Part 176: Henry the VIII


I’ve been thinking about Henry the VIII a lot recently. I don’t know why, entirely. Certainly it’s been precipitated by a not insignificant amount of murderous rage towards my ex-lovers, which tends to surface during the onset of winter, when I realise I’ve got a barren few months ahead of me, sexless and alone (I mean, that was also true of the summer, as it turns out, but it’s a lot easier to convince yourself that sex is just around the corner when you can luxuriate in the caresses of the sunshine and wear tops that ‘accidentally’ reveal your nipple) and perhaps if they hadn’t been just such massive dickheads, all of them, for years on end, I might be not be such a neurotic mess now.

Instead of taking personal responsibility for my circumstances (and my choices, because, let’s face it, when you met him in the street at 1am, drinking from a can of supermarket brand cider, you knew he was unlikely to turn into Mr Darcy) I’ve found myself not entirely without sympathy for King Henry’s beheading model. Even though I abhor domestic violence it would just sometimes be very satisfying to see the heads of all the lovers who’ve ever hurt you roll off a guillotine, entirely separate from their bodies. You can’t deny that. Even if you’re really nice.

It would give one a certain amount of confidence, I think, and calm the mind, to know that if he stopped replying to your text messages and then hid from you in the street, you could order some minion to relieve the Earth of his presence, rather than having to awkwardly avoid eye contact the next time you saw him in Tesco. It would definitely be far easier than having to look at Facebook posts of the walking holiday he recently took with his girlfriend, who is his fiancée now, apparently, and, oh, guess what? They are both very pleased. There’s even a picture (she’s made it her profile shot babe, because that’s the type of woman he’s into now) where he is holding his hands in the shape of a heart, right at the base of her spine. Isn’t that just lovely? Doesn’t that image encapsulate the exact kind of romance you’d like to have in your life? Don’t you feel happy for them — and not at all like drinking half a bottle of ice-cold vodka and fucking some bloke you only just met?

(And can I just tell you about her cover picture? It’s a panorama: she is silhouetted atop a mountain, her face turned away from the camera, her hair snaking sexily down her back as she stares into the hazy distance. That’s a beautiful pic hun. It definitely makes me think she is spiritual, calm and connected to nature and not at all that she is a pretentious, insecure, self-absorbed nightmare behind whose back he’ll definitely be fucking other people, just as soon as she stops baking him vegan brownies.)

What has become increasingly obvious (to me, you probably already noticed) is that I have enough vindictive and controlling personality features to actually be Henry the VIII in my next life, if it turns out you can get reincarnated in the past (especially when you factor in my penchant for Catholicism, despite viciously opposing most of its basic tenets). The one surprising thing, actually — and the other reason I’ve been thinking about Henry the VIII more than the normal amount — is that I am fast catching up with him on the romantic partners-count too. I mean, it’s not wholly surprising, because I’ve got great big blue eyes, a banging body and am in every way more aesthetically appealing than an obese sadistic Tudor monarch with gout and a mouldering fur-lined cloak that he rocks out for ‘best’. But still. It’s come as something of a shock considering all I ever really wanted was monogamy — by which I mean a really sexy husband who likes my personality and wants to touch me a lot. (Although, I have been reliably informed by people with actual experience of marriage that the wanting to touch* eachother a lot abruptly ceases, the minute the ink dries on the certificate. So, maybe it would never have worked out for me anyway.)

*I don’t really mean touch. I mean sex. In case you’re not very adept at inference.

Part 175: Renewal


My toenail fell off my left big toe. After sustaining a blunt force trauma earlier in the year, it had hung bravely on for months, staring right at me, defiant. Yes, it was black and dead and painless, but it was still there; still firmly attached to my body. I painted over the damage with scarlet varnish and hoped very much it would stay put. But soon enough, one day, in the bath, after a long run by the river, it peeled off and lifted clean away. I cupped the dead toenail in the palm of my hand for a second before realising that was gross and dropping it, promptly, into the foamy bath water. There was tender pink skin where the nail had been, and a new nail sprouting; fledgling and thin and ugly, but full of promise, like a baby gosling.

It felt like a metaphor for something. And by that I mean I am suggesting it was a metaphor for something: namely my personal growth. And no, I’m not overly bothered that the metaphor is extremely obvious to the point where it seems contrived, because, the fact is, it did actually happen and this blog (like it’s author) is nothing if not honest. (And yes, honesty here might lose me readers in the same way that it often loses me friends in real life, but, as in real life: meh. I never liked you that much in the first place.)

You know how everyone says you’ll always feel as if you’re eighteen, deep inside, even when you’re sixty-five and unable to bend down because a genetic calcium deficiency means your hips are disintegrating? Well, I can now tell you that that particular truism is bullshit.

I’m growing up. At long, long last.

Having felt as if I was eighteen from the age of about three until quite recently, I’d like to let those of you still basking in the stew of youth know that there comes a point when you do really feel like a proper grown up. Like a person in her thirties with a professional job and responsibilities and ambitions she might achieve one day — and, yes, all right, absolutely no sex life to speak of, but do you see me complaining about that babe?

I know it sounds dreadful. I too thought I would be drinking Lambrini through a straw and falling out of my bikini until well into old age. But it turns out maturity is underrated.

For example: I make sensible long-term decisions now, and don’t just careen blindly into whatever is on offer. I remember the events of a night out, even when they occurred after 2am. I can get out of bed before midday (although it has to be said, I don’t do so that often). And crippling bouts of low self-esteem occur only weekly, rather than 6,000 times a minute. Which is a welcome relief.

Of course, I’m still single. I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I’d found anything remotely resembling love. But instead of cursing the Gods for casting me aside, I am instead rejoicing. For: Aren’t I bloody lucky, actually. For: If I had got together with any of the men I’d met in my 20s I would be miserable, no doubt about it.

Everyone I knew in my 20s was awful. Especially the men. They were universally horrid and, universally, treated the women they were with like absolute shit, giving me terrible expectations about how I could anticipate the male half of a heterosexual relationship might behave behind its girlfriend’s back. (Badly.)  (Look, I’m sorry, but if you’re reading this and you are the wife or girlfriend of a guy I knew between 2003 and 2013 I am afraid your partner is definitely shagging other people (not Joe, obviously Lizzie. I met him in 2002 so he doesn’t count)).

But whatever, those times are in the distant past. My skin has finally cleared up and I have nearly paid off the debts I accrued in those wayward spendy years, when a box of designer knickers could fill the cavernous void I felt inside, even if only temporarily.

The nail on my left big toe is long enough to paint again now. The pinkish skin is thick and normal coloured. And the seasons are turning, turning. Isn’t nature a marvellous thing?

*Image is ‘autumn leaves’ by Graphics Mouse at

Piglets Sucking Limes (an update)

Remember a couple of years ago when I wrote a post called ‘Piglets Sucking Limes’ about how the internet had let me down? No? Well you can read it here.

Tl;dr version: I wanted to see piglets sucking limes. Google didn’t have them.

Well, flash forward to today and my brother whatsapps me two videos, which I’ve posted below, demonstrating that the internet is always there for you, in the end.



I don’t mean to tempt fate, but the universe is really doing things for me at the moment. My life just keeps on getting better.


Part 174: Small Happy Things

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I used to go to school with this girl — let’s call her Poppy (even though Poppy is as amusingly far from her real name as you could possibly get. I don’t want to reveal her real name, for obvious reasons — mainly that I’m going to say something mean about her in the next paragraph — you are just going to have to trust me that I’ve made quite a funny joke). We weren’t close. She was in the year above so we didn’t have any classes together, but we did have similar after-school interests that meant we knew each other by name. Anyway, in that random way that sometimes happens, Poppy has stayed a permanent, if fringe, figure in my life, because once or twice a year — sometimes less, if I’m being perfectly honest — I bump into her out of the blue. It’s as if the universe keeps deliberately shoving her in my face, like warning. Who knows for what.

Poppy is perfectly pleasant, if sometimes to unwarranted extremes — last time I saw her, for example, she threw her arms around me and squealed in a kind of over-the-top, enthusiastic way that left me cold and rigid all over — but the reason she gets on my tits is because she has this habit of being deliberately vague about the details of her life. She’s an actor, you see, although she is barely, if ever, working. Fair enough, I am friends with lots of mostly out-of-work actors. But every time I ask Poppy how things are going — and I mean every time, from 1997 to now — she wafts her hands dreamily in front of her face and smiles a thin smile. ‘Oh,’ she says, ‘there’s some really exciting stuff in development, but I can’t say anything yet. You know how it is.’ And I think: ‘No, Poppy. No, babe. I don’t know how it is. If anything even vaguely exciting is happening in my life, developmentally or otherwise, I tell everyone I come across, in tedious detail, including dogs and small children.’ Needless to say, I have never yet seen Poppy bring any of these exciting developments to fruition. Though I’ll be really happy for her when she finally does. (I won’t).

You might have noticed that I have been absent from this blog for some time (despite promising regular postings). My absence is not because I’ve been eating cheese in my bed and mainlining Netflix, as is usually the case during a prolonged writing hiatus, but because, and this is where the Poppy story comes in, I’ve been developing other things that might or might not come to fruition. Sorry to be vague, darlings. I know that it’s so fucking annoying. But all of a sudden I understand why Poppy keeps her cards close to her chest — it’s really disappointing when creative projects you’ve worked and worked and worked at for months or years come to nothing. Which happens more often than you’d probably imagine. I know, I know, you could shut the fuck up about it and wait for the project to materialise into something great or dissolve away, like a tissue on water, but (and this is what I never realised when I was busy judging Poppy), when you’re working at something quietly you want people to know that you’re still in the game. You want everybody to be in no doubt that you have not given up totally on your creative pursuits, although that’s definitely what it looks like from the outside. What I’m saying, then, really, in a rambling anecdotal way, is that I just want you to know that I abandoned my promises about regular content not because of laziness, for once, but because of my enthusiasm for something else that I might or might not one day tell you about.


What has propelled me back here is a sudden upsurge of happiness that I wanted to document before it passes and I’m back to smoking, drinking and contemplating whether or not to slit my wrists before I chuck myself in the river. It’s sort of ironic that my surge of happiness would come now when the rest of the world is completely depressed.

And there is a lot to be depressed about, let’s face it.

The world has gone to shit. Things are not good, generally speaking; globally speaking. Wealth inequality, terrorism, rapidly spreading xenophobia. Brexit (or not). The Zika virus. Donald Trump’s hair (oh and the fact that he has been accused of chid abuse and not one mainstream media outlet thinks this is worthy of headline coverage). Climate change, the slow, painful death of the seas and all life contained within them. ‘Digital Marketing Executives’ and other myriad wankers earning six-figure salaries while teachers, plumbers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, teachers and social workers see diminishing financial returns on their sacrifice.

It’s wall to wall horror and tragedy, everywhere you look.

But I have always been contrary and, true to form, just as the world is wallowing in existential gloom, I’ve started to see beauty everywhere. The bats swooping down over the river as I cycle home in the dark (no street lamps here after midnight, it’s rural), the wafting scent of honeysuckle on the morning breeze, the sky, clear and navy at night, the stars all spread out and sparkling, like diamond dust. Sometimes the beauty is so much I can’t even breathe. And even when there is nothing in particular to stimulate a dopamine rush, say I’m pootling along on an ordinary Friday afternoon, schlepping to the co-op in the drizzle, I’ll suddenly find myself overcome with an unexplained euphoria.

It goes against everything I ever believed about myself. I assumed I was just a miserable bitch, default setting. Sure, I’d had euphoric moments: the morning after good sex with a hot young lovely, the time my first boyfriend said he loved me, when I got told about my PhD scholarship. But they were rare and fleeting and always suffixed with misery of one sort or another (the hot young lovelies rarely call back, as well you know; my first boyfriend eventually dumped me because I made an insensitive remark about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; er, hello? Have you ever tried writing a PhD?). I presumed — from observing both happy friends and melancholy ones, and  reading the old women’s magazines I find abandoned in the staff kitchen — that only significant, unlikely milestones (pregnancy, babies, marriage) would herald similar natural ecstasy. But no. It turns out all you need for happiness is yourself, and a bicycle. And the sweet honeysuckle air of an English summer.

Who knew?

Part 173: The Queen Mother

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Remember Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother? I know she’s been dead for a while now, but somehow she manages to stay semi-relevant: present somewhere in the periphery of your consciousness, barely there but not quite gone, leaping suddenly into view when you least expect her. Or maybe it’s just me. For example, I was on this date a few weeks ago, glugging white wine in a pub in my new hometown — laughing softly at his nervous jokes; tucking loose tufts of hair behind my ears, trying to perfect the ideal combination of wit, empathy and hotness that might one day snare me a husband — and there she appeared, in a framed photograph on the wall. She was smiling and pulling a pint like she always used to do on special occasions, when they wheeled her out for the cameras. She was just how you remember her: dressed in a pastel two piece and matching hat, funny little pointless veil covering the top part of her face — though nothing, unfortunately, shielding us from the horror of her teeth. ‘Who’s that old lady?’ Said my date (who is not that much younger than me actually, it’s just that he didn’t grow up in England, so we can forgive him — I mean, we’ll have to, it’s slim pickings out there and as I might have mentioned I want a baby very very badly and none of my gay friends are willing to help me out with that).

I love the Queen Mother as much as the next person — as in, not that much, but with a grudging affection. She kind of reminds me of my favourite ex-boyfriends (who, similarly, arouse affection despite also being the worst), what with the gambling and the bad teeth and the daytime drinking and the possible, unsubstantiated Nazi sympathies.

Still, as much as the Queen Mother reminds me of my bad exes (and so I get that she is, on some level, sexy), in a funny old way, she also reminds me of myself (as in yes she’s sexy on some level but you wouldn’t marry her, would you? The woman’s deranged and you aren’t a shy, unprepossessing second-in-line to the throne with a stammer and an overbearing mother — although, if you are: hi babe, I don’t think we’ve met). We look remarkably similar; with our thin lips and our fat, heart-shaped, plain-yet-almost-pretty faces; with our slight-yet-sturdy build and the twinkle in our big blue eyes and our fondness for wearing colours that don’t really suit us. All those pictures where we’re holding a half-finished pint aloft like right old goers. My teeth aren’t anywhere near as horrifying, admittedly, but if I carry on smoking, drinking and only visiting the dentist once a decade in the way I do, it really won’t be long before I can compete with the QM in that department.

What’s my point? I barely know, anymore. You try writing a sex blog for four and half years and see how coherent you are. I suppose what I’m trying to tell you is that even though I am quite often baffled at how I’m still single after all these years of trying quite hard not to be, every now and then I catch a fleeting glimpse of myself in the mirror and the shadow of the Queen Mother moves behind my face and I get it. I mean, sure, I’m passably good-looking, I can do all the things you need to do in bed so long as I’m with the right partner. I can change a light bulb and cook a butter chicken curry and run a half-marathon with barely any training. Yes, quite often at parties I make a roomful of people I’ve only just met laugh out loud, I do kind things for strangers (although, full disclosure, I did, recently, after an unsatisfactory customer service exchange, send a Direct Message on Twitter to a woman from my phone company that simply said ‘My God. You are bad at your job.’) and sometimes I volunteer for charity. But I can’t blame all the men for not wanting to impregnate me, because it doesn’t take age-progression software to know that one day I am going to wake up and look like this:

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And, unlike the Queen Mother, I won’t even have the cushion of wealth and breeding to soften the blow.

Part 172: Jeremy Corbyn

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I don’t know if it’s because I am unusually narcissistic, but I often find that newsworthy events have parallels with the circumstances and challenges of my own life. Take, for example, the internal disputes raging within the Labour party about whether to keep or to eject Jeremy Corbyn as leader, which have uncanny resonances with the internal disputes currently raging in my own mind about whether to keep or to reject kind men who treat me nicely, but aren’t quite as exciting as arseholes.

Like the Labour Party, my romantic life for the last couple of decades has been headed up by a series of wildly overconfident, inept sociopaths with endless self-regard. And, like the Labour Party, despite their successively diminishing quality, I’ve been unable to properly envisage a future with someone more suitable — possibly because the first one was initially so intoxicating and we had lots of good times. Sure, the charismatic smooth talkers will inevitably leave you high and dry: they’ll lie to your face, dodge your questions and lead you into an illegal, decade-long war with many thousands of casualties, but still — they’re quite good in bed and they know how to manipulate the mainstream media.

For the last few months, like the Labour party, I’ve respected the mandate of my members (Mum, mates, therapist) and tried something different: giving a go to men who seem honest, straightforward and principled. And, trust me, I know it’s hard. Life seems a little duller when one isn’t on tenterhooks every time one sends a text message; when sex is less frequent and you remember that it’s supposed to be an emotional, as well as a physical, connection, which means you sometimes cry afterwards, although you’re not really sure why. But, on the bright side: you can get things done; you can get down to the proper work of fixing yourself, or your country, of planning a future more stable and happy than the turmoil of the past. You are not constantly distracted by mind games and egoistic power-plays that leave you floundering and uncertain.

I guess what we’re both looking for, the Labour Party and I, is a happy medium: someone sexy, charismatic and cruel but who is, ultimately, reasonable, kind and trustworthy. And this is where I might be able to help out, because I have a head start on the Labour Party here, having spent a lot longer looking for this elusive balance than they have. Luckily, this puts me in a position to advise them. Listen, babies: nice ones are never sort of a little bit arseholes as well. (I know, I know, there’s Nicola Sturgeon, and your mate who married that skiing instructor she met in it Switzerland ¬— you can always cite the exception — but let’s get real, that isn’t going to happen to you.)

Ultimately, whether you’re a single thirty-something woman with amazing boobs hoping to have a baby before the end of the decade, or a political party hoping to revisit the glory-days of the late 90s, when you ruled the country and people were yet to notice you’d sold out by sacrificing your core principles to appeal to the centre-right, you have to decide what you want in the long in term. Yes, someone photogenic, someone with an expensive suit and good chat and lots of answers (who, preferably, knows how to eat a bacon sandwich in public), will probably bring short-term gain. You’ll get balanced press coverage, a cohesive shadow cabinet and you might even be able to have an orgasm without triggering dormant bonding hormones. But the smooth-talkers, sharply dressed and spouting all the answers, always turn out to be charlatans in the end. Haven’t we had enough of bullshitters, me and the Labour party; don’t we just need someone calm and compassionate now, someone we can hold on to during these uncertain times, someone we can really make a future with?

Part 171: Brexit


I wasn’t going to write about the referendum because, really, by now, we’ve heard everything that needs to be said on the subject. But there again: have we? It strikes me that one of the things conspicuously missing from either side of the debate is a serious consideration of how this shit-show will impact my sex life. Because make no mistake: whatever the outcome of the referendum I am going to find it very, very difficult to ever have sex with anyone ever again.

As I type, there are fewer than five hours until polling closes. Tomorrow we’ll find out in no uncertain terms whether the British populace wishes to leave or to remain in the European union. (And by ‘no uncertain terms’ I mean a couple of percentage points either way.)


Despite my being involved in several vociferous social media disputes (I do love an argument and, by the way, I’m very very good at them) I can see the benefits of both possible results. Remain and there might be a little surge in the value of the pound (as I’m currently out of the country any increase in the value of my money is much appreciated. Plus babies, if the pound crashes I will be fucked), Europe will make a bit more of an effort to make us feel special for a while (it’s like when you break up with a guy, and then he begs you to change your mind so you do, and suddenly he starts behaving much more considerately: taking you out and buying you flowers and showering you with little kisses, instead of just sitting gormlessly on the sofa playing Fifa. It never lasts, of course, but it’s a welcome relief from relationship tedium) and we definitely won’t need visas to take a Spanish* holiday. Leave and there will be change (always good), lots of political brouhaha (meaning the papers can divert their attention way from documenting celebrity cellulite this summer) and your racist uncle will finally have his views legitimised by a majority, which means he’ll probably be more chilled out at Christmas.

The whole debacle has utterly put me off sex though. All the men you thought might be worth a go turned out to be thick swivel-eyed fascists, or else earnest right-on lefties who will definitely, at some point, wear socks under their sandals at the beach. Also: you have to think — Gove and Farage and Boris, Cameron and Osborne and Blair, they definitely have sex sometimes, and some of their wives are quite good-looking. How does this happen? How can you put aside your hormonal responses and work out whether you’re fucking someone hot, or someone who will, one day, end up looking and smelling like Nigel Farage? Let me just say my darlings: I’ve thought long and hard on this matter and I’ve come to the realisation that you can’t. (For example, I spent several months a few years ago in a furious online tryst with an old acquaintance. I was smitten. I was into him in all ways, especially sexual ones. Thankfully things did not get physical — because today a picture of him appeared in my Facebook timeline — he’s on holiday somewhere in the Med— bearded and 5 stone heavier. He looked like a vagrant Brian Blessed, only dressed in union jack shorts, holding a pint aloft as though it were a trophy, wearing a stunned, moronic grin. Like, I would probably have married this man, had he asked me five years ago. Would I have come to my senses? Or would I be sexing someone repulsive now, on a regular basis?)

I hope the powers that be have some kind of plan for resetting the national libido, post-result, because, whatever the outcome, I predict a massive decline in British sex. And when have I ever been wrong?

*Though, tbh, I’ve never be overly taken with Spain as a holiday destination. Granted, the weather’s usually good, but it’s a bit arid and bleak, as a landscape, and all the best coastal resorts spoiled with British pubs and perma-tanned Essex Hen Parties (I’d like to say here: no judgement. I’m more or less from Essex myself and I once threw up in an ashtray at an upmarket bar in Puerto Banús. Also: I’d just like to apologise to Greece for the incident with the tampon in the pint-glass on that 18-30s trip circa 2001).