Happy (Not) Together

It’s that bloody day again.

The day when it’s impossible for singletons like me to meet up with our friends, because they’re all off doing couply things.

Or to just go to the pub, because you’ll end up being the bloke stood at the bar on your own all night, the rest of the nauseating happily coupled-up drinkers nudging each other and nodding with smirking sympathy in your direction.

Which sounds like I’m bitter or sad about being single on this day of all days, but really I’m not. For a start, I haven’t got to fork out for an M&S Valentine’s Meal for Two and a bunch of half-dead roses. Or rather, if I do, I can scoff the whole thing myself and with the money I saved by not buying flowers, I can buy me an extra pudding or three. Yum!

Nor do I have to haul my sorry arse to the local cinema where I’d have to apply gaffer tape my eye lids to keep them open throughout the entirety of whatever unfunny and entirely predictable rom-com has been rushed out just in time for the weekend.

See, being single doesn’t bother me and I really like living on my own. And I know that were this blissful paradise of watching TV in my pants ever to end, I would look back on these halcyon playboy years with dewy-eyed nostalgia, and rue the day I ever got involved with anyone again.

Most of all, I’d miss doing exactly what Sean Lock says he does:

Never has such a short snippet of a stand-up routine resonated with me more.

Which leads me to songs, and I thought I’d post a couple of songs about being happy and single.

Turns out there aren’t too many of them, though. Or rather, none that I recognise. A quick Google search tells me there are some, but they’re by annoyingly young and pretty people who I don’t recognise and definately don’t identify with.

So instead, two of the greatest, to my mind, angry break-up records. Coincidentally, these are both by women, because it’s never their fault, amIrightfellers? (God, I hope you lot can sense irony…)

And speaking of things ironic, here’s bit of angry rudeness with a teensy bit of the effing and jeffing that offends some folk:

Alanis Morrisette – You Oughta Know

Next up, something from Jamie Theakston’s finest moment:

Kelis – Caught Out There

There are, of course, loads of songs about being single and sad and lonely. And since there will doubtless be some of you who, rather than bathe yourself in the glory of freedom today will prefer to wallow in self-pity, here’s one of my favourite songs ever. it’s utterly, gloriously depressing. You’ll love it.

And let it be a reminder to any of you out there who are feeling sad and lonely today, things could be worse: the main character gets jilted at the altar, contemplates suicide and then his family all start dropping dead, allowing him only a moment’s pause to ponder the brutality of grief. It’s brilliant, and in my book one of the finest lyrics ever written:

Gilbert O’Sulivan – Alone Again (Naturally)

You also should have a word with your stylist, though, Gilbert.

Remaining under our single duvet of doom one last time, and speaking of fine lyrics, there’s another songwriter that I greatly admire, and about whom I have written before. The band he was most recently/famously (arguably) in are often derided – I’ve lost count of the amount of times friends have recoiled when looking through my CD collection, gasping “Why have you got records by them….?” – but I’d like to wrap things up today with the final track from their last album that I liked more than half of:

The Beautiful South – Alone

And one more, an obscure B-side (us bloggers love obscure B-sides), one which will leave you with a smile, a look of shock, or more likely disgust. Personally, I think it’s probably the greatest song title ever (Sorry Mum!):

The Beautiful South – Valentine’s Day Wank

Whatever you’re doing this evening – yes, even that – enjoy yourself.

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing (That Summer Feeling #18)

Tonight, a song which means a lot to me.

Actually, three songs.

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve had the misfortune to spend some time unemployed. When you’re around the 40-mark, this is a scary place to be.

Needless to say, it was an incredibly demoralising situation. My jobless times happened to correspond with summer weather, but I can assure you, the last thing you feel like doing is going out and passing the time sunbathing.

The first time it happened, I had just moved from Cardiff to Cheltenham. I’d landed a job with a firm of solicitors, and had been commuting between the two cities for three months whilst I worked out my probation period. Just before that three month period was up, I was called into the office by the MD, told I was doing great and encouraged to make the move to Cheltenham. Which I did, finding a decent two bedroom flat I could afford, and moving in as fast as I could.

No more than a couple of weeks later, I was called into the office again by the main partner of the firm – who had interviewed me, and given me the positon because of my background in insurance – who promptly “let me go” (which sounds so much nicer than “fired”) because I was “too Insurance-y” and because they’d hired people from an insurance background before and “it had never worked”. So: fired for the exact reason I’d been hired. Cheers for that.

There followed an extended period of unemployment, where I was stranded high and dry in a town where there were no prospects, and where I knew nobody (bar one girl, Emily, who I had befriended when she was a rollie-smoking temp at the same firm, summarily dismissed in much the same way as I) until I finally landed a job which allowed me to get the fuck out of Cheltenham and on to London. (As it goes, a year later I got made redundant from that job. I was really on a roll, or as my brother summarised in one phone call “Jesus, you just can’t catch a break at the moment, can you?”)

Anyway, tonight’s song was played quite a lot during the darker hours which occurred during that period of nothingness:


Emiliana Torrini – Unemployed in Summertime

Categorically, this is not how unemployment treated me. It was a horrid, hollow, vacuous experience, where the only person I spoke to face to face was my counsellor, once a fortnight, at the Job Centre. It was not all sitting on Primrose Hill doing magazine sex quizzes.

There are two more songs, which articulate the pit I was in at the time, both suitable for posting here. Firstly, this, possibly one of the most depressing records you’ll ever hear, dealing as it does with rejection, depression, suicide, and the death of your parents:


Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)

Cheery stuff, no? But perfect for late night contemplation.

And then there was this, a song about loneliness and depression, but penned in a defiant, triumphant manner:


Neil Diamond – I Am…I Said

I would sing along, supplementing the word “Cardiff” for “New York”, and “Cheltenham” for “L.A.”, which, with the benefit of hindsight, didn’t scan so well, if I’m honest.

Ordinarily, I’m a fairly happy-go-lucky, laid back, nothing really fazes me kind of chap, but I’m sure anyone who knew me and was in contact with me in those times would confirm that’s certainly not how I was then. I may have fronted it up, but I was miserable. Had I been to see my GP and explained, I think I could easily have been diagnosed with depression.

Happy to report, though, all is well now. A friend of mine, Holmesy (hello! and thank you!), regularly tells me now how good it is to have “the old me” back, which is just lovely to hear, but the fact he feels the need to say it is a marker for just how down and insular I became.

By the way, I should make it clear that I could never have got through those months without the support of my family and friends. My folks for helping me with the financial problems that being on Job Seeker’s Allowance (which just about covered all of my bills, after which, if I was lucky, I might have enough left over to buy food) inevitably brings; my friends – and Hel in particular – for just saying “Come and see us. We’ll pay. We want you to be here with us.” I can never thank any of you enough.

On top of that, writing this helps. So to anyone who has ever commented or tweeted me because of something I’ve written here: thank you. It really means a lot.

Ahem. *Pulls himself together*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: just because it’s sunny outside, don’t assume everyone is happy inside.

More (and hopefully less depressing) soon.