Archive for the ‘User-generated answers’ Category

Reunite for Bowie?

January 27, 2016

Here’s a melancholy tale from an anonymous man:

There’s no fool like an old fool. And this old fool woke up the other day with the memory of a Bowie song in his head. He woke up next to his wife of almost 30 years, but the song was ‘My Death’ from the sound track of the Ziggy Startdust film.

Many years ago, I fell in love with a French girl, several years my junior. I was 21, she was still at school. We met on a Greek island, dancing to ‘Let’s Dance’ at a beach-side nightclub. To cut a long romantic story short, we had a short but terribly intense relationship, which involved me visiting her in Paris and she coming over to London. She was a Bowie nut and I translated some lyrics for her. Notably ‘My Death’. She also insisted I translate a line from ‘Fame’ that she’d been having trouble with: “Bully for you, chilly for me”.

She was my first real love, and I hers.

Anyway, she was too young to commit and I respected that. We drifted apart and a year or so later I met the future wife. Another year or so later and we had a kid on the way. It was then that my mademoiselle wrote to me at my parents’ address. She said that she was more grown up now and she was ready to be with me forever.

I wrote back – the hardest letter ever: ‘Thanks, but sorry, no thanks.’

Roll on 15 more years or so and with the internet comes one huge worm-can-opener. I found my long lost love and we exchanged a few emails, swapped news. She’d never got married or settled down; I had.

And now, with Bowie’s death, this memory was stirred up. I emailed her again, just to say ‘Hi, I’m thinking of you, hope you’re ok.’

She told me she was very upset and that she’s coming to the UK to pay homage in Brixton, Bowie’s birthplace. She asked if we could meet up for a coffee.

So, answer me this: should I meet her for a coffee?

Readers, go to the comments to advise anonymous man! Should he go for the coffee and risk restoking the flames with the one who got away; or stay home, stay true to his marriage, and stay wondering what would have been?

Quite possibly what would have been is that he’d go for the coffee and find that the woman is now more than 30 years older than the version of her preserved in his imagination, and he doesn’t actually have the hots for her in the present (and/or she for him).

But, let’s not kid ourselves: by now he probably has already been for the coffee. “Coffee.”


tower of romance

December 10, 2015


When romance and real life collide, problems happen, such as this one befalling Dave:

I recently became single after being with my ex for a bit over 3 years and I decided to try out some dating websites.

I was chatting for a few days with a girl and felt like it was going well, so I asked if she’d be prepared to meet up. And she was! So, we arranged to meet at Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth in about a week and a half. We didn’t actually set a time and she didn’t give me her number, but she said she was looking forward to it.

Then today (a couple of days later) I’ve seen that she has deleted her profile on the site where I met her so I have no way of getting in touch.

I guess I can do nothing and should just forget about it, but it occurred to me that if this was a film or a music video I’d go to Spinnaker Tower anyway and just wait there all day in case she does show up. Answer me this, do people actually do that in real life and should I?

Readers, sprint to the comments and weigh in: to live like a romcom, or to accept one has been ghosted?


fake boyfriend

December 8, 2015


Harriet in Carentan, France is a real person, I think. She writes:

When I was about 11/12, my mom made up a boyfriend for me. He was called Tarquin and she would do impressions of him and the kinds of loving things that this, entirely fictional, person had said to me and these impressions were always done in a high-pitched voice with lots of flutterings of hands and overly posh accents.

She even carried this bizarre joke on into my teens while I had real boyfriends and girlfriends. According to her these were insignificant relationships and that Tarquin was my one true love who I would eventually marry.

I’m in my 20s now and fortunately she has stopped mentioning Tarquin, and I had managed to forget about it all until I listened to episode 327. I’d thought it was just something weird my mom did, but now I’m wondering if in fact it’s a common joke for parents to make about their children and that most people just never mention it. I’d be interested to know if any of your other listeners have written in to say that their parents invented relationships for them.

Anyone, or is this just a me-and-Harriet thing?


fancy dress: the annual shit parade

October 28, 2015

These are probably going to be too small, TBH.


This time every year, we get questions about costumes. My preferred Halloween costume is ‘staying home’, but if you’re into this stuff, please do leap into the comments to advise these questioneers. We open with B in Seattle:

I work in a small office with six other people. Not by choice, I’ve apparently taken on the role of Human Resources (in addition to several other titles). I have zero HR experience. One of my colleagues has come to office in the past dressed as Aunt Jemima for Halloween. The problem is, she is white and completed the ensemble with black face. (more…)

Tinder help

October 13, 2015
Woman receiving roses online

Woman receiving roses online


Having been in the same relationships since the heyday of dial-up, none of us is qualified to answer the following questions; so if you’re a seasoned internet dater, we’d be very grateful to you if you’d shimmy over to the comments to advise the following questioneers.

Liam, 27, from London writes:

I’ve recently jumped back into the dating pool after having been in a relationship for the past 8 years, and like many people of my age group I’ve been using online dating to help me meet new people. Yesterday a girl that I’ve gone out with a few times (and gotten to know in the biblical sense) posted a picture on Facebook with one of her friends who I recognised as someone that only a day earlier I had matched with on Tinder.

So answer me this: What is the etiquette here? Should I tell the girl I’ve been seeing that her friend and I have both looked at pictures of each other and said “Yes I would?” Should I block the friend on Tinder in case things with this girl go well and hope that she doesn’t recognise me should we ever meet? Or should I gamble on the higher likelihood of them not making the connection together and just do nothing at all?

This doesn’t seem particularly controversial – or are we showing our Tinder innocence?

Daniel in West Sussex also requires your assistance:

Over the past few months after thinking about my current single status and lack of girls in my life I’ve reluctantly begun using the popular dating app Tinder.

Although I’ve made sure the pictures are the best they can be and had them approved by a friend and despite getting several matches over the past few months, I’ve not managed to have a two way conversation with any of them. I’ve tried saying the standard “Hi, how are you?” And even moved to the more imaginative, “Hi, great to meet you. How’s your day going?” I’ve had literally no response from any of these women. I think the trouble is I can’t really think of anything that I think might be appropriate to send that may get a response.

So answer me this: what could I say to someone on Tinder that might get a response and a conversation going? And is there anything I could possibly do to get more matches? Only had six in the past few months.

Go on. These people need you to be the Virgil guiding them through the nine circles of Tinder.


How we met

September 30, 2015


Since AMT322, we’ve been enjoying hearing how you found AMT – through us appearing on other shows like JJGo or Ian Collins or No Such Thing As A Fish, or mentions on 99% Invisible or The Bugle; or thanks to articles we wrote or were mentioned in; or because it was early 2007 and we groomed you on MySpace. Please tell us in the comments how you found us! But we’re guessing most of you found us by accident, or through word of mouth. Like these champs:

Davi from Boston (formerly Davi from Maryland): I started listening to it because of the recommendation of Becca from Chicago, of Andrew Lloyd Webber Ice Skating Question fame. I started in 2012 and haven’t missed an episode since!

Hannah: I discovered your podcast whilst suffering from a bout of insomnia and browsing the podcast library. The name caught my attention as did the bright yellow “cover art”. It quickly became a regular bed-time favourite.

But did it cure the insomnia or make it worse?

Alex in Glasgow: I actually found out about you guys through my friend, your longtime listener Eliot from Wrexham!

I think Eliot from Wrexham may have been a MySpace quarry, as aforementioned.

Verity from Oxford: I am a recent Oxford graduate who was introduced to AMT in July by my tutor, who helpfully suggested it as a distraction following my objectively-fine-but-slightly-disappointing finals results. I have since binge-listened to about a year’s worth of episodes.

I’m interpreting that to mean we’re part of the Oxford syllabus.

Charlie from Berkeley, CA, originally from Cleethorpes: I first found about about it from a friend of mine, Ken from San Francisco (featured in episode 261 with his This American Life-esque announcement). We were hanging out last summer, and I’d had a terrible evening, but Ken knew how to cheer me up – with a dose of Helen, Olly, and Martin the Soundman, of course.

As a British ex-pat, originally from Cleethorpes (and now, by some miracle of the British state education system, living in Berkeley CA and finishing up a doctoral degree in clinical psychology), I couldn’t help but be tickled by the podcast. I’ve been especially tickled by the fact that both Cleethorpes and the Bay Area have gotten several mentions, and cracked up on BART during the guest episode with Ian Collins who got lost after sleepwalking in a caravan park in Cleethorpes as a child.

We can never guess why AMT does it for you, but we’re definitely glad it does. Thanks for listening!


dog sitting

September 17, 2015


Anonymous Man is dogged by the following problem:

I recently offered to look after my aunt and uncle’s dog while they are away on holiday. I’m a student, and my timetable for that week is really quiet, so I thought I’d be nice and offer to do it.

I had assumed, although it wasn’t discussed, that they would give me some payment in return for me taking a week of my time to do this. It would cost them at least £150 to put him in kennels, but they would never do that as they would be worried he’d get upset in kennels. They earn a decent wage, could easily afford to pay me something, and without me doing this they wouldn’t be able to go on holiday.

It has however became apparent that they don’t intend on paying me for this. My gran spoke to them and asked if I was getting paid, to which the response was, “Oh no, he offered to do it, why would we give him anything?” She feels I should be getting paid, but that it would be rude for her to suggest they paid me something. I feel that although money wasn’t discussed up front, a week of my time is at least worth something, and I shouldn’t need to ask about it.

So answer me this: am I being unreasonable to expect that I should be at least getting something for my time, and is there any way in which I can tactfully ask for them to pay me? My dad would probably do it, but I don’t really want to put him in an awkward situation. Or am I just being greedy?

This is why you always negotiate the finances up front!

It’s too bad your gran didn’t push a little further, since she’d already made some inroads. See if she’ll act as your agent, in return for a cut of the resulting fee. Maybe she can play hardball and not only push up the money, but also persuade them to throw in some deluxe snacks.

But it is awkward to talk about money and even more awkward to have the awkward money conversation with family members, since any unresolved awkwardness now will return with interest at Christmas. Readers, what would you do? Advise Anonymous Man in the comments.


dangerous donkey selfies

September 15, 2015



The dangers of selfie sticks (and donkeys) are illustrated in this email from Wayne:

I’m listening to AMT322 where you talk about people with their wands of Narcissus taking photos of themselves with animals.

This reminded me of a recent trip to the New Forest, where we saw a young girl get done over by a juvenile donkey she was trying to take a selfie with. She got the poor animal in a headlock to take the photo, at which point the cute and cuddly equid head-butted her and then kicked her for good measure.

All three of us in the car (myself, my wife and my 8 year old son in the back) all said the same: “Well that serves her right.”

It amused us for the journey back to the camp site.

Have you ever had a dangerous close encounter with a wild beast? Or with an idiot who is having a close encounter with a wild beast? If it was non-fatal to all involved, step cautiously into the comments to tell us about it.

PS Here are some of the warning signs I saw around the geysers at Yellowstone National Park. THINK SAFETY, PEOPLE. Or, at the very least, think more than not at all.

12 Ys safety
11 Yellowstone warning



August 6, 2015


Let there be light upon this question from Lizzie from London:

Regarding the glitter discussion in AMT319, Sarah from Chicago writes:

Helen compared it to a virus at one point, and in the theatre world (my profession) we have to deal with it a lot. So much that when you happen to find glitter all over everything, with no idea where it came from (costume, makeup, set, etc), it’s known as Glerpes. Glitter+herpes.

And now you know the name of the affliction your questioneer has.



Thanks Sarah.


out of the darkness into light

August 5, 2015



Let there be light upon this question from Lizzie from London:

I just got home and went into our bedroom to find my boyfriend sitting in the dark. I opened the blinds. He wasn’t sleeping, ill, watching a film or being Buffalo Bill (thankfully).

He claimed I was imposing my ideas on him. I said it was a universal truth that light is good in this world. We share the room and I was going to be in and out of it.

Help! (me win the argument)

Martin the Sound Man suggests that you illuminate the room for your own use, and make your boyfriend wear a blindfold. I suggest you VOTE:


boring job

August 5, 2015



Go to the comments because I really want to read your answers to this question from Johan:

I work at the Swedish equivalent to UK’s Royal Mail. As a terminal worker at one of the biggest post terminals in the country my job is really boring and sometimes stressful. I sort packages big and small and unload lorries filled to the brim with packages, but it is allowed to have headphones at work and your podcast keeps me from dying of boredom.

So answer me this: what is the most boring job you have had?

That is a GOOD question, Johan. Now, as a freelancer with a very messy career path, I’ve had a LOT of jobs – so many that I can only remember about 30% of them. Which is probably for the best.

I’ve had jobs that plunged me into greater despair and discomfort, but for pure brain-chewing boringness, I nominate the job I once had compiling the index for a book about the Queen’s stamp collection. It was not only dullllllllll, but fiendish – I had to make sure there were different entries for, say, King George V the person and King George V the stamp, subdivided by country…Oh god, sorry; merely typing that sentence reopened the vortex of tedium, and this time YOU’RE ALL COMING DOWN WITH ME.

UPDATE: a giant thread on this topic has erupted on our Facebook page.


double dads

August 5, 2015


John from Cambridge writes with a double dad dilemma:

My boyfriend and I are at the stage in our (same-sex) relationship where we can discuss adopting children to raise and provide a loving family for.

However, I find it hard in my own head to think of names that we can call ourselves to our children – using our first names seems both too relaxed and too formal at the same time, but the idea of having both of us called ‘Dad’ is a logistical nightmare when our kids want to get the attention of only one of us. Having one of us called ‘father’ and the other as ‘dad’ seems odd too.

So answer me this: what names can we call ourselves to our kids that allow us both to call ourselves ‘dad’ whilst differentiating ourselves from each other?

Readers, have you found a neat solution to this in your own lives? Summon up your helpfulness and go to the comments to assist John.

(A rather self-promotional aside: after the Allusionist episode containing people’s feelings about stepfamily terms, I did a Spoken AMA about it and there were a few interesting comment threads about the vocabulary for family members. Eg a numerical system; words that might be preferable to ‘step’; and, my favourite, someone’s uncle who has never called his wife by her name in THIRTY YEARS OF MARRIAGE.)