Thursday, 15 January 2009

Whatever happened to Bloke in the North?

Well, hello there. I do realize that this blog must have been a severe disappointment to its regular followers over the last three months (and, thanks to that handy Sitemeter gizmo, I know that I am not being entirely delusional in claiming that it has some).

So let me try to explain.

When I started this blog (and you are welcome to scroll back to November 2007 to confirm this) I envisaged it as the miserable chronicle of a solitary curmudgeon impatiently awaiting an early death on a windswept hilltop in Northumberland, helping himself along the road to oblivion through excess consumption of food and alcohol. While by way of light relief, I planned to chuck in periodic accounts of the serial dating disasters that had done so much to land me in this lonely cul-de-sac.

Then, as a result of starting the blog, a series of extraordinary and completely unexpected things happened. First, the discipline of publishing a daily public record of my weight finally enabled me to lose a respectable amount of it, for the first time in years. As well as handily enabling me to win a bet (for charity), this gave me the confidence to think that I might perhaps embark on one last date.

The opportunity for that arrived out of a clear blue sky on 30 March 2008, when I received an e-mail from a total stranger responding to a spoof advertisement for a “wife/girlfriend/carer/trainee Border terrier” on my other website,, and presenting what I assumed to be an entirely fictional friend of hers as my ideal partner. In fact, as I discovered, the friend existed but I struggled to see what we had in common. Whereas I liked the woman who became known in these pages as the Less Tall Cheshire Brunette (or LTCB for short, appropriately enough) from the moment I opened that first message. I have always hated talking on the telephone, but our first conversation went on for over an hour and felt like a reunion with a very old and close friend. By the time of our second date, she had revealed qualities and assets which made me think that I might finally have found The One.

And so it proved. I won’t recapitulate all the details of how our relationship progressed, since you can find them set out on these pages day by day if you are interested in delving back. On 3 November 2008, after a hugely appropriate opera at Covent Garden called Matilde di Shabran (about a sociopath who unexpectedly finds love with the lady of the title) I proposed marriage, and the LTCB accepted. Shortly afterwards we also discovered that she was pregnant, which created real problems in writing an honest daily blog since one is universally counselled not to publicize that sort of thing until the end of the first trimester. Hence, in part, my diplomatic silence.

However, we are now well past that hurdle and looking forward to getting married at the end of next month, and to the arrival of our first child at the beginning of July. This was not at all what I expected when I began writing, but it would never have come to pass if I had not done so. Because, while the LTCB found my spoof advertisement amusing, she completely dismissed the idea of ever going out with a man old enough to be her father (certainly on the council estates of Alnwick, though perhaps not in a leafy middle class suburb). It was reading Bloke in the North which convinced her that we had enough in common (mainly a rather peculiar sense of humour) to make it worth at least an initial meeting.

You will just have to take my word for it, since she absolutely refuses to have her photograph published on the internet, but the LTCB is beautiful as well as kind, funny and quite unbelievably understanding. In fact, one of my friends has described her as “a young Muslim hottie”, which is at least two thirds accurate. (I doubt whether someone who has only entered a mosque twice in her life can be described as a Muslim in any meaningful sense.)

Sitting hand in hand with her the other night, she asked what had initially attracted me to her, and I said that it was the fact that I found her very first e-mail so very funny. That was when she pointed out that all she had done in it was to take the points from my website and repeat them back to me. I realized with a sudden shock that I had condemned myself to working until at least the age of 80 to support my new family because I had made the fatal mistake of laughing at my own jokes. Let that be a warning to you all.

Still, it is a somewhat more exciting prospect than sitting alone in Northumberland with a bottle of Scotch and a Border terrier, counting down the days on the deathclock. The LTCB tells me that I have progressed to “having a life, instead of writing about one”. In fact hope to do both, and will post further bulletins here while working to complete the promised day-by-day year-long record up to mid-November 2008.

Since someone asked, as of this morning I was 14st 7lb, or 11lb heavier than on the day when I first met the LTCB. But, to look on the bright side, 17lb lighter than when I began my diet after Christmas 2007. It’s not good, but then it’s not easy when your partner has the excuse that she is “eating for two”. It’s not that she gorges herself, but she does feel the need to eat very regularly, and the success of my diet was based almost entirely on skipping meals.

As for the daily countdown to oblivion, I think I had better bin that and cross my fingers that the deathclock got it wrong. I don’t think I’d mind missing his or her troublesome teenage years all that much, but I’d quite like to see how young Chophie (because Charles if a boy, Sophie if a girl) turns out beyond the age of two-and-a-half, when (s)he might actually just be starting to become faintly interesting. So far, thanks to a rather larger than usual number of ultrasound scans, I am pretty sure that I have seen more of the child in the first 15 weeks of its gestation than my father saw of me in the five years or so after I was born. But at least all confirm that my heir is well and normal, which latter will certainly be a first for the Hann family.

Huge thanks to all those who have followed the story so far. I look forward to hearing from those of you who take an interest in these sorts of things whether there is more powerful testimony anywhere else on the internet to the positive power of blogging.

Oh, and if you have not already discovered it, weekly bulletins have continued to be posted during the last three months on my other blog,