Monday, October 31, 2011

Eight things I loved about October

~ 8 ~ Celebrating one year of Jenn-based awesomeness: I first met Jenn at about 7:30 p.m. on 29 October 2010 (a). We were scheduled to have met half an hour earlier and, sitting in the back of Penarth's Ocho Lounge, I told myself I would just leave if she didn't show up before I finished my pint. For the first time in the season I was wearing a sweater, my favourite one, and realising I had been overly ambitious for winter's chill to arrive. I was uncomfortably hot.
Despite having spent a fair amount of time selecting an outfit and primping for this meeting, I was not feeling optimistic and a certain part of me was content with the idea of being stood up. Jenn and I had first corresponded via the internets, which is actually a good way to meet people. There is a stigma attached to dating websites but if you think it through that stigma makes not a damn bit of sense. The people who roll their eyes at internet dating would have no issue with a relationship starting via a conversation in a bar, but think about it: the odds of success in a bar are dramatically lower than in a setting where you know a person's interests. That said, however, dating, regardless of how you do it, relies on a certain degree of chance. I had met a few girls before Jenn and found no success whatsoever. One of the most amusing experiences came when I met a girl at a pub in Cardiff Bay. She showed up and I offered to buy her a drink.
"Hmm," she said, looking at me sideways. "That depends. I am definitely not going to sleep with you, I'm afraid. So, I'm not sure how that affects your decision. You know, I've got nothing else to do this afternoon. But I'd hate for you to feel you were wasting your time."
So, as I say, in the stifling hot of the Ocho Lounge I was resigned to having this date flop. I was feeling somewhat relieved, actually. I knew from Jenn's profile she was a few years younger than me and in those days was feeling older than my actual age, so I feared I was just flattering myself. As now, I was struggling financially and worried I was just spending money on an evening that almost certainly would go nowhere. This girl would turn up, I told myself, find nothing in common with me and be itching to leave within minutes. Looking back now on my personal calendar I see that I had noted a gig at the Gwdhiw that started just an hour after Jenn and I were to meet. Some part of me felt success so unlikely I had a back-up plan for the evening.
My phone buzzed.
"Bit late. Just waiting outside," said a text from Jenn.
I wound through the crowded bar toward the front to find her, then led her back to our table.
"Sorry I'm late," she said. "Been here long?"
"Nah," I said. "Just got here myself."
"Yes, I was all ready to go and then I got distracted because the television was on professional wrestling. It's silly, but it's kind of interesting to watch. And there was this one guy, and this move he did, called 'The Snake,' or something."
"The Cobra? Like this?" I asked, lifting my hand up.
"Santino Marella. He was in blue tights, right?"
"Yes. I know it's silly, but I just got hooked," she said.
"I love you," I said.
We stayed until the Ocho Lounge closed, with me doing the majority of talking. I talked and talked and talked, trying to think of anything, everything that might sound in the least bit impressive or funny or interesting. The next day I sent a group email to my friends Eric, Paul, Dan and Anthony under the subject, Sometimes my life is awesome:
"Last night I went out with a girl who was once a burlesque dancer.
I just felt the need to brag about that.
A year on I am still keen to brag. Jenn is amazing in a bajillion ways and I am one lucky muthahugga that I stuck around long enough to meet her. And even luckier to have been able to stick around in all the days and weeks since.

~ 8 ~ Visiting Devon: Jenn was born and raised in Devon. In mid-October I got to visit the place for the first time and see why she takes such pride in her home turf. Even before meeting Jenn I've long had a fascination with the southern England county. In Portsmouth I had a mild crush on a girl from Devon and so formed a stereotype that pretty girls are from there. In my novel The Way Forward, Claire, Ben's love interest, is from Devon.
After years of imagining the place I was not disappointed. Jenn and I were down for just an overnight trip and as such limited more or less to exploring Exeter, where a handful of relatives live and where she went to school, but there was enough to make me want to return. What surprises me is that we hadn't gone before; Devon really isn't so very far away -- just about two hours drive. I have happily driven that distance to get to Tenby on any number of occasions. I don't understand why I had imagined it to be so distant.

~ 8 ~ Visiting Forest of Dean: Although the beauty of Devon is not so far away, even closer is Gloucestershire and the Forest of Dean. I had lived here more than five years and never visited the area just across the England-Wales border until this summer when Jenn suggested it as a day-trip activity for when my parents came to visit. Since then I've been keen to get back as often as possible, it being in roughly the same area as the Offa's Dyke path I mentioned in last month's list of eight things.
In late October, Jenn took a day off work, we packed up the car and the two of us drove out to spend a day in the beauty of English forest. I had a great time, although I think next time we go Jenn and I should pack a more adequate lunch than two packets of crisps and some chocolate bars. Also, next time I go, I'd prefer not to be stopped and hassled by the police upon my return.

~ 8 ~ The pine smell of my T-shirts: Jenn and I purchased a trifecta of cheap chest of drawers when I first moved into the flat back in May. They were about £15 each from IKEA and just barely large enough to hold most the belongings of a man who has always quietly prided himself on having few belongings. As indicated by their price, the chests of drawers are basic bits of furniture -- young pine churned from some corporate forest somewhere, cut up and thrown into a cardboard box with a set of instructions so simple as to be mildly confusing.
Even though they were assembled several months ago, the chests of drawers still have a strong scent of pine. So, when I pull out a T-shirt it has that smell. I don't know why I was so particularly fond of that smell in October, but I was. Something in the scent seems to be trigging a tiny, tiny thought of hope -- a feeling I can make my life better.

~ 8 ~ Auto repair: In September, I bought a new car. And, of course, by "new" I mean "new to me;" it is in fact several years old. Old enough to have a handful of foibles, such as the fact that the heating blower didn't work when I first bought it. As it happens, the guy who sold it to me, Mark, had another Honda he was using for spare parts and sent me the blower from that one, thus saving me pooploads of money and trouble in trying to find a replacement. All I needed to do was install it. Sure. No problem. I've worked on cars before. Sort of. OK, I've bought beer for my friend Jim, or my brother and watched them work on my car. But I've got a masters degree (in Welsh). How hard could it be?
Pretty hard, it turns out. My first challenge was finding evidence of anyone ever having done this job before. The internet is the font of all knowledge these days but in searching how to replace the blower for a 1998 Honda Accord I was confronted with endlessly helpful advice and videos on how to do this with the U.S. version. Turns out, bafflingly, the U.K. version is completely different. As in, the parts look nothing alike, nor are they located in the same place. But with a bit of guesswork and blind faith in my untested ability I did, after several hours, replace the blower. And for that I felt like a manly, manly man.

~ 8 ~ Vlog no. 200: Sometimes I really wonder the point of the daily video log Jenn and I do. I'll think: "Who would watch this? Why? Aren't there better things I could be doing?"
Then I ignore those questions and just carry on vlogging. One reason is that the advertising earns us £20 a month. That's not exactly a mortgage payment but, hey, three months of vlogging paid for our recent National Trust membership. I can't complain. And, the overwhelming majority of the time, I actually enjoy vlogging. I'm not 100-percent sure why. I think it's the experience of each day looking back on the one previous and seeing that it was (usually) pretty OK and that I have a gorgeous girlfriend. It is a way of counting blessings, I suppose. And it's a way for my parents and family and friends to still have me in their lives. Should they want such a thing. I often wish my friends back in the U.S. would vlog so I could keep a feeling of contact with them.
Anyhoo, October saw the milestone of Jenn and I recording our 200th vlog. Appropriately, we did very little on that day but made the best of it.

~ 8 ~ Mince pie mondays: I'll admit that some days on the vlog are better than others. Sometimes there is little going on in a day. Jenn and I found that Mondays were consistently slow and dreamed up the idea of Mince Pie Monday, a weekly review of mince pies. For those of you playing along at home, mince pies are little fruit pies that have been a part of the British Christmas tradition for centuries. Just about every shop in the country offers its own brand of mince pie, so we set out to taste test as many as we can before Christmas to identify the best. It is ridiculous and usually pretty amusing. A little closer to Christmas I'll put up a list of all the mince pies we ate, with links to the videos. But in the meantime, you can find most of the mince pie vlogs here.

~ 8 ~ Christopher Rees: One of the highlights of the musical year in Cardiff is Sŵn, a multi-day, multi-venue music festival held throughout the city. It uses South by Southwest as its inspiration, though, admittedly, has a little ways to go before it garners as much attention. Regardless, it is still a good time and, I think, an incredible positive for Cardiff and Wales as a whole. Jenn worked as stage manager for one of the venues, which meant I had the opportunity to get in to see several bands for free. Perhaps foolishly, I instead spent most of that day writing. I have been struggling with writer's block for a year now so have developed an attitude of simply dropping everything in those rare moments inspiration strikes. But, at the end of the day I dragged myself from the laptop and went to see the excellent and bluesy Christopher Rees. Any band with a horn section always wins with me. Which reminds me, 3 Minute Hero have a new album out, released Halloween weekend. I have yet to hear it, but expect it to be on my November list of eight things.

(a) This was the first time for us to speak, at least. As it turns out, I had actually seen her on a train roughly nine months before and had wanted very much to talk to her but had failed to build the nerve.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rwyt ti'n swnio gymaint hapusach - hwre a da iawn Jenn. (Rwan llai o gwyno yn Barn plis!)