Where would you choose to be exiled?

642 Given everything which is happening in the UK right now, to be handed some kind of forced exile would probably be a relief.  I would be very homesick, in the end, so hopefully it wouldn't be too long.  But if I ever was the position of choosing somewhere to be exiled it would have to be somewhere I could just disappear, where no one knew me and I could just be the person I wanted to be.

There'd be two obvious paradoxical choices.  One fantasy has always been to disappear to a remote cottage somewhere with only books for company, where I could enjoy as close to silence as possible and just live the daily routine of reading without interruptions.  Somehow I'd be able to achieve this without a car and would have access to somewhere to buy food.  Which doesn't seem very remote.

The other would be an apartment in a big city, one of the huge ones, London, New York, Tokyo or Shanghai, offering the anonymity of the crowd.  I would of course have access to an infinite amount of cash and no need to work, so that I could just "do" culture a lot or not depending on how I felt.  My trips to London have been microcosms of this, of being away from it all.  Being somewhere else.

Both of these have a feature of being alone and I suppose that says a lot about me.  I'm alone a lot of the time anyway, when not with my family or working, because that can be what happens when you reach a certain age, all of your old friends have drifted away (literally in my case) or simply live on the other side of the world and you've become defeated by the effort of making new ones.

You accidentally hit Reply-All - and everyone received an uncensored rant about your boss. Write the follow-up Reply All.

642 "Sorry."

[Editor's note:

Let's have another look at this blog's rules with particular emphasis on number 2.  It's been a while.

(1) Don’t write about your friends unless they’re doing something amazing
(2) Don’t talk about work unless you’ve left
(3) Don’t talk about things you know nothing about
(4) Don’t make the rules too conspicuous
(5) Some rules can be broken ...

They've become my blanket approach to social media too, although I'll leave it you to decide how often I've broken the third rule.  The point is, because of rule 2 and because rule 2 has served me well across the years, I'm going to allow it to override whatever this project might be suggesting.  To put even a jokey version of this answer out online would be stupid.  Plus who outside of an especially rubbish romcom would write something like this on a corporate email server anyway?  I promise to answer one of these damn questions again tomorrow, ok?]

Osskah (Short Trips: Snapshots).

Audio Gary Owen's Snapshot is redolent of the Parliament of Birds sequence in Paul Magrs' The Scarlett Empress. The TARDIS crash lands on a planet and the Doctor falls in with the local sentient bird life. He spends a pleasant evening with their leader, Osskah Lonsgpan, swapping stories and providing some emergency care. It's told from the bird's point of view and his language, the Doctor's behaviour and words translated through Osskah's perception.  The Time Lord only ever referred to as Specific-healer.  It's a short piece, but delightful, packing at least two epic narratives, one for each character although there's one moment from the Doctor which seems surprisingly absent minded and callus, with shades of season 8's more alien Twelfth Doctor in his attitude.  Trivia question: Is this the same Gary Owen whose partner is sometime nuWho script editor and writer Helen Raynor, and co-wrote Baker Boys?
Placement:  The Greenpeace Gap.  The Doctor still feels like he's trying to reconnect with his mission and the slightly out of character moment could be explained if it happened in his previous incarnation.

Describe your most recent kiss.

642 No.

Describe your first kiss.

642 Deep breath. Fifteen years ago this was a mix of personal blog and links. If you have the relevant equipment to carry out a geophysical enquiry, you'll find all kinds of artifacts buried in the early noughties but there are some stories which you won't find interred even there either because the incidents were too fresh, or I had a sense of shame or just simply because I wanted to keep them to myself. Well, I'm 43 years old and even though my anxiety is bubbling away quite a bit tonight, I thought it was time to actually put this into words.  For most of you this probably come across as pretty unremarkable.  But it's still been one of those things which I've never really talked about and couldn't.

My first kiss happened in my early twenties.  Despite many crushes at school and through university and plenty of people I would dearly have loved to kiss, either I didn't have the courage or I valued a friendship more.  You can interpret what else that says about me.  There are a couple of occasions at university when I think it might have potentially happened but either I didn't see the signals (see previous post) or I did see the signals and freaked out.  Being an only child, being generally nerdy and going to an all boys school, my  sexual education amounted to television and films and whatever biology we were taught at school.  I couldn't really even talk to girls through most of my teens even on the off chance that I actually met one of you.  If our all boys school hadn't admitted girls into the sixth form, might not still be able to.

But I'm delaying the inevitable so here it is.  It was one night, possibly a Friday in 1996 or 7 at a friend's university student union on a night out with some of his class mates or his girlfriend's classmates, my memory is vague on this point as it is with so much of what happened.  I was drunk, which wasn't hard back then.  Having also not bought a beer until a year before, a bottle of Budweiser at a Jazz Festival (!), I didn't have a tolerance so could well have only had just a couple of pints.  Somehow, probably because we happened to be sitting next to each other, I was talking to a woman who's face I think was round?  She had short dark hair, possibly, and we were getting on well.  In my drunken memory she was laughing at my jokes and I was laughing at hers.  We were flirting.

We kissed.  I think it was mutual.  She was drunk too.  I also remember her saying something like "that was forward" and giggling.  I remember the taste, she smoked and I could taste that.  It was open mouth too.  Lasted no longer than a few seconds.  But I also remember feeling awkward afterwards, remorseful.  Soon afterwards we moved to the downstairs bar and she didn't sit with me there, she stood around the table from me talking to one of her male friends.  I think I went to the toilet shortly afterwards and by the time I'd returned half the group had gone, including her.  I never saw her again, that I know of.  If I ever knew her name, I don't now.  Twenty years on, I barely remember what she looked like.  For some reason, I think she might have been wearing a hat, like the one Kylie has on the cover of the Never Too Late single.

I'd like to say that my first kiss was with someone I loved, that was passionate and brimming with fulfilled longing, like so many first kisses I've seen in films.  But instead, I've always had this nagging sense of shame, of not being able to remember the details, doubting my own behaviour, who initiated what.  Within a couple of years I stopped drinking alcohol almost completely, not liking the version of me I became when drunk, the needless sarcasm, the tendency to let my mouth run off with itself.  It would be incorrect of me to say that this experience didn't contribute as well.  If I hadn't been drunk there might not have been this kiss, but equally if I hadn't been drunk I would be able to remember a damn thing about it.  I have vivid memories of whole evenings at that time, but this milestone is obscured by dirt, moss and mist.

Having written this do I feel better about it?  No.  It's going to take all my courage to click Blogger's publish button.  I wonder what you'll think of me which is strange because most of you are near total strangers.  Like I said above, this is probably an unremarkable story and I'm making far too much of this, but if you have an ego, you cultivate a version of yourself which you present to the world and are afraid of talking about something which contravenes that image.  I am 43 years old and I do need to put some things to rest and perhaps posting it up here will help.  Let's see how long it stays up before I hyperventilate and decide that this has all been some terrible mistake.  It's happened before ...

Think about your weirdest family member and write on short scene that depicts why he or she is such an oddball.



STUART, a slightly boring, non-descript man in his early forties is getting read for work.

He puts his hand in the sock drawer and pulls out two SOCKS from the mess inside. 

One is bright yellow, the other bright blue.

He puts them on each foot.

Without a second thought he then glances around the floor for his shoes.

They're not there. 

STUART leaves the room and commences the hunt.

Write about a time you broke: A promise.

642 "I promise I'll try." Ever since I saw this suggestion on the horizon, or rather page, I've been trying to think of a specific occasion when I've broken a promise, but I've come up naught. This isn't some attempt at implicating myself as a virtuous person, it's just that I don't make promises because if you make promises you have to keep them and you really shouldn't make promises unless you're a hundred and five percent sure that you can keep them.  There'll probably be occasions when I've said I promise, "I promise I'll remember to put bleach down the toilet at bedtime" but even if I then subsequently do forget, I'm not sure it really matters.  Plus I tend to remember.  Also it would be weak sauce for a blog post.

Then I realised that "I promise I'll try" exists and has been deployed far too much by me over the years, entirely to my own detriment.  Despite being an extrovert in some ways, in most other respects across the years I've been socially awkward and entertained a fairly low self esteem.  Partly that was due to being an only child who spent a lot of time playing Chuckie Egg and watching Moonlighting rather than playing out, being bullied a lot at school and overweight most of my life.  Whenever anyone did pay attention to me, or seemed to be a friend, it was always with an imaginary asterisk which suggested that the friendship only existed until someone better came along.  Which they frequently did and I'd find myself being pushed to the side.

Because of that, I'd always wonder exactly what it was that I did which led people to not invite me to that night out or decide not to sit next to me in class.  For years I had a friend who had also had a wider social circle also knew through school and regular quiz nights  and the like who also knew me, and he'd go out with them, even initiate social events, but not invite me.  Then he'd tell me all about what happened the next time we saw each other (the two of us would still go for drinks) and when I subtly indicated I was free and could have gone, he'd suggest that it was "very last minute" or "I didn't think you'd be interested" as though I didn't have the ability to drop everything at the last minute (I did) or a general curiosity about everything.

When this sort of thing happens (and it happened enough with him to become a pattern) it feeds into your social anxiety which leads you into a paradoxical state of wanting to make friends but not wanting potential friends to find you out, discover whatever personality flaw you have which has led people to keep you at arms length (even if, as I've come to realise, the flaw is imaginary) and so let the cycle begin again of finding yourself uninvited to social events, ignored or made to feel less than important.  Although for various reasons, on occasion, I know I've kept people at arms length myself for various reasons but that's just part of the spiraling self-destructive strategy which leads to "I promise I'll try".

"I promise I'll try" is what happens when you're invited to social events and although there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't go and there's a possibility that you might enjoy yourself but the whole thing of it, the process seems so huge that you just can't be bothered dealing with it.  You imagine that it'll be like those other occasions when you've attended parties, only really known the host and found yourself sitting at the very end of the table looking into space half listening to in-jokes, sat trying to look interested in a person's cd collection at a house party or wandering around a crowd of people who all seem to know each other without the guts to simply join one of the conversations because you don't want to interrupt or have them think you're strange for doing so.

So you'll be asked, "Would you like to come to this thing, it would be great to see you..." and you'll answer "I promise I'll try" even though you have no intention of going.  Of course in these sentences, "you'll" actually means "I'll".  Sometimes it has been because whatever they're proposing does sound horrendous for whatever reason but most likely it's because of all the images expressed in the previous paragraph and I simply don't want to be stuck in those situations again.  The fact that many of those situations are due to my own low self esteem and that I can't imagine why these people's lives would be enriched by my existence is ignored in this social spiral.  They like me now, they have this image of me now, I don't want to be constantly thinking that I could ruin that.

Of course, what ultimately happens is that people stop asking because of course they would and should.  If someone says no to them, and it is a no even though it has four words in it rather than two letters, and says it enough times, they'll assume that it's because the person isn't interested even though that couldn't be further from the truth.  I just want to be able to say "yes" on my own terms, for the resulting night out or party to be the opposite of the shit show I have playing in my head.  But I'm too afraid of that so "I promise I'll try" escapes from my lips even as I take all the details nonetheless even though the invitee already feels the preliminary senses of a brush off, knowing full well that I'll be sat at home that night watching FRIENDS.  Again.