By Paul Lester
October 23, 2008
It's great when your life starts shaping up like a bad episode of the most clichéd soap opera. This is what happened to me last week when I received a message on my mobile from a girl I'd previously met at a launch party for an expensive new designer brand of fizzy water (Eau Dear, I think it was); a girl who appears to base her texts on the collected works of the Hollyoaks scriptwriters.
"It would be lovely to go for a drink some time," came her reply to an earlier invitation from yours truly. "But I don't think I could handle anything serious at the moment or my head will explode. So let's just be friends."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not in the business of skull detonation. But I do wonder why she felt the need to deter me quite so cornily. Did she think I was going to turn up on our date with an engagement ring and a copy of Bride & Groom? Apart from anything else, I don't need any more friends - I haven't enough time to see the ones I've already got.
Besides, when it comes to friends I'm a bit of a snob. The people I choose to socialise with belong to one of three categories: they should have either attended the Haberdashers' Aske's School in Elstree some time in the '70s or early '80s; or they will have grown up like I did in Borehamwood during the same time-frame; or they must be music journalists, because that's what I do for a living and I have no other conversational areas of interest, unless you count comparative prices of budget supermarkets (as a divorced dad with shared custody of three young children, eating cheaply has become an obsession).
Ideally, my entire social circle would comprise rock-writing ex-Haberdashers from Borehamwood, but life's not perfect.
I've learned to my cost what happens when you stray outside your social Venn diagram - they don't "get" you. A new female acquaintance got excited recently when I asked if she knew any nice single Jewish women.
Now, she could see what I look like - tall, scruffy, allergic to formal wear - and she knows what I do for a living, which is hang around musicians and degenerates in dive bars. And she surely heard the words coming out of my mouth - something about my preference being small, waif-like hippie chicks who wear those scarves they sell at Camden Market and reek of patchouli oil - but those words must have become scrambled in her brain. Because the woman she set me up with wasn't a bohemian flower-child at all. No, the person striding purposefully towards me through the barriers at Edgware Station was a large, smartly dressed lady who resembles the sort of manicured yenta my mother used to play kaluki with in the mid-80s.
And that's who I had to spend the night chatting to (small talk? It was barely visible to the naked eye) and buying drinks for, in a series of bistros and wine bars - and I haven't been to a bistro or wine bar since the height of disco. Why do men have to do all the paying on dates? The credit crunch is an equal-opportunities crisis, you know.
It took a man - a total stranger - to acknowledge the full extent of my poverty. I'd just said goodbye to my date and was sitting, exhausted and dejected, on the pavement outside the Tube, mentally preparing the abusive email I'd be sending to the woman who arranged the evening, when a down-and-out - and I swear this is true - approached me, hand outstretched, and, instead of begging me for change, proceeded to crouch down bearing, in his tatty, fingerless glove, a pound coin.
He didn't look like an ex-Haberdasher, but he did remind me of a few rock writers I know. Maybe he can be my new friend.