And if he hadn’t been so handsome I might have been less stupid. Handsome men do make even the smartest girls a bit stupid sometimes.
It was the usual tale. Girl meets fit boy at work. Boy and girl start to flirt outrageously.
Then one fateful day on the way home from work he wanted to ask me something. I gazed into his big brown eyes and he could’ve asked me anything and I’d have said yes. He made my tummy flip and twist into knots.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go on a date with me next week?”
Of course I’ll go on a bloody date. You are handsome. I’ll go anywhere.
So casually I said “Alright then. I love rollercoasters.”
The second part of the invitation had totally passed me by. He’d invited me to Thorpe Park.
It sounded fun. It seemed quite romantic, a day on rollercoasters with a boy.
Problem was, despite saying I loved them – I’d never been on a rollercoaster.
The following week I found myself at Thorpe Park.
I’d spent ages making myself look like a babe to impress him.
Thorpe Park was loud. The subtle rumble of several rollercoasters storming around above our heads paired with the shrieks of hundreds of people flying around on them was slightly unnerving. It was then and there I realised I didn’t think I’d like being on a rollercoaster.
When I’d gone to theme parks when I was younger, I had always been too short for the big boy rides.
And boy, did the rides look big now.
Tom had planned it all out and we were going on all of them.
The plan was to start me on an “easy one” to get started.
It was fine.
How hard could it be?
“Bring it on” I replied confidently and off we went.
We went on the first one. It has ten loops. It was fucking horrible. Round and round it went at supersonic speed like I was actually attached to an electric drill. Everyone on the ride, including Tom were screaming with their hands in the air as we spiralled.
But I couldn’t.
No sound came out.
My eyes stayed firmly shut, gripping onto my harness praying for it to end.
My tummy was flipping and twisting but not for the right reasons.
I didn’t like it. In fact I hated it.
I decided I’d man up as we went along.
It would get better…
This was the first time in years I’d been on a date with someone I wanted to have a second date with. I wasn’t about to let a few rollercoasters get in my way. I just needed him to think I was fun and not some pathetic girl who couldn’t go on fast rides.
After 3 rollercoasters where I was turned upside down, backwards forwards and sidewards I was still not enjoying rollercoasters. All I had to do was stay cool and keep it casual in front of the handsome man. He seemed alarmed at how silent I was during the rides. And why I seemed to keep trying to push my harness off mid-ride.
I shrugged it off and told him I was having a great time.
I mean who doesn’t love having their stomach thrown about and smashed into their intestines?
Then he took me on Saw.
Saw had a 99.5ft verticle drop and the verticle ascent up the rollercoaster was horrific. I felt the urge to make a sound – maybe I’d scream with excitement and the adrenaline would kick in. I couldn’t contain myself anymore.
Then this came out of my mouth:
“TOM HAWGOOD YOU ARE A C*NT.”
Then we dropped.
Plummeting down 99.5ft and I screamed all the way. I shouted every swear word I knew and some I don’t think existed until that moment.
After what seemed like forever, the 1 minute 40 second ride was over.
I celebrated by punching Tom very hard in the side.
The couple strapped in next to us looked horrified.
Within seconds of coming off the ride I projectile vomited everywhere.
For some reason, six months later, he’s still my boyfriend… but somehow I don’t think he’ll take me to Thorpe Park again in a hurry.
Except to crack on with some much needed writing.
Sitting at my laptop and half an hour passes without a single word having been written.
Words are not forming.
The cursor is blinking at me expectantly, waiting for the writing to flow.
The same problem that has been haunting me for a couple of weeks now has resurfaced.
The dreaded writer’s block is back and I can’t take it anymore.
Suddenly, I slam the laptop shut, grab my coat and after shoving a notepad and pencil into my pocket I leave the flat. Not entirely sure where to go but just start walking.
My walk takes me through Stockwell, weaving down backstreets passing the Portuguese restaurants packed with locals watching international football games. The streets of Stockwell lead me to the river at Vauxhall. Walking along the river path, joggers pass me on their runs whilst cyclists swerve around me speeding ahead. The air is crisp and fresh with the cold weather. The sun is out and the leaves are ruby red and no longer on the trees but soggy and squishing together underneath my feet.
Next thing I know I’ve passed the Houses of Parliament, then County Hall and the London Eye and I’m on the Southbank. I watch the skaters and reminisce of Friday evenings sat on the side giggling at the boys skating and drinking cheap cider out of plastic bottles. The book market is thriving with people and an older gentleman browsing next to me buys eight books about boats whilst I rifle through the tattered plays.
I continue along the river and in front of me a couple are sitting on a bench. A young girl is in tears as a boy comforts her. I keep walking. The tide is half way in and people are walking along the riverbank as if they were on a beach. Past the OXO tower I go, passing a busker playing Carelss Whisper on his saxophone. The newly refurbished Blackfriars station is glowing with lights as dusk approaches. The walkway is brightly lit and my fellow walkers and I file underneath its new pedestrian tunnel and back onto the riverside.
I pass the Tate Modern where a man is making giant bubbles out of a bucket of soapy suds using a piece of rope tied to two twigs. I potter under the Millenium Bridge and through some tunnels until I reach the Globe. There’s a poster for the new season of plays which I always read with interest – knowing I probably won’t end up going to see anything.
Weaving through the narrow passages passing buskers and beggars, I observe the wonderment of the tourists who are seeing all this for the first time.
I reach Tower Bridge and walk through the docks. I pass a red and gold barge being painted by a team of men in overalls under flood lights – it has the Queen’s Crest on it. Crossing the bridge I have to slow my pace, to allow for others to take their photographs and marvel at the beautiful bridge. I soon reach one of my favourite places in the city. The Tower of London is lit up and proudly standing on the other side of the river. I walk past the front and watch the guards closing the gates. Three ice cream vans pass me in procession exiting the gates with their hazards lights on after a day’s work. I overhear a Beefeater telling a lady and her son that he’s about to go put the six Ravens who guard the Tower to bed.
The river path twists away and becomes a busy road. I walk along it my view of the river is blocked by big towering glass boxes that light up the city. I divert to see The Monument and St Pauls which sit surrounded by the modern architecture but do not look out of place.
Soon, I’m back at the Houses of Parliament. A group of girls are all sipping coffee on a bench by the river as their friend photographs them. A gentleman nearby appears to be filming a time lapse of Big Ben. I see another man walking 5 dogs all at the same time, causing much mayhem as they pass.
I continue along the roads until I hit Vauxhall Bridge and cross back over to the south side.
Before I know it, four hours later, I’m back home.
I open my laptop.
And the cursor sits there blinking expectantly at me…
The train home was packed. I was tired, grumpy and dreaming about being at home before 11pm.
I had tucked myself into a seat near the corner. Right by the door, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy carriage.
I was content. Reading my book and music being pumped into my ears.
Sadly my cosy little corner was invaded as someone sat in the seat next to me.
He had slicked back hair and was wearing a long, fitted coat. It looked a bit like a pirate’s coat.
I ignored him at first, burying my head further into my book. Suddenly I felt his face really near mine. When I say really near, I mean right next to my face. Almost cheek to cheek.
I froze as I looked in the tube window opposite to see this situation was a reality in the reflection in the glass. I also noted this gentleman had a big hoop in his ear. Maybe he really was a pirate.
I tried to lean away but this was the problem with my tiny corner. I had NO WHERE to go.
He stayed with his head next to mine for what felt like hours. Then to my horror began to sing along very loudly to “Benny and the Jets” which is what I happened to be listening to.
By this point my face was the colour of a beet root. Our fellow passengers were staring at us.
Matters only got worse when pirate-boy swung round to the rest of the carriage shouting out “BENNAAAY! BENNAAAY! BENNAAAY AND THE JEEEETS! Everybody now!”
Out of nowhere three drunk men in rugby shirts appeared and joined in.
“BENNAAAY! BENNAAAY! BENNAAAY AND THE JEEEETS!”
Pirate-boy was on his knees in front of me facing his new audience throwing his arms around. I had turned my iPod off long before.
And he was still going.
As we pulled into Oxford Circus, he got up, dusted off his knees and casually left the carriage whistling to himself.
Meanwhile, I put my headphones back in, opened my book and could not wait to get home.
The house party was busy. Empty bottles and cans strewn across the lawn. Distorted music blaring out of speakers that were about to blow.
The garden was full of bodies.
Awash with a sea of boys in baggy jeans and hoodies whilst the girls ran about in mini denim skirts and chunky trainers.
I pushed my way through the crowds trying to find him. I’d been waiting all day at school for this moment. The end of the day couldn’t have come sooner. Despite the fact it was November I wasn’t cold. All I felt was sick.
The text I’d sent had been simple.
“You going to Emma’s tonight?”
The response, even simpler. But enough to make my heart race.
The ‘x’ meant the world. He was clearly searching the crowd for me too. The day had dragged on for him too. And now we were here.
I found him at the back fence. He was with his friends rolling a cigarette. Our eyes met and locked. He smiled. We embraced with a friendly hug. A few minutes passed. It was decided the boys were going to go buy alcohol. He looked older and could get served.
“See you in a bit” he said and squeezed my hand.
The party swirled its way through the house. My friends and I rummaged around for clean glasses to pour our cheap alcohol into. After acquiring an empty jam jar, and filling it with vodka that tasted like nail varnish remover and cheap cola, I circulated around the house. I was hoping to run into him again. He was no where to be seen.
As I caught up with friends, I was distracted, my eyes scanned the crowds looking for his dark eyes.
As he came into sight I started to push my way through the people. He seemed deep in conversation with a tall brunette.
I stayed back, trying to sense the tone. I made sure I was still in sight, so he could spot me, break away and make his way towards me.
The whole party suddenly went into slow motion, the music became drowned out by the sorrow that engulfed me.
My eyes widened as I watched him lean in, pulling her in with one hand around her tiny waist as the other caressed her wavy chocolate brown hair. As their lips met my whole world fell apart.
I felt pain rip through me in a way I never thought possible. My heart actually ached. Every cliche moment in a love song suddenly made sense.
I sat in the corner on a soggy bench, watching them, letting the waves of despair wash over me. My best friend sat next to me. He put his arms round me as the other kids set off cheap fireworks.
But I did not want comfort. I wanted to feel this feeling. It was new. I pushed past the people, numb to their excitement and merriment. I was in a bubble. I slipped out of the side gate and walked down the middle of the quiet suburban road. I pulled my hood over my head and kicked the wet leaves as I walked away.
It was then I finally allowed the tears to fall.
Over ten years later and I can hardly remember what he looks like and wonder whether he even remembers who I am. I’ve had my heart broken a few times since, but I’ll never forget how it felt the first time.
Sunny afternoons are just perfect for a bowl chips, a beer garden and a catch up with an old friend.
Especially when you both have a lot of gossip to share.
Whilst we whiled away the hours together regaling sordid tales of what ‘we’d been up to’ it came to our attention that we may have been talking quite loudly.
Ok, very loudly, laughing until we cried at each other’s outrageous antics.
But it wasn’t until I caught the eye of a bemused slightly older gentleman behind me that it had dawned on me that people could potentially hear every word.
The older gentleman’s wife looked even more bemused, and her arms were very purposefully folded. I don’t think she was enjoying the tales of debauchery I witnessed on tour. Or my friend’s lurid tales about the hunky man she met at the gym.
The wife was so unimpressed she very audibly tutted.
The wife was so intimidating that my friend trailed off mid-story and we quietly ate our chips. The beer garden was pretty quiet, making me wonder just how many people had listened into the conversation.
I was relieved when we then overheard another table talking.
Some dude was going into gory detail with the lads about his mole removal gone wrong last Wednesday (on his lower back in case you were wondering). Around me I could notice people were being massively put off their food. It’s funny how little you realise how public your conversations can be. Not to mention the impact they have on others.
I think the whole lunch-eating pub secretly agreed the conversation my friend and I were having was far more entertaining. And I think they’re all probably still wondering what exactly did happen with the hunky man from the gym…
I ran into my friend George the other day. I hadn’t seen him in forever.
He’s always been one of the sweetest people with the kindest of hearts.
So it was no surprise to me when he asked if I wanted a coffee. What I wasn’t expecting was for him to then hand me the paper cup he had in his hand.
“Don’t worry” he assured me. “I haven’t drunk out of it. It’s a perfectly good coffee, I just don’t want it”
Still baffled, I thanked him. It was early and I didn’t really compute what was going on. My day doesn’t really start until after coffee has been consumed so the main feeling I had was deep gratitude.
I didn’t think much more of it until literally four days later I ran into him again in the same place, around the same time. Our commutes clearly clashed.
George greeted me with both happiness and relief.
“Would you like a coffee?” he asked again, gesturing towards the paper cup in his hand.
This time I sharpened up. This was not normal behaviour.
“George, don’t be ridiculous, I’ll get myself one. You have that one.”
“Thing is Lex, I don’t like coffee. At all.”
It turns out George walks past the same coffee shop every morning and had noticed the most beautiful girl behind the counter. Thing is, he hates coffee. But he buys one anyway so he can go in and speak to her.
I pointed out most coffee shops do serve other things beside coffee. But George had panicked on the first visit and ordered a latte. She has remembered his order and been putting a little milky shaped hearts in the foam every morning since. It makes his day.
I found this most amusing and suggested maybe he should just go in there and tell her the truth. It’s enough to melt even the hardest of hearts and maybe he’d get a phone number out of it.
But until then, if you pass through King’s Cross station in the morning keep an eye out for George.
The coffee’s on him.