Self-summary

I rarely have to force myself to edit down my words online. I’m verbose in reality, but less so on paper, and more often than not I find myself struggling to meet minimum word counts than to come in under the maximum.

Here, I know who I am, because I’m honest, but honest in the moment: what I say is true today, but it might be less so tomorrow. That said, the blog isn’t everything I am, either: it’s love, anger, disability, MH and food – all things that matter, but make up a fraction of the ‘real me.’

Of all the things I hate about internet dating, the self-summary is high on the list. Is it easier to be able to say as much as you want, OK Cupid style, or to be confined to 500 characters, à la Tinder?

So, how would I summarise myself? There’s the stuff that’s true every day: that I won’t have seen that film you’re talking about, that I live on chocolate and wine, that I’m Charlie almost as much as I am RL me, that I have a disability, that I sometimes struggle with anxiety, that I chat, a lot, that I love books, bath oil, and words, that I want children, and hugs, and long walks in the rain.

But there’s also the stuff that shifts. And, as this excellent piece by Jilly Boyd proves, the little details of someone’s life are often far more fascinating than the bigger picture. Some days, I’m a Dairy Milk girl, other days Galaxy. My signature scent is Dior Pure Poison but at the moment I flirt with YSL Opium every time I go in John Lewis, because it matches the way I feel right now. I’m the book on my nightstand, the recipe I return to again and again this month, the track on permanent repeat on my phone, the short story floating around in my head.

I’m all of that, but on Tinder I’m a ‘sometimes scary-seeming, but actually super-soft feminist, working in publishing, baking, writing, and learning to run (badly!) in my spare time.’

It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written.

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A million love songs

‘This track came on and I thought, “That’s not him. That’s not this kid I’ve just seen.”

“About that tape you gave me, what’s on it?”

‘I said, “It’s me…”

‘So I said “That Million Love Songs track, is that you singing?” He went, “Yeah.”

‘But who’s made all the music behind it?’

I said, “I do it all in my bedroom. It’s just me, the whole thing.”‘

Take That, For the Record

I went on a date earlier this week, and a hour or so in, my least favourite question came up.

‘When did your last relationship end?’

What do you say to that, at thirty-one, when you’ve never had a last relationship? 

When it comes to love and relationships, I’m pretty much still a teenager. I have no experience of making an actual relationship work, no knowledge of the compromises it involves or the communication it requires.

I worry about that a lot, as you’ll know if you’re a regular reader. I want children. I want, if I’m honest, to be loved. And although I don’t believe you can rely on someone else to fill the gaps in your self-esteem, but I want, need, someone to prove me wrong about every assumption I’ve made in my life regarding my disability and my spiky personality making me unlovable.

I’m a cynic, but I’m also a diehard romantic.

When I went to see Take That live, for like the hundredth time, in June, I was always intending to follow up with a blog post. I was going to write about the way my affection for the band has changed over the years: twenty-two years ago I would hole up in my room and play the lyrics I loved over and over again, notably the bit at the end of I Can Make It, where Mark Owen croons ‘I bel-ieve we can make love, forevvvver.’

These days when I hear that lyric, it makes me laugh. It makes me think ‘Ow, that would chafe,’ rather than ‘OMG, that’s so *romantic.* In general, many of the early tracks have meant less and less to me as I’ve got older. I still listen to them, for their nostalgic value, but (luckily) they don’t speak to me the way they did when I was a pre-teen.

So these days, I mainly listen to the more upbeat, newer stuff, as do most of my friends. Being a Take That fan is (honestly!) less about having a huge crush on Gary Barlow and more about the cheerfulness of familiar pop music, of something that feels safe, and familiar, and uplifting all at the same time. It’s about one of those rare moments when I go to gigs and am amazed by the way three guys can unite a room full of women.

But A Million Love Songs holds a special place in my heart. Written by Gary when he was sixteen, it smacks of a teenager’s view of love, but it’s lovely nonetheless. Last night, when it came on shuffle, I switched off the lights, sat on the floor with a glass of wine, and thought about what it means to me.

‘Close your eyes but don’t forget 
What you have heard 
A man who’s trying to say three words 
Words that make me scared’

That’s how I feel about the idea of love in a reciprocal, healthy relationship. I want it, but fear that I won’t find it, or that I’ll find it and it’ll all go tits up, properly holds me back.

There’s part of me, too, that feels I missed out. That giddy, childish, carefree early relationships passed me by and that now I have to take it all so much more seriously, because I have so many hopes and dreams invested in it.

Sometimes, that pressure makes me want to run in the opposite direction, to not give any more of myself to potential partners, to avoid hurt by avoiding hope. Sometimes I just need something that lets me be eleven again, with less fear, less worry.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I can make it feel like that’s true.

Monday morning, 2 a.m.

I look at the Sunday bus times and then realise it’s not Sunday at all.

It’s Monday morning. Shit.

I have to stop doing this. I have to stop chasing pleasure, be it sex, wine or an hour of quiet time to myself, at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

But god, it’s a hard habit to break. I’m braless and smudged, damp-eyed from yawning, but my mind still way too active to drift off.

I watch the dark motorway glide past as the coach slides through the night: devoid of life bar the occasional lorry or stretch of floodlit roadworks. This night-owl version of me reminds me of my younger self, writing through the night and pacing the corridor of my uni halls at 6 a.m. waiting for people to surface.

At home I’ll finally look in a mirror and be horrified by my birds-nest hair and tired skin. And then I’ll think, fuck it, he made me feel beautiful. The clock reads 2 a.m., at least, and my chances of being on time for work in the morning are pretty much zero.

I make a cup of tea and take it up to bed with a funsize Twix, because what good is sex if it’s not followed by food? And then I write it down, not the sex, not this time, but the little things that happened afterwards and made me realise I was happy.

It’s not a bad way to start the week.

23:30

It’s 23:30 and I’m sat, naked, on the sofa, where I’ve been since he left. It doesn’t sound good, does it? I’m cold, now, but I wasn’t an hour ago – he’s hot in more ways than one – and at half ten I was dripping with a mixture of come, saliva and sweat. So yeah, I’m not as cosy as I could be, but I’m happier than I’ve been for a while.

The worst part isn’t once he’s gone, actually – it’s the ten minutes or so just before he does, when I don’t know what to do with him. Jumping him again is out of the question but I need as much of that physical touch as I can to tide me over until the next time.

We kiss, one last time – him fully clothed again, me not – and I think the cab driver can see us, perhaps. Ah well. He lets himself out and I mean to get up and load the dishwasher but I’m not quite ready to go back to reality just yet. Instead I finish my wine, then the last few mouthfuls of his, and pull the blanket that’s draped over the sofa around me for warmth.

An hour later, I finally, finally drag myself up the stairs. In my bedroom my ‘Let’s make out’ cushion has been tossed to one side, the way it always is whenever there’s been any actual making out going on. I step over my abandoned jeans, pick up my knickers – the ones I wore for all of an hour – and dump them in the laundry basket.

I ache now, a bit – I don’t remember what he did to my arm – whether it was teeth or fingers, but the muscle remembers it, certainly. When I catch sight of myself in the mirror I have what they really mean when they talk about bed head.

It’s a mess, and I don’t know what to do about it. Right now though, I don’t care. Right now I know I’ll sleep better than I have in days.

And everything changed…

Alison Tyler has this lovely little series on her blog called ‘Trollop with a question.’ I’ll confess, I rarely comment on/answer her questions, but I do always read them, and people’s responses, too.

Recently, she wanted to know a fabulous thing someone once said to you, which I thought was a really lovely one.

I’m awful for only hearing the bad stuff, never the good, for letting the slights stick and the compliments roll straight off me. I have a friend who’s great at giving compliments and so I try to learn from her. You’ll hear ‘I love your dress,’ or ‘Those are great earrings,’ from me way more than you would have done in the past.

I struggled to think of something fabulous someone had once said to me though, and the one that came into my mind first made me smile, because it’s hardly fabulous at first glance.

The boy and I were lying together on my bed, for the first time ever, him on his side, hard beneath the denim of his jeans and I was trying to work out how the hell to get the buttons undone.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said, cheeks reddening. ‘I haven’t done this for a while.’

‘Well,’ he said, leaning in for a kiss. ‘Seems like you’re doing just fine to me.’

And that was the moment that everything changed.

I don’t come during sex. So what?

I can still remember the last time I came during sex. Not because it was yesterday, or last week, but because it must be about eighteen months ago now, and I’ve had a fair amount of sex since. Good sex, too.

I mean that. I’m definitely not having bad sex. I went to see Bridget Christie last night, and there’s a bit of her set where she says she’s so sick of advertising featuring women making orgasmic noises over cars, or yoghurt, that she’s started having sarcastic orgasms instead. I’m not having sarcastic orgasms either, but I do kind of know what she means: since the female orgasm was recognised as having value, the message to women is kind of ‘You deserve to come in bed, and if you don’t then your partner is a selfish/bad/thoughtless lover and you cannot possibly be having good sex.’

Other women give me side eyes when I tell them that I love, love, love fucking the boy, but I barely ever come. I can kind of see their logic: why would I fuck the same guy for three years if it’s all about the sex and he’s not giving me orgasms. OK, here’s why. First, there’s the kissing. There’s the feeling of skin-on-skin. There’s his cock, just the head of it, teasing me, or its full length, buried deep inside me. More recently, there’s the kink. The bruising. The biting. The goading him into hitting me with whatever comes to hand: his palm, his belt, his hardback book collection. There’s his orgasm, which has a value all of its own, and there’s bastard oxytocin, no matter how much I sometimes wish there wasn’t.

So yeah, I’m definitely not having bad sex.

A few months back, this post would probably have stopped there. I can be very, very defensive when I think I’m right about something and I’ll protect my position long after I’ve realised that I might be wrong. And I don’t think I’m *wrong* about the above, I just realised that liking, no, *loving*, all of the above doesn’t mean that coming wouldn’t be an added bonus.

It was a desperately cheap shot, but once, when the boy and I were arguing, I snapped ‘You don’t prioritise my orgasm.’ There was a brief moment of silence and then he fired back: ‘Bullshit. *You* don’t prioritise your orgasm.’

I hate it when he’s right.

I have lines in the bedroom that I return to again and again. ‘Please let me suck your cock,’ ‘Harder,’ and ‘I just want to feel you inside me.’ Especially ‘I just want to feel you inside me.’ And you know what? I do. I have a couple of very reliable vibrators, and I can make myself come pretty much any time I want. What’s harder to replicate is that sensation of being crammed full of warm, solid, real life dick. And as we know, most women can’t come from penetrative sex alone.

But he could make me come first, right? Well yes, technically. Except I’m kind of with Exhibit A on oral sex – the pressure to come is overwhelming and distracting, and, no matter how sex positive I try to be, I just don’t like him being that up close and personal with my cunt. That leaves toys or fingers. The former would (and does, on the odd occasion we’ve used them together) work, but to me, it just feels utterly pointless. It’s like going to your favourite restaurant and ordering the dish you already know how to make really well at home. Coming from fingering I’m much more up for, but jeez, it takes a long time, especially as I’ve become increasingly toy dependent.

I think it would be good though, if from time to time I did let him linger on foreplay long enough to bring me to orgasm with his fingers. Believe it or not, I really don’t like being the centre of attention. In school nativity plays, I was never Mary, or a shepherd, or even a donkey, surprisingly. I was always the narrator. The one who stands to one side and tells the stories. And I’m fine with that. But there are some occasions when you need to be comfortable being the full focus of someone’s attentions, and foreplay is one of those moments. I’m unlikely to come, I think, if while he’s stroking my clit I’m trying to give him a hand job, or suck his cock, or kiss him, or…

I need to be ok with letting him concentrate on me for a bit. Because even though I’m really, really not bothered about the orgasm thing, not wanting to be the centre of attention falls, for me, into the same category as not wanting to have sex with the lights on, or in pub toilets, or with me on top. Changing all those things was worth it. This would be too, right?

Shoop Shoop

Sometimes, conversations on Twitter rumble on in the background for so long, I forget what the original point was. This was one such conversation and I had to actually go back and retrace it to its roots. Turns out I started it. Colin Firth: would he be good in bed?

Most of Twitter said no. ‘He’d take it *way* too seriously, ‘ seemed to be the most common concern. And from there it spiralled into a conversation about what makes us assume a man will be good in bed. Dancing appeared on the list, as did ‘quiet confidence.’ But kissing? Kissing came up again and again and again.

I make no secret of the fact that that’s a long held belief of mine. Potential partners have lived and died (not literally) by their kiss.

Way back when I was seventeen or so, there was a guy in a nightclub. He may well not have been attractive, but the Smirnoff Ice  had been flowing and when he approached me on the dance floor it didn’t take much to persuade me to snog him.

‘Who was that guy?’ one friend asked, as we stumbled home. ‘He looked like he’d fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.’

Harsh.

But fuck me, he could kiss.

I think he was only the second guy I’d ever kissed, in fact. He was the first to show me that good kissing (and ok, ok, a well-placed thigh between my legs) can make me wet faster than anything else. Kissing makes me want to both rush headlong into full on sex and delay full on sex for as long as possible so that we can just keep on kissing.

Cher had it wrong, sadly. You can’t tell if he loves you so from his kiss – like it or not, that is in the way he acts. God knows good kissers can make you feel like it’s love, though: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said to friends, ‘But how can he kiss like that and not *mean it?*’

With sex, I think if you asked me to rank positions by preference, I could do it pretty easily. Missionary, WoT, Doggy. If you asked me to list my preferences regarding kissing, I’d struggle. Those butterfly-soft kisses all over my face when his cock is deep inside me? The ones that are so punishing they bruise? The first one of the evening, when, for a few moments at least, I get to stop worrying about when I’ll next see him and just get to enjoy it?

How on earth could you ever choose between any of those?

Sex and communication

One of the conversations I’ve been involved in on Twitter this morning has been about sex and ‘feedback’ – which everyone involved seems to agree is a terrible word for it. Basically, the question, as I understand it, is: should we be open to talking honestly with our partners about what does/doesn’t work for us in the bedroom?

On paper, I’d say yes, we should. But what works on paper doesn’t work for me in practice.

Let’s take a different example. Ever since a few months back, when Exhibit A wrote on sport, I’ve been meaning to blog my own thoughts on the matter. It seemed more sensible that commenting on the original post: I needed to work through my feelings on the matter and they’re so bloody complex I knew they’d probably run to longer than reasonable comment length.

On an intellectual level, I know that exercise isn’t something you get to opt into or out of in life, although despite that knowledge I still do very little. I asked my parents if they’d consider paying for gym membership as a Christmas gift. Initially, they thought this was a great idea – they’ve been hassling me to be more active for years. But then they had a little chat overnight and decided that they both agreed that a personal trainer (obviously a much more expensive option) would be better.

I’m ashamed, but not particularly surprised, to say the whole conversation collapsed into a tearful row. I cried. I made my mum cry. My dad, normally a staunch ally, took my mum’s side. I’m not interested in a personal trainer: I can’t bear to catch sight of myself in mirrors when I exercise, the thought of *paying* someone to stand there and watch, especially if that someone was male, sends me spiralling into immediate panic.

You’re not listening, I argued. What might be objectively best for me won’t work for me, because there are other factors getting in the way. I’m looking for compromise: you’re telling me it’s your way or the highway.

And that was my experience of sport pretty much all through school, as well. When I was eleven, and had come home from double PE in tears again, my mum lost her temper. ‘*Everybody* has something they’re bad at,’ she argued, ‘What about the kids who can’t read or add up?’

She had a kind of point there, but again, the comparison wasn’t quite fair. I’m young enough that I went to school at a time when humiliating kids with poor reading or maths ability by getting them to read out loud in class or to come up and work out an equation on the board had gone out of fashion. Sadly, the same wasn’t true for sport. The focus of sport was at best on teamwork (I don’t like letting people down), at worst it was ‘Get into groups, design a dance/gymnastics/aerobics routine and perform it in front of the class. High jump was one at a time in front of everybody else. So was rope climbing. Hurdles. My PE teacher ironically ultimately won an MBE for services to sports education – I don’t once remember her asking what she could do to help or make me feel more comfortable.

Her younger colleague on the other hand, obviously came from a different school of thought. She cornered me after a trampolining lesson and asked if I’d consider coming to trampolining club early on Friday, before everyone else arrived. ‘Bring a friend,’ she said ‘And you can have a go while there’s nobody else here. Would that be better?’

There’s a limit to how much of that special treatment – great, and kind and appreciated that it is – that you can expect when you have a disability – you kind of do have to just get on with life the best you can. But I don’t think that’s a reason to make it unnecessarily hard on yourself – to go against what comes naturally.

On the subject of feedback, I had my mid year appraisal at work yesterday. It was, much like the job itself, paper heavy, insular, more like a (endlessly long) cosy chat than an appraisal. It’s another of the things that tells me I’m in the right career: nothing about the pushy, competitive, bullshit-heavy, male-dominated worlds of consultancy or the city, for example, appeal to me. I wouldn’t be good at those jobs. I’m too soft, too emotional. I don’t think that makes me a bad person or a failure: it’s just about recognising that I have a different skill set.

The point I’m trying to make is that although, obviously, we’d communicate with our partners often and sensitively and constructively in the bedroom, in practice I think that’s harder to achieve. Good communication is something to aim for, but I don’t think it comes naturally to many couples, whether they’ve been married for years or are just friends with benefits.

Since I started having sex, men have said all of the following to me:

‘I don’t care if it’s waxed or not as long as it’s tidy.’

‘We’re not friends, we’re just two people who fuck and get on fairly well.’

‘Use your hand as well.’

All of those have stung a little bit, for one reason or another. My body confidence is low – is my bikini line neat? Does it meet his standards? Probably not – it’s not as neat as I’d like it to be, but I don’t know how to do a better job of it. Why aren’t we friends? What’s wrong with me? Are you ashamed of being seen out with me in public? And ‘Use your hand as well?’ To me that translates as ‘You’re shit at giving head.’

A lot of this is fuelled by issues that I have to address. I know that – it’s just one of the many reasons I see a therapist. But as relationships become more complicated – as more and more of us are in friends with benefits arrangements, or just having regular one night stands – what qualifies someone as having the right to give ‘feedback?’ I wouldn’t, for example, be open to receiving comments on my technique from someone I picked up in a night club and wasn’t planning to see again.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the trust necessary for giving constructive feedback on sex, and for it being well received, extends far, far beyond the bedroom. With me, you’ll win that trust by showing that you’ve thought about how things affect me that perhaps don’t affect you – you’ll hold my hand if we’re crossing an icy road for example. Or, if we’re out having dinner, you’ll squeeze my shoulder when you come back from the Gents: little signs of affection that show that you care about me even when we’re not naked.

If you’re not that invested then I’m sorry, I’m not particularly open to hearing what does/doesn’t work for you in the bedroom.

First date sex

For all I like to think I’m sex positive, I sometimes fall woefully short of that aim. The first three months of posts on here are testament to that, but sometimes it creeps into my real life actions too. And sometimes it doesn’t. Confused yet?

When I met the boy, I had *no idea* what was going on. I’ve told the story of how I met him elsewhere on the blog, but essentially the first time we met wasn’t a date. Which, retrospectively, took loads of the pressure off. He had to catch the last train, so he didn’t hit on me properly until after he’d left, and I walked away from that evening drunk on a combination of wine and chemistry, not sure if I fancied him, but having had a lovely, lovely evening.

The second time was a proper date. A daytime one. There was an awkward moment early on when we started kissing by the river, and, clumsy bitch that I am, my hand accidentally (no, really), grazed the front of his shorts. He grabbed it, guided it back to a safe place on the ground and proceeded to kiss me senseless. He did try to persuade me to fuck him on that occasion, and I turned him down. Why? Because by then I knew I liked him.

From the moment I realised that, it became a battle *not* to fuck him. I’ve always been pro-sex, but all the sex I’d had in my life up to that point had been one night stands. I was still pretty young. I didn’t really have any expectations. I hadn’t been looking for any kind of a relationship (or rather, I didn’t think anyone would want me). He was the first guy I’d met where I thought we got on well enough and that there was enough of a spark that it might last longer than 12 hours. And without even realising it, I fell prey to the messages the world sends out to women that are nothing other than total bullshit.

I was determined to hold out until the third date, as if I truly believed that there is something magical about that number that guards against something being a one-off casual fuck and transforms it into something more serious. Spoiler alert: there isn’t. I have no idea whether, if I’d fucked him any sooner it would have been a one-time only affair, but I doubt it somehow. The next time we met up I had my period. We didn’t fuck, but only really in the technical sense. We were definitely way beyond base 3.75.

So yeah, we finally slept together on what I guess was technically Date 3. I was pretty damn hopeful at that point as to where it might go, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t disappointed when he admitted he wasn’t looking for a relationship. I don’t think the point at which I chose to have sex with him could ever have changed his mind though.

Why then, do we (I) still think it does? Why do I still follow all those crappy rules when I’m getting ready for a date – ‘If I don’t wax my legs/bikini line/underarms I won’t be tempted to fuck him,’ ‘I won’t carry condoms, because then sex is off the cards,’ ‘I’m not going back to his unless I’m willing to sleep with him’ (don’t even get me started on the fucked-up rape culture messages behind that one.) I’d love, more than anything, to believe that it’s only me that thinks this way. But I don’t think it is.

In fact, I got caught out by that last one a while back. A guy and I went on a date. After a few drinks he asked if I wanted to go for a walk. Now, in my experience ‘go for a walk’ is basically a direct synonym for ‘go somewhere more private so I can kiss you’ and if I like a guy even a little bit I’m always up for testing the chemistry, so you know what, sure.

Except then he threw me a curveball that I later called ‘Sex or Death?’ to hide how much it bothered me. We were in an area I knew pretty well. I was sober. It was date 2. I liked him, and I thought I could trust him. We walked down a street and he said ‘I live near here – would you like to come back to mine or shall we go and walk down by the canal?’

Now I’m sorry, but at 11 o’ clock on a Tuesday night, when nobody knows exactly where I am or who I’m with, offering me those two choices is bad date etiquette. Because I’m a coward and I didn’t want to go back to his and explain that I wasn’t intending to have sex with him and nor did I want to be near a deserted stretch of water in the pitch black with a man I barely knew, I bailed completely and went home.

I’m off topic slightly now, and this post is rambling. But essentially, the point I’m trying to make is that none of the above strategies should be necessary, in an ideal world. I shouldn’t make choices about hair removal to guard against my own desire. I shouldn’t make excuses for something a guy did that made me uncomfortable: I should be able to call him on it, and to explain why I’m not going to take him up on either of his suggestions without feeling ashamed or embarrassed about that. But I can’t. Or I don’t. Or I choose not to. And I’m ashamed of that because I think it’s cowardly. I think it’s cowardly, but at the same time, I think it’s partly influenced by the messages I’ve been fed as a woman for years and years and years.

When I told Twitter wanted to write about first date sex, the message was very clearly ‘If you want to do it, you should do it, and you shouldn’t let anyone judge you for that decision.’ I couldn’t agree more. But what I’ve learnt over the years with regards to my own life is that I rarely do want first date sex anymore. Instant chemistry is rare. It’s hard to make a decision about whether you fancy someone and you want to sleep with them. You shouldn’t sleep with them until you’ve come to a definite conclusion about whether you really want to: whether that’s on the first date or the fifth doesn’t matter one bit.

On sex, cities and food

I sometimes joke that I could rename the blog ‘Food blog (of sorts) and the title wouldn’t be any less accurate. I don’t blog about food that often, but I tweet about it *a lot*, namely the fact that I exist largely on cake, chocolate, tea and white wine.

For all that I eat badly though, I *love* food. I love eating out, trying new places, revisiting old favourites. And above all those things, I adore food after sex.

It was the boy who introduced me to sex first, eat later – it seemed counter intuitive, since I’d long been under the impression you had to be tanked up to have the confidence to fuck. More often than not, sober fucking meant fucking before dinner, and fucking before dinner meant that by the time we sat down to eat, I was absolutely starving.

So food after sex is bloody good. Being on the prowl for food after sex though is better still. It’s the walk of shame, but the improved version – it’s that same longing for food, often filthy food, that you get when you’ve been drinking. Walk the streets of any city after getting laid and I swear to god that *everything* will smell of food. Curry, chips, hot dogs being fried at the side of the road. Every-fucking-thing.

Recently I took myself to a very good restaurant after sex – a long time favourite. The kind where you have to queue to get in and you sit round the bar and watch the chefs preparing the food. Ok, ok, it was here.

They managed to squish me in because I was on my own – it’s always easier to get seated if you’re alone in a restaurant with very limited covers. Everybody was dressed up for a night out in London. Me? I had a bruise forming on my collarbone, dry lips from my lipstick sealant, and come in my hair. Yes, you read that right. I ate deep fried croquetas, Spanish omelette, tuna and a shitload of garlic. It was a-mazing.

I sometimes wonder if people feel sorry for me when they see me out and about on my own like that on a Saturday night. I wonder if they think I’m lonely. I’m not, not at all. Earlier that same day, I’d walked the full length of Oxford Street, dodging the tourists, cursing the dawdlers. I felt lonely then. But at night? I just don’t.

I’m not a big lover of cities, but I do like the way they change at night – the way the pace both slows and speeds up, the way the crowds thin enough to make your life easier, but not enough to make you feel alone. After I’d finished eating, I walked the couple of miles back to the bus stop, stopping from time to time to gaze longingly into the windows of bookshops that had long since closed for the night or weaving my way around a couple snogging in the middle of the pavement.

I tried to pin down what I was feeling, and for a few moments it escaped me. But that, that being alone in the middle of the city, sated in all possible ways, that feels a lot like happiness.