Date: 1 June 2016.
Location: Appestat cafe, Angel, Islington, London, UK, Europe (for now!), the World, the Solar System, the Galaxy. I’m feeling existential.
I just overheard the following from the table next to me at my second favourite London cafe: “She was like all worried about living in London and having no money. Then she just did it and realised it was easy. You just don’t live in Angel in a one-bedroom flat!”
Yeah, well. Smug one bedroom flat girl (with no money) here. With so much to tell you! Mostly, what these otherwise unconnected stories — unconnected save in that they all happened to me — have in common is me being awkward or uncomfortable. Sometimes both. Enjoy.
First, I’ve started doing 6.45am Pilates classes. I love hate it. I feel about these classes much as I do about very bitter coffee, or buying organic vegetables, or camping — it hurts, but good-hurt. I’ve had a variety of instructors so far, each of whom makes the morning a very different experience: pocket rocket cruel ballerina Suzi Power, spiritual Udo, flamboyant James and his Eurovision playlist. My favourite instructor is ex-gymnast Flávio. I discovered him by accident. Very, very late one Wednesday night, feeling regretful after a few too many wines at The Hoxton, I decided to make myself book into a Friday class. The knowledge that I had to wake at 6 on Friday morning, I thought, would keep me from going out Thursday night. A few moments later I received the booking confirmation email: 6.45am, Thursday morning Pilates with Flavio. What!? No! F***! I immediately tried to cancel but to no avail. ‘This class begins in 4 hours. No cancellation is possible.’ F***ing f***! At £20 a pop, not turning up was, even to lazy me, inexcusable. So, three and a half hours later when my alarm went off, I dragged myself from bed, into leggings and down the road to class where I endured an hour of mean Italian pony-stallion Flávio. It was horrendous. But… I haven’t missed a Thursday 6.45am Flávio class since. To give you a better understanding of what an hour under Flávio’s care is like, here is a selection of recent Flávio quotes:
“It’s arms day! None of you girlies will be able to brush you hair tomorrow.”
“John, you’re on the girl springs setting. Are you a girl? Are you?! Where are your boobs?”
“Don’t make me yell at you. I don’t want to keep yelling at you! You’re making me yell at you!”
“It’s legs day today. Good luck on waking down the stairs to Kings Cross tomorrow.” (Followed by cackle.)
And, least endearingly, “If Alex drops her side plank we all start again!
In other news, I have a stupid and pointless mini crush on a guy at work. Kitty and I met him at an informal after work drinks affair at Truckles, the horrible local pub near the office whose virtues are that everyone knows it (because they hate it), its cheapness and its expansive outdoor area (in London, all too rare). He has one of those open, easy and fearless manners that effortlessly engages. And he has one of those looks you just can’t miss: tall, athletic and half Asian, half Mancunian. It works well. We all joked around and, at he end of the evening, a gaggle of six of us went out for Korean food. After that I was relatively content to admire from afar in the workplace. However, one very normal Thursday morning, spirits buoyed by a particularly successful meeting with a company Higher-Up, I ran into him and friend on the second floor. They were both in sports gear, looking very sporty. Feeling bold and wanting to strike up a chat, I told them so. Well, I meant to. My actual words were, “Hello. Don’t you look fit.” Of course, as anyone who’s has ever watched The Bill, Snog Marry Avoid or any British show in between, knows that, in the UK, ‘fit’ has a slightly different meaning.I realised this almost immediately. I flushed red. He and his friend looked at one another, bewildered. I ran away into the stairwell. Oh my god. The most painful part is this he is so evidently the type of man who prefers in for light-hearted, demure, blonde, skinny English girls and, given that I could not further from all of that, it’s understandable why he’d be so baffled by such a comment. This is still mortifying a month on.
Two weeks later, I was handed a second chance, a chance to prove I was not a complete moron. We were both perusing the lunch offerings upstairs and had a brief conversation about the merits of soup (cool, I know). Then we were together in the line to pay — me toting my soup. We chatted again, as you do, and walked out to the lobby together. “Stairs?” He suggested. “Lift!” I protested. “I’m in heels!” “C’mon. Stairs.” The combination of the cheeky northern accent, the challenge and the opportunity to prove I could do more than mild and unwelcome office-place sexual harassment and soup talk was irresistible and I followed him into the stairwell. About three floors down, as he tried to explain the rules of the Euro soccer tournament to me, I stumbled. I lurched forward. He caught me. It probably sounds romantic but I promise you it wasn’t. Bright red, I made a joke about how lucky I am to work for a health insurer because, ha ha, I’m so tragically accident prone, and dashed away to my desk. Ugh, the horror.
Somehow, I need to wade back into the dating pool and, if I can get over my mortification about his patent lack of interest I could, perhaps, use this as an opportunity to practice my dying flirting skills? It’s been so long since I even attempted a half-hearted flirt I wouldn’t know where to start!
Add to this humiliation the time last week when a work friend invited me down to Cambridge to a May Concert at Trinity and told me the dress code was smart casual. Her dad, our host, answered the door to his (ahem) Master’s Lodge in a penguin suit. It was black tie. I was wearing pants. We sat in the front row with the Master and I had to meet about a hundred honoured guests, at least two of which were Lords and one a Knight. Still living that one down too.
Anyway, the guys next to me are continuing to have the best eavesdropping conversation and I simply have to share some snippets:
“Gonna get back on the horse, you know? I had this total epiphany. I’ve spent the last eight years thinking that I don’t ever want kids. Then I woke up and realised — I just don’t want kids with her.” (Ouch.)
“She was much hotter than I’d expected. Like, too hot. I spent the whole time wanting to kiss her and that was really distracting. So, I may need another real estate agent.”
“Then there was a 23 year old girl, which was fun.” “Usually is.” “Yeah, and I though it’d be fine. I mean, I was 23 when I started dating Jo. But now? 23 is too young right? All of her stories started with, ‘when I was at school’. Man, I felt like pedo.”
“I’d forgotten that her cat uses the human toilet. Dude, it was horrific.”