The Gin Palace

I promised to tell you why I left one rental place after a week*.

It was a huge house in Darlington, owned by an elderly couple. They lived there, and rented out their spare rooms to idiots.

I was one of them.

I went round for a visit, one morning, before agreeing to rent. It seemed nice enough, and the landlords were as sweet as pie.

Apparently that was for show. When I moved in, they were both as drunk as skunks. And the landlady went through all my possessions*.

It was a large house. The wife slept on the ground floor in her bedroom, and her husband’s bedroom was on the first floor. I had the bedroom next to his.

All was mildly weird (they both seemed permanently pissed), but vaguely OK until one night, I was woken by shrieking from his room. He was yelling for his wife like the world was ending.

“MARY! MARY! MARY!” (for that was not my landlady’s name, but it’ll do for now.) “MARY! MARY! MARY!”

I was out of bed and banging on his door in an instant: “Are you alright Mr. X?” No answer, just more screaming “MARY! MARY! MARY!”.

I ran downstairs, banged on my landlady’s door. She charged upstairs and into her husband’s room; he was still yelling and she started screaming too.

Ten minutes later, an ambulance arrived, and the paramedics charged up the stairs. Apparently my landlord is utterly sozzled, pissed himself, fell out of bed, can’t get up. I could hear the ambulance crew trying to help him, but he started screaming abuse at them, swearing, lashing out. “We need your permission before we can help you, Sir.” “FUCK OFF! FUCK YOU ALL!”

Eventually, unable to help him, they left. As did his wife, storming off back downstairs.

But still he was screaming for her, “MARY! MARY! MARY!” over and over.

I bang on her door again and she shouts back to just ignore him: “I’m sick of the crazy bastard. He did this last week too. And the week before he chased me around the garden with a knife. I’m going to leave him.”

At 4am he finally stopped screaming. Not that I slept a wink after that.

The next morning at breakfast, Mrs Landlady handed around polaroids she took of her husband the previous night. Pissed out his mind, in a pool of his own piss and poop even, stark-bollock naked.

She said she was handing round the polaroids “to teach him a lesson”.

I told her I’d be moving out that day, and that I’d be back at the weekend to collect the rest of my possessions. Fifteen minutes later, I’d grabbed a bag of essentials and was on the way to spend the rest of the week crashing in a friend’s spare room.

Saturday came. I loaded my things into my car, handed over the keys and asked her for my deposit back. She refused. When I asked why, she told me that it was because her husband was a “dear man who was taken a little poorly” and apparently I was trying to take advantage of them. “If this is the worst thing that happens to you in your life”, she said, “then count yourself lucky.”**

I was steaming at the time, absolutely furious. For years, I couldn’t even think of the pair of them without a rage descending. But, that was a long time ago. These days, I just feel sorry for them. They were both obviously ill, both tied to one another, dragging each other down. I wish them respite, from each other and from the bottle.

*Here’s the first part of the story: No Boundaries

**Actually, it’s about the 7th worse thing that ever happened to me. Maybe she had a point.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #11

He spent the start of our date complaining about his ex: “She never loved me, she just saw me as a sperm donor!”.

He also spent the middle part of our date complaining about her: “I love my daughter, even though my ex just sees me as the man who donated the sperm to make her!”

By the end of the date: “My ex is a heartless cow! I’m just a sperm donor to her!”, I was wearing a rictus grin & contemplating stabbing myself to death with a spoon.

I kept a tally of how many times he used the phrase “sperm donor”. Nine times. That’s nine times too many. (And, no, by the end of the evening, I couldn’t have been less interested in procuring any of his sperm myself.)

ADVENTURES IN SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS #2: The Sleepover

A friend was crashing over at mine. He was sleeping on my sofa-bed, in the lounge (with a door that was broken and couldn’t be closed properly).

It was bed-time, so I said goodnight to my mate and then waltzed off to the bathroom to take off my contact lenses. Then—realising that I’d forgotten to tell him something important—I wandered back into the lounge without bothering to put my glasses on. I really am short-sighted, so my friend was just a fuzzy blob.

So, I was chatting away at him, but he was acting rather strangely and not really replying, which seemed a bit weird. After a few minutes, I squinted a bit more at him and realised that he wasn’t just a fuzzy blob, he was an entirely pink fuzzy blob. And why would he be entirely pink? Because he’s not wearing any… ohhhhh….! I stopped talking mid-word, and hurried out of the room.

It must have been ever so odd for my mate: he was getting changed for bed, completely starkers, and I’d wandered in and struck up a conversation with him like nothing unusual was happening.

He never stayed again. I can’t say I blame him.

THE WINNING LINES #10: Tales from my dating days (Valentine’s Edition)

I’ve never liked Valentine’s Day. I firmly believe that, if you love someone, you should show them every damn day.

Perhaps you’ve been admiring someone from afar for a while, and think that Valentine’s Day might be the day to show your hand? No. If you like them today, do something about it today. It might not work out, of course, but so much better to get on and get over it, rather than moping around until February 14th.

Anyway. It was Valentine’s Day and I had a boyfriend, although he is not the subject of this story.

That honour goes to an ex of mine. Well, I call him an ex although that’s rather misleading. We’d been seeing each other for a while, but never officially dated; every time we drew together he’d retreat (I’d usually hear him shouting: “I’m not ready for a relationship!” as he vanished into the distance.)

Tiring of this, eventually, I started dating someone else. But the ex (as it were) and I had stayed in touch, agreeing to just be friends.

Valentine’s Day arrived. The first post in my Facebook newsfeed was by my ex. He’d uploaded a video of himself, singing a song “for the woman I love, and have probably lost forever.”

“Oh dear”, I thought, when I saw it. “I wonder who that’s for?”

Then I checked into the website I ran (at the time). He’d posted the same thing there. Oh. It couldn’t possibly… could it?… he wouldn’t?…

On cue, the doorbell rang. The postman needed me to sign for a letter. Turns out, it was a Valentine’s card from my ex.

I watched the video again. Now, you may know “Wonderful Life”. It is a tremendous song, but possibly the worst choice of love song ever. It’s a song abut the singer: how lonely he was. How he needed a friend. How unfair it was. “Look at me”, said the lyrics, “Look at me standing here”. You learn nothing about the person he’s singing to.  Nothing.

None of this was about me: it was only about him. And he’d sent me a Valentine’s card, even though he knew full well I had a boyfriend. What did he think was going to happen, that I was going to immediately ditch my boyfriend and declare my undying love? Did he really think I was that shallow? That’s not love. I was merely a prize to be won, like I was a bloody goldfish at the fair.

I fumed for a while about how to respond. I started composing a restrained “Sorry, but you know I’m not available” text, when I checked Facebook again.

He’d updated his status again. Now it read: “Fuck this, I’m sick of waiting for a response, I’m going back to bed”.

Charming.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #9

We were in a restaurant. I put the menu on the table in front of me, and leaned forward to read it. As I did so, I rested my hands on my elbows.

Him: “You’ve crossed your arms. You must be feeling uncomfortable”.

Me: “I’m fine. I’m just reading the menu.”.

Him: “But you wouldn’t cross your arms unless you were feeling uncomfortable. I’ve studied body language*. Everything you do means something.”

Me: “Yes, it means that it’s comfy for me to have my arms like this, while I’m reading the menu”.

Him: “But you wouldn’t have done it unless you were feeling uncomfortable”.

Me: “I’m fine, really”.

Him: “Are you feeling uncomfortable?”

Me: “Now I am”.

And so it continued. He kept commenting on my body language and facial expressions—despite me repeatedly asking him not to—until I ended the date, forty minutes after it started.

*This isn’t the first time someone’s commented on my body language; I once lost a job because of it. Perhaps it’s me, after all.

Goodbye, Steve

Me: “Hello?”

Steve: “Hello, it’s Steve from Scottish Power
here. I understand you’re thinking of leaving us for another utility company because they’ve offered you a better price?”

Me: “I’m not thinking, I’ve already switched. And it’s nothing to do with price, it’s because your customer service has been terrible.”

Steve: “But the price must have had something to do with it?”

Me: “Really, no. I’ve had a number of problems with my account since I’ve been with you, and the people at customer service have been friendly enough, but totally incompetent with it.”

Steve: “Can you give me a few more details please?”

Me: [there follows 10 minutes of me detailing numerous incidents where Scottish Power have totally failed to sort out problems]

Steve: “Fair enough, I totally get why you’d want to leave us. But, if I offered you a really good deal on your fuel, would you consider staying?”

Me: “No.”

Steve: “A really really good deal?”

Me: “Seriously, this isn’t about the money. It’s about the customer service.”

Steve: “Is there anything I can do to make you reconsider your decision to leave?”

Me: “No. There really isn’t.”

Steve: “But it’s my job to stop you leaving.”

Me: “Steve, I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s your company’s customer service.”

He said he understood, and we hung up. But still, I hope Steve is OK. I hope he goes on to find other customers (and that they get treated better than I did). I hope he learns to love again, or whatever.

“I have to touch your bump”

I was so pregnant that I waddled. Everything ached. Although exhausted, I was still looking forward to supper with friends.

As I reached the restaurant, a man stopped me. He was lounging against the wall; later, I realised that he was probably too drunk to stand up straight.

“You’re pregnant!”, he slurred.
“Yes. I’m pregnant.”

I tried to walk past him, but he grabbed my wrist and started telling me how he’d never wanted kids, that he’d make a terrible father, that he wished he’d loved someone enough to have children with them, that he always wanted to have a son; the sentences clashing, contradicting and bumping against each other. He talked and talked at me, while I thought of my friends sat inside, and wondered how to get myself free. He held my wrist, talking and talking.

I suffer from extreme politeness. I stood there and nodded, horribly aware that in being polite to this man, I was being rude to my friends as the time got later and later. And then:

“I have to touch your bump.”

Now, I’m not comfortable being touched at the best of times. My skin is quite sensitive and it can be rather overwhelming. And when it’s someone I don’t know, I get really uncomfortable.

“Really? Do you have to?”
“Yes. Let me touch your bump and then you can go.”

Today Me is typing this with shame and anger. Today Me wants to go back in time to that moment and shout at the guy, leave her alone, let her go. I wish I’d handled it differently. But I didn’t, I muttered, “OK”. I was desperate to go and it seemed like a decent trade-off.

He let go of my wrist, but grabbed my top and started trying to put his other hand up inside it.

Enough polite. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“I want to touch your bump.”
“OVER MY CLOTHES.”
“No. It has to be your bare skin or it doesn’t count.”
“NO. I NEED TO GO NOW.”

I forcibly removed his hand from my top.

“Fine. But take my email address. You need to tell me when you have the baby what sex it is. But don’t bother telling me if it’s a girl. I only want to hear if it’s a boy.”

I waited, furious, humiliated, hot-cheeked, while he scribbled down an address on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.

I joined my friends at the table, apologised for being late, and waited to stop shaking.

Anyway. I had a girl. I didn’t email him.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #7

We’d been seeing each other for a while. One morning I awoke to find two texts from him.

The first was sent the previous night: “Just to tell you how beautiful you are, and how much I love you.”

I was thrilled to read it.

Then I read the second text, which had been sent a few hours after the first:

“I sometimes send texts in my sleep. If you’ve received any other texts from me in the last 12 hours, you should ignore them, I didn’t mean anything I said.”

I was no longer thrilled.

All Along the Watchtower

*ding dong*

I opened the door to find two nice ladies smiling at me.

Lady 1: “Hello! Isn’t it a lovely day?”

Me: “Sure is! Have you come to sell me some religion?”

Lady 2: “Well, we were in your neighbourhood and yes, we’re spreading the good news.”

Me: “Sounds lovely, but I’m fine for religion, thank you.”

Lady 1: “We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and we want to share our joy.”

Me: “How wonderful for you! I’m Jewish and I’m also full of joy.”

Lady 1: “Would you like one of our leaflets?”

Me: “Sure, I’d be more than happy to learn about your religion, if you’re prepared to learn about Judaism.”

Lady 2: “Errrm, not really.”

Me: “Well, if you want me to keep an open mind about your religion then you need to the same with everyone else’s. Have a wonderful day!”