Here’s a Christmas story for you, as I know you’ll be missing them right now:
A few years ago, the funeral of my friend Danny’s father. Attended, as it happens, by a famous actor. I could remember his name, but had a complete mental blank about what he’d been in (a very famous 90s British sitcom, I know, shame on me). So I abstained from going up and talking to him, reasoning that the conversation would go something like this:
(so that it doesn't look like this story was spliced in for name-dropping purposes, which of course it was, I shall call the famous actor X)
Me: Hello, you’re X aren’t you?
Me: You’re tall.
I figured that this would just make me look like a dick, so instead I got drunk and flirted with an attractive man. End of the night I bought loads of crisps to sober up and tried to persuade the attractive man that I was usually sober.
The next day, my skin crawling with dehydration, I drove Danny, who was in a similar state, to collect her car from the hotel. Still a little bit pissed, I confessed I fancied her mate, and gave her a brief description.
Oh, she said, that’d be Ronnie.
Hmm, well, said I. Maybe you should give him my number.
A couple of months later Danny did so, but it took young Ronnie another six weeks to get in touch. Not a good sign, but we got on really well on the phone. He seemed rather keen to talk about bonding with his kids, and I suspected he wasn’t looking for love right now. He did say a few odd things like ‘we were only in the same place for an hour’ and ‘when I arrived someone was buying crisps.’ But we arranged to go for a drink after Christmas.
Couple of days after Christmas, I’ve returned from a 1000 mile road trip to find that my heating has packed in. I ring Ronnie, because I said I would, and it comes out that I’m freezing to death in Twixtmas, those days between Boxing Day and New Years Eve when no one knows what day of the week it is or what they should be wearing. Ronnie kindly says he is on his way to a two day jam session with a friend, and will detour my way to bring me a heater.
I haven’t showered in days and it’s too cold to dress sexy. I race upstairs to spray perfume on. When I open the door to Ronnie, I’m wrapped in a blanket. ‘Sweet,’ he says, but makes no move to hug me, which seems oddly stand-offish. Something goes through my mind:
I was sure he was taller …
He races upstairs to look at my boiler, saying as he’s a man, he feels obliged to do this, despite having no engineering skills. I apologise for the state of my daughter’s walls. I told her, when we moved in, that I planned to remove the magnolia wood-chip wallpaper, so over the last year or so, her friends have decorated them with swearwords and pictures of penises. The light fitting is half hanging off. As a demonstration of parenting skills, this is not painting me in a good light.
Ronnie starts talking about filming. I thought he was a carpenter. This is all a bit odd.
Then – the coup de grace – the aura starts to come on.
Not all migraine sufferers get this, and to be honest, I’m lucky. I get almost no pain. It’s all weird visual disturbances, fragmented visual field. When this happens, I take a pill to expand the blood vessels in my brain, and retire to bed for 24 hours. It is the most dull thing one can do, but it works.
I describe my symptoms to Ronnie, saying it’s like having a trip without the drugs. He departs, very swiftly. I get the feeling the whole thing went badly. And also, for some reason I don’t find Ronnie attractive. Those funeral beer goggles must have been amazing.
When I call Danny, I ask her: is Ronnie a carpenter?
‘Oh, fuck,’ says Danny. ‘Oh. No.’
It’s the wrong guy. The chap I was talking to is someone completely different who is married. Which kind of explains (a) why I never got his name and (b) why Ronnie didn’t remember me.
Thankfully, Ronnie never rings back.
A year later, I am fielding the end of a messy relationship with nasty texts passing back and forth. In fact it is so distressing that I've even left the office early to cool down. I get a text message from an unknown number.
Ronnie wants his heater back.
Bit of a problem. I gave the heater to my ex. Who is no longer talking to me.
I stand on the train, tapping at the window. What to do?
I call Ronnie’s number. ‘Ah, Ronnie? Um, thing is … and I’m going to be completely honest with you here, I hope you’re not offended …’
He takes the truth remarkably well. Turns out he ran off because he thought I was behaving oddly and he likes to avoid drama. That I had a reason for behaving oddly puts me in a better light. I find a replacement heater and take it round to his house. With the awkwardness of the story behind us, we talk for hours. I leave with the impression that I’ve made a new friend.