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Long-distance relationships

Ben Harvey risks castration by discussing his long-distance text relationship with a girl called Charlie. Let’s hope she doesn’t Google him and find what he’s written..

– – – –

So, there was this girl. Oh! I wonder how many stories of heartbreak & regret have started with those five little words…anyway, there was this girl, whom I met at Glastonbury. Or, rather, just outside of Glastonbury, in a big car-parking field, which – due to one month of incessant rain and one day of heavy traffic – had been churned up into something rather accurately resembling the Somme, except that the trench-foot here was worse.

Anyway, imagine the scene, if you will – were it not for the pouring rain, the wind, the stationary jam of steamed-up cars and the fact that I’d not managed to shower for four days, well, then it would be quite a nice day out in the countryside. However, as it is, it’s more akin to Dante’s vision of hell, except with Satan replaced by my festival-buddy & car-driving pal Eddie. Admittedly, Eddie doesn’t have a pitchfork, and he isn’t capable of consigning your soul to the flames for eternity, but he does have a bottom that’s been fed on nothing but cider and Pot Noodle for some time.

And, believe me, I’d rather be trapped in a car with Satan for eternity than with Eddie for the seven hours that I was. For starters, the smell of sulphur & brimstone would’ve been less profound.

So there we were, sat in a blue Ford with a yellow atmosphere, and I’m gazing out of the window, trying to ignore the fact that Eddie’s just vented again & that all the plastic fittings of the car are starting to fizz & boil due to his rather unique bum-chemistry. And what do I see? I see some girls trying to push a car out of a particularly treacherous puddle of mud. This is instantly amusing, and due to all the pointing going on in the cars in behind, I’m not the only one that’s laughing at a couple of ladies getting in a tiz as their canvas plimsolls get sucked clean off, leaving one of them hopping around in despair, like someone trying to commit suicide by taking a pogo-stick into a minefield.

Anyway, then my pesky, annoying & inconvenient sense of chivalry kicks in and I get out of the car, wade my way through the treacly Somerset clay and, after pulling the poor girls shoe out of the mud (the gulping, sucking, fluid schluppp that the shoe made, as it popped out of the mire, for some reason reminded me of Eddie). Then I put my back to the car and, with a lot of swearing and a lot of effort, pushed it onto a surface hard enough to bear its weight. I get back into Eddie’s foetid Focus and think nothing more of it, until one of the girls (lovely little thing – blue hair and blonde eyes) in question skips over to us and, with a cheeky grin on her face, writes her mobile number on the back of the Transit in front of us, and then skips off again.

How she managed to skip at all, by the way, given that the ground was 30% soil and 70% PVA glue I don’t know. Her skipping-muscles must’ve been very-well honed.

But! I digress. I’ve seen many things written on the back of Transit vans in my life, ranging from the illiterate (‘Stop parkin in my spaze!”) to the sublime (‘I wish my wife was this dirty”) to the merely silly (‘Honk if you like reading things on the back of Transits”). However, a pretty girl writing her number on the back of one was a new one for me. Eddie, being Eddie, did try and distract me from punching it into my phone by turning his wipers on and yelling out random numbers, but I pointed out to the cheeky little sod that a., I had to get it down quickly, before the rain washed it into illegibility, and b., that if he didn’t stop buggering about then I’d press in the cigarette-lighter in his dash and, in the methane-rich fug, we’d both perish in fire.

So, I got her number, and we start texting, all the way home. It always amazes me how much information you can parse into a handful of messages 160 characters long. One hundred and sixty characters! Telegrams used to be longer than that. However, they were delivered by a little kid in a stupid blue hat who you’d have to tip, lest he snip all the good bits out of the next telegram that anyone sent to you. But, texting this creature (her name’s Charlotte, by the way) was a nice way to take my mind off the fact that Eddie had, by then, pressurised the car to the extent that – when we finally got home, and opened the doors – we’d both immediately froth & bubble at the eyeballs with a nasty case of the Bends.

The texts showed me several important facts about Charlotte – the first was that she had a sense of humour, the second that she was a lawyer, the third was that she was pretty tech-savvy and the fourth was that she thought I should give Eddie a charcoal biscuit. Unfortunately, the fifth fact was that she lived in North London.

I live in Winchester. That’s a hell of a trek for a date. She’s also away on business a lot of the time, flying hither & yon with her legal nonsense. All of this I know because – in the three weeks since Glastonbury – we’ve been on the phone an awful lot. And Charlie (she can handle Charlie. I did call her ‘Chuck”, once, though, and she hung up on me) is – due to the whopping dollops of cash that her law-firm squirts on telecoms – equipped with an N95 that someone else pays the bills on.

Hence video-calling has been tried, between the two of us, on those rare occasions when she’s in the country. Thankfully we’re on the same network, though, as apparently Vodaphone is allergic to outsiders when it comes to such wizardry.

All of this poses an interesting theoretical question, which, dear readers, I’m going to need your help with – how much of a relationship can you have through your mobile? I’ve never been one for Long Distance Relationships, you see – they’ve never really worked for me – but with a girl that lives in a city that I hate (on those few occasions when she’s not in Frankfurt, writing contracts about punting [they must have a lot of canals over there]) I think I’m rather stuck for options.

So what I’m wondering is, now that mobile-to-mobile teleconferencing is workably cheap and now maturing into widespread uptake, will that change the nature of the game for mugs like me who can’t find a Suitable Girl that lives within popping-over distance? Will that extra, vital dimension of vision, of the animation of your affection actually make the difference to keep the relationship growing, instead of just as stop-gap measure to stop it from petering out…?

Arg. You see? A story of heartbreak & regret, and it all started with the words ‘So, there was this girl”…

I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes – unless, of course, she googles me, finds this article & then castrates me with righteous venom. Tsk! Women. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t hide from them forever

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