No. 101 In the words of My Husband

“Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for joining us today to celebrate our marriage and thanks to Lizzy’s sister and best friends for making sure Liz’s hen night was suitably naughty and everyone else who has helped do everything.
I also want to acknowledge the people who aren’t here. Liz’s mother, who I never got the chance to meet and her father who passed away in June. I didn’t get to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but Liz and myself were present when he spoke with us whilst recovering from a particularly traumatic operation, and despite being high as a kite on pain killers was somehow able to talk for a short while in a very lucid way giving Liz the thumbs up and telling her that she’d picked a good’un. It was a significant moment for us.
Up until then I’d often thought of asking Liz to marry me, but it was that particularly moment that switched on the green light in my mind and gave me the courage and conviction to pop the question.
So now, my lovely wife.
We are all unique, although some are a little more unique than others! Liz doesn’t fit into this category. She is her own category. Any of you who have experienced her performances on stage over the years will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Before we met, I’d been single for about a year and a half. Poor Liz on the other hand had been in the wilderness for 4 WHOLE …. DAYS.
She’s a woman of many virtues. Patience isn’t one of them.
We met at a friend’s party and it was the first evening in a very long time that I decided to make an effort and see who was out there. I didn’t know anyone apart from the hosts, so after attempting to ‘work’ my way round the room I gradually discovered that I’d spent ages chatting up all the married women. I started to concede that typically, things weren’t going that well and my chances were going from slim to zero.
And then, Liz turned up! We were introduced and soon got chatting, and just as things started getting interesting I typically managed to kick an entire bottle of red wine over the hosts cream rug, but we sorted it out together with a lot of salt and apologies.
A little while later I felt a nudge and those immortal words that will forever be indelibly etched onto my brain. “Do you want to come back to my place? I’ve got a pool”
There was only one answer to this question. Fast forward a half an hour later and I’m outside in a car park in my pants and a bottle of tequila in my hand staggering towards this enigmatic and mysterious swimming pool in, of course, the Peckham Pioneer Centre.
It’s 3am, mid February and I’m aware that these aren’t exactly what you would call optimum conditions for showcasing ones credentials! It was a very good job she wasn’t wearing her glasses.
So that was the first time we met and after managing only one date together things developed at warped speed.
I have to admit that in the early days despite being very attracted to Liz I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to handle her. I just couldn’t understand how there seemed to be about half a dozen people packed into this very petite frame. I secretly named her ‘The Circus’ and the circus had definitely arrived in my town.
My feelings of apprehension quickly evaporated on the night that Liz turned up at my flat in Forest Hill, 8 floors up in a tower block. She had a roast dinner on a plate in one hand and a bottle of champagne in another and apart from a coat the only other thing she was wearing was a big smile.
“Hello” she said. Wow I thought, X rated meals on wheels. That was when one half of my brain had a quick word with the other half.
“It’s never gonna get better than this mate!”
I knew then that she was definitely the one.
As I got to know Liz I revised my ‘circus’ idea and then thought of her more as a multi-faceted, very sparkly rare gem. It’s all there to see, nothings hidden, but there’s an awful lot going on. So apart from her gorgeousness and my obvious attraction to her I’ve written a list of some of her many facets,
Insightful, generous, warm, funny (very funny, very very funny), affectionate, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, courageous, unique, creative, supportive, fun (lots and lots of fun)
It’s no mean feat forging a successful relationship and intertwining your life with someone when you’ve had decades of experiences behind you, there’s history, there’s baggage, ex partners and there are children to consider. Thanks to our four kids, you’ve all been amazing!
Liz has been instrumental in creating an environment for all this to be possible, and it is her exceptional organizational skills, foresight, ability to listen, understand, know where the boundaries lie, and general way of looking at life that have made what could have been a potentially fractious and difficult situation, a positive, warm and harmonious one for all of us.
Like any couple, we have had our fair share of issues to deal with, and there has been some difficult and traumatic situations to overcome. We have always faced everything together, communicated with each other and looked for the real causes that underline these things. When your other half is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience there is absolutely no chance of a handy carpet to sweep anything unpleasant under, no dark corners to hide in.
The positive result is that we have bonded closer together and have a relationship that grows deeper and stronger each and every day.
I have been asked a couple of times over the last year “why do you want to get married?” you could argue that it’s not really necessary, there’s no real need to do so. My answer to that question is that I simply can’t imagine not being married to Liz. She is the only one for me.
We’ve now got the honeymoon period to look forward to, it’s a good job I’m doing yoga once a week!”
I would now like you all to raise your glasses to my beautiful and extraordinary wife!

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No. 100 The Lifeguard

I was born in Leigh-on-Sea with a whole in my heart. My parents had encouraged me to swim (also recommended by Great Ormond Street) to help my hole in the heart close, and that bit worked, but when I got really good at swimming and was picked to swim for Southend-on-Sea, they weren’t able to attend the galas and I stopped, and then all I could think about was boys. My primary school friend wrote in my autograph book “If all the boys lived over the sea, what a good swimmer Lizzy would be” and I’ve swum and swum, in and out of relationships and into the waters of comedy in swimming pools.

Diving from Camberwell-on-Sea to Edinburgh-on-Sea and back to South London, buying a house with my life guard in Peckham-on-Sea, then I did a master’s degree on the psychosomatics of life and promiscuity, every symptom covered from physical to accidental, from eating disorder to environmental. My life guard and I were entwined in the embryonic sac of the Peckham Experiment, and then came the low tide and my mother died, and the experiment failed.

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No. 98 Jigsaw Puzzle Man

My head was still throbbing when the phone rang the next morning.
“Liz, its’ Barry. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay” I said, then reminded myself of when the girls at the end of boyfriend No. 21 beat me up then apologised cause they’d got the wrong person and I’d said, “that’s okay”,
“Actually, it’s not okay. I was frightened and it’s not fair for you to blame your whole life on what happened to us yonks ago.”
“I’m really sorry, can I make it up to you?”
“I’ll call you when I’m down Rayleigh next.” But I never did.

Minx, Cambridge dictionary – a girl or young woman who knows how to control other people to her advantage

Minx, Oxford dictionary – An impudent, cunning, or boldly flirtatious girl or young woman, ‘you saucy little minx!’

The words stayed in my head which continued to hurt for the next few days.

Jisaw Puzzle Man and I finally met after hours of chatting on the phone, I’d liked his ‘Time Out’ ad and we got on well. Ewart was in his late 30’s, divorced and lived in a tower block in Kennington.  I didn’t fancy him, but as it turned out that didn’t matter, we were happy enough to just enjoy each other’s company. My friend with MS had just moved to Richmond and Shane was going to Australia in a few weeks, I worried about impending loneliness and it was so close to when Ian and I were ending.

“I love therapy” Ewart had said after a discussion about my work.  “I’m at it 5 mornings a week, love it.”
I’d never met anyone in psychoanalysis and hadn’t at that point come across anyone to have had more therapy than me.
“How comes?” I asked. “How could you afford it?” Ewart was unemployed.
“It’s free. I go to the Maudesly. They have trainees there, I’m a Guinea pig. They needed someone reliable to turn up to sessions and I don’t ever let anyone down, ever. It’s part of my problem, I’m a perfectionist, I’m so worried I’ll fail at something I never get anything done.”
Ewart had turned his hand to many things in life, without succeeding, I could see how his marriage had failed, but now, with the help of his analyst, he was determined to complete the cranial-sacral training he’d started the year before.
“I was wondering,” he continued, “I need guinea pigs for my training. Would you be up for it?”
“God yeah, I need to do something new” We agreed on an initial session the following week.

I hadn’t been to Ewart’s flat before, our relationship had developed in cafes and pubs. I walked in through his hallway, on first glance the flat looked a similar layout to mine, but every wall was covered with jigsaw puzzles, hanging from every space, from small large work with small pieces to the classic 1,000 or more pieced puzzles. Castles, cats and quaint English villages, all stuck together and framed with that sick coloured pine.
“Blimey Ewart” I said as he showed me into his therapy room. “You like a good jigsaw then!” This room was also covered in his jigsaw handy work, the theme seemed to be flowers.
“What do you think of the room? I’ve made the living room into a bedsit, I’ve tried to make it look professional, it could do with a lick of paint, gonna do that when I’ve finished my essays, one thing at a time.”
“It’s fine. It’s like my flat, my bedroom is my therapy room. Shall I jump on the couch? Am assuming I keep my clothes on?”
“Yes. Jump on and we’ll get cracking.”
I heaved myself onto the massage table, I’m so tiny but my whole body and head felt heavy. I tried to relax while Ewart paced about the room.
“Everything ok?” I asked, wondering what he was doing, he seemed nervous.
“Yes, yes, I just can’t find my notebook, I need to take down some notes, it’s all for the course.”
“Am I your first guinea pig?”
“No, no, I’ve been practising on other students for the last year, it’s going well, don’t worry.”
I lay with my head on a pillow, in front of me on the wall was a jigsaw of one single rose. The folds of the pink leaves reminded me of the obvious, but this puzzle was different, I could see a tiny bit of dark card near the top of the picture.
“Ewart, there’s a piece missing in that one.” I leaned up and pointed.
“Really?” he seemed surprised but didn’t look to check. He was now sat to my right with his pad. “Everything can’t be perfect” said the perfectionist. Maybe he’d done it deliberately, part of his therapy.

Ewart asked me a series of questions about my health and history. I found myself telling him a lot more than I’d anticipated.
“What was your parent’s relationship like?” he asked.
“Sad, really sad. They’d both had it tough, both were evacuated in the war, my mother had a good time and seemed to prefer her Derbyshire family more than her Essex one, her brother died after WW2 when he got back from serving in Palestine, it broke her heart. My father was abused on a Yorkshire farm, he jokes about it but I know it was horrific, his older sister was evacuated nearby and was eventually allowed to visit him, she called the services and he was taken out and sent to someone in Wiltshire where he had a better time of it. Mum’s first love died in a motorbike accident then her and my Dad got together at the Methodist youth club, Dad jokes, “The youth club was like picking a rugby team at school” and Dad loved rugby, so much so that my sister and I always thought he’d rather have had boys. I never ever saw my parents kiss or hug. My father had affairs, some short, some longstanding. They in their words “rubbed along”. Perhaps I’ve had so many relationships because I refuse to ‘rub along’. ” I laughed. “There’s got to be more, hasn’t there? What do you think Ewart?”
“How do you feel about you parents now?”
“I love them and I do feel sad, but I seem to be able to accept their failings as parents, I’ve moved on from feeling angry. I just feel sad.”
“But you still struggle in relationships”
“Ewart, you’re sounding like Ian, can we get on with the treatment? This isn’t psychoanalysis.” As soon as I said this I realised – of course he’d be interested, of course he’d want to look deeper, he was in analysis himself, he knew the benefit of knowing all this stuff.
“It’s helpful for me to know how to work on you, the questions I ask are guided by you, and what’s on your mind right now. It’s deep stuff, you’ve had a lot of therapy so I can go deeper.”
“That’s cool. Go for it. I’m curious.”
Ewart swiveled his chair behind me and lay his hands gently on my head, I found myself completely relaxing and nearly drifting off to sleep. I don’t know how long he’s hands had been there when I had a flashback, back in Essex, in my room with the twin beds, I’m trying to sleep but I can’t, Dad enters the room, naked, walks down the small isle between the beds and gets in the twin.
I have no recollection of the rest of the session with Ewart, but memories of my father’s intrusion came flooding back. I spoke about the flashback with Ian on our next session, we were ending the following week, I told him everything I’d remembered and he listened.  Why had my parents not known what wasn’t good for me? I knew the answers, how could they possible think of me when they weren’t able to think about their own relationship.  My Dad in the bed, lying next to me wanking, an invasion of my sexual integrity. How did he not think of me, my space?  I didn’t blame my Dad, I just had to feel this pain of my child who wasn’t thought about. I’d found the missing piece of my puzzle and strangely felt a sense of relief.

My Dad loved jigsaw, we used to do them together when I was a child (you may remember my postcard from Spain in No. 4) a 1000 word puzzle would take over the dining table which pissed Mum off. He finally made a board which could be taken on and off the table and placed somewhere else, mid jigsaw.  This irritated her just as much as the dog having to dance around it and get under her feet.
“You will, at some point, think and feel something different.” I remembered Ian’s words very early on in our therapy, I’d left that session with not a clue what he was getting at, so much of what he said went over my head but now I knew exactly what he meant. Everything was different now, everything Ian had said were seeds of hope I would grow, it would take time, but I would do it. Something massive had changed inside of me.

After our final session I went home and sat in my garden and mediated. It was a beautiful sunny day. For the first time in my life I didn’t have the urge to rush out to find a boyfriend, like bulimia, it was a symptom I was shaking off. I was able to sit with myself, with no cigarettes, no alcohol, nothing, just myself and as I absorbed the sun I felt like a new, rich self-esteem had covered me with gold and inside the MS fizzing was fizzing away.
“Reverse it, reverse it, reverse it.” I mediated, visualising every part of my body, everywhere it had expelled pain and dis-ease.  I knew if I wobbled, if the new covering slipped off, it wouldn’t matter, Ian could get it back on, I was seeing him for a follow-up in a month’s time, maybe I could put it back on myself.

Ewart and I became the closest of friends. He passed his course with flying colours and began to do very well as a body therapist. There was never a love interest between us but we did express love as friends, we became very close.

In therapy, when symptoms have finally shifted, there is room for creativity and exploration of something different. Ian had told me about Morley College, an adult education college in Lambeth, I signed up for a Saturday acting course and began meeting all sorts of interesting creative people, a change to hanging out with just therapists. I wasn’t alone anymore, and like buses, it wasn’t long before three offers of a date came at once. I went on to choose what I thought was the best of the three, my choice turned out to be one of my best ever life choices.

No. 97 The Lost Boys

I came across a book ‘Captivated – J.M. Barri, the Du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Neverland’ by Piers Dudgeon. There is a quote in the book “in 1928 Jim (Barrie) completed the rehabilitation of his conscience by donating the copyright in Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital. He made the gift ‘for the very best reasons’, according to Nico, ‘but also for the ‘not-quite-so-good- reason’ that he hoped everyone would say what a splendid thing he had done.”
I found the reference to GOSH interesting because, of course, I had been a patient there and a regular admirer of the Peter Pan statue, but the possibility of Barrie’s abuse on his 5 lost boys fascinated me more. For some reason I was finding myself working more and more with women who had been abused, because of this, I was booking myself onto professional development courses to support this work (on top of the regular supervision one has to have as a counsellor).
Re The Lost Boys, I first began listing my boyfriends after watching ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. The list grew and grew, then for a while I stopped counting and began forgetting, but since writing this blog I am reminded of some I had forgotten, and some who have been popping up in my dreams and thoughts. For example, I was driving through Croydon and past the Fairfield Halls and suddenly remembered the 4th violinist I went out with (I think he played for the Royal Scottish Philharmonic Orchestra) we met in Tenerife and he would invite me to concerts, but only to make his 1st violinist girlfriend jealous and when I recently attended a “How to get Published” day at Regence College, I remembered the Chinese psychologist I’d met twenty years previously (on one of the sexual abuse study days) but we never had sex because his bed was covered in cuddly toys, and if you have been reading my blogs you’ll know how much I hated cuddly toys.
There is, however, a significant lost boyfriend I left out, for a reason.
I had one month to go before Shane left for Australia and 2 months therapy left with Ian (who had come clean and told me he was actually retiring, it wasn’t just that he’d had enough of me!) Whilst listening to the ‘Time Out’ messages from Ewart (whose messages nearly used up all my answer phone space, he’s No. 98 the next one to write about after this) there was a message from, let’s call him BBB, Basildon Boyfriend Barry who I had been in love with in between No’s. 25/29.
Whilst in Rayleigh at Christmas I’d met one of BBB’s friends in a pub. He’d told me that Barry was back living with his parents and would be pleased to hear from me. I gave him my number and I was delighted to hear Barry’s message in between Ewart’s monologues. I rang him back and we reminisced. BBB sometimes worked in London and he suggested we go for a beer one day after work. This happened the following week. He was working at Canary Wharf so we met at Rotherhithe and sat outside the Mayflower pub.  Even though it was freezing, it was nice to watch the ripples of the Thames that took me back to my Essex routes that I was becoming fonder of since my Christmas visit. Apart from Rayleigh, work and the Rubber Nipple Club I hadn’t been out much. With the impending loss of Ian and Shane I was concerned about being lonely and depressed again, my fantasy was that Barry and I would fall back in love, I’d move back to Essex, with him, and everything would be alright, one of the things I’d loved about Barry was his family, they liked me, it was before I had MS.  We would have babies together.
“What happened when you went to Germany?” I asked, his friend had told me he’d been away for some years.
“Can’t tell you. I’ve done some pretty awful shit, you wouldn’t want to know”
“That makes me more curious. You won’t shock me, ” I said “I’ve heard everything at the Samaritans, I was a Samaritan in Brixton prison too, and my ex was in prison for armed robbery and I know a murderer, but he’s done his time, so does that mean he’s still a murderer?! How much worse can it be?”
“I can’t tell you.” He said. Paused then smiled. I looked into his eyes and he reminded me of Fraser, his eyes were pinned, he was a junky. I’d so hoped not. “I loved you. You broke my heart.”
“I loved you. It was a long time ago.”
I was driving and had stopped drinking after my first pint but Barry had carried on, 3 then 4… I was worried he’d miss his last train, as handsome as he was, and looking good despite the obvious, I wasn’t in the mood for taking him home so I suggested I give him a lift to the tube, even though it was round the corner, he was drunk and I was concerned he would get lost. I parked outside the tube.
“You fucked me up.”
“I was fucked up.”
“You fucked up my life? You fucked it all up. I’ve never been able to do relationships. It’s all been a fuck up.”
I felt trapped in my Fiat Panda, Rotherhithe station was deserted, it was late, the roads quiet. I was scared. Barry took his seatbelt off and leaned over me.
“You fucking broke my heart. You fucked me up. It’s your fault. And you call yourself a counsellor, who the fuck do you think you are?”
Silence, seconds lasting hours, he stared into me and lifted his arm.
Many years ago, in Pelekas (during No’s 55/74), Marni and I had been hitchhiking and got a dodgy lift, not quite in the same vein as No. 85, but it was a man who had a knife and was set to attack us. Marni was sat in the front next to him, and I was in the back, with no door to escape out of the car. The man pulled over into olive groves off the beat and track somewhere in Corfu and he’d gone to reach for something, a knife it turned out to be, but Marni knew and she grabbed his arm, looked into his eyes and said “If you touch us I’ll fucking kill you. Get out Liz” and she lunged her front seat forward with her right hand whilst digging her long black painted nails of her other hand into his arm. I got out of the car and she let go of him and we legged it and hid in the groves with snakes until it got light and we hitched back to Pelekas beach.

Stretching my seat belt I reached for Barry’s arm and held it.
“You need to get out of the car. You’ll miss your train.” He pulled away and sat back on the seat. “You need to go home.” He remained. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I didn’t know how you felt back then. I was fucked up.”
“You’re a fucking little minx.” He got out of the car and slammed the door. I was scared to look in the mirror to check he’d gone into the tube. I pulled away quickly and drove back to my flat.

There is a small step in the foyer of the flats before you got to my door. I’d always been so conscious of it, even when my walking was worse. I forgot it was there, I wasn’t using a stick, I stumbled and fell back onto my head.
“You fucking little minx.” The words haunted me, I’d cut my head and as I put my hand up to it I could feel the fresh blood, then a memory came back, not another boyfriend, it was my father. I was age 16, the same age I was when I was with Barry. I’d been late home, very late home and my father had been looking for me with the dog and when he’d got home I was already in bed, he came in my room, pulled me out of bed by my hair and shouted:
“You fucking little minx” I don’t know what happened next, but I remember my head hurt.

My head hurt.