Chapter 65: New Year’s Dissolution

Dear Diary,

A happy 2014 to you! How fares things in diary land? Did you get any natty presents?

Okay, enough about you.

Do you remember the old days of ‘overshare’? The old blog? When I used to regularly write up a live journal of my relationship status in a coded array of pop culture references and general trivia?

You miss it, don’t you? I mean, you sometimes had to look at it through your fingers, but it was the good stuff, wasn’t it? Intellectual and romantic voyeurism. And it was good for me, because writing it out all for an unseen audience gave me the motivation and focus to really think in depth about it all.

I haven’t done that in ages. And not because the last blog imploded so spectacularly. Actually because, well, I haven’t had anything to write about. I made grand claims at the beginning of this pillow book about going back to my old ways… but really I’ve been so swept up in (a) making music and (b) paying the bills that I haven’t really had time to have the relationships to write about.

Of course that’s utter bollocks. But that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

Here’s the thing.

Okay, no, here’s a thing.

There has always been a good reason. Always a responsible reason. At the end of my last relationship I behaved very irresponsibly: it was the first time I’d ever done something I knew was wrong, rather than just been a bit of a thoughtless dick. And the aftermath left me with a sense of self-loathing I hadn’t had since being a teenager. Which I had no desire to repeat. So since then I have been the model of responsibility. (I think – but of course, Diary, you’d have to talk to some of your diary friends to see whether that’s actually true.)

Everyone has always been too young, or dealing with too much heavy stuff to be dealing with my advances at this point in time, or there’s the fact that so-and-so is clearly so in love with them, and I’d hate to be the one to upset that, or something…

But New Year’s Eve — that merry-go-round of alcohol and seasonal holiday disorientation (a week of “what fucking day is it anyway?”) that marks the end of one more year of your life, combined in my case with a physically exhausting 6 hours of pretty much playing non-stop music as loud as I can, and topped off with all the couples kissing at midnight — is a traditional point to stop and reflect on it all.

And this is me stopping and reflecting. I’m sick of it, Diary. It’s not working. I’m tired and bored and heartily fed up. And actually, I have been for a long time. I’ve just been using the album and other musical projects as an excuse to postpone dealing with relationships properly. In fact, remind me to play you a song I wrote a year and a half ago called ‘Dodging Bullets’, which catalogues the general farce my lovelife had descended into even then.

Anyway, it’s been three and a half years of being single now, and it’s embarrassing. No one my age stays single for this long. And people start to wonder: what’s his problem? You’ve been wondering it too, haven’t you, Diary? It’s okay, I totally understand! I would do the same…

Thankfully I’m not getting advice from people at my age, and even if I did I at least know enough now to know that NO ONE truly understands love, no matter what they/we say. Instead we have moments when we’re incredibly lucky and it works, and if we’re smart we hold on to that. And as we get older we all spot the major pitfalls. But no one fully understands the subtleties of love, just like no one fully understands the human body. (You can still get sick and die from something that medical science can’t begin to explain.)

But of course that’s not going to stop me trying to figure out all the maths behind it. Me being me. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason why it’s not working is because, once again, I’ve just failed to understand quite how love really works.

And this is an important point, Diary, because there was always a point to the overshare. I’ve never wanted to just hang up my dirty laundry, which is why I’ve always tried to keep the actual specific details of the sitcom that is my lovelife out of these virtual pages. But what I’ve actually learnt from them I do want to share, because I hope you might also find it useful… for… whatever lovelife concerns diaries have.

Of course, the problem has never been meeting attractive women. Oxford, my hometown, has more intelligent, witty and beautiful women than it knows what to do with. The problem is what happens next, because I’ve just been way to precious about love. I think I’ve just veered from one Romantic Fundamentalist extreme to another, and now I’m just way too cautious and way too timid about the potential heartbreak I might cause someone if it goes wrong. I’ve always been looking too far ahead, and been way too afraid of the potential fallout. So I’ve been finding ways again and again to reject advances as gently as possible.

But now I think that’s a fucking stupid thing to do, and I’m tired of it. Yes, heartbreak is painful, and yes it leaves scars for a long time. But it’s going to happen to us all anyway, no matter what we do. And I’ve got over each of the hundred heartbreaks that I’ve been through in life – why should I believe that no one else is capable of doing so? It’s just a fact of life.

And although sometimes you just know when someone isn’t right for you, it’s very very rare that you find someone that you’re 100% certain is right for you. I did once, and I was 100% wrong, and that makes me suspicious of the whole process. And so I’ve developed this habit of distancing myself from women because I don’t know whether we have the right chemistry, but yet I know that’s stupid, because you don’t really get to know somebody well enough to know if you’re well-matched until you’ve lived with them for about 3 months.

And also, if you give someone the cold shoulder to spare them the heartbreak if it all goes wrong, they’ll probably end up believing that you don’t find them attractive. Which, being untrue, is probably more unhelpful than the heartbreak.

But then again, you know me, Diary. There’s nothing that bores me more than complaining (with the possible exception of backstabbing, but they grow from the same tree). 2013 has been a very good year for me with regards to music-making, and if the year has taught me anything it’s that things don’t happen unless you make them happen.

So what am I going to do about it?

Well… this one is a little left-field.

I’m going to shave off my beard, and grow a pencil moustache. I’m going to wear linen suits, despite the current inclement weather. I’m going to wear ostentatious shoes. And I’m going to earn a reputation as a bit of a bounder.

No, don’t try to dissuade me, Diary. I’ve been pondering on this for literally minutes, and I’ve made up my mind. The problem lies with having a reputation for being a nice guy. It’s a terrible mistake, and I should have recognised that ages ago. What after all is a halo, as Christopher Fry once wrote, but one more thing to keep clean?

So I am now resolved to mess up more. That’s been my philosophy in so many other areas of life; why has it taken me so long to apply it to relationships? If you don’t keep taking risks then you lose the ability to take them. And the heart is a muscle, after all, and all muscles need exercise.

I need an incredibly cheeky car, I think. Something like an Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite. And I need to buy lots of wax. Not entirely sure what for, but definitely for the moustache, and the car, and maybe the suggestion of some nefarious sexual practice, which I’ll probably need to research. (That said, still only single women who are attracted to me. I’m not a total fucking idiot.)

The thing is, I am by nature a monogamous romantic. I am very much the marrying parenting kind. But I’m just incredibly bored at the moment, and pissed off with how I’ve used this as an excuse for being way too passive, and I also recognise that it’s time for me to put a few interesting chapters in the middle of my potential future biography. In fact, maybe it’s the crème de menthe talking but it occurs to me that in all those biographies of the Burton / O’Toole / Harris brigade, even though they were complete womanising arseholes, they always seem to be remembered fondly by the many women they left behind. And I’ve wondered whether those women regret those encounters. And whether or not they would do them all again, if given the chance.

Am I putting myself on the same pedestal as the twentieth century’s greatest hellraisers, I hear you cry? Yes, dear Diary, I am. Don’t act so surprised.

It’s my fantasy, and I’ll lie if I want to…

Actually, Diary, you know the reason why I haven’t done this for these last three and a half years? It’s just occurred to me. It’s because I didn’t want people to think I was immature. I didn’t want people to sigh, and say “Oh, that’s a bit sad? Is he still doing that? In his late 30s?” When everyone else is settled down.

But ‘how people judge your way of life’ is never ever a good barometer for how to live. Ask anyone who considers themselves to be an artist. And anyway, what’s *actually* sad is being single forever. And I’m just totally out of practice when it comes to relationships.

And the lifestyle of the cad also has the perk that when you finally get married and settle down (which has always been the plan) you become the prodigal family man, and suddenly everyone falls over themselves to proclaim how mature and respectable you are. It’s ‘Shakespeare’s Prince Hal’ syndrome: pretend to be a self-centred wastrel, and people will be all the more impressed when you finally give long rousing battle speeches in iambic pentameter.

So this is going to be my 2014. I’m not going to think about the long-term anymore. Because, as the man of the hour says, in the long-term we’re all dead.

And above all, I’m going to stop waiting for things to happen.
If they were going to happen, they’d have happened by now.

Which presumably means back to dating, which I’ve always dreaded like dentistry. But that’s good for you, Diary! Because I’ll have a whole new catalogue of disastrous anecdotes to regale you with. And I know you love a good cringe.

Although I will also have to put a notice in the Times saying:

“Mr James Calamity Bell thanks you all for your kind concern, but would like to politely remind you all that men who wear neckerchiefs do not under any circumstances need to be set up with people you think they’d be really well suited to. They are perfectly capable of creating situations where they pretend not to recognise people in the street; they really don’t need any third party help on the subject. Furthermore, they will steal all your book tokens, wee in your sink and incessantly laugh at their own jokes, and a good friend wouldn’t wish them on anyone. Yours, etcetera etcetera…”

And frankly, Diary, it’s been a long time since I’ve really felt out of my comfort zone on this. I want to feel excited again. I want to feel out of my depth. I want to break into a sweat and get the pulse racing. I want people to worry about me, and the terrible choices I’m making.

And I really want a cane sword. Like John Steed in the Avengers.

They do actually exist!

In other news…

I saw a film over Christmas, called Easy A.

Well, I say ‘saw’. I channel-flicked a film called Easy A. And that’s an important distinction to make, because when I comment on any film that I’ve channel-flicked I have to be aware that I might have missed the “You know who used to talk a lot of sense? Joseph Goebbels, that’s who!” scene. But that said…

It’s a film starring Emma Stone, released in 2010.

It’s a sweet film (excluding the probable Goebbels scene, of course). And clearly an affectionate nod to the John Hughes films of old, because it has “If You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins in it.

The reason why I’m telling you this, Diary, is because it had something in it that I don’t remember having ever seen or read in a story before.

Totally amazing parents.

Olive’s mum and dad are played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, and the characters are just the most wonderfully funny, rude, affectionate and supportive parents:

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have parents like that? Why don’t more stories have parents of their ilk?

So, dear Diary, take note. If you’re ever thinking of moving into fiction (I mean, more fiction than the usual shit I make up in these blogs) then really sweetly funny parents might be something to go for.

Other non-movie related news also includes having a conversation in the pub last night with someone about doing a project which, if it works, will be taking traditional English music in a direction that I’m pretty sure no one has done before. Not only that, it will be that rarest of things: controversial for all the right reasons.

Watch this cyberspace…

And also, here is another ‘Wrecking Ball’ parody. I saw on Facebook it yesterday.

Okay Diary, there’s this former child star called Miley Cyrus. Google her, if you dare.

And there’s this thing called ‘Chatroulette’ (i.e. chat roulette), which is a website chat room where users log in, and click a button and are randomly connected with another user, until they click again and are randomly connected to yet another user. And when people were connected with this chap they found what looked like the guy from the 1970s Joy of Sex manual miming to the infamous video in which Miley Cyrus cavorts naked on a wrecking ball.

Firstly, from having watched this parody about 80 times in the last 24 hours (yes, I know Diary – issues…), I absolutely love the song. “I came in like a wrecking ball / … / All I wanted was to break your walls / … / I just closed my eyes and swung / … / All you ever did was wreck me…” Like the best megapop songs, it feels like it’s made up entirely from clichés and yet somehow I can totally relate to it. Because I feel I’ve done the ‘trying to break down someone’s walls with a wrecking ball’ approach. With about as much success.

I loved the song so much I even watched the original video again, to remind myself. And when the video started I was concentrating on how for some reason it looked like an underwear advert, and as I was thinking about the Sinead O’Connor spat… bam! Suddenly she’s swinging naked on the wrecking ball. And it’s a measure of how much I enjoyed the song that I had totally forgotten that that was going to happen. Fuck! I thought, she’s got no clothes on! And my next thought was: that was a bit premature, wasn’t it? In the second chorus? How are you going to top that? You haven’t even hit the middle 8 yet! What are you going to do for the big final chorus repeat, remove a limb?


How could any right-thinking person love a song like this, or even yet another parody of it?

Well, for anybody who believes that their tastes in music make them better than other people, they couldn’t. Simple as that.

The reason why I love this video is that I just love watching people’s reactions. So many of the Chatroulette victims initially look bored and cool and a bit pissed off. And seeing that barrier of cool just fall away into hysterics – watching the hand-on-mouth amazement and that precise moment when it suddenly dawns on them just what is happening – is just one of the most joyful things.

But better still, I love how many of the people just sing along to the song, as if to say “Yes, I know it’s cheesy, but I still love it.”

Basically, it’s 2 minutes 45 seconds of random people being incredibly happy. Here’s hoping 2014 continues in much the same vein.

In conclusion

So, resolving to be the sort of man that single attractive women shouldn’t feel safe around AND celebrating ‘Wrecking Ball’. A bit of a step down in gender politics from the last blog piece, wouldn’t you say?

But let’s be honest, my last blog article was a very righteous outcry against prejudice in the media. And, Diary, you know me… there was simply no way I wouldn’t end up fucking that up in some way, deliberate or otherwise. I have too much mischief. I am the Anti-Bono. Hear me roar.

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