Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My First Date

So today this girl has trapped me in conversation, and she's happy, over the top happy about everything. It works for her, and even though she's in her 40s she could with make up pass for mid 20s. She has a thick David Bowie in the late 90s (I think when ...Hours came out and he was always wearing his blue T-shirt and smoking?) shock of hair and with a natural inquisition that seems at last partially genuine, but she still alarms me because I'm not good with naturally peppy people and I never will be. We've got this family friend who is alarmingly happy and will give you hugs and she always says she has the same sense of humour as me which I don't believe to be true. Today as the female Bowie was going her usual routine of disarming friendliness and over the top laughter I was thinking about not just how to get her to put a sock in it, but also what would happen if she met our family friend - would they get out or would they forced to put on an ever more epic contest to decide who was enjoying the fondue more. I was a pretty happy child, and I was prone to excessive socialibilty, but nothing like this girl, who is still continuing to overly chuckle at a partial joke I made three minutes before. It says something about my workplace that I'm currently the happy one - as the rest of them bicker and argue, I'm the serene one looking at images of cute kittens on Google Image and trying at least partially to work through the animosity, but I've got nothing on this girl. The FemBow eventually leaves, and as a parting gift with a huge expectant smile on her fizzer she's demanding that I have a great day. Not a good day, a great day. As Ross Noble is want to say, thats just too much pressure. Great days are few and far between, and to be honest, she's thrown me with this, because a great day would mean that I wasn't working, that I was out with my friends, in the sunshine. As she leaves, she's looking over her shoulder for some kind of agreeable response, nearly putting her thumbs aloft like Paul McCartney, but I don't have anything other to say than a brief mumbled platitude and she looks a bit miffed. I know I should say you too, but her overbearing happiness has thrown me too much, and besides, I don't wish great days on just everyone...they are too few and far between to just randomly assign...and by sad definition, the days you think are great suck and you don't realise you are in a great day until it's gone...besides, I couldn't trust anyone with a FemBow haircut...or with foundation on her collar...

There used to be (and I think still is) a leisure centre in Irvine called The Magnum. At one point in the early 90s it was Scotlands #1 tourist attraction, mainly on account of it's wonderful space age waterslides, or flumes as they were called. I spent many a childhood day soaking wet on some poorly carpeted stairs shivering behind an equally cold skinny pasty white Irvinite as we slowly climbed to the top of the magic staircase for the right to jump on a piece of carpeting and go down the slide which was incredibly unsafe but immense fun. Sometimes a kid would just stop going down the waterslide and sit there to cause trouble so you would crash into him, and sometimes a kid would go down with the carpeting and smack their head off the top of the pipe. Good times. The Magnum was the place to hang out - we never had, say, a diner or a cafe or a milk bar to go to, the nearest equivalent was a chip shop called Mamas where you couldn't breathe due to the squashed nature of the tables and the fumes and stench that came off Mama herself. Plus you would make a twat of your early teenage self trying to flirt with some Ayrshire slapper with streaked blonde hair who was clearly not interested in you or your theories about The Soupdragons, and then you'd drop your chips on the floor and she'd tut. The Magnum was a bit of a late 80s wonderland in comparison, and there always seemed to be bits of it that were sealed off and mysterious, little conference rooms or little offices full of sports equipment or the cinema where it was always showing My Girl...it smelled of chlorine and smelly feet to be honest, but it also smelled of the future, and everyone was really proud of it. It was exciting for me to be there because when I lived in Penguin, if someone came to visit, there was nothing to show them or take them see. Well, there was a Mitre 10, a ludicrously dangerous flying fox and a machine that crushed flakes into ice cream...anyone lucky enough to come and visit me in Scotland though, we had somewhere magical to take them, a world of disgruntled lifeguards, fuzzy yellow balls that you weren't quite sure which sport they belonged too, and an ice skating rink that always had a doctor on it tending to someone...this was the future...this was the early 90s...it was the sound of now (truly the Soupdragons of leisure centres)...

So you can imagine how alarmed I was when my best friend, Tony, told me that the Magnum was yesterdays venue. Tony sort of slummed it being my best friend - I don't mean that in a bad way, but he was definitely cooler than me, well, he knew a few more bands than I did. If there was one thing I learned from Tony, it was the power of reading an opinion in a magazine and passing it off as my own. Tony also taught me the value of not wearing a shell suit when no one else did, so he was a good friend. As far as Tony was concerned the reason we didn't have girlfriends was because we weren't being intellectual enough, we were being kids spending far too much time jumping on pieces of carpet and having a swim rather than young adults talking about important issues. There was a much trendier place next to The Magnum that we had to try he said, the Harbor Arts Centre, in particular their little bar and bistro part that served salad with their meals and weren't fussy who they sold shandies too. It was, as Tony put it, the kind of place that hummed and crackled with intellectual debate and discourse to which I said what about The Soupdragons and he said would you not mention to the girls about The Soupdragons. Now, this was the first time girls had come up, and Tony had procured us, gasp, dates. Real dates with real girls, from a school that wasn't our own, and they were a year older than us. This was a problem for me because I was kinda sorta going out with Debbie, the optimistic girl who thought the future was going to be nothing but robots. What I had failed to grasp was that my presence at the date was simply to furnish his paramours friend with someone to talk to while they chatted about art and literature and I said and The Soupdragons and his response was unprintable. This I didn't really understand, I'd never come across the concept before, but it was patiently explained to me the whole wingman concept, and then I patiently explained it to Debbie who patiently told me to get fucked and I said well I won't go and she said no fine go and I said well OK if you are sure and she said The Soupdragons suck and I said how dare you....it was a rough week. It rained all week and Debbie wasn't talking to me and the way the date was being talked up, it just seemed like really high pressure. Tony even bought a book to read, some high concept French story, and I was absolutely amazed at the fact that we were properly adult dating at age 12...I would have pointed this out to Tony, but for the fact he was practicing his thoughts on Alfred Sisley and his contribution to modern art...looking up only to tut at me putting a sticker in my Panini album...

Of course, the date was a complete disaster, as is pretty much everything in life that's hyped to the extent this date was. The Harbor Arts Centre really didn't have much intellectual discourse - Henry Kellys Going For Gold was on the TV in the corner and the patrons were absolutely rapt, so we figured that the nature of the conversation wasn't so much The Left Bank as the Left Behind, and the girls weren't exactly the intellectual stimulation that had been so promised in Tonys brochure. My date, so to speak, was a girl called Kathryn with a funny sharp upturned nose (she's been living in an upturned worl...sorry, that joke always makes me laugh) who said absolutely nothing to me and sucked her coke tersely through a straight (boo) straw. To try and break the ice I told Kathryn my Bono story and she said who's Bono and I said he's a singer and she said like Jason Donovan and I said, well, technically...Tonys date was a 6"7 amazon called Mary Anne, with Pantene hair and a big grey coat and weary opinions on the state of the government that came straight from The Guardian word for word. She complained about the seat, she complained about Henry Kelly, and mostly she complained about our opinions, which weren't nearly intellectual enough. The only thing she liked was the sound of her own voice, and by the time she started complaining about the quality of the mini beets I figured it was time to get the bus home. Tony stuck it out to the end in his pursuit of intellectual boob, while Kathryn tuned out many hours earlier, many long hours earlier, once the steady supply of free coke ran out. The only four person breakthrough we had sitting in our little wooden corner was when (you guessed it) The Soupdragons came on the jukebox and we could talk about them...I wondered why we had put so much effort into pretense when if we'd just talked about, you know, stuff that was normal, we'd probably all have got on. I never saw those girls again, so the whole thing plays like a bit of a fevered dream, but I do know Kathryn shook my hand at the end of the date (that's never good) and we all walked off in four different directions, me to my strange local video shop to buy a big packet of Strawberry Hearts, and when I got home, I spoke to Debbie for about four hours on the phone, and she told me that anyone who didn't like the Soupdragons was an idiot, and that we should hang out the next day, on the swings, talking about life and how close the government was to building robots...

And you know what? When we did, that was a great day...

9 comments:

the projectivist said...

i don't understand - if that was your first date, but DebbieTheRobotFutureGirl was your girlfriend, why hadn't you been on a date with her?

also
is Penguin the place where the Penguin Biscuits come from?

Miles McClagan said...

I did consider that when I was typing this, but Debbie of Robots and Chewits fame, that was very much a child like boyfriend/girlfriend thing despite the pashing, I consider this my first adult date (and it was so boring it was no wonder I went back to talking about robots...) - it's complicated as Avril would say. And no, Penguin is where the Big Penguin is, the deadly statue!

franzy said...

I thought you lived in Tasmania ... oh wait. This is in the past.
Anyway, go and read 'Black Swan Green' by David Mitchell, seeing as you like wry remembrances of UK in the 80s so much. Just like Adrian Mole, but more like a book.

Quickroute said...

"who's Bono and I said he's a singer and she said like Jason Donovan" - classic!

Baino said...

Haha . . loved it . . .I did the opposite and went to an adult disco when I was 16 (I looked a little older) and had to sit and listen to the pretention of 22 year olds when all I wanted to do was dance! It was the year David Bowie released Alladin Sane and every boy in Stockport had spikey hair . . ah the memories. Good for Debs, glad she won out and at least scored a swing pash now and then!

Miles McClagan said...

I'm afraid that Toby Young book has put me right off reading at the moment...I need a rest from reading!

She was deadly serious, had I not seen her face I'd think she was being culturally cute, but no, my intellectual older date was just a big Jase fan...lucky it wasn't Chesney Hawkes...

Yes, Deb won, she was pretty triumphant about it as well...she was really the intellectual one, even though most of that intellectualism was about robots...I had a spike once, but let's not talk about that day...

Jannie said...

I'm one of those naturally peppy ones, thank God we meet only in cyberspace, Miles. You do plenty "good" with me here.

Kris said...

31 years old, two children, an I still haven't been out on a "date"!

Miles McClagan said...

I was an incredibly peppy upbeat run around child...until I discovered Ayrshire! Peppy people had their head lopped off!

I haven't been on many date dates...that one stands out...I'm 30 and I haven't been on very many, some dud nights out in North Hobart, that was about it!