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So much excitement I could… October 11, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

…dunno, really. Yelp, perhaps.

Yes, it’s yet more e-mailery for you today. I woke up at my take on the crack of dawn, hurtled headlong towards the computer, wondered if it would be the thin end of the wedge to start having a cigarette before breakfast – decided against, healthily – and looked through my riveting mail. I was fast heading towards a bout of RSI at having the mouse on delete for such ages when, all of a sudden, I removed my hand as quickly as if I’d just stuck it in some boiling water.

Title: a familiar abbreviation.

Sender: a familiar concoction.

E-mail: Is that BiB from abbreviation (common abbreviation for my school)? If so, I am an old school friend of yours! Signed the familiar concoction.

Well fuck me with a big stick! Imagine that. The power of google. Actually, it’s not that earth-shattering, in a way, because I’ve had e-mails like it from that friends reunited site, and have even seen this friend’s name there. But we left the school in different years and his search skills obviously didn’t amount to remembering the calendar, so it’s got to have been google. How exciting!

But what to do?

Now I left this school at 16. After that, I stayed in touch with this pal intermittently. I saw him once when we were at university. And bumped into him once in a pub in Camden Town. We must have been 21. Maximum 22. A massive 14 years ago.

I instantly wrote to the ex for advice. My one suggestion was, “Do I just press delete?” He answered instantly. “No, answer.”

Darlings, but do I answer? I mean, we’ve done quite a good job of losing touch with each other for the last fourteen years, after all. And furious googling back reveals that my old pal is now a diamond-trader. A diamond-trader, for fuck’s sake. No doubt he’s just had his hands on that massive one from Lesotho and is getting in touch with all us old losers to fly us somewhere lovely – he used to live in West Hampstead – for champagne, oysters and scantily-clad, trafficked ladies.

It might be fun to contact the old pal, but then it might be a pain having to spell out my CV for the last millennium. He doesn’t even know I’m a whoopsy. He was sporty and a big hit with the gals aged even 15. He was the first pal I had who started ‘working out’, although I don’t think that term existed in the mid-80s. He was the first person to drag me into a peep-show in Soho aged about 2, where I think we proceeded to pay 8 quid for a coke. (Little did I know this would stand me in good stead for future stag duties.) He was the first person I knew to rent ludicrously hard porn from his bog-standard corner-shop where he’d somehow got chatting, man to man, with the shop-keeper. He was the first person I knew with a Commodore 64. And I used to pretend to fancy his sister.

So I’m thinking of writing back in the guise of an invented alter ego. I’ll have to be BiB, and have to be in Berlin, but I think I might be married to a nice, sturdy Helga and have a gaggle of children whom I speak to in a selection of languages. There’ll probably be an Alexander in there somewhere. And a Bettina. And the twins, Berlina and Gonaria. “Oh yes, Gonaria’s a very talented violinist,” I’ll say, “…and Bettina’s got try-outs for the German youth lacrosse team. Helga and I worry Alexander might have a few mental health ishooz. Well, and the less said about Berlinochka the better…” And I suppose I’d better be the Deputy Vice Consul, or something, and hope that his google skills are wanting. And I’d probably better have an indoor pool, and be living in Charlottenburg.

…or do I just tell him the bitter truth, that I’m scraping by doing ludicrous work, living in a rented one-bedroom flat in Berlin’s Ruislip with a Russian student? And no children, mentalist or otherwise?

Damn you, past. Always sneaking up at the most inconvenient of moments to remind you how feckless you’ve been.

Or do I just press delete?



1. Welshy - October 11, 2006

Please have a Dores. And an Ulrich. They are fantastic names.
But Helga sounds scary. I don’t like her already. I expect she wears bright red lipstick like the one in ‘Allo ‘Allo. She was terrifying.

2. BiB - October 11, 2006

You mean you don’t like my wife? Has anyone else get anything they’d like to say? I suppose you could all tell Alexander had ishooz too, eh?

3. GreatSheElephant - October 11, 2006

I was contacted recently by an old school acquaintance because she was off work with depression and had been fiddling about on Friends Reunited. It was fine while the depression lasted and we could trade symptoms but now she’s better and is sending me email after email all about her part time job as a teacher and her four children. she even set up a special hotmail account so she could email me from her recent villa holiday in Crete. We appear to have absolutely nothing in common and I have no idea what to say to her.

4. BiB - October 11, 2006

GSE, this is secretly my worry about getting back in touch with someone with whom the most serious conversation I’ve ever had was about his Commodore 64, which, even then, would have involved him talking and me feigning interest, and which girls I was pretending to fancy in 1987. Not that we might not easily have both grown old gracefully, of course, and perhaps we’d hit it off again. Anyway, unless he’s in Berlin, I can’t imagine how I’m ever going to get to see him, seeing as I don’t normally even get to see friends I haven’t lost touch with when I do make it to London.

5. annie - October 11, 2006

A whoopsy… cute!

I guess the question is, do you want to answer? I bet he was just emailing on a whim – and is not about to stalk you or demand you produce a Helga and some sprogs. Emailing entails very little committment.

(Though I like the sound of him flying you in for champagne on the ill-gotten gains of the diamond mines – maybe worth keeping in with him?)

6. BiB - October 11, 2006

He was always a bit of a louche character, though in quite a fun way. We used to bunk off school together, and his mother was Italian so he was the only 14-year-old I knew who’d give you delicious snacks. I first got slaughtered on grappa at his place.

Yes, I’m sure he wrote on a whim. Perhaps I’ll answer WITHOUT Helga-and-the-kids then…

7. Mangonel - October 12, 2006

Tell him you simply MUST meet up! Have you been away from home for so long that you have forgotten that in London, ‘Let’s do lunch’ means ‘goodbye’?

Off for another game of Scrabble – love to H and the kids.

8. BiB - October 12, 2006

Mangonel, I will keep an eye out for you on THE SITE. Helga won’t stop nagging though. And Gonaria’s violin practice is an awful chore.

9. David (TEFL Smiler) - October 12, 2006

Just write a friendly e-mail back with the truth and no shame. (I so don’t know how to play this game!) He’ll most likely be in awe of your experience of life in different countries, so play that up if you want to boast about something. Your long relationship is certainly something worth bragging about, too, I’d say. Your state of poverty can either be glossed over, or played up for all it’s worth: you’ve focused on life experience rather than material gain.

If he’s contacting people from back then, then what’s missing in his life? Why’s he seeking safety in the past?

Been reading you for a while. Enjoy your blog. Don’t know if being drunk is the best time to produce my first comment. So be it, though!

10. BiB - October 12, 2006

David, drunknenness is absolutely the best state for a great many things, including leaving a first comment. And I’ve read you too, having discovered you via Herr Actual Factual. Do let me know your blog’s new incarnation, when it happens.

You’re right. I’m going to write to the diamond-trader, perhaps drunk, and big my life up… er… big-style. “Yeah? So you trade diamonds?” I’ll ask. “Well, I trade other people’s words. So there!” And, anyway, my sort-of brother-in-law used to have something to do with diamonds and would send photos of them, and I could never get majorly excited. (He’s much more beautiful than the diamonds. He should have just sent photos of himself.) Just trying to remember if I’ve ever possessed a diamond. Divvun’t knaa, like. Perhaps, in a young-man’s ear-ring.

11. Mangonel - October 12, 2006

You linked me! I’m honoured. Sehr vielen Dank.

12. Marsha Klein - October 12, 2006

Are you happy with your lot? I don’t mean all the time or even most of the time, but are you more often happy with your life than you are unhappy with it? (Gosh, that was rather clumsily put!) If your are essentially happy with your life as it is, then reply truthfully. I’ve only recently discovered your blog (via Patroclus) and I think you sound interesting and adventurous (I’ve never lived more than 10 miles from where I was born – unless you count the 2 years I spent in Sudan as a very young child) So, go to it BiB! If he never contacts you again, I’d say it would be his loss and, trust me, your job could not be more ludicrous than mine!

13. BiB - October 12, 2006

Mangonel, du bist more than welcome. New bloggers need every encouragement. My other top tip is to get rid of comment moderation. You can always delete comments if you don’t like them, or if they’re spammy. Whereas moderation puts folk off, I think. Though that might be bollocks.

Marsha Klein, hello! I’ve seen your name chez Pats. But do you not blog yourself? Start! Start! But, yes, life, well, I’d say I’m happier with it than unhappier with it. I’ve turned into such an old granny, which I’m glad about, but I’m not TOO uncontented with my lot. I would like to earn money in a different way, but no-one could call my job hard, so I mustn’t grumble. And I plan to do very little work today indeed, which not everyone can allow themselves to do (or not do) on a random October Thursday, so hurrah for that. I wonder what your ludicrous job is. More ludicrous than translation? Does this job ever take you to Brussels?

14. MountPenguin - October 12, 2006

Are you sure “diamond trader” is not another way of writing “works at Ratners” (if they still exist)?

15. BiB - October 12, 2006

Gosh, yes, perhaps he works at Ratner’s on Kilburn High Road. Although, between you and me, my googling did bring up a photo of him in a group of very serious-looking men in some exotic location, so he might be the real deal. There was definitely something bulging out of his shirt. The photo was too poor quality to tell if it was fat or muscle. Or stolen diamonds.

16. Ed Ward - October 12, 2006

This happens to me all the time, thanks to notoriety and stardom on American radio. People from my distant past write and are all oooh, I found you, I can’t believe it, you live in Berlin, and wow, isn’t that cool.

So I write them back politely and 99 times out of 100, within two more exchanges, they realize that we have nothing to say to each other and vanish.

And that one time out of the hundred, that can be pretty interesting.

In short, my advice: write back politely and truthfully and watch everyone concerned lose interest.

17. BiB - October 12, 2006

Actually, Ed, the last time it happened to me, there was great enthusiasm in the correspondence for about 12 seconds, and it even led to fresh contact with other people I’d lost touch with, and then fizzled after that. Not surprising. Nice to know folk are still alive, I suppose!

18. daggi - October 20, 2006

If I’d known about all this I would have bought that copy of “Retrogamer” (or similar) magazine in WH Smith’s on the Waterloo station concourse, then you could have relived that discussion about it being a step up from the Vic-20 (etc.).

19. BiB - October 24, 2006

Daggi, are you getting all technical on me? I remember he also once gave me some convoluted bit of computer language code for when someone in my family ended up with a computer which I typed up dutifully and all for it just to produce my name on the screen. For fuck’s sake! Were people so thick in the past? Hadn’t Word been invented?

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