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.

No. 95 Ever wondered why you pick boyfriends who are so inaccessible?

“We are ending in six months,” Ian said “and you have picked a partner who is moving to the other side of the world, leaving you, the month before we end. I wonder what you think about that?”
“Nothing, it’s a deal we have, just for 6 months. It ties us over.”
“And the deal involves one where you are left.”
“Yes, but it would work the other way round, if I was going to Australia.” Shane was one of my more successful ‘Time Out’ dates I’d allowed Ian in on.
“And what about your feelings?”
“It’s just sex”  There was silence.  Who was I kidding?
“You’ve talked a little more recently about the hole in your heart and I’ve been thinking.”
“What?”
“Well, treatment is different today, but when you were born, it wasn’t unusual that when a child was diagnosed with having a hole in the heart, they might die. I was wondering if your parents, particularly your mother, struggled to bond with you because they thought you might die.”
“I guess that’s possible.”
“I wonder also, if this has come up in relation to our ending, and your continued struggle in relationships. You already know that you and Shane will end, before the relationship has really started, you perhaps tell yourself, like you did in our earlier work, that you can avoid the feelings around this and around our ending and your feelings towards me.”
“Maybe”
“I wonder then that your body becomes the location for these feelings.”
Stop fucking wondering Ian.  Sometimes I hated him so much because he was so often spot on. I’d had another relapse (soon after the Lake District trip with Darren) and was back using a walking stick.
I was so angry with Ian’s interpretation that it made me more determined to make the very most out of my ‘Time Out’ relationship with Shane – as much as I made the very most out of each session with Ian as I counted down the weeks we had left.
Shane was Irish, a social worker and another biker. Every Wednesday evening (the only day of the week I didn’t see Ian) he would ride over on his motorbike with a bottle of wine. He’d knock on the door and say:
“Pardon me, but I seem to have run out of coffee. Would you like to have sex?” and we’d have sex, with much bottom spanking.
Shane didn’t give a shit about me having MS, he wouldn’t have had fantasies of having to look after a girlfriend in a wheelchair, he would be gone in a few months, and anyway, he liked my walking stick, he said it was kinky and we played with it, I’d bought one of those fold up ones from the walking stick shop (James Smith & Sons, New Oxford Street, my MS friends had told me about) the new stick flipped out like a magic wand. Being a social worker Shane said he liked to be around people in need – just like Ian, just like me, all wounded healers no doubt. And Ian was right, yet again, I was becoming attached to Shane and just before Christmas when he told me he’d bought his one way ticket to Australia I cried and he hugged me tight, I think he felt the same.
“Let’s go out tonight, for a change,” he said. “Have you got anything that looks vaguely S&M?”
“Umm.” This time Niall’s Barbour jacket would not do the trick. Here I was again, regretting getting rid of my old leather and suede kinky clothes with their tassels and mesh, fortunately I had kept a tan leather mini skirt which still fitted and I found a black tight large knit top and put it on, undid my bra and slid it out from under the top. “This do?” I flipped my stick out, clipping Shane’s thigh with the rubber ferrule.
“You look great” he said, always looking like he was about to go to an S&M club with his leather waistcoat and tight leather trousers, but tonight, he took off the waist coat, whipped his t shirt off, and put it back on, leaving us both with semi-bare chests, of a sort. We snogged, ordered a cab and snorted cocaine.
We arrived at the Rubber Nipple Club somewhere in or around Vauxhall just after midnight (I’ve googled but I can’t find a trace of where it was, only the Royal Naval Club comes up in Portsmouth, which reminds me …..). The taxi had been delayed so we’d done another line of coke, or two. Shane paid for us to get in and the bouncer smiled at him, I knew he’d been here many times before, but on other S&M nights when it was called other things (maybe the RNC was a one off ?), and not of course on Wednesday nights, that was our night.
We walked into a large space that was sectioned off into different areas. There was a cage in the middle with a woman in it, swinging on a swing and sticking long thick needles into her nipples. There was a large table where people stood, queuing to get on for a whipping session, the whip held by a tall woman wearing a red bask, stockings and high black leather boots. There was another man/woman sat in similar attire but wearing the highest and thinnest of heels I’d ever seen, a man wearing only a nappy knelt on the floor beside her, licking the heels of her boots. There were many more matriarchs strolling around the club holding leads followed by their masked gimps. There were chains, belts and something that looked like a leather stretching rack which had a sign ‘out of use’ on it. I was glad I’d bought my walking stick, I didn’t really need it, the cocaine had taken symptoms away, temporarily.
Shane led me into a room that from the outside looked like a vagina with red flowing material covering the outside walls. Inside was like being in a vagina, the walls dressed with pink and red creased different fabrics and feathered crepe paper blowing in front of a fan that hung from a corner of the ceiling. There were benches around the room, also covered with pink/red materials, and a space in the middle with dark cushions spread over the floor where four or five people licked and romped. It was dark in the womb, so difficult to see detail, but you could feel, smell and hear hot wet sex. The throbbing base of the house music from outside of the womb merged with the gurgling underwater dolphin-like music playing inside.  It didn’t turn me on, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that it was possible, at any moment I may bump into a client.
I was relieved to discover Shane’s role in the club was one of a voyeur. I followed suit and as curious as I was, I was looking forward to when we would be back in my flat. After the womb we walked into a much larger space with a stage where a drag queen was belting out Abba and Sylvester “You make me feel, Mighty real” my all-time favourite disco song. Shane went to the bar which was in another space somewhere and I stood, dancing against the back wall, playing with my stick like it were my dance partner. Men came to talk with me, I felt like I fitted in and was having such a great time that I hadn’t noticed Shane had been gone for probably an hour. He eventually returned with drinks which we drank quickly then headed home in one of the many taxis that were parked outside the club. Shane rang in sick the next morning and we cuddled in bed. He left around midday, wishing me a merry Christmas and arranging his next visit for the Wednesday after New Year.
After he’d left, and the drugs and drink had worn off, my physical symptoms returned, this time with a depression. With no boyfriend, Marni now moved away and other friends busy, I decided to go to my parents for Xmas. I hadn’t stayed at the family home since I’d left. It was strange being in my old bedroom. My parents had since decorated it with yellow flowery wallpaper. They’d taken out the twin beds and replaced it with one single. The room seemed so small and I wondered how they’d got the two beds in in the first place.  On Xmas eve I had a dream I was looking in a book about insects and the spiders in the picture came alive, got out of the book, grew and waved their tentacles at me.   I was trying to scream in the dream but couldn’t. I woke with my jaw aching.
Rayleigh at Xmas was tolerable, I was beginning to see a more vulnerable side to my parents as they were getting older. I got taxis to the Rayleigh pubs and met with old friends, lovers and Boyfriend No. 21, still glued on his stool until last orders when he’d fall off.  I ate my dry Xmas turkey with stewed veg and for the first time at my parents since age 15 I didn’t make myself sick.  Ian had cured me of that, at least.

Dad had agreed to drive me back to London the day after boxing day. As soon as I got in the car I felt more depressed.
“Can I put a cassette on?” I asked, sick of listening to radio 2.
“Yes, let’s listen to The Seekers.” I put on The Seekers tape, the one we’d listened to when Dad rescued me from Fraser’s Gunnersbury block, that block that they use now in the location of ‘People do Nothing’, that block that you can see clearly from the A4, the one I’d been avoiding for years, and avoiding Fraser.

Dad still didn’t understand how to use the car cassette and only played them when I was with him, there were only two, The Seekers and the Carpenters ‘best of’ and we’d only done two journeys together since he’d got a car with a cassette.  The songs made me feel worse “…. and I know I’ll never find another you…”  then halfway to London I swapped tapes “I’m on the top of the world …” the songs reminded me of Fraser. It was strange that of all my boyfriends it was Fraser who had affected me the most, the one I related to the most, the one where we felt on top of the world after an injection of heroin, the one who drove me into therapy. I was worried that when Ian and I ended our work together I might relapse, find Fraser again or worse still seek out another co dependant relationship. Shane was a blip, a way of making the ending with Ian more tolerable. I wondered whether I was finally, after all these years, internalising the work we were doing, I had become dependent on Ian, that was why things were changing, he’d re-parented me, emotionally, but it would soon be time to say goodbye and fly the nest. Maybe after I stopped seeing Ian I would find my prince charming, maybe that’s how it worked?

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No. 94 Cont. ‘Riders on the Storm’

Darren picked me up Friday morning at 9am on the dot. I hoped he wasn’t disappointed I lived in a council flat. My neighbour’s stairwell and our front doors had recently been used as a location for the drug dealer’s house in Gary OIdman’s film ‘Nil by Mouth’.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Darren asked. I stood in the hallway wearing pvc trousers and a thin black leather jacket I’d bought off a friend in an attempt to get the ‘old’ Liz look back after Niall. “I’ve got a spare pair of waterproofs and gloves you can borrow, have you got another jacket?”
“Only a Barbour coat thing” I yanked Niall’s airport gift off the coat hook. “That do?”
“The weather’s looking shit, best thing to keep dry. If you came off, that thin leather jacket wouldn’t save you anyway.”   We togged up, helmets and gloves on, and set off.
Being on the back of the bike with numb legs was fine but being on the back of the bike with only short petrol breaks, in the rain, all the way to the Lake District was challenging. The fantasy of a fun rocking horse ride in GOSH was turning into the nightmare x-ray machine of the 1960’s.

At the beginning of the journey I’d put my arms around Darren’s waist but he pushed me away so I had to hold onto the back handle, for dear life. After an hour or so my arms ached so much that at times I didn’t think I could keep holding on. I missed my other biker boyfriends who loved me holding onto their torsos and stroking their leather trousers at traffic lights, looking into the cars beside, and stroking the trousers more. I wished I was with someone else and was already concerned about Darren’s lack of intimacy but there was no going back now.
We arrived at the family run hotel on the shores of Lake Windermere. I was dying for a cigarette but I’d told Darren I didn’t smoke as he hated it. We had food then went to bed. In my small rucksack I’d packed one of the silk underwear sets Niall had bought our last Valentines days, not quite the crutch less knickers and peep-hole bra I wore when we watched his porn, but something on the more subtle sexy side. I’d hoped Darren would like it. But he didn’t seem to notice and just rolled on and off then went straight to sleep. I lay awake all night, pining for past lovers.
Our room was enormous, more like a suite. In the morning Darren leapt out of bed naked and got out an ironing board and iron from the large dresser. He ironed everything he was about to put on. Army life I guessed, I had 48 hours to accept him, he would have to accept me, I needed a fag.
“It’s pissing it down, too wet for the bike. I’m gonna get breakfast and have a walk into town.”
“Ok. I’m gonna lie in. Would you get me some Silk Cut? I like a cigarette on my hols. I buy a packet and it lasts me all year, just the odd one.” It wouldn’t bother him. He wasn’t going to be kissing me anyway.
“Sure” he said and left me lying in bed. I made myself a cuppa with the tiny carton of sterilised milk and went back to sleep.  A few hours later:

“Wake up. Fancy the cinema? Nothing else to do, it’s still pissing it down.”
Without the Kawasaki underneath him and Darren’s seemingly lack of interest in me, he was becoming more and more unattractive. My body was aching like fuck from the ride and my Dr Martins were wet inside. I tried to make myself comfortable in the small intimate cinema. The film was Twister, it was shit, I worried that the tornadoes in the film were happening outside the tiny picture house. I worried that if the weather got any worse, we’d not be able to go home the next morning. I worried that I might die on a motorway, sliding off the bike at 110mph, my fingers not able to hold on any longer.
“Shall we get some food?” he asked, when the film credits came up.
“I’m not hungry, you get something and I’ll hang out in the bar or the room.” I then did what I was used to doing, rather than believing that Darren had intimacy issues, I turned it back on myself, like my bulimia symptoms and I decided that perhaps Darren didn’t fancy me and that I was fat, ugly, worthless. Whatever the case, I didn’t want to eat a meal. I needed time alone to push down my disappointment and increasing awareness of my stupidity for going away with a complete stranger. What a fucking idiot I was.
Back at the hotel I went to the bar, smoked the pack of Silk Cut, drunk a bottle of wine and enjoyed a hearty meal of peanuts sandwiched in crisps. I was good at filling ashtrays and getting pissed and felt better immediately.
I chatted with the barman and played ‘Riders on the Storm’ and ‘The Entertainer’ on the hotel piano, my right hand still numb but I seemed to be able to play ok on booze, maybe the journey had strengthened my hands. The barman sang along. “If you give this man a ride, sweet family will die. Killer on the road.” The fantasy of dying on the motorway was becoming greater. “Gotta love your man, take him by the hand, make him understand.” Maybe I should talk with Darren, see how he felt? No, I did that with Fraser and Niall, didn’t get me anywhere.
When the barman eventually closed up I went up to our room to find Darren fast asleep. I crept under the covers, making sure our bodies didn’t touch. I went straight to sleep.
“Are you coming down for breakfast?”   He said in the morning.
“I’m not hungry, you go”
I couldn’t face any happy couples or families enjoying their full English. I looked out of the window. Thank fuck it was sunny. I got up, used the last of the sterilised milk sachets for a cuppa and ate the complimentary ginger nuts. I packed away my underwear and put on my boots which were still damp inside. Darren came back from breakfast, showered, ironed clean clothes, put his leathers over them, we togged up again and left the hotel.
The journey home was tough, but not quite the ‘Twister’ hurricane I had fantasized. After each mile I was relieved to be closer to home, but unlike the journey there, Darren didn’t seem to want to get home, he wanted to enjoy weather and kept turning off the motorway for breaks in ‘pretty’ places.  He’d get his out camera and take photos of me in front of the Kawasaki, or I’d have to take one of him in front of the Kawasaki. The excruciating journey became twice as long as I’d anticipated.
We arrived back at my flat at 9pm, Sunday evening, on the dot. I was surprised that he parked his bike, took his helmet off and walked with me to my flat door.
“I bought you this” he said standing outside the door, handing me a multi coloured paper bag, inside was a small china teddy with ‘Windermere’ painted on it.
“Ah, thanks.  It’s cute,” Oh no, another fucking teddy.
“I’ll ring you.” He said. Not even a peck on the cheek.
I put the china teddy on my kitchen windowsill and waved Darren off, I heard the bike rev up and then the beautiful sound coming from the cylinder engines that soon faded away. I breathed a sigh of relief, I had made it home, I had survived another risk taking adventure. I put the china teddy on the windowsill, knowing it would be in the charity before long.
I was surprised when Darren rang a week later.
“I’m sorry I haven’t called before. I had an accident, I came out of hospital yesterday.”
“Are you ok?”
“Not really, I came off the bike.”
“Where? How?”
“I was driving back from yours last Sunday and as I was pulling into my road I took the corner too sharply, ridiculous.”
“After all those hundreds of miles…”
“I broke my leg and slipped a disc.”
I felt guilty and visited Darren the following evening in his yuppie flat in Wapping, not far from where I’d met Niall in his first flat. I took him food and heated up a ready meal. He had a cleaner who’d been looking after him since he’d come out of hospital. His leg was in plaster and he could hardly move. I didn’t stay long – we had nothing to talk about.
“Take this!” He said as I was about to leave. He held out a Counting Crows CD, I hated the band.
“No, it’s ok, they’re your favourites” And if I borrowed the CD I’d have to come back to return it.
“No, go on.” I felt sorry for him, he seemed as lonely as I was.  I took the CD home and put it on the windowsill by the teddy.  I lit a fag and listened to my latest ‘Time Out’ message on the answerphone.

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The following day there was a ‘Time Out’ message from Stuart.