Stories from the Single Track


2016-03-28 17.46.45

I visited my family up in Sheffield over the Easter weekend. I had to begin with that sentence, because I have a habit of giving my stories a title first, and then writing something completely different, meaning the WordPress link often has no relevance to the finished article. Any good university lecturer or student will tell you that the title should be the last thing your write, precisely to avoid this type of dissonance between title and paper and do you see what I mean? I have already wandered so far off subject I think I might need to start again.
(Editor’s note: This paragraph is now redundant, as I changed the title once I got to the end, and the link updated anyway so…)

As I was visiting said family over said Easter period, certain family members and I were sat in my parents’ living room being 21st Century sociable. Occasionally, one of said family members would look up from their phone and make a disparaging comment about their Tinder matches. Eventually, this degenerated into an actual conversation, or at least the comments became more frequent and discussions ensued. From what I gathered, as the conversation was taking place without me, the average Tinder male is either a gym rat or a weirdo. I interjected the observation that surely if you have to inform people that you spend 90% of your waking hours in the gym, it’s probably not working. This contribution was acknowledged and accepted and the conversation continued without me.

This got me thinking. I’m no steroid-chomping self-obsessed gym rat, I’m no bottom-of-the-barrel creepy nutjob either, (feel free to refute any part of those statements…) As I have little success meeting people in the real world, maybe I’d have better luck on Tinder, being slightly smarter and more civilised than the majority of deadbeats my sisters seemed to be discussing.

Now I’m back home, the thought occurred to me again. It crossed my mind as I lowered myself into the bath following this evening’s run, a lukewarm mug of camomile tea perched on the edge of the tub, Zola’s La Bête Humaine just out of reach next to the sink, and music drifting gently across the bathroom from my bluetooth speaker.

Do I bother signing up for Tinder? I mused, as the song changed and Martin L. Gore began his glitchy and haunting interpretation of Hank Thompson’s gloomy country classic:

Every evening when the sun goes down, I sit here in my room,
And the lamplight shining on me projects my lonely gloom.
My counterpart in agony mocks each tear that falls,
And I cast a lonesome shadow on these lonely, lonely walls.

No, I concluded, and sank under the bubbles. I wouldn’t know what to do even if it did work out… Anyway, my lonesome shadow is all the company I need. Always by my side no matter where I go. We went for a run together today. The sun was out in force, so he was able to keep up with me the entire circuit.

I got back to Bedford mid-afternoon and, after deciding to go for a run and then trying to come up with a reason not to, I dragged myself out of the house and up the river. It wasn’t a fast 10km. Town was fairly busy too, it being a bank holiday, meaning I got a few more comments than usual. My favourite came from a small child, walking with his mother, by the river. I could hear then talking, having one of those deep parent-toddler conversations about the meaning of life, the size of the universe, or whether teddy bears go to heaven or something. There wasn’t even the usual pause for the mental cogs to turn while the occipital lobe awaits further signals from the eyes and the ventral pathway checks that it is still functioning and the eyes have seen what it thinks they have seen. He saw me and just straight up interrupted her.

His mother was mid-explanation about how the theory of evolution relates to monsters in the wardrobe or something like that, when the child stopped her dead (I pictured him holding up a hand to cut her off):

“What the…?!”

And then came the pause. Presumably as the child, cognisant there was a lady present, bit back an expletive.

I grinned and carried on. I grinned a lot, actually. Well, mostly they were grimaces, but sometimes I grinned. Often when I run, I have a single goal on which I focus. Recently, it has been breathing. In the past it might have been extending the distance I ran without shoes, sometimes it was attempting to finish a run in shoes. Not so long ago I started forcing myself to run with a top on. Not something I enjoy doing, I sweat a lot for a skinny boy, but slowly and surely I habituated myself to running mostly dressed.

Well by the time I reached the river, I was feeling rather warm. I’m too used to running in the cold or at night I guess. I had a bag on, to avoid aggravating my hip injury, which wasn’t helping my heat regulation. I passed through the Tesco car park and into the trees and decided that was it. The sun was out, there were no small children about for me to blind with my ultrawhite torso, and it was beginning to feel like summer. Off came the t-shirt. On came the smile.

I sprinted (ish) onwards, up the trail, through the river, and into the partially-flooded field.

2016-03-28 17.48.10

To do list: join a gym (without telling anyone), join a tanning salon, buy some red shorts. Should I go blond?

♬Some people stand in the darkness,
Afraid to step into the light…♬
(Ok, you may need to really work your imagination here…)

Sadly, all too soon my David Hasselhoff impression was brought to an end as I rejoined the road, muddy from the waist down. I then did my best octopus-getting-dressed impression as I tried to pull my wet t-shirt back on wondering why I had so many arms or my top had so few holes. Having a rucksack only served to complicate things.

I ran back into the blinding spring sun, cheered on by grown men shouting “Oi!” and small children who enunciated their incredulity somewhat more carefully. I made it home in 55 minutes or so. Nothing special about the time, but the first sunny run was special for other reasons.

I climbed out of the bath, shaved carefully, telling myself that moustaches are a good idea, and sat at my desk with a new cup of tea. I pressed play on my laptop and, as Dame Shirley Bassey launched into a rendition of Where Do I Begin?, my mind drifted back to the strange concept of e-dating.

Where would I begin? I thought. Storytelling is easy – I read Sir Scallywag and the Battle for Stinky Bottom to my nephew yesterday. It’s simple. I can do that fine. Running is also simple. I like running (although she doesn’t mention that in the song, but running makes storytelling easier so maybe she should have). Dating is complicated and scary. All the other bits of advice I gleaned from The Remix Album: Diamonds Are Forever suggested that I am going to need to spend big and that several precious metals and minerals should be involved. This only made the whole concept seem scarier and even more complicated.

I have a lot to learn. Maybe I need to enrol in Tindergarten.



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