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Monday 13th April 2009

I love people who conduct loud personal phone conversations in public places. As a writer it's excellent to be privy to the tawdry details of someone else's life and I generally just to try and write as much of it down as possible in case it proves useful to me for some script or blog or other. It beats having to work.
I was having a coffee in Caffe Nero this afternoon, after having done a good morning of work, before going to the gym. A young woman sitting opposite me was also working on a bank holiday and was typing away at her computer. She got a phone call and had a long conversation with a man on the other end about the intricacies of her complicated sex life. She was making no attempt to whisper and was in fact talking rather loudly, so I assume it was as much for everyone else's benefit as the person she was talking to and also that she would have no objection to having her story turned into a blog.
Evenso to be fair, I am not going to make any attempt to identify her and will change some of the pertinent details of what happened. You have to respect the privacy of people, even if they don't seem to respect it themselves.
There was a fair amount going on in her love life, and I am not one to judge and nor shall I, but she obviously had at least two or three men on the go. I don't have a problem with that, I have certainly been in similar if not more complicated situations in my life. If you're single I think you should date whosoever you wish. But to keep it less stressful my advice to this young woman and to anyone else who is playing the field is to be honest with everyone about what's going on. If you've made no solid commitment then the other person will probably respect your candour and then they can decide for themselves if they want to be part of your sordid menagerie. Honestly, I promise you, it makes things a lot simpler. It's the one thing I've learned in my many years on this planet. Be honest with your lovers when you are single. Obviously never follow this through and be honest to someone you've committed to. The minute you're serious with someone then lie, lie, lie. About everything. Even the most mundane things. It's the only way to keep a relationship working.
This young lady - I'd estimate she was in her mid to late 20s - was though, I think, enjoying the subterfuge, like some kind of a duplicitous Richard Curtis character. She was quite proud that a few different men were interested in her, and I think that's why consciously or not, she was having this conversation at a volume where everyone could hear.
"Do you ever feel," she said - and this is verbatim as I wrote everything down on my copy of G2 (the tabloid bit of the Guardian), "The older you get the worse you become? I started off being nice when I was young, but as I get older I do really evil things to people."
My interested was no piqued. What kind of atrocities would this mild-mannered, ordinary, slightly potato faced young woman be getting up to. Genocide, white slavery, marrying one DJ so she could stay on the same boat as the one she really fancied?
Her definition of evil though was rather milder than some other people's might be and the wicked thing she had done was, as best I could tell, to have sex with an old lover whilst being involved with someone else and having no intention of getting back with her former paramour. If only Robert Mugabe concentrated on that kind of evil then the world would be a better place.
But I liked the essential truth in her utterance. Our morals do start to slip a little as we get older, partly, I think, because we are generally ridiculously moralistic and principled about this kind of thing as teenagers, but as with so many things, we realise as we get older that real life is more complicated and more tempting. And that we can actually get away with a whole lot more than we perhaps thought was possible.
"On Friday," she continued, "he called me and said, "I'm at the station."" She expressed disbelief at this turn of events by saying , "What?" to the person she was talking to. "Then he said, "I'm going to find out how much tickets are!" I would have discouraged him. He's unemployed and I didn't think he'd be able to afford a Eurostar ticket, not even bought in advance, so I thought I was safe. He rang me back, "I'm going to be there in two hours!" he told me. What could I do? He'd paid for the ticket. I had to go and meet him off the train."
So it transpired, she'd ended up having to spend the weekend with this possibly continenteal guy she had once liked, but didn't like so much any more. I think in her heart that she had really wanted him to come. She could have put him off before he bought the ticket. It's convenient for her to claim that she'd been more or less press ganged into this. But in any case she could always have spent the weekend with him in a platonic sense and explained that the relationship was over from her point of view.
The man on the other end of the phone asked a question. The woman looked a little shame faced and yet pleased with herself and said "Yes I did!" I have no way of knowing what question she had been asked. You'd have to be some kind of genius in the field of human study to be able to ascertain a question from a three word response and the reddening of a cheek. But he had definitely said, "Did you have sex with him?"
She talked a little bit more about how naughty she had been, but when the time had come for her lover to leave she revealed she had said to him, "This weekend's been great, been lovely to see you. I think it's a great full stop to the end of a sentence."
"Was that not clear?" she asked her friend on the other end of the phone. Perhaps not if English was not his first language.
"I'm not sure how well he understood," she continued, "Because they he said, "Shall I come to Thailand"" but I said, "No, you can't, I'm going with my mum."
So he hadn't realised that the full stop at the end of the sentence was the end of them as a sexual couple. Perhaps he had assumed that their relationship was more than a sentence. Perhaps a paragraph at least, maybe a whole chapter. Possibly a novel. In which case the full stop at the end of the first sentence would very much just be the beginning.
We've all been there. How many great novels in my life have fizzled out at the end of the first sentence. Occasionally I have made it to the second chapter, but more often than not the story of my relationships has ended up curtailed prematurely and then left in a drawer.
Pretty much all of us have been responsible for putting that full stop on the end of the story that the other person wants to carry on, just as pretty much all of us have had the story we had envisioned curtailed by brutal punctuation.
I felt sorry for this possibly French or Belgian man that I had never met. He loved this girl, in spite of her potato face (and I like potatoes so I can understand the appeal), but she'd just used him as her sexual plaything. He'd come a long way and spent a lot of money. Aren't their any easy, potato faced girls on the continent?
Nope. Only England is full of spud-faced slags. I agree with Richard Curtis. His only mistake was to make all the women in his film so unattractive and not resembling root vegetables.
Of course there's a good chance that this fella didn't mind that at all. He'd clearly done OK out of the deal.
The woman though was not concerned about his desire to continue with things and seemed happy with her bank holiday sojourn. "Why not?" she said to her friend, "Have a nice little full stop."
So maybe it's almost romantic and nothing wrong with a bit of graveyard sex (ie after the death of a relationship - there is a lot wrong with having sex in a graveyard, but only if you have just dug up the person you're having sex with). And it's hardly an evil thing to do to make love with someone for a weekend, even if there is a disparity in your expectations for the future of said coupling.
My guess is though, had she used honesty, rather than mildly confusing grammatical metaphors, they might have had an even better time. "Look, you can come over to England for one more weekend of no strings sex, but after that we're never going to see each other again."
Most of us would probably go for that. Let them know it isn't a full stop at the end of the sentence, it's the "The End" at the end of a film.
Though sometimes even then you get a question mark added on. "The End... ?"
Punctuation ruins everything.
Thanks for the Warming Up, spud-face.

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