Category Archives: Diary Entries

Sorry

Sorry. Far from being the hardest word, it’s actually one of the easiest. As an eighteen years old translator for BT, I was told “Don’t be afraid to say sorry.” Since then, coupled with an appreciation of what I may have done wrong, it has gotten me out of several scrapes.

Throwing one’s hands up and saying sorry is a huge strength. People see it as a weakness. I’ve never understood that. To have that ability to self reflect, acknowledge your wrongdoing and move on from it takes a lot of courage. Those who can’t simply don’t have that bravery.

It’s difficult for someone to stay angry at someone who has apologised. It’s difficult to continually castigate them for their actions if they already realise that their actions were wrong. It’s difficult to hold something against someone if they realised they made a mistake and will endeavour not to make it again.

However, on the flipside of that, an inability to apologise can lead to all sorts of problems. If someone doesn’t say sorry when they have done wrong, people will pursue it. It will follow them. It will haunt them. The aggrieved person will go after them until they hear that five letter word coupled with an appreciation of wrongdoing.

I see people damaging their life chances, isolating themselves from their friends and family, lowering themselves in other people’s estimation and all because of the inability to utter that five letter word. I couldn’t count on both hands the amount of people I no longer speak to simply because of their inability to acknowledge wrongdoing or say sorry.

To this end, I would share this one piece of advice: don’t be afraid to say sorry.

David Miliband once gave me a piece of advice, and I urge everyone to take it on board.

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Myself and David Miliband at the Mechanics Institute in Nottingham. 1st August 2010

Politicians peddle in, well, I will refrain from using the word, but I think you can guess it. When people go to Prime Minister school, they come out and give vague answers to complicated questions specifically so it looks like a sound bite that can be repackaged by the media therefore there is very little, if anything, that can be taken from what politicians say. David Miliband was a prime example of this. I saw him a few times when he was on the campaign trail in the 2010 Labour Leadership Election. He gave me one piece of advice that I have always carried with me and today I had to put that advice into action.

Listening, truly listening

He was recalling his time as Foreign Minister and talked about when he had to speak to his American counterpart who, at the time, was Hilary Clinton. He said this:

Whenever we had an issue or something to talk about, there was something that set her aside from every other politician I’ve ever met. Most politicians sit there and they are not listening to what is being said, instead they are just waiting for it to be their turn to talk. Hilary Clinton always did something different. She would get out a writing pad and a pen and paper. Instead of constantly butting in and saying what she had to say, she would write down what I was saying, her thoughts and would wait until I had finished speaking before she shared her conclusions. The one thing I got from that was that she was listening, and I mean truly listening, to what I had to say.

Today I had a conflict that was the result of a breakdown in communication. I tried it and it actually worked. I listened. Paid attention and respect to what the other person was saying and managed to resolve things. I would share that with anyone.

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Online communication: No substitute for the real thing

I remember about five years ago, I used to hang around with this guy. He was a neuroscientist who worked in the psychology faculty of Nottingham Trent University. One day he had some of his students doing an experiment and they hadn’t finished so he suggested I take a saunter around. That was when I saw the poster. It was offering an MA or MSc, I forget, in Cyberpsychology. It then occurred to me that our interaction with technology is changing the base of our psychological processes. I regret to say, by and large, it isn’t a positive change. I also notice that young people who have grown up with this technology have an entirely different thought process to anyone who didn’t grow up with this technology.

The ex-girlfriends

Last year, I was in an extremely abusive relationship with a girl. The bulk of our communication took place online. When we were together, I mean in each other’s company, it was really good, but then she’d go home and we just communicated online. I found it horrible, unbearable at times. It was impossible to have sound discussion with her. Don’t get me wrong, there were other factors, such as her schizophrenia, an unplanned pregnancy, my lifestyle at the time, etc etc that all contributed to the breakdown of the relationship but I noticed that none of those barriers could be overcome as there was a irretrievable breakdown of communication between us.

These problems prevented us from progressing the relationship. This is because relationships never run smoothly. Relationships are peppered with problems. The success or failure of any relationship doesn’t hinge on the what has gone right but more on the ability, or lack thereof, to deal with the problems.

The problems and traumatic situations that arose out of that relationship were best solved when we spent time together. Problems can’t be sorted out online because online communication is incoherent. We would periodically block each other on various social media platforms as a means of punishment. So rooted was our relationship in doing that I was frustrated that I couldn’t have a proper conversation and problems couldn’t be addressed (as an OCD sufferer I have to solve problems) that what would happen is that I would walk to where she lived (about seven miles from where I lived) and walk back, just for the sake of seeing her for fifteen minutes. It alleviated the stress, the anguish, the angst and the anxiety that communicating principally online brings about. A fifteen minute conversation in person had coherency, context, tone and sentiment.

Bizarrely, it mirrored the relationship previous to that one the year before. In that instance I was in a relationship with a girl who lived about 100 miles away in the Roman Spa town of Bath. All through the week we would speak to each other through a variety of social media platforms and conversations were disjointed and fractured. She would absolutely beg, or close to it, to phone me. Sometimes I simply wasn’t up to a phone conversation, but on reflection she garnered tone and a sense of calm from it, something which doesn’t come across in messages over web.

If we rewind to my last “serious” (though in hindsight I probably should have given it more gravity than I did) relationship before both of those, it was again, a long distance relationship. She lived in London and I lived in Nottingham. She would call me everyday, sometimes for upwards of an hour. I found it exhausting. Even though we spoke by telephone regularly, she would constantly relay her problems to me. It was frustrating knowing that I was miles away and in no position to help. It was crushing, emotionally.

The France Situation

I find myself in a situation at present that is not dissimilar but at the same time hugely different.

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Me in France doing French people stuff.

I’m in another long distance relationship. This time it is with a French woman. Being the social creature that I am I have a new and emerging social circle in the city where I live. I don’t live there though, yet. I know my way around the city I live in and can successfully navigate Paris with some proficiency at street level. I was really enjoying France, not least because of the people I had around me. My partner, my friends, I wouldn’t go so far as to say my family, but my home life was good. My life is so good in fact that I’m thinking the next move may be a permanent one.

When I was over there, life was good, but some base in reality is always needed. I had to come back for work. As much as I missed all my friends in Plymouth, am missing people in France like crazy. The main form of communication that I use to communicate with people in France is what’s app. I notice, almost immediately that there is a disconnect there and I wonder about how changed and diverted things are from the essence of the relationship that was originally started given that now the relationship is principally a digital one.

The first example is with a friend. I’m not going to go into detail but one friend that I’ve spoken to since I got back, I said something to. There was an abundantly clear lack of context which led to a huge misunderstanding. Suffice to say that this misunderstanding would not have happened had we actually been face to face. When people communicate digitally, there is no context to what they are saying. It’s not that something can more easily be taken out of context, it is that it isn’t out into context in the first place.

The second example is a good one, and I can be a bit more specific here. One of, if not my closest friend in France, is also the person that speaks the best English. I try and speak French to her and she tells me to stop. Ironically, she has never been to England or an English speaking country. We can chat for hours. She was a real pillar to me in France. Now our messages don’t follow a linear path, there are always fractures and splinters. Think about it this way. She sends me a message which I pick up when I wake up, I respond. She picks that one up a bit later. Then I pick that one up when I’m about to start work, and so on. Can you imagine periodically returning to the same conversation, over the course of a busy day, every few hours and remain focused on the attention you’re supposed to give that person and your interaction? Of course not. It’s impossible. The conversation ends up fractured with no conclusion or end point, along with the lack of fluidity and the other things that one can take from a conversation either by phone or in person.

The third and final example is my partner. Aside from the obvious that one misses not being in her company, people often turn to their partners for support and reassurance. I am in another country, pondering a huge move to another country, and that really scares me. Sometimes I look too deeply into the messages she sends and when problems do arise, they are impossible to resolve and will be impossible to resolve until I return to France. There is also another thing. My partner doesn’t have the best command of the English language. My French isn’t perfect either, not by any stretch of the imagination. Our bodies have an unspoken communication with each other though. I’m not talking about anything sexual or even about body language. It’s really difficult to explain or describe. I think when two people don’t share a language fluency, they have to communicate in other ways. Say for instance when we are brushing our teeth before bed, we may be silent but more often than not there are a series of glances, small actions, I may reach for the mouthwash, she may turn off the tap I’ve left running and these things form a conversation. Sometimes when we’re doing something more, like playing pool or digging up vegatables on the farm, these small, almost insignificant actions make up a conversation. That’s why being away from her is unbearable. I suppose it is that that highlighted to me that while messages back and forth are ok, there really is no substitute for being together and in person.

It’s all Greek to me…

This is a phrase that I have heard a lot in recent weeks.

I have a Greek friend and while her English is impeccable, she does struggle with a couple of bits. One day she received quite a complicated legal letter and she said, in Greek, “I don’t understand this.” She then followed it up with the phrase “Είναι όλα τα κινέζικα για μένα.”

The one word I could pick out of that was “κινέζικα” which in Roman characters would be written Kinezika. Kinezika is the Greek word for “Chinese”. Given that China or the Chinese had nothing to do with the letter she received I asked her. I said “Chinese, what has that got to do with anything?”. She replied “It is a phrase we have in Greece. We say “It’s all Chinese to me.” It means that it might as well be written in Chinese because I can’t understand it.”

Of course at this point I burst out laughing and she had no idea why. I of course explained it to her. It turns out that the phrase “It’s all Greek to me” is, ironically, of Greek origin, except there they say “It’s all Chinese to me”. So there you have it. The next time someone tells you that it’s all Greek to them, you can then say that the Greeks say the same of the Chinese.

The most productive, and in my view the best, way to make an ex jealous

I have never had a relationship end well. There has always been some kind of drama. There are people out there who, upon ending a relationship say “Oh, it wasn’t working out so we decided to go our separate ways” and when I hear that it doesn’t seem to make sense to me. I suppose if they could let go of a relationship that easily then it probably wasn’t worth them being in it in the first place. In the aftermath of a bad break up, there is, at least in my experience, a desire by one or both of the partners to make the other one jealous. I would say that this is a completely normal reaction. The reason I say it is normal is because it is something that I have constantly found.

A long time ago now, maybe seven or eight years ago, I found the perfect way to make an ex-partner jealous.

Background

A couple of nights ago I went to the usual pub quiz with the boys. The night had ended but I still had a hankering for a pint. Plymouth being the way it is, I was still able to get a pint midweek at a bar. Allow me to explain. Plymouth has been a 24 hour city for a long time. If you want a pint at any time, night or day, there are always about four or five places open, any day of the week. I digress. I got chatting to a delightful young lady, and she, along with a couple of friends/colleagues of hers was discussing a choice of dress.

She asked me for my opinion of it. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t know what her frame looks like. I try not to visualise those things when speaking to a young lady. The dress was very revealing and highly sexualised. Anyone who knows me, knows that that sort of thing isn’t really my cup of tea. I passed thirty this year, I’m a Catholic, in some aspects I’m a feminist and while I have a specific opinion of what I would and wouldn’t find attractive on a woman, I wouldn’t dream of sharing that opinion. When a man makes any comment about what a woman is wearing, he really is playing Russian Roulette with five bullets in the cylinder. My mum always said “never make fun of a woman’s hair, clothes or menstrual cycle” and I would said that that is good advice but I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never been stupid enough to make fun of a woman’s hair, clothes or menstrual cycle.

When the girl in question showed me the dress. It looked hot. I could tell that someone like her, wearing a dress like that would draw the eye of all the men in the room. That goes without saying. I saw the photo’s of her wearing it and she did indeed look stunning.

Back to the point. She asked me a question, very frankly. She said “Do you think it will be enough to make my ex-boyfriend jealous?” I have to confess, I was a little shocked. My experience of this young lady was limited, granted, but I thought that her charm, demeanour and looks would be enough on their own to make any former partner of hers keenly aware of their loss. I resolved, but not before the day she wore it, to tell her how I always go about making my exes jealous without the need for such a dress.

Jealousy

Jealousy often drives us to do things that we regret, or moreover things that we will come to regret once the haze of jealousy and anger has subsided. I could indeed share many stories of ex-girlfriends whose actions, driven by jealousy, has caused the break-up of a relationship. Likewise one might think, “I will make my ex-jealous by kissing/flirting with/sleeping with this person.” This is a bad reason to make an emotional connection with someone as it is borne of hatred and not love. Because things done to instigate jealous feelings are usually exacerbated anger, they are almost universally negative. When an ex-partner has been violent with me because of their jealousy, when they have checked my phone or invaded my privacy or my past, I have always pitied them more than anything.

The reason why I haven’t judged them though is that I too have been guilty of those same offences. It’s not for me or anyone else for that matter to judge those who feel jealous. It happens. Don’t get me wrong, I have never raised my hand to a woman in anger, nor would I ever invade a partner’s privacy, but I have been jealous in the past and it has led my mind down those dark path’s but I wouldn’t begrudge another for feeling like that and acting accordingly.

I needed to find a way to channel that though, to focus on it, and soon I found a positive way to make an ex-girlfriend jealous.

The productive way to make an ex-girlfriend jealous

This came about around a decade ago. I was in a relationship with a young lady. By all accounts she was a nice girl but she certainly wasn’t the one for me. We were together for five years. We had a semi-detached three bedroom house in suburban Nottingham, all mod cons, she was a hairdresser, I was a local government administrator, life was good, or if not good, certainly not unpleasant. We even had a couple of cats. I did, however, grow frustrated. Frustrated with how things were. Frustrated and depressed. I constantly felt like I was playing a part in someone else’s life. The relationship, as one might expect, broke down. I’m not in the habit of berating people online, not least because the lawyer in me says they don’t have the opportunity to defend themselves, so let’s focus on where I was at the end of the relationship.

After a while in a relationship, things can get a little stale. I don’t use that as justification for my apathy, but it is difficult to inject passion and excitement into your life if you don’t get that from your relationship. I would idly spend my weekends on the sofa playing PlayStation games, occasionally switching it off for Simpsons or to go to the pub. The week had become a Monday to Friday nine to five affair that offered me no excitement. I had lost all the things I once desired in life. I no longer had any clue as to what I wanted. I’d built my entire life around my girlfriend to the point where I didn’t have any friends, at least not in Nottingham, no interests of my own, no life of my own and my life with my girlfriend has just become a painful laborious slog that I used to fill the time in between trips to Plymouth and an endless plethora of staycations that I used to glean a lot from but that a girl in her early twenties would have found mind numbing and boring to say the least. We were horribly mismatched and by the time I finished with her, I have to admit, I wasn’t much of a catch.

I tried the usual ways to make her jealous afterwards. The destructive ways. Going about with other ladies. Partying. Then about four months after the relationship finished I realised how I was going to handle things. It was a breakthrough, at least for me.

You see, she’d fallen in love with a unique, driven individual who enjoyed a modicum of success. Why not take that to a whole other level while at the same time living out my life as I want to? I knew the information would eventually filter back to her, as these things do.

Part one was to get myself a new job. I had been thinking about this for some time and I needed something that would challenge me and make me successful. Surely if my ex-girlfriend heard that I was doing an important new job, she’d be really jealous and I’d be happy. That’s precisely what I did. I got a job at a business data agency. I got my drive back. Soon the money was rolling in and I was off.

This was me in 2008, a few months after the break up, in my new job. I'd just been given a bottle of moderately priced, non-domestic champagne as a thank you for some recent work I'd done.

This was me in 2008, a few months after the break up, in my new job. I’d just been given a bottle of moderately priced, non-domestic champagne as a thank you for some recent work I’d done.

Of course that is only one part of it. The other is that when a relationship breaks up, the inevitable factionalisation happens. I have noticed this wherever I have been. When someone is in a couple, they both begin to isolate themselves from people they were great friends with when they were single. In addition when have couples friends. Friends that are also in a couple to do couples things with. My only friends independent from my girlfriend at the time were couples friends and without them, I had very little going on. So, I started to massively socialise. A far cry from the no hopers and hairdressers (my ex-girlfriend was a (very good) hairdresser, I grew to loathe them and to this day I will only get my hair cut in a men only barbers) that my ex-girlfriend used to knock about with. I used to do Capoeira, and constantly socialise with old friends of mine that I hadn’t spoken to for years. I consistently found myself in completely different surroundings with completely different people. My new partner lived in Bethnal Green and opened up my eyes to new worlds, new ideas, upcycling me from the rut I had once fallen into.

The constant travelling. The constant moving from place to place. My own home fell into a state of disrepair and I had to move on from that. I ended up in a posh flat. Soon it was Athens, Brussels, Luxemburg, the Runton’s, here there and every.

By the end of all of this, I wondered what the application of my jealousy and revenge was. I’d become a new person, a different person, with a hugely better life and one day, not long after, I was pondering about what her life must be like and how things must be now. I then realised that part way along my journey I had lost the desire to attempt to make her jealous. The changes that I’d made and the life that I’d led since those days in 2008 where I was was stagnant and complacent, those are things that I should’ve done. I shouldn’t have done them with a view to making her jealous, I should’ve done them for me.

This, therefore, is my advice: when you are thinking of making an ex-partner jealous, one way to do that is to give yourself away, show how sexually desirable you are, spread gossip about them and rumours about yourself, but all of that is completely unnecessary and usually negative. The best way to make an ex-partner jealous is to go out there and succeed in the world. Get the good job. Get the travelling under your belt. Meet the right people. To play the short game of jealousy boiling it down to attraction is one thing. To play the long game, to fully realise your potential and live your life the way that you want to live it is a a complete other. To have your ex-partners looking at you six months later or six years later and think “I backed the wrong horse” is not only a better feeling but a lot more productive, not least because you have the fruits of your labours to show for it.

I have a slight confession to make. While I broke off all contact with my ex-girlfriend shortly after the end of the relationship, I can’t really see her being jealous. The reason for this is that she had, at least in her view, moved on to better things, or so I am led to believe. It’s not a life I would have chosen, the settled down, married and kids one, at least not at my age, but she chose that and I believe, if I know her as well as I think I do was that that was what she wanted in her early twenties. Not my thing, but yeah. This is the piece of advice I will leave you on. That is the best way to make your ex-partner jealous. Even when I realised that I needn’t do these things for her, I saw that I needed every bit of self improvement, every bit of personal development, every minor victory and major accomplishment, not to make her jealous but for myself.

The betting shop, the supermarket and perceived child negligence

Today, I found a betting slip. I looked up the result and apparently it was a winner. I went to the shop and it was £1.60 so I put a couple of 50p bets on. Bizarrely, they all won and I’d won about a tenner so I put another slip on for a couple of quid and left it at that.

I then played a joke. I was chatting to the girl in the betting shop shop saying how it had been my lucky day and she agreed. I then said “excuse me, I’ve got to make a call.”

I then stepped away from the counter and pretended to be on the phone. I said “Baby, you’re not going to believe what happened, you don’t need to pick mould of the bread tonight… Yes I am in a bookies, but listen… Hold on, just listen to me… I was on my way back from the pub and I popped into the bookies for a cheeky 50p… No, wait, wait, wait, hear me out. I won a few quid so I can afford get some baby formula on the way home…”

It was at this point that one clerk said to the other “Google the number for social services”

I turned to the cashier and was like “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! It was just a joke. I’m don’t have kids, I’m not even on the phone.”

I’d love to claim this joke as my own but I got the inspiration from a friend of mine.

A friend was having a party about a decade ago. He went around the supermarket and first put a load of things in a trolley. Baby things. He put dummies, nappies, baby formula, wipes and so on in the trolley, family foods, General toiletries, about £40 worth. Then he went to the alcohol section. and put about £40 worth of booze in the trolley. At the check out he said he didn’t have enough money and he said to put the baby stuff back. The look on their faces was priceless. The difference between my joke and his? I told them mine was a joke.

Schrödinger’s Lottery Ticket

My Dad is a sociologist. The world doesn’t make sense to sociologists. I’m a sociologist, or at least I’ve studied sociology.

My Dad once asked me a question. He was actually using it as a metaphor for career choices. He asked me what I would do if I won the lottery. Of course all the usual answers came about, house, car, holidays, seeing my friends alright. I then asked him what he’d do.

He said “I’ll never win the lottery.” I said you never know and he said “No, I do know, I’m never going to win.”
“How can you be so sure?” I enquired.
“Because I don’t play. I’m never going to. It’s a poor tax. It taxes the poor. People don’t play the lottery if they’re already millionaires.” I couldn’t fault his logic. Like most sociologists he can waffle on and talk rubbish until the cows come home, but ultimately he makes sense, at least to other sociologists.

He was actually talking to me about it in the context of career choices and how in life you have to participate with a chance of winning.

An unexpected consequence of what he said is that I now play the lottery.

The reason I play

I don’t play the lottery to win. I play the lottery to dream. I don’t expect to win. I think anyone who does play the lottery expecting to win is a fool. Lotto has odds of 14 million to one. Imagine a raffle with 14 million tickets in it. What are the chances that yours is going to be the one picked? With Euromillions, the chances are 77 million to one.

When I buy a ticket though, I know there is that chance. There is a chance, however small, that I could win and that affords me the opportunity to dream. I like those dreams. I like that hope. I like that belief.

Checking the ticket

I rarely check the tickets. I usually wait a few weeks and check them all in bulk.

Once the draw has taken place, if I don’t know the result, the ticket in my wallet is both a winner and a loser. I know that it is almost certainly a loser but I refuse to stop dreaming that it could be a winner. As soon as I know for sure that it isn’t a winner, then I no longer have the right to dream until I buy another one.

A lottery ticket costs £2 but a dream is something you can’t put a price on.