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Tuesday 1st November 2005

I a quite steadfastly keeping myself to myself on this break. I have never been very good at talking to strangers due to a mixture of inherent shyness and the worry that I might strike up a conversation with someone who is dull and/or peculiar. Given that a high proportion of people who attempt to engage strangers in conversation are dull and/or peculiar I also do not want to instigate discussion for fear of being immediately judged dull and/or peculiar myself.
So I have scarcely talked to anyone at all in the three days I have been here. One bloke who was in the Thlassotherapy pool at the same time as me has attempted a few bits of chit-chat and I have responded at the minimum acceptable level. And we haven’t really got beyond the “Are you having a good time?” “Oh yes, it’s very relaxing” level in any of our three discussions. I don’t think having shared a Thlassotherapy pool is a basis for friendship. The pool is big and we didn’t interact at any point during the session. He seems a perfectly nice person, not at all peculiar, though possibly a little dull and of course he is just being friendly, possibly even trying to be nice to me as I am here alone (he’s with his wife, which is partly what makes me think he isn’t peculiar. It’s the people on their own you have to watch out for. Wait a minute, I’m on my own! I am the exception that proves the rule. What?). Maybe if I overstepped the mark and stopped and chatted to him properly he would feel uncomfortable. But that’s not going to happen. Today at lunch I sat at a table quite near to the couple and studiously avoided making eye contact, pretending I hadn’t noticed them. I wasn’t in the mood to say I was having a relaxing time.
As there are a lot of people here on their own (the weirdos) you get an option at meal time of sitting alone or being placed with one of the other single strange-os. I always take the table on my own rather than enter that lottery. Though of course there is a part of me that feels a bit lonely and that I am stupid for avoiding human interaction in this way. But then when I am offered a crumb of chat I extricate myself from the situation as soon as possible.
For the first couple of nights at dinner I have been seated at a table next to the same woman on her own. The first night I said hello as I sat down but she didn’t really respond and she glared forward with her face in a mask which said “Do not talk to me. I want to be left alone. Please don’t say anything. You fucking weirdo!” So I didn’t speak to her. She looks quite unhappy though and I wonder if part of her is wishing she had someone to talk to, unaware that her face and demeanour is saying “Back off fuckface” to the entire world. I wonder how much I am doing the same and if that’s the case why old Mr Thlassotherapy-pool isn’t getting the message like everyone else.
Tonight I sat adjacent to two tables with two other singletons on them, a middle-aged woman next to me and a slightly nerdy looking man next to her. The man suddenly engaged to woman in conversation and from what I overheard I was glad that chance had not put me directly side by side with him as he was both peculiar and dull and the woman having allowed him into her bubble was now forced to talk to him about how he worked for the Abbey National when he was a student and that he had been expecting to be joined by friends tonight, but they hadn’t shown up so he’d probably hire a DVD instead. Yeah chinny reck-on you had friends coming mate. Was Jimmy Hill one of the party?
Pleased as I was to have avoided this dullness I did begin to wonder what I gain by being so unduly shy and private in these situations. Surely it would be better on the whole if I was the kind of person who was open to sociability with new people. After all the worst that happens is you have a few moments of discomfort or tedium and then move on and never see that person again, but chances are you might meet someone quite interesting or learn something or even meet someone dull enough to write about in Warming Up properly, rather than having to give tantalising snippets of half-heard tittle tattle.
It reminded me of a long forgotten project I had considered called “What Happens When You Talk To People” in which I go out of my way to chat with people I wouldn’t normally have chatted to and see what they have to say and what it leads to. I might give it a go. Despite my Hercules adventure I am in many ways still as awkward and reticent to try stuff as I ever was – well maybe that’s not fair, I think I am less self-conscious than I was even two or three years ago, but I am still slightly shackled by my own fear of doing stuff in case it embarrasses or inconveniences me. Maybe I need one more big adventure before I am 40 and settle down to the remainder of my boring life. Maybe talking to people can be that adventure.
I had a relax wrap massage today with a very pretty and well turned out masseuse. She told me what the relax wrap massage involved (some relaxing and some wrapping) and then said “And to finish you have the choice of either a scalp massage or a foot massage,” to which I wanted to reply “Foot or scalp! I can’t decide. What say we split the difference and meet halfway?” But I didn’t. I expect masseuses have to put up with such “jokes” fairly regularly from their middle-aged men clients. And I wouldn’t want to appear gauche or rude. It’s interesting isn’t it, that when on stage I can suggest to a complete stranger that I insert a fish into their vagina, but in real life I am reserved and easily embarrassed? I am obviously mentally ill.
In any case the thing I have noticed about masseuses is that it’s only the ones who you don’t want to touch your penis who end up doing so. It’s a literal rule of thumb in the massage business.
Well depending on what kind of massage parlours you go to.
Nice to see that the victims of 7/7 were commemorated today with four candles, thus turning the service into a joint memorial for the late Ronnie Barker. Two for the price of one.


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