby three years later,” I finish glass number four in one fluid motion, “And I think the dog’s out to get me.”
I can’t help but burst out laughing at this last comment. This isn’t received well and I swiftly clear my throat and put on a straight face. As if the dog’s out to get him. When I’d finally gotten round to staying at his house and meeting Wacky, all I’d gotten was cold looks and a clear message of ‘keep your hands off my friend’. Bloody attention seeker.
“Back ache and a baby in three years?" I say, deciding he may not be in the mood to discuss his green-eyed dog. "Just where do you think this relationship is going? I’m not squeezing one out for a decade you freak.”
“You know what I mean…” is the miserable response. Apparently this is not the time for my hilarious comments.
“Why so much negativity? I’ve lived in London all my life – plenty of people live there on minimum wage, and we’ll be sharing all our bills too. At least you’re getting interviews, we’re doing better now than when we were looking at moving to Manchester. As far as I can see you’re doing everything you can. You apply to loads of jobs, you help around the house, and you’re generally much less argumentative than me. The other week I had a full blown screaming match with my mum over printer ink! Although I hasten to add that I was in the right.”
“You’re always in the right,” I confirm and Ellen nods with absolute self-belief, righteousness orbiting her head like a halo. “As soon as I get a job I’m going to be over the moon. I’m going jump really really high and… and…” Ellen frowns, “And shout lots of happy things,” I finish the fifth pint and try to balance it on top of the others until Ellen nods knowingly at the barmaid who removes my magnificent collection and gives me a lollypop.
“Will these happy things involve me?” Ellen asks as we make our way to the bar for the next batch of liquid gold and a mixed grill sharer.
“Yes” I announce, probably to Ellen maybe to the world, “And beer.”
“Of course,” Ellen is being quite understanding and I am feeling much better. The world has taken on an amber glow and everything feels more settled and right. The raucous local is sleeping soundly head firmly on the bar snoring like a baby, and I have an urge to give my compatriot drinker a cuddle. Ellen stops me because he’s drooling.
“The thing is. They tell you parents will be like this when you’re job hunting and you think, no, my parents will be more sympathetic, but they were right.”
“Who? Your parents or them?” Ellen asks confused.
“Who are them?”
“Don’t know,” I reply taking alternate sips out of two pints, “How are you finding it anyway?”
“I don’t know,” I muster, “I’m seeing you pretty much every week now you have interviews, which is better than at the beginning of summer when we didn’t know how long we might be apart. So that’s helping.”
“Another reason London was a better idea!” Angus spits out bitterly, although I suspect it’s aimed at another person who is not present.
“Yes… Well anyway. That’s good, but when you’re not there it’s pretty tense. My parents either act like dictators or children – my dad tried to assassinate me with a banana ‘gun’ on Monday! You’re dead lucky not to be an only child it’s just evil, real torture. When you’re not on Skype I’m subject to mind-numbing loneliness and bitterness towards my parents for not only denying me the right to siblings but also for being so negative about my job hunt. It’s so messed up that at sixteen we were supposed to know what we wanted to do. My A-Level choices have shaped my whole life and now I’m trying to break into one of the most competitive industries I can think of.”
Angus nods sympathetically, or so I think until I notice that he’s drunkenly agreeing with the blackboard opposite that declares pound-a-pint nights truly are the best way to start your weekend. It dawns on me that perhaps he’s past the point of such serious conversation, but before I can move on to a more light-hearted topic Ronan Keating starts blasting from his pocket.
“It’s the company that interviewed me the other day,” he says, looking at the screen of his phone with more scrutiny that is usually necessary.
“Well act sober!” I say as kindly as possible.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
The fleeting moments that I spend alone in pubs whilst Angus empties his bladder often lead me to ponder some of life’s great questions. What will happen if I rip off the ‘untouchable’ little red tag on my mattress? What’s the point of having Braille on bus ‘stop’ buttons? And what is the purpose of a urinal cake? Today is no different. As a newly empty Angus bounces towards me ready to restart his drink and pee cycle, I sit up and try to look as inquisitive as possible.
“Why is it,” I begin, “that the British are always stereotyped? Like, the American’s always think we’re either toffs with three horses who go around saying things like ‘damn and blast’, or massive raving cockneys.”
“You’re a cockney.” Points out Angus helpfully through a mouthful of the finest Somerset cider. Damn and blast.
“I know,” Ellen responds.
“A massive raving cockney,” I repeat with intention to aggravate.
“You love pie and mash and I’ve seen the poster of Dick Van Dyke hanging above your bed.”
“HE’S NOT A COCKNEY!” Ellen screams across the table, eyeballs bulging with Mitchell family rage, chest swelling with East End pride. A chimney sweep sitting in the corner looks up, broken from the reverie of his newspaper and pint. I carefully take another sip of mine.
“Ok he’s not a cockney, but to go back to your question stereotypes tend to be based on a grain of truth. And anyway Americans probably think we’re all cockneys or toffs because of Mary Poppins.”
“Well. That’s stupid.” I mutter, not wanting to admit defeat. “At least it’s a compliment I guess, I mean the view from the outside looking in is at least quite comical. I can’t think of anything quintessentially British today that isn’t a food or drink. We don’t have cool holidays like other people. The Irish have St. Patricks; the Spanish have La Tomatina and like a hundred other awesome festivals. We don’t even get a day off for St. Georges. What will we do at the Olympics opening ceremony? Watch the changing of the guard ten times over a builders brew and some ploughman’s lunch?”
There is a long pause while I wait for Angus to respond to my outburst.
“You’re thinking of ordering the ploughman’s lunch aren’t you?”
“Can I lend a tenner for it?”
“You can’t lend a tenner for it, you can borrow a tenner if you like?”
“Cheers,” I call over my shoulder as I stride to the bar and order a plate of rural culinary delights and reminisce about my birthplace – Shropshire; the land of rolling fields, Müller yoghurt and teenage alcoholism. As I sit down I say: “God knows what they’ll do about the Olympics” I have very little interest in athletics or indeed any competitive sport, “China were last, can’t be difficult to beat can it?”
“China’s were outstanding.”
“Ah. Well in which case we should have a parade like they used to do in the Soviet Union, except instead of tanks and missiles we can have Routemaster buses and football hooligans”
“They’re a stereotype though!” Ellen cries whilst simultaneously flicking the Vs at a bendy bus rumbling past the window.
“I don’t see the problem with that though?”
“All our stereotypes are so lame!” I whine. “Ok, so ‘Green Street’ may have filled me with a bit of pride over my local football team, but I’m not a hooligan! And talking of football – why are we so good at inventing stuff then sucking at it?”
“Because we realised football’s a load of rubbish?” says Angus to no one in particular as he eyes up the pork pie on the plate coming his way.
“Doesn’t it bother you though? That we’re a bit of a joke? I don’t think anyone has lower expectations for the Olympic opening ceremony than the British themselves.”
“Well what would you do if you were in charge?” says Angus with a smug look on his face, which I can’t decide is from his smart-arsed question or his meat-filled-mouth.
“I don’t know,” I sigh before giving in and suggesting another stereotype, “spray Scrumpy cider over the winners instead of Champagne?”
“Waste of alcohol,” I retort downing the last of my drink to mingle the scrumptious apple flavour with the pork, “I like being British, there’s lots of good stuff; the NHS, the pubs,” I say gesturing lovingly at our surroundings, “The food and drink, the sense of pointless time-honoured tradition, the Commonwealth, Stephen Fry, Boris Johnson, the NHS.”
“You’ve said NHS twice and we have crappy weather”
“Yeah well I like the NHS and the weather. It’s part of the British charm isn’t it? How can we be so effortlessly polite whilst our top hats are getting soaked by the constant drizzle?”
“I still don’t like the weather.”
“We have other good stuff too though.”
“Like tea?” Ellen beams.
“Yeah…” I don’t like tea, “Like tea and a rich cultural history.”
“Mainly about bopping people on the head who are different from us.”
“Ok, that’s true but Britain is an amalgamation of different cultures, ingenuity, integrity and fish and chips. It’s a good place” I smile.
Damn and blast. I have been proven wrong.
“Yeah, alright. Point taken.” I say, still secretly wondering why we can’t be a melting pot of culture and history in melting temperatures. “Congratulations, you’ve won me over with British charm. It is hard not to love Boris Johnson and the NHS.” Angus is looking very smug by this point, and I feel it would be best to drive the conversation away from my patriotic failure. Lets face it, I can complain all I like but I’m never going to leave.
“I’ll tell you something else that’s both British and brilliant.” I say as I stand up and grab my purse from the table.
“How does a G&T sound?”
“Smashing! I’m just going to nip to the loo.”
Monday, 27 September 2010
I sat down at the table spilling my pint over the spread of papers.
“Shit,” I swore as the beer was absorbed into my new crisp proof-read targeted CVs, “Gonna have to print off a new batch now.”
Ellen picked up one of the less beer-stained resumes as I wrung the others out over my pint glass and read, “Significant experience in the hospitality sector. Where did you get that?”
“Working at the hotel”
“For the two months you worked there?”
“Does that count as significant, really?”
“More significant than none”
“True, so where have you been handing these out then?”
“Everywhere, shops, restaurants, sales companies, you name it I’ve prostrated myself before them like a geisha kowtowing to a sadistically enthusiastic recruitment company that claims to place you in a job within nine days and remain buoyant two months later when you’ve left the internet dry of jobs having pursued a scorch earth policy of applying to absolutely everything,” I spat.
“No luck then?”
“I got a free pen.”
The dreaded recession-ridden job hunt had not been going well. Having strolled through school and University with good grades and a plethora of outside activities as well as the odd part-time job, we were not prepared for the harsh slap to the face that would follow graduation. Who would have thought an interview didn’t necessarily mean you had the job?
“What about you?” Angus continued.
“I had that interview yesterday… they said they’d call next week.”
“The production company? That’s good isn’t it?”
Was it good? If I got the job, it would be a foot in the door, a step in the right direction so that I didn’t have to spend a year spraying perfume at unsuspecting women as they walked through Debenhams. But then how would I tell my mother…
“They make pornos.”
“Ah, I see,” I looked out the window at the dreary weather, “Would I have heard of any of them?”
“Sorry” I laughed, “So they want you to be in a porno? I’m not sure I’m cool with that, I’m liberal but you know”
“No I’m not going to star in one you idiot, I’d just be digitalising their stock,” said Ellen with a glare.
“So you’d watch porn for a living?”
“Yeah… well…” she frowned, “Well what luck have you had before you start judging me?”
My girlfriend was going to watch adult films for a living, my mates could never know, my girlfriend would be more of a bloke than me. I’d have to become a fireman or a lorry driver; I scrunched up the CV entitled ‘au pair’ and replied:
“I had that interview with the sales company but…”
“But you said they were all spinning on their own inflated egos massaging themselves with commission they didn’t deserve and that you could meet more charming people at a war crimes trial”
“You didn’t get the job did you?”
We both sigh and let ourselves slip into a comfortable silence. Where was the demand for my brilliant documentary producing skills? Why weren’t Blue Peter in contact – begging me to be their latest daredevil presenter? Did they not know what they were missing? As I flicked through the local newspaper, a typo jumped out at me.
“Look at this!” I say as I throw it across the table, “What an idiot. Where’s the professionalism!? I could do their job! Why don’t I have their job?”
As Angus stares blankly trying to come up with an answer I take a deep breath and come back down to Earth.
“How much longer can we possibly wait?”
Neither of us can muster an answer as we sup away at our drinks, envious of the effortlessly cool barman animatedly talking someone through the selection of gins on offer in his place of work, I feel myself starting to give up hope.
to be continued…
Saturday, 11 September 2010
It had all started a few weeks ago when I came up with another of my ingenious ideas.
"I have an experiment we should do." I said as Angus inspected a particularly large curly fry.
"Yeah?" he responded, as the chip met its fate. Attractive.
"Well I was watching telly last night, and that eHarmony advert came on. Where they claim that they match perfect couples by their personalities?" He looks skeptical - I'd better get to my point before he suspects me of swinging. "Well, I think we're a pretty perfect match. Would you agree?"
“Well how good do you think those sites really are at matching people?”
I thought about it, “Well they’re probably quite good at matching lonely people,” I said as I picked up another curly fry and absent-mindedly dipped it in my cider.
“Well yes, but what I’m getting at is this,” Ellen continued, “You should sign up.”
The fry was becoming quite soggy now as I sat open mouthed. I’ve never been dumped by being told I should join an online dating forum before, usually it’s a terse text message or a roundhouse to the temple.
“Then I will” Ellen said beaming, why was she so happy about this awful state of affairs?
I took a big celebratory sip from my pint, only to realise that all I had done was confuse the poor boy, who was looking more flabbergasted with every passing second. I forget that some of my ideas require explanation.
“No, ‘cos you know – I bet they get it wrong.” I blurted out. “We sign up using fake names but fill in everything else totally truthfully, and totally separate from each other. Then we see if they match us.” At this point his curly fry finally gave up the fight and broke off, sinking slowly to the bottom of his cider. My explanation didn’t seem to have done the job. Better give it one last shot. “The point is that we prove that these things don’t work, ‘cos we know we’re a good match but I bet they won’t pair us.”
I rubbed the tear from my eye and gulped, “I see, well in that case yes!” With that we clinked pints and drank to our masterful plan, well Ellen drank I spat my cider fry cocktail back out.
If you’ve ever started an account on a dating site you will know of the reams of psychological questions they ask to either judge your compatibility to your matches or to assess whether you’re complete psychopath or just monstrously lonely. They also ask a number of questions which I would argue do not require much vanity to be completely misconstrued. ‘How attractive do you find yourself?’ Well my mum always said I was handsome, so very. ‘Do you make your friends laugh?’ Well yes, mainly when I’m embarrassing myself but still yes. ‘Would you consider watching the opposite sex from afar inappropriate?’ Not if you pretend to read a newspaper with two eye-holes cut in it.’
“What name are you using? So I’ll know if I’m matched to you.” I ask Angus over Skype, who is about 15 minutes ahead of me as I type in my pseudonym ‘Paige’. A slightly cringy reference to a show I loved when I was about 13.
“…Angus” he responds. What a twat.
As time dragged on, and I pondered whether the word ‘affectionate’ described me very well, slightly or not at all, my better half was waiting patiently, ready to uncover the trickery of eHarmony and the greater online dating community. Then it was done.
“Ok,” I typed, “I’m checking my matches.” Darren, Martin, Adam. I wasn’t short of matches, but my boyfriend was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly this seemed like less of a victory than it should have been. I started to worry about my plan. The questionnaire really had been very in depth, was it really them that looked the fool?
Sarah, Rachel, Mia. Nope, no Ellen. I sighed. Although this should have been a victory over eHarmony, I began to question our devious plan. Maybe eHarmony was the best measure of compatibility. Maybe Ellen and I weren’t well suited. Maybe how we saw ourselves and a match were different to the front we were apparently giving to each other. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There was so much uncertainty banging about I had to have a lie down, a walk in the rain, a soul search to find the real me. Who were Sarah, Rachel and Mia, why were they so perfect? I was happy wasn’t I? A few G & Ts and a lot of poetry later I slumped back in front of my computer. An email was bobbing about from eHarmony, I half-heartedly clicked it. ‘A new match has been found.’ I read through the email, this match was highly compatible. Highly compatible? The rest were merely compatible, they were just foul temptresses trying to distract me from this highly compatible marvel. Who was this girl? I had to find out, I clicked the link to eHarmony, my heart was in my mouth I had to know who this person was. Maybe we could make a life together, Ellen wouldn’t mind. This disastrous plan was her idea anyway, it wasn’t my fault that her brainwave had led me to a highly compatible match. No, I had to find out who this girl was. I messaged Ellen on Skype, I owed her that much at least, an explanation.
“Ellen” I wrote, “I’ve got a highly compatible match with a girl called Paige”
As I tried to sum up my feelings, my doubts, my curiosity, Ellen replied.
“No friggin’ way!”
“THAT’S AMAZING!” I couldn’t believe it. Angus didn’t seem to be so ecstatic – maybe he was sad that we hadn’t gotten the ‘scoop’ we had set out for. “I can’t believe they actually matched us!!”
“WHAT?!” I shouted across Skype (this is done by using capital letters and exclamation marks and is very clever), “You’re Paige?”
“YES!!!” Ellen shouted back.
I started smiling, then grinning, and then laughing. We were a highly compatible match, I couldn’t believe it. All that doubt and worry then this. This miracle, this confirmation.
“That is absolutely incredible” I wrote, with the amount of questions they asked I thought the chance of us getting matched was slim nigh impossible. This was brilliant.
And that is how it came to be that we sat here, tucking into the most expensive burgers on the menu with a jug of Pimms to toast our success at being a highly compatible couple. After all our glee at the thought of exposing the liars behind this dating phenomenon, we were happy to swallow our pride and make a toast.