The beauty in goodbye

I have long been obsessed with finding something beautiful and romantic about an ending. I’ve never warmed to nostalgia or what-ifs, but to be somewhere and know it’s for the last time, and to anticipate the feeling of loss, to miss the person you are at that exact moment and never will be again, it’s always appealed. It’s the final second of innocence before the curtain draws back; the very last moment of joy before the scales fall from your eyes.

I remember exactly the moment I started to feel this way. As a child growing up on a council estate, one of my favourite things to read were twee books about precocious middle-class white children and their extremely staid adventures. In the opening chapter of The Children of Willow Farm, the eponymous, entitled brats are to leave the house they grew up in London for a new life in the country. They are excited at what’s to come, but are already nostalgic for the good times they’ve had in their now empty London flat, running from room to room shouting their goodbyes, reliving everything that’d happened there and promising they’ll never forget. I recall being envious of them off to start somewhere anew, to have the luxury of saying goodbye to their childhood home. I knew if I was ever going to escape to the country, it’d have to be by my own hand – no rosy-cheeked relatives were going to rescue me.

So call me romantic or fatalist or a sadist whatever, but I quite enjoy that lurch in the tummy you get when you’re at the end of the road in some way. You know something is coming next, but you’re not sure what. You know you’ll look back on this moment as insignificant, a stepping stone, but right now it is everything, and huge, and you can’t picture life beyond it. The trouble with living in the moment is you think you’re as strong or as tall or as wise as you’re ever going to be. You have no idea.

Today something ended for me. A client, who I’ve been with for 7 years, has let me go. A combination of budget cuts, Brexit and new brooms sweeping right into every corner has meant that freelancers – for so long the invisible backbone in companies that worry about head counts and staff benefits – were to be cut, with immediate effect. Ordinarily, as I work mainly from home, I’d have got a phone call and that would’ve been that. But I had tec to handover and wisdom to impart, plus I did not want to be denied my final moment, so I went into the office. The very least someone can do when they’re telling you it’s over after 7 years – be it professionally or romantically – is look into your eyes one last time as they say it. I have always believed in doing the right thing, no matter how painful; I was determined to have it done to me. You can’t force a happy ending, but you can manage the severity of the blow of a sad one.

I don’t really know what I was expecting. Despite the feeling we live in an age now where we crave our soap opera ending, where there is no room for the flat or the mundane, I was not hoping for dramatics. I guess I was hoping to go out with dignity, perhaps even to make them see exactly what they were letting go. But go I would. If I’m honest, I was mainly interested in making sure they paid me what they owed me. I can’t eat a beautiful goodbye and my landlord does not recognise romantic endings as legal tender.

As soon as I got there, the never-agains started. Never again would winters lash my face or summers roast me as I trudged from the train station. Never again would I spell out my surname to the receptionist. Never again would the woman in the deli bar double-check it was definitely decaf I wanted. Never again would I roll my eyes at the appalling grammar of the ‘polite notices’ left in the bathrooms. Never again would I step into the lift and wait until the doors closed before turning to the mirror and checking my hair. Never again. There would be no next time. Tears did not sting my eyes, but I revelled in the odd hopelessness and beautiful desolation of the moment.

What happened in the meeting should probably stay in it, but it was bright and respectful. They said I smelled nice. They were sad. I didn’t say too much. When you don’t know what to say and someone’s telling you it’s over, it’s best to keep quiet. It forces them to talk; you are handing them the rope. I controlled my moment. And they’re giving me the money. There was no drama.

Exits, however, should always be dramatic. Walking out of rooms doesn’t have to be loud or hysterical or bitter – but you don’t want to be forgotten, either. Sadly slow-motion is not available in real life, and incidental music plays only in your head, but after I shook their hands and looked warmly into their eyes, I turned and walked purposefully down their gleaming corridors, my expression blank. It seemed that time slowed, and, in my imagination, the weary, swaggering opening of George Michael’s Praying For Time began to play. As the music got louder I pushed open the doors and walked out into the murky cloudiness of day. I did not look back. I never look back, not even when someone calls my name. It was gorgeous.

And as I strode away, feeling majestic and victorious and invincible, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the security guard – I’d forgotten to hand in my entry pass. Typical. Denied my soap opera moment even to the very last second, I handed it over with the tiniest roll of my eyes, put my headphones back in and turned away again. The ending is a beginning. I am lighter. Free.

Look around now,
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers.”

Doctor Foster walk out small

If you have liked this, or anything else I’ve written, I’m available for commissions and other stuff. Do get in touch.

Guardian Blind Date review: Alastair and Charlotte

It’s been another depressing week, hasn’t it, with no glimmer of anything at the end of the tunnel but an oncoming train driven by a sociopathic Brexiteer with a death wish. Click through, then, to read my review of the Guardian Blind Date, which is exactly the beacon of hope you’ve been searching for in this gloomiest of times.

Spoiler:

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The Last First Date

It isn’t a date. Definitely not.

We are not meeting with a view to anything other than having a few drinks and, at my request, ten-pin bowling. It’s all perfectly innocent. Two pals going to score some strikes, but not each other. Yep.

So if it isn’t a date, why am I wearing those trousers that hug my backside the snuggest, and that polo shirt that makes me look the buffest (no mean feat, I can tell you)? Why am I spending too long making my hair ‘just so’ and leaving my flat super early to make sure I get there on time?

It’s not a date; there’s no romance. I don’t need him to be impressed; I don’t care whether he fancies me, right? I have no answer for myself so I glare into the mirror one last time and head out of the door.

This is actually our third meeting. I’ve always told myself it is better not to meet people from Twitter or Facebook – despite lots of very kind, and some really quite salacious, offers – yet there’s no point having a rule if you’re not going to break it. We have actually been aware of each other for the best part of a decade: contributing to the same messageboards (God, remember those?), being friends on MySpace, connecting on LinkedIn and basically using every single outdated social media vessel – and watching them all go under – to be in each other’s lives without ever actually meeting. There has never been even a hint of romantic interest – and we were both with other people for the most part, anyway – but I do, for whatever reason, find him interesting. Fascinating, even.

A few years back when, on the eighth day, God creates his biggest blunder @theguyliner, he follows me. Anonymous is as anonymous does, so I don’t let him know we have a real-life connection, as gossamer-thin as it is, and we @ occasionally and there are maybe a couple of DMs but it’s never anything other than talking about telly or awful old gay venues that have long since bitten the dust.

And then I make a mistake. Continue reading The Last First Date

Did we meme our way to Brexit?

Brexit. Can there be anything left to say? Trade agreements, negotiations, Norway, £350 million, Farage? No, probably not. However, once the result came in, I began to wonder whether all of this is actually my fault. ALL of it. Every single bit.

What would I say to my grandchildren, who’ll never actually exist, should they ask me what I did in the great Brexit war? “Well, my imaginary loves,” I might say, as I ruffle their wiry hair – hang on, these sound more like miniature schnauzers than grandchildren, excellent – “while others wrote important commentaries, packed with research, facts, and actual opinion, I tweeted. I did memes. I posted GIFs. I compared politicians taking part in debates to long-dead characters from Emmerdale. I contributed a level of political opinion that a toddler could come up with if left alone in a room with seven Post-its and a Sharpie long enough.” And now I’m left in the ruins of my own making.

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At least when Nero fiddled, he made music. While my Rome blazed,  all I did was hit RT, wanking despondently into my own echo chamber, along with everyone else dismissing Boris as a waxed gibbon, dissing his hair and his fake, bumbling stupidity without ever considering that a mere 30 miles from our self-satisfied jizz bubble, others were voting for change. Horrific, cataclysmic change that would have immediate devastating effect, but change all the same. How could I ever think this would go anything other than my way? I had MEMES.

Even as David Cameron resigned on Friday morning, I was tweeting pictures of Conservative MSP Ruth Davidson straddling the gun on a tank. Did I ever take this seriously? Did I ever wonder why the worst thing that could happen was actually happening? No. I slithered into my notifications and checked the numbers.

And I wasn’t alone, was I? For every serious opinion about the implications of Brexit – itself a thirsty, meme-ready portmanteau as awkward as a thumbs-up from a vicar – there were screenshots of Nigel Farage with captions comparing him to a bullfrog 13 seconds away from autoerotic asphyxiation. Did we do this to ourselves? Did we meme and retweet our way into Brexit while everyone else got on with it? Did we fail to convince Leavers  because we assumed our GIFs of Beyoncé pulling pizza out of her hair or a cat jumping away from a cucumber were enough?

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Well, no, of course not.

Most of the ‘younger’ media, usually derided for listicles and “perfect responses”, has done an excellent job in first-on-the-scene reporting and breaking things down into terms I could understand. I am old, but my politics are not sophisticated: I stay quiet at dinner parties and use elections as an opportunity to sexlessly flirt with ballot station staff – especially if they’re women 20 years my senior.

All the bursts of information and reaction in 140 characters actually helped pull me in closer to what was happening. My political commentary over the last few months may have largely depended on memes and screengrabs of Gisela Stuart reminding everyone she was a mother, but at least I wasn’t ignoring the referendum entirely. And neither were the older generation, for entirely different reasons.

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I may not have prevented the iceberg hitting the Titanic, but at least I caught some of it in my gin and tonic.

So why did I stick to Twitter soundbites rather than chucking my hat in the ring and giving a forthright, in-depth analysis? No idea how. It’s beyond me. Powerless. I have no teeth. I mean, look at the state of this, that you’re reading now. It has all the gravitas of a McFlurry. It’s a total state. I try and do politics and nothing but silly string and squirty cream comes out of my fingers.

Many of us couldn’t debate the intricacies of the various trade implications or the effect on the economy and our laws, but we could unite in thinking Nigel Farage looked like a melted Solero.

Oh, and I voted. My social media engagement walked the walk. It’s more than you can say for plenty of other people half my age.

 

We were preaching to the converted anyway. Hardly any media, old or new, went off piste, popped their head over the parapet and said “now hang the fuck on, do you not see what might happen here?” outside of their natural comfort zone. Not until it was too late, anyway, when the first mushroom cloud dispersed, only to give way to a clearer view of the seventeen further, bigger mushroom clouds ballooning in the distance. Batman! Robin! To the portmanteaus! And so Regrexit was born.

Even the thought of Kelvin MacKenzie’s aggressive pro-Brexit diatribe turning to ashes in his mouth was scant comfort. By the time he dribbled in his Sun column that he may have made a mistake, many Leavers who’d exerted their democratic right had tired of it. They had shot their load and rolled off, leaving the rest of us in the wet patch, urgently trying to finger our way to completion.

All we can do now is screengrab the racist tirades, tweet about the attacks, retweet the shame, sign petitions, pretend we understand what Article 50 actually is (not a prog rock band, apparently) and quote the stupid things pretty much everyone in the House of Commons is saying right now. Because we don’t have any other form of protest. Taking to the streets doesn’t work, except as a photo opportunity to make tweets about it more shareable. Is a keyboard in lieu of a burning torch such a bad thing? Maybe memes will save us after all. So long as we actually, you know, vote.

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I don’t know what happens next. I’m not supposed to. This is unscripted reality at its finest and most heinous. But come People’s Republic of Britain but Not Including Scotland or lifelong servitude to our directive-loving overlords at the EU, we will always have memes. Nobody can take them away from us. Although maybe they should. Pls RT.

More like this:
Beckham vs Miliband: In the battle of the Davids, it’s no contest for me
We are all terrible on social media – we just won’t admit it
Why I hope Madonna never, ever puts it away

Image: Flickr
This image was cropped, you can see the original here.

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