For the past six months I’ve exposed myself to the interminable love lottery that is internet dating and conversed with a succession of loveless souls, before deciding that my destiny doesn’t lie online. The whole process seems to bludgeon the romance out of any potential date and I’ve also learnt that going through an introduction agency will cost me an arm and a leg. Considering that my heart could get broken along the way, I’d prefer to keep my body parts intact and let fate take its course.
This evidently narrows the window of opportunity for me to meet someone. It largely relies on falling in love on a train from Harringay to Moorgate or whilst barrelling along the circle line to Farringdon. I’ve recently noticed poster ads on my journey which ask one to “imagine if everyone you fancied in this carriage was single”. The sheer optimism of this directive is awesome. Imagine! This rather implies that some people’s commute is an expedition of lust; carriages pulsating with desirables – stolen glances, enigmatic smiles and passengers dizzy on waves of pheromones. The nearest I get to hot looks is squeezing into a seat next to a sweaty accountant from Cuffley, whose tie is spattered in egg. I can’t think of anything more unlikely than enjoying a brief encounter on my way to work. After all, Trevor Howard didn’t seduce Celia Johnson by bellowing “can you move down a bit” in her ear.
Freed up from dire correspondence with the hopeless, August has found me in a meditative mood. Bearing my soul in this column, or at least sharing the awfulness of looking for a partner has exposed me somewhat. It seems that being honest about my experiences has given people the impression that I need my shortcomings pointed out to me. One of my oldest friends felt compelled to email me after he’d read one of my columns.
“Eve, I think of you as someone who has done a lot, seen a lot, with an unusually open mind and a generous sort of outlook, and you have plenty of interest to say, with a nice dash of worldly wisdom. Even if you have occasionally failed to learn and apply a few lessons here and there. You are heart-stoppingly lovely but destructive and deuced awkward, not a spod or chozzer or whatnot and almost certainly way, way out of the league of most of these brutes.”
Unfamiliar with the term ‘chozzer’, I consult the urban dictionary to discover it literally means pig, but is used for a person who is ungrateful, cheap, selfish, greedy, stingy or flagrantly unfair. I can happily confirm that I’m the antithesis of a chozzer but that I probably am deuced awkward. Another very dear friend questioned the whole need for me to have to resort to internet dating. “I thought you’d have men falling at your feet, you’re so attractive”. Then there was a sigh and a sympathetic smile and I proffered that perhaps my vigorous personality was heading them off.
Contemplating my inadequacies, I head off to Wales with the children. It’s a pilgrimage we make every year for a gathering of the Parker clan. For the month of August we jostle for attention in two adjoining bungalows overlooking the beach. Dinghies are raced, outboard motors are trashed and bodies flung into the sea. The holiday is punctuated by games of beach hockey, disastrous fishing trips and interminable cricket updates. Invariably a family crisis comes to a head. This year is no exception and we become aware that my 93 year old grandmother is proving to be something of a hazard to the road-using community.
Having driven ambulances during the war, Granny has always been pretty nimble in a vehicle. I’ve seen her reverse a boat trailer up a country road with manoeuvres that would have Lewis Hamilton nodding with approval. But this enthusiasm has recently been applied to approaching roundabouts the wrong way and cruising confidently down the right side of the road, oblivious to the terror of oncoming traffic. Having written off two cars in as many months, it’s clear to us that her eyesight is failing.
Tiny but redoubtable, Granny is the backbone of our family. She taught my father and uncle to sail to championship level, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of horticulture and is the cornerstone of the WI. She regularly wages war on the local council to get plans approved or repealed and is a formidable opponent to anyone who crosses swords with her. Tactless to a fault, she informs me when I need to lose weight and has delivered some pretty uncomfortable truths over the years. Fiercely loyal and kind beyond compare, she’s never shied away from difficulties. Granny nursed my late grandfather through Alzheimer’s and battled medics to allow him to come home to die. She held out hope and was there for him, despite the end being uncomfortable and distressing. “He’s always been such a splendid fellow Eve, he needs to come home so I can care for him”. She was 86 at the time. Likewise, Pops worshipped her and on the many occasions he wandered off, he’d ask people to get in touch with “Margaret Parker in the village, with the flaming red hair”. A beam of joy would appear on his face when a small and purposeful lady with flossy white hair arrived to bustle him away. What a mark of love to have the image of your beloved, as lovely as the day you met them, firmly imprinted in your failing mind.
I’ve got a long way to go before I become a pillar of the community but hopefully I’m lucky enough to be a chip off the old block. I may be deuced awkward but it’s a proud tradition in my family and a future Mr Parker will just have to contend with that.