The Oldest of Old Flames

The sky is blue, the Black Dog is in his kennel and this week I spent a precious day with the Oldest of Old Flames, aka OOOF.

I’m not a bloke usually found whistling first thing in the morning, being more of a night howl.

But at circa 7am this week as I stood there watching the kettle not boil, I began whistling away like Roger bloody Whittaker calling after his dogs.

If you must know, it was Hotel California by The Eagles (1977).

I nearly dropped a scalding kettle over my toes at the sudden shock of it all.

I don’t know why I was whistling and I can’t remember the last time I heard that song.

More importantly of all, I can’t really remember whistling in the morning for years, not having had a great deal to whistle about.

So in that idle moment this week, it really felt like something had changed.

That, perhaps, the world looked a few shades brighter for the first time in years.

The sky is blue, the Black Dog is in his kennel, and all I can blame this outbreak of howling on is that this week I spent a day with the Oldest of Old Flames, aka OOOF.

And an OOOF day it turned out to be too.

Regular unlikers of this column will know that I finally tracked her down in April.

We hadn’t seen each other this century and I think we last spoke on the phone around the turn of the Millennium, circa 1998.

We first got together at 14 which is 36 years ago, and were last a fully-fledged item back in 1994 when we were both 22.

We went our separate ways that summer as we wanted very different things from life. I basically wanted her to be more fully in mine and she didn’t.

I had the career tied to one place, and as an international jet-setter from Spain, she understandably had other places to go.

Yet here we are again in 2022, both aged 50, both single, both in Cumbria.

And as I got off the train on Wednesday afternoon and threw my arms around her, all the old fireworks started to go off.

It was like being reunited with a missing piece of myself. Like in Terminator 2 where that fella’s limbs grow back.

Except for me it was a bit of old broken heart.

Being a cool, independent lone wolf, I decided against an on-the-spot proposal of marriage until after lunch.

Sitting there in a distant pub with warm sun streaking through the windows and OOOF chattering away and stroking every pet in the place, the decades melted away.

It could have been 1993 all over again.

I’d forgotten quite how dark brown her eyes are and how much I enjoy looking in them.

Even one of the late mother’s favourite songs randomly chunked on to the old jukebox like a karmic ghost was playing DJ.

Paul Simon’s Graceland (1986) – which I last heard at her funeral.

OOOF’s cats curled endlessly around my legs and purred, and her pet parrot wasn’t sick all over me.

I can’t put my finger on what it all means. Is it chemistry, coincidence, kismet, or lager carbohydrates?

We have both stood on our own two feet but it was very special to roll back the years and be a couple again. Me agreeing with everything I disagree with!

The train had barely left the station before I got a text telling me the day was PRECIOUS! (Her capitals).

If you and a significant ex ever find yourself in the position to mend burned bridges, I would recommend you try it.

It does wonders for the state of mind and you might find yourself whistling Hotel California near a hot kettle in an open dressing gown.

As for OOOF and I, there are large, personal, hurdles.

And typically, on my long and contemplative train journey home, I saw that blasted single Magpie who seems to follow me around all the time.

I saluted it with both fingers and started to whistle the tune to Graceland.

Butchelor Pad

After all that snivelling on New Tears Day things seem to be looking up because as you read this I am now the proud new renter of a one-bed “Butchelor” pad.

After all that snivelling on New Tears Day things seem to be looking up because as you read this I am now the proud new renter of a one-bed “Butchelor” pad.

It is accessed up a very steep flight of 13 steps and yet the nearest pub is only 20 from my front door so what could possibly go wrong?

There’s a Chinese takeaway only a short “wok” away and my lofty perch at the rear commands stunning views over next door’s wheelie bins and a frozen car park.

To toast my good fortune, I called in at my new local and a sign on the wall immediately caught my eye.

“If you didn’t drink, how would you let people know you love them at 2am?”

And do you know that within seconds of my sitting down by the blazing fire with a cold one, a bloke got up and put the following three songs on the jukebox.

Rod Stewart’s 1972 You Wear It Well – a personal favourite – followed by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s Come Up & See Me (Make Me Smile) (1975).

A former editor of mine was a massive Steve Harley fan and I have always found that Come Up and See Me goes down well with pints of bitter.

Last of the three plays for £1 on the jukebox by our hero was Mr Tambourine Man by The Byrds (1965).

It was the curtain-closer at are mam’s cremation three years ago this month, except her version was Bob Dylan’s. We carried her in on Paul Simon’s Graceland (1986) and she departed to Dylan.

And I was reminded this week that she always had a thing about coming back as a robin, because on three consecutive days a big fat one hopped to within six feet of me in the sister’s backyard to size me up.

I’ve offered bread but it didn’t seem bothered. Maybe it wants a light?

This string of coincidences all struck me as very positive omens and even if they aren’t, I have to say that finding a jukebox these days with those three songs still on it, has to be as good a way of spending a quid that I can think of in 2022.

You see, most modern music leaves me cold and I wouldn’t walk to the end of next door’s wheelie bins to see most of them.

Those marvellous musical eccentrics that made the UK charts so varied and interesting all seem to have disappeared now.

Renee and Renato – 40-years ago this year – wouldn’t happen now – although that’s not entirely a loss, but nor would Captain Sensible, Bad Manners or Toyah.

Earlier this week, I had to break the news to the big sister that I was moving out. I interrupted her as she was playing Trivial Pursuit with my malnourished nephew, Tom, aged 20.

Tom set a personal best this Christmas by eating three whole selection boxes in one sitting. Until he materialised mid-afternoon and confessed, her three semi-feral hounds had all been in the dog house.

But three selection boxes is still some way short of the record set by his older brother Jack.

Legend has it that Jack polished off five chicken breasts in one night and left the family without a meal, and in my book that’s the kill-rate of a werewolf.

And speaking of all things lunar, I arrived back at the big sister’s to break the news – just as she asked the question: “Where did the Great Fire of London start?”

“London,” I said, closing the front door.

On hearing I was off, I could tell she was privately devastated but putting on a brave face as she choked on her warm tears.

Why else would she demand I open a long-chilled magnum of Asti Spumante and then personally embark on an enthusiastic start of all my packing?

And speaking of the Great Fire of London, did you know that axes were used to help put it out?

It’s true.

It wouldn’t be the first thing I would grab in an inferno but I suppose a lot of the buildings were wooden in 1666.

But I have nothing to fear from fires because the big sis also then did a Tarot card reading for me and the gods are saying that financial success and romance are all on the cards for me this year, she insists.

Emboldened by my rare turn of luck, I dropped a line to a female friend of old who regularly enjoys telling me that she is a Strong Independent Woman.

Given the angle of my new staircase, I could do with a Strong Independent Woman to help with all those boxes, so I suggested that she start 2022 by downsizing to a Weak Co-Dependent Man.

Strong Independent Woman has been down in the dumps recently so to cheer her up I thought about buying her a big bunch of flowers.

But then that got me thinking about that old advert for Impulse bodyspray.

When a man you’ve never met before suddenly gives you flowers, isn’t it time to reach for the CS gas and then report it as a non-crime hate incident?

So as you read this, you find me up to my neck in cardboard boxes.

Failing that at weekends I will be in my new local with pound coins burning a hole in my pocket.

That is until the Strong Independent Woman decides to come up and see me and make me smile.