Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Eternal Question

Yesterday Mother Dearest and I went to an Oundle gathering (I’m not going to lie – we’re big on the village scene). It was tremendous. However, early on sneaky old MD palmed me off onto a bloke called something extravagant and absurd like ‘Beverly’.

‘So what are you doing in Oundle then?’
‘I’ve just finished university.’
Pause. Damn. Now, inevitably, here comes The Question. I try to head him off with
‘It’s a lovely...’
(Interrupting) ‘Right. So what are you doing with yourself then?’

Good with non-words

Too late. Agh. Taking Boris Johnson as my model, I mutter non-words and shift from foot to foot, hoping Beverly will interpret this as an answer of sorts and move on. The temptation to shout ‘GCSEs’ and dive for the nearest bush is overwhelming. Those were the days.

‘Ah well I’m sort of – ah – living at home.’

Eyebrows. Silence.

‘Bit of temping, y’know ...' [Not strictly true – two weeks pending at a publisher thanks to the charm of a delightful friend]. 'And, erm, applying for jobs.' [Not true either. One job. Didn’t get it.] (Nervous laughter.) [From me, not him] 'I’m doing bits of writing as well, talking to editors...' (Gabbling now) 'Er, and teaching the violin a bit, and I’ve, I’ve just startedablog.’ [I’m not a wastrel! I’m not!]

I finally stop and gaze into the middle distance. When I was applying for Cambridge (good old days of youth when things were simple) we had the odd practice interview. The advice given me was always the same. Say what you think – as clearly as possible – then stop: ‘Please Kate if you can resist the temptation to talk about nothing for a further five minutes you should be fine.’ The advice comes back to me now, slightly late.

He looks at me. ‘What’s it on?’

I pause, considering. [This is Good Interview Technique, remember, and I’m now applying it to real life. Observe:] ‘Well, it’s about...’

He interrupts. ‘You’ll never get anywhere with a blog you know. Just silly, all that stuff, crazy. Now a friend of mine, he’s...’

And then I realise. While I was writhing about trying to construct a socially acceptable account of how I’m spending my time, my chum Beverly was merely searching for a window of opportunity through which to segue into conversation about himself.

Good hiding place?
But please, Bev (and all you Bev-a-likes), if what you want is to talk about your mate, your mate’s mate, that time you almost met a celebrity, or your pig-rearing hobby – just do it. I’m happy(ish) to listen. Don’t preface it with two minutes of questions / cynical silence that I feel duty-bound to fill. It’s not fun for either of us. And if the next time we meet I flee into the undergrowth, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

PS. Thank you very much to everyone who read the first episode. And especially to my charming and brilliant 'followers'. Comments encouraged. Positive comments.

e.g. Am I too harsh on Beverly? Do you wish you lived in Oundle? Let me know....


  1. HILARIOUS. I especially liked the link to your blog. Very metablogular. x

  2. bev the LAD? you should have sung maneater to him until his ears bled, or did that feel a bit of a repeat performance?

    my technique for bev-ish encounters: answer all questions so monosyllabically that they think you are in some way mentally deficient and hence feel you must have done terribly well just to be able to talk and dress yourself. strategy guaranteed to impress.

    love from your co-DJ friend xx

    p.s. is it wrong that i want to know whatever bev was going to say about his friend?

    p.p.s. i hope you know it's me or i will feel quite wounded.

  3. Please write more. And more. Please. Does MD know you are doing this?

  4. Love it. I get passive aggressive with people like that.
    'So what subject did you do?' 'Well I did Education with English as a BA and then children's literature as an MPhil YES IT IS A SUBJECT YES AND I CAN EXPLAIN ALL THE THEORY TO YOU IT IS NOT A JOKE STFU YOU BASTARD HOW DARE YOU'. How to alienate people, lesson 1.