Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Faint heart never won fair lady

14st 11lb (progress); zero units of alcohol (progress); 1,467 (a progression); Thames (very slow progress indeed).

You’ve got to hand it to National Express; they’re certainly trying. This morning they cancelled my train from Newcastle to London owing to “a technical fault” – and in all my years of commuting along the East Coast Main Line by GNER, I honestly can’t remember the last time they simply dispensed with a scheduled service.

Then the overcrowded substitute train onto which I crammed myself arrived in London over an hour late owing to “animals on the line in the Morpeth area” and “a failed train in the Bawtry area”. Of course, we cannot exclude the possibility that disgruntled members of the former GNER management team are conducting guerrilla raids to hold farm gates open and pour sugar into the diesel tanks of the ancient High Speed Trains.

Maybe these outcasts are also responsible for the catastrophic deterioration in the state of the lavatories, which was corroborated in ghastly detail by an e-mail I received from a friend in the course of my journey. I don’t believe that National Express are actually employing someone with a kidney defect and a high-saffron diet to ram a watering can rose onto his knob and systematically spray bright yellow urine all over their on-train toilets. But they certainly seem to have dispensed with the services of the unfortunate fellow who used to wander through the train cleaning them up en route.

Still, to more positive things. I went to a fantastic concert in Christ Church, Spitalfields, this evening: La Resurrezione by Handel, my all-time favourite composer. Someone cleverly obtained me a seat only about ten feet away from a blonde soprano soloist with whom I have been madly in love for years. A brilliantly well-judged distance. Close enough for me to appreciate the sparkle in her eyes and her evident enjoyment of the performance; but far enough away to ensure that I was not tempted to make a sudden, mad lunge onto the stage.

I love seeing women happy and fulfilled. I suppose this is why my sex life has been such a consistent let-down. On my way to the concert, I stood on the platform at Oxford Circus tube station next to a girl in her early 20s of absolutely transcendent beauty, with the most bewitching smile. A scruffy-looking, swarthy type with an Estuary twang masking an indeterminate foreign accent sidled up to her and started doing something I would never have dared to attempt when I was of an appropriate age to do so: chatting her up.

She sounded frightfully upmarket; surely he must recognize that she was way out of his league, as I would have done at a glance if I had spotted a similarly stunning girl 20 or 30 years ago?

But he ploughed on, asking a series of increasingly direct and personal questions. Oh God, I thought, is this going to get to the point where I feel obliged to ask “Excuse me, miss, is this person troubling you?” and end up with a knife sliding between my ribs? But she showed every sign of actually enjoying the experience. Did she fancy a bit of rough or had she just been brought up to be unbelievably polite? She claimed to be called Anastasia: the truth, or an inspired bit of improvisation? And said that she was sadly unavailable to pursue a future with her interlocutor as she had “just fallen in love with someone else”. Fascinating. The clincher, I suppose, is that a train turned up but neither of them got onto it, preferring to remain on the platform and continue their conversation. I wonder where it ended up? And particularly whether it ultimately featured the classic line “I suppose a blow job’s out of the question, then?”

I travelled to the concert lost in admiration of the chatter-up’s bottle, and thinking for some reason of the man from whom I bought my first London flat. He was a highly paid investment banker, but was so keen on his principal interest of sleeping with women that he spent his evenings working behind the bar of a local hotel, popular with young foreign tourists. He told me that at the end of the evening he simply worked his way round the remaining conscious women, asking whether they would care to go to bed with him. Eighteen out of 20 gave him a polite refusal, one in 20 slapped him, and one in 20 said “yes”. This five per cent success rate was enough to keep him happy, and to ensure that he got great value for money out of his season ticket at the Westminster Hospital Sexually Transmitted Diseases Unit.

At drinks before the concert, a beautiful woman I once tried to pursue, totally ineffectually as usual, expressed deep concern about my sudden and dramatic weight loss, and strongly expressed the view that I had no need at all to get any slimmer. I suggested that, if she saw me naked, she’d rapidly change her mind. From the look on her face, and the way that she suddenly remembered she had a friend to look for, I fear that she took it for an immediate and practical suggestion, like the ones being made by that fellow on the tube station platform, rather than the purely hypothetical illustration I had intended.

1 comment:

Drew Peacock said...

Any more stories about the ex-air hostesses please? They were canny.