Plenty more fish

I was still thinking about the imaginary boyfriend concept at work the next day. The computer was switched on, there’d be a bit of a time lag before I’d catch up.

Join me for a little flip through my life BF (Before Fabio). Well if you are going to have an imaginary boyfriend you might as well go for it.

I was sitting in the office writing a pre qualifier for an NHS tender to promote awareness of prostate cancer to men of a certain age in the UK when I was overcome with a sudden urge. Fighting down the primeval fight/flight response to writing spirited prose about the bottoms of the male Grey Panthers/Silver Surfers – or as I like to put it people of older middle years (in fact these guys are probably prime boyfriend material and already on my radar) I thought instead ‘stuff it’ I’m going to go for a bit of that internet dating.

I entered furtively, well it was lunchtime in the office and people do wander past your screen.

What was clear was that these men, virtual if not imaginary, were perhaps living a bit of a fantasy existence. Somehow the word-profiles didn’t fit the faces.

Quite a lot of the strong, tender, romantic and actives were in IT or, vaguely, ‘administration’. In fact almost all of them were in IT or administration. And almost all of them seemed to ride motorbikes (of which there was always a picture) or have a very shiny car (of which there was always a picture). The third picture was invariably either them with a pint of beer, a big fish or a fish-eye lens view of the subject relaxing in a very dark bedroom with bad wallpaper, matching border and curtains.

For a change they might be reclining provocatively over a bed (with nasty bed linen) or sofa wearing old man underpants and grey socks. The list of ‘very ambitious’ 40 pluses earning almost £12k and planning to retire to Spain was also strangely compelling.

Oh and they were strong on facial hair.

I was just browsing, open-mouthed, a man who had photographed his tattooed and pierced torso from every conceivable angle when Sue scooted her wheelie desk chair over and entered the fray. ‘Ooh, write to him, he’s gorgeous’.

I sssh-d her and switched back to prostate and the DoH health information initiative. Actually that guy in the visuals for our proposed accompanying literature, he looked familiar suddenly. Ah yes, we switched back to the website and I scrolled through. Bingo. BigBadBob007. ‘Not so happily married, joined for ‘research’.’ His profile – the only bit where you get to type comment rather than make multiple choice selections – listed his most romantic date venue as a night at a cock fight ‘lol’. So, Mr Prostate….

I scored a finger of Sue’s Twix before sending her packing with an evil glare. Then couldn’t resist logging back in to complete my own scintillating profile.

An hour and a half later I was re-reading information about a passionate, warm and generous soul who enjoyed cooking, reading and extreme sports. I barely recognised her. Well I put the extreme sports bit in as I thought it might interest potential boys.

I suppose just saying ‘blonde and bubbly with big tits’ would have done it in a fraction of the time. Also probably achieved a much higher volume of response. After much jiggery pokery and whispered internal telephone calls Nikki – a more experienced internet dater – managed to scan in a picture of me that we had from our trip to New Zealand earlier that year. The only downside of that shot was I had two glasses of champagne in my hands. I had to hold hers while she took the picture, but try telling that to the floods of men who would undoubtedly think I was a complete lush.

Well I had joined and Tigergirl was officially webbed up and available.

I had just finished my bacon and avocado when I heard the rumble of wheelie chair castors on carpet. I was by now engaged in ‘conversation’ with James Bond 9213. We were getting along swimmingly with my flowing text and his badly spelt one word answers. He was in IT and had a motorbike and a big fish – he was pictured with both.

‘Look Sue,’ I said without looking up, ‘just bugger off will you, I’ve got a live one’.

‘Really?’ said the deep chocolate brown and darkly dangerous voice of Brian the Bastard.

‘Er, Hi, I was just doing some research’ I said blushing furiously.

‘Can see that. I want to get the team together to review the tender submission tomorrow at 4pm. I’m not sure online dating sites are the right way to go for men’s health issues.’

I thought about building a case then just nodded.

Rain was whipping around at unexpected angles as I stood cowering in the doorway of the building preparing to make a dash for the car. Trees looked like seaweed in rough water and there was a dead umbrella in every bin. ‘Terrific’.

I looked down at the leather soled high heeled court shoes I was wearing and admired their delicate inadequacy before plunging forth into a torrent of leaves, flapping wet newspapers and stinging slaps of water.

Fighting the perma-fog on the inside of the Jeep windscreen kept me busy on the drive home while ‘The Archers’ kept me entertained. I knew I should be listening to world music and breaking bands on Radio 1 but bugger trendy, there was a cow in difficulty and Ruth was having to cope alone. I knew just how she felt.

At home St John was stretched luxuriously along a radiator like a furry valance. He did not take kindly to being dripped on during an affectionate scratch. ‘Miserable bugger’.

There was a text from my speed internet dating foray. James Bond 9213 had elicited my mobile number. The text read: ‘Hi Analface’. Terrific I thought, dyslexia at its finest. Without even explaining the typographical error I pressed delete and turned to the business in hand.

Whipping off my mac and discarding the terminally ill shoes, I donned wellies and a sturdier waterproof and nipped outside to check on the ancient pony (acquired when I was eleven). Mission accomplished, it was upstairs to the p.c. via the fridge and cork screw.

Having created an interesting persona for myself I felt I really should back it up with some basic grasp of what was entailed in some of these extreme sports.

I hit the internet for half an hour and set about exploring kite surfing, pot holing (wasn’t sure if it was extreme or just for the terminally dull), free diving and something else that involved a lot of straps and great heights, which I’m not really fussy on, but the kit did include a really nice casual suede trainer. Thirty minutes later my virtual sporting alter-ego was fully spammed up on a few of the technical terms to drop into any scratch-surface conversation about adrenaline inducing sports.

I logged off, pulled on my jeans and my yard jacket and boots. After a return visit onto the yard to muck out Twinkle, giving his ears a bit of a rub, replenishing his haynet and topping up water I wandered back inside to a lavish ‘pop,pop,ping’ meal from M&S. I was doing the film popping bit – having removed the sleeve – and was just about to stick the tray in the microwave when the phone went.

I shoved the tray in and shut the door and ran for the phone. Brian the Bastard. Can you bloody believe it. It’s 8.30pm!

“Oh hi Brian.”

“Hey Logan, just wondered where you were at with the tender.”

“Erm, well all the desk research is done, the team sorted and the strategy and tactics mapped out. Budgets still to do.”

“Right, so we’ll be ok for 4pm tomorrow then?”

“A breeze.”


The dial tone interrupted my cheery ‘Bye’.

Post ‘ping’ M&S’ finest pasta had shrivelled somewhat. Being resourceful lass and never one to waste £4.97’s worth of lasagne I opted for the steak knife to cut through the crispy bits and crunched my way through the lot.

Brian must think I just haven’t got any kind of life, I thought as I opened a bottle of Rioja and poured it, virtually all of it, into a glass. There was a box of Love Hearts on the hall table. Part of a promotion we’d been doing at work. I scored a pack for after the Rioja, threw away the washing up, grabbed a pad and pen and headed for the sofa.

By the third stemmed-bucket of Rioja I had a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of an identikit boyfriend. I thought about the good bits of virtual boyfriends (they were male), dropped the bad bits (big bikes, bad socks and condemned pants) and sort of embellished what was left a bit. I admired my list of attributes.

But that is the nice thing. You can just incorporate new and lovely bits to your imaginary boyfriend design when you see something that takes your fancy. It’s a bit like the finishing touches that are never finished in my house because I change ‘the look’ so often. In fact this may be why, in the last few years, I haven’t kept a boyfriend longer than a season.

Other benefits include zero rows and no productivity lost through aimless mooning about. There’s no point waiting for him to call or even wondering if he’ll call. He’ll call. He’d always rather be with you than out with the lads but is happy for you to have time with your girlfriends, who he likes (but doesn’t fancy).

Going for a romantic holiday with this kind of enduring love and sexually charged relationship without leaving the comfort of your fridge, remaining within reach of the remote and a freshly minted stack of magazines has its advantages.


Bloody Work

I stumped into the office next morning, grumpy as hell and with hair that looked as though something had chewed it relentlessly for a year. I suspect St John.

Brian The Bastard – our lord and master – wandered over and looked me up and down. I knew he was thinking prostates. It didn’t help the mood.

Brian and I have known each other for five years. Take just one of the words (the first one) from this short phrase – ‘charm offensive’ – and you’ll get the picture. Actually, to give him his due, he is both in the fullest extent. It’s just that he is selective about who gets the whole deal. He’s not handsome but is rich and, it seems, has had no hand in his own success. He’s just the Pharaoh who had the balls to order the pyramid and kill off the rest of the purchasing consortium one by one leaving just him in charge. The slaves – us spin doctors – built the wretched thing and continue the maintenance and increasingly ambitious extensions – always a 20% margin. Our only consolation – as ever with pyramids – is that one day we’ll bury the twat under the whole pigging lot.

Brian doesn’t know how to do PR, he never did but he’s fabulous at making people like him. Well apart from me. I have seen the scene from Bambi, the one where his mother gets shot, replayed tens of times in the doorway of BTB’s boardroom. The orphaned directors, wide-eyed and shell shocked stagger from the room bereft of status, stripped of BMW and petrol card and, strangely lacking in purpose, wander away wondering if BTB has a grassy knoll secreted behind the drinks cabinet.

Then the man himself comes out briskly rubbing his hands and making a jovial wake through the office. No one will meet his eyes except me on assassination Friday. “Logan” he says as he gives me a nod without breaking stride. He’s probably off to count buckets of money and redeem all of Just Ditched Derek’s American Express reward points I think to myself. Mind you, I didn’t like Derek much.

Still it cheered us all hugely when we sat together for yet another inspirational speech about trying harder, doing better and yet another glimpse of the knobbly stick sans carrot. There’s nothing more motivating to a team of directors than the thought of adding a further four million to their boss’ pocket, so the ‘or else’ bit lacked somewhat in resonance. Or else what? You mean we won’t have a job because you’ll make us redundant and you’ll have to buy another apartment, perhaps this time in the Algarve, to get over it?

The Rare and The Beautiful Shaguardi

OK so we are bit fed up at the minute as a workforce, but we have our moments. The moments are generally when we aren’t doing much work.

Nikki and I are on now properly on the internet dating circuit – at lunch and coffee break times. We select men together and have one date outfit that we share – not the same physical clothes, but items that fit the same blue-print, or in our case pink-print. Strange that we still have endless, what will you wear conversations, when really, we know it makes sense to JUST WEAR THE SHAGUARDI. (pronounced shagwardi)

Now the Shaguardi is the product of much research into the minds of men and is based on four key rules.

1. They like girls in pink
2. They like clothing that is tactile
3. They like clothing that reveals some and promises more
4. They like anything with zips or buttons down the front (that we can brush our fingers against occasionally) that allows them to think about it coming off

So, like Jason and his hunt for the golden fleece, but not quite so fraught, we embark, monthly, on the shopping trip for the ultimate date outfit.

The Shaguardi is, as one may guess, a cardigan, yet it is more. It is pastel baby pink, it is made from finest angora, it has a v neck and long sleeves, and buttons down the front. It is the most perfect item ever created for first dates.

The Shaguardi – derived, obviously, from the Shag U Are digan can be worn with a skirt and boots, yes boys, boots, or trousers with a pointy shoe and kitten heel. The Shaguardi is boy Velcro, man catnip – careful how you wear it!

One problem with our current selection of Shaguardis though, they are winter dating kit, the sort of natural dating ermine. We have yet to find a summer substitute, although Nikki’s silk frilled Barbie cardi two piece does well, so consequently I just don’t date in Summer.

Anyway, I digress.

Since the start of our dating exploits we have dated (or not dated, just sustained long and dull text exchanges with) the following ‘boys’:

Personal Paul (Nikkis) – PP spent a good deal of time on the phone telling N about his hair. On the date she discovered that most of it had been transplanted in plugs across the top of his head from what she could only assume was his arm-pit. Not this time Paul.

Tea Dance Richard, Dinner at 3? (mine) – well I just thought I’d go for old and grateful. Also he looked spookily like a cross between Billy Connolly and that country and western singer who was in that bloody awful film with Barbara Streisand, that’s right, thanks, Chris Christofferson. I would get regular bulletins about his exciting life (taking his mother for Sunday lunch at the local garden centre – a chicken sandwich and a cup of tea – clearing out her attic, his slot on local hospital radio – he sang me the jingle down the phone – oh and his baritone leads in amateur operatics and mobile discos for Golden Weddings, what’s a girl to do). In fact he was a bit like an imaginary boyfriend, never met him but talked to him via text for three months. He may be the original Norman Bates. I know, why?

Rubbery (Nikkis) – What struck her about this chap was his picture on the dating site saw him clad from head to toe in neoprene post scuba dive and with a very intense look on his face which I speculated looked as though it might be his orgasm face. This was confirmed by text by Nikki at 11.30am on the morning following her first date with him. Text read: ‘That is his orgasm face’

Then the boy who we met who wasn’t from the internet, we met him at N’s local pub. Spangly Simon. Picture this, a lorry driver, ex military, dressed from head to foot in plush velvet velour leisure suit (I think the Yanks call them) – but it was all gold and glittery. This was offset by his Paul Calf highlights and we had a strong inkling he may well have recently divested himself of a 70s Mullet. The look was finished off with trainers with a gold stripe detail.

But my personal favourite was a man I was introduced to through a colleague of a friend. She told me his name was Steve Fish. She also told me he was 40, a nice man, sound financially, upwardly mobile and didn’t live with his mother. I was three sheets to the wind when I met him and thought he was hysterically funny and looked like that bloke who does Phoenix Nights.

We duly fixed a date and he arrived for dinner at my house with a big bouquet that cost more than his car (proudly revealed the car – a Sierra that barely got him up my goat track of a drive – cost him £500 three years ago).

Mr Fish was wearing corduroy trousers that had no corduroy on the seat, a teeshirt about cricket or beer or both and some horrid shoes that seemed to have a crimped edge that may have been fashioned by his grandmother’s false teeth.

We sat and the more he drank the more it became apparent that he wasn’t planning on going home – he lived some 45 miles away. Actually the more he drank the more it became apparent that he would be unable to reach the Sierra without the help of a compass, miner’s lamp, packed lunch and a bit of wool securely tied to the handle of the driver’s door.

We ate. Or I did. He plunged at the plate waving half bitten meatballs speared on his fork to indicate particularly fascinating facts. Except none of it was fascinating or funny. He started well, with a spirited and emotional (complete with tears) account of how his first girlfriend (and last actually) dumped him when he was 20.

That’s when I realised it had been me who had been incredibly funny on that first drunken night. He’d done the laughing. The next thing I realised was that the friend of a friend was not only a total tosspot for introducing me to this man, but that she was a barefaced liar.

He gave me one of his business cards – a bit of paper run off on the computer emblazoned with the script ‘Steve Fish – IT Solutions’. Then he told me how he lived with his mum and dad because it was much cheaper. Oh and that he was 46 and had ambitions to own a motorbike. All that was missing was the fish. Except he was the fish.

He also smelt a bit funny. The Shaguardi is not for just anyone. One wouldn’t want a man like Steve Fish to get the wrong idea. An emergency cagoule is advisable on first dates. Stowed neatly in your handbag it can be whipped out and jammed over an enticing top in the twinkle of an eye.



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