After three bottles of ale mid-week, it appears I agreed to take my daughter to her dance class on Saturday morning, so that my wife could attend a thoughtlessly booked hair appointment. I think I may have been set up?
A faux-double booking, to foster me leaving the house and attempting to be ‘normal’. I did contemplate questioning my wife’s decision to book a hair appointment when my daughter should be dancing, but have learned from experience that referring to my wife’s actions as ‘without bloody rhyme or reason’ tends to upset her.
And so on Saturday morning, as a man of my word, I found myself in a brightly lit corridor, with other people (yuck) dressing a 3-year-old like a mini-pink Anna Pavlova.
Despite only being fluent in round 22 of the 44 phonemes available to her, my tiny dancer still managed to explain which shoes she required first (de bally ones) and that she’d be back later for a drink of juice and to change into her tappy-tap shoes. She hugged me tightly, kissed my cheek, told me to wait here and disappeared into the room with the shrieking teacher.
I allowed myself a moment of happiness, watching my brave and confident daughter joining the bustling group of 3-foot frilly people. And then I resumed being irked at being out of the house.
Time to hide.
I pulled out my new book and buried my head in it, resolving to interact with no-one for the next hour. There were a few people quietly being alive in my periphery, but their lives and my life had no reason to bother each other. Live and let live. No-one would talk to a man reading a book, that’s just rude.
And then someone said my name, out loud.
DON’T PANIC CAPTAIN MANNERING.
I looked up, as social protocol would dictate, and standing in front of me was a man I had never met before. I had no idea who he was? It is the case that I struggle with faces out of context, but this guy I was sure was completely new? I think…..
But he knew my name? For a moment, I contemplated denying being me, but I was wearing a jumper with my name on the front (seriously). Could I just front it out though?
It’s not my jumper, I found it.
But in my hesitation, I missed my window of deniability. I was going to have to be me. Bleurgh. So tonight Matthew I am going to be me…but who are you going to be?
Let’s call him Matthew.
Matthew informed me that he owed me 4 pounds sterling. Perhaps at this juncture, I should have inquired a little further into the detail? However not wishing to be rude or engage in any more conversation than was absolutely necessary, I politely held out my hand, so that Matthew could repay his debt.
As he began counting out pound coins into my outstretched hand, my brain frantically tried to solve the conundrum of who-the-dickens-he-was, whilst my face desperately tried not to convey befuddlement.
There was no rush though it would turn out, as Matthew appeared to be the world’s most s-l-o-w-e-s-t counter outer. Ever. Matthew spent as much time counting out four-pound coins, as it would take the average person to count out their mortgage in pennies. I should probably have charged him interest.
But as ever is my way, I did not want to offend. I was social protocol plate spinning. I suspected my feigned smile was more of a bemused grimace, but there are only so many functional systems I can maintain in one go. He was lucky I didn’t soil myself or start smacking myself on the forehead like Rain man.
I couldn’t for the life of me work it out? I didn’t compute. How does a man lend four pounds to a man he has never met before? It appeared my Saturday morning had become some sort of philosophic thought experiment? And then it dawned on me…..
This had something to do with my bloody wife, didn’t it?
As Matthew one potato, two potato’d us into the next Century and beyond, I cursed my wife. It was something to do with her, wasn’t it? It is ALWAYS something to do with her.
When Matthew had finally completed his marathon of never ending counting out, I thanked him, dusted the cobwebs from my outstretched hand and then buried my head SO deeply into my book, that I almost did a forward roll out of my chair.
I hoped that was that.
But it wasn’t. Matthew had a request.
First Revision. Let’s call him Bloody Matthew.
Pointing to a tiny pair of pink shoes and a tiny pink coat, Bloody Matthew asked if I’d watch his things, whilst he went shopping? Now either Bloody Matthew was here with his daughter like me, or he enjoyed cross dressing as a pink midget? I opted for the former although amused myself with the latter.
Thinking no, no, no but nodding, yes, yes, yes, I begrudgingly agreed. I still had NO IDEA who Bloody Matthew was, or why he was torturing me thus? But I was prepared to watch his things if it meant he was going to go away for a bit and leave me alone.
His absence would give me some time to ring my wife and tell her I wanted a divorce.
So I said ‘yes of course’ and then attempted to wear my book like a Burka, in a bid to signal no more talky-talky. But Bloody Matthew hadn’t done with me yet…..
Bloody Matthew asked if I had his wife’s mobile number?
WHO THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU, BLOODY MATTHEW?
Exasperated, I confirmed in the negative that no I did not have the telephone number of the wife of a man I had never met before. Mainly because I am not bloody Derren Brown, Bloody Matthew!
I further went on to inquire as to why he thought I would need his wife’s telephone number, as I sat waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class, whilst trying to read my book?
Bloody Matthew kindly explained. Bloody Matthew wanted to go Saturday shopping and thought that should his daughter encounter any problems in his absence, I might like to act as a telephone messaging service?
For a few seconds, we starred at each other. I didn’t really know what to say? Well I did, but I knew it wasn’t polite, so I didn’t. It seemingly took Bloody Matthew a moment to recover from the bombshell that I did not have the contact details of the mother of his children.
However, once he did, he came back in fine, fine and most torturous fettle. He asked if I would like HIS mobile number? Erm…….
And so dear reader, this is how desperate a man I most absolutely am. On a wet Saturday morning in October, I sat begrudgingly typing the number of a COMPLETE STRANGER into my mobile phone.
I hated myself with gusto.
With no idea of what my life was becoming, I bloody rang Bloody Matthew (so that he had my number) and then happily waved him off, as I assumed in-loco-parentis for his bloody daughter.
A daughter who I would have been completely unable to pick out of a line-up, as I had no idea who she, her mother, or her father bloody was?!
I just wanted to read my book.
Second revision. Let’s call him Bloody, BLOODY Matthew.
In the absence of bloody, BLOODY Matthew, I rang my wife, hoping to gain some insight into what exactly was occurring? However, my wife didn’t answer her mobile telephone and thus resigned herself to being ignored for the rest of the day, by a man hiding under a duvet.
With help not available, I tried to get on with reading my book, but I couldn’t. I was unable to shake the anxiety of not knowing what I was going to do if Bloody, BLOODY Matthew’s daughter emerged from the dance class looking for her father?
What would I say to her? What’s more, how would I know if I was saying it to her at all?
What if I accosted an altogether other pink toddler, to let her know that she needn’t worry because I would look after her now. Only to be confronted by her actual, understandably aggrieved father?
Worry, worry and thrice worry. Bloody, BLOODY Matthew!
In a frustrating turn of events, after desperately willing Bloody, BLOODY Matthew to go away, I was now desperately willing him to come back.
It’s like this in my head all of the time. Be nicer to me….
People regularly tell me that I worry too damn much. That I should just stop stressing. I wish I could, I really do, but it’s not that blooming easy. Often I am one step behind you, frantically peddling to try and keep up. I’m the proverbial duck in calm waters.
I am becoming increasingly aware that I miss things. That I don’t infer well. I don’t communicate very well in open waters.
It’s a pisser.
The art of human interaction, and the seemingly necessary unnecessary conversation that you all seem to enjoy so much is just that, an art.
Whilst you NT’s engage in the gradient blending of masterful brushstrokes, completing jibber-jabber masterpieces, all absent-mindedly and second-naturely, on a daily basis…..
……I run from pillar to post, attempting to complete my paint-it-by-numbers like a real boy, but can’t because I’ve forgotten what comes after number 8, the colours have all run and I’ve managed to wedge the brush up my nose.
There is a reason I prefer my own company. I make sense to me.
Told you not to panic Captain Mannering.
As usual, it all turned out much-of-a-muchness in the end. Bloody, BLOODY Matthew returned before his daughter came out and so I was spared any awkwardness and need not have worried it would seem.
Not an option.
Furthermore, thankfully Bloody, BLOODY Matthew had bought himself a book whilst on his Saturday morning shopping spree and thus didn’t need to bother me from then on.
So the master becomes the student BBM.
Our daughters’ finally emerged from their dance class, with cheeks to match the colour of their tights. I dressed mine faster than a speeding bullet, bid Bloody, BLOODY Matthew good day and left the building like my arse was on fire.
The recovery period.
My daughter sang ‘Let it go’ on the drive home. I was unable to let it go until spending 4 hours under the duvet in my quiet bedroom.
An hour for every pound that Bloody, BLOODY Matthew s-l-o-w-l-y r-e-p-a-i-d.
I recounted my experiences to my wife, from my 15-tog cocoon and she did her best understanding face, whilst trying not to laugh, I suspect. I don’t know, I couldn’t see her. I had my blackout mask on.
It transpires that the £4.00 debt was not mine, but hers and that Bloody, BLOODY Matthew was the husband of a woman that knows my wife. I KNEW IT.
It took my wife a while to work it all out though, to be fair. If it was confusing to her, I had bugger all chance. Wifey promised me faithfully that she hadn’t arranged for me to be accosted, it was just an unfortunate turn of events…
As she dug her hand into my jeans pocket to retrieve her £4.00, she pulled out £8.00? I’d forgotten to pay the bloody dance teacher for my daughter’s lesson. It seemed I had taken receipt of once debt, whilst simultaneously creating another.
With muffled eiderdown undertones, I confirmed that I would NOT be going back next week to repay my debt. She could send the bloody bailiffs round.
Third revision. Bloody Wife.
Nearly ten hours later, a thought occurred to me. A thought that rendered my wife mute and saw her attempt to quickly distract me with whiskey. If it wasn’t a setup, how did Bloody, BLOODY Matthew know my name……?
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