On the Wednesday night I see Busty Blonde again. This time I’m treating her to a West End show and a restaurant meal beforehand. I’m doing this not to impress her or because she deserves it in some way, but because Christmas is near, the vibe in London is festive and I want to do something nice to see the year out.
I wait for her in a coffee shop near her work and she meets me a few minutes early. It’s rare for a date to be early. I greet her with a kiss on each cheek, a la French style. Again I’m struck by how much older than me she looks. On our first date on Sunday she had mentioned that she had been a smoker, so I’m learning that ex-smokers look a few years older than their actual age. Sweet Thing, The Lost One, Teacher Gal, Deranged Dater, Wild Child, The Randy Russian and The English Shrink were all ex-smokers and, courtesy of extra wrinkles around the eyes, looked older than what they were.
It’s pouring with Winter rain and we make the best of it trying to huddle under my umbrella, but I give up on it and choose to cover her properly with it while I slowly get soaked. We walk over a pedestrian bridge that spans the Thames and at the bank there’s a steep set of stairs. Busty Blonde clings tight to my arm as we descend it. At the bottom of the stairs we encounter a mother with a pram, trying to make her way up the stairs, but struggling to do so. Without a word I force the umbrella into Busty Blonde’s hand and I carry the pram to the top of the stairs. The mother thanks me and I rejoin my date.
“You really are an old-fashioned gentleman. You’re very rare,” Busty Blonde says.
I just smile and move us along to Chinatown for our dinner. As we walk I muse to myself that the world has become a sad place if I am so rare in my consideration for others. To my mind kindness is like manners: it doesn’t cost anything, but it is valuable. I contend that if chivalry is indeed dead, then it was murdered by feminism. Many modern men are afraid of being chivalrous because they are afraid of being called sexist or patronising by a vocal, embittered feminist. I’ve been on the receiving end of such verbal attacks, but I just laugh them off because their behaviour is far uglier than mine. Besides, you can’t reason with an unreasonable person.
Busty Blonde and I arrive at the Chinese restaurant which is found via an unremarkable small door in a nondescript alley but then opens out into a courtyard that has a small footbridge over a water feature in the approach to the dining area.
“Gosh, you’d never think that this was here. You do know interesting places,” Busty Blonde says.
Gosh. Who in this day and age uses that word any more? Then again, who carries a stranger’s pram with a baby inside it up a flight of stairs in a downpour any more? I guess Busty Blonde and I are outliers on some curve somewhere.
We take turns to go to the restroom to dry ourselves off. For the first time in my life I stick my drenched head under the hand dryer. It was tricky but it worked.
We sit down to what I knew would be a remarkable extravaganza of Pekingnese and Szechuan cuisine. I tell Busty Blonde about my travels around China and she’s mesmerised. Her life has been dedicated to work and just the occasional short-haul flight to somewhere on the Mediterranean counted as travel for her. From her words and questions it seems that she is an unrequited traveller. I can’t help but think that we have much in common in terms of what we enjoy.
Dinner ends and we make our way to the theatre where The Commitments is being staged. I got us last minute seats so they’re not the best in the house but are easy to find. Busty Blonde enjoys the show and at intermission we get drinks from the bar. I remember something from our first date of a few days ago.
“So how was your tough day on Monday?” I ask, not expecting much in return.
“Oh, it was awful. I had to make my whole department redundant. I had to call each of them in and give them the news. I think having to sack people just before Christmas is despicable,” she answers.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve never enjoyed sacking people either,” I reply, hoping my words ease her discomfort.
“Now guess what? Today I got retrenched. That’s why I came out early to meet you. I just don’t give a damn any more. I worked hard for them for twelve years, then they make me sack people with families, then once I’ve done that for them, I get sacked,” she says bitterly.
“Never mind. You’re a smart cookie with loads of experience. Something will come along. Perhaps even something better. You never know,” I say, trying to lift her spirits.
“I hope so. I’ve never been unemployed before,” she retorts.
A bell sounds and we retake our seats. I tell myself that I’m proving a pleasant distraction for her after a rough couple of days. When the show ends we rejoin the world outside where the rain has abated. Busty Blonde is starting to look tired and I suggest that we call it a night. I walk her to the nearest Tube station where I wait with her on the platform until her train arrives. We quickly kiss each other goodbye on the lips before she hops on the train, takes a seat facing me, smiles and gives me a brief wave. I smile and wave back just as the train speeds off.
If she hadn’t told me about her work situation I would never have guessed that something bad had happened to her today. Banter between us is lively, just as I had expected. She’s a naturally upbeat person and she always seems to look for the positive in anything. I like that. Do I fancy her? Not really. Do I enjoy being with her? Absolutely.
What do I do about Busty Blonde? I really don’t know.
Travis – Why Does It Always Rain On Me?