“I need the dates of all the countries I have visited since 2005,” said The Exocet from Australia. “Could you please try and remember when and where we went on holidays and trips away?” Of course my darling; I have my old diaries and will look for you.
On a recent inclement Saturday then, I extracted a pile of worn Moleskin journals from the depths of a cupboard and with odd trepidation, turned the wafer thin pages. No-one else would make head or tale of the decade, for these fine leaves are laden with words, initials, exclamation marks and an occasional short observation marked here and there.
Exocet having been roundly independent for the last two years, I focused on 2005 to 2013, finding a number of excursions she had made to Sweden, Canada and France. I also found some baffling entries, moving notes and the reprisal of memories I had carefully airbrushed away. And this, dear reader, compelled me into a closer look at these packed, printed pages.
I found events, dinners, lunches and meetings with people I no longer see and I found questions. Whatever happened to Angus, Mark, Patrick, Neil, Edward and Matthew? Why do I no longer go out for Girls Drinks with Natasha, Claudia, Sarah, Sophie, or Stephanie? Who in the name of God is nose-blob woman whose true moniker I did not see fit to record? Why was the elevator pitch to 100 Investor Angels so cursorily mentioned, when it resulted in funding the business I still share with my brother? Why are there so many prompts to call Buzz – why did Buzz never seem to call me?
My diaries’ slender pages revived memories of amusing encounters, not least three online-dating episodes each months apart. The first was with A, our match not one of romance but friendship; clever, funny, engaging A has since married his childhood sweetheart and we remain in touch, occasionally meeting for gossipy cocktails at Claridges.
First time lucky then, for the next two encounters were less fortuitous.
B was heir to the fortunes of a culturally famous family; the initial thrill of such a prestigious date gave way to disbelief at his puerile, persistent and presumptuous ways. He was soon dispatched to Soulmate Scrapheap – but not before I had delivered some candid observations about his misplaced sense of entitlement.
C, a handsome Barrister arranged to meet me at Blacks in Soho; we found a spot by the fire to break open a rather good bottle of wine. I have a handful of Barristorial friends and we quickly found one in common, soon after which he leaned close and intoned: we are going to have sex after this aren’t we? Amused and polite my response nevertheless propelled him straight back into his coat and wordlessly through the door. I was left astonished and alone with a near-full bottle of red, the fire … and the bill. C e-mailed the following day to apologise and ask that I would not recount his charmless behaviour to our mutual friend. Alas, it was too late.
I found also upon these slender pages, carefully inscribed notes from The Exocet, gems of encouragement inserted into random days that perhaps she saw were difficult:
Mum is going to have a BRILLIANT day today!
I love you Mum! You are beautiful.
Today may not be great, but I love you LOADS.
This latter somewhat prescient note featured in April 2008 and coincided with the grand finale of a too-long relationship with The Bastard, with whom I had been senselessly mesmerised for some years. I had already seen a brief note that marked the moving in to his place in 2005 and my thoughts now turned to how events unfolded.
I recalled that although our arrival was a thing of excitement for all, longer term the novelty of living his particular brand of urban life did not suit us or him. Simply our presence curtailed his antics. While The Bastard caroused at night, My Girls and I would sit together and discuss how to leave; we did not belong in this bachelor show home, but having launched a new business, my finances and our options were commensurately constrained.
The months unfolded uncomfortably: by day we muddled along but nights were grim as I would be woken at 5am by his staggering footsteps, abusive and drunken diatribes; once in bed, the acrid scent of his escapades curled from his body. On that final morning my sexually incontinent boyfriend went too far and my patience exploded. Affronted, he put six-months rent into my bank account and gave us five days to gather our belongings and leave. Hallelujah!
These journals have happily also nudged far lovelier memories and vignettes of events that took place in the pretty two-up-two-down we shared before My Girls flew the nest – and I met BB. Indeed, many are described in earlier entries to this blog and there will doubtless be more as I continue my stroll down memory lane.
Exocet now has the information required for her Australian residency forms and I realise that this history, whether funny, sad, good or bad is worth keeping. For without exception, old experiences help to form and inform new ones.
I realise too that however scant the entries, they give shape to a life well lived and give rise to tales worth telling. Sadly, the last 18 months have seen me slip away from an analogue agenda into the ubiquitous computer calendar. As the years pass, I want always to be able to leaf through the pages of my own history.
Life may move fast, but iCal, your work here is done.
© Giovanna Forte