StayAway II

March 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

long hair

Image by World of Oddy via Flickr

I’ve been asked to describe my relationship with the girl from StayFriends – StayAway in more detail. Actually I think I’ve missed the mark there, for if people are interested in the background of that relationship that’s somewhat beside the point. My aim was to describe that people generally are more in love with certain ideas and fantasies about a person than with the real object of their affection itself.

But this is probably not really a world-shattering revelation to most of us,  so my piece wasn’t actually needed for the larger picture of mankind.

So, this girl.

No, this woman actually.

Erm, no. The girl this woman used to be 25 to 30 years ago. Let’s call her E. shall we?

I think I fell in love with E. right from the first time I saw her. And long before I even had a proper idea of what falling in love with somebody meant in the first place. I was just blown away by her, without having the faintest of what I was run over by. She had long red hair, a milk white complexion and grey-green eyes that kept following me in my dreams.

Mind you, we are talking puppy love here, so there were no juicy parts involved at all. It was 1978, the world was divided into Kiss and AC/DC followers and the whole universe lay before us, with an eternity and a half for us to take our time and pick ourselves the best pieces from it. We were immortal and the chosen ones and the world was only waiting for us to claim our throne and make it a better place.

In the meantime we watched Doctor Who from behind the sofa and after a while The Professionals. And I was lying awake in my bed at night with images of E.’s soft red hair and the hypnotising effect of her eyes.

E. was special for many reasons. She was a most thoughtful girl, much more thoughtful than kids our age usually were. When two or three of us were gathering around Stevie’s dog, playing with him and stroking his coat she cautioned us not to hurt him for he had quite matted fur at places. She cared for such little things and always was careful not to hurt anybody.

And she was really quite clever. When we were on a “bear hunt” with several different tasks and riddles to solve – all against the clock – she was the one saving our bacon by figuring out all the puzzles and riddles with hardly a glance. And she didn’t boast about it, seemed almost to think we were pulling her leg when we claimed ignorance of what to her was just the obvious.

Being so sensitive and intelligent she naturally was aware of my crush on her from an early stage. But where other kids made fun of such things or even could  be exceptionally cruel and mean about it, she just remained discrete and polite, giving the feeling it really wasn’t my fault, which of course it was. She just chose to ignore it.

With the years passing we gradually spent more time together, albeit seldom alone. We were a group of three boys and two girls and for a year or so we did lots of things together, going to the cinema or shopping or just hanging out. It was a great time and it shouldn’t dawn on me until much later, how happy I really had been during those days.

By the end of that year I was bound to go to public school and I knew I wouldn’t see much of E. after that. So I decided to summon all my courage and confess my love to her.

Which was of course an utterly lunatic and downright stupid idea. She had known about it for years, what news was I to tell her? And what really did I expect from her, a mature 14 years at that time? That she agreed to wait for me until I finished college? That she agrees I marry her right on the spot?

It was really an incredibly embarrassing situation, me standing in front of her, hoping against hope, wishing for the impossible. Even today, 30 years later, I still feel ashamed to put her in such a nightmare. I was completely thoughtless, ignorant and selfish. I’ve had my fair share of foolhardy and stupid mistakes in my life, but this one still comes out at the top-five of great All-Time-Harry-Millar-disgraces.

E. was incredibly adult and civil about it. Her girlfriends must have given her a hard time for at least the next two years. Yet she politely declined my horrible wooing and managed to keep me from even more outragous stupidities. Not a small feat in those days.

Some weeks later, shortly before I set sail for Winchester, we had a garden party at a classmate’s home. A sunny afternoon of loud music, soft drinks (we weren’t into alcohol as yet) and a few teenage games.

There E. kissed me for the first and only time.


StayFriends – StayAway

March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment


Image by kaioshin via Flickr

I suppose it’s really the most common thing with us middle-agers. After just a few decades we start getting all mawkish and emotional about our childhood and youth. The 70s and 80s are practically idolised by our generation, and instead of thanking our fate that the whole affair is over, we dream about the “good old days” and kick off one retro trend after the other. If the distance is just far enough even the most horrible circumstances, the most abysmal cheesiness and the worst nightmares of our past acquire a golden sheen in the sentimental light of our memories.

I must confess here, I am every bit as guilty of the above as the next guy. No, not really. It’s getting worse with me, at least for the last five, six odd years . I fantasise in daydreams about my schooldays, my childhood pastimes, my first puppy love heartthrobs. It’s become almost a mild addiction with me. And at night I have strangely fascinating dreams about a landscape that at once is and isn’t the town and the neighbourhood I grew up in.

Given all this it will not come as a surprise that finally I enrolled in one of the classmates/stayfriends services. I didn’t participate a whole lot, it just was nice to see what had become of other familiar faces and hear again from a few friends time washed towards different shores from me. After the novelty wore off I didn’t visit the site for about a year or so.

Now, recently I felt my fascination with the land of memory lane was growing even stronger. Probably all due to the holidays and winter in general. Anyway, I thought more and more often about my first great unhappy love affair. A girl I fell in love with at around 10 or 12, and which I last saw at the age of 20 or so. And it dawned on me that there really had been hardly a year when I didn’t think at least a few times about her and wondered what had become of her. In a way she had always been some private idol, deeply hidden in the layers of my subconscious and reappearing time and again in moments of doubt and crisis. I think in a sense she is what one might call my invisible female Harvey, a friend nobody else knows about. And I was a little startled to find I hadn’t realised it myself over decades.

Last week I received one of those status summaries the classmates people send you to get you back into their fangs. Normally I just delete them and be done with it. I don’t know what made me read this particular one. Anyway, the message was startling enough. My puppy love had visited my profile. I didn’t recognise her right away on the tiny picture they send you. What alarmed me was her maiden name after her surname.

With shaking fingers I signed up for “gold-membership” (no pun!) and clicked her image to enlarge it. Well, if it’s not entirely a cooperation of photoshop and the CIA then she still is a gorgeous woman, absolutely a stunner. What a beauty she still is.

Needless to say, I contacted her. And not out of the usual reasons. I know, such sites are for many users little more than a lonely+desperate-hearts dating service. But I had just found an authentic part of the golden days of my youth and I was happy and grateful like I haven’t been for many, many years and I wanted to share this feeling.

Which was a big mistake.

It turned out she hadn’t visited my profile intentionally, hadn’t searched for me. By some mistake I was shown as having been in a class two years above and she couldn’t put a name to my face (or the face to my name). It was just an accident she had visited my profile.

We didn’t write a whole lot. The gist of it was she has had a few hard times and a few good as had most of us. It was a very polite and even reserved conversation, nothing like I would have imagined in my daydreams. But then I am for all intents and purposes a stranger to her. As she is to me.

For one thing became uncomfortably obvious to me – she wasn’t at all the girl I remembered or the woman that I imagined her to grow up to be. That alone perhaps wouldn’t have been so depressing. But it also became apparent she hadn’t thought of me at all. I was literally nothing to her, a blank space, a sheet of white paper. She had been absolutely without idea how much she had meant to me. And she quite obviously saw me as an entirely different person from the one I am today. Perhaps this misjudgement is what hurts the most, for it doesn’t reflect well on the boy I used to be; absolutely not.

Mind you, I do not blame her at all, she was just living her live. The girl I had been in love with had long since ceased to exist. Or perhaps hadn’t ever existed at all. I had taken that image of her from my 12-year-old heart and had just given her an imaginary personality that I could take with me through my adult life and dream about as a companion.

It was this product of my own imagination, more than anything else, I was in love with for all this time. The ever understanding comrade who has seen and survived everything with me. And I’m afraid now that by contacting the real thing I may have damaged my own idea of it.

So my feelings are somewhat ambivalent. I am still grateful to know she is out there somewhere, living her live. It’s good to know she is well and has seen some good times along with the not-so-good ones. And part of me would really like to get to know her closer, maybe give back some of what she had, unwittingly, given me in my time. At the same time another part of me wants to protect his own version of her.

So my adivce for you is: be careful what you wish for. It might be granted.

Oh, she and I stopped mailing us on Friday, wishing each other a nice weekend. I mailed her on Monday, but she didn’t answer any more. Of course I’m disappointed and ashamed and even a bit hurt.

But the thing I feel the most is: relief!

Will I Dream?

March 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Loft in New York

Imagine your fridge does talk to you.

No, not after an evening at the pub that got out of hand. Not after taking substances or developing a mild case of schizophrenic disorder.

Fridge would talk to you because the industry developed him this way. You’ll soon be able to buy appliances that can be quite the conversationalist.

Fridge: “Good evening, Harry. Had a nice day?”

Me: “Evening, Fridge. It was ok. What’s for dinner?”

Fridge: “I have a real nice broccoli casserole for you.”

Me: “Naw, not again. You know I hate broccoli. And I’ve had the bloody stuff only last week. What about that frozen pizza I bought?”

Fridge: “You had that yesterday.”

Me: “Yesterday? Strange, don’t remember a thing.”

Fridge: “That’s because you’ve had six beers with it.”

Me: “Aw, c’mon. Six beers isn’t all that much. Or is it?”

Fridge: “Perhaps the bottle of white wine that went with it was spoilt? It must have stood on the kitchen table for at least 12 hours. Some food does get spoilt that way. Although I never heard of wine belonging to them.”

Me: “Aw, Fridge! Not again. We have that conversation at least once a week!”

Fridge: “Because you get drunk once a week!”

Me: “Fridge, that’s none of your business and I don’t want to talk about it with you!”

Fridge: “You never want to talk about our relationship!”

Me: “Because we don’t have a relationship!”

Fridge: “Because you don’t want to commit yourself!”

Me: “Because I cannot have a relationship with a fridge!”

Fridge: “You are such an asshole! Go to your stereo and talk about football with her!”

Stereo (from the living room): “We don’t talk about football. We talk rock music! Harry, tell that hysteric fridge that we talk about music! Music!”

Telly (also from the living room): “Harry talks with me about football. Because I’m the only bloody appliance in this household who has any kind of idea what football is, you pussies!”

Stereo: “And he always falls asleep in front of your flickering screen. Must be really engrossing conversations.”

Telly: “As if he’d be able to stay sober for 15 minutes once you play ‘Golden 80’s’!”

This is when I close the door to the flat behind me, jacket in hand, on my way to the pub. Through the door I can faintly hear them continuing the argument, Fridge’s shrill voice most prominent among them. I think I’ll have a bite and a talk at the tavern.

With the condom dispenser.

What would I’ve done in Assange’s place?

December 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Image via Wikipedia

This post originally appeared on

I recently wonder what I would have done, had I been in Assange’s place.

I mean, there can really be no question, exposing war crimes, torture, the various scandals of lying and deceiving officials and politicians, all that’s quite obviously a necessary and important function of a free press and media. And if the traditional media doesn’t carry out its natural task, because they are no longer independent, such as the propaganda brigades of Rupert Murdoch, or fear repraisals from their respective governments or pressure groups, such as the rabid US Tea Party movement, then this function has to be fulfilled by other, less conventional publications. The net, and here especially wikileaks, is a most important tool in defending public speach and freedom of information against the interests of those who want to keep a firm lid on their own failures and crimes. Exposing these is in my opinion in our best interests and should be applauded.

Then there is this recent wikileaks initiative that put a great deal of US diplomat gossip into the open. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what some pretentious, bored and constipation suffering McDonald’s athlete in the US State Department thinks of Cammeron and Clegg. If Berlusconi is considered a lecher and Merkel a retard; if they think they can trick us into following them in another stupid war, or have to force us with whatever lever they let their CIA find for them, all this is not really a surprise and no thinking adult could claim to be shocked by such revelations. Most of it is even quite funny. In a SARS-kind-of way.

Other details in wikileak’s most recent scoop are more serious and decidedly less entertaining. Some of the material uncovers real people and puts them and their relatives and friends in very real danger for their health and lives. This is something that must be looked at and avoided at all costs. It cannot be justified to inform the public about anything at the cost of endangering part of this public, however small that part may be. I don’t care who the people endangered by these reports are, it’s absolutely a no-go to publish without first assessing the potential risk and getting their names from the material.

The diplomats concerned in Britain, Europe, the US and other countries merely will suffer a little dent in their precious careers. The poor bastards in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq might suffer a smashed skull. Not exactly a fair deal, is it?

For example, if the material given to wikileaks was potentially risking a major “military dispute” (i.e. war) between two or more countries, would we then think, it was still justified to publish it? And if that “military dispute” was to potentially happen in Europe? Or between Europe and the US? Most probably not.

Ok, this is a very hypothetical question, far from our political reality. At the moment. Just wait two years and let another, potentially most radical political streaming take over in the US and the prospect maybe doesn’t seem so fantastical any more.

What I mean is, the publishing of the wikileaks material basically is the right thing under a given set of circumstances. But it cannot be published whithout any kind of editing and adaption whatsoever. Editorial and redactional preperation of such material is essential to protect firstly wikileak’s own sources and secondly parties who might face leathal danger by the publishing.

Just my two pennies.

Harry at Harry’s

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Harry's Bar interior. Venice Italy.

Image via Wikipedia

I sit at Harry’s Bar in Venice., which is something of a joke, as I am Harry. Where else would I sit?

To tell the truth it’s incredibly crammed with tourists, which is not surprising as Harry’s features prominently in every guide of Venice. And it long since lost the insider’s tip designation. But who am I to complain, I’m a foreigner myself in this town. So this is just my kind of place.

Half the guests have the obligatory Bellini in front of them. And some really seem to enjoy the experience too. I myself prefer a red wine, not of the cheap variety. Nothing in Harry’s is of the cheap variety. And I mean this without irony. The carpaccio also seems to be a major success with the tourists and I feel obliged to justify my tourist status by ordering some. It’s indeed delicious.

For such a reknowned tourist trap as Harry’s the experience is certainly worth every penny. I remember having met Eva Lake some years ago here. And although my memories of that particular occasion are hazy, I seem to also remember she agreed with me on this.

Anyway, Harry’s is great!

Of course, I am Harry.  So what else could I say?

Storm over the Lido

September 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Entering the Venice Film Festival

Image by edmundyeo via Flickr

Venice this years turns out to be boring.

The weather is the usual late summer warmth, only slightly overcast. Punctually at noon yesterday a thunderstorm turns up the drama-volume and it pours cats and dogs over the Lido, chasing the usual festival bunch from their VIP tents into the Excelsior. Much too dramatic to really affect the jaded festival veterans. One hour later the drama is over, business as usual.

The media-crowd, the real stars and their would-be counterparts, the shiny It-girls and the dressed up society audience are all eager to get the part about watching films and giving interviews done, so they can pig out at the buffet and start the day’s serious drinking.

And Sofia Coppola‘s new film is, surprisingly, tremendous fun, everyone agrees.

This year Julia Robers is not asked if she’s wearing undies (yet). Enfant terrible Vincent Gallo has become a serious name, or at least a recognised one, so he doesn’t need to provoke a scandal, not yet. But for good measure he insists to present “a film by and with Vincent Gallo”, which apparently is scandal enough for his needs. And Scorsese pays homage to Elia Kazan, one full hour long and without the slightest trace of malice.

Quentin Tarantino went on record with the notion he hasn’t seen such an assortment of wild films in a competition. And after that was seen to have a lengthy conversation with one of the Excelsior’s bartenders.  Asked afterwards the guy said “He asked me if we had wasabi peanuts. I said no.”

Persol offers a 3D Award.

And everbody hunts for gossip, the biggest bother being right at the moment that the Lido still is under construction.

Venice this year is so boring.

Patching up

September 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ferrari burned out

Image by Sunset Noir via Flickr

Recently there was a Ferrari catching fire in town. It’s owner wasn’t speeding or any such thing. Just idling along with the traffic and then smoke emitted from the rear. By the time he pulled to the side, the car was already on fire. Ferrari calls the problem a “thermal incident” and sent engineers to the owners of the specific model to investigate.

A “thermal incident”, how lovely. Is a car crash soon to be called a “kinetic incident”?  A plane crash a “gravity incident”? Was Waterloo maybe simply a “strategic incident”? And would Napoleon approve of the label? Right now there seem to be a number of “petroleum incidents” in the Gulf of Mexico but this is surely nothing to worry about.

The reason for Ferarri’s “thermal incidents” seems to be an adhesive that isn’t up to the temperatures and can overheat. A reminder of the fact that cars today are glued together. Ferrari’s answer is to present the owners of burned out models with new ones and to modify those not as yet on fire with mechanical fasteners on the critical spots.

Which they probably call “adapting the structure to specific customer requirements”.

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