Tuesday, 26 February 2013


Someone made me a Valentine's mix tape one year. Between tracks they DJ’ed it by chatting away making raunchy comments. It wasn’t creepy because it was obvious we liked each other and we were, as the tape's compiler said, 'on the brink'. It was very exciting.

Last week, an eternity later, a Polish decorator in my flat found the old radio cassette player with the tape in my spare room. When I got home he was humming along to  ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’  (Tom Jones version with Cerys Matthews.) I didn’t bat an eyelid, assuming it was radio 2, until suddenly there was a very clunky clunk and I heard the familiar voice make a reference to the sexual nature of figs. At the time of recording the mix tape alchemist was a fruit themselves, but of the forbidden variety, which made it all the more thrilling.

On hearing the distinctive voice, I expected my stomach to do its Pavlovian rendition of  'lift plunges a hundred floors in two seconds'  but rather unsatisfyingly it stopped on the 99th floor.  In the cold light of day all the innuendo suddenly sounded quite full on.

The decorator was oblivious.  He was listening to the cassette because he didn’t understand the chat on the radio, so thankfully I was safe. (I really was; during his lunchbreak while working for friends, he'd watched a bit of Hound of The Baskervilles. When they asked what he was watching he replied quite beautifully 'Is problem with dog'.)

He kept pointing to the cassette player and saying "Is Elvis, I think". I'd explain that it wasn't but he'd just object, "Singer is Elvis. Song is Elvis." And I'd just smile thinking, "Believe me, that isn't the only thing you do not understand about what you are listening to."

The minute he went home, I removed it, complete with its amusingly-drawn label, but the next day he asked for it back. He bloody adored it and played it over and over and over, like a toddler with the Teletubbies. I'd done exactly the same ten years earlier. 
In the words of the other, and my preferred Elvis (Costello), “My dreamboat turned out to be a footnote.”  Shame. We'd both had day jobs but used to skive off midway between our offices to meet for coffee. I wasn't sure if we were about to embark on a relationship or not. As I listened to all the 'My wife doesn't understand me' type stuff, I felt like a pre-coalition Lib Dem: furious at the current regime of girlfriend and swearing if I was elected in, it would all be different. But also knowing with some subconscious relief that my bold promises would probably never need to be delivered as I was not likely to be chosen. I wasn't sure I could do that to their other half, but what if I was chosen? And then I'd start to worry a little bit on the journey back to my work.

When I’d get back to my desk, there would be a Post-it with an absurd message stuck on my computer. My 'admirer' was highly amused that the receptionist wouldn’t bat an eyelid at whatever she was asked her to pass on; often calling and asking to speak to ‘Munchkin Meyers’ to which she’d simply say, “It's ringing for you”. It might not sound much but it made me laugh. They made me laugh. They loved that I laughed. They'd often tickle me when I laughed, just to squeeze out any residual laughs that might be left in my belly and it worked. In retrospect, my role might have been to be amused and admiring while the poor girlfriend got to see the more shadowy sides of their personality.
Never before or since has anyone worked so hard to ‘woo’ me. The constant playing of the tape forced every detail of our failed firework of a relationship to come flooding back. 

Mercifully the decorator finished the job in 3 days. He left his Stanley Knife behind but he took the cassette.