In which there are many good things

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wakeup

My basket of good things is very much overflowing at the moment and I’m trying to just have a minute to pause and be seriously grateful for it all, to not be overwhelmed by everything.

My sister is coming over this evening for a natter and some pizza in front of the fire. Former Housemate S is coming tomorrow – we’re having a day out shopping then she’s staying here. There is apparently a Christmas present on its way to me from The Prof, which is a level of festive organisation some way beyond what I am achieving (“shit! It’s December! Better buy some Christmas cards!!”).

I’m going to talk about a consultancy project for a place who last week were thinking about offering me a job out of thin air on the basis of my CV (where FF works) – but it wasn’t quite the right place for me, I was a trifle too expensive for them – and of course I now have a very very very good extra reason for wanting to stay in my current job despite the distance. But I can help them out with a short project which I can fit into my evenings and get some decent money in return. Hurray! Every little helps when you’ve recently outfitted your kitchen…

Things with OF are just lovely. They are so nice, so fluffy, so gorgeous that I am largely making various of my friends fairly nauseous when I start talking about it.

But oh – Dear Diary! – he bought me fluffy slipper socks when I had to go home a bit earlier than him because I was shattered. I slept on his sofa and he came in the door and had remembered I said that my feet get really cold because the stupid M.E. fucks up my circulation a bit. And he’d bought himself a pair too. It was ridiculously cute.

I swear – my heart wibbled. Over a pair of socks.

And he’d bought me some girly shower gel too, so that I could smell girly instead of minty if I used his… me worrying about leaving a toothbrush there is absolutely and totally ridiculous, then. Think less, do more.

He kissed me in the street up the road from the office when we crossed over getting lunch. I swear, I walked around with the biggest shit-eating grin for the next twenty minutes. How is it that a quick kiss can make you so happy?? How?

He packed me off with a lasagne from his fridge last night, knowing I’d get home a bit late. He was having dinner at the pub with his mum, I was welcome to come along, he said, but I’d rather not meet his mum when I’m tired from the office and my hair looks crap and my makeup has half come off. Not that he notices that.

Parents are going to be made to wait a little longer, not because we feel weird, but just because they get a little over-excited and it does them good to wait! We are making Christmas plans, time off plans. We want to get snowed in together. We want to wake up together and not have to go to work.

And I realise – none of this is in my head. The man holding my hand and kissing my hair and buying me socks isn’t doing any of these things for any other reason that because he wants to, because he likes me, because he wants me to know that he likes me and he cares about me.

I just need to adjust to the fact that there are no games, it’s not a trick – he is straightforward and gorgeous without knowing it and funny and kind and he just makes my heart flip – and it’s been a lifetime since I felt like this.

I can’t say this in words to anyone because it’s way too far over the top. I can’t explain how easy and natural it feels to me because we already know each other. I don’t have to impress him. I don’t have to be anyone else – I can just be the slightly dippy silly daft Cots who sings Shut Up and Dance into a spoon while she cooks dinner at his house, the one who isn’t the girl she is at work at home. The one who loves toasty socks and sleepy cuddles and holding hands. The one who doesn’t have to build any walls or be the tough girl. I can think about love and not run away in terror. I can be free whilst being together.

I can just – be me… and be liked very much for it…

What a gift.

Held tight

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“That face!”

He’s laughing at me tucked up under the duvet with just my eyes peeking out, eyes smiling at him as he comes out of the bathroom.

“Those eyes” he says affectionately.

He gets into bed

“Come here” 

He holds out his arms to me, and I gladly snuggle in, head resting on his shoulder, his arms around me, safe and toasty under the duvet.

“That’s better” he sighs.

It is. It really is.

We cuddle for a while, then – you know – things happen. Good things. Great things.

______________________________

“I’ve spent my whole life struggling to come once” I breathe some considerable time later, “and then – and then – and then YOU

I kiss him, where he is resting on top of me after our “early sensible night”.

______________________________

 Earlier that evening  

“I reckon we should each take a day off, go out maybe. All our weekend are so busy! What do you reckon?”

My heart sings. Yes!

“Love to. Great idea. I’ll get on it…”

He wants to spend more time with me!

_____________________________

This morning

We are cuddling in bed before I have to get up. I clearly don’t want to untangle myself.

He sighs.

This is why we need to take a day off…”

Then he goes and irons my shirt.

Yes. He ironed my shirt and made me toast, when he could have stayed in bed because a man is coming this morning to fix something. 

He is… oh… he is…. something wonderful…

In his bed

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He’s gone to work, leaving me all warm and cosy tucked up in his bed.

I’ve got the day off, I’m going down to London later after I’ve driven myself home in a happy haze, but I’m not getting out of bed just quite yet – his bed smells of him, and now I do too. His dressing gown is at the end of the bed, waiting for me to wear it.

My body aches in the best possible way and my mind is a mix of quiet deep-down joy and quiet deep-down scaredness because this is so easy and it is so good and if I let myself go, which I know I’m starting to do, then my heart is wide open and I’m terrifyingly vulnerable and I haven’t let that happen for seven years. I’ve guarded against it but now I don’t want to.

I’m scared and happy and content and still slightly unbelieving and a hundred other things I can’t articulate.

Date three nominally started with a very early drive to his, then a bus ride to work together. The date proper began with us leaving the office together, pretty clearly heading off together – drinks at the pub we went to for date one, the one with cocktails and a fire. Then dinner at one of my favourite Chinese restaurants and the discovery that our favourite dish is the same thing.

A bottle of wine shared there, then wrapped up in each other at the bus stop against the cold wind. Holding hands, kisses, a bus ride home. More wine bought and opened, jeans put on, collapsed on the sofa binging on more old First Dates, cuddling up properly. Laughing all evening from start to finish.

Upstairs in the small hours, his body doing things to mine that no-one has ever done, again and again and again and again – as good as last time – no, scratch that – even better than last time. I would never have believed it possible and yet it was.

A couple of hours of sleep, his alarm, the sights and sounds of a man pottering around getting ready for work, coming back to bed three times to cuddle the naked sleepy girl under the duvet, the last time in his coat and shoes. A kiss goodbye and the silence of someone else’s house. Unwillingness to leave his bed where my mind keeps dizzying me with action replays of what we shared last night, what he gave me.

I can’t fall asleep again – I have miles to drive and hair to wash and trains to catch and food to eat and Rock Band to play; the weekend will be lovely, but just for now – just for a moment longer – I’m going to nestle under his duvet and hug myself with quiet joy.

When can I see you again?

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This time it’s not me asking. This time it’s not me chasing. This time it’s him…

First time in the office today since Friday when Things Happened. Walked in with a straight face and said hello to the room at large in my usual cheery way. There was a lovely smile from OF along with his hello, a smile that no-one else could see.

There were a few of those private smiles between throughout the day.

Then he asked my opinion about a piece of work – we don’t by and large do an awful lot of work together but what we each do has much in common – so I wheeled my chair over next to him and tried to speak articulately whilst mainly thinking “oh god you smell familiar and good” and having blinding flashbacks to the utter bliss of being in his bed and him being inside me. All with a completely professional expression on my face and giving nothing away to R who was probably watching us with raised eyebrows…

Team lunch… all you can eat… didn’t get to sit next to him but got some more smiles up the table. He followed me out and shared his umbrella with me. The rest of the team had vanished – I laughed and said the second I took his arm someone would appear, so I’d better not. Not that I’m sure it actually matters!

We laughed about how much we ached for the rest of the weekend, more easy chat, more laughter.

He looked down at me and asked if I’d like to go out again this week, when I’d like to go out this week?

Thursday? I said (we’d already half discussed it on Saturday).

He thought about it (as it turned out, shifting his mum from Thursday evening who he’d only half said yes too in case I was free) and said yes. I told him I had Friday off, so if he wouldn’t mind me sleeping on his sofa again….?

We both agreed that I wouldn’t be sleeping on the sofa at all and that we definitely needed to do some more of what we did on Friday night. And that he’d pick where to have dinner.

I wanted nothing more than to stand on my tiptoes and give him a kiss, but we were back at the office so we put our twinkly eyes away and our sensible office faces back on.

And now I sit on the train trying to come to terms with the very simple fact that this man likes me.

Likes me when I’m not all dressed up. Likes me when my make-up isn’t perfect and I’m infuriatingly spotty underneath it. Likes me when I do my logistics-planning thing (and does it himself). Likes it when I tease him. Likes it when I smile at him. Likes me even though he had to overhear me teaching a new guy all about pivot tables for an hour.

He just… he just likes me! He bloody well likes me!

I may actually be coming to terms with this!

In which the stars align and the girl gets the fox

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Friday night

Six of us from the work team have been to a beer festival in town. Five of us have then gone on to have curry, and now the parting of the ways begins.

B heads off in the other direction as that’s where he lives. R and his girlfriend C need to catch the train.

“C and I are heading off to the station now…I guess you are too?” says R, looking at me with the face of someone having total fact-based 100% confidence that I’ll be heading in that direction too and will therefore naturally be heading off with them.

“Ummmmm, actually…. no… not right now….” I say, extremely sheepishly. There are only two of us left – me and OF – and we smile at each other.

“Oh! Right….” says a clearly baffled R, “right then…”

“`Bye then!” says OF to them extremely cheerily and with a huge smile, and off the pair of us go to buy wine.

Earlier that evening

We are sat around the table at the beer festival. There wasn’t a space next to me for OF initially, but later on a chair next to me is free, and OF sits himself in it to chat to me.

We chat about the beer and the train, and I very laughingly make a comment about how I either don’t have too many drinks, or he does the gentlemanly thing and lets me sleep on his new sofa that he keeps telling me about. I make it a throwaway comment that doesn’t need a reply, that isn’t pushy or bossy or assumptive so that I don’t scare him (although, Dear Reader, I confess that I have a toothbrush and a pair of knickers in my bag, and have gone to some trouble to pay for two days parking at the station on a very remote Just In Case off-chance. Be Prepared and all that.).

I’d hoped to go for dinner just the two of us after the beer event (and I’d emailed him as such earlier in the day), but it seems that everyone is feeling sociable and hungry, so off we go for curry and OF and I sit next to each other. It’s a lot of fun. I feel like my old self – the sociable fun old self who loved a work outing. I feel really happy.

The waiter comes to take our order and I very reluctantly ask for a bottle of sparkling mineral water.

Very quietly – very very quietly next to me – OF says “you can stay on the sofa”, and my happiness levels shoot through the roof.

I change my order very quickly to a large glass of wine… and after that, I don’t move my leg away when they brush under the table. Neither does he.

Dinner over, we say our goodbyes, make our less-than-subtle departure to the surprise of R and C, and stop at Sainsburys to buy wine on the way to the bus stop.

We wait for the bus at the stop where I went home from so many work outings back with the old work team, the OG team, those drunken days of pubs and not enough food. It’s cold and it’s familiar wrapped up in a new level of anticipation, of the feeling of something good being just a bus ride away.

The bus comes – it’s the bus I used to get home every day when I first starting writing this blog. The sense of the familiar and the comforting grows, and I’m only sad that the front seats at the top are taken. We sit down, we chat and laugh about how familiar this is to me, the time I was a tiny bit sick after too many wines out with the work gang, we chat and laugh and chat and our legs touch, and even though we are going home together and having a wonderful time we are still being careful and I don’t want to overwhelm him or scare him away.

We get off the bus a stop early at his suggestion so we can walk through the place where he lives a little. It’s somewhere I’ve been a little, somewhere I went through on the bus every working day for three years – my sense of the familiar is surrounding me like a warm blanket – to be back in the Cotswolds, it’s like a hug from an old friend.

His house is down a dark little lane and the stars are shining brightly on us. He opens the door to his little house, and there we are, in his little man-cave. He’s only lived there for two months, and I am charmed by how obvious it is that a man lives there. There are shirts on the banisters and washing up by the sink, and he laughs and tells me that the clearing up he told me he’d be doing the other evening didn’t happen… but it’s warm and cosy and has character, it has a particular smell which I really like which makes me feel at home. I like it very much.

He finds some clean glasses and I open the Prosecco. I look at his books (“got that one and that one and that one and that one and that one”) before we sit on the sofa, not quite touching, and start a marathon binge of Series 3 of First Dates.

After twenty minutes I ask if he’s going to sit so far away all evening, laughing. He budges up. Neither of us can drink competently and we both spill a great deal of fizz down ourselves, to shouts of laughter. We’re not wildly drunk – just merry and happy and completely clumsy. We cuddle up, snuggling and holding hands, and he turns out to be just as good at shredding the people on First Dates as I am, and I like him even more.

We talk about friends, about people with families. I explain who the Prof is, because that’s who I’m staying with in London next weekend. I explain that he is one of my best friends, that we hang out, play Rock Band and watch films – that is isn’t like “that”. He doesn’t bat an eyelid.

Eventually we end up having the “past relationships” chat. He tells me, slightly helplessly, that he’s only been single for two months, that it hasn’t been long. He tells me that it should have happened a long while before, probably. I ask him if he is happy with things, with living here, with how things are – and he says yes.

I don’t push too hard. Instead I tell him that I haven’t actually dated anyone remotely seriously for five years, I tell him a little bit about getting married young, about leaving him. He tells me a little about a couple of other long relationships. We are still cuddling, we haven’t moved apart. We agree that we don’t think anyone should get to our age (and we are the same age, he is exactly two months older than me) without having a reasonable about of past relationship baggage, we both think people are odd without it.

He smiles, looks at me and says “Yeah, I’ve been single for two months, and I thought, J– is nice…” – which makes my heart skip.

I snuggle into him and try to tell him that I know he’s not long been single, and that I have definitely chased him, but I can only say that I’ve liked him for TWO YEARS, that I fancied the pants off him at the conference and nearly nearly jumped on him then, but that I’m glad I didn’t, and that I thought if I didn’t chase him now then it would end up being someone else.

He is genuinely bemused.

“No….?” he says, looking down at me with an expression that actually makes me think that what he means is “no… I like you… it wasn’t going to be anyone else…” and I stop talking because I can’t explain what a catch I think he is. Also, I sound a bit bonkers.

We’ve passed the “relationship chat” test without either of us recoiling in horror…

“I’m glad I asked you out, then” I tease. Then I turn to him, “but do I have to wait till Date Three for kissing?? Because, just to make it clear, I’m not starting the kissing if there’s going to be any…”. Oh Cots, oh Cots who must know…

“No” he says, and kisses me. Then he lies back again and cuddles me.

“IS THAT IT?!?” I laugh and shout at the same time. I’m half mock-outraged and half real-outraged, and a tiny bit tiddly. I accidentally spill some more wine down me for good effect.

He is smiling at me, oh those lovely eyes. His face is blushing and I can’t read it.

“What?” I ask more gently. “It’s nothing. It’s just me being stupid” he says.

I have no idea what he’s being stupid about. I make a wild guess – well, the only guess that I can come up with. I sit up and turn to face him properly. This lovely kind diffident shy-in-some-ways and not-in-others gorgeous man has robbed me of every single subtle seduction trick I’ve ever learned. I feel like a teenager again.

“M – I know you’ve only been single for two months. I know that. But I live in —shire! I’m only in the office twice a week!! I’m not exactly a huge threat to your new single-maness!”

He laughs. I sit up even straighter and make him look at me properly.

“Well then – what???” I laugh. He is just looking at me all shyly, smiling.

“Do you like me?” I enquire.

“Yes!” he says.

“And am I kissable???” I demand, with a very exasperated look on my face.

“Yes!!!” he laughs.

“WELL….?!!!” I am laughing, shaking my head; words are failing me.

And so we kiss some more. Lots more. He is very gentle at kissing, but he gets a bit braver as we lie there finally doing something about it. We just kiss, we just lie there making out.

After a while he stands up, goes to the stairs and says “this would be a lot comfier upstairs” and I think, “oh good, I’m not sleeping on the sofa and his nerves have gone…”

I smile and I follow him.

We brush our teeth. I hastily get undressed, just leaving my knickers and vest top, and scramble under the duvet. I am unbelievably nervous. I can feel every bit of my body that I hate. I am so so scared he will hate them too.

He comes out of the bathroom and gets undressed, wearing a t-shirt and his boxers. He laughs at me sat in his bed, hugging my knees under the duvet. “You ok?” he asks, smilingly. “Yeah” I answer very shyly, peeking out from under my hair.

He climbs in, and we roll over to embrace each other. I laugh very nervously and quietly and tell him I feel like I’m eighteen again. He laughs and says “me too”.

And so then we kiss, and we start to very shyly touch each other. I am so goddamn nervous. I laugh very nervously and whisper “I feel like I have to ask your permission to touch you!!”.

“You don’t” he says, and after that everything is OK.

After that, in fact, he isn’t remotely shy in bed. I get a very pleasant surprise when, in the course of my tentative explorations, I discover something really lovely which I’m going to get to enjoy very much. I kiss him hard and think “thank god thank god thank god it’s not a disappointment”.

He takes his time, gently and confidently exploring me. We get rid of the nightwear. I can just see the outline of him in the dark, my brain is exploding with happiness telling me this is OF, this is really really OF, we are really doing this together.

He spends a lot of time stroking my tummy. Initially I am nervous – this is my most-hated part, and I’m convinced he’ll realise how awful it is.

But he doesn’t. He carries on. He moves further down, and there is not a jot of shyness or diffidence going on now. This OF is confident and talented. He touches me, and just for a moment I see the stars. All of our shyness is gone now – there is only us and this beautiful thing.

He spends a long time touching me, kissing me, stroking me. I touch him too, there is no shyness from me now, I want him and I want to please him, I want to hear the change in his breath.

I kiss my way down him and spend a long time lavishing attention on him. He is very quiet in bed – very very quiet – so I listen to his breath and listen to his body and give myself up to the pleasure of what I’m doing.

Eventually my arms tire and we are ravenous for each other. I rather think that if he’s been single for two months then he won’t have any supplies, so I quietly tell him that I have a coil. “Oh, was that just in case like your toothbrush?!” he teases me.

I smack his gorgeous arse and tell him no, and then we stop laughing and we kiss some more, and shortly afterwards it is so good that I do not have the words to describe it.

There is no hurry. There is only the two of us, just bodies and sweat and limbs; sweetness and ecstasy. As the hours drift by I count out loud to him “two” …. “three” … This, for me, has never been so sublime – it is utterly miraculous.

He teases me and laughs when I wriggle and complain; I sit on him and tease him right back, my arms resting on the beam of the sloping roof, his face in the dark beneath me. I slither down the bed again and taste the two of us.

And then more, oh more. “Four”… I breathe. He shifts position. “Five….” I exhale not long after, shocked and elated. I kiss him and ask what I can do to give him his one after my five…

“Don’t worry” he tells me “it won’t be long”. And he screws me hard into the bed, and silently, so silently, has his as I wrap myself around him.

We lie there in a tangle, breathing hard, hearts racing.

“Well” he says, “work’s never going to be the same again, is it??”

Saturday morning

We get about two hours’ sleep. The rest of the time we are resting but not sleeping. I’m not woken up by a lovely morning surprise. There’s not much cuddling in the morning. It makes me a little nervous until I realise we’re both being a bit shy again.

We have a lovely snuggle then both of us get too hot. The confident uninhibited lovers of the night before have been replaced with who we are the rest of the time – slightly daft clumsy people. He teases me about something, and I laugh and say I won’t tell him the compliment I was about to give him… so he cuddles me again and I tell him matter-of-factly that what we did last night was some of the best I’ve ever had in my life.

He blushes and says “yeah, it was nice….”. I roll my eyes at him and say “NICE?!”, laughing. “Yeah. I’m not very good with words…” he tells me sheepishly. Which I already knew, he is forgiven and it is understood. And we have another in-joke to be used with a glint in the eye.

He cooks us breakfast, he lends me his dressing gown which he’s been wearing and smells of him. We get the duvet and flop out on the sofa watching some more First Dates, barely awake. I ache all over. He tells me I can stay as long as I want. I know he’s got coaching in the afternoon, he tells me I can let myself out if I want to, but it’s ok, I want to get the train and collapse in a heap.

He showers, I shower, and then he suggests we go to the pub as it’s ages to my train and he’s going to drop me off on his way to coaching. I smell of his deoderant which ridiculously makes me smile for no good reason.

And in the pub everything is OK again. We sit by the fire, his eyes are smiling at me, we talk about my M.E., we talk about the sport that he coaches. We talk and laugh and talk and laugh and it’s easy and natural and lovely. My sandwich comes and he eats my chips. We laugh again about R’s face when it turned out I wasn’t getting the train home. We swap phone numbers.

He perfectly artlessly suggests we have dinner again next week. On the short walk back from the pub we talk about my house, and I say he should come and see it. He would love to. Then we start talking weekend logistics, in great pre-Christmas complexity, before saying “oh, we’ll sort it out on Tuesday”.

And then I think it’s going to be OK. I think “he likes me, he wants to do this again, he wants to see me again, I haven’t put him off”. I smile and am a hair’s breadth from reaching for his hand as we walk, but something stops me. Shyness again.

He drops me at the station, looks edible in his sports kit. We kiss goodbye, I stumble over my thank-you, tell him it was “nice” with a very cheeky look in my eye, he laughs, and then I sit on the little platform at this little station and wait for my train, the happiest girl in the world.

 

In which I have a very posh dinner that I don’t want 

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I’ve been awake since 4:30am with rampant… indigestion.

Last night was the dinner with Mr Much Older. He’d gone to some trouble to book a very posh restaurant over the weekend, and I couldn’t back out even though after Monday the last thing I wanted was a date with anyone else on the planet.

So after my singing lesson I came home, changed my mind about wearing a dress, put something pretty but less formal on, minimal make-up, boots with heels, and off I went.

The restaurant was in a very posh hotel not far away that I’ve never been to. It was all plush chairs and a fountain out the front, an old building, very grand.

Mr Much Older was waiting for me in the lobby, silver hair, not unattractive per se, wearing a suit in that way successful older men do, slightly nonchalantly. He was drinking sparkling mineral water and I joined him in that.

He complimented my hair, my outfit, was charmed to meet me. He used my name a lot. He was quite softly spoken, projected an air of the urbane, and some of his mannerisms were interestingly borderline discreet camp. If someone had appeared out of the wainscotting and told me he was gay, I wouldn’t have been entirely surprised.

But he wasn’t and he liked my company. Mainly, I believe, because I listened.

I should really have learned by now that older men largely like to talk at me, tell me all about themselves in seemingly endless detail, share their life experiences with me (and indeed tell me things they think I don’t know but that I do) while I sit there and nod and smile and look like I’m actively listening.

The tiny canapés arrived before we ordered. Two were not veggie. The other two were incredible tiny savoury macaroons, green, herbal, apply – beautiful. I ate one of them and sank into my own private reverie while he talked.

We ordered dinner. I winced at the prices before remembering that this was his choice and I’d been crystal clear that we were having dinner with no expectations. He obviously had money, from what he was telling me. His choice.

We went through, and were served the amuse-bouche. It was delicious and mercifully veggie-friendly, unlike the rest of the menu. In the absence of any veggie main course whatsoever, I’d gone for the fish. I wasn’t in the mood to start asking what veggie options there would be off-menu; I wasn’t paying and my manners dictated that I just bloody eat something on the menu.

Scallops to start – which I love anyway. Tiny elegant portions like a work of art. I don’t get to eat like that very often at all. I focused on the food and made sure any chat was about that and not him for a while.

The main course was monkfish with cauliflower and sauce with mussels dotted around. Another piece of art, and given how much I’d wished for something veggie to eat, it was absolutely stunningly delicious.

He told me about his holidays, about where he is going, where he has been, etc etc etc. I kept my expression interested due to the cost of dinner and the loveliness of it, but inside I was tired and wanted to be curled up on my sofa. Ideally with a warm OF behind me.

For dessert I had cheese, since I’m off the sugar. The cheese board was incredible and I picked four of the runniest smelliest cheeses possible. They were a joy, although I suspect that they along with my main course are responsible for me being awake at this hour.

Then we retired to the library. I had had enough polite listening by then. The most I’d managed to speak was when we chatted about F1 for ten minutes. I’d given him all sort of little gambits to pick up on, had he chosen. Some he did, for all of five minutes, but all of them – all of them without fail – returned to him and a story about him.

I went to the ladies’ and texted the Prof.

Then I returned, and wondered how long before I could politely go home. About 40 minutes, as it turned out.

He’d been charmed, had a wonderful wonderful evening. Gave me his card, said we should do a walk and a pub lunch. His eyes had the hope that I’d like to date him, and my cold hard heart said “yes, because you are 36 and he is 55, to him you are young and attractive”. Whereas to me he was a man too old for me. All the trappings in the world, all the lure of a pit lane ticket at the Grand Prix, all the taking care of the bills – just not interested. I’m not that girl and I never will be. I was grateful for the dining experience and that was it.

And so for the second night in a row I offered to pay my half of dinner and was politely refused. Mr Much Older was horrified at the very notion.

He kissed me on both cheeks goodbye, hoped to see me again, and I drove down the drive and back home knowing that he wouldn’t, feeling I’d led him on by even just having dinner with him, feeling guilty even though I’d been so clear it was only dinner and that was all I was offering. I wished it had been burger and chips for two at the pub – then I’d feel less guilty about not seeing him again.

Two dates. One the height of luxury, a real treat food-wise. One an iffy dinner at Yo Sushi. One with a man who takes himself deeply seriously. One with a man who made me laugh for four hours straight.

There could not be two more polar opposite dates. And I’ll take the iffy Yo Sushi date every single time. Every damn time.

If things progress with OF as my heart hopes they will, then there will be no more dating. I have texts waiting from both Mr Teach and Gold Necklace and I’m just not interested.

Maybe I can get a bit more sleep now 😕

Tuesday Foxishness

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At about 4pm I realised I was meant to be organising a team lunch, having largely spent the day emailing Cousin Z about yesterday’s date with OF and texting Mr WBF about yesterday’s date and generally not focusing quite as much as I ought to have done on the numbers in front of me due to general daydreaming with a daft grin on my face.

So I drafted it up, added all the people required in the To box, including OF (because, y’know, he works in our office a few days a week and is therefore accorded team member status) (the clue is in the acronym, heheheh), added a couple of very small in-jokes that he might smile at, and sent it off.

Within two minutes I had a reply – just to me, not a Reply All – cheerfully informing that he was free all next week.

I smiled even more, and replied informing him that I was glad he wasn’t going to be one to cause lunch trouble, and that he should also be aware that I’d be bringing a pair of chopsticks especially for him…

And then we emailed for the rest of the day, for over an hour. Bat – bat – bat – bat – bat – bat. Just nonsense about crisps and aubergines and where we should go for better aubergine dinners next time (and yes, I danced inside at the “next time” bit) and falling asleep on the sofa. Just stupid shit, but fun stupid shit.

I smiled and smiled and laughed for the whole hour and a bit, and very regretfully signed off ten minutes ago (I have singing, and then a date with Mr Much Older, the posh dinner that is and always has been dinner only that I don’t want to go to but he’d booked it and I can’t duck out now).

My heart is still skipping a little faster, my head is telling me “maybe, just maybe…” and the smile still hasn’t left my face or my eyes.

Next time…

A date with Office Fox

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I’m on the train home. The train is substantially less busy than at my usual times of day, practically empty – entirely testamount to my desire to stay out as long as humanly possible. Once I’ve completed the drive at the other end, I’ll be home by about 11pm. Tame, you might think, but it’s a two-hour journey all in all and it’s a Monday night.

Felt like a Friday though. My scarf wrapped around my neck smells of woodsmoke from the fire at the pub we met at, one that had both gin and the log fire that I laughingly requested as I dragged a location out of him. He done good.

I was nervous all day because he hadn’t emailed me to agree where we were meeting and the hint of PMT rattling around my brain was making me crabby. It was pointed out that he was probably a) busy and b) maybe a little nervous? Fair points. I caved and emailed him, said that after the data I’d been cleaning I really needed a gin, gentleman’s choice of location…

And so after a mooch around M&S buying thermal socks and festive knickers to kill the time, I got to the pub, bought a G&T and only waited a couple of minutes before a smiling OF arrived too.

We talked and laughed and talked some more and laughed a lot more. In fact, we laughed all evening, at times helplessly. He got the mojitos in. It felt like a Friday. I had to consciously stop drinking as I knew I’d be driving at the end of my train home, and for once it really hurt to stop drinking because the drinks were delicious and the company was brilliant.

He loved the photos of my house that I showed him. He told me all about his new place and the cat that keeps popping in. I managed not to blurt out “you should come over and see it!” because I was trying to be a tiny bit smart.

Eventually my tummy rumbled, so I asked if we could grab something to eat. Sure, great idea, let’s go, where do you fancy? He’d never been to Yo! Sushi and I had a craving for little plates of food on a conveyor belt, so off we went.

The service was achingly slow and there was barely anything veggie on the actual belt (oh, he’s veggie like me…) but it didn’t matter because we just talked and laughed and laughed some more and played guess the dish going past our noses.

When the food came, he had the funniest chopstick technique ever which had me convulsed with impolite laughter. I showed him how I used chopsticks and then died laughing as he hammed it up picking up tiny clumps of rice at a time and pretending to be outraged. He loved the daft imitation Japanese surrealness of eating there, was genuinely delighted I was giving him a new experience. He offered me sips of his beer, we ate out of the same dishes with our chopsticks, I got brave enough to touch his arm when he said something particular silly and funny.

The bill came and he paid for dinner, without any argument. I had my wallet out, and he said “I wouldn’t have learned how to use chopsticks for free, now would I??” I laughed, agreed, and said I’d buy him dinner in return, which he smiled and nodded at.

He walked with me to the station, which delighted me. I half thought he might just say goodbye a little shyly and go and catch his bus, but no. He didn’t even know what time his bus was, didn’t largely care, he just came with me without the remotest bother. I wasn’t brave enough to artlessly bump him a little as we walked, wishing I was better at these things, better at giving him unambiguous signals, wishing that we weren’t both slightly ditzy.

I faffed around on the concourse finding my ticket, trying to delay the moment where I’d have to walk through the barriers. Ticket safely stashed in my pocket I stopped overthinking, turned to him and hugged him.

“Can we do this again?” I asked as we hugged. “Yes, I’d really like that” he said. Then he charmingly stumbled over asking when I was next in the office, despite my having told him five minutes ago, he still said “see you tomorrow!” and then when I smiled and said “…Friday…when we’re all going out”, he said “yes, see you on Friday if not before” which made me chuckle privately because a) he won’t see me before Friday and b) that’s exactly what I do, stumble over my words when I like someone and I’m being a tiny bit clumsy about it.

I smiled, went through the barriers, crossed the footbridge, and sat on Platform 4 with a huge grin on my face, thinking what a wonderful time I’d had, what easy company I find him, how much we made each other laugh, and really, most of all – just how much I like him.

And now, here I am scribbling away on the train feeling like proper Cots again – not slayed by a couple of drinks, not sent home early by the M.E. – just having an uncomplicatedly wonderful evening with a man I like enormously.

There’s a work outing on Friday and I have already put plans in place to be in the office then so I can come out. It can be date 1.5 and with a bit of luck, I’ll get a date 2.0 too, and I’ll do some less subtle flirting.

As if sitting there all evening laughing helplessly and genuinely unconsciously fiddling with my hair and touching my face (as I eventually realised I was doing) wasn’t obvious enough…

I like him. Very much. And I hope very very much that I’ll be writing about some more dates with him…

Of friends and family and other lovely things

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I’ve had the loveliest week of friends this week, and it’s given me a warm fuzzy feeling. I feel very blessed to call this gang of chums my best friends, and seeing them all within the space of a week has been a rare delight.

Last weekend I went down to stay with the HBFs for bonfire night. HBF and I gossiped away nineteen to the dozen, we did some painting of fireworks with god-daughter (godson is maybe a little too old and cool for painting pictures using kitchen roll tubes), we got liberally splattered with poster paint, and HBF and I drank white wine spritzers for most of the afternoon.

The WBFs arrived and we all went to the fireworks at the village school. I’ve been to them with the HBFs a couple of times before and they have always been immense.

We were not disappointed this time either. Despite the cold (bitter bitter cold, pestilent north wind) we ooohed and ahhhed as the fireworks went off in the crisp dark air, the moon backlighting the smoke (one of my favourite seasonal smells).

On the way home we stopped and got pizza (along with the rest of the village) which we ate off our laps back in the HBF lounge. The kids went to bed, the girls snuggled under blankets on the sofa, watching Strictly and put the world to rights. It was all absolutely lovely, and as god-daughter had very kindly vacated her bedroom for me, I got the pleasure of sleeping in a cabin bed with a ladder (because a part of my heart will forever be aged 10½ and therefore such things will always quietly delight me).

The day after the HBFs had family activities, so I pottered off down to see Cousin Z, who lives about half an hour away from the HBFs.

Her brother (technically half-brother; gay and 50 before anyone gets any setting-up ideas) was getting dressed in the lounge so we hung out in her room on her bed nattering and gossiping as per usual. I told her about Mr Teach and the cheese, she nearly died with laughter when I told her it was just a block of cheddar.

Then the three of us went to the pub for brunch, and my word it was good. We all had the veggie brunch which was utterly gorgeous. We sat and ate and chatted for a couple of hours, then I headed home as it was quite a drive.

I got home and reflected it was the first big weekend driving around and visiting everyone that I’d done since I’d been very ill, and it was a small big deal for me. I wasn’t broken after the driving, I knew what to do to keep myself ok – I could have the bit of me back that used to hop in the car and shoot off down south to see my friends of a weekend; I hadn’t lost it for good. It was a lovely feeling.

In the middle of the week FF came over and I cooked spag bol on my new hob (very exciting). We ate and nattered and watched TV, she nodded off on the sofa and it was just lovely to relax in a sociable way. Yes, the fire that I’d lit especially to be welcoming and cosy largely went out because I didn’t tend it while I was cooking, but that was a minor fail. A lovely evening.

This weekend the WBFs have been to stay, and it has been lovely from start to finish. I had Friday off to try and get the clutter in the back room sorted ready to show the house off, which I kind of did achieve, along with colouring my hair and having a session of acupuncture (at which I was deemed to be extremely well-balanced now, pleasingly) and going on a date.

I didn’t actually get the housework done, so on Saturday, after a dash to HomeSense to get some more induction-friendly saucepans, I attacked the house. It took ages but eventually it looked presentable (the Cots standard of guest-presentability being alarmingly and probably unnecessarily high), and I had half an hour to get changed and relax before they arrived.

They loved the house. They were genuinely thrilled that I’d got myself such a fabulous place. They loved all the details (WBF in particular – without prompting – adored the original window which I had myself fallen in love with when I viewed the house). Mr WBF thought it was a combination of three of the significant houses I’d lived in, and seriously pronounced it the best of all the places I’ve ever lived (which is high praise because he loved some of the others) (everyone loved the flat in Chipping Norton where I lived when I first started writing Cotswolds Girl).

We settled down in the living room, snacks to hand, fire going. We chatted and caught up on everything, including the news that Ex-H and his new wife are now expecting a baby.

I wasn’t remotely surprised, I expected to hear it after they got married, and my main reaction was to roll my eyes and express terror at the thought of him trying to cope with being a father whilst having manic depression. Then I felt inclined to be kinder and said it could be the making of him, since I don’t actually feel mean towards him.

Later in the evening (when we’d got our pyjamas on and the Prosecco on the go) they told me that when they go down to visit them, of course when his wife is in the room they don’t talk about me, but when she goes to make a cup of tea or whatever, he always quietly asks how I am and what I’m up to. Which actually made me feel emotional for a microsecond – it was rather sweet. He doesn’t need to do that, and it’s nice that he cares. I’ve never wished him ill – as I said, he is fundamentally a kind and decent person – it was just that in the end I couldn’t live with him. Now he has found someone who tells him what to do and they both enjoy that. All good luck to them with their new adventure – I’m still deeply glad it’s not an adventure we had when we were married ourselves.

Then they got the full update on the Office Fox date, and made me locate a photo of him online to show them. “Ooooooh! I see why you like him!” was the verdict. “What are you going to wear?!?!?” was inevitably the next question. Man, I love girly gossip about dates.

And so the evening passed in a haze of good chat and happy reminiscing. Mr WBF loves to say, apropos of nothing, “we’ve had some good times, haven’t we….” which of course then leads on to recollections of some of the best highlights of our long long friendship – the falling over on crazy golf courses, the night out where my corset top wouldn’t stay up, the weekends away for our 30th birthdays, the games of sardines, the laughter, the food, the drink – the really really happy times.

It was back to how it should be. There was no weirdness whatsoever with WBF – all that has mercifully passed. We had a private hug and she said “it’s so wonderful to be here, I love you so much hon”, and I of course returned the sentiment. Mr WBF caught me for a hug too – he is the world’s best hugger and knows I can’t go a visit without a proper hug.

He’s also brilliant at clearing up, so after the baguette and the cheese and quiche and olives we ate for dinner, it all got tidied away. Oh the joy!

This morning we had scrambled eggs with chives on muffins, and they headed off for a family birthday party back down at home.

Then my sister and the family came for lunch (originally to coincide with the WBFs but schedules didn’t allow), which was low-effort and fun. It was really lovely to have five of us round my dining table for the first time. The nephews were on good form, my sister messed around with them on the piano – it was relaxed and fun.

And so to now – a quiet evening, it’s been a busy few days. My outfit is planned, I need to paint my nails, there is a jacket potato doing its thing in the oven (oh how I love the new kitchen configuration, oh so much!). Humans is on later, which is my favourite programme of the week, and then I’ll go happily to bed after my lovely lovely weekend knowing that tomorrow is the day of the date…

Dating Kryptonite

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My date last night was quite good fun. The pub was busy but we found a seat, he looked like his photos, he was decent-looking enough, was well-dressed and amusing company.

He was very chatty. My Listening Face™ was obviously doing its thing again. He’s had a busy life and he wasn’t remotely shy about telling me all about it. In the end it stopped bothering me that he was yattering on – it saved me from having to think of anything substantially interesting to offer as a conversational gambit. And it became a fun game for me to see how long a new story I could elicit by asking one simple question and then sitting back.

In some people this would be deeply annoying, but it was quite enjoyable. He was funny and self-depreciating and there were enough things I’d done too that meant it wasn’t completely one-sided. I absolutely did feel like I’d had a very dull and quiet life in comparison, and he didn’t really know what to make of my job, but as a companion for an evening out – I’ve known worse.

He fancied me, sure. He kept touching my knee to emphasise a funny point in conversation and he allowed himself the very occasional up-and-down look over me. He made it clear that he liked me, thought I was nice, a good date – these things are always nice to know.

I just couldn’t decide whether or not I fancied him (unusually – I’m normally very black and white about it). I spent some time pondering it during the evening. But he unfortunately had one thing that I have an irrational dislike of. Something I find it impossible to appreciate on a man- a gold necklace.

I’m not big on man-jewellery of any kind, really. I know that they often go hand-in-hand with a military past, which is what he had. But gold chains are just something my brain rebels against. I don’t find them remotely sexy. In fact I actively find them a turn-off. Sure – if a guy is devilishly handsome and I’m salivating over him then a stupid goddamn necklace isn’t going to stop me. But if he isn’t, or if I’m not quite sure if the bedroom sparks are there – then it becomes more of an issue.

I also can’t help but remember that the last person I slept with who had a gold necklace was Mr Poland,  and he kept his socks on. My mind clearly now equates necklaces with dubious quality sex….

So I sat there, leaning back in my chair, not radiating “ravish me now!” vibes, but simply letting Mr Gold Necklace’s (he can be GN then!) stories wash over me while I soaked up the atmosphere and daydreamed about how different the evening would be if it was OF sat near me instead.

And at the end of the evening, as we walked out to the car park and he asked if I’d like to do it again, I exercised the honesty and openness which we’d discussed and approved of earlier in the evening and simply said that I’d had a really fun night, I’d really enjoyed meeting him, that I wasn’t sure that the bedroom sparks were there, I wasn’t saying they definitely weren’t, but that I wasn’t sure.

He took that well, a little philosophically, and walked me to my car. 

I texted him when I got home to say I’d enjoyed meeting him and had a fun evening. He replied and said that he had too, and that he thought I was really nice.

Which was very nice to read, except he’d used an “i” and a “your”, which – when combined with the necklace – pretty much doused any tiny bit of attraction I’d had to him. Fucking dating Kryptonite, I tell you.

I will (rather cynically) keep him on the back burner, and see how things go with OF next week. If they don’t go well, if it turns out to be nothing, if my flaked-out heart is due another kicking then clearly I will need some cheering up, and he might be quite good for that. 

Never say I’m not a girl without a contingency plan…