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Honesty, kindness, and unexpected boobies

I really, really want to be kind.  And honest.

I've not always been great at it, and in my twenties ended more than one relationship horribly, in a classic remake of "If I Behave Badly Enough They'll Chuck Me" - a movie that nobody's yet bothered to make first time around.  Except me, in live non-filmed documentary form.  Because I was a bit shit at saying, "Sorry, but I don't like you as much as I used to."  Actually, worse than a bit shit. I'm genuinely sorry about that.  Especially to the lovely girl that ended up marrying one of my other good friends.  I went to their wedding.  It's OK.  Honestly.  We're all mates.  Still.  Even after my flailing arms launched a full glass of red wine over her white dress last summer.


Honesty and kindness hadn't entirely worked with Angie, who'd been my first serious newly-single rebound relationship. I adored her.  She'd been the champion grenade-thrower at her Senior School.  Although, to be fair, that wasn't why I adored her.  But it was very her.  She wanted me to move in.  I asked for time.  She got cross and married someone else before the season had changed.  And has now divorced them, bless her heart.

We're mates now too. And able to talk to each other with kindness and honesty.


So after the requisite and extended post-Angie spell of double-rebound wailing, rending of garments and solace-seeking in friends and beer, I embarked on a period of swiping worthy of Dora the Explorer's Nemesis; Swiper the sneaky fox.  Except my swiping was on Tinder & Bumble, rather than repeatedly attempting to steal the singing backpack from the "Uno, Dos, Tres!" Louise Brooks lookalike on Nickelodeon.  Oh maaaaan!

Stay with me.  If you're not familiar with Dora the Explorer, you've dodged a bullet.

Mandy was one of a gratifying handful of matches.  And she stuck around beyond the 24 hour Bumble limit.  A Canadian with a sense of humour and an unapologetic bosom, she was both engagingly scatty and unashamedly candid.  It was a few weeks before we managed to meet, but we'd been WhatsApping banalities about work and home when I sent her a picture of the banana loaf I'd just baked.

Because, Jesus, I dunno.

In return I received a picture of her ample embonpoint spilling over a balconette bra.  Unfazed, I continued gentlemanly pursuit through attempted witty bantz and an occasional picture of my latest culinary spectacular.  In return I got some pictures of her dog, her child curled up on her pyjama-clad legs, and a close up of her new purple thong.  With her in it.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not complaining.  But I'd started my last serious relationship in 1994, if we discount Angie.  Which nobody in their right mind should, actually.  That girl can hurl an explosive projectile like you wouldn't believe.  But in the nineties anybody wanting to send me a picture of their veiled vaginal voluptuousness needed to be pretty rigorous about catching the last post.  Which is perhaps why nobody ever did.  Royal Mail can be so unreliable.

So I was a little taken aback, a little wary, and a little excited by the time we managed to find a window for each other.  We'd planned dinner at my end of town, because civilisation has its attractions, which is why she had a reason to visit.  That then became lunch.  Then it changed again, and finally "Would I mind getting a train back in time to where she lived?"  Except she didn't put it like that.  That's the north of the river boy speaking.  I'm not a cabbie, but with an attitude like that I probably should be.  I travelled, anyway.  Mandy seemed lively, if a little random.

Now, in hindsight, my honest answer to the question - "Who's your ideal date, Bumbling D?" might not be - "A slightly overexcited but nevertheless engaging moose-fucker (Jerry Sadowitz™) living over an hour away on the wrong side of the river, with a dog that can barely breathe as a result of genetic inbreeding malformity, and a four year old child whose violent father is currently out of prison but subject to a restraining order."  Because although I tend to overthink things, even I wouldn't have thought up a scenario like this.

But travel I did.  Because hindsight only comes after the event.  Hour after hour on decrepit rolling stock pulled by creaking, coal-fired locomotives  And I arrived at my destination unscathed.  Despite the dirt roads, peasant hovels and lack of signal for CityMapper, there was a John Lewis near the station.  So surely it couldn't be that bad?  Even though the river was a long way north.

Just as I was leaving the partnership-owned home of the never knowingly undersold, clutching both wine and flowers, because I am nice, my phone rang.  It was Mandy, a bit breathless, and a bit disorganised.

"Not feeling 100%.  Sore throat, nothing to worry about.  But if you're passing John Lewis, would you mind picking me up some Brabantia Swing Bin Liners.  Swing Bin, not pedal.  Size E.  And a GU10 lightbulb: Warm White.  And some pesto?"

Well of course I wouldn't mind.  Not least because I wasn't very good at being assertive back then.  I'm much better at it these days, so long as it's all right with you?  And if not, that's OK.  I was probably wrong in the first place.  I'll get my coat.  But given that I was standing outside the Home of Christmas Dreams it would have been churlish if I'd declined. Because a girl needs bespoke bin liners. And illumination.

I bought her a packet of Lemsip too, because everyone loves the unexpected.

The cab ride took a good 25 minutes, and despite being South London, I wasn't stabbed to death by acid-wielding teens on stolen mopeds.  Not even slightly.  Mandy had clearly been very busy though, because when she did answer the doorbell, she had obviously stepped directly from the shower.  Clad in nothing but a pair of towels and an iridescent sheen of water, she welcomed me in from behind her half-opened portal, and pulled me into a warm, damp, embrace.  It was an affectionate greeting, and whilst not entirely unwelcome, very unexpected.

She disentangled herself after a couple of minutes hugging, and with a balletic and carefully managed Dance of the Two Towels, like a Poundland Salome in front of my unsuspecting BHS Herod, (which was ironic; because you'll see later that I was the less likely child killer of the pair of us) danced up the stairs to get changed.  I was instructed to sit on a chair, and await my audience.

Nearly half an hour later I was still sitting alone in her living room, wondering if I should just slip out quietly and find a cab, and whether it would be rude to take the pesto with me, when Mandy reappeared down the stairs in a swoosh of diaphanous material and a cloud of Chanel No.5.  Followed by her flat-faced, wheezing hound; a dog so ugly it looked as though its face had been on fire and someone had put it out with a shovel.  More than once.

The next couple of hours passed swiftly.  She was bright, kooky and almost aggressively tactile.  She wanted a boyfriend, ideally a non-violent one that didn't need to be locked up.  Which isn't a whole lot to ask.  And she wanted to get to know me better by gradually removing three-quarters of the clothes she had so painstakingly put on after my arrival, and frotting with me, gently, on the sofa.  Which at the very least would suggest that a time-management course might have been of benefit.  But like slightly bemused silly putty in her warm hands, I enjoyed the intimacy and closeness to a certain extent.

I'd probably have enjoyed it more, had her dog not been keen to make it a threesome.  Had it been a pointy-faced mutt, like any normal dog, I'd have been in trouble sooner, but this felt more like having my bum gently batted by a side plate with asthma and a dribbling problem, which is actually a deleted scene from the tea party in "Alice in Wonderland".  And the distraction assisted the time and space I needed to wonder what the actual fuck I might be getting into here.

Soon enough though, before further divestment of garments, let alone insertion of a butt pug, Mandy announced that she needed to pick up her son from school.  And that I should come, and she'd drop me at the station later.  The dog was to stay home, which limited my options further, so I agreed, and we left the house to find Mandy's car.

Now, driving is one of those subjective areas that can make people quite sensitive.  I try to be a good passenger, albeit I'll occasionally mash a foot into the carpet in search of an imaginary brake pedal.  Or, indeed, accelerator, in my friend Ryan's case.  Ryan drives smoothly, safely, and slowly, which as we all know is both sensible and very, very, dull.

Mandy was not a graduate of the same driving school as Ryan.  Mandy was, quite possibly, not a graduate of any kind of driving school.  Perhaps the test in Canada simply involves being able to spell the word "car".  In which case she'd have passed, easily.  But a few things were clear:

  • Mandy liked automatic.  This was a manual.  The clutch felt left out of the relationship
  • Mandy's muscle memory involved driving on the right.  Even in South London*
    *For the avoidance of doubt, we drive on the left here in the UK.  Unless one is a cyclist, or employed by Uber, in which case the laws of the Queen, time, space and physics do not apply on the roads
  • Mandy appeared delighted by the profusion of dashboard lights. Her car's engine less so
  • Mandy was especially confused by roundabouts
Despite the Grand Theft Auto style journey, we arrived relatively unscathed at the sprawling, opulent grounds of the child's school, where I found myself being introduced to a couple of the other waiting parents.  Which wasn't bizarre at all, on a first date.  Much like everything that preceded.  And followed.  And then a bell sounded, and the gates of hell opened.

The shock-haired Beezlebub boy child scampered out behind his comrades, ran to his mother, pulled her skirt up above her waist (thong, lilac, lacy) and dived under the folds.  As she bent down to extricate him, he darted free, pulled down her top, exposing her (matching) bra, grabbed with both hands and shouted "Boobies!"  If nothing else, within twelve seconds he'd gone further than I'd dared or desired to, and in public.  Decorum was eventually restored, and he was introduced to me.  He kicked me, hard, in the shin, and I gritted my teeth and grinned through Mandy's mild admonition.  And through her further announcement:  We would be visiting Ronald on the way home.  If that was OK with me?  

Mandy strapped the spawn of Satan into his car seat, and he began kicking the back of my chair as she walked around to the driver's door.  By the time she had the engine started, his drumming toecaps were pulsating a Burundi rhythm though my vertebrae.  Reluctant though I was to shift my position further forward, lest my kneecaps become the victim of the inevitable head-on collision, my spine wasn't going to survive the journey if I didn't.  But with heaven-sent timing, Mandy had a driving style solution for this.

Hurtling around a roundabout at speed; after an apparent Scandinavian Flick attempt; driven by her instinctive desire to go right being overridden by the necessity to bank left, because traffic laws, Mandy slewed the car so violently from side to side that I felt, rather than heard, the calamity from the back.  Some miles later, I suggested she might want to pull over.

Beezlebub had been strapped tightly into his car seat, as recommended by the manual.  This, however, turns out to be less relevant if the car seat itself has not previously been anchored to the vehicle.  With Mandy still oblivious to the scene, I opened the door behind me to find the devil child's car seat upside-down in the rear footwell.  With him, still tightly strapped, chuckling his demonic little guts out inside it.  I hauled him out and turned him right side up, asking if he was OK.  He laughed affirmatively, slapped me in the face, and tried to bite my arm as I started to secure him correctly into his rightful place.  Which was quite often normal behaviour for my own children, but a bit of a bummer on a first date.  

The golden arches came into sight a few minutes of spine kicking later.  And while the agony of a toddler's choosing which meat that was once a liquid treat would accompany his shoddy toy was prolonged, it wasn't as uncomfortable as watching his repeated assaults on his mother's boobs.  Or the shin-battering when I tried to distract him.  This kid had a milkshake coming, but he wasn't going to be spilling any on Nigel Farage.  More likely rehearsing as a triple-thick target.  Sadly.

I can't claim to hate fast food, much as I'd like to.  Sometimes it's an evil necessity.  But that day the limpid fries and flaccid burger meat lay heavy in my belly as I waited for the kid to eat his nuggets.  Or for horns to sprout from his skull.  It was a toss-up as to which would happen first, but the barely edible bleached pink slime eventually won the day.  You can take that however you like, my lawyers tell me. But we were eventually allowed to leave, and after a thorough buckling in for the evil demon, we lurched dangerously towards the station.

I remember waving goodbye to the grinning and finally carbound imp, as I limped towards the ticket hall.  I remember that Mandy and I exchanged many more messages, and missed many more opportunities to connect, by both accident and design.  There is a brief epitaph, but that's for another time.  But I was about to leave the country.  She wanted a boyfriend.  I was honest about not being sure I was the one.  And she didn't reply to my last message.

So I let her ghost me.  It was the kindest and most honest thing to do.  



  1. The funniest thing I've read for a long long time

  2. Thanks, David. That made me really happy.


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