Update #97

beach

It has been a strange couple of weeks. I have genuinely struggled to form even the simplest of sentences, both verbally and in written form, yet have managed to achieve career goals and resolve personal issues regardless. I feel like I’m floating through my life on automatic pilot; focused and determined in all the ways necessary but lacking in the emotional responses that categorise me as a functional human being. On the plus side, at least I am functioning. In fact, I’m functioning well. My head is clear of nonsense and drama and I have the energy and motivation of someone so much younger and less jaded than my usual self. It’s good. Life is good.

So, Paris went well. I loved spending time with Amber and exploring Paris at leisure and was pleasantly surprised when a ‘drink and dial’ mishap, caused by a shameless bar crawl among the most ardent of alcoholic Frenchmen, resulted in not a soul crushing humiliation but the realisation that crushes held as a child sometimes carry the potential to be an interesting turn of events in adulthood. In short, I was very drunk and decided that was the perfect time to reveal my long standing crush on a former work colleague of my mother’s. The following morning I hid from my phone, fearful of the fool I had made of myself and the grovelling, shameful apology I was going to have to make. When I say I hid, I mean I actually hid. I threw my phone under the bed and pulled a pillow over my face, a position that I would happily have remained in had it not been for Amber,

‘Look at your phone. Look at your phone. Will you just look at your phone and see if he’s answered you!!!’

The woman was relentless, for which I would later thank her. The gentleman in question had not only accepted my inebriated nonsense in the manner it was intended, but had penned a near perfect response that saved my embarrassments and boosted my ego no end. This is very likely the last time I will write about him, given that he reads this blog and I’ve discovered that although men believe they would like to be written about, the reality is that they usually do not.

One man, or rather a pathetic excuse for one, that I never thought I would write about again is Perry, yet here I am doing exactly that. I received a message from him on Sunday evening asking if we could call a truce because he was desperately in need of someone to talk to and I am the only person he has ever felt he could do that with. I contemplated my response. I could have called him out on his lack of apology, his complete disregard for my feelings or that of Jemima and I could have raged at him for being so selfish as to only consider contacting me when he needed something. I decided to do nothing. Between Perry and Robyn and Weston I am completely spent in the ‘putting myself out for fake friends’ department. I am pleased I did not respond to his cries of ‘wolf’, because that was exactly what they were. My son had seen him earlier that evening and, although he didn’t speak to him, it was obvious that his presence had triggered a memory in Perry as to how much of a gullible fool I can be. I am proud of myself for not running to his false cry for help. I am proud of myself for not being sucked back into that vortex of betrayal and disappointment. I am proud of myself for allowing my silence to scream ‘no’.

In other man news, Mr. Surprise continues to litter my inbox with messages and missed calls, The Mountie has asked me out on three separate occasions over the last fortnight and even Handsome has attempted to rekindle the rough and passionate sexual escapade that never was. I have zero interest in any of them. Mr. NYC is still a frequent visitor to my Whatsapp account, although binge watching Catfish over the holiday weekend has made me paranoid and I openly doubted whether or not he was actually the person he claimed to be. I mean, what successful international businessman doesn’t have a laptop at home or know how to use Skype? The jury is still out on him.

As far as ‘good men’ go, I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have been spending with Billy recently. Calm down, this absolutely is not going to be a friends become lovers scenario. That idea creeps me out because Billy is like family to my son and I. What I simply mean to document here is that Billy has been a tremendous source of support for my son and I recently, particularly as I come to terms with the death of my brother. Billy and I have lunched, and dinnered, and masterminded a perfect plan to get him back with his ex (Which worked! Hurrah!) and generally spent a couple of times a week putting the world to rights and spilling our hearts and our guts all over a box of wine and my dining room table. Its been good for both of us. ‘You just know stuff,’ he said to me the other day, ‘I don’t know how you do it or how you make me think I came up with the solutions all by myself, but you just know stuff!’ Bless him. It’s called being a woman, Billy. It is my superpower.

Another good man in my life is my son. I am so immensely proud of that boy. He has come out of his personal storm a more ambitious and focused young man; a testament to his strength of character and also to my resilience in putting up with his foul mood and general shitty teenager antics. He has taken the position of apprentice to a locally revered chef and seems to have found a happiness in which he can grow. On a personal note, that parenting hurdle was a bit of a bitch and I hope it is the last we’ve seen of it, particularly as I am leaving him to his own devices in June and spending the month teaching little kids how to speak English in rural Ukraine. I have no fears leaving my sixteen year old son alone as he is more than capable of getting himself to work on time and cooking his own meals without setting fire to our home, but I must admit that I will be sending Adele, Blue and Jemima round to check on him and remind him how to use the washing machine and vacuum cleaner! Some may judge me on leaving a teenager alone for that amount of time and were it not for his general maturity and the strength of the support network around us I would never have considered it. I am lucky that he is grown enough for me to further my career in this manner but he is also lucky enough to have a mother that trusts him. Damn that boy if he screws it up!

I must harness this enthusiasm for writing now and use it for good, or rather, use it for pay. My recent stint in writer’s block hell has taken longer than I anticipated to pass and as I sit here now, in front of my laptop with a thousand words spinning around me like little dancing fairies, I believe it would be irresponsible to continue waffling on to you when I have bills to pay and a growing young man to feed. Farewell dear reader, I’ll catch you in the next post.

Sex: 0. Like, actually nothing. Zilch, zero, nada. I’m rapidly approaching the 6 month marker and to be completely truthful, I couldn’t give a shit!

Alcohol: I have a newly discovered love of wine. Not good wine, however, more the stuff you can pour into a bottomless glass without worrying about your bank balance or the fear of ever running out. Billy and I are prime candidates for running a wine program called ‘Shit Chavs Drink Under The Skateboard Ramp’.

Drugs: 0. I’m loving my cleaner living. Drugs are fun, but so is achieving personal and professional goals, something that I was maybe lacking behind in when my weekends were spent with my nose in a vat of free cocaine. Sober, straight-head Lola is proving a force to be reckoned with and I really, really like it.

Mental Health: Really, really good.

Physical Health: Endometriosis is an evil bitch cunt from hell. Other than that, I’m good!

Paris – The Men Pt.2

paris carousel

It was late in the afternoon as I stood by a carousel near the fountains of the Troacdero in Paris, waiting for my date. His name was Enzo; a 28 year old Spaniard who was travelling around France on his own and had contacted me on Tinder to see if I fancied indulging in some tourist attractions with him. Although I believed his enthusiasm would wain upon meeting me in person (Like I said in my previous post, Paris does little for a girl’s self esteem), he had shown an eagerness to practice his English and had offered to help me with my Spanish. Considering I was alone in Paris on a Friday evening, I didn’t see the harm in meeting a fellow traveller and passing an hour or two at the world famous monument, the Eiffel Tower.

Last time I visited the Eiffel Tower I was just a child on a school trip. I ran up the stairs with boundless energy, spent less than a minute peering over the edge at a view I was not mature enough to appreciate and spent the rest of the time flirting and play fighting with a boy from my class. I didn’t understand the opportunity I had been given back then to marvel at this architectural wonder and the exquisite scenery it opened up for the common traveller. This time, Enzo would offer me a very different experience, one that could not be squandered.

We paid the entrance fee of 17 Euros to take the lift directly to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. Most people only bother with the second floor viewing platform, the larger space in which you can wander around and take selfies among hoards of other tourists and visiting school parties, but Enzo and I had established an ‘all or nothing’ attitude during the first few minutes of meeting. We were determined to make the most of what Paris had to offer. I was surprised to see so few people as we  obeyed security protocols, stepped into the lift and stood awkwardly alongside a heavily mustached Tower employee. I was sure more people would be interested to see Paris by night from such a vantage point, but was relieved that the lack of crowds meant Enzo and I could chat and explore uninterrupted. 

Let’s just pause this for a moment so you can fully appreciate the romance of the situation. I was in Paris, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, at sunset, with a Spanish toyboy. Seriously, you can’t make that shit up. A bottle of champagne and a marriage proposal would have sent us into romance overload and possibly have seen me vomiting rainbows with hearts and flowers bursting out of my eyeballs, but luckily for both Enzo and I, our romantic endeavor stopped short of that. Instead we revelled in a truly magnificent view and a shared a can of French lager. Hey, I’m no snob. The lager was a perfect addition.

As for Enzo, he was truly gorgeous. Olive skin, short dark curly hair, eyes such a deep brown that looking too intently into them was like slowly falling into a whirlpool of rich, melted chocolate. I have no idea what aftershave he was wearing, but as he pulled me closer to him with his perfectly toned arm and shielded me from the wind, he smelled divine. His English was poor and so was my Spanish, but between the two of us we managed to point out areas of Paris we had visited, share our fascination with the orange and red swirls on the horizon and joke about the tiny glimmers of people milling around hundreds of metres below us. If I was ever going to fall for a stranger in Paris, this was it. He was gorgeous, adventurous, funny and smart, but for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it.

After our Eiffel Tower visit, Enzo and I wandered around the streets of the 7th District before settling in an overpriced bar for a few drinks and to rest our weary traveller legs. The conversation flowed as easily as it could given our strange amalgamated language of French, English and Spanish and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying the envious looks of the beautiful women walking past. Enzo certainly attracted attention, so why wasn’t I melting at the vagina? Why wasn’t I drooling over this lovely man and trying to drag him back to Amber’s empty apartment? What the hell was wrong with me?

Enzo was keen to continue our evening with dinner, but having spent so little time with Amber on my visit I felt the need to decline and head back for a good old fashioned girly chitchat.

‘Maybe we can meet again? Before you go home?’ Enzo asked as we paid our bill and put on our coats.

I agreed and we made plans to meet for dinner on Sunday evening. I also made it clear that we would be meeting as friends and nothing more.

‘So what happened?’ Amber quizzed as we debriefed after my date.

‘I don’t know. He’s lovely and I’m looking forward to hanging out with him again but honestly, it was more of a ‘gay friend’ vibe than anything else’.

Amber, quite understandably, looked confused, ‘but he’s not gay?’

‘No. Not gay’.

I don’t know why I wasn’t attracted to Enzo. All the requirements were definitely there. I guess sometimes you click, sometimes you don’t. A logical person would say that I was putting up natural defenses because he was too young, lived too far away and the language barrier would have eventually become a hindrance. Maybe a logical person would be right, but whatever the reason, I just didn’t feel that all elusive spark that makes me want to pursue anything other than friendship. I even weighed up the benefits of breaking my four month unintentional celibacy with a quick fling but decided against it. Truthfully, I just couldn’t be bothered. Paris may be the City of Love and with a man I actually loved I can see why, it oozes romance and nostalgia from every brick, but I wasn’t in love and no world famous monument or beautiful view was going to change that.

For the record, Enzo and I have remained friends. We visited the Pere Lachaise Cemetery together on the Sunday and spent the evening drinking far too much wine over dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and extended an invitation for him to call me should he ever find himself in or around London. After all, how could I not remain in contact with the Spanish toyboy who gave me a beautiful sunset first date in Paris?!

pariseiffel

Paris – The Men Pt 1.

cafe.jpg

I am meant to be studying right now. I woke up extra early to make sure I could put in enough study hours so as not to berate myself later on for procrastinating and falling behind. So far I’ve studied for an hour, taken a shower, made too many cups of tea and updated my Facebook status. Apparently, an early start just means more time for me to procrastinate. It does, however, also give me a few minutes to update you on the men I met in Paris. I’m saving all the travel writing stuff and the specifics about my dates for my other blog, Around The World In 80 Dates, but there are a few things I can share with you, my faithful Dating Dramas readers, in the meantime.

Firstly, it is absolutely impossible NOT to get a date in Paris if you are a heterosexual woman. I had my doubts to begin with but Amber had reassured me that as soon as I logged into Tinder I would be inundated with requests to meet from a broad range of attractive men,

‘They don’t really do online chatting here,’ she’d told me, ‘just a couple of messages then you arrange to meet’.

She was right. Coffee here, drinks there, sex right now, the offers came in so quickly that after 48 hours in Paris, I disabled Tinder. Tattooed men, creative men, academic men, short, tall, beared, bald, suited, swim suited, tanned, black, white, musicians, lawyers, builders, every type of man you could possibly imagine was blowing up my Tinder account. I couldn’t handle the constant ‘super like’ notification beeps going off in my pocket every few minutes. I had never had this kind of response back in the UK and couldn’t figure out why, in this city so famed for romance and love, all these beautiful, well educated, cultured men were bothering with me. I’m an overweight thirtysomething who has the look of ‘worn and knackered’ about her. I scrub up alright when I make the effort and I’m regularly told I don’t look my age, but in comparison to the women walking around Paris, I was a veritable pig.

Parisians, both men and women alike, are skinny. Not toned or fit or slender, skinny. Acceptable fashion includes skinny jeans, flat shoes and simple classic lines in neutral colours; black, navy, beige, cream. Hair is quaffed and controlled, sunglasses and a scowl are a permanent fixture and everybody smokes. Everywhere. I kind of liked that last one, but as a wild spirit with a love of Doctor Marten boots and long flowing hair that I haven’t been able to control since the 90s, I was most definitely the ugly sister to a city of Cinderellas. In truth wandering about Paris, past patisseries and restaurants, parks and historical buildings, simply being surrounded by beauty and symmetry every where you go, well, it can ruin a girl’s self esteem. It ruined mine.

On the Friday evening Amber had to work and I was more than content to sit in her apartment with a bottle of wine, a book and a hefty supply of cigarettes. If I was feeling sociable or restless, I’d vowed to take a walk and find a quaint little bar or cafe to sit in. I was sure that my own company was much better than forcing Lardy McLard-Arse, the non-French speaking philistine onto these stylish and perfectly manicured natives. Amber had other ideas. She was not going to let me sit alone.

‘Get on Tinder. Now’.

We swiped, we drooled, we swiped some more. I was approving men so beautiful that even adding them to my wank bank was considered batting out of my league and yet, by some miracle, these men were actually liking me back. After a while it began to make sense to me. I’m English. That’s a perk pretty much wherever you go (I said ‘pretty much’. I’m fully aware we are a much hated nation as well). And I’m not skinny. Some men, even Parisian ones, like women with boobs and bums and thighs that jiggle a little when they walk. Some men like to see a woman smile, or be silly, or not give a damn about her hair. In Paris, I was unique and greatly sought after. As Amber headed off to work, I headed off to meet a bar manager called Ralph. He seemed the least intimidating of all my potential suitors with a friendly face and an excellent grasp of the English language. He had listened to me when I said I worked in the field of Human Rights and was very excited to be taking me to The Marguerite Durand Library in the 13th district. Opened in 1931, the library holds the personal collection of journalist and activist Marguerite Durand, including some incredible pieces on feminism and the French suffragettes. Unfortunately, Ralph’s masterful first date plans were thwarted by a rare early closing of the library. Instead, we sat in a trendy little cafe, drinking coffee and exchanging stories about our friends, families and travelling experiences. 1-bibliotheque-marguerite-durand

Ralph was lovely, if a bit of a liar. His Tinder profile had photos that were at least ten years old and although he claims he had never been married, there was a very distinct white tan line on his marriage finger. He said he drove and would pick me up in his car, but at the last minute had called to give me instructions for the Metro. He asked a lot of questions, but answered very few. I knew within minutes of meeting Ralph that there would be no holiday fling or last tango in Paris, but I was appreciative of the effort he made to meet me, his chivalrous behavior and to meet a friendly, smiling French face among a crowd of less hospitable ones. I left Ralph with my gratitude and the obligatory kissing on either cheek.

‘How did it go?’ Amber asked with enthusiasm,

‘Like meeting a distant relative. Nice, friendly, comfortable but a bit dull and with absolutely no chance of getting laid’.

My second date in Paris, a few hours later, would prove to be very different…

Bon Voyage!

gallieniI bid farewell to my work colleagues in Brussels, Belgium and boarded the coach for Paris, France. I was excited to be seeing Amber for what felt like the first time in eons and to have the opportunity to relax away from home after what had turned out to be a fruitless endeavor with regards to my business meeting. I wanted to wash all the bureaucratic bullshit red tape out of my hair and enjoy myself. I’d earned it. A coach trip, however, is a rocky start to a relaxing weekend.

I’m not going to pretend to you that a long coach journey along European motorways is a pleasant experience, but it most certainly is a cheap and efficient way to travel if you are on a restrictive budget, like myself. If you like travelling in style and comfort with ample leg room, sweet smelling bathrooms and aesthetically pleasing staff pandering to your every whim, step away from the coach station. This shit is definitely not for you. If you like meeting random people, sleeping on public transport and challenging yourself not to pee or crave a cigarette for 5 long and bumpy hours, then jump aboard! Coach travel is an experience if nothing else. I was fortunate enough to be travelling on a half empty bus, so all the passengers had two seats to themselves and enough space to kick their shoes off (which I did), lounge around with a make-do garage snack picnic and a book (which I did) and curl up for a nap (which I did). I also got to waste some time chatting to some very interesting characters.

North London, so called because he was from North London and because, quite frankly, he’s never going to appear in this blog again and so I don’t need an inspiring and entertaining nickname, was travelling to meet up with some American friends who were spending time in Paris. He had also been working in Belgium and saw the coach as an economical way to get to his pals. NL had plans to hit the bars and nightclubs as soon as we arrived in the French capital,  at around 10pm that evening, and would be taking a coach back to London the following day. It all seemed like a lot of effort for one night on the piss with the boys, but I respected his dedication. During our time as travel companions, I discovered NL was a highly educated young man who, having made a great success of himself in his field of business, was now desperate to help his fellow young, black Londoner in reaching their full potential. We talked about the education system, African politics and Scandinavian public transport. We criticised the Spanish bus driver’s comedic taste in Spanish folk music and took bets on which of the Scottish Goth guys would finally pull the very drunk Lantino girl who seemed to have a bottle of cheap white wine surgically embedded into the palm of her hand. He told me about his cousin who had valiantly fought for the British Army and been killed in Afghanistan and about the stories his grandmother told him as a boy and I shared with him humorous stories from my travels and the perils of raising a teenage boy in today’s violent and unstable society. NL and I became firm friends on that coach but when we finally arrived in Paris, there wasn’t even a goodbye. It wasn’t necessary. Our friendship had a time limit of 5 hours and we had done it proud.

Despite having NL for company, I made my coach trip rather difficult by forgetting a couple of essential items. It was a rookie mistake and one I never intend to repeat again. Firstly, I didn’t have my headphones. These are vital. Even if you don’t plan on listening to music or watching a movie on your phone or ipad while you travel, having headphones in makes people think you are listening to music or watching a movie. Then, if you don’t want to talk to anyone, you don’t have to. This is very handy for when you want to avoid the public transport pervert or the over zealous grandmother with twenty five thousand photos of her grandkids. I would also suggest a pillow or squashable comfy hoodie that you can use as a cushion. If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat on the coach (for the leaning potential, not the view) you’ll quickly discover that windows are hard and cold. Pillows are a must if you fancy a snooze, or if you just want to fake sleep…yes, sleeping also gets rid of pervs and bores. Luckily for me, my many years of dragging a small child everywhere I went, meant I was fully prepared for any other eventuality aboard the bus. No loo paper? Lola’s got wipes. Thirsty? Lola’s a goddam Evian factory. Craving a cigarette? Lola’s the nicotine gum queen. I didn’t suffer too badly on that trip from Brussels to Paris, but by the time we pulled into Gallieni coach station, I don’t mind admitting that my arse was numb and I needed wine.

Amber was waiting for me as I stepped off the bus and I was, as expected, thrilled to see her. She marked the end of a long journey and a future full of wine and French boys. We quickly jumped on the Metro and headed to her apartment in the 16th District; a wealthy area of Paris frequented mostly by families due to it being a comfortable distance away from the main hustle and bustle of the city. An early night was not on the cards for us, no matter how hard we may have insisted. Instead, our night would be full of takeaway food, wine and chatter, just two women gossiping and consoling one another while sat in their pajamas and blowing cigarette smoke into the warm Parisian air. We also had to discuss how and when I would fit a date into my  fun packed weekend schedule…

To be continued…

Work, Piss & Pride in Brussels

I am experiencing an unwelcome bout of writer’s block at a time when my ability to express myself through words is a much needed coping strategy. Alas, I present myself here with great reluctance, fully aware that I will not be as articulate or entertaining as I usually am, but aware that the best cure for writer’s block is indeed to keep writing and work through the lack of inspiration or motivation. I apologise in advance should this post not fulfil your, or my own, expectations, but I believe it is time to tell you about my recent time in Europe.

choc.jpgI was in Belgium for work, attending a meeting with regards to human rights in Sudan, not surprising given that the EU and NATO both have their headquarters here and there are many UN offices operating out of the capital city, Brussels. The business district has essentially become the central meeting place in Europe for humanitarians and NGOs, a mecca for the bleeding hearts in which to plead the cases of those less fortunate. As a business trip, I spent very little time doing the touristy sight seeing that Brussels demands, but a colleague and I were able to satisfy our sweet tooth with some traditional Flemish chocolate and took in a visit to Mannekin Pis. For those not in the know, ‘Mannekin Pis’ translates as ‘Little Man Pee’ and that is exactly what the statue depicts…a small bronze boy, pissing into a basin. I have no idea why this is such a tourist attraction, for Europe is full of statues of chubby little toddlers flying around or peeing into things, but the Belgium Tourist Board seem to warrant this as a great spectacle to behold in Brussels and so my colleague and I were happy to oblige. In truth, our stressful meeting meant we both needed some fresh air and a casual stroll in the sunshine was exactly what Mannekin Pis offered us. Manneken-Pis.jpg

The following day I headed by coach to France’s capital city,  Paris. Before my trip, many friends and relatives asked me if I was concerned about travelling to the recent cities of ISIS terrorist attacks. I said no. I was not afraid. I was not concerned. I would not be intimidated by misguided extremists and I most certainly would not let them stop me from fulfilling my personal goals of improving the lives of the people of Darfur. Terrorists are bullies and I was always raised to stand up to bullies. This attitude is ever present in both Brussels and Paris. People still use the Metro, they still sit outside cafes in plazas, take strolls in the parks, chain smoke and laugh without a care in the world, because they refuse to be bullied. After 7/7, London was the same. We Brits did not cower or run scared, we did not let outsiders tell us where we could go or when we could enjoy our capital city. We just got on with it. Maybe this is just the pigheaded, stubborn attitude of the Europeans, or maybe its every nations response to being picked on by a smaller kid, but either way, our ability to pick ourselves up and deny defeat is something that makes me incredibly proud.

To be continued…

The Man I Called ‘Brother’

brother

I was expecting this blog post to be about my recent trip to Belgium and France. I was expecting to tell you about the experiences I had, the dates I went on and the places I visited, but a recent turn of events means that will all have to wait. Now, I want to tell you all about the man I called ‘Brother’.

When I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, my father started his own business and in doing so, took two young teenage lads under his wing. Both wayward and a little lost, my father gave them employment, taught them the tricks of his trade and brought them into our family with the nurturing and guidance of an adoring father. They became my brothers, not through blood but through something so much more.

A was a good looking, blue eyed boy with a wickedly dry sense of humour. We would often refer to him and my father as Delboy and Rodney, of Only Fools and Horses fame, because their double act was something akin to comedy gold. When I became a teenager all of my female friends developed a crush on A, much to my amusement, and it boosted my street cred no end to have him drop me off at school or be present at birthday parties.

M was always more troubled than A. His own father had committed suicide when he was just a boy and so his relationship with my father rapidly grew from employer, to mentor, to father figure. He had a biological younger brother, N, who he had taken responsibility for from a young age and both N and M adored me. M bought me my first piece of designer clothing, my first CD, my first piece of proper, grown up jewelry. One birthday, when my father had done one of his disappearing acts and was selfishly travelling the globe without a thought for his family at home, A and M took me to a nearby theme park to cheer me up. I remember the sunshine, the laughter, the way A got sick on a ride that my little sister just giggled through and I remember M trying to explain to said little sister what was happening when we caught the monkeys in the zoo performing oral sex on one another. I also remember my sister winning a teddy bear from a grab machine that I had, only seconds before, been trying to win for myself. Like any young girl, I sulked. I wanted that bear. It was my birthday and I felt life was treating me incredibly unfairly.

M spent a small fortune on the grab machine that afternoon, way more than any crappy bear was worth, and won me the prize I so coveted. That’s how he always was with me. M would go to the ends of the earth for me if I asked him to and as I grew up, his loyalty to me was tested time and time again. He never faltered in having my back every single time.

In my late teens and early twenties I often found myself partying too hard and travelling to random places on only my passport and a whim. It was always M who bailed me out of trouble. He was the adult I called when the police arrested me for vandalising animal testing labs or protesting the destruction of local woodlands. He was the one I called when I spent all my money on clubbing and desperately needed food, or when I crashed my car and needed money for repairs. He was the one who’d pick me up from a boy’s house in the dead of night. Not once did he mention anything to my parents. Not once did he judge me or lecture me on my life choices. Our secrets were our own. He was my doting, adoring big brother from the minute we met. I loved him unconditionally, as he did me, and was grateful for his presence in my life.

When my father’s alcoholism became dangerously uncontrollable and far too much for me to handle with a young son in tow, it was M who took the reins. He arranged for my father to go into a rehabilitation centre, sitting with him for days before to make sure he was sober enough for the drive there and the registration process. When my father checked himself out of the rehab just a few days later, it was M who found him wandering along the side of the road and convinced him to come home. When my father died,  M and N  helped me clear out his apartment. To this day, N is the only one who calls me by the nickname my father gave me. I love him for that.

My childhood was full of laughter and I knew what it was like to be a princess because of A, M and N. As adults we grew into our new lives and away from one another, but still remained close enough to share the joys, the milestones and the sorrows. A is a married father to two beautiful daughters now and if the way he spoilt me is anything to go by, I know those girls are blessed to have him as their daddy. N has a long term girlfriend, a passion for VW Beetles and more godchildren than anyone I have ever met. M followed in my father’s footsteps in more ways than one. He continued to work in the trade my father had lovingly educated him in, but he also became an alcoholic. The drinking took its toll on his body and he died in his sleep on Sunday 10 April 2016, aged just 48.

Rest in Peace M, the man I called ‘Brother’.

Update #96

flu

Apologies, firstly, for being MIA over the last couple of weeks. Illness struck me pretty hard and had me confined to the sofa for several days and then the backlog of work that had accumulated during my convalescence meant I’ve barely had 5 minutes to myself. That will teach me for missing my flu shot. All the drudgery is about to disappear this week, however, as I am off to Brussels, Belgium, for a work related conference and then onto Paris, France, to spend some time with my girl  Amber and see if I can’t land myself a date in the infamous City of Love.

The troubles with my son seem to be over, for the time being anyway. No-one ever said parenting a teenager by yourself was easy, but up until recently I’ve found it to be exactly that. The last few months have seen my boy battling with depression and losing his focus in school. His temper escalated to the point where he became aggressive and violent and was permanently kicked out of college after an altercation with another student. He didn’t seem to want to go anywhere or do anything and as his mother, and the one person who knows all of his highs and lows, I felt at a loss as to how to help him. It turns out, tough love was the way forward. I know from personal experience how depression can swallow you whole, but I also know that sometimes you need someone to have more faith in you than you have in your self. I pushed my son, hard, and to his own merit he now has a permanent position as a trainee chef and I have never seen him happier. He loves to work, to cook and to have money in his pocket. Despite being capable of taking the academic route, it doesn’t always suit a person’s temperament and my son is a practical young man with a strong work ethic. We both feel that he is now making positive choices and are excited for his future. I am immensely proud of him.

The other men in my life, however, continue to be a let down. I haven’t heard anything from The Squaddie since our ‘interesting’ first date and I don’t expect to. We had made plans for him to come over to my place for dinner, but I had cancelled that due to the sudden onset of flu symptoms. He never responded to my message, nor has he contacted me to see how I am or if I would like to rearrange our plans. Like I said, I’m not surprised. I’m not disappointed either. I guess neither of us lived up to the other one’s expectations.

Mr.Surprise calls me randomly every now and again, although I am baffled as to why. Hes taken to calling from numbers I don’t recognise so its difficult to avoid him, but when I am caught out I wouldn’t say I was particularly encouraging. He is on a mission to retrieve the money Weston owes me, as some grand gesture of how important our friendship is to him and how protective he feels towards my son and I. I just nod and smile in all the right places, fully aware that nothing will ever come of what he says. And yes, Weston does still owe me hundreds of pounds and no, I don’t expect to get it back. If he needs to steal money from a hard working single parent to make ends meet, then he has it a lot worse than I do. He will never be forgiven, but life is too short to remain angry.

Mr. NYC and I are still in semi-regular contact. So far I’ve received no more unsolicited images of his sexual conquests and he has been very sweet checking up on me while I’ve been ill, so I guess that is a move in the right direction. I don’t actually know what kind of direction I’m meant to go in with a man I’ve never met who lives the other side of the Atlantic ocean, but we’re civil and friendly and his voice remains a phenomenal turn on, so I consider that a preferable direction to most.

Finally, I’ve swiped left one time too many on Tinder and have now run out of men in my preferred age range and location. Maybe I am too fussy. Maybe I should accept the fact that as I rapidly approach the big 4-0 there aren’t going to be many eligible bachelors floating around, but I refuse to settle for anything less. I’ve never been the type of woman who needs to be in a relationship, so why should I date men I consider unattractive or uninteresting through fear of being left on the shelf. I actually like the idea of the shelf. It sounds quiet and simple.

Anyway, tomorrow I am having Blue and her daughter over for dinner as a slightly belated thank you for all the support she has given me over the last few months. Wine will be consumed aplenty and chick flicks viewed, much to my poor son’s disgust. A night in  with two of his ‘mothers’ and the little sister he never wanted will probably drive him to tears, but thats what family is about after all! On Wednesday I head to Brussels with an NGO I’ve been working closely with, in a bid to save humanity , then Thursday evening I’m travelling to Paris to visit my girl Amber and to land myself that all important date for Around The World In 80 Dates. As working weeks go, this one is looking pretty darn good.