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Submitted by admin on December 11, 2009 – 3:50 pm2 Comments

Welcome back! And what a week it was …The first thing I discovered in my quest for compatible, literate blokes was how few people you see on the tube these days who are reading actual books – especially when compared to the number who are playing on their iPhone/Nintendo DS Lite, thumb-tapping their Blackberry, giving the ceiling a thousand-yard-stare while listening to their iPod, or reading Metro.

The second thing I discovered was that unless they are sitting opposite you with their book in front of their face, or next to you so that you can read over their shoulder, it’s bloody hard to see what book someone’s reading. This presents difficulties when there are Banned Books to be wary of.

(NB: Patrick (see below), I’m a comics fan too, thanks to my last-ex-but-one, so graphic novels are fine in theory, although I’d probably make a judgment call depending on what impression the guy made on me in other ways. What I am basically and rather shallowly saying is that if he’s attractive, graphic novels are no problem – whereas Lee Child, alas, still is. So, are you a Marvel or DC kind of man? J)

I decided to slightly relent on my initial hardcore rule of being able to see both title and author, and open up the field a bit. I can give out a card based on author alone (this is useful when I’ve read some of the author’s work, but not that particular book) or on an intriguing title (this may get me into trouble, but what the hell).

The third thing I discovered is that there is no established procedure for handing your card to a total stranger. Surprise them by dropping it between the pages of their book? Make eye contact, then hand it to them while you are getting off? Press it on them, grinning, like a mad London Lite distributor? Pretend they have dropped it? It’s a question even Times etiquette guru Mrs. Mills might have trouble with.
Anyway, Week One went something like this:

DAY ONE (this was, brilliantly, Friday the 13th. Highly auspicious, no?)
Line: Southbound Northern Line to Charing Cross

Time: 12.30pm

Target: (sorry, I’ve gone all Andy McNab … perhaps I should check out one of his novels? Hmm.) Dark-haired man, 25-30, wearing an Afghan scarf and a brown leather jacket. Sideburns, blue jeans, black trainers, grey Adidas sports bag at his feet.

Book: Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

Carded: No

Reason: I just couldn’t do it. The problem is that everyone in the world, pretty much, has read The Da Vinci Code, so it’s about as indicative of the reader’s inner life as a copy of Shortlist. Sorry, Afghan-scarfed Adidas man …

Line: Westbound Central Line to West Ruislip

Time: 12.45pm

Target: Blondish guy with a slightly unwise, moustacheless fringe of beard stubble, like Abe Lincoln crossed with George Michael. Black suit, grey shirt, grey rucksack, black leather loafers.

Book: FAMINE (it was all in block caps) by Graham Masterton

Carded: No

Reason: Seventies/Eighties horror fiction just not my bag, unless it’s by Garth Merenghi. Picky aren’t I? Never mind, onwards and upwards …

Line: Eastbound Central Line to Epping

Time: 10pm

Target: A guy who got on at White City. He was fairly ordinary-looking with mousy hair and stubble, ragged jeans and an army surplus coat – but he clearly liked literary fiction, because he was reading …

Book: David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest.

Carded: No

Reason: Honestly? Don’t hate me – I bottled it because he looked ever so slightly homeless. I am a horrible, judgemental person. However, I am also a big coward and just really wasn’t sure about him, despite his excellent taste in books.

Line: Northbound Northern Line (High Barnet branch)

Time: 10.30pm

Target: Older bloke (about 50) with grey hair and a suit

Book: Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin

Carded: No

Reason: A good 15 years over my target age range (I may make exceptions to the age thing however, so watch this space). Also, Isherwood indicates a fairly strong possibility that the chap is gay, thus I would be wasting his time and mine.
Sitting on my other side (yes, readers, I was in a literate-older-gentleman sandwich!) was another guy, again in his 50s, reading something in French. With regret, I did not offer him my card. So, Day One: total washout.
Cards given out so far: none

DAY TWO: (Saturday) Storms lash London. I do not leave the house. I know I am being quite lame at this tube-solicitation lark, but it’s REALLY wet out there.
Cards given out so far: none

DAY THREE: (Sunday)
Line: Southbound Northern Line via Bank

Time: 6.30pm

Target: Mmm! A tall, bespectacled, sensitive and intellectual-looking bloke – the sort I might stare longingly at in a bar when my friend was in the toilet. Late 20s, early 30s, with a bit of dark stubble. He’s wearing a black fleece with blue jeans and brown suede trainers. Promising! I ready my card. What’s he reading?

Book: Andy McNab, Brute Force. Bugger.

(Brute Force Bugger, come to think of it, would be a title worth carding someone for, if only for a laugh).

Carded: No

Reason: God hates me.
Cards given out so far: none

DAY FOUR: (Monday)

Line: Southbound Northern Line via Charing Cross

Time: 12.15pm

Target: A dark-haired Mediterranean-looking guy in his late 20s, jeans and jumper, totally absorbed in something by …

Book: Stefan Zweig (title unseen)

Carded: YES. I drop the card onto his book as I get off at Tottenham Court Road, wearing a smile which I hope is more winning than crazy-person. He looks mildly surprised, but doesn’t try and give it back, probably because I immediately pound off down the platform like I’ve just mugged someone.

Reason: Zweig is an ace European author. Anything by him is likely to be pretty good and something I would read.

Line: Westbound Central Line to West Ruislip

Time: 12.45pm

Target: Blond student type, young looking – under 25 I’d say, but it’s so hard to tell with guys – in a black wool overcoat.

Book: The Lusiad (author unseen) What is this book? I’m fascinated! He’s also pretty good-looking.

Carded: No.

Reason: He looked just a bit too young for me, plus I was a bit intimidated by his handsomeness, plus he jumped off at Shepherd’s Bush really fast and I didn’t have time to get my card out.

At work, I Google The Lusiad. Apparently it’s an epic poem about Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India by the “Portuguese Shakespeare”, Luis de Camoens. There is probably something wrong with me, but I think that this sounds like pretty much the most awesome book ever. Or at least the most awesome one to be seen reading on the tube. Damn that nifty blonde student for alighting so quickly!

Cards given out so far: ONE (This is harder than it looks.)

DAY FIVE: (Tuesday)

Line: Southbound Northern Line via Charing Cross, changing to Central Line Westbound to Ealing Broadway. (I didn’t follow him, he just happened to be going my way)

Time: 12.45pm

Target: Tall, gentle-looking guy with longish blondish hair, jacket and jeans.

Book: Paul Theroux (title unseen)

Carded: YES. This time I approach the man and hand him my card. He looks momentarily puzzled, assuming perhaps that I’m an advertiser or an extremely tidy beggar (can he spare 50p towards the new Margaret Atwood?) I scarper.

Reason: Can’t go wrong with Paul Theroux.

Cards given out so far: TWO (Statistically I reckon I’ll need to hand out another eight before getting any sort of response. This could be a long week.)

DAY SIX: (Wednesday)

Line: Eastbound Central Line to Epping

Time: 6pm

Target: Elegant fellow, quietly good-looking with brown hair and an Orange bag. Dark overcoat, high-quality leather man-bag, smart shoes. He has an indescribable air about him of already having a girlfriend (I don’t know why I assume this. Perhaps because he is quite hot?)

Book: A worn blue hardback on history (only word I could catch of the title was “History of …” I hope it wasn’t a History of British Light Aircraft or something).

Carded: Sort of. My instinctive lameness takes over and I can’t face handing the card to him. He also walks really fast (we both get off at Bank while I am still havering over whether to card someone I suspect, however groundlessly, of having a girlfriend). I decide to compromise and slip a card into the Orange bag he is carrying.

I have turned into a creepy stalker!

Reason: History of what? Perhaps he’ll email me and tell me. If his girlfriend doesn’t find the card in his bag and accuse him of flirting with strange women on the tube.

Cards given out so far: THREE (This is genuinely quite a stressful project. Perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so picky – although if I see a wedding ring there’s still no way I’m carding the wearer).

DAY SEVEN: (Thursday)

Line: Northbound Northern Line via Bank

Time: 5.45pm

Target: An interesting-looking guy in his 20s (not too pretty, not too rugged, probably owns a dog) with longish brown hair and a bit of a beard. Couldn’t read his t-shirt, red hoodie, blue jeans.

Book: Will Self, The Book of Dave

Carded: No. It was a packed train on the Northen Line at rush hour and he was at the other end of the carriage. He got off at Old Street and I couldn’t fight my way through the press of bodies to reach him in time. Gutted!

Reason: Will Self is great.

Cards given out this week: THREE

All right, I’m a bit rubbish – but I am still learning (and stiffening my resolve). It goes against all my training as a woman to go up to blokes and, express an interest. I am fighting my upbringing and society’s expectations, so be gentle.
I am also not holding my breath over the weekend, as I don’t think I’m going to be deluged with emails (except possibly from History Book Man’s irate, and perhaps imaginary, girlfriend). But on the bright side, I’ve made a start.

And it’s weird, but I get a little thrill of achievement whenever I actually pluck up my courage and give someone a card. After all, the worst they can do is not email me – and then I’ll be no worse off than I was before.
More importantly, I’ve taken the bull by the horns, seized the day (or whatever other cliché springs to mind) – and at least I’ve made a connection.

The only question now is, what should I be reading to impress my chosen men? Anyone got any ideas?

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